No Man’s Sky is rumored to be delayed. I’m not surprised, nor am I that upset. I’ve been cautious of Hello Games highly anticipated game for a while, and it’s time to finally tell you why. Here are my top 5 reasons you should be worried for No Man’s Sky:
- The Game was Revealed in 2013
You’re going on vacation. You can’t wait to set off on your latest summer adventure. You’re all packed, and so excited to go, that you arrive to the airport 3 hours early. No problem, surging with hype, you pull out your phone and start looking at pictures of your desired locale. You read reviews of your hotel, find online menus for nearby restaurants, everything you can to start experiencing your vacation now. This has been going on for a while, you’re feeling a bit antsy. Naturally, you look at the time. You still have 2 hours and 15 minutes until your plane leaves.
This is No Man’s Sky. With rumors of the recent delay, we are unsure when our planes (rockets) will ever finally leave.
The important idea here is that the pre-release, the experience at the airport, that time is part of the experience. In the same way that a bad experience at the airport can sully your good vacation, a bad pre-release season can be devastating for a game.
Look at a game that nails building hype before the release. Smash Bros is an event. Every character reveal is accompanied with a spectacular trailer that throws good vibes in every direction. Smash Bros understands the economy of knowledge. They trickle out information in a way that constantly gives its fans something new to latch onto, something new to discuss.
Even though No Man’s Sky was first revealed so long ago, understanding of the game is vague at best. Whether or not the game will be good remains to be seen, but one can’t help but think that developer Hello Games completely misunderstands how to show off a game. They’ve left me thinking that they shouldn’t have shown up to the airport so early.
- As Wide as an Ocean, but as Shallow as a Puddle
As we all know, No Man’s Sky is huge. There are over 18 quintillion planets to explore in this procedurally generated universe. I’m no math expert, but I think this means that players will never discover every planet. Exploration is the key selling point, as far as I can tell, of No Man’s Sky, so it’s great that there are so many unique planets to discover.
If you’re scratching your head over how this is achieved, imagine a box of Lego pieces. The developers design the pieces and then their systems put them together in 18 quintillion different ways. Pretty neat!
But, who wants to live in a computer’s random Lego world? The lack of intentional-design and thoughtful pairings make everything seem a little too random, a little too pointless. To compare it to another sci-fi game, in Destiny, everything is painstakingly designed. In Destiny, finally getting the strongest gun is cool not only because it’s so powerful, but because it looks absolutely amazing.
Everyone is discovering so much that it devalues the entire concept. What good is discovery in an admittedly random world?
- Exploring is fun, sight-seeing isn’t.
Thoughtful and rewarding exploration in a video game requires context.
(Spoiler warning: slight Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End spoilers are below, only up to chapter 5.)
In Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, you play as explorer, Nathan Drake. Chapter 4 begins in Drake’s house, the attic, to be specific. Here, you find souvenirs and trinkets that he has collected in past adventures. You’re free to explore his house. In what could possibly be the most immersive home in a video game ever, you find things like: bundled up towels and dirty laundry, magazines, different issues of the same magazine, photo albums, books and notes. You can even run into the bathrooms and see that shower that everyone has! When given the opportunity to open the refrigerator, you can choose to drink a pop or a beer. You peer inside the fridge and see what Drake keeps in there, what better way to know a person!
This exploration works because we know Drake, we love Drake, and we’ve experienced so much with him. Everything we find means something. In this context, exploration fulfills a players need to catch up with Drake and further understand the character.
In No Man’s Sky, context seems sparse. I cannot identify a rewarding reason to explore. Furthermore, to explore is to learn, and if there is no context to make sense of what we are learning, then aren’t we simply sight-seeing?
I did not particularly enjoy Hello Games’ Joe Danger series. Maybe the series isn’t for me, maybe that type of game just isn’t my cup of tea. Nevertheless, Hello Games made a game, that I must assume, they themselves think is fun. I don’t think it’s fun, and if you didn’t either, you may need to consider that you and Hello Games have two different ideas of what fun is.
- You Cannot Explore Sight-see with Friends.
Sean Murray of Hello Games has said that your chances of even finding another player are very slim. The tech is equipped to handle if a few players fly by each other in space, but there’s effectively no need to manage more than that. The scope of the game is so large, Murray ensures players grouping together is entirely unlikely.
This may be a bit of a personal hang up because I want to run around a planet with some buddies, but I think it speaks to the game’s dissonance in terms of what the player is experiencing. Sure it’s vast, but what is the point of it all if it effectively functions as a single-player experience?
No Man’s Sky has a lot to prove to me before its tentative June release. Maybe another E3 showing is just what I need. Sound off in the comments with reasons to keep hope alive for Hello Games ambitious title.