It’s been silence from indie studio Hello Games since the announcement that No Man’s Sky would be investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority. A post on reddit appeared on the 27th September detailing a response from the ASA after gamers complained about misleading information surrounding the controversial game.
According to Gameslice host Geoff Keighley, Sean Murray will be discussing updates to the game later this month.
“I finally reconnected with Sean several weeks ago on email and he did say that they were working hard on updates and that he is open to coming on this show later in October to talk more about what happened, so I hoped that will happen.”
It may already be too late; the number of people playing the game has plummeted.
Valve is implicated in the investigation as they still show contentious information on the game’s Steam page. Visitors to the page are greeted by the original E3 trailer that blew so many minds back in 2014. The problem is that the final game does not resemble this trailer. Nothing in the game is so big or well designed as the large brontosaurus type animals grazing in the water, or the rhino that shakes the environment during its rampage, or the herd that runs from the rhino. Other advertised features long promised by Sean Murray and notably absent from the game are the wingmen and warring factions seen in trailers and gameplay demos.
No Man’s Sky promised so much. A space exploration game with 18 quintillion planets! Every ship – every planet – every animal procedural! The hype that built around the game over the years was exasperated by lead developer Sean Murray. He was promising an infinite universe where almost anything is possible, and a game that you can play with your friends.
Murray had always been reluctant to allow anyone extended hands-on time with the game prior to release. One example of this was the Edge magazine preview where Murray states the game was not as ready as it would be upon launch. He should have just let them have an hour with the game to get control of the runaway hype train. Throughout the steady stream of interviews and appearances over the years, Murray was frequently asked, and seemed to be uncomfortable to be asked, just what do you DO in No Man’s Sky.
The central gameplay loop is fundamentally broken. It’s a constant resource hunt; Thamium9 (fuel for the pulse engine), Plutonium (take off thrusters), Iron (shields), and Carbon for life support. The vast majority of the game time is spent firing your laser at rocks. You find blueprints for new upgrades all over the place and these to require resources to unlock. After a few upgrades your multitool will mine rocks a little faster or your ship can take a little more punishment, but getting there feels like such a grind. And even after generous upgrades to the inventory slots there never seems to be enough room. The inventory system is so bloated and clunky to use. It’s impossible to even stack items of the same type (like shielding sheets).
Any exploration to be had is constantly interrupted with the dreaded words ‘life support power low’. You’re going to be staring at your inventory screen and mining rocks the vast majority of your time with No Man’s Sky.
Initially, I did have fun with No Man’s Sky. I was aware of the leaks and the criticism of the lack of variety, and I had tempered with my expectations. When I explored the first planet and fixed up my derelict ship it felt like a survival game. I’d explore the vast cave networks to escape the harsh elements. At times, I was even in awe of the lovely landscapes with giant planets hanging in the sky.
However, the more I played the more the game showed me its flaws. The same animals are everywhere. Every planet has the same outposts. Every interior looks the same. The same space station and docking bay with the same barren rooms with the same lifeless NPCs exists in every single star system. What’s the point to exploration when you can predict exactly what you’ll find?
Gameplay is king. I don’t care what people say about walking simulators or exploration; a game needs gameplay. It’s gameplay that is the unique quality of the medium that immerses players over anything else. These enormous worlds in No Man’s Sky are empty and devoid of anything that could make for interesting emergent gameplay. The large maps of Metal Gear Solid V are mostly empty but the gameplay is so deep, so versatile, that there are almost infinite opportunities for fun and experimentation in just the act of infiltrating a military base. You could be a sniper picking off patrols, or Rambo crawling through a muddy swamp avoiding search lights, or many other variations that has the player making strategic decisions moment to moment that draws them further into the game and into the character they’re playing.
Take Minecraft as another open world example. Players are dropped into large, randomly generated sandboxes where the player creates whatever they wish, whether it’s a motte-and-bailey castle or even the Death Star. The only real limitation is imagination.
No Man’s Sky lacks gameplay depth. There’s no creativity or strategy. There’s only grinding towards upgrades. You warp to a new system – maybe you’ll be attacked by random AI ships, maybe not. You land on a planet. You get out, scan an animal, blow up a rock, and check out a series of identical outposts. You know, same old, same old? Well, that’s what you do in No Man’s Sky.
Furthermore, the JJ Abrams style lens flare is severely overused, assaulting you upon entrance into every room, lights popping out of desks for no reason. The unskippable in-game ‘achievements’ are obnoxious with soaring music and bright lights informing you of how far you walked or how many times you’ve warped your ship. It’s these touches that really seem like a desperate attempt at distraction; but you can’t cover a turd in pretty sparkles and expect people not to notice the stench.
The world of Witcher 3, while technically far smaller, feels much more varied. The environments are so much more atmospheric and distinct in personality, whether it’s war-torn Velen or the mythical Skellige isles. The various towns, inns, and shops look hand-crafted. I can witness a wild horse herd galloping in a valley in Witcher 3 and it feels more natural and fuller of life than anything I’ve seen the entire time I’ve played No Man’s Sky. Every NPC interaction in Witcher has been written to be unique and delving into the game is like delving into a fully realized world. With No Man’s Sky, it’s like someone is using a copy/paste tool with each room, each NPC interaction. It’s depressingly minimal.
I was intrigued by the idea that you have to gradually learn new words of the alien languages, but I think this too is a trick to cover up how thin the NPC interactions are. It’s always the same thing. They want to give you a blueprint or offer you a new multitool or something, and you gotta give them an isotope, or whatever, in return. It really doesn’t matter. Nothing you do feels like it’s impacting or changing anything in the game’s universe.
It’s not just one or two bad gameplay elements that have caused a backlash. Maybe if we had never heard of it and it just dropped one day on Steam, it would still be a broken game but it wouldn’t have the weight of all that hype on top of it. Or Sean Murray could have just been clearer on what is and is not in the game. Why let people think that meeting other players is possible even if improbable? Why not clarify that previously discussed elements, like wingmen, would not be in the final release? I also think allowing hour-long gameplay session ages ago would have helped to quell the unbelievable hype and expectations.
People were expecting the random variety to be so complex and deep, and people weren’t too sure if you get missions or what the **** if there’s anything to do, and just showing extended gameplay would have settled a lot of it. People would have realized a lot earlier that while there are 18 quintillion planets, the level of variety from the procedural generation is actually extremely limited, that the gameplay loop is limited, and people would have known exactly what they were in for before they purchased the game.
As people feel like they bought the game based on a stack of lies. The outcome of the Advertising Standards Authority investigation will have the final say. I can only speak from my own opinion. I was bitterly disappointed by No Man’s Sky, and I do think Sean Murray could have avoided this mess just by being more open.
And with that said, what´s your take on this matter? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section down below!
Robin Ek – Editor
This is a personal opinion of the writer, and it doesn’t necessarily represent the other writers (nor The Gaming Ground´s) opinions.
The Gaming Ground
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