Look­ing for the sto­ries be­hind the num­bers


A few years ago, a group of three jour­nal­ists from Ja­pan’s Famitsu group of videogame mag­a­zines vis­ited the of­fices. They wanted to talk to us about how we worked, so we gath­ered in a meet­ing room for a dis­cus­sion over cof­fee and some ex­pen­sive, only-when-you-have-guests bis­cuits. It turned out that we had many things in com­mon, and the con­ver­sa­tion in­volved plenty of agree­ment and nod­ding of heads. Then came the ques­tion: “How many people work in-house at “Seven,” we said. Our guests looked at each other and burst into laugh­ter. Famitsu’s teams are used to work­ing in of­fices stuffed with banks of ed­i­to­rial, plan­ning and de­sign staff, and to these people the con­cept of pro­duc­tion be­ing han­dled by such a com­par­a­tively small group seemed out­landish to the point of hi­lar­ity.

We were re­minded of the Famitsu meet­ing this month – al­beit in the con­text of some­thing with am­bi­tions of a far dizzier mag­ni­tude – when we vis­ited Hello Games in Guild­ford to talk about No Man’s Sky. It’s a game whose cre­den­tials have been ques­tioned re­peat­edly since its an­nounce­ment be­cause it’s be­ing pro­duced by just four people. Who are they, these cre­ators of car­toony mo­tor­bik­ing romp Joe Dan­ger, to be build­ing such a pre­pos­ter­ously far-reach­ing project? Our re­port this is­sue goes in search of some an­swers.

About 20 miles south of Hello Games’ HQ we find the of­fices of Cre­ative As­sem­bly and a more fa­mil­iar sight: desk upon desk stacked with com­puter sys­tems lined up to feed the greedy beast that is tra­di­tional triple-A game de­vel­op­ment. De­spite the glar­ing dis­par­ity in team size, though, there are par­al­lels be­tween No Man’s Sky and what is hap­pen­ing here on cover game Alien: Isolation. Both ti­tles clearly in­volve space set­tings, but it’s the ob­ses­sive at­ten­tion to de­tail that marks the pro­duc­tions as rel­a­tives.

Ul­ti­mately, raw num­bers can count for a great deal, but at­ti­tude is more im­por­tant. The ap­proach Cre­ative As­sem­bly is tak­ing in res­ur­rect­ing one of en­ter­tain­ment’s most pow­er­ful prop­er­ties feels like the right one, and it ap­pears to be bear­ing some de­li­cious fruit, as our in-depth story il­lus­trates.

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