No Man’s Sky
A Cautionary Tale
9th August 2016 is a date that many of us will remember. That bittersweet moment where expectations and reality came crashing together. The day that the ‘to good to be true’ goliath, developed by the small indie team of Hello Games would release No Man’s Sky.
The build up for the game had been stratospheric! First shown to the public some years earlier at the annual E3 gaming expo. The concept alone was enough to pique the interest of gamers far and wide. An entire universe to explore, terraforming, flying your chosen spacecraft from the surface of a planet to space without a single loading screen! The list was endless and within no time at all excitement had reached fever pitch
So what went wrong?
The problems began long before the public and games media even realised. By the time we all knew what had gone wrong it was much too late. Hello Games were (and still are) a relatively small development team. A quick look at their website reveals just how small a team they are which is not to say that that’s a bad thing. The drawback of the studios size however was their lack of ‘grunt’ within the games industry. You could create the greatest masterpiece mankind has ever known but if people don’t see it then who benefits?
Enter the colossus that is Sony. A multi-billion dollar juggernaut of a company with worldwide brand recognition. Sony handling the publishing of No Man’s Sky was undoubtedly a boon for Hello Games but it came at a cost.
The thing about capitalism (I know this seems like a tangent but bear with me) is that it puts profit above all else. It cares nothing for consumer happiness, honesty or in many cases basic ethics. The bottom line is all that matters and it was this very ideal that ultimately damaged Hello Games and their figurehead Shaun Murray.
Once the marketing machine at Sony began to spin up Hello Games suddenly found themselves firmly in the spotlight. The world was watching and with every press release, every trailer, every line of text published the pressure would rise. Shaun Murray was the voice for No Man’s Sky. In many ways every announcement for the game was delivered through him and right or wrong, the success or failure of the game rested on his shoulders.
Most of us didn’t realise at the time but when he, Shaun Murray, was pressed for information on details of No Man’s Sky whether it was the ‘multiplayer’ question or the gameplay loops that would hook the player, he was slowly forced into a position where he had to respond. Nobody but the team at Hello Games knows the answer to what I am about to pose but did he lie? When he told interviewers that there was multiplayer and that avatars could meet on planets was this ever true?
At the time of these questions being asked it could be argued that the game was at various stages of Alpha and Beta builds and could very well have contained the elements he was discussing but upon release much of the grand claims turned out to be just not true. The public were angry! Where was the game they were promised? The grand idea they were originally sold on? Instead of lush worlds filled with large and exciting creatures we were given…well… see for yourself.
Gone were the grand vistas and the diverse flora and fauna. Instead we were presented with some bizarre cookie cutter style mash-ups from what appeared to be a very limited pool of resources. People were disappointed to say the least. This was not what we had been promised and although there is an argument to be made for the sense of entitlement amongst the gaming community this outrage seemed wholly justified.
The launch of No Man’s Sky was certainly a bumpy one, a fledgling company thrust into the international spotlight. A marketing giant pushing their product to maximise revenue and finally a company head forced into a public relations role he never seemed comfortable with.
Despite the somewhat grim picture this article may have painted the story is not all doom and gloom. Several updates later and much of what was promised at launch is now a reality for No Man’s Sky. The team at Hello Games have worked diligently to implement and iterate every aspect to the point where it’s almost like playing a completely different game now. If you tried it at launch and now find the game case collecting dust on your shelf it may be worth a second look now. Just be sure and install the (sizeable) update file before you give it another shot.
If you would like to see a follow-up article of the game in its current state be sure and let me know.