The amazing art in No Man's Sky

Dan O’Neill 2014-06-23 3 min read

From a dark cave you emerge to a beautifully lit orange coloured field, and it’s at this point that you realise that this is going to be a different game. No Man’s Sky debuted in December of last year with a beautiful trailer that showed some beautiful gameplay and made some excellent technical promises. For most of you this won’t be the first time you’ve see or heard of this game but if it is the first time you’re hearing about No Man’s Sky - it wont be the last.

Interest in the game really exploded when Sony made it one of the centrepiece games at their 2014 E3 press conference. They used the following footage to show off the game:

Do yourself a favour - Do it justice by hitting full screen and upping the resolution and volume. It’s well worth it.

So since that amazing video I’ve been trying to find out as much as I can about it - especially about the art direction that the game is going in. A lot of the coverage around the game has focused on the amazing procedural stuff that the game is doing. And there has been a lot of coverage, from a really good interview with Danny O’Dwyer from Gamespot to a beautiful feature length piece in Polygon.

So it was in one of those interviews with Irish developer and founder of Hello Games, Sean Murray, in Kotaku that he mentioned that the art style was inspired by science fiction book covers:

The palette that we’re using is, to me, the palette of, like, sci-fi book covers. And that’s how the game looks. Like, when you look up at that dinosaur and there’s a planet there and there’s some birds flying past and stuff. It looks like a book cover and that’s what we always set out for. We started out with four of us prototyping it. We actually covered all the walls with book covers and just sat there… it was almost depressive. But it was really good.

It’s not hard to imagine that scene but if you need help you can do an image search for “Science fiction book covers”. And if you take a look at the art work below it definitely makes you think of the glorious book covers that always made the likes of Clarke, Asimov and Hamilton stand out so well.




No Man’s Sky will stand out for other reasons, but the art direction is what really stands out for me. The games design is remarkably different to anything that’s out there at the minute. I still love the grey and brown tones of most science fiction games/films out there but this just really sends me back to those early days having just discovered the great science fiction writers. Hours in the library staring at those amazing covers.

Just as a quick aside, as always with trailers and teasers, I’m obsessed with music choices - and Hello Games could not a picked a better musical accompaniment than 65daysofstatic’s “Debutante” from their album “We Were Exploding Anyway”. In fact in the interview with Danny O’Dwyer above, Sean Murray mentions that he would have loved for them to play live at the E3 demo. It didn’t work out in the end but he goes on to talk about how they’re working closely together on soundtrack stuff so I’m excited to see how that turns out.

There’s a buzz around this game, and I’ve seen a lot excited comments around all of the videos, blog posts, and articles. There’s some whispered apprehension too as to whether Hello Games can actually pull off what they’ve set out to achieve with No Man’s Sky. But success or failure, there is a feeling that this game, this idea, could be a defining moment in the genre.