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Monday, August 29, 2016

No Man's Sky is Few People's Game

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - “Has there ever been a game fall from grace faster and more dramatically than No Man's Sky?”

Do you remember that awful waste of time known as VGX 2013? Terrible event, but it's where No Man's Sky from independent gaming studio Hello Games was formally introduced to the world. Here were my impressions of it from that event:
So this game is just scenery porn?
    (dat ain't Star Fox)
    "No Man's Sky"
    Ain't Fox McCloud's sky either.
    So is this indie guy just pissing money?
    He already sold his house.”
Continuing that theme, after we saw it at Sony's E3 2014, I described it as “pretty” in the post-E3 wrap-up.

Here is what the developer describes it as:
At launch though, it’s an infinite procedural sci-fi-space-survival-sandbox unlike anything you have ever played before. [...] It’s a weird game, it’s a niche game and it’s a very very chill game.” [Emphasis theirs.]
Chill? This game is one of the most hyped up indie games ever. A GQ headline read, “Why No Man's Sky Is the Most Hyped Game of the Last 3 Years”. Part of that might be sensationalist, but it's not that far off.

GameFAQs poll of the day upcoming original title No Man's Sky Overwatch Splatoon The Division Bloodborne
See Poll 5751 from GameFAQs in early January 2015. No Man's Sky beat out KoopaTV favourites Splatoon and Tom Clancy's The Division.

The hype continued all the way to July 2016:

GameFAQs August 2016 release poll of the day anticipation No Man's Sky
No Man's Sky easily won a third of GameFAQs voters' hearts, which is impressive in a poll with ten games. Comparably impressive with Donald Trump's primary run.
If it wasn't still hyped, it would've easily fallen to sub-Metroid Prime: Federation Force levels.

Uh... so obviously it didn't meet that hype, or else this article wouldn't exist. Take a look at its Metacritic:

No Man's Sky Metacritic Metascore user reviews Hello Games PlayStation 4 PS4
DAT USER SCORE. Also, the Metascore isn't good either.

As for GameFAQs polling:

GameFAQs Got No Man's Sky poll of the day question ownership
Well, that fell apart in less than two weeks.

So... what the hell happened?

For one, look at that Metacritic genre. “Action.” No Man's Sky doesn't have much of that. As I wrote about a year ago, No Man's Sky is the ultimate engineered extreme in the continuum of closely-designed, structured experiences versus completely open, engineered sandboxes.

People generally don't like extremes, which is a reality that saddens me as a right-wing extremist. No Man's Sky is considered boring by people who actually like doing things. It's absolutely possible to like a game for the purpose of exploring big game worlds — and in terms of possible number of locations, then No Man's Sky is quantitatively the best. There are more procedurally-generated planets than you can explore in your lifetime.

If you want exploration with a PURPOSE, like the randomly-generated dungeons of a Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game (or other such story-driven Rogue-like), that's not something you'll get out of No Man's Sky. There's a goal (the centre of the universe!) and a lot of resources you can pick up, and progression in terms of your ship and stuff.

However, that's not really why the game was made, and they're more like things that are there to try to appeal to people who don't exist at that exploratory engineered extreme. Unfortunately, it falls flat. To be specific, they're deemed incredibly repetitive by players.

No Man's Sky buy store inventory resources Dynamic Resonator
You can buy this stuff if you want, and you can pick up stuff off the planets. That's really all you do.
(Image credit: The official launch trailer.)

It doesn't help that people held their expectations absurdly high, and Hello Games never tried to set those expectations that high. Despite the developers’ carefully-created marketing scheme, fans made up features they wanted and now are demanding refunds from Sony and Valve's Steam service because No Man's Sky didn't have those features, like player vs. player multiplayer. I've seen people liken the game to a tech demo.

Well, if it's a tech demo, it's one of the most impressive tech demos ever made. I'll give it that credit. I still think it's pretty.

Going back to the heading for this article, which is actually a quote by RawkHawk2010: “Has there ever been a game fall from grace faster and more dramatically than No Man's Sky?” (Something about that question strikes me as grammatically incorrect...)

Fast? This might top the list, since the game was so well-veiled prior to release that public opinion of it dropped the weekend it was released. Drama? I'd argue Mighty No. 9 was the most dramatic fall from grace of any game. (You thought the Metacritic score screenshot for No Man's Sky was bad? Look at the screenshot from the hyperlinked Mighty No. 9 article! And everything Mighty No. 9 was supposed to represent.)

What would YOU argue? The comments section is yours.

Ludwig has never played No Man's Sky and never will. All of his remarks in this article are based on hearsay and he makes only some guarantees to their accuracy — all the ones not relating directly to the game. He did recently prevent Kamek from purchasing the game, resulting in Kamek purchasing Overwatch instead. You can also comment about whether or not that was a good decision.


  1. I've actually been following the No Man's Sky fiasco rigorously, and have actually contributed a lot of discussion about the game.

    The game received a fifty million dollar budget from Sony, and as I often talk about, Sony thrives off of misleading customer.

    1. R-Rigorously?

      Well, given that, am I missing/misreported anything?

      Well if those refund requests happen to clear, they sure won't be thriving off of negative sales and chargebacks.
      $50 million from your publisher is every indie's dream, I gotta say. And, I mean, you clearly can see that money did go places in terms of graphical development.

  2. No Man's Sky had an astronomical amount of hype, but consumers quickly discovered that it did not live up to their pie in the sky expectations. Exploration without any action will only last so long before one is no longer immersed in the atmosphere. In comparison to Super Mario Galaxy's 97 Metacritic score and 8.9 user rating, it is easy to see that improved visuals and a vast open world does not make a game greater but instead how much the gamer enjoys playing it.

    1. (Hm, good use of "pie in the sky".)

      What if the gamer enjoys exploration without any action? Gaming is probably not the best hobby for this type of person, but these might be the same folks who got upset when Wii Street U closed. Or Panorama View. Whatever the hell it was. (Or were those different things?)

  3. I really was living under a rock because I never even followed this at all during its announcement and development and only heard about it now.

    1. ...Yeah.
      See, I didn't exactly follow its development, but I was at least aware that I could have.

  4. This is a worse disaster then whatever your favorite game is.

  5. The made-up hype for this game definitely got out of control, but at the very least Hello Games were happy to let that go unchecked and did nothing to temper expectations to make it clear what they were actually making, and they peddled around untruths about things they said would be in the game that aren't. Like ship variation/naming, hacking, realistic solar system physics, large fleet battles, faction interactions, landing on asteroids, desert/ocean worlds, animal interactions with the environment, flying animals, and that there would be "no DLC" for the game. I say "untruths" and not "lies" since some of those things' absence could be down to time and budget rather than a deliberate attempt at deception.

    Multiplayer is another issue entirely. When asked if you could play with your friends the devs said "yes", and that in the "unlikely" scenario of two players meeting in the same place, they'd be able to see each other. A player meet-up actually happened shortly after release, and the two guys couldn't see each other at all. Early boxed copies of the game even had the "this game has online multiplayer" logo printed on them before they got covered up with cheap stickers! When it comes to whether or not this game has any kind of multiplayer functionality at all, however small, I really don't know what to believe any more.

    So much of this debacle could have been easily mitigated if Hello Game's had been a lot less vague and wishy-washy about details surrounding the game. BUT that would've derailed the hype train long before the masses had plonked down their $60. Can't have that now.

    Also, my sister plays Overwatch like it's her new religion. I think you did Kamek a favour.


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