My No Man’s Sky Play-Through is Broken

By Shamus
on Aug 23, 2016
Filed under:
Video Games

This was originally going to be one of my weekly columns and was going to rebut some of the nasty things people have been saying about No Man’s Sky. If you’re clever enough to read the post title, then you’ve probably figured out why that isn’t happening.

In No Man’s Sky you hop from system to system. Along the way you visit these Atlas space stations where you get a bit of story text, an Atlas Stone, and a pointer to the next station. That pointer is important, because it’s the only way you’re going to find these rare Atlas stations in this sea of stars.

The Atlas stones are also important. You need ten of them to complete the main quest of the gameOr at least, the most central and obviously presented quest.. Of course, the game doesn’t tell you this. No, it just dumps this apparently useless object into your inventory without explanation. You don’t know you need it, but you do know it’s worth a small fortune. If you’ve been following the story of this game you’ve probably heard that the inventory system is excruciatingly limited and that you’re always starved for space to store things.

If you’ve played a videogame before, then you probably know that when you give a player a high-value object with no functional purpose as a quest reward, then the most likely thing they’ll do is sell it. Particularly if they’re starved for inventory space. And especially if you give them ten of the damn things. And especially especially if they don’t stack. That’s basically RPG shorthand for, “THESE THINGS ARE COMMON QUEST REWARDS. SELL THEM FOR MONEY!”

This is what an Atlas station looks like.

This is what an Atlas station looks like.

So at some point in a fit of frustration, after I’d heard the computer voice chirp NO FREE SLOTS IN INVENTORY one too many times, I sold a couple of Atlas stones to give myself some breathing room. The game was handing them out like Halloween candy, so I figured if they turned out to be important I could always get more later.

Then I got to Atlas station #11 and found I couldn’t complete the game because I was two stones short. I had to step away and find two more stones, and the game gave no clue how to do this. It didn’t really acknowledge my situation at all. The option to complete the quest was grayed out, and it that was it. It’s like it never occurred to the designers that players might do this Very Obvious and Highly Incentivized Thing.

I checked the guides online and found out you can buy Atlas Stones at the market. It took me a long time (many star-hops) to find any for sale. When I did, they were selling for about ten times what I sold them for. Note that this isn’t the case for most items in the game. Most things in No Man’s Sky seem to have their buy and sell prices within a few percentage points of each other. In the worst-case scenario, you might find the prices halved / doubled. But for some reason Atlas Stones are sold for a 1,000% markup. (Sold for 230k, bought back for 2.3 million.) That’s brutal and I don’t see a mechanical reason for price-gouging the player over this except to punish them for trying to make their inventory problems less maddening. But whatever. Once I bought the stones, I opened the map and looked for the waypoint to guide me back to the Atlas.

The waypoint was gone.

I didn’t even know it could vanish. I just accepted it as part of the interface. I’d never seen the map without a line pointing to the next Atlas system. But apparently the current waypoint is cleared when you arrive at an Atlas station, and using the station replaces it with a new one.

Keep in mind that the galaxy map is a three-dimensional field of indistinguishable dots that stretches on as far as you can see in every direction. I’d visited the Atlas Station the previous day and no longer had the slightest direction which way I’d gone when I left the station. I mean, why would I memorize a pattern of jumps? I expected to have the waypoint to guide me back!

I had the station in my history. I could scroll back to it, see what I’d named it, and review my discoveries there. But the interface provides no way to show you where the damn place was in this endless soup of floating dots.

Shouldn`t it be `wracked` by emotion, not `racked`? Honest question.
Here there would normally be an option to highlight the closest Atlas station. It was always there, until the moment when I actually needed to use it.

The first answer people always give me to this puzzle is to visit Nada and Polo, who appear in a different kind of space station. But I didn’t have a waypoint to them either. I jumped randomly for a while until I found one of their hangouts, only to find out they no longer had any guidance for me. Because I’d already visited the final station, Nada no longer had the dialog option to point me to another one. I had everything I needed to complete the game except for the location of where to go.

But fine. It’s a game about space exploration. I can just explore space until I find another Atlas station, right? I don’t know how common they are, but the only thing left to do is look. So I loaded up my ship with fuel and set off.

It takes a couple of hours to get this much fuel together. Also note the TEN STUPID ATLAS STONES SUCKING UP ALL MY INVENTORY SLOTS I HATE THIS STUPID SYSTEM.

It takes a couple of hours to get this much fuel together. Also note the TEN STUPID ATLAS STONES SUCKING UP ALL MY INVENTORY SLOTS I HATE THIS STUPID SYSTEM.

And for the first couple of hours, this might have been kind of fun. I’d fly around, name some star systems, then stop and spend a couple of hours gathering up resources for the next load of fuel and the next big push.

I did this for four days. I’ve visited over 250 star systems since that last Atlas visit and I’m no closer to my goal than when I startedFor comparison, it only took me about 50 hops to get from the first planet to that last Atlas station.. I’ve still got these stupid Atlas Stones sucking up ten precious inventory slots and I’d love to be rid of them. I don’t even care about the planets I’m visiting anymore. I just want to turn in these stones and move on. I’ve put in the time – and then some – and I’d like to see the end of this journey for myself.

The whole time I’ve been saying, “I love this game, but the inventory system is horrible and I hate that you can’t re-visit old locations.” It figures that these two massive irritations would combine to break the game for me in the end. I’ve been one mouse-click away from finishing the game for five days and the only reason I can’t is because the travel system is so rudimentary it borders on prototype. In another game this might be forgivable, but in a game about navigating literally quintillions of stars, I think the tools for getting around need to be at least as robust as Skyrim.

It`s a silly system for naming stars, but it works for me and I`m sticking to it.

It`s a silly system for naming stars, but it works for me and I`m sticking to it.

This guide says to look for stars with the “blue arrow” around it, but I’ve scrolled around examining hundreds of stars and I’ve never seen that. I strongly suspect that the blue arrows don’t denote an Atlas system, but the waypoint you’re given. (Which I no longer have.) Also note in that post that you can see a few comments from other people in my predicament.

There’s also the feature to “search for local discoveries” on the starmap. Supposedly it will show you what systems have been visited by you and other players. That might help narrow the search. But the button doesn’t seem to do anything for me. I press it. I hold it down. I wait. There’s no sound. No animation. Nothing to indicate the game is working or thinking or waiting for information from the server. I’m not convinced this button actually does anything on the PC.

After doing hundreds of fruitless, frustrating warps, I just started scanning the galaxy map, hoping that Atlas systems would be labeled. I could click on a new star about once every three secondsThe interface isn’t particularly snappy, and you have to wait for the fancy-pants popup to fill in to see the properties of the star.. I did this for over an hour. Even allowing for taking breaks, I must have scanned well over a thousand stars. Either you can’t identify Atlas systems without a waypoint, or they’re incredibly rare.

Maybe Atlas systems aren’t listed as such until you discover them. Maybe Atlas systems don’t even appear on the map unless you know about them. Maybe Atlas systems just become “regular systems” and the stations are hidden from you if you’re not following an Atlas waypoint. Maybe – as some other people in my predicament have mused – the Atlas stations vanish forever and you can never complete the game. We don’t know. The game is too clever to do anything so crass as to explain its own mechanics.

The game is broken for me. I don’t want to move on to the galactic core with these stupid stones sucking up so much inventory space. Also, completing the game gives you a tool to make the trip to the core easierYou can reportedly see black holes from the starmap. so I really don’t want to start that trip without finishing the Atlas business first. I certainly don’t want to sell all the stones when I’d have to buy them back at a 10× markup. Yes, I could just watch it on YouTube. I could also have saved myself $60 and just watched someone else play through the entire game on YouTube. The point is that after putting in all this damn effort I really did want to complete this task for myself.

TAB doesn`t do anything.

TAB doesn`t do anything.

Navigation is entirely visual, so you can’t just go online and look up locations by coordinates. There aren’t any cheats to help me. There aren’t any mods that can help. You can’t search for things by name or region, or indeed do any searching at all. The interface doesn’t even give you a way to start overNot that I would consider starting over after playing for 110 hours to be an acceptable solution.. The game manages the saves for you by alternating auto-saves between two slots, so there’s no way to revert to a save from yesterday or even a few hours ago.

The shame of it is, up until now I’ve been an enthusiastic apologist for this game. While everyone else was sneering that “There’s nothing to do!”, I was having fun and exploring like crazyAlso, the claim that there is “nothing to do” is not REMOTELY true. Okay, most of the things you do are flawed, but they EXIST.. But it’s pretty hard to defend a game that falls apart like this when there are about a dozen really simple ways to fix it. It’s not like I did something exotic and strange. I made a pretty understandable mistake and now I’m stuck. And I think I’ve put more hours into looking for a solution than most would.

This is the worst failure state I’ve ever seen in a game. A bad situation is where a crash might cost you half an hour of progress. A terrible one is when a blocked quest or glitch would force you to revert to a very old save from much earlier in the story. I suppose in catastrophic circumstances you might have to start a new game. This is the first game I’ve ever encountered where seemingly innocuous actions could keep you from ever completing the game ever.

Note that I’m not complaining about “just one bug”. This entire stupid mess is the culmination of many frustrating design decisions:

  1. If inventory management wasn’t miserable and irritating to the point of ruining the game, then I wouldn’t have been so quick to sell those Atlas Stones.
  2. If the game offered a way to create a waypoint from your travel history, I would have been able to return to the Atlas Station with no problem.
  3. If Nada’s dialog to find the next station didn’t vanish the moment you actually needed it, I’d be able to get back on the path that way.
  4. If the save system allowed you to make your own saves, then I could have gone back to the save I certainly would have made when I arrived at the final Atlas station.
  5. If the map view showed a trail of where you’d been, then I could have re-traced my steps.
  6. If the “scan for local discoveries” feature actually did something, then maybe it would help me. I don’t know. I’ve never seen it work.
  7. If the game wasn’t so coy about explaining its systems I would know if all this searching was a valid solution or a complete waste of time.
  8. If the game had some sort of “new game” feature then it wouldn’t be so inexcusable to be cut off from the resolution to such a major piece of content, but as it stands this one mistake means I’ll never finish the Atlas journey.

So that’s my experience with No Man’s Sky: A long string of frustrations and failures that wasted my time, sucked the fun out of an incredible and unique experience, and angered me for days. The wonder and excitement of seeing all those fantastic worlds is muted by the fact that most of your time is spent not looking at the horizon, but screwing around with an inventory grid, wasting time in useless tedious space combat, and navigating a an obtuse map.

There’s amazing technology to be seen here, but No Man’s Sky seems intent on punishing you for trying to experience it.

EDIT: And now it looks like maybe I’ve been searching for nothing, because apparently Atlas stations vanish after you visit them?

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Footnotes:

[1] Or at least, the most central and obviously presented quest.

[2] For comparison, it only took me about 50 hops to get from the first planet to that last Atlas station.

[3] The interface isn’t particularly snappy, and you have to wait for the fancy-pants popup to fill in to see the properties of the star.

[4] You can reportedly see black holes from the starmap.

[5] Not that I would consider starting over after playing for 110 hours to be an acceptable solution.

[6] Also, the claim that there is “nothing to do” is not REMOTELY true. Okay, most of the things you do are flawed, but they EXIST.


A Hundred!A Hundred!20203243 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. Northern traveler says:

    I had a little similar experience like yours, but my game probably bugged out on ps4 so that I could see the black hole systems even if I couldn’t complete the atlas path. The game really does feel like a mess technically and feels like it needs a lot more work.

  2. Mephane says:

    Wasn’t there even the thing where some decision very early on decided whether you even receive the atlas quest in the first place? That thing where Hello Games bragged about adding “three paths” through “choice” – without explaining what the choice is, what the paths are, and what the consequences of each choice/path are?

    • Geebs says:

      You could miss the quest if you don’t talk to the pulsing red ball on the first planet, or tell it you’re not interested.

      The end of the Atlas quest is highly underwhelming, anyway. The main practical benefits of the quest are unlocking the first two Atlas Passes, some free warp fuel, black holes, and most importantly, learning a whole shedload of words very quickly, and AFAIK you don’t actually need to complete the quest to get them.

      • Sigilis says:

        Actually, you can miss the quest if you don’t click on a particular piece of debris strewn about your original crash site. It’s just a random looking piece of junk that you may not necessarily know is in any way something you can interact with and may not click on.

        Also, saying no means you get to find the No Man’s Saves and delete them to try again. You get one shot.

        • Kazeite says:

          In fact, should you choose to search for crashed ships on the starting planet, eventually you’ll end up at your own starting crash site and can choose to activate the Atlas pod this time.

          I found it all on my own :)

      • 4th Dimension says:

        I did talk to the ball but the only thing it said to me after I accepted the guidance is that it will contact me soon. And it never did. I guess I borked it by redeeming the preorder ship right at the beginning before the tutorial ended.

        • That screws up the order of the tutorial quest by giving you a hyperdrive straight away but it shouldn’t, normally, break the questline. After your first jump to a new system you should be prompted to scan the system from your ship, then be directed to NPCs that will teach you the Suspension Fluid and Antimatter recipes. From there you should be able to progress as normal, hopefully.

          • 4th Dimension says:

            That did not happen in my case. I scanned the system and was directed to a radio signal on the surface of one of the planets I think where I met a random alien.
            Maybe the condition is that your hyper is out of fuel and mine was not since I bought a new ship in the starter system and then bought anti-matter and filled it to the brim.

    • 4th Dimension says:

      No it’s about the preorder reward starship. It comes with it’s own hyperdrive that has fuel in it. This means when you are repairing the ship and when you come to the section of the beginning where the game explains how to fuel your ship, if you foolishly switched to the preorder one (which has one inventory slot more) it would skip that part of the quest and NOT give you the blueprint for making anti-matter. Without it you are stuck trying to buy anti-matter in stores which is not a common material.

      I know this because in my game I made this decision only to learn after the fact that if I followed the instructions and did not redeem the preorder star ship at the start I would have gotten the anti-matter recipe. Also considering that I’m now in my second system and I never got the Atlas quest, I’m pretty sure redeeming that ship also borks up the Atlas quest.

  3. Lame Duck says:

    I’m getting the distinct impression that the experience of No Man’s Sky is something along the lines of “Wow, what an incredible universe they’ve created, it’s a real shame that every other element of the game lies somewhere between terrible and non-functional”.

    • You would be correct. No Man’s Sky makes for an interesting $20 Early Access experience, but a terrible $60 “finished” product.

    • Adam says:

      The amount of insane decisions made in this game borders on the ridiculous. If you didn’t know any better you’d think that they had a high schooler working on it as his senior project.

      The only reason I knew to hold onto my Atlas Stones was because right before I was about to sell my first one I decided to look it up on the internet. Lucky for me.

      What else, in addition to what Shamus brought up?

      1. You can’t scan planets from space, so you have to visit each one to see what might be down there. This might be fine if there were only, I dunno, a few hundred planets to visit but in a game of literally trillions of them there should be a way to filter them. This has the added “benefit” of forcing the game designers to throw every basic resource onto every planet and litter each planet with hundreds of POIs so that each planet effectively represents what you’ll find on every other planet, at least in terms of essential resources and tasks.

      2. You can’t go back to any POI unless you somehow memorize where it is. You can’t mark it, you can’t look it up, you can’t set it as a waypoint after you’ve visited it.

      3. You can’t remove waypoints that get set for you by the game. Which means if you do a “system scan” while in space it’ll inevitably place a marker on a planet you’ve already been to or aren’t actively heading towards and there’s no way of removing it unless you go down to the ground and visit it.

      4. The only things that stack are elemental resources. Nothing else does. You see, Hello Games cannot for their lives distinguish between “annoying the player” and “challenging the player,” and when faced with any such dilemma will always, always err on the side of annoying you. (Also, did you know that until the day before the game launched that resources only stacked to 100 in your inventory and it took the leaked gameplay to show them that they needed to increase it to 250? Yeah, these guys have no clue what they’re doing.)

      6. Your on-planet scanner doesn’t give you any info about the distance of stuff (other than POIs, which are inexplicably given in terms of time-to-arrive rather than distance from you) that you scan, which means upgrades to your scanner range are largely useless because all that does is get you more vague icons with no way to know if they’re minutes or seconds away.

      7. You can land on pads and landing beacons so you don’t use up fuel but you can’t, you know, SEE them as you fly over them since you can’t point your nose down or hover in place, which makes for a frustrating, irritating experience.

      8. Crashed ships can only be, at best, an upgrade of +1 inventory spot. That, on top of the fact that different ships vary only by inventory space size/configuration and armor (ie their appearance is mostly cosmetic), sucks a ton of the fun right out of hunting down a neat looking ship on a dangerous planet.

      9. You can’t mine planet surfaces from your ship. I’d imagine the reasoning behind this is that it negates the importance of on-foot exploration and upgrading your multi-tool, but a simple solution to this would be to place more resources below-ground. It’s super-fucking-irritating to see a towering block of gold right in front of you and have to land your ship, get out, hike over, and spend 5-20 minutes mining it out by hand rather than just blast through it with your ship. That’s Hello Games again deciding that annoying you is the height of good game design.

      10. Getting new tech becomes a tedious, obnoxious grind. As far as I can tell there’s zero risk-reward to it. The chances of getting a blueprint for something you don’t already have has nothing to do with the planet you find it on. It’s pure chance.

      This list just covers some of the more egregious party fouls but is far from complete. The game is just rife with bizarre, head-scratching decisions.

      • Lanthanide says:

        1. Agreed, although there are planets without flaura, and those planets have no zinc. If you have a crashed ship, you need zinc to repair it. The only way to get zinc on these planets is to buy it from a trading post (and if your ship is crashed and can’t fly, that’s a lot of walking!). This is really another example of a flaw in the system though.

        2. Yes there is. You can mark buildings with your scanner visor thing. Press F to bring up the scanner and look at the building, it will be marked on your compass with a small white dot, so you can get back to it. Good if you find a trading post on a planet with lots of valuable stuff to sell.

        3. Yep.

        4. Although there’s a bug that lets you stack Gravitino balls (and perhaps others) up to 100. I suspect it was an oversight and a result of the change from 100 (for everything) to 250 stacking (for elements only).

        5. You missed 5.

        6. I find time-to-arrive as more useful. It doesn’t really matter if something is 50m away if you have no idea how many m you can move in a given period of time. Although not having a distance to resources and such is a little annoying, but on the other hand, it encourages exploration.

        7. Yes, and landing in general sucks.

        8. Yeah, it’s a little lame, but it also means you can get to a 48-slot ship without spending any cash whatsoever. It’s pretty time-consuming, but doable. If ships could have more than +1 slots, then this would make this even more exploitable.

        9. Yeah, this is annoying. I think they could have made it so mining via ship lasers only gave you 1/10th or 1/20th of the resources you’d get from hand-mining, which makes logical sense and means for important resources you wouldn’t want to do this, but it would give you something to do as you flew along in your ship – take pot shots at resources, rather than just sit there and watch the screen as you mostly do at the moment.

        10. It seems that various sources of blueprints have various sets that they can offer. It’s been a long-time since I got a new blueprint from a multi-tool display, but I can get new ones from crashed ship modules and manufacturing centres.

        • SPCTRE says:

          re: 7.)

          You can actually hold the brake and simulaneously pull down the nose of your ship, which allows you to look (almost) straight down if you’re doing it right – it’s not a perfect solution, but it makes landing on pads a lot easier.

        • Adam says:

          1. Right, that’s the problem, they simply didn’t think through everything. It’s almost like they did no playtesting at all.

          2. So THAT’S what the little white dots are for. I never noticed they persisted since they tended to get lost among the slightly smaller “unknown animal” white dots. Good to know.

          4. Yeah, I’m currently using that exact bug to stack Gravitino Balls. It’s probably only a matter of time before they patch it out, along with the melee+jetpack jump boost bug that makes exploring on foot tolerable.

          5. Crap. And #5 was the best thing on my list.

          6. Probably a matter of taste. For me TTA isn’t as useful as distance because TTA depends on your current travel speed which varies depending on your mode of transport and the terrain, whereas distance is objective (well, straight line, so I guess not objective but somewhat less variable than TTA). They should probably let you choose one or display both.

          7. As SPCTRE mentions if you mash the brake and pull down you can kinda sorta see below you, at least for a moment, but it just doesn’t work well at all. PC players now have a “low fly” mod that mostly fixes this at the expense of potentially crashing into the terrain.

          8. And if getting a ship with a bigger inventory weren’t the de facto main purpose of the game, getting it quickly wouldn’t be as big of a deal. This is a debatable point, for sure, but I think what I most take exception to is the transparent predictability of the crashed-ship-upgrade process in a game that’s ostensibly about unpredictability.

          9. Yeah, that’s a reasonable solution, allowing you to weigh how much you’re willing to lose in the ship-mining process vs having to hoof it over and do it by hand. See? You’re already a better game designer than anyone at Hello Games. :P

          10. I haven’t gotten a new multi-tool blueprint in ages. But I’m pretty sure I haven’t gotten them all (I have zero “omega” blueprints). Maybe it’s because I need to get closer to the center of the galaxy. That’s fine. I just wish it were more transparent about communicating that to me instead of just stubbornly displaying “blueprint already known” over and over and over again.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          It doesn’t really matter if something is 50m away if you have no idea how many m you can move in a given period of time.

          That can easily be determined by simply going in the desired direction for a second or two and seeing how much it changed.Time is something you can always measure for yourself,so its not really that useful for a game to do it for you*.Even when the game has different time flow than real world,you can still use real seconds to determine how much everything takes in real world time,so even then the game showing you time is merely flavor text.

          *I mean,its useful to have a clock on the screen,because you dont have to look at your watch or count seconds yourself,but thats minimal convenience.

          • Lanthanide says:

            Incorrect. Not sure if you’ve played or not, but for locations that are far away, your travel time depends on the path you take – flying straight across the surface will take longer than if you fly in a parabolic arc. It’s very obvious when your time to reach the destination changes from 15 minutes to 20 minutes because your path has leveled out. If it only displayed distance as you suggest, it would be the rate of change of the distance decreasing that would be displayed, which is much less precise and harder to gauge than a number changing from 15 to 20.

            Also your overall premise doesn’t match reality. When kids ask their parents “are we there yet?”, the answer they want should be expressed in time to destination, not distance.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Traveling across open air being faster than trying to navigate ever changing terrain of slopes and obstacles is not that hard to figure out.You are acting like there has never been a game where players had to decide whether going around a mountain using a road would be faster than trying to bunny hop over its jagged reefs.

              Also your overall premise doesn’t match reality. When kids ask their parents “are we there yet?”, the answer they want should be expressed in time to destination, not distance.

              Oh boy,that is so wrong on so many levels.Where to even begin?Ill just throw stuff out as they come to mind:
              Sitting in the backseat doing nothing is not the same as actually doing something to cover the distance
              Children dont have the access to all the information as the parents
              Children dont have all the knowledge and skills as the parents
              Its easier for a child to have their parents do the actual work and just give them the end result
              There are numerous cases where such questions get answered in a form of a riddle/math problem that actually satisfies the child more,because they get something to actually do instead of just sit and stare
              Games are not your parents
              Games cannot modify their answer to you as quickly and as satisfactory as a human can
              Kids often look at the odometer to see how “are we there yet” question changes with speed
              Etc
              Etc
              Etc

              • Lanthanide says:

                “Traveling across open air being faster than trying to navigate ever changing terrain of slopes and obstacles is not that hard to figure out.You are acting like there has never been a game where players had to decide whether going around a mountain using a road would be faster than trying to bunny hop over its jagged reefs.”

                Again, I don’t know if you’ve actually played, but I was saying a parabolic arc is faster, and the steepness of your parabolic arc matters.

                This is not a case of “going in the air or going on the ground”, this is the case of going at a 40 degree parabolic arc instead of a 45 degree parabolic arc will take you longer, and in-game it is not easy to judge if you’re travelling at a sub-optimal 40 degrees or if you’re at the optimal 45 degrees, EXCEPT that if you’re on a 40 degree arc, your ‘time to arrive’ will be longer than if you nudge your ship up a bit so you’re on the 45 degree arc, at which point your time to arrive will decrease. Also you might not be talking about “going on the ground”, except that in NMS the ship automatically adjusts its altitude to avoid obstacles and slopes, so there is no extra effort involved in a flat trajectory over a steep one – the flat one will also take you longer.

                If it only used distances as you are suggesting, the only way to know if you were on the fastest path or not would be to look at the rate at which your distance was decreasing – and the difference between 40 and 45 degrees could be fairly minor; you’d need to sit and look at the numbers ticking down for 10 seconds or so to really judge if its a faster course or not, and even then its open to fallible human judgement. And I’d guess at least 75% of all players probably wouldn’t bother to look at the meter gauge to work this out; they’d just get frustrated that sometimes they seemed to arrive at their destination very quickly, and other times it seemed to take extra time, and it wouldn’t be very clear to them that it was the angle of their trajectory that made the difference.

                Or, you could just do what the game does, and display time to arrive instead of distance, at which point once you’re on the need trajectory for about 2 seconds, the numbers settle down and you can judge whether you’re now taking the shortest path or not. Everyone, with a modicum of experimentation, can understand that if they tilt their ship up a little bit, the ‘time to arrive’ number drops, even if they don’t necessarily understand the logic behind it, they just learn that to get somewhere faster, you adjust the tilt of your ship until the number drops. It also makes the computer do all the stuff that it’s designed to do – calculate mathematics problems so humans don’t have to.

                Just because the game has a lot of questionable design decisions in it, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t very good reasons behind some of them, even if it’s not immediately apparent (especially if you haven’t played the game).

                • WJS says:

                  But none of that explains why the TTA is (apparently) the only thing it shows! I’m pretty sure an autopilot like that IRL would display both distance and TTA, not to mention both airspeed and ground speed. Have you never seen the inside of a real cockpit? There are literally dozens of instruments.

            • Pinkhair says:

              Some players don’t want to be treated like kids.

  4. potatoejenkins says:

    Wait. There is no “New Game” option? I … what.

    I’m a bit lost for words here, but what was the design philosophy behind that? A game that doesn’t let you start over when you feel like it. Is that a thing now?

    • Matt Downie says:

      There’s a game called “One Chance” you can play for free online where that’s the primary gimmick.

      • potatoejenkins says:

        I am not at all opposed to the idea of a game designed around such a feature.

        Yet ‘No Man’s Sky’ is not ‘One Chance’ (thanks for the tip, btw) – from what I can see.
        What does the removal of a “New Game” option add to ‘No Man’ Sky’?

        I do not own the game and I probably never will so this is pretty much all guesswork: No Man’s Sky is a single player game with MMO “features”. Player A names a planet, the name is uploaded to the server and Player B, C and everyone else visiting the planet can see the name. Player interaction is not possible.

        So without a “New Game” feature there will only be as much player avatars/”people” in this universe as people who bought the game.
        If every player was able to create new characters, the population growth of the galaxy would become uncontrollable – since naming of planets persists an old player avatar would not simply vanish from existance, that character would always be a part of the games universe.
        The more player avatars in the universe the smaller the actual game feels since there is a higher chance somebody was already on the planet you are visiting with your current character. One of your own player avatars or another player.

        A small populated universe contradicts what ‘No Man’s Sky’ is/was going for: Exploration of a vast universe, where no man’s ever been before but you – the player.

        Maybe?

        • Mephane says:

          Unlikely.

          More likely explanation:

          “Help, our internal testers keep resetting and starting fresh over if their initial planet is crap.”
          “Okay, let’s just remove the ability to delete your savegame.”

          It was indeed on my mind when I watched some of the videos – if I ever buy the game (in a Steam sale for 5 bucks), I’d probably delete and start over until I get a starting planet with one less entropy timer to bother with in the beginning (i.e. no radiation/cold/heat hazard).

          • 4th Dimension says:

            And you can still do that. I lost my first lush start because I fiddled with the setting which required a restart, and since everything but the biome generation was programmed by idiots it does not save on exit or on new game. Meaning once it started again it spawned me on another random planet. So basically Alt+F4 untill you get what you want.

          • potatoejenkins says:

            And? That was their/ is your choice?

            Is there a player rank list? Does restarting with a “better” planet give you an unfair edge over the other players you will never be able to interact with?

            What rubbish.

            • You can delete your saves and start fresh whenever you wish, but you’re right, the absence of an in-game option to start over is silly. The only “advantages” you get from starting on certain planets are not hassling with certain environmental hazards, which are barely a concern at best; potential access to slightly more valuable resources than normal; and not having to deal with so many annoying enemies on unnecessarily hostile world. So basically it boils down to some planets being marginally more accommodating than others.

              • potatoejenkins says:

                Huh. At least there is a work around then.

                Still, taking away the players control over managing your own saves for no ingame reason feels like removing the ‘pause’ button on a media player. You need to work? Eat? Pee? Guess what, now you have to watch the movie all over again to get to the last five minutes you missed. Tehehe.

                (I grew up on games with limited save options, btw. Limiting saving options can be either neccessary or enhance the gaming experience. Liking it or not I happily accept both. I just can’t figure out why they did that here.)

                • It doesn’t make much sense, a problem only further compounded by how saving works in the game. You can only save under three circumstances:

                  1.) You exit your ship.

                  2.) You activate a planetary site marker.

                  3.) You die.

                  These can screw you over any number of ways, and you only have your two most recent save files to fall back on in case they do. You can land awkwardly and either not be able to reach your ship – because your starting jet pack sucks – or get your ship irreversibly stuck. I once accidentally embedded mine into a cave entrance because the auto-landing system stuck me too close. When you liftoff you immediately start moving forward and there’s nothing you can do. In that case you have to either revert to your second save or track down a random planetary outpost and hope they have a landing pad or a ship calling station.

                  Death can easily screw you over by simply being unexpected, especially since you can easily go an hour or more away from save points if you’re out and about exploring. You take a great deal of damage from falling relatively small distances. Hostile planets can easily wear your down, particularly if you’re still relying on your basic defensive capabilities. Space pirates can pull you out of hyperspace and decimate you in the game’s terrible space combat. These all can screw out of large sums of progress.

                  It just goes to show how poorly planned out, or rushed, the game was.

                  • Lanthanide says:

                    I think it’s kinda funny to say the game was “rushed” when they very publicly delayed it several times, and everyone was looking at the in-game footage from years ago and saying “this game looks done already, why isn’t it out yet?”.

                    • Bronn says:

                      That’s almost enough to make you think that the in-game footage from years ago was a pre-programmed canned scenario which was not at all indicative of gameplay.

                      I can understand that sometimes you don’t want to show players a true alpha, since the gameworld can be quite desolate and seemingly due to all the missing and unimplemented features, but you need to be honest about where you actually ARE in the design.

              • Dev Null says:

                Can you just copy them aside and copy them back? I mean, I’m not claiming that that’s a reasonable thing for me to have to do, but if there isn’t a workaround that lets my wife and I play this game at the same time, then it just fell from my “later, when it’s on sale” list to my “never in 1,000 years” list.

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          I do not own the game and I probably never will so this is pretty much all guesswork: No Man’s Sky is a single player game with MMO “features”. Player A names a planet, the name is uploaded to the server and Player B, C and everyone else visiting the planet can see the name. Player interaction is not possible.

          So at the risk of derailing the topic I need to ask. Why doesn’t MirrorMoon EP come up in NMS discussions? It’s an indie game with a vaguely similar concept: the player is flying a starship around unexplored planets in a randomly generated galaxy, they can name planets and the names are seen by other players (assuming the game is played in an online mode, I think you can offline it), the goal is to reach a planet that is a gateway to the next galaxy. There are some obvious differences, MirrorMoon planets are puzzles and do not have the environments or lifeforms of NMS and the core of the game is more focused on cooperation between players who never get to meet each other but the similarities are definitely there.

          • Crespyl says:

            I’m always surprised Noctis doesn’t come up more often either, since it’s pretty much NMS from the year 2000. Passive exploration in a galaxy full of procedural stars, planets, moons, flora and fauna, complete with “shared single player” naming/tagging of different planets/stars.

            I loved that game, and was really looking forward to seeing NMS as a visual upgrade on the idea, so I wasn’t disappointed by the hype cycle; I don’t need faction alliances and base-building, I’d be just fine with “space photographer sim”.

            Unfortunately, NMS seems to have fallen somewhat short even in that area…

  5. DGM says:

    > ‘8. If the game had some sort of “new game” feature’

    Wait, am I reading this correctly or did I miss something? There’s no way to reset the game? What happens if your save files get wiped?

    If you’re saying what I think you’re saying, that’s insane.

    • Primogenitor says:

      I guess that’s where the “mmo” part kicks in…

      • DGM says:

        Except that you can’t interact with other players or make any permanent changes to the gameworld beyond naming things (from what I’ve heard). And even in an MMO you can always start a new character. What “MMO part” are we talking about that would justify this?

        • Ninety-Three says:

          Technically you can make changes to your gameworld. If you, say, mine out a node of iron and come back later, it will still be mined out, but only for your instance of the planet.

    • Echo Tango says:

      You can still erase everything if you go through some hoops with Steam and finding your actual save files. Should have been in the game itself, though. :)

    • Narida says:

      The game resets if you delete your save files.

      • Lanthanide says:

        Yes, that’s what “new game” means.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Not necessarily.Many games have a bunch of variables that transfer from one playthrough to the next,even if you delete all your saves.Saves usually refers only to your progress through the game,not stuff like achievements and unlocks(costumes or hats,for example).Not to mention that there are games where you can start a new game and skip the tutorial that youve previously finished,even if you have deleted your saves,but you cannot skip it if you delete your profile/create a new profile.

  6. Henson says:

    Theorising that one could find the final Atlas Stones within his own lifetime, Shamus Young stepped into his spaceship and left the final Atlas Station… He woke to find himself trapped in space, facing planets that were not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change his inventory for the better. His only guide on this journey is the Steam Community, observers from his own reality, who appear in the form of text comments that only Shamus can see and hear. And so Shamus Young finds himself leaping from star to star, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home…

  7. Primogenitor says:

    Sounds like it’s just as broken as Spore – amazing procedural generation, terribly flawed gameplay.

    • Andrew Blank says:

      Spore was leagues better than this. Spore’s gameplay was merely uninspired and mediocre, not broken.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Spore came at it from the opposite direction: Maxis tried to build five different games at once, and as a result all five were pretty lacklustre. With No Man’s Sky, It feels an awful lot like they started with procedural exploration and then tacked on half-baked systems until they felt it was “gamey” enough that they could sell it for $60.

  8. Droid says:

    You forgot:

    9. The damn game doesn’t even tell you you need these stones until you had opportunity to dump them?

    Just guessing here, since I do not own the game, but I think you made that pretty clear at the beginning.

    • Echo Tango says:

      As much as I hate undroppable quest items taking up space, it’s still better than irrecoverable quest items that aren’t labeled as important and can be discarded just like normal items. :)

    • Confanity says:

      I’d call that a 0. rather than a 9., to be honest.

      “0. If essential quest items were marked with the phrase ‘Quest item,’ or simply given a value of 0, then very few people would accidentally sell them.” Unlike several of the things Shamus calls out – which, while seemingly basic and obvious, would still require some effort to implement – either of these quest-item-protection measures would cost almost zero time or thought.

      • Dork Angel says:

        On the other hand, a value of 0 means it’s the first thing you’ll drop if your inventory is full…

        • WJS says:

          Not really. A value of zero is a pretty clear message that it’s not just some random item. I’ve played a lot of games that give quest items no value, specifically because then idiot players won’t sell them. In this case, however, it’s not just idiots who sell them because the game doesn’t give you any idea that there’s actually a use for them!

  9. Christopher says:

    Wow, that’s a shame. I feel for you, and you had a lot more patience with the situation than I would have had. Hope this blog post helped you get some of that frustration out.

  10. Neil D says:

    “Shouldn’t it be ‘wracked’ by emotion, not ‘racked’? Honest question”

    Apparently, either is acceptable. But ‘bades’ can’t be right.

    • MichaelGC says:

      I think this might be one of those ‘enough people have been getting it wrong for long enough that either has become acceptable’ ones. (cf. chuffing ‘literally’. Or ‘flack’ from yesterday, actually – that used to mean just a PR person, but now also means the same as ‘flak’.)

      ‘Wracked’ has been correct longer than ‘racked’ has, certainly. But, symbols defined in use, so whaddaya gonna do…

      Anyway, I’m really sorry that it’s turned out this way for you, Shamus – the game is not my cuppa, but I was really enjoying how it had engaged and entertained you.

      • ehlijen says:

        And flak didn’t even start as a word. Used to be a time when it was just an abbreviation in a foreign language.

        One should watch out against adopting new terms too early, though, unless the work dating itself right out the gate is not an problem.

      • Phill says:

        Or another favourite of mine: reticle vs reticule.

        A reticle is a set of lines on a microscope / telescope / computer game for targeting and location purposes

        A reticule is a small ladies handbag, originally made of netting

        But the reticle has been called a reticule so often and for so long that it is probably fair to consider it a genuine variant spelling these days.

        (Incidentally both words derive from the same latin root reticulum which means net or mesh).

        • MichaelGC says:

          Blimey! – I don’t think I’ve ever used either in anger, but I’m pretty sure that if someone had asked me to describe the, I dunno, CoD interface, I’d have gone for handbag.

    • King Marth says:

      It’s perfectly grammatically correct in Gek. These things happen in machine translation all the time.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      Until about two years ago, I’ve never come across “wracked”, but only ever “wrecked”.
      I’ve always assumed that writing it with an “a” is one of those popular internet-misspellings* (like getting “your” and “you’re” wrong because they sound the same)…

      Now I’ve just looked it up: It’s actually a completely different word and my favourite online German-English dictionary lists it as “to be racked (also: wracked) with sth.”

      Yay, I’m smarter now! (and “racked” seems to be the original spelling?)

      *This is all not helped by the fact that “Wrack” in German means “wreck” in English

      • Felblood says:

        The W gives the r a slightly different declination, but most English Language accents have been ignoring that for decades, anyway.

        Which is just too bad, because pronouncing the Wr diphthong properly basically requires you to sneer and twist your neck in wracking motion. It’s a fun little quirk of our language that the American K12 system is stealing from us.

        For fun with English, you can have a wracking cough (one that doubles you over and twists your torso with each fit), or a racking cough (one that makes a distinctive Rack-ack-ack sound), but I’ve never heard of a wreaking cough. Perhaps if the Big Bad Wolf caught bronchitis…

  11. Jokerman says:

    Noticed a typo.

    “So at some point in a fit fit of frustration”

  12. MrGuy says:

    Yes, I could just watch it on YouTube. I could also have saved myself $60 and just watched someone else play through the entire game on YouTube.

    Plus, think of all the bunny hopping you’d get to enjoy if you go that route.

  13. ColeusRattus says:

    Well, at least it’s an interesting read with emergent gameplay! That got to count for something, right?

  14. Narida says:

    I’m sorry you went to all this fruitless effort, if you look it up on YouTube you’ll see that it REALLY REALLY REALLY wasn’t worth it.

    Getting to the center doesn’t require black holes, they are slightly faster but have the chance of breaking one of your expensive ship upgrades. With a fully upgraded drive you can jump ~1.500 light-years so getting to the center takes a bit over a hundred jumps, but again, look it up on YouTube because it so isn’t worth it.

    Note that I had something similar to this, at the 10th interface I couldn’t get the stone because I didn’t have the required milestone. I warped away because that was an easy milestone, but then didn’t find the station again. I let Nada point me to the next one, but that was already the 11th station.

  15. Jack V says:

    Huh :( Yeah, I REALLY want to do exploring in NMS. But I really don’t want to slog through the inventory stuff to get anywhere.

  16. Isaac says:

    There’s also the feature to “search for local discoveries” on the starmap. Supposedly it will show you what systems have been visited by you and other players. That might help narrow the search. But the button doesn’t seem to do anything for me. I press it. I hold it down. I wait. There’s no sound. No animation. Nothing to indicate the game is working or thinking or waiting for information from the server. I’m not convinced this button actually does anything on the PC.

    That’s because the button isn’t TAB. On the PC, the “search for local discoveries” button is X. No, this isn’t documented anywhere.

  17. Retsam says:

    Yeesh. The only game where I ever wrecked (racked?) a playthrough was Final Fantasy Tactics, which allowed me to save in a spot where you should really not be allowed to save. But at least that could blame the fact that PS1 was necessarily miserly with its save slots, and just that it was a older game.

    • Henson says:

      Oh god yes. That church was a deathtrap.

      Really, that game is just begging players to start over again from the beginning. FFT is so much more fun when you’re not struggling against both blind encounters and underleveled characters with suboptimal builds.

      • Mark says:

        It’s hilarious that we all instantly thought of the same point in the game. I bailed on the game in the church and never came back.

        (Even better, I’d used the cheaty technique of increasing Ramza’s speed to maximum to beat the unfair first boss. Then in the surprise second mission, the enemy killed Ramza and because of his speed somehow still being maxed, his death timer instantly ran out and Game Over. And I was all, yep, we’re done here.)

    • Zak McKracken says:

      As I learned today, “wrecked” means “turned into a wreck”, i.e. destroyed, dismantled, or (for people) either drunk or otherwise temporarily out of order. “racked” (also “wracked”) is more like “haunted” or in the example above, “laden with guilt”.

  18. Daniel England says:

    I think Laura K. Dale had this same issue. The problem was so bad that it caused her to self harm due in part to her autism spectrum disorder. Basically she’d assigned herself a task (in game) that was going to take a bout 2 hours, and being unable to complete the task made it difficult to stop playing even after going for 8+ hours straight.

  19. MichaelG says:

    So does “highly anticipated” + “multiple delays” always = “bad”?

    • Echo Tango says:

      Nah, sometimes it’s just “mild disappointment”. :P

    • Phill says:

      Pretty much.

      Highly anticipated very often equates to ‘disappointing’, since the reality very rarely lives up to the expectation (even if the PR machine sticks to being reasonable).

      Multiple delays usually signifies a game that is in no state to be shipped at any of its previous release dates. You might possibly have heard the occasional complaint that the modern trend in game publishing is to ship it once it is barely playable and promise to patch up the problems and missing content later – which contains a fair degree of truth. Very few companies, faced with a game that is basically done and playable, but not 100% finished, are going to delay it (and spend additions tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars) to polish it up to be really nice when they could release it now. So multiple delays usually means a game that is really struggling to meet the minimum viable product level, and usually means that the concept of ‘minimum viable product’ is being compromised to get the damn thing out the door.

      Exceptions to this are basically limited to games programmed by unicorns and mermaids.

      • potatoejenkins says:

        Whenever I read “Game X was delayed.” I think: “Oh dear god, one of the higher ups read another one of those ominous demographic studies of their “target audience” and told everyone to tack on feature XY to make the game even more sellable.”

        Not that I care about Final Fantasy any more anyway.

      • Incunabulum says:

        And their main problem is they had Sean Murray out front doing PR when they should have had an experienced community manager.

        One if the most important customer-facing jobs in games development is *managing expectations*.

        Instead they had a man that, when asked if ‘X’ feature was in the game, told everyone everything was going to be awesome.

        When someone asks you if players will be able to see each other and your builds are showing that you definitely can’t do this yet, the answer is ‘no’, and not ‘yes, but players are unlikely to meet up given the size of the game’ or ‘players shouldn’t be thinking that way’.

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          At the risk of sounding very cynical I think in the days of crowdfunding and pre-orders they often let the expectations run wild on purpose, especially if it’s something experimental and not part of an established franchise meant to churn out sequels.

    • swenson says:

      It worked for Half-Life 2, I suppose. Pretty much nothing else, though.

  20. Galad says:

    As a clever comment somewhere on /r/games said (not precise quote)

    “AAA publishing + AAA marketing + indie dev + indie QA = not good”

  21. Dormin111 says:

    The only other game I can think of which doesn’t allow restarts on the main/only save file is Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain, which also has a complex online function which indirectly interweaves with every other player.

  22. Raygereio says:

    I wonder how many of No Man’s Sky’s problems can be traced back to Hello Games being a tiny studio of something like 15 people.
    And them simply not having had the man power to both get the technology working right and make an actual game with that tech. Because the more I see of the game, the more it starts to look like a tech demo that the developers desperately crammed in a fancy game-dress at last minute.

    • Phill says:

      To an extent, yes. But if you look at some of the preview videos and all the features they talk about there, there is a whole raft of stuff that never made it in to the game. My suspicion is that they spent a lot of time working on those systems and could never get them to work in any kind of satisfactory manner, and so they had to be stripped out very late in the day, leaving very little beyond the random universe generator and some relatively basic game systems.

      • potatoejenkins says:

        Why is talking about not yet existent features in games so common I wonder?

        “We will eventually manage to get this to work and it will be awesome! Probably. Pre-order now!”

        • Because nothing drives hype harder than promising potential.

          Companies are increasingly selling not products, but possibilities, and people are willingly buying into a lie they’re desperate to believe.

          • MrGuy says:

            To take a little of the (not undeserved) cynicism out of this, read some of the posts from Shamus and Arvind (and friends) about Good Robot.

            For a small studio, you’re investing an absolutely huge amount of time and effort for no guarantee of return. And you’ll make probably 95% of your money at launch – there’s no “long tail” in the games industry. If you happen to guess wrong about the launch conditions, you could wind up throwing all that effort away.

            Pre-orders/pre-sales are a way to hedge that risk – spread your sales out more over time, and reduce the risk of something unexpected happening at your launch that will sink you. And, yes, reducing the risk that if your game launches with bugs you lose everything.

            No matter your size, pre-orders are a way to reduce an otherwise massive risk. And the smaller you are, the easier it is for you to get nothing – Civ 6 will sell a significant number of copies even if it’s buggy at launch (Civ 5 certainly did). A smaller, riskier game might not.

            Are they selling promise without substance? Sure. But that cuts both ways. No developer sets out to deliberately screw it’s customers by selling preorders for a game they know will suck at high prices. Knowingly screwing your customers losing strategy for the developer. That doesn’t mean all games are good at launch – there’s a wide spectrum between the Valve and Bethesda schools of thought when it comes to the polish it vs. ship it decision. To some degree, preorders help tilt the balance more towards polish – one of the main reasons games ship early is to meet financial constraints, so getting some cash in the door “early” might take the pressure off hitting an overly aggressive launch date.

            Customers are taking on some of the risk from the developers by pre-ordering. In exchange, they get some power to signal where the market is and help the developers make better (which is not always the same as “good”) decisions around shipping.

            No Man’s Sky is a very unusual game because it had some small-developer constraints (limited resources), along with some large-publisher demands (hit the much-hyped date).

            • Ninety-Three says:

              For a small studio, you’re investing an absolutely huge amount of time and effort for no guarantee of return.

              That’s true for your average indie game, but when you’re backed by the power of Sony’s fully operational marketing station, you could put out something as bad as Aliens: Colonial Marines and you would still turn a profit.

              That’s not hyperbole, I did the math. A:CM sold 1.3 million copies in the US and Europe: assuming average box price $40, and middlemen take two thirds of the money, that’s enough to fund a 15 person studio at $120,000/person/year for eight years.

            • Chris Robertson says:

              About your assertion that there is no long tail in the games industry, I think Cliff Harris (Positech Games) would disagree. Given that he runs a successful indie studio (and has even branched into publishing games he did not personally write), I am inclined to give his words a bit of weight in this matter.

              • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                He just says games have a long tail. But… do they? Look at something like Legendary, the console game about fighting monsters. Does that game still sell copies (assuming I didn’t accidentally pick a game with no digital copies available)? How many a month at this point? Or if this is too far in the future, how about five years from launch? Even two years from launch? I’m guessing the numbers are pretty depressing…

                • Ninety-Three says:

                  Your argument consists of “Sure someone with experience says long tails exist, but… do they? Do they really?” Probably, yes. You certainly haven’t said anything to make me take your baseless doubts over the word of the informed professional.

                  Since this sort of thing isn’t discussed often, the only concrete statement I can recall on long tails comes from the SOMA post-mortem. They mention that six months later, SOMA is still selling 125 units/day (for reference, the game had sold ~250,000 units at that point), and they also mention that six year-old Amnesia was still selling consistently enough (specifics not given) that they could see its sales drop sharply with the release of SOMA.

                  Sadly, Steam Spy only gives access to the last 90 days of a game’s fuzzy sales data, otherwise it would be a great tool for measuring long tails.

                  • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                    His argument was “long tails exist” and he seems to be a success story. My point is, okay, but do they IN GENERAL. I’m not super interested in how well Team Meat or Epic’s back catalog sells because I know the answer is “consistently well”. I’m interested in all the other guys who had up to one fairly successful game and what the numbers look like there. From Shamus’ data, it seems the numbers can be disappointingly low.

                    • WJS says:

                      That’s just blatantly moving the goalposts. You go from “Long tails don’t exist” to “OK, they exist, but they’re uncommon”, to “Well, not every game has one” with no real justification at any point.

                • Hector says:

                  If the game is good, it can and will have a long tail.

                  Legendary simply wasn’t good. It was rated as mediocre when it came out, failed to use an interesting premise effectively, and did not stand out in technical areas, and wasn’t especially polished even for its time. It wasn’t as good as Return to Castle Wolfenstein even at launch, and that game came out a decade before Legendary.

                  Better games can and do get purchased and played long after release – probably now more than ever given the utility of Steam and Gog, or even console-specific platforms that can offer sales that raise the visibility of these games. For all its problems, Skyrim is still legitimately impressive game, and thanks to mods refreshing it, was on the sales charts years after release.

              • MrGuy says:

                His article discusses hypothetical games, hypothetical price points, and hypothetical returns. I don’t disagree with his basic premise that, if you price very low, you get sales faster but make less per sale, and that might be less optimal than pricing higher and having fewer sales but higher margins.

                He makes the following argument at the end of the article:

                This whole topic came up because it occurred to me that breaking even in a month on an indie game is seen as ‘average’, which is insane. When you invest in a solar farm or wind farm, you are looking at breaking even within five to eight years. Five years would be AWESOME. Games have a long tail, and its sensible to think of them as long term investments, not one-night stands.

                Comparing the time-to-return on making a video game to something completely unrelated like building a wind farm doesn’t make for a compelling argument to me. Why are those two things similar?

                To take a different example, a successful movie makes somewhere between 30-40% of it’s total gross in it’s opening weekend.

                Why should we look at the return curve on a videogame as being more like a wind farm (his example) and less like a hollywood movie (my example)? I’m not saying there can’t be reasons, but to call it INSANE to think a game wouldn’t perform like a wind farm is a statement I’d like to see some backup on rather than a blanket assertion.

                Maybe this person (who I’m not personally familiar with) does know more than me. I don’t work in the games industry. But I do have friends that do. I do read about the industry and how big it is to have a big opening. I do read this blog and Arvind’s statements about his experiences with pyrodactyl.

                I remain unconvinced.

              • Echo Tango says:

                According to this article here, it looks like games, like other media like books, movies, and music, is an ecosystem where popular titles get more popular, and the rest stagnate. So, Steam can exploit long-tail sales, and popular games experience long tail sales. So if your game is unpopular at launch, it will probably stay that way.

          • Incunabulum says:

            people are willingly buying into a lie they’re desperate to believe.

            Look at FO4 – people are still talking about how ‘detailed’ the world is and ‘how much there is to do’.

            The detail is lolrandom stuff like S & M teddybears or mannequins standing around a tub and the stuff to do is shoot raiders (of which there are only one variant) or carefully place bric–a-brac in a settlement that does nothing for you in game and mostly just has settlers knocking your carefully placed shit to the ground.

            But they’re invested.

      • Much of what was in the reveal trailer, and even subsequent trailers, either never made to the final game or did in significantly diminished capacity. It’s quite possible that content is still waiting in the wings and deadlines necessitated removing it in order to ship. Doesn’t excuse the sorry, content starved state of the present game, but it helps hypothetically explain it.

    • 4th Dimension says:

      Unfortunately that is a very accurate description of the game. The only system in game that is in any shape or form interesting is the language system. The rest is all either okayish or borderline broken.

      And the worst part is that the game as noted lacks some basic functionalities that you would expect from a 10 year old game let alone a new game. Like the ability to start a new game. Or have a map of the planet/system. Or labels for the stars on the starchart. Things like that.

      Allthough now thinking about it I do think I have figured out why they are not allowing you to make multiple saves and restart. Because if you were able to restart or reload a save you would end up in a situation where the save game state thinks you have not discovered yet future systems, while you have already done that. So what do you do when the player tries to upload a discovery of a system that they have already discovered in a save from which they reverted to? If you disable them from uploading you are limiting the amount of funds they get.

      • Coren says:

        And the language system only seems interesting because everything else is just broken or painfully dull. How lazy can you be for your entire take on linguistics to be “a different language is the same thing with other words”.

        Look at this here:

        “Creo que me voy a ir yendo a dormir” (Spanish)
        “I believe that I myself go to to go going to sleep” (lit. English)
        “I think I’m off to sleep” (English)
        “Pienso soy apago a dormir” (lit. Spanish)

        And these two languages are ridiculously similar! (although to be fair, this is not exactly beneath Google Translate, heh).

        I know that any other thing would be a ridiculous exercise in oversimulation, but they could have done it a bit better, like having an outdated universal translator which needs better software in order to translate correctly. And then have something like a Hill Cipher for the supposed gibberish so players couldn’t just easily brute force their way out of the problem.

        I think their language system, as it is now, is as uninspired as having space frogs in a game in which “happyface mushroom jumper” is a valid description of a species of fauna.

    • gattsuru says:

      That’s part of it, no doubt, but many of these design decisions are mindbogglingly poor, and mindbogglingly poor in ways that took effort. The lack of a waypoint system is one thing, and it’s something that actually will take a good deal of effort for Hello Games to fix. It’s a whole different issue that Nada will stop pointing to the last station if you’ve visited the last station but not dropped the ten stones in : that’s a question of where flags are set, and anyone who knows what race conditions are should have realized this’d be an issue.

      The inventory management is more toward the latter. It’s not /programatically difficult/ to make non-element items stack — indeed, there’s a bug that lets you do so in rare cases — but Hello Games made the design decision not to do so. That’s not unreasonable for things like Gravitino Balls or the various trade goods, but it’s blindingly obvious taking up ten inventory spaces for a quest is a bad decision when the player starts with less than thirty, and will need to devote at least some of those slots for exosuit or ship upgrades.

      And there’s a lotta stuff like this. The first crash site will always have a container that can only be opened with an AtlasPassV1, which you’ll never ever open (thankfully, it contains nothing meaningful). There’s a giant credit bonus for scanning every animal on a planet, but scanning birds requires a lot of luck and a mining laser blast. AtlasPassV3 will open V2 and V1 doors, but not V1 barrels, which means you have to cart around two of the damned things. The achievements system blocks much of the UI, which is a dumb mistake when your life support will drop at the same time, and an inexcusable mistake when the achievements system triggers during combat /because/ of combat.
      One of the achievements involves standing on a max-level hostility planet for 8 hours at one time! Real-life hours!

      I’d call it an issue of incomplete playtesting, but they made pretty big changes in response to internal testing. I think it’s mostly just that this is their first adventure-style game — their previously releases are all a side-scrolling stunt game — so the failure modes obvious to someone with even the experience from Morrowind mods wouldn’t come to mind as readily.

  23. Ventus says:

    You can have multiple save files shamus, by renaming a folder – search %appdata% , go to hellogames then NMS and rename the folder with a string of numbers. Also, disable cloud saving on steam then boot up the game, should start you from the beginning of the game. A possibly solution to just experience this quest and then you revert the folder name to load that again. Hopefully this was marginally helpful and I totally agree this is such a mess of stupid problems cascading to create something ridiculous.

  24. Izicata says:

    “Not that I would consider starting over after playing for 110 hours to be an acceptable solution.”

    Oh boy, you’d love the ending then.

  25. Peter H. Coffin says:

    On the plus side a lot of this crap is easy to fix/patch. On the minus side, it would have been easy to fix in the first place if they’d had the wherewithal to do a little blind playtesting.

  26. MadTinkerer says:

    In Ultima VII Part 2, there’s a locked door that you must get through and only a certain friendly NPC can open it. It’s not usually a problem, in fact you just have to ask them to open it for you after you get a certain item for them. Getting the item is easy; in fact, I bet most people who played this game don’t even remember that particular minor detour.

    Guess what happens if you accidentally detonate a powder keg near the NPC (not even hurting them, just so they hear it). They run away, switch from the scripted event to their normal AI routines, none of their normal AI routines involve helping you open the door, and you’re stuck in front of that door and can’t complete the game. IMPORTANT TIP: It would be a good idea to not save at this point.

    That’s why I never completed Ultima VII part 2.

  27. Taellosse says:

    Everything I’ve heard and seen about this game makes me think the Hello Games team is composed of a group of talented software engineers and artists. And that there is nobody with any skill as a game designer at all. They make terrible decisions about everything to do with the systems that make the game function, invariably worsening the experience for anyone and everyone that wants to like it.

    I was excited about this game when it was first announced. Stuff I read about it in the years since cooled my enthusiasm, and I elected to wait and see how it did after launch before deciding whether to buy a copy for myself. I am now VERY glad I waited. I may still get a copy eventually, but it definitely won’t be for a while – this game needs a LOT more work before I want to give it a go for myself.

  28. ChrisANG says:

    So, I don’t own the game, and I’m only slightly spoiled about it, but my understanding is that visiting the center of the galaxy FIRST will unblock the Atlas quest for you (albeit in about the most irritating way possible).

    My brother DOES own the game, and is playing unspoiled, and is doing the Atlas quest… and I think he sold the first Atlas stone as soon as he got it. I think maybe they didn’t do any independent play-testing of this game before shipping it :(.

    I hope the way the game was marketed and sold doesn’t result in the team being unable to do any more substantial work on it. The game clearly needs an extended period of feedback + improvement, along the lines of the Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft development process.

  29. Andy_Panthro says:

    It’s a game that definitely needed far more testing before release.

    I’m enjoying it, much in the same ways I enjoy minecraft (but without the building and with worse crafting).

    It is a very hard game to recommend to anyone else though. Many will find it boring, or frustrating, or will encounter the sort of issue that has halted your progress.

    Personally, I told the red blob (atlas?) to bugger off as soon as I saw it, but wasn’t quite aware I was opting out of almost all of the story. I guess I’ll never get through those doorways that require an AtlasPass.

  30. J Greely says:

    The reason Atlas Stones cost so much is that someone got their hands on a pre-release copy and “spoiled” the “ending”, which he reached very quickly by cornering the market on Atlas Stones. So in the big day-one patch, in addition to all the other significant changes, they made them really expensive.

    My wish list for the game:

    1) increase walk speed 50%. Maybe 100%.
    2) add autorun toggle; don’t make me hold down a button for ten minutes at a time.
    3) make stacking work for all items, not just as a glitch in the disassembly mechanic (“ask me about my stack of 100 Gravitino Balls”).
    4) save-file management.
    5) screenshots with HUD and all markers disabled.
    6) fix on-planet manual markers (currently they move to some random building you’ve never visited, at random intervals).
    7) maps: planet, solar system, and galaxy, all with marker/waypoint editors.
    8) shops for upgrades, ships, multitools, and bulk resources.
    9) eliminate blinding flashes from mining, location discovery, hyperspace, etc.
    10) add non-pastel ship colors.

    I suspect #7 won’t happen any time soon, because it would reveal the actual scope of the content. The number of times I stumbled across my starting location on the first planet, despite frequent ship travel, suggests that they’re doing things to make it feel bigger than it really is.

    Right now, I’m having fun exploring the ship designs by using nomanssave to edit the seed value. My current ship is Scientific 0x3A86A0354301E160; it’s a little bug with solar-powered tie-fighter wings.

    -j

    • 4th Dimension says:

      Run is a toggle. If you hit press and release shift PC will run until he runs out of stamina.

      I think I know why there is no save file management. It’s because if they allow you to reload to ANY previous save, what happens if you reload to a save in the previous system. You are in system B where you discovered and named a bunch of shit, but have a save from when you were in system A. If you load that save and then go to B system what should the game do about your discoveries? It seems the idea was that anything you discover will forever be tied to you. So the expected behavior would be that you will find that you have already explored and named everything in B, and you would loose credits on that. That is why they send you to ANOTHER galaxy once you finish the game. So you never run into your discoveries.

      9b# eliminate or deriosly reduce the annoying milestone animation that stops you from interacting with the enviroment while it congratulates you on killing your Nth drone while the rest of it’s buddies are trying to end you.

      • J Greely says:

        I know how to press Shift to toggle sprint, but I still have to hold down W to move at all. That’s the problem. Ditto for holding down the B button on my controller to fly at a decent speed on-planet.

        As for saves, I recopy them from backups all the time to switch between characters, roll back to before my ship got stuck inside a floating boulder, test out ship upgrades, etc. In fact, all I’ve done for the past day is edit and reload yesterday’s saves over and over again to grab the seeds of all the cool-looking ships I see in the space stations (nomanssave + jq in a BAT file FTW). The game neither knows nor cares that I’ve “discovered” the same star system a dozen times; it just downloads info from the server whenever I warp into a new system.

        #9b: oh, yeah; I don’t know how I forgot that one. I’ve had it cutscene me to death several times.

        11) don’t allow people to enter/upload names containing characters that break the JSON save format, strip the discoveries databases of all offenders, and add code to clean up save files broken by this bug.

        Speaking of editing saves, I don’t have one in the “failed Atlas” state to test it, but it looks like setting .PlayerStateData.FirstAtlasStationDiscovered=false might reset the quest. There may be other fiddly bits in the save that need updated (.PlayerStateData.MissionProgress[]?), but hopefully that’s sufficient.

        -j

        • J Greely says:

          I poked around a bit, and it seems that resetting the Atlas quest is tricky. So far, setting mission ^FINAL_JOURNEY to Progress=3, FirstAtlasStationDiscovered=false, and PostMissionIndex=0 didn’t do it. Those settings are from a fresh game where I’d just had the first encounter with Atlas on the ground, and would get the Atlas Interface announcement next time I warped. Visiting the first Atlas station sets them to 11, true, and 1, respectively, so I’d hoped those would be good enough.

          -j

        • WJS says:

          Wait, user data is dumped straight into save files/servers without sanitising/escaping? Wow. That’s simply awful.

  31. Phantos says:

    …Why would the Atlas stations vanish?

    No, seriously, why is that a thing? How is the game better for that?

    I didn’t wanna believe the negativity surrounding this game lately, but… yeesh.

    • ehlijen says:

      I suspect that if the atlas stations do vanish, it is not because they are meant to, but because of how the procedural generation works:
      There is a set seed number from which systems are derived via the generation code. The state of the system is never saved on your device; it will be unspoiled (except for the names which are stored online) again because it will be newly generated from the seed number again should you leave and return. There isn’t enough HD space to save the number of systems most players travel to.

      I suspect Atlas stations are not included in this generation or derived from the seed, but rather added as an extra based on the quest flags of the player. If that is true, then no quest flag means no atlas stations, ever.

      This works fine assuming you always have the right quest flag. Clearly, no enough safeguards were put into place to ensure this :(

  32. gresman says:

    Í am sort of left speechless. It took me a moment to silence all my QA and game design alarm bells going of at once.

    If a programmer or designer came to me with the description of that feature I would have torn it apart in less than five minutes.

    Shamus what you did would be one of the first test cases I would devise. Namely: What happens if the player sells one of these stones.
    After reading another comment by you I was left flabbergasted at the prospect that a feature hotkey is mislabeled. Something like that would be basic feature testing for me.

    Which all leads me to only one conclusion or to be more concise to variants on the same conclusion:
    They had no QA OR the QA was already blinded by their familiarity with the project OR the QA did not know how to test OR the PC version was never qa’ed beyond the basic functional parameters.
    Neither variant is appealing to be honest.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Hello Games said that they were using Sony’s QA team, which is to say: they outsourced it. I suspect that many of these problems happened because the QA team didn’t work in the same building as the dev team and were brought in during the later part of development, having no familiarity with the project.

      • Shamus says:

        Holy shit. This means gresman was right. If they used Sony’s QA team, then the PC version probably didn’t get any meaningful QA. After all, I can’t imagine SONY doing QA for the PC.

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          Sony QA for a PC version. Okay, to start the game, press the Playstation button… *game fails cert instantly*

        • Henson says:

          Still, you’d think that a potential quest-breaking scenario like selling an Atlas Stone, which surely would have been caught if QA for consoles was doing its job well, would be something fixed by the devs across the board for all versions, right? I mean, this doesn’t seem like an issue endemic to the PC architecture. If the QA team brings up the problem from the PS4, the devs are going to know that the PC will have the same issue. Right?

          • Ninety-Three says:

            Buttons being mislabeled is one of the things discussed, and it’s exactly the sort of issue to crop up in a PC port of a console game. The Atlas Stone stuff, that’s just shoddy testing. It makes some sense though, QA was essentially outsourced, and that always leads to communication issues as you deal with testers unfamiliar with the product. It wouldn’t surprise me if Sony’s QA team focused on the stock “Can you run it for X hours without memory leaks, does framerate drop, does it break if you unplug and replug the controller” checklist.

        • gresman says:

          I would like to address all the replies given at once with a bit of insight on my part.

          As far as I am familiar with the cert process it covers mostly technical and UI specifications. Like are the correct buttons shown on any given console and things like the duration of splash/loading screens or if the game is still playable if it is left running on the console for 24 hours straight. There is no playtesting at all. Furthermore there are rumors in the dev community that some games might still get the cert if the are anticipated enough or developed by studios closely affiliated with the manufacturer even if another studio would fail the cert under the same circumstances. I often heard HALO as an example.

          I am quite certain Sony did not do the QA for the PC. I also quite convinced that their QA only did QA related to the cert and only partially playtesting.

          Another story that was floating around was that Hello Games hired 12 QA people two weeks prior to launch for the PC version. But I assume they did mostly technical/performance testing.

          From my experience in the field I would say the most plausible explanation for this issue would be twofold. Firstly the QA knew the game too well and would never sell an Atlas Stone because they knew it was important. Secondly QA is often treated as an afterthought or an expandable resource. Underpaid and somewhat mistreated. I had to fight a while till my input was taken seriously but still after that not all colleagues thought that I knew anything because my job was just playing the game. I could never know as much of the game as they would know about it. There is often this animosity between QA and the other departments especially design and programming because a good QA will try to destroy your hard work and many people think it might be done due to malice or mistrust. Thus the input of the QA team is not taken seriously.

          Something like this might very well have happened.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            Furthermore there are rumors in the dev community that some games might still get the cert if the are anticipated enough

            Obvious test case: How much does cert care about framerate drops and crashing? Because it seems like those should make a game fail cert, but NMS had both of those problems in spades.

            I am quite certain Sony did not do the QA for the PC. I also quite convinced that their QA only did QA related to the cert and only partially playtesting.

            Straight from Hello Games:

            We’ve brought a new QA team on board today (larger than the entire Hello Games team!). This will complement the existing Sony QA team.

            It’s vague enough to leave room, but that certainly implies Sony was doing real QA work.

            • gresman says:

              Did/does NMS have framerate and crash issues on the consoles? I do not know.

              I will admit that I am absolutely not interested in the game itself but in the conversations surrounding it. All my statements are made based on what I read and heard from different sources.

              From my experience I would categorize QA in three subsets:
              1. Playtesting: The classical just playing the game and seeing what you can find. This works fine if you have some distance to the game and not too much information. Once too much information is introduced the input becomes less valuable. But even given the right conditions there is a lot that can not be accounted for with this kind of testing.
              2. Technical QA: This is mostly checklist stuff and things related to certs. This will often cover performance. Small studios often have only a very limited range of PC configurations to work with. Often some Intel/Nvidia combo (or Macs in some studios) in the mid prize range. Higher priced machine are more often reserved for art and programming.
              3. Analytical QA: This is where the QA works together with programming and design and creates test plans. Trying to find issues often prior to things being implemented. This takes quite a lot of time and QA needs to part of the development for the whole duration of the project.

              All of these can be classified as real QA work.

              As I see most studios are only interested in the first two kinds of QA and will often outsource it. Interpolating from the information I have I would say that is the only kind that was done in this case with focus on the second one to get the cert for the consoles. As there is no cert for PC we have to live with the fact that there will always be issues with weird (or not so weird) configurations.

              • Ninety-Three says:

                I’m not sure if it’s been patched because I don’t own the console version, but I saw lot of console owners reporting both framerate drops and crashes at launch.

                Sorry for the ambiguous term (in my defense, I work in software QA, I’m not trying to slander the profession), what I meant was that I suspected Sony was doing playtesting as opposed to strictly technical certs, which seemed to be what you were suggesting.

                • gresman says:

                  I am in QA as well but on the game side of things.

                  I think we both are on the same page and just misunderstood each other. There is no harm in that.

                  Just for further clarification given that my last statement is still a bit ambiguous.
                  I would say Sony was doing playtesting and technical testing but I would say with focus on technical thing. Or at least it feels like that. I sort of assume that it is more important to them that the certs go through and the release date holds than if the game is fun to play or has game breaking issues.

                  • Ninety-Three says:

                    Yeah, based on the state of the game’s launch, it’s clear that little playtesting was done (at least on the current build, maybe lots of playtesting was done six months ago then they changed a million things [the usual “Maybe playtesters found problems but the bugs got deferred” possibility seems unlikely given how quick a fix some of these issues should be]). All we know for sure is that HG was working with Sony’s QA team, my speculation is that some combination of poor communication and Sony QA’s skillset/experience led to them neglecting playtesting.

                    I checked the game’s credits: One designer, one producer, one person on “comms”, five artists, and seven programmers. No dedicated QA, best case the devs were testing each other’s code.

                    Going back to the question I asked earlier, do you know important it is to cert that a game be crash-free and maintain a steady framerate? It would be interesting if NMS’s clear failure to do so proves that it was allowed to break cert.

                    • gresman says:

                      From my limited information about certs I would say framerate is not that big a deal and crashes are only a big deal if the happen often and under certain circumstances.

                      If the rumors I heard are true I would say that NMS absolutely qualifies as a game that is allowed some leeway in regard to the cert.

                      Please do not forget to add salt to this statement.

                    • MichaelGC says:

                      Some interesting stuff about the cert process in general here (NMS gets a mention, but mainly for ‘disclaimer’ purposes):

                      http://ramiismail.com/2016/08/patch-the-process/

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Did/does NMS have framerate and crash issues on the consoles? I do not know.

                Yes,constant crashing is a common thing for the pisser.

                But even if it werent,we already had the case of asscreed getting released when it was barely playable for the pisser,with fps dropping to 10 regularly.But,I guess if it works for at least one of the consoles it can be sold on all of them?Theres clearly some shenanigans involved in the process.

                • gresman says:

                  I would tend to agree with you on the shenanigans part.

                  But there might also some weirdness going on in the way the certs work.

                  Paired with the fact that you only get one free update on consoles and have to pay for every consecutive patch and the horror that are release date deadlines it gets really muddy on how broken a game can be to still be shippable especially if the hype train could not be stopped by 25 metre thick steel reinforced concrete wall.

              • potatoejenkins says:

                Heh, point 3 sounds like a beautiful unicorn. Does analytical QA really exist?

                I’m just a consumer with a small pocket so my “game horizon” might not be broad enough.
                What I always wonder is this though: Would the investment in proper QA – especially analytical QA – not at least pay for itself in the end?

                Creating patches costs time and money as well. And with the product already out there and – even worth with PC support on countless different setups and systems – it must be pretty much a nightmare to account for at least half of the people who bought the product.
                Not to mention that patching one thing loves to break another.

                • gresman says:

                  Yes it exists sometimes. At the company I work for I was able to convince the management and the team to somewhat listen to me and the QA team after a few years.

                  It costs more but might save money in the long run but almost everyone with money does not see the value of QA even just technical and playtesting due to it not having any visible output. But good luck to get the powers that be to listen to the “lowly plebs” at QA.

                  • potatoejenkins says:

                    (I read my comment again and just to be clear/for the record: I understand patches are neccessary/inevitable and simply a part of making games. From the outside it just seems like what needs to be patched can be a lot more simplified/streamlined/whathaveyou when significant design “failures”/programming errors can be routed out beforehand.)

                    Hm. Doesn’t sound like a nice working atmosphere. Thanks for doing what you guys are doing though.

                    Do you think how companies/developers* see QA will change over time? I don’t know wether it’s still a viable argument to say “the industry is still young”. It still feels like it anyway.

                    *I don’t know who to throw in there, I don’t really have an idea how teams are structured and who has a say in the end.

                    Edit: “(…) due to it not having any visible output (…)”. Err what now? Yeah, you can not eat a fixed code or put it on your fridge (well, you can. might look lovely if you are into that sort of thing), but your game runs better now? Yay? The people who finance games usually really don’t play them, do they? It’s not just a rumor.

                    • gresman says:

                      Patches are absolutely necessary and almost unavoidable. Often some things fall through the cracks while testing or are overlooked. I am still able to find issues in highly polished games and that is fine by me. But if you have QA along for the whole development process it helps to make the game better.

                      Who has the say in a project heavily depends on size of the studio and who is handling the money. If it is work for it is most often the publisher and they do not want to pay for things that can not be seen. In smaller studios it is the devs themselves and the attitude ranges from “I will test it myself because I know the game” to “Lets just outsource it” to “QA is a good idea.” More often than not it is seen as something annoying, because QA finds faults int the game and no one wants to admit they did something wrong. I sincerely hope that QA will become something more than just an entry level position where those guys do not want to do the job and just want to move on to design, management or community/marketing work or what ever else they want to do.

                      To be honest I would not bet money on it changing soon (15 years or so). But I would be overjoyed if I am proven to be wrong.

                      ADDENDUM: Yes the financiers do not play the game in most cases. It is most often shown to them. So they do not know if it runs better or if there are less bugs. If there are new feature that can be seen. Same goes for new levels and new art assets. But found bugs that can not be actually seen is not worth the expense of lets say 3000$ a month per QA person to them.

                    • WJS says:

                      I think the question wasn’t so much “Do the financers playtest the games they’re financing” and more “The ones financing games don’t actually play games at all, do they?”. Even if I can’t see the difference between demo videos of two builds pre and post-bugfixing, as a gamer I know that widespread bugs can ruin otherwise fine games.

    • J Greely says:

      When you start a new game, you’re presented with a white screen containing only the letter “E” in a circle. If you press and release E, you may or may not notice that the circle filled in a bit. If you press and hold E, you’ll see that it’s a circular progress bar, and now you’ve learned that you always need to press-and-hold to select anything in the game.

      Except for selecting tabs in the top-level menu. That’s just a press-and-release.

      I’d already made my mind up about the amount of playtesting before I ever saw a planet…

      -j

  33. evileeyore says:

    So wait, Shamus who famously complains that games don’t have consequences for a Player’s actions, is now bitching when he’s faced with the consequences of his actions?!?!?!

    I joke, I joke… please don’t kill me!

    • Henson says:

      Game devs will now implement more meaningful choices by wiping your hard drive if you fail a quest.

      …What? Isn’t that what you wanted?

    • Decus says:

      Even though it’s a joke, I think the serious answer is that in this instance he’d have wanted some text to scroll across the screen or some sort of indication that he’d screwed himself and that his actions had consequences. Or even more than that, a build-up. As it stands you can interpret the game in one of two ways: 1) broken and poorly or not even QA’d 2) like, super deep, man.

      The difference between (1) and (2) is huge, but (2) is dumb and likely only to be latched onto by fanatics who’d defend the game no matter what. (2) would be brilliant if there was a build-up to it or any indication anywhere that that is what they were going for beyond fiction in some player’s heads, but, well, it isn’t anything grander than just that.

  34. Ninety-Three says:

    Speaking of No Man’s Sky: Interesting news on why your ship is restricted to flying way above the ground. Someone made a mod to remove the restriction, and it turns out that terrain hitboxes are terrible, so it’s easy to clip your ship into the ground. Also, the engine tries to load the terrain in high detail, since you’re close to it, but since you’re moving fast it’s needing to load a lot of terrain, so you get some pretty bad pop-in. Fade-in? Whatever you call that ugly effect it uses to load textures.

    • Decius says:

      I can understand bad terrain hitboxes, because procedural generation. But flying the ship around the planet is one of three things you can do (flying around space and walking around being the other two). Make the controls tight and provide an option that lets me crash if I’m too stupid to miss the ground.

      Also, give me a way to land on landing pads on purpose and consistently. The number of times I’ve landed right next to one is frustratingly high, especially when it’s a trading post and a bitch to climb up to the interesting part.

  35. Mersadeon says:

    I hate to be the “I called it” guy with this. I love space exploration. I am easy to hype up, but even I found everything about this game suspicious. Looks like it might be another Spore. I had such high hopes!

    • Decus says:

      I’m in about the same boat but more for being suspicious of Sony as a publisher and space games in general. Sony is just not a very good publisher–they spend most of their budget on marketing rather than things like distribution, QA or localisation. I can’t think of a single series they’ve been good rather than bad for overall as they’re always cutting corners where it really matters. All I can say is that their business side is decent at putting out consoles but abhorrent when it comes to actual games, probably because as a whole they have people used to selling hardware but not video game software.

  36. Christopher says:

    I’m really sorry to hear about that.

  37. Decius says:

    There are several items that I found were hella expensive to buy but crap to sell, all of them items that are used in upgrades that can be crafted by the player. I guess they wanted to make it punishing to not have the recipe but not rewarding to have it?

    The utter bullshit is not giving your ship any trade-in value when bargaining with aliens. That is clearly a feature that was designed and then cut.

    • Humanoid says:

      What the Privateer ship dealer always tells me at least a dozen times a game while I’m saving up for the Centurion:

      “I hate to break it to you, but we’ve checked your account, and you don’t have enough credits to buy this ship. She sure is a fine ship though, isn’t she? Listen, I want to make a sale, you want to make a purchase. Let’s look at the facts: You know the retail of this ship. I can give your ship trade in, plus your extras. Including your cash on hand, that still leaves you short. Get some more cash, and come back when you’re ready to deal, okay? And don’t feel embarrassed, these things happen.”

      • Decius says:

        If you have the version without voice acting, it lists the numbers of cost, trade-in, and how much you have left over.

        The Taurus is really a hunk of junk, and the trade in value is basically the resale value of the aftermarket parts.

        • Humanoid says:

          The Tarsus (not Taurus) was made out of papier mache, sure, but unlike the Orion it at least had room for dual missile launchers. I think I’ve bought the Orion a grand total of once in all my playthroughs of the game.

  38. Steve C says:

    This is the first game I’ve ever encountered where seemingly innocuous actions could keep you from ever completing the game ever.

    I got an example! — Blood Omen 2 for the PS2.

    In Blood Omen you were a vampire who drank blood to survive and get stronger. In game terms it meant your current hp constantly decreased over time, and any time you drank blood you would heal and your max hp would increase.

    I’m going through the game killing everyone I can and sucking up every bucket of blood I can find. I’m at the very very last part of the game and my health wraps around. I now have 0 hp and die. I realize what must of happened. Stupid, but w/e I have a save. I load up the game. I have max hp again and it is really maximum. If I gain any hp I die. I’m constantly losing hp and if I heal, I gain max hp and I instantly die.

    I try rushing to the end. I rush to the end (game is almost over!) and I cannot get past a cutscene because it takes too long and the constant health drain kills me. In an entire game where the point was to kill people and drink their blood to become stronger, I got into a permanent failure state because I killed too many people and drank too much blood.

    I put it down in disgust and have never forgotten that the seemingly innocuous action kept me from completing the game ever.

  39. Aaron says:

    Every time I hear about something going wrong in NMS I get sad, if for no other reason than I really like the art style. And not just because I like the art style itself but because you just don’t get that many games that go for the classic pulp sci fi art look.

    The range of art styles that games go for is actually kind of small when I think about it. Broadly speaking you can expect realism with varying ranges of grittiness, including this painterly concept art look I see a lot, anime, retro pixel art, or that almost cartoonish look mobile games have. And this is in triple A games, indie, games, and even double A games. NMS itself could have gone with a “normal” realist space sim look. It’s sort of the same deal as how so many RPGs default to a Tolkien/Gygax fantasy setting.

    NMS’s aesthetic deserved better than this.

  40. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You really shouldve played starbound instead.The only thing I see no man sky having over it is the 3d graphics and (crappy) space combat.

    • Felblood says:

      I think that Starbound is definitely the better buy, but after playing some of those great early access builds, the final product seems kind-of meh and buggy.

      I feel like they were trying to dumb the game down for the unwashed masses that were going to flood in when the game hit 1.0. If that was the plan, dropping a bunch of new features into the game (and removing a bunch of beloved ones), on launch day was a mistake.

      Did they forget that the point of beta testers is to test all your features before you release them to the public, not just to produce hype? After literal YEARS of beta testing, they launched with a bunch of new quests and mechanics which were barely out of alpha. That’s like shitting directly into a gift horse’s mouth.

      I’m really curious to see if Chucklefish makes good on their promise, to add in some of the missing features back in future content patches, and to fix the bugs in these new features.

      Thousands of stars don’t mean much when the new biome system means that there are basically only a handful of planet types, and every planet has the same enemies on it. “Do I land on the Shadow planet (which will almost certainly have Hive and Volcano biomes) or the Volcano planet (which will almost certainly have Shadow and Hive Biomes)?

  41. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wow,over 160 comments,and not a single mention of unwinnable by design?Shamefur dispray!

  42. william says:

    Seems if you get to the center, you can start again but still keep your ship and upgrades on you. It might be worth while for you to do that just in case they don’t patch a way to begin again.

  43. Lanthanide says:

    I haven’t read all the other comments (who does that?!), but two points.

    1. The non-stacking of atlas stones is likely a result of the day 1 patch. I believe that all objects were previously stackable up to 100, then on the day 1 patch they changed it so elements could stack to 250 in the backpack and 500 in the ship, but stopped commodity items such as atlas stones from stacking at all, as a trade-off. There’s a bug that lets you stack gravitino balls, and when you do, you can stack them up to 100.

    2. “I checked the guides online and found out you can buy Atlas Stones at the market. It took me a long time (many star-hops) to find any for sale.”

    This is a pity. Did you not know that you can trade with other ship captains on space stations? Also when they land on the planet at the trading posts there. You could have stayed in the same system as the atlas station, and waited for ship captains to turn up with their stones (and gone mining on planets if you needed the cash). Shouldn’t have taken you longer than about 30 minutes, assuming you had the cash ready. And yes, I have seen multiple captains with atlas stones for sale.

    • MichaelGC says:

      I do. Well, almost all – I’m sure I miss some on occasion.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Same.Though I skip them with technical posts and when I have nothing to add to the topic myself.But if I post,it means Ive probably read all but maybe the most recent comments.

    • Elbiggus says:

      I once found myself on a station with a Few selling Atlas Stones for market rate (he had 4 on him every time he came in) and one buying them at +97%, and as the NPCs apparently have unlimited funds I now have a few hundred million in the bank…

      • Elbiggus says:

        Few? Gek. Stupid autocorrect.

      • How? Standard price for Atlas Stones on the market is 2,850,000 units. Their base sell price is only 68,750 units. Even at a 97% markup that’s only 135,437 units. At base market price that’s still a 2,714,563 unit deficit. You’d have to be able to purchase Atlas Stones at a 96% discount just to be able to turn a minor profit and I’ve never seen anything discounted more than maybe 5%. Unless you duped your inventory, or got inconceivably lucky with the market, then it shouldn’t be possible to trade Atlas Stones at a profit.

        The best I’ve ever managed through trading was flipping Gravitino Balls at ~31k units profit a piece. That’s not as much as it sounds, and when you start needing tens of millions of units for a meaningful ship upgrade it’s ultimately much slower than scouring planets for valuables.

        Money does not come quickly in NMS without a hell of a lot of luck or cheeky exploits.

        • ElBiggus says:

          Beats me, but there’s a lot about the game I don’t understand. Glitch or luck, either way, I was buying them for about 2.5 million and selling them for 5 — I thought it was a little odd, and I was really wary of selling the one I’d been given in case it was another number-scaling glitch (hello, “Linear distance”), but in under an hour I’d amassed several hundred million Units, bought my way to a 48-slot ship with all mod cons, and stockpiled 20 Stones just in case. (The experience also removed any last vestiges of immersion that remained — once *three* of the same ship/alien combo were in the hangar at once the complete lack of thought or care that had gone into the mechanics finally hit home.)

          By this point in the game I’d also maxed out a lot of the Milestones, so first thing I did was blast through the rest of the Atlas “plot” in a few minutes and boy, was that a let-down. Still, not to be put off (a triumph of hope over experience) I then headed for the Core, and, well, we all know how thrilling that turns out to be.

          I guess in fairness Sean kept saying that the Core was where the “true secret” was, and to some extent he was right: it revealed the undeniable truth that this game is repetitive, ultimately hollow, and unfinished.

  44. Piflik says:

    The worst thing: By not having 10 stones and/or not travelling to the center, you really don’t miss out on anything at all. I myself was really disappointed when I turned in the stones.

    You literally get nothing at all for it. The Atlas tells you that you have created a new star somewhere at the edge of the galaxy for someone else to start the game on. You don’t get to see it or even know where it is. With some Idontevenknowifitisarealnumberillion stars, a couple of extra stars don’t matter at all. There would not be any difference if they didn’t create new ones and this is just flavour text. And I bet that is just what it is.

    Reaching the center apparently is ‘New Game+’. The game zooms out of the galaxy, dumps you on a new planet at the edge (of a different galaxy), breaks all your tech and you essentially start over.

    • MichaelGC says:

      From the sound of it, starting a regular new game requires you to faff about with the save files. And isn’t the tradition with New Game Pluses to start you off with all your end-game equipment intact?

      So basically, getting to the centre allows you to start a new game. Minus the plus.

      • potatoejenkins says:

        So thats why!

        I feel better now.

        And it even makes sense. Sort of.

      • 4th Dimension says:

        I have not experienced it but I guess it breaks the tech on your ship so you have to repair it, and to repair upgrade modules you need resources you built them with. Also I would not be surprised if you were allowed to keep the blueprints?

        • ElBiggus says:

          You keep the blueprints (assuming you’ve not been hit by the “got the blueprint but it doesn’t appear in your build menu” bug) and any equipped upgrades, but you lose all your resources and everything gets broken so there’s a tedious period of repairing it all — to some extent the only thing you’re *really* keeping are your inventory slots.

          If you’ve completed Atlas you still get the black holes marked but it also appears you can start following the Atlas path again, or at least the orb dealy is next to the wreck and it gives you the option to follow the path — I didn’t actually try following it a second time so I don’t know whether it actually works or not.

    • WJS says:

      That “create a new star” thing sounds like total BS flavour text to me. Think about it – does anyone honestly believe that it’s possible for someone to buy the game and not have a star to start on? Of course not. The game is going to generate stars regardless of how many people have finished this questline.

  45. Vi says:

    I was really looking forward to buying this game, and I kind of still am, but it looks like I’m going to have to wait for a patch first. A really big patch.

  46. Joe Cool says:

    My feeling while playing was that the Atlas thing was, at best, a side quest. I never had the feeling that I “couldn’t finish the game” because I sold my atlas stones.

    Also, it doesn’t matter if you turn them in to see black holes. So long as you reach the final Atlas station and select one of the two options, you get the ability to see the black holes from the star map.

    From reading most of the criticisms and complaints, I have the feeling the designers were trying to make a different game then what we all wanted/were expecting. I think NMS is a wandering/exploring simulator. There were a number of frustrations I initially had, primarily concerning lack of mapping planets/scanning them from orbit, or finding where I’d been, either on a planet’s surface or in the star map. Then when I realized I wasn’t supposed to be doing those things, and in fact, it wasn’t really important to be able to do them, it really changed the game for me. The game is supposed to provide you with a sense of wonder at seeing cool new planets and discovering what they have. Retracing your steps, or scanning a planet without landing, actually run counter to that. If that doesn’t sound fun, then NMS probably isn’t a game you’ll enjoy.

    • Dreadjaws says:

      “There were a number of frustrations I initially had… Then when I realized I wasn’t supposed to be doing those things”

      If a game sells itself on freedom then there’s no such thing as things you “weren’t supposed to be doing”. Plus, if there are things that you’re not supposed to do in a game, usually there’s a programmed penalty or logical reason for doing them. You’re not supposed to get in the path of incoming bullets, so you get damaged if you do. You’re not supposed to walk through walls, so you get stopped in your tracks if you try it. You’re not supposed to be able to walk on water, so if you try it, you’ll sink.

      Those things are obvious and unless it’s a particular game in which they’re supposed to actually work, there’s no reason to try them. So, if you’re trying to do something it’s because the game doesn’t make it obvious that it shouldn’t work and you believe you might derive some fun from it. If however, you try something because it seems it might work and be useful for this setting but not only it doesn’t work but also doesn’t give you a reason for it, then that’s bad programming.

      If I play a game in which bullets damage me but I’m freaking Superman I’m going to be upset. If I play a game in which I’m a ghost and I can’t go through walls, I’m going to be annoyed. And if I play a game which is based purely on exploration and there’s no way to do basic things that explorers should be able to do like figuring out a way to come back from whence you came, then I should have all the freaking right to be angry, and you can’t excuse that with “It’s not the game for you”, because the game is at fault here and not me.

  47. Aaron says:

    never made it to an atlas station, had no idea they were a thing, just noticed some traders had really expensive atlas stones.

    found a way to delete the saved games…testing it now

  48. Grampy_bone says:

    Agree 1000% that the stones not stacking is horrendous. Basically criminal.

    On the other hand, the “reward” for finishing the Atlas quest is garbage. Seeing black holes is no benefit because they just throw you 100 thousand light years in a random direction, not closer to the core.

    The Nada and Polo dialog hints that these quest mechanics were either unfinished or cut. The choice to ‘return to the Atlas path’ is useless because each station shows you exactly where the next one is. There is also a planet building you can find which says it shows you ‘a location deep in the cosmos’ but actually shows you a monolith on the same planet you’re already on. I think they originally intended these buildings to point you towards Atlas stations but later simplified the quest, or never fully implemented it.

  49. Kerethos says:

    The more I read about No Man’s Sky the more I think “Cool tech demo”. Too bad it appears nobody playtested it with anything else than “tech demo” in mind.

    As for the gameplay and what you do in it, this is what I’ve gathered:
    1. Get annoyed by the constant nagging voice repeating single canned voice-lines until you turn the sound of and swear at the text instead.
    2. Hold down the left mouse button to mine stuff.
    3. Hold down “E” to pick stuff up.
    4. Avoid the awful mess that is combat in this game.
    5. Look at the odd puzzle piece assembled creatures and see how many of the pieces you’ve seen before.
    6. Curse the interface.
    7. Give things stupid childish names, because apparently the language filter doesn’t react to “Cum” (or was it “spunk”?) and various other possibly inappropriate words. So by all means everyone visit planet “Cumdrenched”, in the Jizzbucked system and behold natures wonders such as “The Spunkasaurus”! and the “Jizzweasel”… or don’t, because no one else will probably ever find it.
    8. Crash to desktop.

    My point being that my initial interest at a cool idea has been met with “It’s a 60$ mess or a shallow game”, where the randomness of it all can leave you with a horrible starting planet, without the resources you need to even repair your ship, where the building entrances are inside the ground or the houses inexplicably float in the air (like some quick Unity asset flip) while the odd cave goes on for miles – up into the sky! – because that’s how caves work?

    So even people who initially enjoyed the game – that I follow – have now caved to its blatant flaws and either have had their initial joy of exploration turn into hatred of the game, their joy eroded away by constant design annoyances and RNG nonsense (who’s dog playtested this game?!), or the game’s simply broken for them with no means for them to go on, and all that time put into it feels like a waste. Basically, several of the people who initially really liked the game (who I follow) now say, and I quote: “Fuck this game!”

    It’s such a shame that the actual game part of No Man’s Sky seems so very amateurish, when the tech powering it seems like it could offer so much.

    It’ll be interesting to see if the game improves over time or if the game simply fades into obscurity, now that the ludicrous levels of excitements seem to give away to increasing levels of disappointment.

  50. Ninety-Three says:

    Speaking of people becoming dissatisfied with No Man’s Sky, here’s an interesting quantification of that: The game has shockingly low player retention compared to recent big releases.

    • Lanthanide says:

      It’s not terribly surprising, since this game just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

      One thing to take into account with those figures though, is that the buggy state of the game would have taken a much bigger chunk out of the retention figure than would otherwise be the case, had the game been stable. Of course game-breaking bugs is the very central core of being a ‘low quality’ game; but it seems like Hello Games have managed to pretty quickly fix the worst of the problems. If think if you looked at 3rd weekends, NMS will be up on it’s 2nd weekend figure, and I’d guess that that isn’t always the case for other big launch games.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Counterpoint: There’s a Bethesda game on that list, and it barely suffered a third as much bug-related dropoff.

        In a couple days we’ll have the weekend 3 data, and because you’ve made me curious, I’ll compile it and post it… somewhere on Twenty sided. Probably in the Diecast because they’ll probably talk more NMS. I’ll add on some indie titles with less universal appeal as well.

    • namekuseijin says:

      amazing to see an indie game developed by a few people being compared to big fucking paintball AAAs, even GTA thrown in

      mind blown

  51. Dreadjaws says:

    Oh, my God, how I absolutely and utterly despise it when games don’t include such a basic feature as “New Game”. Are you guys so darn sure of your game’s content that you believe I’ll never run out of it? Have you so little faith in your game that you believe I’ll never want to play it again? Are you one of those bozos who fancy themselves groundbreaking artists because they only allow you to experience a game once in a lifetime? Is this some crazy strategy to get us to buy your game more than once?

    Metal Gear Solid V did the same, and it was freaking annoying. Now I have to go and delete the save file if I want to start over. True, that game at least has the decency of letting you replay missions, but still it’s a stupid thing to do. Even the Pokemon games, that famously only allow you one save, allow you to start over.

    This is absolutely preposterous design. I know some developers love to believe themselves to be artsy by changing around basic features in order to make the games look more “cinematic” or whathave you, such as when the pause menu doesn’t stop the background music, when you need to visit a place in-game in order to change your character’s looks (which means special outfits are only available in certain parts of the game) or when they start a game in the middle of the action without letting you fiddle with the options first (another thing I absolutely despise, and completely ruins the cinematic tone they were going for because most of the time I have to restart the game once I get access to the options)… But outright removing those features? That is absolutely and irrevocably stupid.

    What’s next? Games that turn off your PC/console if you try to pause them? Games that play themselves after you reach their halfpoint? Games that remove the ability to move forward and you’re forced to strafe to go around? Games that delete themselves from your Steam account once you reach the ending?

  52. Ninety-Three says:

    Interesting No Man’s Sky News: Steam has declared they are accepting refund requests regardless of playtime. As far as I can tell, they made no detailed statement, just “Steam is accepting no man’s sky refund regardless of playtime”, and Hello Games have yet to comment. To the extent of my knowledge, this is unprecedented behaviour from Steam (there was the Arkham Knight refund, but that was a refund offer made by WB). It’s fascinating to me, and I hope discussion of this event makes it onto the next Diecast.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Wow. I’d really like to know their reasoning! Is it sheer weight of numbers, or do they think that additional refund leniency is somehow warranted by the product itself, or by a mismatch between the marketing and the product, or some combination of factors including ones I’ve not thought of, etc. etc?

      Of course, as this is Valve I guess for a straight answer I may as well ask my cat. And I don’t own a cat.

    • Dreadjaws says:

      That’s not entirely true. I mean, it is, but it’s true for all games on Steam, not just this one. The two-hour limit only applies to automated refunds.

  53. Tom Taker says:

    I guess this is what happens you listen to Sean Murray imploring you to not to pay attention to spoilers so you can be “surprised” by the game.

    I feel your pain. I’m still enjoying the game. I have yet to visit an atlas station. Luckily I’m spoiled so I won’t follow in your footsteps. I’m going to wait until I feel ready then knock it out without any diversion.

  54. namekuseijin says:

    you have valid criticism there, a rare thing amid so much haterism

    I’m playing this game from day one on PS4 and am still very, very far from anywhere near the center. I’ve been just having fun discoverying new systems, planets and having some trading, upgrading and randomly being thrown into battles. Only recently I’ve been trying to actually get closer to the center by actually skipping through a lot of systems on the Atlas Path.

    anyway, I hate reading spoilers and didn’t know that 10 Atlas stones were needed in the end, but, if anything in my gaming life has taught me is to recognize some key items. So, even thought I agree with you that they should be marked as key items and having a separate inventory place for that, I luckily haven’t sold my 3 stones so far. :)

    of course, perhaps I was able to resist selling them only because korvax cubes are far more valuable than those potential key items and I’ve found them in droves in caves on a security relaxed system… :)

  55. Geoff says:

    Full disclosure, I haven’t played No Man’s Sky. But I discussed and passed this blog post to a co-worker who was playing and was in the exact same situation, having sold several Atlas Stones and just reached the final Atlas Station.

    He did verify that the Atlas Station does not disappear. He still hasn’t re-acquired his last Atlas Stones, but he was able to return to the station by specifically naming his Atlas Station and correlating both its position to landmarks in the navigation menu by the intersection of several obvious, colored stars, with the heading of his next jump sticking only to the closest, nearby planets and then using that information to isolate his scan to a limited section of the sphere of possible locations and scanning those to find the station, travel back to it and note that he still had the quest available to turn in.

    So basically, all the gripes, complaints and issues continue to be completely valid, except the Atlas Station does not completely disappear as suggested. Which does almost nothing to help your predicament, other than to say it is technically possible to find and return to the Atlas Station.

  56. General Karthos says:

    So these reviews have made me GLAD the game wasn’t available for Mac (it may never be for reasons that have yet to be sufficiently explained) when it initially came out, because I almost certainly would have bought it and had the same miserable experience. Instead I bought a $9.99 expansion pack to Crusader Kings II and have had a blast with it.

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