By Matt Peckham and Josh Raab
April 11, 2016

If you budget just one second for each planet in Hello Games’ imponderable No Man’s Sky, you’ll still spend 585 billion years visiting them all. In just 5 billion years, our own sun will have become a crimson death star and swallowed us whole. You’ll see virtually none of the more than 18 quintillion planets in this space survival game. That’s by design. It’s an expanse conquerable by no one.

Scrappy U.K.-based studio Hello Games wanted first to stir imaginations by crafting a digital universe almost as grand as our own. It’s rendered on the fly by an absurdly small amount of mathematical code. Think DNA, only for reality. The game generates only what you’re looking at, thus the tree that falls in the woods literally doesn’t make a sound unless you’re in the vicinity.

What do you do in a universe-sized universe? Will it get boring eking out a living on backwater planets in the arm of some galaxy at the edge of creation? Flying from planet to planet discovering and naming new species and uploading those discoveries to a galactic codex? Trying your hand at interstellar economics and the diplomatic particulars of trading with potentially lethal aliens?

No Man’s Sky launches on June 21 for PlayStation 4 and Windows. We asked the game’s director Sean Murray to explain how it works, and how his studio’s working to ensure we won’t get bored, or lost. Watch his answers above.

Write to Matt Peckham at matt.peckham@time.com.

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