No Man’s Preorder Bonus

By Shamus Posted Friday Sep 2, 2016

Filed under: Rants 75 comments

I was given the warning a few days before No Man’s Sky came out on PC: “Don’t use the preorder bonus ship. See, that ship already has a fueled-up hyperdrive. If you switch to it, then it will break the tutorial that’s supposed to teach you about the hyperdrive and give you the recipes to make fuel. You can end up either stuck, or at least in a position where you won’t know what you’re supposed to do next.”

It’s a little more complicated than that, but I didn’t want to take any chances, so I left the preorder bonus alone. I played the game, was amazed at first, then had a lousy time and quit.

I came back to the game last night. I needed some screenshots for my column next week, and I was kind of hoping I might be able to re-engage with the game if I approached it with a different mindset. Maybe I could ignore the various systems and just play it like a Zen Game, the way Campster describes in his latest video:

Link (YouTube)

So when I fire up the game again, I see this notice in the lower-right side of the screen, which is where important messages normally show up:


It’s talking about my preorder bonus. I don’t know why that notice didn’t show up before now. It should have, but whatever. The notice is telling me I haven’t picked up my cool preorder spaceship yet. The notice is a constant distraction. It pops up every thirty seconds or so, grabbing my attention and messing up my screenshots.

So I do what it says on open the options menu. I check out the preorder ship. As you’d expect, it’s a starting ship with 16 inventory slots and no upgrades:

Once I re-built all my upgrades, I'd have room for upwards of THREE THINGS in this baby!
Once I re-built all my upgrades, I'd have room for upwards of THREE THINGS in this baby!

I have an end-game ship with 43 slots. It’s filled with expensive, non-transferable late-game tech. Upgrading your ship is the slowest and most arduous part of playing this game. There’s no way I’d give up my awesome hyperdrive, much less the upgraded armaments required to make the space combat barely tolerable.

Even 43 slots is too small. In fact, why the shit are we using SLOT based inventory on a SPACESHIP?! What is this Animal Crossing bullshit? How about weight, or cubic meters? You know, like a SPACE GAME.
Even 43 slots is too small. In fact, why the shit are we using SLOT based inventory on a SPACESHIP?! What is this Animal Crossing bullshit? How about weight, or cubic meters? You know, like a SPACE GAME.

And there’s no way in hell I’d go back to a ship with 16 inventory slots. It would take days of playing just to get back to where I am right now. I don’t want this preorder ship, so I cancel the “upgrade”.

The notice is still there.

The notice is always going to be there, popping up every 30 seconds, forever. The ONLY way to get rid of it is to accept the prorder ship. I want to point out that I only have this problem because I was trying to avoid the earlier game-breaking problem created by the preorder ship. And this is on top of the earlier chain of failures that broke the game for me so that I can never complete the main-ish quest.

No Man’s Sky is an adorable puppy that shits in people’s laps. It’s a body pillow filled with caltrops. It’s a cupcake with a chicken bone inside. It’s a luxury penthouse suite infested with scorpions. It’s a trap. A trick. It’s a collection of stunning vistas that lure you in just long enough that it can torment you with it’s self-defeating design, obnoxious interface, and malfunctioning game mechanics.

In my first hours of play, I was trying to justify how I might possibly make NMS my Game of the Year despite its lackluster gameplay. Then I was trying to justify it making my best-of list at all. By the time the game malfunctioned itself into a forever useless and broken time-sink of confusion and frustration, I was trying to figure out how I was going to keep it off of my “Worst of 2016” list. And I don’t even normally make those kinds of lists.

“It’s made by a small team.”

“It’s an experimental game in a new genre.”

“Maybe they’ll patch it.”

“They just need some time to work the bugs out.”

But the truth is that this is a $60 game in which every single gameplay mechanic and every part of the interface is profoundly, brazenly flawed. Every single gameplay system has some glaring flaw that feeds into another broken system in some other part of the game to make everything that much worse. It’s one thing for a game to have problems or to be a little rough around the edges, but this game just doesn’t want to be played. The design isn’t flawed, it’s wrong.

Next week I’ll detail some of these wrong, broken systems. Until then I think I’m going to give Obduction a try.


From The Archives:

75 thoughts on “No Man’s Preorder Bonus

  1. WILL says:

    They fixed this in the most recent PS4 patch, so expect it fixed in the PC patch as well.

  2. Cozzer says:

    Wow, this is one of the most heartbreaking “falling out of love” stories I’ve read lately.

  3. Da Mage says:

    Flawed design or a team that’s bitten off more than they could chew?

    My warnings were flagged when they wouldn’t stop talking about how procedural everything was and how that meant so much content, skipping over all the gameplay and goals. And it does look like a pretty game with some pretty cool algorithms…’s just to bad they forgot to add the ‘game’ part.

    1. The entire hype cycle select individuals, such as myself, not yet swayed by the games presentation were regularly asking “That’s nice and all but what do you do?

      We thought there was more to the game than the aimless wandering shown off in all the trailers. Turns out the joke was on us.

      In all fairness, some missing content aside, the trailers were actually largely accurate. If what you see therein doesn’t seem interesting for dozens of hours then NMS isn’t the game for you.

      It’s like most everyone went in expecting more when the truth was staring them right in the face.

      1. Aaron says:

        Maybe NMS would have been better off if it was in fact about aimless wandering, without the mining and crafting and upgrading and inventory crap.

        Make it Proteus In Space, with maybe the alien language stuff kept in a la Captain Blood. Let it be Next Gen Noctis.

        1. IFS says:

          I’d certainly be more interested in it if that was the case. Probably not pay 60 dollars interested, but more interested to be sure.

        2. That’s about how I feel. It’s make a decent “walking simulator”, but once they started adding in mechanical depth, and failed, the whole thing fell apart. I don’t criticize the game for something it never attempted to be. I criticize for trying to be something and failing to achieve it.

        3. kanodin says:

          I bought the game after the initial backlash because that’s what I was hoping I’d get. I’m down for a zen game I like those. But how am I supposed to zen if I’m constantly refilling meters and worrying about resource management. Wound up getting a refund an hour in just cause I hate survival games whose gameplay is survival for its own sake.

      2. muelnet says:

        The trailers themselves were fairly accurate, but there were several times when Sean Murray would make claims about the game that weren’t true. This included things like the idea that you could play the whole game in space as a trader and “the only way you will know what you look like is if you run into another player and they can tell you what you look like.” There are more examples and video clips, a good place to check out the information is Jim Sterling’s “A Video about Whether Or Not Hello Games Lied about No Man’s Sky.”

      3. Kerethos says:

        Actually the trailers are full of lies, containing many things that never made it into the final build at all. The same is true for the images used on the Steam storefront. They’re marketing their game, right now, based on things that are not in the game – which is commonly referred to as lying.

        I mean, this game is basically a cool tech demo sold on false promise and – at best – the dreams of a developer who couldn’t deliver on what they wanted the game to be.

        But hey, at least there’s someone willing to continue the “Molyneux-cycle” for the next generation. All I’m missing now is the “Well No Man’s Sky was shit, but our next game”-statement. :P

        But who knows? Maybe they’ll patch it up real good and actually put the things in their marketing material in the actual game, sort out that mess of a UI, make combat better and so on.

        I stopped buying games on release several years ago, because they usually take about a year post-release to get finished these days, so I’ll be waiting to see if the game becomes better with time – like I always do.

    2. 4th Dimension says:

      They didn’t really bite off more than they could chew. The main thing that separates their game from ussual AA and A games is presentation, and that was properly done. The engine was not completely optimized but that is to be expected form a small team. What is dumbfounding is the kind of stupid and idiotic design decisions they made and did not fix that prove that nobody on their team tried to play the game normally from the start. In isolation most of the systems work tick the check boxes necessary for them to work. But as a whole it gets horribly annoying.

      TLDR: They screwed up simple design concerning things (like low inventory, annoying messages, annoying achievement messages, broken main quest etc) that should have been caught in basic QA, while they mostly realized their goals visual design wise.

      1. Matt Downie says:

        “idiotic design decisions they made and did not fix that prove that nobody on their team tried to play the game normally from the start”
        From my experience, these things generally happen because the person in charge thinks that fixing them is more trouble than it’s worth. It’s nothing to do with whether anyone’s played the game normally from the start (they’d never pass the approval process if they hadn’t).

        What happens is, with deadlines looming, someone plays it normally from the start, and reports ninety-eight problems of every imaginable kind. Every attempted fix demands for a new playthrough to see if that makes it better – and each playthough takes days. Some fixes cause problems in other places – give people more inventory slots and it exposes all kinds of other weaknesses. Players are getting stranded due to resources they can’t find – the only quick fix anyone can think of is to make all resources available everywhere. Others are complaining that all planets are minor variations and after the first half-dozen there’s nothing new to see – should we make certain interesting features only appear in a tiny percentage of worlds so there are still surprises to be found? How many people will never find them and think the entire galaxy is bland as a result? And now someone’s complaining about a pop-up that won’t go away? Forget it. Ship product. We’ll sort it out later in a patch.

        1. Lanthanide says:

          A lot of the problems could have been solved pretty simply and wouldn’t require a whole playthrough to check.

          Eg, instead of starting with 9 inventory slots, start with 16. Instant improvement. Instead of starting with 12 slots in the ship, start with 18. Instance improvement. Allow valuable items to stack up to 5 or 10 or some number. Instant improvement.

          For the achievement banners that pop up on the screen and prevent all further interaction with the world until they’re done, have the first one for each track take the current amount of time, and have each subsequent one take 2 seconds only. Instant improvement.

          Get rid of the stupid ‘hold button to accept’ bizarre UI thing. Instant improvement. Get rid (or substantially reduce) the delay when a conversation menu comes up. Instant improvement.

          Now tackling other things, like the crafting system requiring extra inventory space even when the new item will replace one of the constituents, and fixing combat etc, those are harder things that take more work and testing. But the stuff I’ve listed above becomes apparent after playing for 6+ hours, and the fixes would be very easy to implement and can be tested in isolation.

          1. Scerro says:

            Yeah, I get the feeling that it’s mostly just riddled with bugs.

            And this is after having a delay of two months. It could have easily used another two months to weed out the game breaking bugs and frustrations.

      2. Peter H. Coffin says:

        Or, even more simply put, this is why unit testing alone is not enough. This is why you need bare-install playtesting on a regular basis.

        1. WJS says:

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but unit testing is a bug-squashing technique. Saying it doesn’t catch bad design is missing the point, isn’t it?

    3. Echo Tango says:

      I think a good comparison would be Spelunky, because it’s a game that has the game-play as the centerpiece, and the procedural-generation supports re-playability in the good mechanics. There’s a good transcript of a talk the dev gave, over here, where he explained his prototyping / thought process, when making Spelunky. :)

      If you just start with procedural generation first, you’ll have a hard time fitting mechanics into your game. You really need to tweak your procedural content-generation, to fit the game-play you want to have. Red Rogue is another game, where the dev showed how he made his dungeon-generator, to fit his mechanics. If you try to shove mechanics into your content-generator that’s already set in stone (because you’ve spent so much time on it), you’ll end up with a game that’s not as fun as it could be. (Like NMS, or Spore). Still, I think (as pointed out above), this game could have been a very enjoyable walking-, flying- and exploring-simulator. :)

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “It's an experimental game in a new genre.”

    But its not a new genre.Its a refinement and expansion of games like minecraft.

    1. Lame Duck says:

      It may be an expansion but I’m not at all convinced that it’s a refinement.

      1. And it’s only really an expansion if you consider sheer size, other wise it doesn’t add much beyond egregious travel timers.

        1. Jsor says:

          And sheer size isn’t necessarily important here either. Like, at a technical level your ship in No Man’s Sky is basically a vehicle that lets you manually travel between Minecraft seeds. If you take # of Minecraft Seeds x Scale of Minecraft World you probably have something about the same size as NMS, it’s just that Minecraft has no way to travel between its seeds.

    2. Mephane says:

      To make matters worse, they heavily marketed the game as an entirely different genre – the rather fuzzily defined Sandbox Space Game. People expected, and rightfully so if one were to believe the marketing, something that fits right next to games like Freelancer, the X Series, Elite Dangerous or Star Citizen.

      Instead it is just another mediocre Entropy Simulator. The space setting is rather secondary (you spend most of the time on the ground anyway), which is also but not only shown by the horrible space combat and insultingly restricted flight model.

      For the record, I wasn’t at all hyped about the game. More like cautiously hopeful, I had planned to wait for a couple of reviews and if it turns really good, get maybe a week after release. The way it turned out, even if all the bugs and performance issues are eventually ironed out, I’ll wait until I can get it for 5 bucks in a Steam sale, then have a go at it for the sake of being able to say “I once played it, too”.

      1. Groboclown says:

        From what I’ve seen of the game, the things you do look like a slightly modified version of Out There. The only difference being a more involved on-planet mechanic.

        So, from that view, it doesn’t look like it’s a new genre, but rather a repackaging of an existing genre.

        1. Sunshine says:

          I’m even enthusiastic for “first-person Out There with procedural magic”, but the bugs and mountain of grating nuisances I keep hearing about means I’m holding off from buying it.

      2. Matt Downie says:

        ‘Entropy Simulator’? This is a very poor simulator of entropy. I played it for a googol years, hoping to see the heat death of the universe, but nothing much happened, except for a lot players meeting one another through one-in-a-quadrillion coincidences. (And when I stopped playing, it turned out I’d missed the heat death of our own universe. Good thing I’m a Time Lord…)

        1. Mephane says:

          Entropy Simulator is my personal genre term for games where everything you have decays over time and you have to collect materials or money to undo the decay again and again forever.

      3. mewse says:

        It’s worth noting that if you look at the game systems, it’s pretty obvious that the game idea wasn’t initially the game that we have now.

        Notice, for example, how observatories give you messages about how you’ve discovered a new planet, or a new unknown point in deep space, or etc… and then give you a waypoint to a ruin on the planet you’re already on. At some point, NMS was apparently a game about being on one planet until you discovered another, and then going to that other planet, because that’s what their text strings all say.

        The released game in which all stars and planets are already known from the start, and you’re free to go wherever you want at any time appears to be a retrofit on top of that original plan.

        1. Lanthanide says:

          Yip. You can see in some of the trailers, when you find an observatory and it does that weird zoom-out thing, that it actually zooms out into space, and marks something.

          You can also see with the ‘faction standing’ that there was some mechanic that was supposed to be there. Some of the monoliths originally functioned as portals in some way; that seems to no longer be in the game, instead now they just teach you words.

          It also seems very much that the sentinels were supposed to do something some how. The abandoned buildings all with infestations in them were probably supposed to be some sort of storyline too.

          1. Lanthanide says:

            Another couple of observations:
            The weird power cell thingies you can find in the game, that are pretty much pointless because you can recharge your shields / health / weapons using plutonium directly. Originally it seems that you’d have to craft these power packs out of raw material, and then use them to charge your equipment. Amazing that that terrible decision didn’t make it to release (at least, it would be terrible given the clunky interface).

            Similarly, I’ve also just today learned the blueprints to create a hazard suit, and the blueprints to create a health module thing. Which are the standard pieces of technology you start the game with, can’t dismantle, and can’t create additional ones of. So it seems like originally you wouldn’t have started with those things and you’d have to learn to build them yourself; this game would have much stronger survival traits than it does now.

    3. Hypatia says:

      Minecraft can already produce infinite worlds based on seeds, and this game is basically doing the something similar but just breaking it up into worlds that aren’t infinite with some more procedural generation on top of it like for the creatures.

      It feels like part of the problem was assuming that additional system like combat or whatever would be good even if shallow because it adds diversity. The problem is those systems never exist in isolation so a system like combat can detract from a zen experience if you are getting into annoying fights that take you out of it. The game feels like a game made without consideration for how the game holistically worked rather than just isolated systems.

      The Minecraft developers did a decent job of building up Minecraft in a way that worked better.

      1. Loonyyy says:


        And I think that ties into another problem, the overall goal for the gameplay. Before launch, people were asking what you did, because they didn’t know. Now we do. You travel from planet to planet, and your goal is always the same. Collect some other resource. Maybe sell it off to an NPC who’s just a menu. It’s a set of mechanics that people have thoroughly explored in Minecraft and survival games, but it’s kind of mindlessly aped here. You collect just because that’s what you do. And you slowly get closer to the center, and that’s it.

        The systems aren’t deep enough to become really engaged in, crafting and collecting are as shallow as most multiplayer survival games, and they quickly just become grinds. The space combat is awful. The faction system they talked about is non-existant.

        All you can do is explore, and that could work, but the other mechanics don’t tie into exploring.

        Really disappointed, what they were saying about the aliens was really interesting me.

  5. Primogenitor says:

    Somehow having the annoying popups in the corner of the screenshots seems strangely appropriate for this game.

  6. Grudgeal says:

    So when you say, “like a penthouse suite infested with scorpions”… What kind of scorpions? The kind that skitter away and hide under the floorboards or the ones that keep you awake at night playing Wind of Change constantly at a loud volume?

    1. I think he means the kind that’re constantly yelling at you to “Get over here!

      1. Grudgeal says:

        Hm, I could live with that. At least it’s not the kind that seizes control of the East Coast and leaves the Denver Broncos littering on your front lawn.

      2. Ingvar says:

        I was more thinking Polity AI war-drone scorpions that weigh several tonnes, are made of shiny armour-plating and disassemble enemy tanks as a hobby (because it’s not difficult enough to be a job). I may have been reading too many Neal Asher books recently…

    2. Taellosse says:

      Maybe he means the kind that are B-list Spider-Man villains with a high gullibility quotient, poor impulse control, and a penchant for violent crime, until being bonded to an alien symbiote that turns them into cannibalistic homicidal maniacs, then losing said symbiote, then losing their jaws, and needing special cybernetic armor to survive?

    3. Sunshine says:

      “Oh yeah, Euro-rock. See this before. You’re lucky you called us so soon before you got Roxanne giving you “The Look” from behind the fridge.”

  7. Piflik says:

    Don’t want to excuse that behaviour (yes, as you said, it is not bad, it is wrong), but to get rid of that message, find a crashed spaceship, switch over to it, then redeem the preorder ship to magically transform the crashed ship, then switch back to your original ship. A bit convoluted, but at least you get rid of that message. (Don’t save during that process, just to be save, because if you crash while the new ship is yours, the old will disappear on reload)

    It would be a so much easier, if the game just spawned the ship somewhere close to you instead of turning your existing ship into the new one, then you could at least just ignore it, or, even better, dismantel its parts and use them as resources for your own ship.

  8. Ninety-Three says:

    For a while, I was convinced that No Man’s Sky started as a cool procedural planet generator, and then the devs slapped on a bunch of half-baked systems so that they could sell it as a $60 game. I don’t believe that any more, I think Hello Games was just really, really bad at developing this game, and they don’t understand what the good part of their experience is.

    In the patch notes fixing an infinite resources exploit, they made a comment to the effect of “If you used this exploit, you were only ruining the game for yourself”. That comment reveals so much of their design philosophy. It suggests that they think the real meat of the experience is the Skinner boxy upgrade treadmill, the bland and repetitive harvesting of resources to get more inventory space to get more resources. Nearly every piece of praise I’ve heard the game receive is to the effect of “It’s really pretty” or “I like wandering around in it”, while the resource system seems to provoke reactions from “I wish it wasn’t there” to “Yeah, it’s a Skinner box, but it kind of got its hooks in me.”

  9. John says:

    As I see it, there are basically two attractions–well, two attractions other than space-dogfighting–to the space sandbox genre. The first is the ship-upgrade loop. You work and work in order to upgrade your current ship until you get to the point where you can afford a new and better ship at which point the cycle begins anew. The second is Discovering Cool Stuff. I’ll use Privateer as my primary example. You start Privateer in a rickety little deathtrap of a ship and run low-risk, low-reward missions in your starting sector until you can afford upgrades that will let you survive higher-risk, higher reward missions further afield, all the while saving up for more powerful ships like the Orion or the Centurion. (Do not buy the merchant ship. The merchant ship is a trap.) As your ship gets more powerful you get the chance to visit certain new stations and planets which, even though they’re functionally identical to each and every generic space station in the game, at least have unique art and background music. I may have fallen out of love with Privateer over the years–the game engine has not aged well at all-but I will always have a soft spot for the planet of New Oxford. I haven’t played No Man’s Sky, but–all bugs and UI issues aside–it sounds as though it really struggles with the Discovering Cool Stuff part of the genre. What I mean is that if each planet is the product of a random Cool Stuff generator, then it’s hard for any individual planet to be particularly Cool. Cool does not exist without a certain amount of Ordinary or Boring with which to contrast itself.

    1. Hypatia says:

      And cool stuff repeated more than a few times usually stops being cool. Dragons in Skyrim were cool for a while until they started feeling about as cool as killing a cliffracer. It can provide decent background ambiance still depending on the game like the scenery in American Truck Simulator. That works less when the game is forcing you to pay attention to it such as because it is trying to kill you or a basic mechanic forces you to pay attention to it.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        yeah, I think NMS could have benefited from having a bunch of “boring” planet types, to vary the stuff you’re lookign at all day while playing. Some flat or flat-ish desert planets, ocean-only planets, maybe some planets without any life at all. Stuff like that. :)

  10. Echo Tango says:


    You can technically still complete the main quest thing that’s broken for you, if you delete your save game and start over. Not ideal, but still possible. :)

    1. Dev Null says:

      I’m not sure that counts, really. Its a bit like saying “technically, you can still complete that oil painting you’re working on, if you just burn the canvas and start again with a blank one.” You may finish _a_ game that way, but you can’t finish the game you’ve been playing.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Ah yeah, I meant finish the quest in the game game, which I usually distinguish from the session game. Would be nice to have standardized terminology for this stuff. Like, “game” would just be the actual system/box-you-paid-for, and “match” / “round” / “session” would be for multiplayer / short stuff where you’re playing the “game” for a bit. I have no clue what word we’d use for long-form / single-player play sessions, like the normal save-games or game-sessions that we have in games like NMS, Fallout, etc. :)

        1. Philadelphus says:

          I often use the word “campaign” for Paradox grand-strategy games where a single save file encompasses hundreds of years of game time and scores of hours of real time. Not sure it would make as much sense for other games, though.

        2. WJS says:

          Given the number of different genres out there, I don’t think a one-size-fits-all term would really work. As Philadelphus says, “Campaign” works fine for a strategy game, but wouldn’t fit a sandbox game. In an RPG, “Campaign” might work, but “Character” is a much more obvious term. “Session” doesn’t work for me for a game which is probably played in multiple sittings. Dwarf-Fortress style antfarms you would probably refer to each “game” as a “Town” or “Colony”.

  11. The Mich says:

    Mh, if you’re still interested in removing the popup you might try ticking off the preorder ship in the dlc list on its Steam page. I think I did that before starting my game for fear that it might break it and I never had that popup.

    1. Michael says:

      I wish I’d thought of that.

      Ironically, I actually did switch to the preorder ship almost immediately, and it started with a broken hyperdrive. So, I don’t know if I got lucky, or the bug was rarer than people realized.

  12. Dev Null says:

    I’ve been playing a space-explore-survival game called Empyrion instead. It is by no means perfect, but it does get at least some of these things right: Spaceships don’t have “slots”, you just keep tacking more things on them until their weight makes them super slow, and then you tack on more and bigger engines.

    Also, it cost $10.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      It’s $20 now. ^^;

    2. Michael says:

      If you don’t mind the sidescroller, setup, there’s always Starbound. That’s a little to Terraria than NMS, but still a pretty solid game.

  13. tmtvl says:

    I am reminded of the video where Minecraft is played like a nomadic travel simulator (was that one of Shamus’?).

    There’s been various games which have done the whole nomadic travelling thing (like Journey, for example), but it’s never really drawn my interest. If I ever do change my mind, I might check out No Man’s Sky.

  14. tzeneth says:

    It’s interesting to see all these little decisions seem to add up to greater and greater annoyances. I didn’t get the game because I didn’t really pay attention to it and I generally don’t pre-order games except for games I know I’m going to buy anyway, like FO4.

    On a slightly different note: When did Shamus change the background because I feel like I missed that…

    1. Bubble181 says:

      Since the last site upgrade a few months ago the background cycles frequently between all kinds of screenshots.

  15. MichaelGC says:

    Speaking of DLC, which, OK, we weren’t, but had we been … the bastards!:

    Deus Ex: Mankind Divided DLC returns Human Revolution character [Eurogamer]

    Ah well. Better than not at all. I suppose?

  16. Draklaw says:

    First, disclaimer: I didn’t play No Man’s Sky and I didn’t really followed the marketing campaign.

    But yes, I predicted this soon after I heard about the game for the first time (the E3 trailer 2 years ago, I believe). I call this the Mincraft syndrome. You have a nice procedural engine that excites everybody so you try to turn it into some real game… except that nobody cares about your game. In the case of NMS, people seem to find it annoying and broken. In contrast Minecraft did well because you can still play in creative mode and you have a lot of room for self-expression, but I don’t know much people that play to get good gear and kill monsters… (Well, they do it at some point, but that’s not what makes Minecraft interesting.)

    I predicted this also because the trailers just didn’t show anything about what you’re supposed to do in the game. What’s the gameplay ? It was just a gorgeous engine and some vague promises. The rest was left to your imagination. And that’s the problem: people are good at imagining nice things and how awesome the game will be. So they preorder. At 60$. I hate this kind of marketing and as I saw it coming, I started to hate NMS. (So yes, maybe I am not 100% objective here :) )

    If the few things I gathered about the marketing of this game are right, they started to show the gameplay only a few months before the release. To only a few selected journalists I believe. I mean, there is a whole bunch of good reason to be careful about this kind of communication, don’t you think ?

    To be honest, I don’t think this is just some mischievous plan to steal player’s money. Before I started to identify the marketing method, I was already convinced that the devs just had no clues about how to turn their engine into an interesting game. Just like Minecraft. The problem is that once you have an engine that does nice things that please people, you are more or less forced to build a gameplay around what the players like. To be honest I believe this is really hard, so I don’t really blame NMS devs to have failed.

    So they added some things that look cool, hoping it would make a good. But we all know that mixing arbitrary good ingredients do not necessarily yield something edible. For instance, it looks like there is some massively multiplayer aspect to the game, but I am not sure how it is supposed to make the game more interesting. You have more than 1.8e19 planets. If every human (7.4e9) on earth visit one million planet each (1e6), we would still have about 2500 times too much planets… So either your chances to meet someone are really low (seriously, go play your national lottery, the odds are much better) or the game “cheat” by placing the players next to each others so they have some chance to meet (and even there it’s not that obvious when your map is a 3D space). So how are these to aspect supposed to combine to make a better game ? Clearly, the players won’t fight for resources. Oh, and let me guess: the “shared universe” aspect of the game mean that the game is not easily moddable ?

    In the end, I guess this kind of game end up with a gameplay that match their game world. You can play it as long as you want but what you do is over-repetitive – mining resource, crafting stuff, fighting almost-the-same enemies. Because, in the end, the game experience is driven by the content. And when the content is generated by a bunch of procedures by a computer, you get a gameplay that consists in repeating the same procedures again and again and that would better fit a computer…

    … unless it create a nice place to express yourself. Like Minecraft.

    (Well, I guess I should say “thanks for reading” here, because it is quite long. By the way, I am not a big fan of Minecraft either, so one more time I might not be 100% objective…)

    1. Sunshine says:

      This was never going to be “100% objective”, or even 30%; it’s an opinion piece. But there’s nothing wrong with that, and it sounds like a well-reasoned opinion, and communicated well too.

  17. John Lopez says:

    I managed to get 45 hours (according to steam, probably some idle time in there) out of No Man’s Sky. Never bothered to finish any quest, mostly did the first Atlas quest to the get the tier 1 unlock and upgraded my gear while exploring.

    Is the game’s UI made of fail and are there a dozen sand-traps you can fall in? Absolutely. Having known that going in, I managed to have a good time despite the game’s major flaws.

    I’m currently in a holding pattern with the game to see where the patches go, but more than 40 hours is plenty of entertainment for my $50 investment. It is a shame that you have to hold you face *just right* to make the whole thing work though.

    1. Michael says:

      Yeah, that’s about where I’m at. I sunk about 57 hours in, enjoyed most of them, and do feel like I got my money’s worth, even if the game doesn’t improve with future patches.

      I do have the memories of a lot of really neat and several really beautiful looking planets as a result. (Though, ironically, not that many screenshots.)

      But, yeah, there isn’t really a solid gameplay loop. It’s fantastic if you just want to wander around looking to see what you can find. If you approach it like a game though, it really starts to come apart at the seams.

      I am really curious where they’ll go with the patches, not because I want the game to be in a better state before I play, but because I want to see what gets added.

    2. Kylroy says:

      Personally enjoying a game doesn’t mean it’s particularly good. Remember “Too Human?” My brother and I had a lot of fun playing through it cooperatively, because we have fun breaking action RPGs by futzing with equipment and character builds. (“This enemy type is 90% resistant to ranged damage? Well, we’ll need to make sure our purely-ranged character does 10 times as much damage.”)

      But that doesn’t change the fact that it was a poorly-designed trainwreck of a game. NMS was never my bag (I like games in my games, and NMS was always kinda light on that aspect), but it looks like the same situation for some lovers of in-game exploring.

  18. Dilandau3000 says:

    Please do give Obduction a try! It’s a fantastic game if you’re into the Myst-style exploration of “magnificent desolation” (i.e. mostly abandoned) worlds to uncover the backstory. It’s beautiful, inventive, immersive, and will leave most Myst/Riven-fans satisfied (and, I expect, not many other people; if you didn’t like the gameplay of Myst/Riven this is pretty to look at but probably won’t scratch your itch).

    Yeah, it’s not without flaws either. Strangely enough, also related to the interface. Manipulating some of the devices is far too cumbersome. The “save game” option is so well hidden that I got 2/3rds of the way through the game before I discovered it existed (the game autosaves, so I thought that was the only way of saving)! But definitely, definitely worth checking out.

  19. Philadelphus says:

    Y’know, apropos of nothing other than one of the screenshots in this article, can I just complain how annoying I find it, as someone who understands the Periodic Table, when works mix real elements with fictional ones without trying to justify it in any way?

    Elements are defined””incredibly simply””by the integer number of protons they have in their nucleus. We know enough about all of them with atomic numbers between 1 and 112 to give them names (plus a few higher-numbered ones), and have very good ideas of what properties any elements with a higher atomic number have. (Pretty much entirely, “decays in minuscule fractions of a second.”)

    It’d be like if a work mentions a new integer somewhere in the range of 1″“100 without specifying anything more about it. In that case it’d be immediately obvious how silly this is””we already know all the integers between 1 and 100, there can’t be a new one there. Yet authors think nothing of coming up with a name ending in “-idium” and slapping it in, despite it being equally silly. We already know all the possible elements that exist with atomic number ≤ 112, and any with numbers higher than that are going to need some serious technobable to explain why they are stably existing for more than a few picoseconds.

    (I actually don’t mind Mass Effect’s take because it at least tried with the technobabble and making its fictional element have a number of zero.)

    It’s just…there are so many cool and fascinating elements out there, just pick an existing one and give it whatever fantastic abilities you need for your plot. Dysprosium, tellurium, hafnium, yttrium, gadolinium, the list of cool names goes on and on. I can buy newly-discovered properties of already-existing elements a whole lot easier than fictional elements, especially since that’s exactly what happened a lot historically, as we’ve discovered tons of new uses and abilities of the elements we have over the past few hundred years. Various rare earth metals that were economically worthless curiosities to the chemists who discovered them in the 1800’s are now critical components of high-end electronics, for just one example.

    Fictional elements (without serious justification) just completely break my suspension of disbelief the same way someone talking about the “new integer” they discovered somewhere between 1 and 100 would. Adding a new element to your universe is not something to be undertaken lightly. Go with fully-fictional elements or fully-real ones, but don’t just casually mix the two without comment!

    Ugh, sorry for the rant, it just really bugged me seeing that “heridium” (among others) in the screenshot.

    1. As someone with a Master’s degree in chemistry, I say ALL OF THIS. *high-fives*

  20. Jsor says:

    I don’t know how many people warned you about the preorder ship, but I was one of them on Twitter. I actually knew that there were situations where you could redeem it at some points and it was more complex than “don’t do it”, but Twitter doesn’t leave much room for caveats. I didn’t redeem mine either and am in the same damn annoying boat.

    My issue was that I was so god damn rich by the time I finished the hyperdrive due to some lucky mining expeditions I bought a great ship right when I got my hyperdrive.

  21. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    The zen game idea is pretty much the only reason I had any interest in NMS. I mean, billions of planets to explore, why would you want a story? I’m sorta surprised they put alien creatures on the planets at all -I was expecting just beautiful landscapes.

    The problem for the game from my perspective was the pricetag -I do not value such a zen game at $60. Actually more, as I would need a new video card to play it.

  22. Decius says:

    Feature list sent to marketing was not the same as the feature list that scheduling/budgeting approved.

    Space combat sucks because it needed five or so more iterations. Inventory blows because it needed someone to say “this sucks, we have to redesign it” without being overruled by “we don’t have the money to do that”. Flying around sucks because they couldn’t get the controls to be tight because they were dependent on ship stats, which were abandoned to compensate for the time debt incurred by the features dependent on it. “Critical resources” are everywhere specifically because the question of how to prevent an impossible state from developing wasn’t answered in world generation; “put these minerals on every planet” is a broken kludge compared to a proper crafting system that would allow e.g. “100 energy source” where plant matter isn’t just as effective as plutonium or T9.

  23. MaxEd says:

    Don’t know if it was already mentioned elsewhere, but as I see it, No Man’s Sky is just a souped up version of Noctis – an ancient space exploration game with the huge number of procedurally generated content. It even had pretty much the same amount of “multiplayer”: players could exchange star maps with discoveries and named planets (only they had to do it by hand, passing around some files, but what do you expect from a one-man non-commercial game made more than 10 years ago?!).

    In terms of visuals, NMS is certainly a step up from Noctis’s tiny resolution that belongs to DOS era, and I don’t remember if there was any wildlife in the old game. Also, Noctis didn’t have any upgrades or resources – just flying around, landing on planets and searching for beautiful views.

  24. Csirke says:

    The patch yesterday supposedly fixed this problem with preorder items.

    I know you’re angry at the game now, but I wonder what your opinion on the game might have been, if you were very busy now, and only managed to first play it a few months down the line. Most of the design probably won’t be changed, but it seems the annoying bugs, and the really stupid design stuff will be fixed. I wonder if you would be trying to justify game of the year in that case.

  25. Rayen says:

    So which is worse, Spore or No Man’s Sky? And i think another more interesting question, which would you rather see Spore 2 or No Man’s Sky 2.
    Im pretty sure neither of those would ever happen but if.

    1. Lanthanide says:

      No Man’s Sky has got a lot more potential.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      And i think another more interesting question, which would you rather see Spore 2 or No Man's Sky 2.

      Half life 3.

  26. Dreadjaws says:

    Man, every new article I saw about this game makes me really glad I didn’t bother to fall into the hype. It seemed like a nice concept and all, but frankly I couldn’t possibly afford that game and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided both at launch, so I went for the one I was interested from the start and I completely ignored everything about the other one.

    Glad I did too, it’s a super fun game, story issues aside.

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