- Associated Press - Thursday, March 3, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) - “No Man’s Sky” creator Sean Murray wants everyone in the world to know that his galaxy simulator isn’t merely a ridiculously ambitious idea that’s wowed crowds at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. It’s actually a video game.

“I think people really like the concept, but it’s very important for me to deliver on that,” said the Hello Games co-founder during a recent trip to Los Angeles to show off “No Man’s Sky.”

While the virtual environments in most games are meticulously crafted by artists and designers, “No Man’s Sky” transports players to a fictional sci-fi galaxy populated by an almost infinite number of planets - each with their own ecology - that are generated by a PlayStation 4 or PC using mathematical rules devised by Murray and his Guildford, England-based indie studio.

It’s “Minecraft” meets “The Martian.”

“When we set out to make the game, we wanted people to have this emotion, like they’re landing on a planet and feeling like no one has ever been there before,” said the lanky Irish-born, Australian-raised developer as he demonstrated the game with an almost permanent grin.

With its breathtaking vastness, colorful art style recalling classic sci-fi novel covers and moody score provided by electronic-rock band 65daysofstatic, “No Man’s Sky” captured the gaming industry’s attention in 2014 when it was first teased at the Spike Video Game Awards and E3.

The game, which is scheduled for release June 21, doesn’t feature a traditional narrative. Instead, there’s lore players can uncover when interacting and learning languages from alien races scattered across an estimated 18 quintillion - that’s 18 billion billion - planets.

“It’s not like a typical video game,” said Murray. “You don’t start off in prison, then someone throws you a gun and you have to rescue your dad or something. It’s about finding these places and becoming more engrossed in them.”

For instance, players can record a planet’s lifeforms and upload them to earn the game’s currency. Or they can shoot ‘em with a laser gun.

“You can be a good citizen of the universe or you can be a jerk, a space jerk,” said Murray. “It’s up to you.”

However, it’s not consequence-free gameplay. There’s an intergalactic force called Sentinels who will sometimes hunt down players who cause too much mayhem, such as breaking into alien factories to steal blueprints or killing too many dinosaur-like creatures.

“They’re these self-replicating drones that were put there by this ancient forerunner race that did it with good intentions to protect planets,” said Murray. “They’re gotten a little bit out of control. It’s questionable in the game whether they’re good guys or bad guys.”

The way in which time passes in the “No Man’s Sky” is also determined by developers’ algorithms because planets uniquely rotate, resulting in different day and night cycles.

“We display a 24-hour clock right now, which shouldn’t be there,” said a visibly conflicted Murray. “Every time I’ve tried to change that, it just breaks people’s brains.”

The game’s randomness means that even Murray, who helped build a new engine to create “No Man’s Sky,” is still surprised by what he discovers when landing his spaceship on new planets.

“I was showing someone the game, and we came across this stilted creature that looked like a zombie T-rex,” said Murray. “I screamed to the person, ‘Go move closer to it!’ It’s quite fun that I cannot know my own game.”

Despite the seemingly endless structure of “No Man’s Sky,” Murray suggested it does have a natural conclusion: reaching the center of the universe.

“It seems really daunting, but you will be able to upgrade your ship to fly further and further in each jump that you make,” said Murray.

The landmark is illustrated on the game’s galactic map by a bright light that can be glimpsed past an array of tiny dots, which each represent different solar systems.

“When you reach the center, there’s a reason why you would want to keep playing, but for most people, that’s probably the point they’ll put down the pad,” said Murray. “It will probably take hundreds and hundreds of hours.”

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Online:

http://www.no-mans-sky.com

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/derrik-j-lang .

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