This Dumb Industry: 10 Things to do in No Man’s Sky

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Sep 6, 2016

Filed under: Column 144 comments

“There’s nothing to DO in this game!”

People have been saying this a lot about No Man’s Sky. Aside from discussions about the numerical significance of the game’s 18 OMGillion planets, it’s probably the most common comment about the game. I don’t actually want to argue with these people. If you’ve played the game and don’t feel at all compelled to engage with any of the game’s systems, then the game has failed you. That sucks and I’m sorry you’re out sixty American dollars, but that’s not something I can help you with in the space of this column.

Having said that, it does seem like this idea of “There’s nothing to do!” is spreading to people who haven’t played the game. It’s being said often enough that I’m worried people will start to think it’s literally true, that this is nothing more than a game where you walk around and stare at scenery until you get bored. The sad thing is, I think if that were true the game might actually be more fun. The problem isn’t that there’s “nothing” to do, it’s that there are several sets of mechanics to engage with, and none of them really work on their own and their shortcomings often compound one other.

So in the interest of painting a more accurate picture of things for the uninitiated, here are 10 things you can do in No Man’s Sky:

1. Hunt for treasure.

Somewhere out there is a vast expanse of incredible riches that I'll never be able to carry home.
Somewhere out there is a vast expanse of incredible riches that I'll never be able to carry home.

We’re not talking about treasure chests with the Kokiri Sword in it or whatever. We’re just talking about the joy of traversing gamespace and hoovering up all the stuff that isn’t nailed down. The surface of the world is scattered with resources. Once in a while you’ll stumble onto something rare and valuable. If you’re not finding what you need on the surface, you can always dive into the local cave system and see if it has something you’re interested in.

This whole process is a little dangerous at first. Resources are guarded by the local population of omnipresent robots. It’s actually a pretty fun and amusing system. In most games, when you “steal” something the guards go instantly hostile and you have to fight them. In No Man’s Sky, the guards – the silent robotic Sentinels of unknown origin – usually ignore you. When you harvest a resource or kill an animal, they don’t make a beeline for you. Instead they briefly fixate on the spot you just plundered, and then hover over and stare at you accusingly. If you’re quick you can clear out before things turn hostile. They might even follow for a short distance, aiming their accusing red light at you like a cop demanding you stop and consent to a search. Protip: Don’t. Just keep moving.

Later in the game, you’ll find planets with “protected” resources. These items are usually just laying around on the surface of the world and are irresistibly valuable. However, if you dare pick one of them up the robots will show up with some elite units and do their best to make you very sorry. They don’t scan you first. They just start shooting. If it’s early in the game you might swipe a couple and then make a mad dash to escape, like a heist gone horribly wrong. Later in the game you’ll probably have the equipment to destroy the guards and plunder the planet in peaceFor a couple of minutes. The guards respawn after a short time.. This is probably the closest No Man’s Sky ever comes to feeling like a videogame.

The downside: The gorram inventory system all but ruins this. Where’s the joy in finding treasure you can’t pick up? You have painfully limited inventory space, most of which is consumed by the common resources you need to drag around to power your equipment. You’ll only have a few slots left over for “extras” like treasure, and those fill up fast and stay full until you find a shop.

Worse, you can’t see the value of an item before you pick it up, so you don’t know if it’s worth dropping the Old Treasure to make room for the New Treasure. Worse still is that you can’t drop an item on the ground to make room so you can compare New and Old. Your only option is to destroy an item in your inventory to make room. Even worser is that if you try to pick up some item and you don’t have space for it, the item will simply vanish. Worsest of all: This is made more likely by the fact that your suit automatically sucks up everything whether you want it or not.

So while you’re exploring you’ll be fending off wildlife, dealing with pesky sentinels, and carving away troublesome flora that bars your way, all of which will gradually fill your pockets with dumb crap you don’t need.

So you’ll hike through a mile of savage beasts, cruel weather, and unyielding topography to find a single crystal node of some precious mineral. You break it with your mining tool and your suit informs you NO FREE INVENTORY SLOTS. Those resources you just harvested have poofed out of existence forever because your pockets are already full of the worthless iron your suit decided to pick up. You can destroy some crap to free up space, but the damage is done.

2. Engage in space combat.

Fight pointless enemies you can't identify for worthless loot you can't carry in shallow combat that takes forever!
Fight pointless enemies you can't identify for worthless loot you can't carry in shallow combat that takes forever!

You can fly around in space and dogfight with space pirates. Visually, it looks like a classic space fighter game in the tradition of Freespace or X-Wing. You zip around shooting colorful laser bolts at enemy fighters against a spectacular backdrop of planets and colorful nebulae.

The Downside: It looks like a classic space fighter game, but it doesn’t play like one. At all. I started to enumerate all of the problems with space combat in this paragraph, but then it became two paragraphs. Then five. Then basically an entire article. I’m not sure if it’s worth posting, but I didn’t want my critique of space combat to overshadow the rest of this column. The short version is that this entire gameplay mechanic is broken in multiple ways on multiple levels and everything about it is awful, frustrating, and pointless.

3. Catalog the wildlife.

This feature is basically fine. I guess.
This feature is basically fine. I guess.

I’ll bet there’s an indie game out there where your only goal is to explore some wilderness and try to get a picture of every animalIf there isn’t, there should be. Sounds like it could make for a good edutainment style game.. That’s built right into the systems of No Man’s Sky. You run around on planets and scan lifeforms. You can see information on their physiology and behavior. You can name them. Upload the scans for a nice little payout. Scan all the lifeforms on a single planet (don’t forget to look in the ocean and in the sky!) and you’ll get a bonus in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million unitsMore for planets with a lot of animals to catalog, less for planets with just a few.. That’s massive in the early game.

It’s a fun little side-activity to do while you’re foraging for materials to turn into spaceship fuel. You might find you’ve got all the resources you need, only to notice you’ve just got one or two animals left to earn the bonus for this planet. These National Geographic style hunts can be fun and the whole thing makes me feel a little more like an explorer and less like a space-miner.

The downside: Actually, this is one of the few systems in the game that actually works. I suppose if you’re fishing for complaints I can mention that getting scans of flying creatures is really annoying. You have to hold your view on them for a couple of seconds for it to register, which is really fiddly when you’re trying to scan something flying in circles far above youThis is supposedly fixed in a recent patch. I haven’t tested it yet..

4. Upgrade your tool.

This is the grid of upgrades on my multi-tool. The stuff with the green border are bonuses for the mining laser. Would it be more efficient to build them packed together? There's literally no way to tell.
This is the grid of upgrades on my multi-tool. The stuff with the green border are bonuses for the mining laser. Would it be more efficient to build them packed together? There's literally no way to tell.

You carry around a multi-tool kinda thing, which serves as both your mining tool, zap gun, and (if you install the upgrade) grenade launcher. Your tool has a limited number of slots, and those slots can be used for upgrades. So you have to choose: Do you want to cut through mineral deposits faster? Deal more damage? Be able to dig for longer without overheating? Faster reload times? Greater mining beam range? Customize your device to suit your playstyle.

The downside: The game flat-out refuses to put numbers on any of its systems. The interface tells me that Mining Beam Tau is “improved”. I can see it’s significantly more expensive to build than Mining Beam Sigma, but I have no idea how much better it is. It’s like an RPG where you can’t see your own stats or the stats of any equipment and the game just says Sword B is better than Sword A and you have no idea if it’s significantly better or trivially better. The game is asking you to make decisions and spend resources on things without communicating what the outcome will be or even giving you a frame of reference for your decision making. There might be an interesting upgrade system at work under the hood. Or maybe it’s just busywork. You can’t tell, which means that either way it feels unsatisfying.

5. Upgrade your suit.

This is the maxed-out end-game inventory. I'd say at this point it's basically TOLERABLE and no longer actively ruins the experience. It takes a long time to upgrade it to this point, though.
This is the maxed-out end-game inventory. I'd say at this point it's basically TOLERABLE and no longer actively ruins the experience. It takes a long time to upgrade it to this point, though.

Like your multi-tool, you can add upgrades to your environment suit and spaceship. The suit is your main inventory. As you play you’ll gain upgrades that will allow you to survive in more extreme conditions, and to do so for longer periods of time. You’ll also expand your inventory space as time goes on. So it’s kind of like an RPG where you can grow in power.

The downside: You build your upgrades into your inventory grid and they can’t be moved. Which means that every single upgrade reduces your inventory space by 1. Aside from the fact that This Makes No Damn Sense, it’s basically punishing you for upgrading.

Sure, it’s nice to have the radiation shield so you can survive on irradiated planets, but your limited inventory space is a far more pressing concern than radiation. If you want, you can just forego the shield and not bother with irradiated planetsThis is made somewhat more troublesome by the fact that you can’t know what a planet is like until you land on it and physically step out of your ship. I guess you don’t have space scanners on your ship? Or even a Geiger counter?. It’s not like they have unique resources. If you go to the next planet or system you can find the same crap on a less troublesome world. Your inventory is usually full and you’re constantly fussing with it to try to get the most out of your limited space. So adding a radiation shield temporarily protects you from a mild inconvenience that you only encounter on rare occasions, at the expense of exacerbating the one problem that’s always hounding you.

Same goes for the toxin shield. And the heat shield. And the cold shield.

6. Optimize your build.

The Jetpack is in the upper-left, boxed in by Hazard Protection and Life Support, which means the Jetpack system can't use the  adjacency bonuses.
The Jetpack is in the upper-left, boxed in by Hazard Protection and Life Support, which means the Jetpack system can't use the adjacency bonuses.

There’s a system of adjacency bonuses. On the grid of upgrades, if you build your mining beam speed boost next to the mining beam itself, then the bonus will be stronger. This means optimizing your suit, ship, and multi-tool involves doing a little bit of puzzle solving. You want to use the available space as efficiently as possible while keeping bonuses of similar types next to each other.

The downside: The game never explains it. And once you know about it, you still don’t have any way of seeing those bonuses or knowing how much of an impact (if any) your optimizations are having. Is there a flat bonus applied if the upgrade is touching ANY similar upgrade, or does the bonus get bigger with more adjacent items? Is building four items in a row functionally any different from building them in a square? Is there a cap on how how strong the bonus can get?

And even if the game explained the mechanics, the system is too shallow to be interesting. It’s not like you can gear yourself for a “combat build” or a “stealth build”. There aren’t any trade-offs to balance, aside from worrying about inventory space. Everyone has the same layout of immutable systems, so if the game ever explained the mechanics the whole upgrade system would be reduced to “right” and “wrong”. There would be one objectively optimal way to do things, and and the freedom to build sub-optimally for no reason.

And just to twist the knife a little, your environment suit has your jetpack trapped in the upper-left corner, blocked in by two unrelated pieces of hardware. None of these bits can be moved, which means it’s impossible to build optimized bonuses for your jetpack, which incidentally is pretty fun and the one thing I always wanted to boost.

So what we have is a system that increases an unknown value by an unknown amount according to rules that are never explained, and which is negated in a situation where it might actually boost one of the rare fun parts of the game.

7. Learn alien languages.

I don't know enough of his language to know what he's asking, but I'm pretty sure this isn't a marriage proposal.
I don't know enough of his language to know what he's asking, but I'm pretty sure this isn't a marriage proposal.

Sprinkled around the world you’ll find these wonderful mysterious monuments. Click on them, and you’ll learn a single word of one of the three major alien languages in the game. Sometimes you’ll meet these aliens in outposts or on space stations. You’ll walk up to them and be presented with a little dialog box of interaction where they ask something of you, and you’re given a multiple choice answer in how to respond. At first their dialog is incomprehensible and you’ll just be blindly guessing at what they want. But as you master their language, the dialog becomes more clear. You begin to get a sense of their personality and get a feel for what they’re asking of you. It really makes you feel like you’re growing as an explorer.

The downside: It’s pointless. The most important story bits and flavor text are all in plain English, so the only time you need their language is to be able to get these multiple-choice interactions right. But even if you “win” the interaction – even if you know the language well enough to answer properly, or you happen to guess right – the rewards are usually very small. Usually the game gives you a new blueprint for a new upgrade that you won’t want to build. (See above.)

Worse, there just aren’t that many blueprints in the game. You’ll likely have them all long before you come close to mastering even one of these languages. Which means that by the time you can understand what these goofs are saying, you are long past the point in the game where you might have any reason to talk to them.

8. Engage in Trade.

Buy low, sell high. Or just walk outside and pick up shit off the ground for free, and sell that.
Buy low, sell high. Or just walk outside and pick up shit off the ground for free, and sell that.

Trade is fun, right? Lots of space games have some sort of space-trade component.

The downside: It’s dumb and shallow and not worth it. Every system has a resource or two that they’ll pay double for. It’s always double. Never half. Never two and a half times. If we say n is the galactic average price for a good, then all goods sell for n or n×2, plus or minus about three random percentage points. So if you find another system selling the resource you can make runs between the two systems, buying and selling the exact same thing again and again, until you get bored. This is made less interesting by the fact that the game doesn’t let you keep records. You can’t look at the price histories of places you’ve been, or make notes, or create named bookmarks for multiple locations. And good luck if you find a useful trading post on a planet. Once you return to orbit, you’re never likely to find it again.

But it doesn’t matter, because trade is a lousy way to make money anyway. Changing systems takes fuel and fuel takes time to gather. It’s much more efficient to simply gather local resources to sell rather than trading for them.

And if you REALLY want to make money in a hurry and don’t mind grinding, then fill the hold with plutonium and iron (which are plentiful, present on all planets, and trivial to gather in bulk) and craft them into bypass chips, because for some reason bypass chips are worth a lot of money. Just stand at the trade terminal, crafting chips and then selling them. Over and over. While boring, this is more efficient than resource collection and FAR more efficient than roaming around burning warp fuel and looking for worthwhile trade deals.

9. Follow the story.

The three floating figures? They don't actually MEAN anything. It's just random strange visuals to go with the faux-mysterious text. The game loves to be obtuse and pretend it's being profound.
The three floating figures? They don't actually MEAN anything. It's just random strange visuals to go with the faux-mysterious text. The game loves to be obtuse and pretend it's being profound.

Well, not so much “story” as “thing to do”. You can visit Atlas stations and get a bunch of random pseudo-mysterious bullshit to read. If you visit ten of these stations, you complete the Atlas quest.

The downside: To follow this quest, you have to collect ten Atlas stones, which take up ten precious slots of inventory space. While the text seems to hint at some big mystery, it never really goes anywhere or leads to a satisfying payoff.

Spoiler: Once you complete the quest – which I couldn’t do because it’s easy to break the quest chain and impossible to fix – the game tells you you’ve created a new star. It’s unclear if this is just flavor text or if it’s literally true that there’s now a new star in the universe. Moreover, it’s impossible to tell. There are billions of stars in this game and the interface doesn’t have a space to display who “made” the star.

So the best case scenario is that the quest ends with you creating a star that you will never see, can’t name, don’t have any means to find, and probably will never be seen by a single human being. And even if by some miracle someone DOES stumble over “your” star, it won’t be labeled and they will have no idea it’s a player-created thing. What’s more likely is that – like a lot of the rest of the game – the business about creating a star is just empty pretension and the entire quest amounts to nothing.

10. Work your way to the center.

This gameplay mechanic tested well with the moth demographic.
This gameplay mechanic tested well with the moth demographic.

It’s always there, visible in the star map. That glowing ball in the distance. Devoid of any other detail except a vast expanse of indistinguishable dots in every direction, it’s natural to fly towards the one Interesting Thing in this sea of noise. When you get there, you’ll be transported to the edge of a new galaxy.

The downside: Your reward for doing this is that you can do it again. In fact, you can do it as many times as you like! Of course, the next galaxy has only been visited by people who also completed the journey, so if you like finding worlds named by other players then the odds of that happening go from “rare” to “extremely rare”. That would be fine if there was some other sense of progression: Maybe the new galaxy is different somehow? Maybe there are new resources, or the sentinels behave differently, or there are new aliens? Something. Anything. But no. It’s more of the same.

I swear there’s a good game in here somewhere.

I really want to explore this universe without the bullshit and hassle.
I really want to explore this universe without the bullshit and hassle.

This feels so much like Spore it hurts. We have an amazing new technology that isn’t just a new generation of graphical sparkles. This new technology suggests new gameplay possibilities. And yet like Spore, what we got was a collection of half-baked mechanics that either don’t work at all, or actively undermine each other.

My fear is that No Man’s Sky will suffer the same fate as Spore: That the technology will die here, without anyone iterating on it or hooking it up to proper gameplay mechanics. Underneath the hype, broken promises, pre-order shenanigans, glitches, and performance issues is something special. It’s a system that can pump out wondrous new worlds for us to explore. There’s an amazing artistry to these places. There are moments between those tedious moments of inventory management when you can look to the horizon and realize the scene in front of you could pass as the cover of a Heinlein-era sci-fi novel.

It’s beautiful. It’s remarkable. But it’s no damn fun to play.



[1] For a couple of minutes. The guards respawn after a short time.

[2] If there isn’t, there should be. Sounds like it could make for a good edutainment style game.

[3] More for planets with a lot of animals to catalog, less for planets with just a few.

[4] This is supposedly fixed in a recent patch. I haven’t tested it yet.

[5] This is made somewhat more troublesome by the fact that you can’t know what a planet is like until you land on it and physically step out of your ship. I guess you don’t have space scanners on your ship? Or even a Geiger counter?

From The Archives:

144 thoughts on “This Dumb Industry: 10 Things to do in No Man’s Sky

  1. Lame Duck says:

    “I'll bet there's an indie game out there where your only goal is to explore some wilderness and try to get a picture of every animal.”

    Pretty sure you’re talking about Pokemon Snap there.

    1. I get the feeling that trying to get a good picture of Mew is more difficult than anything in NMS, though.

    2. Rodyle says:

      Or the side quest in Beyond Good and Evil

      1. Syal says:

        And of course, Fatal Frame.

      2. Scampi says:

        An amazingly fun game, btw;)

        Also: The sightseeing collectibles in GTA San Andreas. It’s not about animals, but still: driving around the world to take photos of (mostly) impressive scenery counts as far as I’m concerned.

    3. Henson says:

      You could argue for the side option of taking pictures in Bioshock as well. Which for me consisted of mashing snapshots as a splicer is leaping towards you. (Action Shot!)

      I think I’ve enjoyed taking pictures in pretty much every game where it’s been an option. I guess it really hits the ‘collect all the things’ itch.

    4. Christopher says:

      Taking pictures is a great sidequest at least. In Wind Waker, once you get a camera, it’s probably the largest one there is. If you take pictures of enemies, bosses and NPCs you can bring them to a man who will make little miniatures of them that you can spin around and look at. Only wish the pictures were less limited, you could only hold a few at once in the gamecube version at least. They probably changed that for Wii U.

      1. Lame Duck says:

        Yeah, in the GC version you could only hold 3 photos at a time and there was like 130 you had to take to get all of the miniatures, which made the whole sidequest an incredibly tedious slog of going back and forth in a game that people already criticised for overly slow and boring travel sections.

        1. Natureguy85 says:

          Which I find funny because going out on the boat and exploring the ocean is what I find appealing and memorable about that game. Other than the story of old Hyrule, which is pretty awesome and well presented.

    5. BenD says:

      Far from indie, of course, but this is also a sidequest in GTAV, and there are a couple other variations on the theme there as well. My favorite part of the game.

    6. Piflik says:

      There’s also Afrika for PS3.

    7. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      I think there’s a safari game on Playstation? Didn’t get super high ratings, but I think this was the idea behind it.

      Edit: Yeah, what Piflik said.

    8. The Defenestrator says:

      Now I want to see Spoiler Warning do Pokemon Snap. Getting it to work would probably be too difficult though.

      1. Retsam says:

        Ehh, as much fun as Pkmn Snap is; it’d make a pretty bad game for Spoiler Warning. Most of that game is about replaying the same levels repeatedly: figuring out how to get specific Pokemon, figuring out how to move on to the next area, just generally trying to take better pictures of Pokemon. Even as a one-shot, I’m just not sure how interesting that’d be to watch.

        Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nintendo’s monitization policy basically precludes them from covering any Nintendo games, (at least until the policy changes).

    9. Tuck says:

      The Amazon Trail, a 1993 successor to the original Oregon Trail, had a gameplay element of photographing animals (and plants). It was an “environmentalist” version of the hunting from the first game.

      Might even be playable here if you’re lucky!

      1. Philadelphus says:

        I was just going to mention that! It had a rudimentary day/night cycle with different animals coming out at different times. I think it just added to your score at the end of the game rather than providing any sort of gameplay benefit, but it was still kinda fun.

    10. tmtvl says:

      Exactly what I wanted to say.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    1. Hunt for treasure.

    So,its a terence and philip role playing game?

  3. Profugo Barbatus says:

    makes me feel a little more like and explorer and less like

    I think you got an extra letter in there Shamus. Otherwise, nice column! It’s always nice to see someone sensibly deconstruct the flaws in something, especially when most other sources are just angry or sad about the matter.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Click on them, and you'll learn a single world of one of the three major alien languages in the game.

      Also an extra l

      1. MichaelGC says:

        ♫ You’ll earn a single worrrrllld…♬ Sounds like a Disney song lyric!

        Sorry, sorry … I am in That Kind of Mood.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Sorry,I dont mean to be rude
          but you are missing the point,dude.

          1. tmtvl says:




  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You keep bashing the inventory system,but you fail to see obvious ways in which its actually well made.I mean,just with a glance I can see the huge improvement that is gold not taking away space in the inventory,as well as the obvious bonus of not having a “matter deconstructor” occupying a space on its own,as well as no extra space required for the trash product of deconstructing stuff.Its such a brilliant design!

    1. Mephane says:

      “Just think of all the tedium we didn’t add. You should be thankful for this.”

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    then fill the hold with plutonium and iron (which are plentiful, present on all planets, and trivial to gather in bulk)

    Was it really hard for them to make this at least somewhat plausible?I mean just using uranium instead of plutonium wouldve improved this significantly,even though it would still be silly.

    1. silver Harloe says:

      They said at some point they were trying to avoid the regular periodic table to keep fights like this to a minimum. It seems like they didn’t go far enough – plutonium should have been replaced with a made up name, too :/

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        A made up name would be better still, but much like many of their game design decisions, plutonium was the worst possible choice. Gobs of uranium sitting on the surface would be silly, but plutonium simply does not occur in nature (except for infinitesimal traces in other radioactive substances). Finding a lump of plutonium ore is the geological equivalent of Russel’s Teapot, the game might as well have you mine for steel.

        1. Decius says:

          Especially since you’d have to be in instantly fatal temperature and pressure conditions to find a lump of plutonium rather than a puddle of it.

          1. tzeneth says:

            Eh, I didn’t know about the temperature issue but I liked the explanation by Shoddycast when they did an examination of No Man’s Sky. Link to video.

            Summary of explanation: We’re near the heat death of the universe in order to create that much freaking plutonium.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              If we take the game as presented to be an accurate portrayal of the universe,then it wouldnt be on the cusp of heat death,but either on the cusp of a crunch,or perpetually stable.Because heat death means that all of the universe dissipates into a uniform sludge of subatomic goo(so to speak).And long before that happens,all of the stars would drift so far apart from each other,that you wouldnt even be able to see them,let alone visit them,even with a very fast warp(though some even more implausible instantaneous teleportation drive could overcome that).But seeing how all the stars are close to each other in this game,a more plausible thing is that the universe started contracting.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      Yeah, I ranted about mixing fictional elements with real ones in a comment here a few days ago, but having plutonium lying around is just as bad.

      For that matter, having iron lying around in pure form is ridiculous, unless you don’t have any oxygen in the atmosphere.

    3. Catiff says:

      But if we don’t use Plutonium, how are we supposed to generate the 1.21 GIGAWATTS to activate the Launch Thrusters through the Flux Capacitor?

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I swear there's a good game in here somewhere.

    And its called starbound.

    1. Risven says:

      Yes! Starbound is fun so far, I played a bit in the beta and I’m enjoying playing it again.

      I don’t love the main quest, but at least it is coherent.

      Inventory space is only a problem when I’m looting a village or underground installation, too. Gotta load up on chairs to sell back at the hub.

      1. Jonathan says:

        Hmm, looks interesting. Best place for a no-spoiler summary? Not sure if I’ll like it or not. What’s it similar to?

        I don’t own many ‘modern’ games.

        1. acronix says:

          Most apt comparison is Terraria. It’s very, very similar, except its combat is crappier thanks to the weapon and armors being much less interesting. But it does have a crapton more decorations, tile types, dungeon types, and is a bit better if you want to build and populate a town.

          If you haven’t played Terraria then…well, I can’t think of any earlier game that would compare to it mechanically. Maybe ‘2D Minecraft’?

        2. It’s Steam page would probably be the best place to look. There’s not really anything to spoil about it. It’s basically 2D action-platformer Minecraft “in space!

    2. Merle says:

      Only problem there is the same one I’ve got with Terraria…the 2D just kills the appeal for me.

  7. Ninety-Three says:

    I’m surprised there’s no section for “Explore strange new worlds – There are no markers of any kind so once you take off, you can never ever find the place you were before”.

    It bothers me that the game is billed as exploration because really it’s tourism. Exploration is about learning the environment, NMS wants you to strip mine it and never look back. NMS has a decent engine for making pretty planets, but even if the game did have markers, the planets are not well-built for exploration. They don’t have much in the way of paths to learn, or even geographic features other than “hills everywhere”.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      The resources and animals are all pretty evenly distributed, too. It sort of fits with the whole-planet-biome thing they’ve got going (just like many works of fiction), but it still leaves the problem of not exploring world-to-world. Like, if they had map markers and stuff for the galaxy, you could at least note down stuff like, “Cute teddy-bear things on this world!” or “Danger! Stay away from death-robots here!”. :)

  8. The Rocketeer says:

    But Shamus, can’t you just turn your brain off and enjoy it? That’s what everyone says about this amazing game. Just actively shut out everything you don’t like and pretend you enjoy it. Shut your brain off! That’s what everyone says about every shiny bit of dross they’re insecure about having latched onto. Sometimes I tell them they should just turn their lungs off and die, but they never react like I’ve done them the favor they think they’re doing me.

    1. Sunshine says:

      I don’t think so, not in the way that “Transformers is a good movie if you avoid thinking about it at all” – it’s more that its pleasant to zone out to in an undemanding fashion. Campster explains it better in one of his videos.

  9. Ingvar says:

    Pokemon Snap seems to be a game of “travel around an environment, cataloguing local fauna” (and, as it turns out, one of the early photographing mechanics in games). Not, I stress, an indie game, but a game nonetheless. And the travel is on rail, rather than free-roaming.

    1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Pokemon Snap is actually a masterfully crafted 1950s documentary simulator. Just like those early innovators, you start out respecting and observing the natural environment… and then quickly degenerate to messing with it to get better and better shots. In the beginning, you simply roll by interesting fauna and snap pictures. Then you start feeding them food which hopefully won’t screw up their natural diets or accidentally domesticate them to where they won’t hunt on their own any more. Then you start actively attacking them and their habitat to see what interesting circumstances that will create. Then you start taming and/or training them with special devices to make them perform for the camera.

      This is exactly why and how Disney invented a completely BS behavior for Lemmings that might stay with them forever, despite it NEVER being a real thing.

      1. Mike S. says:

        Disney didn’t invent the idea that lemmings hurl themselves into the sea en masse– that goes back at least to the 19th century. (E.g., ) But of course seeing it on film helped cement it in the popular imagination.

    2. Dirigible says:

      I mean, it was an N64 title. If we got Pokemon Snap 2 for the Wii U (And given how good the peripheral would be for this exact purpose, why don’t we already) it could be made free-roam instead.

  10. Leonick says:

    I'm not sure if it's worth posting, but I didn't want my critique of space combat to overshadow the rest of this column.

    If you already wrote a bunch about it and didn’t throw it away then, please, do post it.

    My fear is that No Man's Sky will suffer the same fate as Spore: That the technology will die here, without anyone iterating on it or hooking it up to proper gameplay mechanics.

    Am I forgetting something? The special technology at play here is procedural generation (of worlds, animals and maybe even plants?). Quite a lot of games lately that use quite a bit of PG, doubt it’s going anywhere.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      The special tech is the engineering wizardry that lets it build these planets realtime, in memory, from nothing but a planet seed value.

      That said, the game was created with 75 person-years of work, so even if the tech is lost forever, it’s not like a big studio couldn’t rebuild it easily enough.

      1. Mephane says:

        That special tech is not unique and has been developed multiple times, independently, before NMS. Terragen, SpaceEngine and many more. And since they are not technically games, Elite Dangerous does real sized planets, star systems and galaxy, and Star Citizen will use procedural generation to fill in the detail on planets that the artist only have to roughly sketch out.

    2. Raygereio says:

      The problem isn’t that the technology can’t be recreated.
      It’s that corporate suits tend to be terrible at learning the correct lesson from something. If No Man’s Sky is viewed as a failure, then anything associated with it will become poison. So if you’re working in a AAA dev studio and want to pitch a game idea that features a procedurally generated gameworld, the answer can become “Oh, like No Man’s Sky? People obviously don’t want that, look at its sale figures.”

      1. Echo Tango says:

        The correct way to pitch it would be to highlight games that successfully used procedurally-generated content. Spelunky, Devil Daggers, and Sublevel Zero all come to mind. Since none of these are AAA games, that just means that there’s still a large area to be filled by a new game, and would therefore be a reasonable investment. i.e. Show how the new game has improved upon the mistakes made by Spore, No Man’s Sky, etc. :)

    3. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Ditto. I’ve never been fully sure why X-Wing was so solid but Wing Commander left me cold -so a breakdown of a space combat sim would be wonderful.

  11. QuantumQuine says:

    Yesterday I finally tried Good Robot. Bought it on release mostly because I followed the development here. I don’t think the game had a big enough splash for me to have found it otherwise.

    For some reason I was compelled to write down my thoughts during my first session. Maybe I got into game-nitpicking mode from the context (of this here blog).

    The game has two ancestries: (a)arcade: polished, balanced action; (r)roguelike: complex, random exploration.
    I tried labeling arguments that pull either direction accordingly. Some of them may be a force of habit pushing towards existing conventions and not to the best solution, or even not identify a problem.

    Here they are, in semi-chronological order. The negatives were easier to itemize, sorry about that.

    * Options menu achievement? What else could I possibly do first?
    Especially when it starts windowed and small =). No complaints from me actually, this is better than defaulting to 1080p on a potato.

    * Hats will be hats, whatever.
    +a Good looking hats though.

    * First pair of weapon drops.
    -a Icons look fuzzy and blobby.
    -a All 4 weapons sound like variations on pew.
    +r They are mechanically different though. I take the sound gun (forgot the name) to try it out.

    * Shot down missiles tumble through the air.
    +a Looks cool and fresh.
    +r Makes logical sense.
    I expected them to explode on impact, but I see why they don’t. (a) If they did damage, enemies would get unpredictable projectiles, would be overpowered. (r) If they did no damage it would be distracting and inconsistent.

    * Money is floaty and unsatisfying.
    -a Feels like I’m dropping or missing the particles because all the feedback is delayed until I’ve finished collecting a batch.

    * How powerful are the upgrades? No way to know.
    Arcade solution: temporary powerups and short lives.
    RPG approach: actually show the stats and make informed choices.
    Roguelike: level-up mechanics described only in the wiki. Cursed weapons.
    Show damage as numbers. Not perfect, but it works.
    a Alternatively, perks and status effects can replace upgrades.
    +r But perks would clash with more complex weapons. Poison homing plasma bolts would make no sense (especially vs robots).
    Maybe it’s a metaphor for marketing? RoboBlaster RX133/z, now with more voxel wranglers and FluxFlex(tm) technology!

    * Shop music gets annoying if you read all the hints in the shop.
    – Why are they on mouseover anyway?
    Because on low resolution you can’t fit them on screen, and programming the interface to work differently depending on display size is extra time and money. Obviously.

    * Is it a bug? Factories shut down for no reason
    – I think there’s some spawn limit. When the limit is low and there are a lot of factories on a level, it results in a lot of lights that blink on as the player gets near and then turn off.
    Maybe a mechanic for a horror game?

    * Did robots just start a Diecast transmission?
    Got distracted by music, inevitable with how many times I’ve heard it in a different context.

    * Found a grenade launcher,
    + Not all weapons go pew.
    -a The explosion sounds weak. Where’s Vlambeer when you need them?
    + Some weapon’s icons are not blobs.
    – Why do six dots signify grenade launcher?
    – Why are different icons used for the same weapon in drops and in the shop?

    * Still stuck with a bad primary.
    -a Finding a new weapon takes too long.
    Compare vs something like Crimsonland. I don’t know a newer basis for comparison… Arcade games get away with hidden stats because you’re never stuck with bad weapon. You find a new one or you die fast. Weapon shops don’t help learning weapons: upgrades over weapons when it comes to money (don’t get obsolete, can’t be found). Plus, what is worse than finding a bad gun? Buying a gun that turns out to be bad. Also compared to Crimsonland, perks are more interesting than upgrades, and powerups make arcade games go round.
    +r Can play fine with the starting secondary and careful tactics.

    * Vision mechanics don’t really fit.
    -a Invisible bullets. Need to learn how long to wait until leaving cover.
    Vision mechanics imply a horror, survival, or simulationist game. Reminds me of teleglitch. Haven’t played it myself though. (r) Does vision add actual gameplay complexity? Maybe later in the game?
    +r No real harm though so why not add realism for no reason?
    * Speculation: I never felt limited by the view because having enemies behind you is a huge disadvantage. The view discourages any strategy where visibility would be an issue so much, that it never even enters a set of possible strategies in my mind, so I don’t feel it was ever there?

    + Layered background and air looks good while not distracting from the foreground.

    – Level walls are kind of samey. Maybe will change in the next zone?
    -a Enemies can hide in fuzzy “tall grass” on the walls.
    -r But don’t take advantage of it. Maybe I just didn’t get to the ones that do?

    * Enemy bullets have different speed.
    I don’t know enough about bullet hell conventions to say if this is common. The game is not a bullet hell though, so it’s just an observation.

    * Which level types should I choose for optimal income?
    Will I want to play the game enough times to learn this? Is the playerbase big enough to write this in a guide? Maybe a stats screen like in Doom can show money earned and spent in the level. Something to speed up learning this.

    * Is there a way to classify weapons?
    To know something about a weapon by the icon border color, for example. Or by the main noun.
    I’m not arguing for “mining laser theta”. Just something that would make buying unfamiliar guns less of a gamble.

    * Got careless, wanted to read the newest achievement text.
    Game did not pause under the steam overlay, died in two shots.

    Left unnoticed by the end, therefore good enough:
    + Level generation works and provides space for fights.
    + Enemy visual design is fine.
    Not far enough to find the weird enemies, not long enough to get bored with the normal ones.

    Died before the first boss, 0.4 hours in. Don’t have a strong drive to try again.
    I felt the same way after the first death in Droid Assault, but that was a much longer session, and I’m not sure that game has an ending.
    Will probably come back, if anything to see how advanced enemies work and if the fight dynamic changes with them.

    I hope I’m not backseat-game-designing here, sorry if it turns out this way. I couldn’t pull off something worth reading, so I tried to keep each point short, supported and counter-pointed.

    1. QuantumQuine says:

      Reading the post itself:
      “The game is asking you to make decisions and spend resources on things without communicating what the outcome will be or even giving you a frame of reference for your decision making”
      This comments on Good Robot’s weapon and upgrade shops better than I ever could. Granted, the time-scale of the impact of the decision is different (minutes vs hours). On the other hand, a wrong choice hurts more in GR, where combat effectiveness matters.

      1. Exactly my thoughts when I read that paragraph, too.

  12. Ninety-Three says:

    While we’re fishing for complaints about the animals: They’re built by randomly selecting premade animal parts and gluing them together. Not only does this result in animals that don’t make a lick of sense (I’ve lost track of how many spindly-legged giant dinosaurs I’ve seen), but after a dozen planets you start to see the patterns and the magic dies. The decade-old Spore had a far more impressive creature creator, with the ability to dynamically generate run cycles for creatures with an arbitrary and asymmetric number of limbs.

    1. Yurika Grant says:

      That’s the problem, isn’t it? Spore let YOU create the creatures. Likewise, when people say ‘it’s like Minecraft’… it really isn’t, because Minecraft lets YOU build the world you want, it’s not procedural. The creature creator in Spore is a thing of beauty, just a shame it’s attached to something that is basically Meh: The Game.

      1. sab says:

        I fully agree that NMS and minecraft are very little alike, but their worlds are both procedurally generated. In fact, minecraft even more so than NMS, since there you have the option to use a custom seed. But just because you can alter the world doesn’t mean it’s not procedural.

    2. Fists says:

      This, I think it’s unfair of Shamus to say that the animal discovery feature doesn’t not work. The whole motivator for discovering and cataloguing animals in any other scenario is to learn something about how the world works, why is an animal furred, why does it have spines. RNG animals have no mystery and no depth. Even as your typical open world collect the baubles quest it’s lacking, in Assassins Creed they place feathers or flags or whatever in special places so you’re seeing the best vistas and set pieces as you explore. In Beyond Good and Evil it draws your attention to world building components. In Pokemon Snap it was an opportunity to show you the environments and habits of your favourite pokemon.

  13. Mephane says:

    I’ve stumbled upon this thread today. Take it with a grain of salt, but what is described there sounds quite plausible.

    1. BenD says:

      That thread looks like a bunch of (structured) user feedback but I don’t have any idea what you’re trying to post to as ‘plausible’. Little help?

      Edit: allegation from alleged former tester that feedback process from beta(?) went haywire due to egos(?) at play in Sony. Not sure I’m seeing something truly deeply significant to why the mechanics, overall, are so clumsy and crunchy, though.

      1. Mephane says:

        That thread looks like a bunch of (structured) user feedback but I don't have any idea what you're trying to post to as “˜plausible'. Little help?

        In particular I find it very a plausible explanation that Sean never lied at all (he always seemed like an open and honest person to me) and instead Sony’s incompetence and last minute demands for unneeded and even detrimental changes are the real culprit. I mean, they wouldn’t be a the first publisher to show this level of stupid (see: EA).

  14. Grudgeal says:

    No Man’s Sky makes it sound like I’m better off just re-playing Rebel Galaxy.

  15. Jack V says:

    The “photograph all creatures” and “slowly translate alien language” just bounce out at me as SO atmospheric it’s incredibly cool. But most of the others are really offputting. I literally couldn’t imagine an inventory system so bad it randomly deletes things you try to pick up :(

    1. Andy_Panthro says:

      Those are the two bits that I’ve enjoyed, and spent many hours with. Learning the languages in particular is good, but as Shamus points out, there’s a limit to the amount of conversation you can have with the aliens so eventually it loses its lustre.

      I just wish they’d completely redesign the inventory system, and various bits of the UI.

    2. Destrustor says:

      It’s not that it randomly deletes stuff; everything you mine/break spawns resources, and those resources get automatically sucked into your inventory from any distance. If your inventory is full, the stuff just doesn’t get added to it for lack of space.
      You don’t even “try” to pick up anything, there isn’t anything to pick up; the resources are basically nothing more than particle effects spawned from destroyed stuff.
      So it’s not as bad as “randomly deleting pickups”. It’s certainly not random, since you just need to watch your inventory space and/or not mine anything until you’re sure you have the space to avoid it.

      Yes, it is a mess, but a very stable, organized mess instead of a completely broken random mess.

  16. MarsLineman says:

    Shamus, I love your writing/ analysis. But I think you’re philosophically approaching this game like a modern game (steady dopamine drip), and less like a universe to explore. Exploration, or the quest for knowledge, is going to be frustrating. There are going to be dead ends, lost efforts, decisions made without full knowledge. Modern games do everything possible to eliminate frustration, except in the narrowly-channeled sense.

    In this game, crafting/ upgrading is frustrating and will hopefully be improved over time. But if you put it secondary to pure exploration, the sense of wonder, freedom, and discovery that follows is unparalleled in modern gaming. For those of us with gypsy in our blood, there’s simply nothing else like it.

    For example- the alien languages. You bemoan that there’s no real point to it. But isn’t acquisition of knowledge its own goal? Wasn’t the thesis of your Mass Effect series partly that the knowledge quest of the first game was never replicated in the later games?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Counterpoint:Minecraft,terraria,dont starve,starbound,and a bunch of other sandbox games.

      As for exploration being frustrating,that frustration should not come from the ui.It should come from trying to figure out the unknown with limited resources,not from struggling with the terrible controls.

      1. MarsLineman says:

        None of those games are focused on simulating exploration to the same degree. And I agree that the controls and mechanics for NMS need improvement.

        But I think that there is some intended ‘grind’ to the mechanics. Which I personally enjoy, even if I agree that more work is necessary to tune the proper balance between information given vs information withheld.

        1. ehlijen says:

          I don’t think any of Shamus’ points go against grind. He only points out how annoying the grind is because gameplay mechancis (not quirks, actual mechanics) get in the way of the grind.

          Resources being destroyed instead of picked up, for example. This forces the player to constantly check to make sure they have free inventory slots when a simple ‘your pack is full, item dropped again’ has been an accepted solution to that pointless busywork in even the older games you praise.
          Combined with the player not getting a choice to pick up items, that’s just cruel nonsense.
          And on top of that, you have to destroy items before you can pick up other items to look at their stats?

          Autopickup is nice. Autopick up combined with autotrashing is a design flaw. Autopickup+autotrash+arbitrary obfuscation is cruelty.

          If you want an inventory system that forces the player to make tough choices, those choices should derive from gameplay and story, not from interface design and unpolished mechanics.

          Exploration is fun, but if you’ve constantly got an entropy timer ticking that can only be satiated by an absurd inventory un-system, that exploration isn’t all it could be.

          1. Dork Angel says:

            There is a little red icon on the bottom right of the screen when your exosuit is full. Easy to miss though…

        2. Loonyyy says:

          Have you played Starbound? It absolutely is. Far beyond the extent of No Man’s Sky.

          Just in the systems, resources are spread differently around planets with different hazards requiring different crafting to overcome, and you need to explore to find them. There’s also advantages to creating a base where you have your crafting, and a settlement system where you can build villages which encourages you to map the universe so you can find your way back.

          And then in the quest, the goal is specifically to explore, find ruins, and analyse them to learn more about the alien cultures. There’s a damn archaeologist in the game.

          I don’t think you’ve actually played Starbound, otherwise you wouldn’t be saying that. Starbound is kind of shallow too, but it does a lot of the things NMS does, and it does them with much more depth, which really says a lot about NMS.

          It’s even got the upgradable mining, shooting, multitool. Seriously, it feels like NMS cribbed a LOT of details from Starbound.

          1. MarsLineman says:

            Just checked out Starbound. It’s a 2d game with limited perspective. I’m sure you’re right that the game is wonderful and fascinating, but the point I’m making about NMS is that it is attempting a first person simulation of exploration, of a kind I’ve never previously seen before.

            Hello Games also appear to have included attempts to simulate some of its difficulties (such as limited information). I think they haven’t got the balance quite right yet, but to me the strengths (and uniqueness) of the game vastly outweigh the negatives.

            1. Nessus says:

              That’s not the point you made, though. You never mentioned 1st person in either of your above posts, you just talked about “degree of simulation”. Attempting to reject a counterpoint example simply because it doesn’t use a feature you never mentioned (and which is aesthetic instead of simulation related) is moving the goalposts.

              1. MarsLineman says:

                To me, it’s obvious that they’re different types of games entirely. I don’t see how you can reasonably compare a 2d pixel game to a 3d first person game. For a visceral simulation of exploration, a first person perspective is vastly preferred (personally).

    2. TMC_Sherpa says:

      Buuuuuuuuut…. there is a little blue box in the corner constantly telling you you shouldn’t stay. Jump to the next planet. Jump to the next star. Keep moving. Why are you still here? Keeping moving.
      There is a breakdown between what the game feels like it wants you to do and what the game tells you you should be doing.

    3. Bloodsquirrel says:

      I’m not sure that there’s much value in simulating frustration just for the sake of simulating frustration. Sometimes some frustration is necessary if you don’t want your simulation to become overly reductionist, but what I’m hearing from multiple critics from multiple angles is that No Man’s Sky doesn’t really have any point to most of its mechanics.

      For example, what knowledge are you gaining by learning the alien languages? Is there any lore you’re unlocking? Do you learn anything of value about them? Or are you ‘learning’ in the sense that you “knowledge” stat is increasing?

      It’s all fine to say that the game is about exploring, but what does the game do to actually back that up?

      1. MarsLineman says:

        I’ve only played for 11 hours so far so I don’t feel qualified to answer in detail yet (except to point out that it’s rewarding when previously undecipherable interactions become slowly intelligible). But the below linked article (written by an avid retro gamer) captures my overall feelings nicely.

        “All my life I have dreamed of exactly this in gaming “” an interesting, alternate universe, massive in scale, in which I can freely wander and explore at my own pace. That is what No Man's Sky is to me ”

      2. MarsLineman says:

        And the knowledge you gain is simply from the experience itself. If you get stranded because you accidentally discarded your last bit of plutonium (and you need to hoof it to some caves to get un-stranded), you’ve just learned to always check your plutonium supply, and/or leave some in your ship’s inventory. I enjoy a game that gives you the freedom to make consequential mistakes

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Except knowledge gained from blind trial and error is often tedious and rarely rewarding.Its the equivalent of punching a brick with your naked fist to determine what force is required to break it.

          As for languages,fez did it way better.

          1. MarsLineman says:

            I’m not sure I’d call my above scenario “blind trial and error”. More like learning the value of preparedness in the face of potentially unstable/ unpredictable systems- a lesson not often taught via modern games.

            Ask yourself, what would you think if you’d played this game in the 90s (back when we were used to a little jank in our computer games)?

            Personally, I don’t mind a little jank in the face of such a staggeringly huge/ diverse universe to explore.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Even in the 90s game were kind enough to give me numbers for stuff like speed,or distance,or upgrade strength,etc.

              1. MarsLineman says:

                To me, this falls into the category of known vs unknown information. And I don’t think they’ve got the balance quite right yet.

                But in the real world, does everything have a number? Obviously this is a simulation (and there are numbers), but I think the game is trying to replicate the experience of real-life exploration via the abstraction of a game. And to me, as a person with born wanderlust, this game satisfies that particular itch in a way that no other game really has before.

                1. Decius says:

                  Yes. Numbers are how, in the real world, we can determine THAT one laser is faster than another at smelting gold out of ore.

                  1. MarsLineman says:

                    Right, but when exploring the unknown, is it realistic to have those numbers be immediately known and accessible? In the real world, one laser is quantifiably more powerful than another, but if building one from scratch in the field, how would you know without testing?

                    1. Decius says:

                      Good question. Without measuring effectiveness, how would we know which one was more effective?

                    2. MarsLineman says:

                      Most games hand you quantitative information without requiring you to test anything. In this game, you’re building items from scratch off of alien blueprints. It makes sense that you wouldn’t know the exact effectiveness of what you’re building before it’s built, only knowing the required materials. Once the item is crafted, you can test for effectiveness yourself. I see no problem with this system.

    4. Loonyyy says:

      People keep saying this, and I don’t think that’s fair.

      Shamus liked it at first, he was actually fairly positive until relatively recently.

      But it’s not that it’s not a dopamine drip, or linear, or that it gives you everything on a platter. It’s the neat systems they’ve implemented are messed up by the half baked or broken ones.

      The joy of exploration is paired with a broken resource collection system. That resource collection system is basically a similar one to Minecraft, or Rust (Feels more like Rust in that it’s trivial timewasting), with a broken inventory that Shamus has detailed above.

      There’s an upgrading system to make progress, but it’s not deep, nor is it transparent.

      The languages are meaningless because the aliens are meaningless. Not because knowledge for it’s own sake, and let’s face it, it’s fiction that was invented to be drip fed to you, but because the aliens aren’t characters, they aren’t agents in some sort of events (Things which were mentioned in interviews and shown in footage).

      It doesn’t matter the “gypsy in your blood”, or the exploration, because the game doesn’t have well enough crafted systems to make them engaging, and they don’t support exploration. There isn’t even basic cartographic features that would make creating your own paths through the universe interesting and useful.

      Minecraft has more interesting exploration. You’ll find just as interesting geography, and there are rare instances like crevaces and villages to find. The crafting system is relatively deep and someone can get engaged in it. They can build maps which chart their movement through the world. There’s an intrinsic motivation for exploration.

      Starbound does everything that NMS wishes it could do, and way better. Ignoring the main quest for the moment, there’s worlds of different biomes and themes, with different wildlife, and different resources, which you need for crafting. These resources actually do vary from world to world, as does how dangerous the local wildlife is, or environmental conditions, which you can overcome through crafting. There are aliens, who are characters, and by interacting with them and performing quests, many of which inform you about their culture, you can recruit them to your crew, and place them on the spaceship you upgrade and then furnish and craft to suit your desires. Exploring a new planet is a process where you learn the layout, the dangers of the wildlife, and the locations of treaures and NPCs, and flying around the universe involves a similar process where you find planets, some of which are too dangerous or feature hazards you’re not prepared for, and you can bookmark and name them for coming back later.

      Here’s the kicker: I think Starbound is too shallow as well, and I’m probably done with it for the moment. There isn’t something in NMS to get your teeth into. The exploration is screwed by every other system in the game. I’ve seen a lot of reviewers I respect mention that you can find introspection and contemplation in moments, and that’s really interesting. But it’s a momentary thing, before the game does something stupid again.

      I don’t think there’s a point to waiting for them to upgrade the crafting etc. They’d need a complete overhaul, and it’s not going to happen.

      It’s a great concept with a really flawed delivery.

  17. Ninety-Three says:

    I’ve noticed something interesting: The harshness of these critiques is directly proportional to how “gamey” the system is. Space combat is a pure gamey-game and it’s so bad as to deserve its own article just to fully eviscerate it. The game’s handling and explanation of upgrades is obnoxious, but not a dealbreaker because the upgrades barely matter. The creatures are actually kind of cool, but all you can do is essentially click on them to receive cash. NMS is at its best when you crest a hill and see a beautiful new vista.

    All of its weaknesses are the areas where it’s trying to be a videogame, and all of its strengths are the areas where it’s a nomadic sandbox no more gamey than SpaceEngine. There’s a good something buried in NMS, but I’m not sure it’s a game.

    1. MarsLineman says:

      I have to respectfully disagree about the game mechanics. I think there’s meant to be some frustration, some ‘grind’- to simulate actual exploration. Even if it deviates from modern gaming sensibilities, and even if they made it too clumsy in certain ways (and too abstract), I think they wanted there to be a degree of discomfort to the experience. I love that the game requires you to pay close attention to your environment, making consequential decisions without full information.

      1. Distec says:

        I’m not sure a game can be a “Zen” experience while also being discomforting or at least regularly irritating. Or if it can be, that’s a tough tight-rope to walk. NMS is clearly failing that for a lot of people. And it seems like the game only ever requires paying attention/consequential decisions when it throws a curveball at you with the Atlas Stones, which I’d argue is neither meaningful nor much of a decision. 99% of the rest of the game and its mechanics is pushing you forward to any random string of planets for resource hoovering, and it arguably gets away with this because all that content along the way is so samey and bereft of weight.

        1. MarsLineman says:

          I agree that the mechanics need improvement. But I don’t think they’re going for a “zen”-like experience (even if some people enjoy it that way). I think they’re going for a simulation of exploration, including some of its difficulties. A virtual knowledge quest.

          1. WJS says:

            And do any of the things Shamus criticised count as “some of the difficulties of exploration”? Or are you just a fanboy?

      2. Echo Tango says:

        I’d agree that carefully-inserted discomfort and difficulty can make for a rewarding game, but I don’t at all think that they were purposefully trying to do this in NMS, or that they succeeded (by accident). The clunky movement/fighting controls in Castlevania (the original) and Dark Souls – those are there to make you feel, act, and frustrate in a specific way, that’s ultimately enjoyable as a challenge. The hold-it-up-like-a-real-piece-of-paper map in Firewatch – that’s there to make you slow down and immerse yourself in the virtual forest you’re exploring in that game. The annoying interface stuff in NMS – that just feels like broken systems that needed more work, or that needed to be replaced with different systems. The annoying things in NMS don’t make it feel like a challenge of exploration, but actually get in the way of the experience of feeling like an explorer. :S

        1. MarsLineman says:

          To me, 11 hours in, it feels like a mix. Some discomfort is intended (the long key presses, the limited inventory), and some is also clearly a failure of implementation. So I think the underlying philosophy gets obscured by the mistakes made.

          I’m hoping they can correct the mistakes. But even if not, I’m still enjoying NMS’s first 11 hours more than any other game I’ve played since the original Mass Effect.

        2. MarsLineman says:

          A few examples:

          Long key presses in inventory = intended discomfort (especially since there’s no way to pause, increasing tension during encounters). Long key presses exiting out of dialog = mistake.

          Limited inventory = intended discomfort. Inconsistent ability to stack items, or to inspect them before they disappear= mistake.

          Need to constantly fuel your pulse drive with thamium = intended discomfort. Noticeably, constantly popping in asteroids to provide this thamium= mistake.

  18. Aitch says:

    Surprised that #3 is “This system works just fine” and not “This system works just fine until you have to upload that page of creatures and plants individually on a delay for the next ten minutes straight, all to the tune of DJ Paltrysum’s ‘Units Received’ (Ad Nauseum Remix)”

  19. noahpocalypse says:

    The trading robot is Wheatley?

    What I’m seeing here is that this game is the epilogue of Portal 2.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      I was gonna say, that screenshot resembles Wheatley extremely well. No one’s encountered the Space Core floating about out there, have they? :)

  20. Willroar says:

    Voting for a whole post on the flying of No Man’s Sky!

    While I am one of the few critical people who are decently enjoying it, there is not nearly enough discussion on the flying mechanics.

    When No Man’s Sky, whose best feature is smooth transitions while flying, makes the 2D flying of WC: Privateer feel good, something has gone critically wrong. Privateer is one of my favorite games but it’s a janky system. Still somehow fast and smooth compared to NMS’s boat-turns.

    I bought the game as a space sim fan and it’s only enjoyable when I’m not engaging it like that. Thankfully PC mods fix some issues and I can dig a podcasting-zen-mining game.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      I object to calling NMS’s transitions “smooth”. Instead, you approach a planet texture which appears to show detail, then the game throws up a cloudbank as you approach to mask the loading transition, and suddenly you’re two hundred feet above the surface of a planet whose features don’t match what you were just looking at (and I’m pretty sure the game is cheating at scale by warping space or shifting the curvature of the planet). Every time it happens I can hear a thunk noise as the game shifts gears. Travel between planets and solar systems is marred by even lengthier “hyperspace” sequences that are clearly masking load times.

      NMS is no more seamless than your average space game, it’s just a little better at hiding it.

      1. Decius says:

        The problem is that the seam is too close; after I’ve spammed bypass chips to get blueprint locations and I want to fly to them, the transition between space and planet is right at cruising altitude.

        If something is far enough away to warrant climbing above “scan the terrain visually for interesting feature” altitude, it’s worth a short jump away from the planet followed by a short jump back.

    2. MarsLineman says:

      This. I’m loving the game, but it’s a complete inversion of what I was expecting. I was expecting Privateer with world landings. Instead we got beautiful detailed worlds to explore, with a flight mechanic that can best be described as a means to an end (getting to another world to explore).

  21. J Greely says:

    Here are a few other things I’ve been doing in No Man’s Sky:

    11) Strip crashed ships for parts, so I can repair systems damaged by black holes. This is the most efficient way to grind through a trip to the center of the galaxy. As a bonus, the loot is flagged as stackable, which lets you actually pick things up off the ground later.

    12) Collect ship design seeds with nomanssave, so I can edit my ship to match my mood. Giant dropship with glowing VTOLs? Tiny science ship with 15 thrusters? Colonial Viper? Rubber Duck? Hideous dual-tube shuttle with pith helmets instead of wings?

    13) Play as a Q-Ship. Half of my ship’s 48 slots are devoted to weapon/shield/engine upgrades; six more are filled with stacks of 100 gravitino balls and vortex cubes (~15 million units of loot), so I’m guaranteed to get pirates when I use the pulse drive. With all the upgrades, my photon cannons chew through enemies and never overheat. Sometimes I help out the freighters, but since pirates can fly through them without collision, this results in my shooting the freighters 90% of the time, which summons sentinel ships.

    14) Use a much better random-word generator to rename star systems and planets (a variant of Seventh Sanctum’s old digram-based generator loaded with a large sample of Japanese text, creating things that sound right without actually being words or names).

    15) Play an iPad game while watching countdown timers.


  22. I also would really, really like to read a post on how NMS failed at flight; it seemed such an integral part of the package and such a massive part to get so wrong.

    I’m not sure why I’m so fascinated by NMS – I didn’t buy it, I certainly wasn’t interested in boarding the hype train for it prior to release (I was mildly sceptical about the claims made for it, but not nearly enough to get into fights over it on the interwebs, and I was actually hoping they’d prove my doubts unfounded), and I’m not convinced, based on what I’ve heard, that I want to drop £40 on finding out for myself just how broken bits of it are. But I am interested in the “armchair game design” aspect of, “Oh, that bit sucked? I wonder what I might have done differently.”

  23. Rax says:

    Just fyi: Trade is even more broken than you described. The inventory of the ships constantly flying in and out and the station’s own are completely seperate. So you can just stay in one station, buy whatever that station buys for nx2 for n from one of the ships. Then just wait for a new ship to arrive, rinse and repeat.

    I’m glad I didn’t buy into the hype, but in the wise words of Dewey from Malcom in the Middle: I expect nothing and I’m still let down.

    1. J Greely says:

      …and they’re the same half-dozen or so ships. If you find that Assistant Adjutant Argl has the best prices, you just wait for his ship to show up again with a full inventory. And since they didn’t bother to make trade ships unique, there can be 3-4 of the same ship docked at the same time. The only challenge is making it through the slooooooow dialog before the other ships leave.


  24. Utgart says:

    First, can I request an article on what a good game built on the underlying technology would look like?

    Second, “The game loves to be obtuse and pretend it`s being profound.” this is an amazing burn. That’s SS-ranked stuff there.

  25. cloudropis says:

    I’d also be really interested in an article about space combat

  26. Philadelphus says:

    Something I can’t tell from the screenshot or from some quick Googling, are the alien languages simplistic word-for-word swaps? Because learning an actual new language could be interesting (I’ve studied a few languages myself, and find it fascinating); if it’s just code words for English I’m not that interested.

    1. Shamus says:

      Yeah, word-for-word swaps. It’s actually ridiculous if you think about it too much. Based on my experiences learning some words, having the game crash, and then learning words elsewhere, you apparently always learn words in the same order regardless of source. This is strange because the order of learned words makes NO sense. Like, you’ll learn words like “infuriating” or “hyperdrive” hundreds of words before you learn “hello” and “you”.

      Late in the process you get messages like, “Gorpa, fellow traveler! Would dukka like to trade?” And it’s obvious to the PLAYER that the un-translated words are “hello” and “you”, but the player character is apparently unable to discern meaning without context. That’s fine. I didn’t expect a detailed language simulation. But this makes the previous problem REALLY OBVIOUS.

      Words with the same English root will parse as different words in alien-speak, so “destroy”, “destruction”, and “destroyed” would all be totally different words. And sure, maybe all alien languages work that way. But it’s obvious this is just a brute-force system that takes English sentences and replaces unknown words with a list of gibberish words.

      So like everything else, it’s a neat idea that’s sort of half-thought out and not very interesting.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        Ah, thanks for the information! Yeah, that’s too bad. I wonder if it would even be possible to really simulate the process of learning a language in a game, or if you’d always run into the problem of the player and player character being out-of-sync in their knowledge””maybe if the PC were portrayed as extremely smart and always learned things quicker than the player so you wouldn’t have the problem of the player knowing something while the PC remains oblivious to it? But then it might start to look like unjustified guesses that magically turn out right if you can’t see the (simulated) thought process going on in the PC’s mind. Hmm.

        More’s the pity, because I’m imagining the wealth of detail put into the procedural generation of organisms and planets applied to making completely new languages for you to puzzle out. I’m thinking something like R2-D2’s beep-language from Darths & Droids with its various unfamiliar (but logical) features. You’d need someone with a lot of linguistics knowledge of different languages, though, so you get cool differences and not just “English with different nonsense words swapped in.” Oh well, thanks again!

      2. DGM says:

        There’s another absurdity that I noticed while watching Totalbiscuit play. If you impress an alien it’ll teach you a word from its language. It can do this even if that’s the first word of their language you ever learn and it’s a word for a complex, uncommon concept like “interloper.”

        There’s only one way they could do this: they must already speak English. They just won’t except to drip-feed you one word at a time. Assholes.

      3. Sunshine says:

        I think Out There does it slightly better: you learn a word with every alien encounter (presumably by observation) and even when you have the whole sentence, you’re still patching together the meaning Hulk-style.

      4. Brought this up with a friend of mine, and he linked me to an interesting article about language in the ST:TNG episode Darmok, which I am wishing the makers of NMS had read:

      5. WJS says:

        That sounds like it particularly sucks because you can pretty easily imagine a much better system that shouldn’t be all that difficult to implement. First, we make a system so derived words (destroy, destroyed) are similar. This wouldn’t need to be complicated, just come up with another prefix or suffix and apply that to the root word in alien. Then, each time you see a word in conversation, you gain XP for that word. When you pass a threshold, you learn that word. This should emergently cause common words to be learned quicker, rare words slower without the developers having to allow for word rarity, which from the presented order of words, they obviously couldn’t be bothered to think about.

  27. Genericide says:

    As someone who hasn’t played No Man’s Sky, this helped me understand the reception in a way a lot of vaguer overviews didn’t. I love exploration and all, but some of these points rub me the wrong way. Though the lack of visible stats seems particularly irritating for a game like this, my prize for bottom of the barrel has to be point number one. Just, ugh. As someone who likes to optimize his inventory in other similar games, I have a feeling that particular combination of features would drive me completely insane.

  28. Robyrt says:

    I think many of the problems in No Man’s Sky can be attributed to two things:

    1. Catastrophic failure of the RNG solar system generator a few months before launch, resulting in many mechanics being crippled or patched just enough to ship.

    2. The team really liked Destiny but couldn’t figure out why.

    For problem #1, it’s fairly obvious to my eyes that the initial round of beta testing at Sony revealed the game to be horribly broken for anyone who didn’t start on an ideal world. The fragile starter quest could easily break if you looked at it funny, or if your planet is missing one of the many crucial resources, or if your planet doesn’t have enough aliens. So now all planets needed to have everything, with the only interesting RNG seeds locked behind upgraded hyperdrives. Similarly, you could easily be stranded in space for several minutes if a planet doesn’t have thamium to power your pulse engines, so now thamium asteroids and the attendant freighters just pop in everywhere.

    For problem #2, the NMS UI is heavily influenced by Destiny, where loot is rare and stacks well. A 3-second delay before you delete your entire lifetime supply of thamium is quite reasonable, but makes no sense in No Man’s Sky. Destiny only applies this restriction to irreversible “delete item” or “open chest” operations and makes all other things instantaneous: dialogue, crafting, purchases, etc.

  29. MadTinkerer says:

    Sorry, what? WHAT? I can’t hear you!

    Starbound is SO FUN that I can’t hear you complaining about other inferior sci fi sandbox games over the sound of how fun it is!

    You might call a seven year old laptop “obsolete”. I call it “hype insurance”. :D

  30. Michael says:

    The adjacency bonus is needlessly obtuse. It provides a boost to each piece based on how many matched modules are touching that one directly. So in a row, the first and last position will only have a single adjacency, while a square will have a two point bonus for each.

    You can kinda see how the bonus calculates by looking at those weird circles on each inventory page that are supposed to represent each of the subsystems.

    From messing around with the magazine size upgrades for the boltcaster, it appears to be +5% for each touching module in most cases (with a cap of +20%). A few, like the HP increase mod, or the hyperdrive modules seem to scale much higher, however, and I have no idea how they actually work.

  31. Decius says:

    NMS strikes me as a game that is equally unfinished in every feature. The flying is a good prototype, inventory management is a good prototype, alien interactions are a good prototype, and the crafting system is a good prototype.

    The failure is that a good prototype of a feature is unsuitable for release.

    That and the debateable choice to never cause the player to be stranded for a lack of resources. (Which is clearly why red crystals are everywhere and free energy asteroids are so prevalent that it doesn’t make sense to mine them).

  32. acronix says:

    I do have to ask: what is the amazing new technology that No Man Sky is using? Because, without knowing any technical details and observing from my commoner chair, it looks like it’s “just” using procedual generation on a bigger scale.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Isn’t that a bit like saying that Grand Theft Auto V is a bit like the original The Legend of Zelda but on a big scale? That’s the way technology in gaming rolls, they simply make things work bigger and better each generation.

    2. Mephane says:

      I mentioned it in a comment above already: there is no new or unique technological achievement. Absolutely nothing the NMS engine, procedural generation etc. does is a novel invention, and has been done better before.

      I urge everyone to check out SpaceEngine (it’s free), that will put some perspective on NMS’s tech. And don’t say NMS was an indie project by a small team, because SpaceEngine is an indie project by a single person!

      1. Shamus says:

        I maintain it’s still a major technological hurdle to present a game where you can seamlessly transition from space, to the surface of a world populated by procedural plants an animals, and then travel to the interior of a cave, all while supporting interactive gameplay.

        Space Engine makes pretty pictures. It’s an impressive piece of tech, but it doesn’t at all negate the accomplishments of the NMS team. It doesn’t need to create collision meshes. Doesn’t need to make lifeforms. Doesn’t need to animate them. Doesn’t need to generate flora. Doesn’t need to scatter flora across the landscape. Doesn’t need to have AI that paths over unpredictable terrain. Doesn’t need to accommodate man-made structures. Doesn’t need to scatter “loot” around for the player to gather. All of these things represent a massive increase in difficulty. I speak from experience. Getting pretty terrain is 10% of the job. Populating that terrain and supporting some sort of gameplay is the hard part.

        You can argue that all of these individual things have been done elsewhere, and that NMS is nothing more than a new combination of existing ideas, but that’s like saying the mobile phone wasn’t new because both radio and telephone existed already. It’s still a major task to get all of these systems working in harmony.

        Even if Hello Games shared all their algorithms and techniques, it would be non-trivial for another team to re-create what they’ve done.

        1. Decius says:

          NMS doesn’t do most of that. Collision meshes aren’t generated during flight. AI pathing is nonexistent. Structures are just placed on a forced flat circle (very noticeable in mountainous areas), and loot is just placed randomly, without regard to interesting distributions.

          What they did was hard, but it wasn’t magical.

          1. Shamus says:

            I’m not sure why you feel the need to split this particular hair. Like I said, I’ve done exactly this kind of work in the past, and so the arrogant eye-rolling from people “oh it’s not that hard” is really starting to chafe.

            Collision meshes aren’t generated during flight? So what? The developer still needed to make collision meshes (including caves!) when Space Engine didn’t, which is the point I was making.

            I’ve noticed the forced flat circle. Yes, that’s how it’s done. (I’ve done the same thing in my own projects.) That’s still another pass on the data. It’s still something that needs to be accounted for in other steps of the process. It means you can’t take your elevation data hot off the generator and put it directly to use. You have to generate it, modify it, and then cache it so it’s available to all the various systems. Again, that’s something an interactive game needs to do that a “passive viewer” type of program doesn’t. NMS has to provide up-close details, not just details that look good from a kilometer up.

            “Interesting distributions” is a relative term. Trees are properly spaced apart, at the proper terrain elevation, while leaving some areas empty for open fields. Again, just doing that much provides interesting challenges for anyone trying to run a game at 30fps, since all of that work falls to the CPU. (Or you can move it to the GPU at the cost of a massive increase in programming complexity.) These are all things that Universe Sandbox and Space Engine just don’t do.

            It’s a hard problem. And the magical part is that the generator makes artistically captivating images that immediately makes people go, “OH! I want to explore that place!” This is probably the hardest problem of them all, and the one people take for granted. It takes time to balance those outputs to generate the kind of visuals we see in NMS. The need for variety pushes you to let the randomness go wild, while the need to coherent, pretty visuals demands that you limit the randomness. Balancing those to make something as pretty and as varied as NMS takes a good programmer with a strong sense of aesthetics.

            1. Mephane says:

              Shamus, you misunderstood (or, more likely, I miscommunicated). I never meant that what Hello Games made was easy, and I am sure Decius also did not want to imply that. My point is rather that the tech under the hood of NMS is far from the groundbreaking innovation it has been (and sometimes still is) hyped as. But while it is of course much harder than using an off-the-shelve engine, I am already very skeptical that writing the NMS engine was harder than any custom made 3D game engine.

              Now as for the artistical achievement, I am with you. So getting the PG just right between purely random and producing interesting features and not just visual noise, yes, good job there. And the visual style of the 3D models themselves – from the ships to the monoliths, I really like that.

            2. WJS says:

              Um, Shamus? Didn’t you write a pretty neat landscape generator that had everyone going “Ooh, I want to explore that!” a few years ago? If one dude can make something like that in his spare time, a team of programmers dedicating professional development time to it is more a matter of will than innovation, surely? Any competent team should be able to do it.

  33. Dreadjaws says:

    “I'll bet there's an indie game out there where your only goal is to explore some wilderness and try to get a picture of every animal.”

    Everyone talks about Pokémon Snap, but I’d say it’s a description that better fits the regular Pokémon games. Pokemon Snap is basically a rail shooter that replaces “shooting” with a gun with “shooting” with a camera, and you don’t even have half of the original creatures available. Meanwhile, your purpose on the regular games is to fill your Pokedex. That is, to catalogue every existent creature in the world.

    Granted, you don’t have to photograph them, and you have to capture them instead, but still, clearly the set goal is still similar.

    Also, hey Shamus, do you ever go back to your old articles were you claimed to have been really excited for a certain game after it turned out to be dissapointing? I mean, just to get a clear picture of what went wrong according to what were you looking forward to.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Just seeing them technically counts for an entry in the Pokédex too (complete with picture), so you can just imagine your character whipping out their camera in the middle of a battle to snap a picture.

  34. Zaxares says:

    I haven’t played NMS, but it sounds like the Sentinels would bug the hell out of me from a lore perspective. Why are the Sentinels here? Who put them there? And why on earth are they defending random animals and trees on just about every single planet in the galaxy? It just doesn’t jive with what I know of space exploration, and the break in immersion would basically kill the game for me right there and then.

    1. WHAT DO THEY EAT?! :D

      ETA: As a fellow non-player of NMS, this bugs the hell out of me, too. Sentinels? Who/what/why/when/how? Do they relate in any way to the alien races? Is any of this explained in the game? But based purely on bits’n’bobs I’ve read here’n’there, I’m guessing they mainly got added to… make the game more game-like? I guess someone thought that you couldn’t “just” run around collecting stuff, there had to be some risk and some shooty bits too, or players would get bored? Maybe?

      1. Destrustor says:

        Lore-wise, in-game, the sentinels are not much more than “The Enemy”.
        Just as generic, just as boring. They’re some unknown force of robot space jerks who oppose things “for their own reasons” (no actual reason at all)
        One of the alien races worships them and the Atlas (no word in the game to hint at whether or not they’re the same faction)
        One race despises them and once hunted them out of the galaxy, and the other race caused some big trouble that made them return to the galaxy in full force, leading to the current status quo of them being everywhere and always bugging you.

        So the in-game explanation of the sentinels and their goals is pretty much “I dunno”, and I bet the meta explanation is “we need enemies to fight in our game”

        1. Thanks for the info! Sounds like my analysis was pretty on the mark. :s

    2. J Greely says:

      If you collect the output of the lore-dispensers, you’ll learn that the Sentinels have ruled the galaxy for as long as the three races can remember, and nobody knows anything about them. There’s one lore-pellet where someone tries to dissect one.

      If you read the oddly-personal narration of your encounters with Polo and Nada, you’ll discover that the universe is fake. Quoting: “Nada sees me and explains. There are repeating patterns all across the galaxy, identical elements where there should be endless divergence. This cannot be a coincidence. Did the Atlas do this? Across the room, Polo giggles.”

      Basically, Sean Murray is Atlas, and Polo is Sony QA.


  35. Lanthanide says:

    I suppose if you're fishing for complaints I can mention that getting scans of flying creatures is really annoying
    If you kill the animal first, you can run up to it and use your scanner on its corpse, and it will still work. Of course, killing flying animals isn’t super easy because they move so fast that your bullets miss them. But I don’t have the auto-seeking mod for my blaster, which might make it easier.

    I do the auto-seeking grenades but it doesn’t really seem to work properly (I’ve seen it arc towards sentinel drones, but repeatedly miss them; never arc towards an animal).

    I can see it's significantly more expensive to build than Mining Beam Sigma, but I have no idea how much better it is.
    Well actually the little dials on the right-side of the screen can give you a rough idea how much better each upgrade is. Sure, it’s not useful numbers, but it’s not “nothing” like you’re saying.

    Sure, it's nice to have the radiation shield so you can survive on irradiated planets, but your limited inventory space is a far more pressing concern than radiation.
    Personally, I’ve never built any of these protection things, despite having all the blueprints to do so. There have only been a couple of times where it has been bad for me – on a particularly hostile planet with a storm. It’s easy to find caves to hide in, and if not, you CAN dig a hole with your grenades and hide in that. It only takes about 5-6 grenades before you get to a depth that the game considers to be ‘protection’ from the environment. So you can dig a hole, hide in it until your environmental protection recharges, then jetpack out.

    The game never explains it. And once you know about it, you still don't have any way of seeing those bonuses or knowing how much of an impact (if any) your optimizations are having. Is there a flat bonus applied if the upgrade is touching ANY similar upgrade, or does the bonus get bigger with more adjacent items? Is building four items in a row functionally any different from building them in a square?
    Again, the game actually does convey this information to you, just very poorly. It’s on the dials on the righthand side of the screen. You’ll notice there’s two different shades of the colours – darker for the main components, and then lighter colour for the extra synergy bonus.

    So if you have the resources (and patience), you can experiment by creating and then destroying the components in different combinations, to see which gives you the best total improvement. Again, no numbers, but it IS possible to measure the effectiveness.

    Also there is one set of upgrades that does give you a number – weapon clip size. A video on youtube shows the different combinations of upgrades. It shows that multiple adjacencies give you a bigger boost, so a 2×2 grid has more total adjacencies then a 4×1 line, so you get a bigger synergy bonus.

    And good luck if you find a useful trading post on a planet. Once you return to orbit, you're never likely to find it again.
    Actually, and I’ve posted this several times here already, it is possible to mark the locations of buildings on your radar, so you can return to them. I’m pretty sure these markings also survive when you go into space – but they don’t survive game save-and-load. Look at a building and open your scanner, the building will flash (like when you scan animals) and will then leave a marker on your compass, so you can return to it later. You don’t get a “time to arrive” reading for it, but you can still get back to it later.

    1. J Greely says:

      To kill fliers, just wave your mining beam in their general direction. Piece of cake, and any nearby sentinels will gather over the corpse to help you find it.

      Hiding from all possible on-planet hazards by getting a roof over your head is painfully immersion-killing, and likely another late-beta simplification. “I’m twenty minutes from my ship, the temperature has dropped below absolute zero, and there’s nothing in scanner range. Oh, look, a convenient overhang! I’m saved!”

      As for finding your way back to a trading post, the “scan to mark” system is, like everything else, horribly broken. The mark moves to other buildings at random, so that it can suddenly appear on a drop pod or campsite ahead of you while you’re flying through unexplored territory. The only reliable method I’ve found is to locate the building using a scanner or beacon, and then never get within “clearing” distance of the waypoint. Fortunately that’s easy to do.


  36. Warclam says:

    Am I the only one who thinks the heading “Upgrade your tool” sounds vaguely obscene?

    (Aw yeah, keepin’ it classy.)

  37. Friskytt says:

    Hello games just took the GTA-formula(Same game as always but BIGGER MAP!) to far. No man’s sky has the biggest map of all the games therefore it must be the best game. Well it’s not.

    I think that HG’s next game will be an attempt at story driven art that will make movies obsolete. The writing will be just below average fan fiction and the heart string will be pulled until pretty much everyone’s intelligence is insulted and also fuck game play. What we all know as the Bioware-formula.

    Just a personal thought but maybe you should make use of the ever better technology, by actually filling your games with real value like bigger and better gameplay, other than scenery and cut scenes?

    But who am I to judge?
    Do you know how fucking difficult it is to make a world that big with “unique” animals flowers and wotnot?

    I don’t, so I can’t know possibly know what real fun is, I’m merely a fucking moron in comparison to all these smug hipsters that walk the earth. Sean Murray on the other hand is half god half man half genius programmer that can make a universe sized map that you can fly around in “seamlessly” and have a proper wank to all the pretty scenery, so I better fucking enjoy it!

    And also The Last of Us is GOAT because it has voice actors and cut scenes…

  38. Corylea says:

    Thanks for the review! This game sounded so promising, and I’m sorry to see that it didn’t work out. It sounds as if it’s only one or two essential mods away from being very cool, though; I wonder how moddable it is…

    I haven’t played No Man’s Sky, but when you said people complained there was nothing to do, it reminded me of what people said about The Sims, years ago, when it first came out. And there are still people who think there’s “nothing to do” in The Sims, even as there are millions of people who love the game. It sounds as if this game — like The Sims — is one where you have to make up your own goals, and that seems to throw a lot of people.

  39. Simon says:

    Hey thanks for posting how to play the game as stuff to do in the game. Absolute waste of time, misleading title is misleading.

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