I’ve been told (about a billion times) that I’m slightly prone to the odd bit of exaggeration, so when I said that No Man’s Sky was, essentially, an infinite universe, there’s a slight chance that some people might not have taken me entirely seriously. Sean Murray, founder of Hello Games recently backed me up however, by suggesting that No Man’s Sky could take 5 billion years to fully explore. Now, before you all get overly impressed (or conversely, start pointing out that 5 billion years is nowhere near infinite) consider this: some boffin type recently crunched the numbers and discovered that, actually, it could take approximately 500 billion years to fully explore the No Man’s Sky universe.
Five. Hundred. Billion. Years.
And even that number, as impressive as it is, is counting on exploring each planet for only one second (and, let’s face it, if exploring a planet does only take you one second, you’re probably doing it wrong) so even that figure (yup, that five hundred billion year one) is a fairly conservative estimate.
Now, the human brain is a genuinely brilliant thing, but it has to be said that it sometimes struggles with a few things, and Big Numbers is definitely one of those things. You might have just read five hundred billion years, and sort of shrugged, maybe gone, ‘oh yeah, that’s quite impressive’, but done so without really appreciating how phenomenally, mind-bendingly huge that number actually is. I’ma help you out a bit though. Maths isn’t exactly my forte either, but even for me, it didn’t take long to figure out that, first off, that’s considerably longer than I’ll be playing the game (i.e. unless somebody figures out the whole eternal life thing pretty damn quickly, I’m limited to a teensy-tiny fraction of a teensy-tiny fraction of just one percent of that time by this stupid, mortal vessel I clumsily stomp through life in).
In fact, even if somebody does figure out immortality, we still might not be able to explore all of No Man’s Sky anyway, because our Sun will have burnt out waaaaay before we’ve had time to stick that flag in the last uncharted planet, so we also need to have figured out interstellar travel by then too, and colonized some far-flung solar system just so that we can keep on playing the game (the survival of the human race is, of course, a bit of a bonus too)!!
To put that number in further perspective, consider the following:
Earth itself is currently thought to be about 4.5 Billion years old, so all the “time” it’s taken for anything to happen on this planet of ours; every single change in atmosphere or geology; the whole entire process of evolution that has seen life go from a simple, single living cell to the human stabbing these words out with fancy opposable thumbs, has happened in a period of time significantly less than that which you’d need to fully explore the universe of No Man’s Sky.
Hell, the entire universe itself is currently thought to be around 13.8 billion years old, so again, it would take considerably more years to explore the No Man’s Sky universe than ours has even existed.
Anyways, all that’s to say that it’s, you know, pretty damn big. Like, humongous-beyond-even-the-comprehension-of-all-but-the-most-gifted-minds big. Or, if you can forgive me for using an overly technical mathematical term here; truly fucking MASSIVE.
When science-y types talk about large periods of time, they often refer to it as Geological Time to signify the huge intervals needed for, say, mountains to form, but even this term doesn’t come close to covering the scale of No Man’s Sky. The Himalayas, for example, formed in “just” 40-50 million years, so we’re going to need a totally new word, phrase or unit of measurement for the scale, size, and time-space possibilities of Hello Games’ magnum opus.
Finally, as impressive as that all undoubtedly is, Sean Murray has been keen to stress that he doesn’t want people to get too bogged down with the numbers. Even though, in his position, you or I might be wandering around shouting “Five Hundred Billion Years” at random people all the time, he wants everyone to focus on playing the actual game, rather than obsessing about its size.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m genuinely excited about all of that too, obviously, but if you’re looking for an excuse to actually buy or play No Man’s Sky, the sheer, humongous value-for-money element of a game that you could (theoretically) play for five hundred billion years has to be up there with the best of them, right!?