“I’m proud to be a nerd”The games developer Sean Murray has brought his dreams to life with space adventure No Man’s Sky, gaining celebrity fans in the process
While growing up on his parents’ ranch in the Australian Outback, Sean Murray would gaze up at the night sky and dream of space exploration. These days, the 34-year-old games developer has the likes of Stephen Spielberg and Kanye West queuing up to get their hands on No Man’s Sky, his epic and insanely ambitious video game in which players explore a galaxy made up of 18 quintillion planets.
It was created by a core of just four programmers at Murray’s indie label, Hello Games, based in Guildford, Surrey. But, along the way, the team had to endure devastating floods, sleepless nights and the weight of expectation of millions of gamers worldwide.
THE RED BULLETIN: No Man’s Sky has been more than three years in the making. How personal is this project to you?
SEAN MURRAY: As a kid, I always dreamt of going into space. I would imagine what it would be like landing on these strange, alien worlds. This game is those dreams brought to life. I never made it as an astronaut, so I had to find another way. This is the next best thing.
How would you sum up the appeal of No Man’s Sky?
Our sun will have burnt out by the time it takes you to visit every planet in the game! It feels like we’re releasing an experiment. We don’t know if players will cluster in one space or spread out evenly across the galaxy. I like the fact they can express themselves in the game, rather than just following a script.
Your booth at mega games convention E3 in LA in June was like an A-list party. How did that come about?
It was crazy. Stephen Spielberg’s production team got in touch to see if he could look at the game, and he said it was right up his street. Then Kanye West wanted to meet us, but we had to stand him up because Elon Musk [billionaire CEO of aerospace company SpaceX] invited us on a tour of his rocket factory.
So, is it finally cool to work in the games industry?
Friends still give me a hard time about it. At various stages in my life, I’ve become a little bit embarrassed or defensive about my hobby, but now I’m not ashamed of being labelled a nerd.
You’ve faced many hurdles in the process. How have these affected the team?
When the office flooded at Christmas in 2013, we lost all our equipment and a lot of work. But we look back on it fondly because it brought us all together. Sometimes I wish we were rich and had loads of people working on the game, but most of the time I’m happy it’s such a small, focused team. We have each other’s backs.