Here's why everyone is so confused about No Man's Sky having multiplayer

Welcome to the rabbit hole. After two No Man's Sky players ended up on exactly the same planet last night and couldn't see each other  everyone is in chaos as to whether No Man's Sky has any kind of multiplayer at all. Some people fully expected to be able to meet players Destiny style for an unlikely dance off on one of the incredible 18 quintillion planets, while others have asserted that there was never meant to be multiplayer in this way at all. But why is everyone so confused?

In an interview with Game Informer in 2014, Sean Murray talked carefully around multiplayer, implying he didn't want people seeing that as a focus but never outright denying it: "people keep asking us about multiplayer and I think when people see this they are going to fully realise what it means to be that far away from somebody else who's playing," he said. "And I know that that's a bit weird for people, but it's what's different about our game. And we want to embrace that. We don't want people just scouting off beside their friends. I actually want people to boot up the game and just think, 'Isn't the universe huge? Who are we? What are we all doing here?'" 

Murray then said that there was, understandably, a massively technical job at hand in making a game where you could play directly with every single other player. "If we were to make a game where we synchronised every player, what they were doing with every other player, then that would be impossible and no one has ever done that," he said, so far explaining why perhaps the two streamers last night couldn't see one another. Going by Murray's Tweets this morning, he was exceptionally surprised that people had managed to find the right planet and the right place at all and was ridiculously excited about it. 

But, it's this shared universe that has people confused. How shared? Especially since Murray has actually clearly mentioned the ability to see other players, as well as the things they name, in your game. In the same interview, he said that there is a lobby that lets you join other players who are in the same area. "What we can do is, like many games that you have at the moment, where you are flying around with an open lobby. People are coming into that lobby and leaving it – like if you play Watch Dogs or something like that. Effectively, we have players joining your discrete space. We're not trying to make an MMO where you can play with literally 60,000 people on screen."

He continued by alluding to the physical presence of players in other games, no matter how unlikely: "we handle the case like where other people can fly past in your game or that you can bump into other players in the game. But that's okay for us because it will never happen," he continued. "I guess the whole of the entire community could organise to go to one specific spot and then they would find that they weren't all there at the same time. That would be ridiculous."  

So the two streamers that were playing last night couldn't see each other perhaps because they weren't in a shared lobby or fulfilling the criteria necessary. Murray did Tweet about server issues at the time due to all the people playing, so that might be playing havoc with things. 

However, he has definitely said in the past explicitly that it will be possible to see people, just to remind you that there are other players in the galaxy. And by 'definitely said', check out the video below of a number of the times he clearly said we could see other players. To be clear, this isn't our video and definitely not what we'd have called it. 

The game is only out today so expect multiple tests and even more theories as more and more people play and try to meet up. As for the game itself you can keep up with our No Man's Sky review in progress to find out Matt's thoughts so far and find out whether he's found any other players or just another creature he's called GremlinBear.

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Louise Blain

Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in gaming, technology, and entertainment. She is the presenter of BBC Radio 3’s monthly Sound of Gaming show and has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland. She can also be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, Netflix UK's YouTube Channel, and on The Evolution of Horror podcast. As well as her work on GamesRadar, Louise writes for NME, T3, and TechRadar. When she’s not working, you can probably find her watching horror movies or playing an Assassin’s Creed game and getting distracted by Photo Mode.