We knew that No Man’s Sky, Hello Games’ wildly ambitious open-universe exploration game, was huge, but only now that it’s actually in the hands of players are we starting to really grok just how huge. Case in point, just one day after it launched for PlayStation 4, players have already discovered more species than are known to exist on Earth, according to The Verge.
For instance over night we hit 10 million species discovered in NMS… that's more than has been discovered on earth.
WHAT IS GOING ON!!!
— Sean Murray (@NoMansSky) August 10, 2016
In No Man’s Sky, players explore a galaxy that is procedurally generated, with algorithms creating everything from solar systems down to individual species of plant and animal on each of its absurd number of planets (roughly 2 to the power of 64). Whenever a player finds something (planets, species, etc) for the first time, they log it into a shared database and can name it, forever getting credit for the discovery.
Loggong 10 million species in one day puts the collective efforts of the No Man’s Sky community comfortably past the results of a 2011 study published in PLOS Biology, which estimated more than 8.7 million eukaryotic species on Earth. Eukaryotic is the key word here — it refers to organisms whose cells have membranes and contain organelles like mitochondria and nuclei. That broad category includes us and pretty much all animals as we generally think about them, as opposed to prokaryotic organisms, such as bacteria, which lack such discrete parts. The number of prokaryotes, which preceded us in evolution, dwarfs the eukaryotes by orders of magnitude that scientists have trouble even estimating. According to a 2002 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “the number of different kinds of prokaryotes is so large as to make counting them an endless task.”
No Man’s Sky is only generating organisms large enough to see with the naked eye, so it’s a fair comparison to only look at eukaryotes, but given that the community broke the 10 million in just one day (before the game has even launched on PC, no less), it seems entirely possible that they will surpass the number of prokaryotes in the foreseeable future.
No Man’s Sky is available now on PlayStation 4 and launches for PC. Stay tuned for our review coverage.