Hello Games is extremely reluctant to let anyone play with their supposedly infinite universe in No Man's Sky. However, as part of their "IGN First" series, the IGN editors got to romp about in the game for a whopping six minutes. You can see the frozen smile of terror and resentment on creator Sean Murray's face as he hands the keys to his baby over to IGN's Ryan McCaffrey.
Ryan proceeds to do what any gamer would do in this situation--dink around and see what can be done in the game. In the process we learn some interesting things. Ryan bails out of his spaceship mid-flight, managing to dump it precariously onto what looks like a small silo. "I have not seen that before," comments Murray, between nearly audible cringing and winces. Hey Sean Murray, is No Man's Sky an actual interactive video game you're making, that you playtest and such, or is it a priceless vase you want to keep locked up in a glass case above your fireplace?
Anyway, Ryan continues by killing some animals and blasting craters out of the planet surface with his multitool. This is exciting--actual nuts and bolts gameplay!--not just the slowly panning walking tours Sean Murray has been doling out for two years. No Man's Sky includes Red Faction-style terrain deformation. I take some small satisfaction that inevitably, dedicated gamers will take Murray's precious little sandbox and carve continent-spanning obscene images into a planet that can be seen from orbit.
This raises some interesting questions too. On a geologically active planet can you bore straight down into the molten mantle, Minecraft-style? Can you dig until you make an impromptu volcano? On a dead world can you core straight through the cold rock to the other side? Supposedly, to get to the really good resources you must dig until you find subterranean caves. At long last, we're getting a better picture of No Man's Sky's mechanics. It doesn't look like the same marginally different grassland repeated a quintillion times...at least under the surface.