No Man’s Sky has been in the news a fair bit lately and it sparked somewhat of a debate amongst the 4-One team about the game itself and whether it deserves a second chance or not. Here I give my side of the argument and it probably won’t be too much of a suprise which side of the argument I fall on.
In the lead up to No Man’s Sky’s release I was pretty excited about it. I was weary about whether the developers could deliver but I had hope. I opted for the PC version of the game so I got my hands on it a week after my Playstation 4 counterparts.
When I was finally able to boot up the game I was very impressed initially. The scope and look of the game impressed me and the music was incredible. Somewhere between 5 and 10 hours though things changed. I started to realise the limitations of the game and began to realise that things weren’t quite as they were advertised. The lush planet we saw in trailers obviously didn’t exist, instead we were greeted by baron looking balls of dirt with a scattering of plant life. Yes there were some planets that had more foliage but nothing that gets remotely near to what the trailer showed.
In No Man’s Sky you have the ability to ‘discover’ species of animals and plants life and name those discoveries. It became a pointless activity when you then repeatedly came across the same plants or animals on a different world in a different system only for them to be called something else. Planets too seemed to look very similar and it was clear there just was not enough assets for the game to draw on to make either varied world’s or the lush jurassic looking world’s shown in trailers.
As you look more in depth you start to see more examples where things don’t seem to represent what we were shown or promised by the lead developer Sean Murray who was very much the face of the game pre-release.
Murray spent a lot of time showing off lush planets with varied plant life and animal life roaming. He spoke of meaningful factions within the game that would influence the player’s experience. He spoke of factions battling over territory and convoys being attacked. The player was told that they could choose to join the attack or defend the freighters which would affect your relationship with the factions. None of this materialised however. The AI characters you do come across are basically mannequins that are unable to move from their spot. everything from the AI to the flight mechanics to the game mechanics overall have been stripped back and simplified to ridiculous lengths.
Murray also seemed to take swipes of other games within the genre when he boasted about the planetary mechanics the game would use. There would be a sun with a working planetary system orbiting it. The distance to the sun would shape the planets environment. The planets would rotate which would mean you had a real day/night cycle, none of this sky box stuff for No Man’s Sky. Only none of this was actually implemented into the game. Instead it uses the same techniques as the other games he seemed to scoff at.
There are countless examples of Murray saying and showing one thing only for it to either not appear or be so simplified in the final code that it’s barely worth noticing. It’s clear to me now that what we were shown pre-release was a pre- rendered movie and obviously not the game they intended to sell for £40. It’s became clear that Murray had outright lied about some features and exaggerated about others. The examples I’ve mentioned already are just a small part of a vast list of inaccuracies and missing features.
The game was hyped up to incredible heights based on this info and the footage that was shown. At no point did Hello Games talk about having to remove features or water them down. Sony, who marketed the game as if it was a first party title were able to intervene when Murray was pressed about an Xbox release but they didn’t see fit to intervene when they realised the game was very different from what was promised.
Let’s not kid ourselves, both Sony and Hello Games knew exactly what they were doing. They both knew that the game they were releasing would not be the one that had been shown and discussed for years or that they had advertised yet they continued anyway probably because they refused to delay the game further.
Both Sony and Hello Games continued to lie and mislead even after it was clear to them that they couldn’t deliver. Then they charged £40 for the game and branded disgruntled customers as thieves for wanting a refund. Sony took it even further and seemed to punish users who had requested refunds (which we reported on a while ago).
This wasn’t a case of a graphical downgrade or a buggy release (the PC version was unplayable until a patch fixed frame rate issues). This was a developer and the publisher outright lying about what the game was and what features it contained knowing they couldn’t deliver. Once the lie had been realised Sony then swiftly blamed the developer and the developer simply went into hibernation and disappeared.
If the game we were sold was marketed appropriately for the state that it’s in or was in at release then fine. If the developer had explained that they had to scale back on features to make the release date then yes we would have been dissapointed but we would have been informed. Lying to the people who keep the industry you are a part of alive is unacceptable and for these reasons No Man’s Sky doesn’t not deserve the support from gamers.
Hello Games and Sony have done a huge ammount of damage to the trust we as gamers have in developers and Publishers and If I was a developer I would be absolutely furious with them both. Let’s not forget the media’s part in all this thought either. They never once questioned Sony or Hello Games before release about whether they could actually deliver and since the release their response has been pretty pathetic and weak. They should have demanded answers and pushed for Hello Games to face the music but instead it seemed they didn’t want to upset the big dogs and settled for a few pathetic reports.
Gamers too hyped up this game but they were shown the game in action right up until release day and they watched as the developer made promise after promise so whilst gamers have been guilty in the past over over hyping I really don’t think they should shoulder the blame for this one.
So what now for No Man’s Sky? Well personally I hope the game disappears as quick as my interest in it did and as I can’t see Hello Games regaining any trust from gamers it would probably be best for it to disappear too to be brutally honest. As for Murray well he has a lot of questions to answer. He seems to think he can just release updates and all will be forgotten but if he had any sense of honour and dignity he’d try to do the right thing and explain to the gaming community what the hell happened. Judging by the defense they put to the ASA though I won’t be holding my breath.
In contrast, Steve thinks No Man’s Sky does deserve a second chance. Here is his take on the situation.