Hello everybody, I am new to Reddit and I am looking forward to taking questions about my recent story on No Man’s Sky. You can read the article on NewYorker.com here, or check out a video I narrated about the game here. Today, I also posted a piece about the game’s audio here. I know you’ll have questions about many different aspects of the game. My primary interest was in the way Hello Games went about building a game space so vast. I’ll do my best with other topics. I'm looking forward to your questions, so AMA!


Everyone, thanks so much for your questions. This was my first Reddit AMA and I had a lot of fun, and I hope I did OK with my answers. Unfortunately, I have to go (work on my next story!) but I appreciated the chance to chat with you all.

Comments: 676 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

LemonWarlord331 karma

Hello Raffi,

I read both articles on No Man's Sky and thought the design aesthetic and methodology was fascinating, but you didn't really go over gameplay. Was there anything gameplay related that you think would be just as or more compelling than the design?

And given from what you've seen, do you have any idea on what you might estimate to be a release date?

On a different note, I'm glad to see that the New Yorker has taken a keener interest in video game journalism. As the New Yorker is one of the top publications world wide in form and content, it's great having high quality work being done. But as a avid gamer, I'm disappointed that most game journalism focuses around scoops or drama instead of high quality journalism. How do you think this can change, to bring game journalism to a higher standard of quality?

RaffiKhatchadourian195 karma

The timing of the release — that’s difficult for me to answer. I’m not an expert on video-game development, and so it would be hard to abstract from what saw and make a prediction when it will be ready. As I mentioned in another answer, I think making this kind of prediction is especially hard in the case with a game like No Man’s Sky where the design is so interconnected, so it is not like I can tell you: “Hey guys, I saw five full levels in the Hello Games studio!” Everything in the game sort of evolves together, and the thing is taken apart and reassembled as it is being developed. Both Sony and Hello Games are sticking the position that the game will be launched in 2015. That is the official position. Do I think it is possible that deadline will not be met? Yes, I do think it is possible. It is a hugely complicated, ambitious game, and Sean is committed to making it with a small team, and, from my point of view, I think that it is good thing. What I did witness was the studio working immensely hard, and in an organized and productive fashion, and — I want to emphasize this is my personal view — if the deadline does happen to slip to 2016 I imagine it will be because the studio wants the game to live up to the standard that they have set for themselves for it.

cura-me101 karma

Parev, Raffi. Inchbes es?

RaffiKhatchadourian106 karma

shad lav!

TheBobbyDude101 karma

Is there any combat in the game and if so what does it play like? A shooter? A first person brawler? Thanks !

RaffiKhatchadourian332 karma

Yes, there is combat in the game, and I was able to watch some of it. While I was in the studio, there was a great moment that i did not have space for in my story. I was hunkered down at a table opposite Sean, and suddenly David Ream who is focussing on gameplay jumped out of his seat and said something like "this is a game!" That morning he was working on laser cannons for a ship, and he was also working on ship handling. As a test, he shot at a freighter, and then descended to a planet. A few minutes later, police ships began firing at him on the planet's surface. At first he thought it was a glitch, but then realized that the police had tracked him down because he had fired at the freighters in orbit while testing the lasers. It was one of those moments where you could feel the many various aspects of the game coming together, and his excitement was really genuine. So yes, combat, yes!

pittyh87 karma

Hi Raffi, I have lots of questions from The /r/NoMansSkyTheGame Sub, here are some of them:

When playing the game, how did it make you feel, and what was the reaction Sean gave when you expressed your feelings over what you were seeing that he had created?

Was there any mention when you were there of any major upcoming gaming events that No Man's Sky would be shown at?

RaffiKhatchadourian66 karma

OK, let me check it out. Sorry if I am not keeping up. This is my first AMA!

RaffiKhatchadourian92 karma

I didn't know what to expect when I went to Hello Games. I got to explore some of the planets on the E3 build. That system is older as you know. So there are some gameplay features that have not been added to it. As Sean has said exploring in the game will not be entirely ambient. There is a system of beacons now in place in the master build, and when you go to the planets and you can collect them and there will be rewards for that. (Some will be at the highest mountain, or deepest part of the ocean.) The version of the game that I played did not yet have those features, but it was nonetheless absorbing to wander around these mathematical landscapes. As for events, I know there is a lot on the calendar this year, but these guys are also furiously working on the game, so I really don't know what they will or will not end up attending

therealsoqquatto54 karma

Hi Raffi, I've read your NMS articles with great interest. What prompted you to do such an extensive coverage on No Man's Sky? Was it a "request" from the New Yorker or was it your idea? Why did you (or the magazine) pick No Man's Sky?

RaffiKhatchadourian84 karma

The idea came from me. I had read about the game, and I was struck by the ambition of it, and really wanted to know how a dozen or so people could create a universe in a bottle, for lack of a better term. I pitched it to The New Yorker last year, but then had to take care of some other projects. This year I pitched it again, and the magazine said yes.

spore_777_mexen41 karma

Hi, Raffi.

What blew your mind the most concerning the making of No Man's Sky?

RaffiKhatchadourian78 karma

I would say the galactic map. I know there is a version in a trailer online, but when you see it as an actual instrument in the game, it is pretty mind blowing, and you can see in my story how Dave Gibbons is reacting. You just get this sense of the system's immensity and it the feeling can be a little like the sublime

jayds835 karma

how does the e3 build of the game look/sound/feel in comparison to where the game is at now?

RaffiKhatchadourian45 karma

This is a good question. As I mentioned, the game moves through cycles of assembly and deconstruction in its development. And you can see in the story how the designers use the E3 build as a reference point. For instance, if they have lost something from that build as it evolves, they try to recapture that. When I went to Hello Games the game was in the midst of its development cycle. Many new things were being added, and the new build seems to me to be far richer and contains greater depth

notenougheducation125 karma

What is your strategy for finding story ideas, such as this one? Read any particular magazines or sites?

RaffiKhatchadourian28 karma

I read a lot of different things, and try to keep up with reading because there are always story ideas out there to find. I can't remember now what story I first read that drew me to No Man's Sky, I'm sorry

BruceLazer24 karma

No Man's Sky seems very impressive based upon the trailers and the hype surrounding the game. It's a very ambitious project and one that has me very excited. How does it measure up to those expectations? How good are the graphics?

And, also very important, I heard that you can encounter space pirates in the game. Is that true?

RaffiKhatchadourian48 karma

The graphics that you have seen in the trailers are versions of what you will see in the game. I say versions because if you look at them carefully, from 2013 to now, they have clearly been getting better. I got a glimpse at some newer versions of the graphics, and the design seems even more integrated to me. Colors of one object were being picked up in another, so the underbelly of a ship sitting on a field of orange grass would pick up some of that orange. It looked really good. As for pirates, my understanding is that there will be pirates in the game.

Fasterthanapigeon21 karma

From what you saw and played of the game, what excited you the most and what were you most sceptical about?

RaffiKhatchadourian35 karma

I guess my nerdy side was excited about the math, and you can see that in my story. I thought that was fascinating. I did a follow up blog post about the game's audio. That was really surprising for me. I had gone to Hello Games not really thinking about audio, but it turns out that they had put a lot of thought into solving some unexpected problems in that issue. Let me think about my greatest skepticism. Did you have a more specific question on that front?

Fasterthanapigeon12 karma

I think around the scepticism it was more that there's obviously a lot of ambition on show here - would you say that there were any areas you thought that was misplaced?

RaffiKhatchadourian37 karma

I can say this. Sean comes from a world of big-budget game development, and I think he does bring that sensibility to this project, even if it is not big-budget in the sense that hundreds of people are working on it. That sensibility is one of the reasons why Joe Danger for instance immediately caught Geoff Keighley's attention. Geoff told me that by looking at one still of JD he saw in it the polish of a larger studio. It didn't look obviously indie, even though it was. The games that Sean worked on at EA/Criterion (a game like Black, for instance) were all about gameplay, but he has been speaking about that less with NMS and I understand why: he wants to preserve a sense of mystery. After all, this is a game about exploration. So he is asking for the community's trust on this. Whether or not the "verbs" of the game -- as one person put it to me -- are sufficient can only be decided once it is all put together. Even I can't answer this (at least fairly) given the week I spent at the studio. But I did learn what happens at the center of the galaxy and I think it is pretty cool. How about that...

trkmstrwggy15 karma

How's the environment over at HG? Are they stressed or calm?

RaffiKhatchadourian46 karma

Quiet, lots of coding, some joking around to relieve the tension, late nights. You feel like you are among a bunch of friends

KommanderKrebs14 karma

Is there any complaints about how the game felt or handled? I of course understand if you may not be able to talk about the game in a negative way.

RaffiKhatchadourian22 karma

So I can answer this. The studio has a pretty orderly daily cycle. In the morning everyone goes around the room and talks about their goals. Then in the evening people check their work into the master build if it is ready, and that is tested. So yes people were constantly saying, Hey, we need to make this better, or fix that -- and some of that is in my story. I know you have seen those massive obsidian space stations. I watched an artists work on the interior of that, and at one point, after a meeting with Sean and Grant, he basically altered course, and took a different approach to the design. (The issue was how to arrange the ships, once they are inside and parked) So I did see a lot of communication within the team. I think this is one reason why Sean likes working with small teams.

turgidoverlord11 karma

Raffi sir, Did you get to experience any gameplay elements such as using the multi-tool to mine or interact with the environment? Also did you try to interact with the wildlife you found to see their a.I. react and was their a.I. functinality described by Sean in relation to the procedural nature of the world?

One final question. Was a version of the procedural soundtrack demoed to you or in place in your build? Thank you sir.

RaffiKhatchadourian35 karma

The AI was being developed when I was there, and there were great advancements since the E3 build. In the E3 build there were certain things the creature would do -- like climb a 90 degree incline -- that they don't do any longer. I got to watch them add inverse kinematics to the creatures, and give them more logical behaviors. But still they were full of surprises. There's a story that I love. Grant Duncan had been working to give a hippo-like creature a rule to spawn in caves. He was doing this on a version of the game native to his machine and checked it into the master build. A bit later David Ream was exploring an underwater cave and found a pile of dead hippos in it. They had "drowned." There are so many factors to consider. .. as for soundtrack. Sean came in one day and put the thing on and we listened to it in the studio. But it wasn't in the game. I know he as attuned to the use of music in games. There's a video of him online somewhere talking about that moment in Red Dead Redemption when the Jose Gonsales track kicks in and how effective it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8IonrlZp74

Dingus400011 karma

Last one from me. Were there any planets that had eco-systems or environments that you did not expect to see? To your knowledge is there fire in the game (ignoring stars)? Thanks :)

RaffiKhatchadourian14 karma

That's a good question about fire. I did not see any fire. But I do know there are red giants and I did see one of those in the galactic map

pittyh11 karma

"At the end of your New Yorker article you watched Murray warp to an unknown destination. He was hesitant because there is a chance that the planet wouldn't be interesting. What did you see at the unknown destination? Was it a barren, lifeless rock? If so, were there still interesting features to observe?"

RaffiKhatchadourian12 karma

I figured I'd be asked this. But that is how I wanted to end my piece, with Sean taking that leap into the unknown with this game. But, yes, we did land on a planet that was many light years from where we were.

craftitall9 karma

Excellent article Raffi thank you for your coverage... two things I have been wondering if you experienced in your time with no man's sky is...

So you know what is the extent of our interaction with stars?

For example will we be able to fly above the surface like we can on a planet, or will we at least be able to get close enough to be awe struck by their graphics...

secondly in your demo were you able to feel the impact of the planets revolution and or rotation?

Meaning did it seem day and night were fairly fast approaching, or maybe your position in space clearly had moved significantly from when you landed to when you took off...

Thank you once again for your article and your time both are very much appreciated

RaffiKhatchadourian61 karma

I don't know about landing on stars. But, man, that sounds pretty self destructive! ouch. Yes, the planets will have rotation. This was a feature that I know Sean likes. He told me about a player once flew down from an orbiting space station, landed on a planet, hung out, and then went straight back up, and found the space station gone. "What the? Where did it go?" But of course, it didn't disappear. The planet had merely rotated during the time the player was there

CorporalButtermilk9 karma

Do you think that one day I will be able to go inside the human body (through VR or just for real) like those Magic School Bus Kids?

obippo8 karma

Second and last question :P what was the weirdest creature you saw during the interview with the hello games guys?

RaffiKhatchadourian29 karma

One of the artists was working on a creature archetype that was somewhat kangaroo-like. It was bipedal, and blue, and had a deer-like head. It was strange, but also cute in a Pixar-like way. I was hoping to see how the system would mutate it, but either I missed it because of scheduling or was distracted by other things

Fasterthanapigeon7 karma

Did you get any feel for the "character" you were playing as? Obviously everything's first person, but either in terms of being able to customise who you play as in a way that could impact the game or world around you?

RaffiKhatchadourian22 karma

Sean has said -- and this is consistent with what I saw -- that your character won't be defined as it is in many other games. In other words, you won't have an avatar that you can build. You will be you. I didn't discuss this with him explicitly, but I imagine that it is to foster the sense that you the player are exploring this world

jbov6 karma

Hi! Did you see much terrain deformation?

RaffiKhatchadourian5 karma

what do you mean by deformation?

icyflamez965 karma

Can you describe in reasonable detail one of the environmental scenes that stood out to you the most?

RaffiKhatchadourian6 karma

There are so many questions. This is a good one, but just to save time I hope you don't mind if I defer to the scenes I described in the story. But thanks

Teh_Pan5 karma

Are you planning on doing a follow up article closer to release?

RaffiKhatchadourian8 karma

probably not, but who knows. I did post a follow up article today

pittyh3 karma

How far along did you think NMS looked ?

RaffiKhatchadourian11 karma

This is really hard to answer, and I know it is a question on many people's mind. Everyone wants to play this thing! It's hard to answer because of the integrated way in which everything was built. It is not like I can say, Hey guys, I saw five fully formed levels! In that case you'd have a decent sense of where things are. The game is much more holistic in the way it is evolving. But I did see progress since E3 for sure. I'll think a bit more how to quantify it

obippo3 karma

Do you know anything about the PC version? will it come at same time with the ps4, later, much later?

RaffiKhatchadourian12 karma

I wish I could tell you I did know about PC version. But I don't. There was so much to focus on in terms of the actual construction of the game. But I do realize that this is an important question for a lot of people, and I imagine it will get answered soon enough

ShadowFlightBA3 karma

How is the multitool functioning?

RaffiKhatchadourian8 karma

I saw the multi tool in use only one one or two occasions. I am sure it is being worked on, but I only spent a week at Hello Games, and that was not an object of focus that particular week. But it seemed to have a laser, and you could shoot at stuff -- trees or rocks -- and they were destructible. I saw the tool in that context: a coder was working to imbue these aspects of the game with "collision" so the focus was more on game physics, than the tool. But there it was...

AntonRuscov12 karma

Is it easy to find resources or will it require a lot of looking?

RaffiKhatchadourian5 karma

It is hard for me to answer this in the context that I experienced the game personally -- an early demo. But Sean has said some things about this in general. I have heard him speak about how some games these days are not as challenging as they could be, and I know he likes that sensation you often had the 1980s when you had run your hands across a keyboard to figure out what did what. So I would expect that this game will strike a balance. When you jump off a cliff you won't break your legs. But as you get closer to the center, he has said, the game will become much more difficult

SummerOftime1 karma

How do you pronounce your surname?

mcglothlin3 karma

He says it at the start of his video about the game: http://video.newyorker.com/watch/commentary-the-universe-of-no-man-s-sky

RaffiKhatchadourian3 karma