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Also, interfering with space goats in No Man’s Sky gets you killed by the space police, and other things we learned from 18 minutes of gameplay.

IGN Firsts, famous for using their considerable clout for getting advanced looks at shiny things before the rest of us mere mortals, have posted an 18-minute uninterrupted gameplay video for upcoming vastness-of-the-Universe simulator No Man’s Sky.

“Uninterrupted” is perhaps a tad generous, as we keep cutting back to a screening room to see Ryan McCaffrey and the IGN staffers looking understandably glassy-eyed and wobbly-jawed at the overall scale and beauty of No Man’s Sky, but it’s still a great video and is the first true insight into how No Man’s Sky will play.

Sean Murray, founder of No Man’s Sky developers Hello Games, is leading us on a guided tour with a difference:

We’re here on just a totally normal planet. It’s not like I’m trying to show you anything in particular, this is pretty average No Man’s Sky action, basically. It’s not like there’s some crazy creatures that I want to show you or something like that, and I guess that’s what we’ve been trying to show at E3, you know, just giving people a flavour of like “This is the game as it is, this is your kind of average five, ten minutes with the game.” So I have a jet pack there, that’s what I was using…

Jet pack? Right. In any other game that would be considered a fairly outrageous feature – remember finding it for the first time in GTA: San Andreas – but in No Man’s Sky? It’s part of the furniture.

They then proceed to go for a swim, catalogue a new species of fish, then hop back onto land and head over towards a trading post waypoint, when a cute little space goat starts ramming Murray in the leg.

He suggests he could kill it, or he could shoot the ground near it to scare it away. The non-violent option feels like Murray’s preference, but McCaffrey – like a Roman Emperor in an oddly-coloured No Man’s Sky Colosseum – gives the goat a thumbs down, and Murray kills it with a single blast from his laser pistol.

And then, in a game entirely built around expecting the unexpected, something I really wasn’t expecting from No Man’s Sky happens: The space police turn up.

It’s the fuzz!

They’re actually Sentinels, a race of self-replicating flying robots – looking a bit like the Enclave’s flying loudspeaker drones in Fallout 3 – that keep the peace on the infinite worlds within No Man’s Sky.

At first there’s just one, and it’s taking pot-shots at Murray from a distance. He takes a hit, then turns around and shoots it from the sky.

“You can see in the top right hand corner of the screen, I’ve got a wanted level,” Murray explains.

A second one turns up, and he dispatches that, too. He’s up to a two-star wanted level. You can see the Sentinels are starting to get annoyed, and more than one at once arrives. The space police are flocking from all over the planet to try and put him down for his crimes against space goats.

McCaffrey remarks how similar No Man’s Sky is to Grand Theft Auto in this regard, as Murray explains the best way to expunge one’s wanted level is to leave the area; in this case, get into your ship and fly away.

“Lucky they haven’t patented that particular mechanic,” Murray responds glibly, before he proceeds to get wiped out by what appears to be a Sentinel tank when his wanted level hits four.

He then respawns on the planet with his wanted level cleared, taking a hit to whatever resources he has discovered or collected – but not yet sold – upon death. The next time a space goat headbutts him in the knee, he wisely shoots near the ground and chases it away. The other goats see this, and are more timid in their approach.

He then mines a few minerals with his blaster, taken from a fictional periodic table (“We could’ve used the real world one, but we were worried people would learn something”) before checking his inventory, crafting an upgrade for his weapon, and hopping into his short-range craft and taking flight.

This is where No Man’s Sky becomes Elite. There’s space stations, trading posts, freighters, combat, pirates, scavengers… if you’ve ever played a David Braben game, then you will be instantly familiar with it. It looks great, but we won’t cover that in detail here. You probably got the idea as soon as I said “Elite“.

What’s of more interest is the size – and scope – of No Man’s Sky.

In space, nobody can hear you gasp in amazement

We’ve heard a lot about how No Man’s Sky is procedurally generated – for an infinite number of planets orbiting an infinite number of stars in an infinite number of solar systems in an infinite number of galaxies – but it’s hard to get a handle on what that means until you can see it with your own eyes.

And then there’s always the worry that it’ll be like the procedurally generated “bazillions” of guns in Borderlands: Yes, there are a ridiculous number, but they’re mostly variations on a few themes, mashed together and differently levelled for variety’s sake.

Ordinarily, at an early stage of No Man’s Sky, you would be limited to how far you can travel – only realistically to nearby stars and systems – by the power of your hyperdrive. As you play on, and build up money and resources by whatever means you see fit (explorer, trader, miner, pirate, scavenger) you’ll be able to upgrade your hyperdrive and explore the universe.

With Murray’s God-mode build, he’s able to tour through the Universe’s tapestry of systems on a whim, just to give us an idea of the scope. McCaffrey is almost lost for words at this point, as thousands of stars and planets go flipping past the screen.

And then, we spy a glowing light in the distance.

Murray: That, over there: That’s the Centre of the Galaxy. So that’s where people are trying to get to. They start off on the outside edge…

McCaffrey: That’s the ultimate goal of the game, is to reach that?

Murray: Yeah, for some people, at least. Some people will never make try and make that journey, they’ll just… you know, you could actually just start up on a planet and just spend your whole time exploring it.

McCaffrey: So what awaits us at the Centre of the Galaxy? Spiritual enlightenment? Untold wealth? Immortality?

Murray: Peter Molyneux.

So that’s the end-game, of sorts. The Centre of the Galaxy in No Man’s Sky changes everything.

Once you get there, Murray is happy that you’ll put down the controller and never play again because you’ve achieved everything you set out to do, but the game doesn’t actually end. A game like this could never end, as long as your interest and imagination to explore it still burns.

No Man’s Sky could last forever, if you only want it to.

Pre-order No Man’s Sky from Amazon.

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