No Man's Sky is (almost) here: 11 things you need to know

This universe-spanning exploration game is so incredibly ambitious, there are major changes coming even before the official launch.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
2 min read

No Man's Sky -- available Tuedsay in the US (and Wednesday in Europe) for the PlayStation 4 and on Friday worldwide on PC -- is one of the most anticipated video games of 2016.

From its first teaser at E3 2014 to last-minute controversies over leaked game discs and extensive launch-day patches, it's been held up as an example of just how expansive, ambitious, and forward-looking games can be.

Here's what you need to know to get started.

  • More than just a space shooter or an adventure game, No Man's Sky literally contains an entire universe within it. Sean Murray, co-founder of Hello Games, the game's developer, has said that there are potentially 18.4 quintillion planets within its code, each created on the fly by the game's procedural engine. This basically means the game uses preprogrammed basic rules to create new planets, galaxies and encounters as you find them.
  • A few of those planets have been found by early players, who somehow got their hands on retail PS4 copies of the game early. One infamous disc came from eBay, and its purported purchaser has been posting early gameplay footage on Reddit.
  • The PS4 version of the game will require a large Day One patch, which makes numerous changes and fixes to the already-pressed physical game discs coming to store shelves this week. That's common for many console games, which must have a stable version running weeks or months ahead of release for certification purposes, even if there's still substantial work to be done on a game.
Watch this: Everything you can do in No Man's Sky
  • If you're one of the gamers who found a copy of the game for sale early, you can technically keep your progress, but only if you play the game offline and don't download the Day One patch. If you do want to update (and you should), the developers recommend deleting the existing game save first.
  • The online servers that provide new game content and share information between players (by way of a public Atlas), will be wiped just before the game launch, so everyone starts on the same page.
  • The Day One patch makes several significant changes to the game, including creating three unique narrative paths to follow as you play.
  • Galaxies can now be "up to 10x larger," and "creatures are now more diverse," according the the developers.
  • Several exploits have been patched, include those that could generate duplicates of valuable in-game merchandise.
  • Future patches, even major ones, won't require you to wipe your saved-game progress.
  • This is the "first of many" big patches coming to the game, which the developer pledges "will continually update [...] this way."
  • Anyone hoping to play No Man's Sky on a Windows PC will have to wait until Friday, August 12, for the game's global PC release.

The official No Man's Sky website has further details about the game's Day One patch.

Read our initial impressions of No Man's Sky.