You know in school when you sat in late maths classes and wondered to yourself if all these funny combinations of letters and numbers would actually mean something in real life? No Man’s Sky is giving a show to meaning to that sort of analogy with its mathematically powered procedural generation, allowing Hello Games to create billions of random planets with functioning ecosystems. The music in the game taps into this magic too, but it’s a little more scripted then you’re probably expecting.
Speaking to No Man’s Sky’s composers, a little band you may or may not know of called 65daysofstatic, Game Informer learnt that while No Man’s Sky might stitch together snippets of music while you explore, the music itself isn’t made by an algorithm. 65daysofstatic recorded thousands of pieces of music that are thrown into the mix while you play the game, giving it a more generative existence than procedural.
So this is a generative soundtrack in the sense that there are a lot of pieces of pre-recorded audio that will be sitting inside No Man’s Sky, and then there will be algorithms and logic designed a bit by us (and more by Paul Weir), which will curate this audio to create music that responds to what the player is doing. So it isn’t literally procedurally generating the audio as such, but it is generating new music by pulling different combinations of audio and different times, based on a variety of rules, to generate new music on the fly.
Of course that shifts when looking at some of the sounds that the thousands of procedurally created creatures make when you get close. Those sound bits are created using the same algorithm used to generate all the planets, and hence stands in contrast to the soundtrack. A procedurally generated soundtrack might have been possible, but 65daysofstatic explain that it might not have had the same effect Sean Murray desired. Even then, creating this generative musical album wasn’t easy.
It would be possible, theoretically, if you had multiple digital synthesisers running in the game, but that takes a lot of resources that the game doesn’t necessarily have to spare just for its soundtrack.
It’s a fascinating approach to a soundtrack that clicks with the way No Man’s Sky has been created, and I think it could lead to some truly emotive moments while you’re space trucking it from one planet to the next. No Man’s Sky might have been delayed until August, but it remains as interesting as ever.
Last Updated: May 31, 2016