You don’t have to have your finger on the pulse of the gaming industry to know what a mixed bag No Mans Sky was, and still is for that matter. A combination of head developer Sean Murray’s uneven communication and the game simply not being able to live up to its amazing premise, No Man’s Sky went from being the most anticipated game of the year to its biggest disappointment.
So what went wrong? And how could things have turned out differently?
He was prodded and interrogated time and time again and Murray kept assuring us that No Man’s Sky would have multiplayer. But it was always with a coy smirk or a disingenuous expression. Because now that it’s out, we know that there isn’t any multiplayer. Hell, two players actually went to the same planet and stood in the exact same spot at the same time and they couldn’t see each other. In a way, that moment signalled No Man’s Sky’s downfall.
I would have thought multiplayer in a space travel and exploration game of this magnitude would have been academic. So what would have changed? Think about how amazing it would be to traverse solar systems and land on planets with a friend, collect resources together and name new species. Cooperatively putting your collective tech and know-how to use would have been a thing of beauty. But instead we’re forced to travel across this vast, sprawling universe in crippling solitude, where our candid, initial reaction to new things can’t be shared with anyone.
MORE TO DO
If you’ve played No Man’s Sky, you’re probably aware of how excruciatingly repetitive it is. In a nutshell, the game follows a very limited cycle of arriving on a planet, gathering resources, repairing/building your tech/ship, leaving, repeat. There are outposts and transmission signals that you can discover but they’re all the same and don’t require you to do anything different.
There are aliens on every planet but all they do give you a new word to use or more materials. Wouldn’t it have been cool if they offered you missions? “Break into this compound and retrieve some shit I want. Oh and be careful of the sentry army that will come after you once you trip the alarms”.
“There is a rare something or other on a neighbouring planet, I’m just not sure which one. Go and explore them, pick up what I need but watch out for the freaking armada guarding this system”.
It would have been a hell of a lot more fun than the sweet FA we have to work with now. We were promised warring factions too but they never came to fruition. Imagine playing each side against each other; Sabotaging trade routes, planting explosives on a carrier. You could even build up your standing with them that have actual consequences.
THE THRILL OF BEING IN SPACE
So I can go to space. I just can’t do anything in it. It merely exists as a middle ground while you figure out where you’re headed to next. There are asteroids and some lone, pissed off ships that shoot at you but don’t expect to be doing any trench runs or whizzing past handfuls of enemies above a transport ship.
The thought of participating in impromptu death matches with other players and stealing their loot or forming an alliance and taking down a Death Star replica is enticing. No, that stuff isnt going on in space as we speak but this is a sci-fi game, let’s spice things up. Throw us in an asteroid field and ramp up the already sublime music. Throw in some crazy shops with wacky vendors. Anything beyond the lifeless hub of nothingness that it is now.
UNDERSTAND YOUR LIMITS
I’m not a games designer and I have no place belittling the incredible work that these people do. But I am a gamer and I know other gamers and you know, we talk. My point is, it became pretty obvious early on that despite there being 18 quintillion planets, it’s not like every one of them is completely different. Some are hot, some are cold, some have toxic rain and they all have stupid looking animals. That’s about it. So let’s do away with the numbers that we regular folk had never heard of until E3 and talk quality.
Maybe discovering your own planet isnt that fun. Maybe the novelty got old fast. I’m willing to bet that a majority of people who played No Man’s Sky would rather have 100 majorly distinct planets that have well designed species (not some mix and match algorithm that ended up being very, very silly) their own resources and alien races and different things to discover; things that you can only find on that one planet.
Some could be all water, some could be futuristic or rooted in the past, you could draw concepts from Earth like a Western planet, an Ancient Chinese planet, some could be in ruins and some could even still be at war! Maybe we need to embrace the technology we have now or the resources that a small studio has and strive to create something incredible within our means rather than letting software and codes randomly generate content.
JUST DON’T, LIKE, LIE AND STUFF
Ultimately, if Sean Murray had a time machine and he could go back and change anything about this whole fiasco, it would probably be to just tell the damn truth from the outset. This isn’t a feature in the actual game but rather, the promise of multiple features in No Man’s Sky that were pitched, literally shown and then omitted from the final product. Unfortunately it has become an industry standard but Murray did himself no favours.
No Man’s Sky had the unenviable task of being transformed into a AAA title when at best it should have been the hottest indie game of the year. Did Murray simply panic and vocally turn his baby into a blockbuster? I don’t know man, this isn’t a tabloid but what I do know is that this can’t keep happening. I mean, have you seen the E3 footage? I’m talking brontosaurus like creatures gracefully walking through lush forests while herds of animals drink out of lakes. Sand monsters. Sand planets for that matter. Frenetic Empire Strikes Back type battles in space. Siding with opposing factions. Ships that all differ from one another.
The list goes on but my point is the same one that was shared by a swarm of angry gamers, that had bought something that was falsely advertised and demanded their money back. The simple rule of thumb here is, don’t lie and at the very least we can say we knew what we were getting and maybe those fallacies won’t encourage a internet full of poor reviews.