No Man’s Sky One Year Later

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Sep 5, 2017

Filed under: Retrospectives 154 comments

It’s been a year since I last played the captivating, frustrating, and ultimately disappointing No Man’s Sky. There have been some large updates since then, and so I thought now would be a good time to come back and see how the game has evolved. These columns are going to run through September, so you’re basically getting TWO long-form analysis series at the same time. (This and Borderlands.) So I hope you like words.

Speaking of words, a year ago I said:

In fact, I'm hoping [Hello Games] made enough on this game that they can give it another try. I really do think that they have something special here. Imagine if the first iteration of Minecraft had been really awkward, frustrating, had a terrible building interface, and was constantly limiting and undermining your creative abilities because the developer thought the game should be focused on combat. I wouldn't want the idea of a cube world to die on the vine. I'd want it to get another chance to become the creative, engaging, meme-spawning classic that was embraced as a hobby by millions worldwide.

I am less confident of this now. I really do think you can make a fantastic game using the No Man’s Sky technology. I think there’s a game in here that could create levels of engagement to rival titans like Minecraft or The Sims. There’s a reason those early trailers caused such a sensation. Some people really do have an intergalactic wanderlust. They have a clear desire to see strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and to boldly loot everything that isn’t nailed down.

But at this point I’m not all that eager to see what Hello Games comes up with. I have no idea what’s wrong inside this company, but their approach to designing game mechanics and interface falls somewhere between madness and sadism. In the last year they’ve doubled down on all the worst flaws of the core game. At this point I don’t think anyone at Hello Games is equipped to design a coherent set of gameplay mechanics. They’ve got great technology and a solid art team, but gameplay is a mess and I don’t see how they can change that. The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one, and after a year they still haven’t reached that point. It’s not impossible for Hello Games to turn things around, but from the standpoint of momentum and company culture I don’t think it’s likely. This is a company doomed to make very pretty but very shallow and irritating games.

Not Evil, Just Bungling

Spoiler: The game NEVER looked this good, on any hardware.
Spoiler: The game NEVER looked this good, on any hardware.

People were accusing Hello Games – particularly lead programmer Sean Murray – of “fraud” and calling the over-promised features of No Man’s Sky “lies”. I can certainly understand where these accusations come from. The dude said stuff was going to be in the game. Then it wasn’t. He was in charge of putting that stuff in the game, so therefore he was deceiving us, right?

But the more I read about development and the more I see how the game is shaping up, the more I’m convinced these “lies” were actually the promises by a young programmer with intense enthusiasm, who was under tremendous pressure from a publisher, and who had been thrust into the media spotlight while having no expertise in dealing with the media. I think people have been far too hard on Murray and not nearly critical enough on publisher Sony. Like I said last September:

It looks like Sony was all too happy to let this indie developer run around making promises they knew he couldn't keep. I wouldn't blame the distributor for the sins of the developer, except they did step in when it suited them. They shut him up when it served their business interests and let him run his mouth when he was over-promising the game. Sure, the developer was making outrageous promises, but Sony put his ass on prime-time television. They were happy to soak up their cut of the sales and let him take the blame for the hype storm they created. And now that fans are angry, Sony is trying to play it off like they had NO IDEA what the developer had said or what was in the game they were distributing.

I think the changes in the last year support this reading of events. If Murray really was a charlatan and a liar, then he would have walked away from No Man’s Sky after release. Or perhaps he would have done some minimal patching before moving on to No Man’s Sky 2 or whatever. Instead, his team has worked to add new content and new gameplay, fix bugs, and figure out ways to fix the existing gameplay systems that didn’t work at launch. I don’t think they were successful on that last point, but the effort is clearly there.

Spoiler: This is what the game REALLY looked like. At least, some planets did.
Spoiler: This is what the game REALLY looked like. At least, some planets did.

Also, Murray gave a talk at GDC. You can read about some of the highlights here.

“I just wanted to sit down and write something completely different. Mainly, selfishly, because I just thought of the things I wanted to learn about, and then I started to write an engine that had those things in, I guess. […] Then we showed it, we showed the first trailer, and from then on it was like, it was like we were building a rocketship on the way up, like, to the sun, being fired into the sun with the skin burning from our faces, right?”

This really resonates with me. You start out doing something for fun, but then suddenly people perceive value in your work and now there’s tons of pressure on you. When people ask you, “Will we be able to do X?” it’s easy to say “yes” because you already wanted to have X and you’ve already thought about how you’d go about making it happen. People love you, your work is valuable, and you don’t want to say no. People smile with delight when you say “yes” and when you say “no” they look disappointed and ask annoying technical questions that would – if you took the time to answer them accurately – being incredibly boring and hard to follow. In the short term, saying “yes” is always the path of least resistance.

I know exactly how that feels and I know I’ve trapped myself in situations where I needed to crunch in order to meet my promises. Not because I wanted to work overtime, but because saying yes just feels so much better than saying no. I’m really thankful I made those mistakes in private meetings as part of a small company on not in front of international media. If Stephen Colbert had me on his show in March of 2016 and asked with delight if Good Robot was going to have different character classes, it would have been very tempting to say yes. After all, it was something I’d wanted to put in the game and maybe I’d be able to find time to squeeze it in before release. And if that interview happened to me when I was a young man and more easily dazzled by the limelight? Shit. I’m sure I’d make the exact same mistake.

As I’ve said before, scheduling is really hard. That’s not a big deal when you’re a bedroom developer and you can set your own pace and decide for yourself when a game is “done”, but it can kill you when you find yourself suddenly working in the AAA world. I think Murray made reckless promises and then found himself trapped between those promises and an unmovable ship date, and he’s spent the last year trying to make it right.

I’m not saying that what Murray did was okay, and I’m not trying to get you to feel sorry for him. I’m just unhappy that frustrations with the game turned into a campaign of public shaming against one person, and I’m really unhappy that campaign took the form of calling him a liar.

To be fair: While not as pretty as the pre-release trailer, some places DO look pretty good, even on middling graphics hardware.
To be fair: While not as pretty as the pre-release trailer, some places DO look pretty good, even on middling graphics hardware.

We’ve seen how media liars behave. We know what that looks like by now. If he was a liar by nature then he would have spent the last year shifting blame, downplaying the backlash, and making new promises. Instead he’s stopped talking to the press and he’s being extremely guarded with his remarks. To me it looks less like a charlatan and more like a young guy who learned a hard lesson.

The problem with No Man’s Sky isn’t that Sean Murray is a mountebank. The problems with No Man’s Sky actually come from two causes:

  1. Murray lacked the ability to adapt his indie company culture to AAA standards when his passion project wound up in the hands of Sony.
  2. There doesn’t seem to be anyone at Hello Games to handle the Narrative and Gameplay aspects of design, and the engineers and artists don’t seem to realize how deficient their team is.

I can’t prove any of this, of course. But I find this a much more plausible reading of events compared to, “Sean Murray lied to the world to get rich!”

Regardless of the cause, nothing changes the fact that No Man’s Sky doesn’t really work or make sense as a videogame. It’s filled with strange design decisions, dead-end mechanics, and systems vigorously working against the core gameplay loop.

What is This Game Supposed To Be?

You can't claim I didn't give the game a chance. I've put in the time.
You can't claim I didn't give the game a chance. I've put in the time.

Roger Ebert used to say “It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.” He would (try to) judge a movie based on how well it said whatever it was trying to say more than if he agreed with what it said. If a movie was gross, stupid, lowbrow schlock on purpose, that was (in theory) better than if the movie wound up that way while aiming for something else.

I try to do this myself, although it’s slightly more difficult with videogames. With gameplay, videogames have another entire dimension to worry about and sometimes it’s hard to tell if the gameplay is flawed or if the designer was just making something you don’t like. Dark Souls is a pretty good example of a game that’s really good, even if I don’t personally enjoy playing it. And Mass Effect 1 is a mess from a mechanical standpoint, even if I enjoy the story.

I have a very hard time doing this with No Man’s Sky, because after more than 100 hours I still can’t tell what this game is trying to be. Some mechanics work against each other, others lead nowhere, nothing leverages the core technology, the interface is insane, and the scraps of story are unevenly written, largely incoherent, and disconnected from everything else.

After spending some time with the game, I decided that the thing that worked – the part of the game seemed most like a “game” to me – was landing on a planet, gathering up some loot, fending off trouble, and getting back to civilization to trade your loot in for upgrades. This would be a bit like the sandbox bits of Skyrim: Wander around, do a dungeon, get some loot, go back to town. No Man’s Sky doesn’t really succeed at this, but that’s the closest thing it has to a gameplay loop and that gameplay style would actually make sense with this “infinite worlds” engine everything is built on.

Now, if you want to insist that No Man’s Sky isn’t trying to be that then I can’t really prove you wrong. If you want to insist it’s trying and failing to be some other kind of game, then fine. But I needed to have some frame of reference when judging it. I’m not going to review the game against every possible thing it could possibly be compared to.

Why Are We Doing This Again?

Visually, this is my favorite star system so far. The game managed to procedurally generate a super-saturated orange and blue motif. Also, the screenshot feature in this game is REALLY good.
Visually, this is my favorite star system so far. The game managed to procedurally generate a super-saturated orange and blue motif. Also, the screenshot feature in this game is REALLY good.

So why am I bothering to come back and heap more criticism on a game I already panned a year ago? Well, aside from the few people who have prodded me and asked what I thought of the updates, I’m back because I really was hoping the game we got would be a little closer to the game we’d dreamed of. It’s not, and I think it’s worth studying why.

Also, No Man’s Sky inhabits this frustrating space alongside games like the nu Deus Ex games, the original X-Com, or the Mass Effect series. It offers something you just can’t get anywhere else, but it does so in a deeply flawed and annoying way. It’s one thing if you decide you don’t care for the new Tomb Raider, because you’ve still got Nathan Drake. But if you love the idea of flying through space, landing on a planet, having a look around, and harvesting some of the resources but you hate being pestered by inventory problems every 30 seconds, then where else can you go?

I’m going to spend the next few weeks looking at No Man’s Sky 2017 and pointing out where the updates have gone wrong. The week after that, I’ll try to say something nice and make note of where things seem to be headed in the right direction.


From The Archives:

154 thoughts on “No Man’s Sky One Year Later

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So I hope you like words.

    Indubitably, devotees of this online journal share your infatuation with written form of the English language.

      1. Droid says:

        *falls to his knees, starts paying homage*

    1. Mephane says:

      So I hope you like words.

      I particularly enjoyed the word mountebank, it should be used much more often. :)

      1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

        That’s my new word for today. Apparently of Italian origin.

    2. Taellosse says:

      your infatuation with [the] written form

      Though never let it be said that we cannot also be pedantic as hell.

  2. Geebs says:

    I still like mucking about in NMS even if the inventory problems are still irritating, the crafting is still tiresome, and the vehicles are mostly pointless. I just like poking about in the sandbox without a bunch of overly complicated space sim stuff.

    For me, it’s a bit like playing Mercenary on the Atari ST when I was far too young to understand what it was actually about and just enjoyed flying around looking at buildings.

    On the other hand, the plot’s attempts to be meta are kind of annoying. The “universe is a simulation” stuff deflates the plot in the same way that Future Desmond ruined Assassin’s Creed, but somehow seems more self-consciously smug.

    1. Kamica says:

      If you’re gonna be meta in a game, leave it up for interpretation I’d say, like the concept of CHIM in Morrowind. There’s one interpretation of that which acknowledges that the player exists, there’s apparently also dozens of other interpretations that don’t =P.

    2. Taellosse says:

      I know I’m in the minority on this opinion, but I actually found the meta-plot of Assassin’s Creed really interesting in the early games. I think the problem with it – and the way in which it ruined the series – was that they became unwilling to actually commit to it because the franchise sold too well and they stopped really letting it develop in a meaningful fashion. But I think it started out as a nifty concept to frame a time-hopping and globe-trotting series like they were setting up early on.

      Then they got obsessed with Ezio and post-Medieval Western history, ignoring the vast swath of less well-traveled space and time in other parts of the world. Even sticking to Europe but having the guts to visit it pre-Rome would have been more interesting than the American Revolution or Pirates of the Caribbean: Kinda Historical Edition (I stopped playing the series after IV).

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        It was interesting for about a game and a half.But the delivery was rather poor,and the payoff was even worse.The stretching of the plot did not help the matters at all.

  3. Aime says:

    Forgive me if this has come up before, but: what about Elite: Dangerous? I know it doesn’t have the same ‘visit fantastical planets’ vibe, but it does combine the space-sim element, along with exploration and combat. With the Engineers, it even has some crafting. The galaxy in Elite isn’t fully procedural, but it is so insanely massive that no player could ever see all of it.

    If No Man’s Sky is a bit of a disappointment, maybe give Elite a spin? I’d be interested to see how people view it.

    1. Bloodsquirrel says:

      I played Elite: Dangerous for a while. I even took a trip to the Galactic core.

      In the end, I quit the game because it was clear that, for all of its pretenses for being massive, it was actually a very small, limited game. There were no real sandbox elements. You could fight for bounties or you could trade. They had missions that you could do that involved fighting and trading, but they were largely a waste of time given how low the payout was compared to just hanging out in a belt shooting ships.

      Hanging out in a belt shooting ships was fun. But one asteroid belt was the same as another. One star system was the same as another. One port was the same as another. There was no meaningful persistence, aside from your bank account and inventory. Despite being a multiplayer game, there was no reason to interact with other players. I was playing it with a friend, but we eventually realized that playing together made no sense. For any activity that we could try, we would make money faster doing it separately.

      The game has enough faà§ade built over it that it might, at first, look like there's a lot to do and explore, but once you've played for a little while the game reduces itself to “fly to an asteroid belt and shoot ships”. There were attempts to add depth, but as of my quitting they were laughably inadequate. They introduced a faction system, where the factions were fighting over territory, but the way to participate in that involved paying the faction that you were trying to help for war supplies to ship to the planets that they were trying to take. Then they put out a $50 expansion where you could land on planets, but there was basically nothing on them. That was when I realized that they weren't serious about actually finishing the game, and I quit.

      The game's one real quality was that it was very immersive. Piloting a ship felt like piloting a ship. There was tension to being so far out when I went to the galactic core, because if I had run out of fuel or crashed into a star I would have lost everything I'd scanned getting there, and would have respawned way back at a space station in the tiny part of the galaxy that was developed. Even docking into a space station feels real. The game really does have a great set of basic flight and navigation mechanics. It's just too bad that there isn't much game built around them.

      1. Droid says:

        Might I suggest X3: Terran Conflict and its add-on Albion Prelude?

        It gave me this feeling of flying around in the vastness of space, even though it is a very busy space due to portals between sectors (so everything’s crammed into a ball of about 25-125 km of space between the gates). It does, however, have mining, fighting, profitable exploration (abandoned ships, even), and, later on, building vast complexes of resource gathering and processing facilities to get all the money or, alternatively, more weapons than all the governments have in stock, combined.

        There are apparently big differences to Elite as well, though (never played it myself). 1., it’s singleplayer only, 2., there are 5 alien races, 3., shooting ships is by far not the most profitable, but most importantly, 4. it has mods. Tons and tons of mods that make the game run smoother, have more content, be even more connected (including a “cylindrical” universe map with connections over the left-right edges), have new factions, have the ship AIs respond more intelligently, have them conduct more trade, etc. My personal favourite might be the ones that actually make fighting as a mercenary for money viable, though, either by giving you access to government bounty boards and increasing border tension between them (so there will always be that one destroyer that just ploughed through a whole enemy system and has 20,000,000 bounty on its head, plus escort, which more than pays back the heavy fighter losses you will incur while fighting them) or by changing the AI so that fighting will produce loot and even abandoned ships from AI vs. AI fights (usually strictly a PvE mechanic).

        1. Noumenon72 says:

          Yes, this is a space game with some depth to it, that really gives you that flying around in space feeling. Shamus likes Factorio, so I think he would like this.

      2. Trix2000 says:

        They’ve made some significant improvements to the game since Horizons launch, so I don’t think it’s quite so bad now – though that said, progress has always been slow. The problem is, as far as I can tell, technical – because a lot of the things we want in these sorts of games are really difficult to implement in such a massive and multiplayer environment.

        But they still make steady progress with each patch, and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon (apparently the game’s been doing pretty well). It may still seem ‘bland’ or ’empty’ depending on perspective, but every update makes this less the case.

        It also says something that people are still getting a large number of hours out of the game before they get tired/bored and quit. What measure should we judge it by? Usually I’m happy that a game can keep me interested for 40+ hours (let alone several hundred as is not unusual for Elite), but I also can’t deny that Elite can start to feel samey after a while… but does that invalidate the time before?

        I suppose it comes down to that we see the game we want from it and are disappointed that Elite isn’t that. Still, it’s not a bad amount of fun for the price, and I don’t think you can find better spaceflight anywhere else.

        1. Richard says:

          Good point.
          Sandbox games are in a very odd position.

          One of the general bits of advice for all forms of entertainment “Always leave them wanting more”.

          Sandbox games are always going to leave players feeling “I stopped because it wasn’t fun anymore”
          So how many hours of “fun” play do you want per dollar, and what kind of “I’m done with this game” reasons still leave you happy with it?

          I suppose sandbox games are always going to leave you wanting less if they don’t have a clearly defined “end state” – and if they do have an end state, then is it pushing people to play in some way they don’t like or for longer than would be “fun” for them?

  4. Ross Smith says:

    “Imagine if the first iteration of Minecraft had been really awkward, frustrating, had a terrible building interface, and was constantly limiting and undermining your creative abilities because the developer thought the game should be focused on combat.”

    Funny you should say that … I tried Minecraft back when it was just beginning to grow popular, and that was exactly how I’d describe the experience, which is why I’ve never bothered with it since. I’ve never been able to understand how it became so popular when playing it was such a horrible frustrating experience.

    1. Ander says:

      I think I never forgave if for having no crafting guide. To my loss, surely, but that’s a big part of why I never put in the time to get good at it. I felt like the game was failing at facilitating the core experience by expecting me to use a wiki.

      1. Phil says:

        Probably why a lot of modpacks nowadays (it seems) have added JEI/NEI, which gives you an in-game crafting guide. Does save a lot of time alt-tabbing to wikis. And several mods also have in-game manuals that can save even more wiki-hunting.

      2. DanMan says:

        I know this doesn’t necessarily save a game, but have you tried Minecraft with mods? Because I honestly could not care less about vanilla Minecraft, but I can’t stop playing some of the ridiculous modpacks.

        Things like “no built in crafting guide” have been fixed by multiple different mods. I also had trouble because what little guided progression there was (build stuff until you can get to the end portal and fight the dragon) was so dull and tedious to me. Now, with some of the Feed The Beast modpacks, there are completely different goals with guides in the game to help prod you in the right direction.

        1. Ander says:

          I have not, personally, tried Minecraft with mods, though I’ve spent a good bit of time watching friends do so. I have no doubt they would greatly add to my enjoyment of the game. I was just too young when I first interacted with Minecraft, and I still had in my mind that computers were black boxes of mystery that could easily be broken by forgetting the correct incantations on boot up. Modding was something for smarter people. I’ve since gotten over this (though I still don’t like modding).
          Every now and again I think about getting into the game-changing, guided mods like Feed the Beast. I might be too busy now. Too bad; a lot of people love Minecraft, and I just kinda missed the wave.

          1. Droid says:

            “and I still had in my mind that computers were black boxes of mystery that could easily be broken by forgetting the correct incantations on boot up”

            To be fair, back then, they kind of were…

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              To be fairer,they kind of still are.

      3. `Retsam says:

        I actually enjoyed figuring out the recipes in Minecraft, without looking them up on a wiki. Back in the early days, that was pretty plausible; basically everything’s crafting recipe “made sense” at some level. (Though torches were rough to figure out: I actually figured out redstone torches before regular torches, which says a lot)

        But, later updates seemingly abandoned the “crafting recipes should make sense” philosophy, and you have stuff that, yeah, basically just needs to be googled, which does make it a bit silly that the game still doesn’t include a crafting guide.

        1. Droid says:

          I’m still of the opinion that no one can craft a torch out of nothing more than a stick and a piece of coal, at least not one that you can hold and take with you without snuffing it out, the coal falling off, or the coal burning you.

      4. Kuroshiro says:

        As of I believe 1.12, there is a built in crafting guide for the Java version.

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      I mean, I agree that Minecraft could be better, but it has to be better at being itself. I loved the core game play when I first started back in the pre-alpha. It combined the roughest execution of total world mutability with a struggle against the horrors of the night and a wide-eyed wonder of exploration. If you just want just total creative freedom, you’re out of luck. If you want just survival horror, well, you’re out of luck there too. If you want infinite procedural exploration, you’re out of luck again (see this very series). But a game that combines all three? Minecraft does it really quite well.

      I think this comes down to you not being interested in the core game-play. What did you want Minecraft to be, that it failed you from the start?

      1. Ross Smith says:

        What I was hoping for, and what the hype had led me to expect, was a combination of exploration and creativity. But the creativity was locked behind a clumsy, frustrating, opaque crafting interface, and the survival horror part was just a constant pointless annoyance that I never wanted. The exploration part might have been fine if I’d ever managed to put up with the other crap long enough to actually explore anything.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          Minecraft has a “creative” mode since ever. Did you try it during the short window of Classic 0.24 when the survival mechanics were being introduced, before the modes were split out?

          1. Ultrapotassium says:

            Creative mode in-game isn’t that old, it was introduced in late beta. There were years between Minecraft ‘s first version and the introduction of creative mode, I don’t find it impossible that someone could have missed it.

  5. Anorak says:

    I’m really looking forwards to this. I’m sure you must have a lot of insight about this game that will be informed by your own forays into procedural generated content.

    Did you find yourself thinking about your own projects while playing it?

    1. Shamus says:

      “Did you find yourself thinking about your own projects while playing it?”

      CONSTANTLY. Sometimes I’d think “This was a really clever idea” and “I never would have thought to try this.” Other times I think, “I could have done this way better”.

      I think my Project Frontier was much better in terms of the macro building. Different biomes, climates, different terrain features, and all of it made some kind of geological sense. NMS planets are way too homogeneous. On the other hand, NMS has deformable terrain and can handle transitioning from space to the ground, which I’ve always struggled with. (Translating the surface of a sphere to something you can navigate on foot is messy.)

      1. Geebs says:

        I think that a lot of the difference in the “believability” of the terrain is in the fact that Project Frontier had an erosion simulation. Frontier’s simulation produced some really nice features, but if I remember correctly it ran on the CPU?

        There’s no way even an early-2010’s style hydraulic erosion model could work on anything as large as the planets in No Man’s Sky, though. NMS runs on a laptop; a laptop GPU struggles at running a real-time erosion model with a 2048 * 2048 terrain. At the same time, the features produced don’t scale well at all – if your unit size is much over a meter things lose believability very quickly; meanwhile running much faster than realtime can make things look very artificial as well.

        This also explains why the water features in NMS are limited to Morrowind-style “everything below this is underwater” seas.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          Right, but you wouldn’t have to run it on the whole planet. The planet scale features are dominated by tectonic forces anyhow. Continents are goverened by weather system forces (guided by the tectonic groundwork). Biomes are governed by ecosystem populations (guided by the weather). And then local features are influenced by erosion, though if I were doing it I would make fractal river systems and then back into local terrain instead of forward simulating erosion.

          Point being, it’s totally feasible to generate a believable world of arbitrary scale as long as you don’t try to brute-force the whole thing from the rules of one scale.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            There’s also the fact that Shamus’s erosion scheme was fairly straightforward–“water” only traveled from high to low, with no cross-flow. I haven’t sat down and coded it, but I strongly suspect you could divide a model into independent chunks bounded by ridges, where each chunk is independent of it’s neighbor chunks, if you start with an overall “macro” model for where you want the peaks and how you want to connect them.

            “Suspect,” because I sure as hell don’t have time to test it.

            1. TheJungerLudendorff says:

              Fluid dynamics are notoriously difficult, so a truly accurate simulation would probably be way too expensive to create on any significant scale (not to mention the university degrees you would need to understand it in the first place).

              But you could probably simplify it and still get the general behaviour of a body of water in arbitrary terrain.

      2. default_ex says:

        Interesting you mention the ground to space thing. I remember a time roughly 8 years ago when NMS was nothing more than a tech demo being created by a guy whom was still very green to 3D game development but had talent for technical side of things. The only goal he had was to be able to procedural generate terrain for a planet and be able to fly into space and back down again seamlessly. That was the entire idea, no actual game mechanics, just a single clearly defined goal. He spent awhile working on it, think it was 2 years I seen him posting challenging questions on the forum he frequented. Eventually had had a functioning version and disappeared from those forums. Honestly thought that was it for him, wasn’t at all odd at that time as that community was losing steam and it caused a lot of would be developers to give up because the API they learned was seeing barely any updates and the company managing it seemed to be gutting the team working on it.

        But then it appeared again a little over a year ago. Same look to it although much more fine detail and polish. Except this time it had some game-like goals in mind, something much more than the tech demo I seen before. Was nice to see he stuck with it and struggled so long to turn that awesome tech demo idea into a game of some sort. Just a shame he got caught up in the interaction with hype crowd.

  6. Phill says:

    Glad to see this series turning up. I’d seen a few comments around the interweb that NMS was much improved in the year since the initial release, and was wondering what Shamus would make of the new version. And lo, the Shamus has needed the call.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    If Murray really was a charlatan and a liar, then he would have walked away from No Man's Sky after release.

    Funny you should say that,because thats exactly what Peter Molyneux has done numerous times and people are still saying that he is not a charlatan and a liar.

    1. Shamus says:

      Actually, I can’t help but think how different the two guys are. Molyneux is famous for redirecting blame, downplaying criticism, and dumping projects that don’t pan out. Murray shut his mouth and has been working to make it right. Molyneux follows broken promises with even more grandiose more promises. Murray has followed his broken promises with major updates.

      1. Thomas says:

        That’s an excellent point. Molyneux never ‘learned’ – in fact he’d just weave his old tales into new ones. ‘Im sorry Fable did none of the things I said, I got carried away. So this time it’s in Fable 2 and it’s real, I promise’

        Now he’s finally shut-up, I think it’s just because he realised the stories weren’t going to work anymore.

        Before reading the article I thought Hello Kitty was Peter 2.0 – some of the things he said and some of the trailer mockups seemed well out of scope. But now you’ve said it, I’ve been in the headspace of speaking imaginings like they’re true because suddenly you don’t want to disappoint. Its not good at all, but it’s a human flaw and less scummy from that perspective

    2. Lee says:

      Peter Molyneux! That’s who I kept thinking of while I was reading this article. I knew I was looking for a big name with big promises and a bad implementation. I tried blaming him for Spore, then thought maybe it was Richard Garriot I was thinking of.

      Shamus, would you be interested in doing an in-depth on Molyneux? Personally, I loved Black and White, and was underwhelmed (though I still enjoyed) by B&W 2.

      1. Matt Downie says:

        Will Wright was the guy who over-promised on Spore.

      2. BlueHorus says:

        Shamus, would you be interested in doing an in-depth on Molyneux?

        I’m not sure if that’s all that good an idea. AFAIK Shamus usually goes for a subject he can analyse, pull apart and say something new or insightful about…and a list of things that Molyneux has lied about wouldn’t really deliver that.
        Is there all that much to say about Mr Molyneaux beyond ‘At this point, if you believe anything he says, then that’s YOUR problem.’ ?

        Though I’m not saying that list wouldn’t be fun in a way. Remember Curiosity?

        Maybe Related: You’ve read the plot synopses for Fable 1 & 2 here, right? In a way, Peter Molyneux is responsible for the introduction of the Golden Riter award on Twenty Sided. (Though I’m not sure how much he had to do with the actual story of those games).

      3. Miguk says:

        It would take a psychologist to explain Molyneux.

    3. Mike Andersen says:

      Wow, that’s incredibly unfair (EDIT: unfair to Hello Games, that is). Spending any time at all with Godus might change your opinion on that, or just have a look at the latest community update on the Steam forums. There’s really no valid comparison between Molyneux and Murray on any professional level.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Im not comparing the two.Im just saying how weird it is that Shamus describes a liar in precisely the way Molyneux is acting,yet people still defend the guy.

        1. galacticplumber says:

          It’s almost as though various people you find randomly espousing various opinions have no correlation whatsoever with any given analyst on any consistent basis. Fancy that.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    then where else can you go?

    Starbound,astroneer,and a bunch of other games people have mentioned whenever no mans sky got mentioned.

    1. Groboclown says:

      As a person who’s never played NMS, the bits I’ve heard about its actual gameplay that was tacked on top of the amazing procedural content was Out There. Your ship has a limited inventory, crafting is tricky to manage with your limited inventory, and there’s a plot about aliens.

      Which is to say, if you want the part of the game that people didn’t like, this is the one to play. And it’s actually done well and is quite compelling, IMHO.

    2. Ragathol says:

      There’s an early access game on Steam called Empyrion – Galactic Survival that does the NMS thing in a slightly better and more playable way – and you can construct your own bases and spaceships, too! There’s only a handful of planets, though, and it’s not as pretty as NMS. But for the exploring/gathering/building bit, it can worth to check out.

  9. Scott says:

    I hadn’t noticed until you made the comparison, but No Man’s Sky is basically the anti-Skyrim.

    Skyrim has dozens of loosely related game mechanics and gives you the freedom to choose which ones you want to focus on, guaranteeing that almost everyone will find at least one thing they love.

    No Man’s Sky has dozens of loosely related game mechanics and pushes you to engage with all of them, guaranteeing that almost everyone will find at least one thing they hate.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Well said.
      To continue the comparison, Skyrim is set in a pre-made world studded with islands of procedural content. Where NMS is set in a procedural world studded with islands of pre-made content.
      Skyrim is set in the magical past, NMS is set in the sciencey (sp?) future.
      Skyrim was subject to initial skepticism by fans of the series, but went on to be a success and delight. NMS was subject to initial hype by fans of the genre, but went on to be a failure and disappointment.
      Skyrim has a narrative intro, NMS does not.

  10. sab says:

    But if you love the idea of flying through space, landing on a planet, having a look around, and harvesting some of the resources but you hate being pestered by inventory problems every 30 seconds, then where else can you go?

    I go to Elite: Dangerous. Though the planets are generally WAY more boring than NMS’es, and on the ones that are not (earth-likes) you cannot enter the atmosphere. Still cures my space-faring itch way better than anything else though, in a eurotrucker-in-space kinda way.


    nu Deus Ex games

  11. tremor3258 says:

    I was building myself up to be angry then I saw ‘original’ before X-com.

    1. Droid says:

      Real fans would have picked up on the dash in X-COM, which refers to the old games, as opposed to Firaxis’ XCOM.


    2. Mousazz says:

      I don’t get it. UFO: Enemy Unknown is frustrating? How?

      I mean, even if it is so, there are plenty of indie clones that tried to redo the series. Try Xenonauts, for example.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Bugs and degenerate strategies aside,the ui is bad.Really bad with capital B.You have to equip all your soldiers every single time you send them on a mission.You have to carefully manage time units of every single one of them.And even if you play perfectly,you can always end up with landing in a place surrounded by aliens who will grenade you as soon as you move inside your craft,killing your whole team.

        1. Shamus says:

          This is what I’ve always considered the legacy of the game to be. A brilliant but flawed game. I never got the impression people thought of it as a flawless masterpiece the way that (say) Super Mario Brothers 2 or DOOM might be.

          1. Drathnoxis says:

            Super Mario Brothers “2”? Is that the one you meant to type? Because I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone call SMB2 a masterpiece.

        2. ehlijen says:

          The game absolutely was Roguelike in all the worst ways at times, and the UI was only bearable once the stockholm syndrome had set in.

          But on the blaster-bomb-in-your-face at mission start thing: That’s what smoke grenades were for. Minor balm on a sore wound, I know lol

        3. Echo Tango says:

          I had forgotten that soldiers had to be re-equipped every mission. So annoying. :)

          1. Jabrwock says:

            The interface for X-Com 3 was ok (not perfect, but better than 1&2). I remember abusing the teleporter gizmo to do things like teleport in, stun & stuff in backpack, teleport out.

        4. Philadelphus says:

          I finally picked up X-COM several years ago after reading a Let’s Play of it that had me stoked to play this brilliant classic of a PC game that it seems everyone but me had played and invariably raved about. I think I lasted about 10 hours before going “Nope, not putting up with this UI anymore, I don’t care how good this game is supposed to be!”

          (For comparison, I have easily hundreds of hours of Dwarf Fortress play time without ever touching a graphics pack or 3D-viewer or anything like that. Yes, I found unmodified Dwarf Fortress to have a more tolerable UI than the original X-COM.)

          1. Matt Downie says:

            There are mods / remakes that make X-Com more tolerable.

    3. Echo Tango says:

      Angry because the original game is frustrating, but the new one is not? Personally, I think all of the XCOM games are frustrating, but for different reasons. The original games had lots of balance problems, and crappy UIs. The new games have a cleaned up UI and game balance, but a worse story, and obnoxious loading screens[1].

      [1] They even did pseudo-loading screens inside your base – Every time you clicked on a different menu, there was an annoying animation.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        The new ones also have worse gameplay.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Personally I find them roughly equivalent. The original had some annoying things like having to track down one scared alien, some tech was useless, and some was overpowered. The new ones on the other hand just have one big flaw, which is that pod-based enemies are terrible – they feel both very artificial and like the game is cheating (free moves to enemies).

          1. Droid says:

            Long War 2 gives the enemies a lot more credibility. They move towards noise and shouting civilians, they are in green alert (not using cover, moving slowly) until they see or hear something alarming, at which point they will change to yellow alert, running around (still as a pod) and taking advantage of cover that they find on their way.
            To top that off, if they activate on their turn and difficulty is any higher than Rookie, they get free moves after they scatter, ranging from hunker down and maybe overwatch in green alert to actually immediately taking shots or using abilities in yellow alert. You really don’t want to activate pods by letting them run into your overwatch shots in LW2 on legendary.

          2. ehlijen says:

            The worst thing about pod based activation is that it punishes mobility and flanking. If any move forward could bring 3-6 more enemies into play, the natural instinct is to hunker and trade shots from cover.
            In a real tactical simulation you want to scout as much as you can to know where the enemy is because they’ll be active either way.

        2. ehlijen says:

          That’s a matter of opinion. I agree that I didn’t enjoy XCOM2 nearly as much as any other UFO clone I’ve played bar UFO: Aftermath, but I thought that XCOM EU/EW was solid fun, albeit not a true tactical simulation.

          Aside: If you want truly obnoxious loading screens, look at Battlefleet Gothic: It has an actual “Loading…” screen between the campaign map and the shipyard menus.

  12. Hal says:

    I don’t have anything to contribute, except for that screenshot from “Gusangzohoumai” (seriously, that random name generator needs some work.)

    Bright blue sky. Green and red plant life everywhere. Looks like there might be some native fauna in the distance. Temperature . . . -100ºC? That’s insane. Practically impossible. Keep in mind that we store biological samples, such as bacteria, at temperatures warmer than that because biological functions basically cease at those temperatures.

    I know, I know, rules aren’t hard and fast in science fiction. Still, there’s a reason we talk about the “Goldilocks Zone” when it comes to exoplanets. There’s a very narrow band of conditions under which life (as we know it) can exist in terms of temperature, radiation, available chemical components, etc.

    1. Mephane says:

      “Gusangzohoumai” (seriously, that random name generator needs some work.)

      That name looks very much like it could be easily pronounceable for someone who speaks, for example, Mandarin.

      1. Ani-kun says:

        Closer to Japanese actually. Just remove the second g and it fits perfectly into the Japanese phonetic system: ぐさんぞほうまい

      2. default_ex says:

        Ju-sang-so-ho-my. Sounds likes a plausible pronunciation.

    2. Destrustor says:

      In all the planets I’ve visited in NMS, -100ºC seemed to always be more common than any temperature found on earth.

      That, and planets with 400ºC+ “storms”.

      Honestly, all planet temperatures are bonkers in NMS. I was actually amazed to find a 15ºC planet once. “Wow, I could actually survive more than three seconds here!”
      …and then I got hit with a -74ºC storm.

  13. John says:

    I have a very hard time doing this with No Man's Sky, because after more than 100 hours I still can't tell what this game is trying to be.

    My view is that a game is about whatever it is that the player spends most of his time doing. For example, CRPGs from the 80s are about making making maps on graph paper. Fortunately, I enjoy that sort of thing, or at least I did when I was a teenager. So what does this have to do with No Man’s Sky? Well, when you play No Man’s Sky, what do you spend most of your time doing? If you are doing what you want to be doing, then I’d say that the game is at least somewhat well-designed. If you’re doing something else, then it probably isn’t.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I spend all of my time not playing NMS, which is what I want to be doing, so NMS is at least somewhat well-designed.

      1. Ani-kun says:

        Oooh, touché.

  14. `Retsam says:

    I really would like to say it was mostly a well-intentioned programmer who just had way too much pressure put on him and felt compelled to promise things that weren’t realistically attainable. I prefer to assume the best of people, and as a programmer, I can definitely sympathize with deadlines and pressure.

    … but at the same time, I remember seeing an interview going around where the programmers make ridiculous claims like that they were actually simulating all the physics of the universe; I can’t find the actual interview clip, but I found this article referencing the same claim:

    When he desired the possibility of green skies, the team had to redesign the periodic table to create atmospheric particles that would diffract light at just the right wavelength.

    And I really struggle to see that as anything other than a bald-faced lie, coming from someone who knew it was a bald-faced lie. There’s no way that they really implemented a complete physics system of atmospheric particles, then swapped it out for skyboxes later in development, (much less monkeying with it to create green skies).

    It’s one thing to promise features that you may or may not be able to implement before shipping: it’s IMO, another to claim that you’ve already completely finished a feature that you have no intention of actually putting into the game.

    Certainly Sony isn’t blameless, either, and maybe there’s some super nefarious stuff going on where Sony literally instructed them to lie in interviews, but I have a real hard time viewing this as well-intentioned over-promising.

    1. Geebs says:

      There’s a kernel of truth in there. NMS doesn’t use skyboxes. Real-time Rayleigh/Mie atmospheric scattering models generally assume a pure nitrogen atmosphere for estimating light absorption, but there’s no reason why you can’t use different values. The real lie of omission here is that they’re really just talking about tweaking a few magic numbers, not “redesigning the periodic table”.

      1. default_ex says:

        Rayleigh-Mie scattering is easily adaptable to wavelength tables to produce different skies. I based my own implementation on such an adaptation of the color function. Keep in mind by table I mean a 512×512 texture storing coefficients that take almost no time for modern hardware to generate. Produces very believable results punching in data from Earth and Mars and comparing against images processed for color accuracy (not easy to find such reference images). The only fudge term I couldn’t eliminate was the terms for air pollution, rest was all based on empirical data. It ran in real time on hardware comparable to an Xbox360.

      2. Vi says:

        Wow, that information could be super handy in any world-building-related project! Thanks!

    2. Philadelphus says:

      Isn’t this the game where you can find large chunks of raw plutonium just lying about on the surface waiting to be harvested? Any kind of physical or chemical verisimilitude was clearly not a priority for this game.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Technically such a thing can happen in a very old universe where there have been enough super novae to seed the planets with plutonium in such a way.

        1. Droid says:

          But plutonium is rather dense, isn’t it? It would at least sink into the sand/soil layer if the biome was sand desert, swamp, any kind of fertile land or similar? So it would only really work for rock desert biomes and similar (I’ve not played NMS, so I might get some things wrong about it).

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            An earthquake or a land slide could deposit it on the surface of lower density.Though youd have to arrive to the planet at juuust the right time to catch it,yet not instantly be killed by one calamity or the other.

            1. Droid says:

              That could work, I guess.

            2. Thecheerfulpessimist says:

              You would also have to be very, very lucky about the chunk size, since plutonium’s critical mass is 11 kg, or a lump only a couple inches in diameter. So if one lump of pure plutonium gets jumbled in the landslide and bumps into another lump, you get a nice big nuclear explosion.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Well,there probably wouldnt be an explosion,since that requires the chain reaction to grow exponentially,which mostly doesnt happen without outside help*.A lot of energy would still be released,and the resulting heat would burn everything around it,but it would be more like a radioactive furnace than an explosion.

                *In a landslide though,I can see how a few chunks of plutonium could be crushed with enough force to actually start a nuclear explosion.It would still require the seeding of that part of the land to be very dense.Which,judging by the game,it actually is.So yeah,the planets in nms should be full of places where you are either roasted alive or suddenly blown up.

        2. Philadelphus says:

          That’s…maybe sort of plausible from an astrophysical stand point (though that should mean you’d also see much larger amounts of all the other elements heavier than iron also sitting around), but from a chemistry standpoint you’d never find plutonium sitting around in pure deposits like that; like the majority of metals, it’d be spread out throughout the environment in a variety of compounds. It’s a pretty reactive metal that quickly oxidizes on exposure to air and water. It’s the same reason we don’t find pure deposits of iron just sitting around on the surface of the earth, and iron is considerably less reactive.

  15. Paul Spooner says:

    “it's slightly more difficult with videogame.” seems like the number is off. Shouldn’t this be “videogames”?

  16. Warclam says:

    This looks like it’s going to be fantastic.

    I realize saying this is completely pointless, but sometimes your pet peeves make you say stuff: the word “new” is spelled “new.” If you’re spelling it with a ‘u’, then you’re spelling it wrong.

    1. Shamus says:

      According to, “nu” means “new”.

      As I’ve read and understood the term, it’s a sarcastic backhanded use of the word “new” indicating the “new” thing is new in a shallow or unappealing way, particularly by embracing current fads. The CGI driven prequel trilogy could be called nu Star Wars, and in the past I’ve referred to the Trek reboot as nu Trek.

      1. Warclam says:

        Yeah, that’s what it means. But the fact remains that it’s spelled wrong, and therefore drives me crazy.

        1. Droid says:

          Pet-peeve venting? Let me join in:

          A number cannot be “exponential”, no matter how large it is. Say “big” ffs, even if you feel dumb for saying it. You’ll look a lot dumber if you say “exponential”.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            Erm, was that particular sin committed somewhere, here?

              1. evileeyore says:

                Someone, somewhere online has just called a number exponential.

                Go get ’em Droid!

                1. Droid says:

                  *rips open shirt to reveal costume*

                  *strikes superman pose*

                  *walks out to wait for public transport*

          2. Daemian Lucifer says:

            What if you write it in the scientific notation?Then youd have a number written in the form of an exponent,or technically an exponential number.

            1. Droid says:

              That’s quite a stretch and not at all what people mean when they say exponential. As said, they use it as “large”.

              1. Nessus says:

                This is interesting to me, as I don’t think I’ve ever heard/read “exponential” misused this way.

                Mostly when I see it used colloquially, it’s to describe a relative size or relative increase, e.g. “exponential growth”, or “exponentially greater”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen/heard it used to describe a solitary whole value. That would indeed be a bizarre thing to hear someone say.

                Not saying I don’t believe you that it happens, just that it’s a strange and new thing to me.

                1. Droid says:

                  That’s mostly fine. If someone says something grows exponentially when it’s in truth “only” quadratic, eh. Whatever. When they say “exponentially greater”, I might be a tiny bit annoyed, because usually it’s still misapplied, e.g. just to say “is much bigger than” when the things aren’t really comparable or have any dependence. “I might have saved my companion here, but having to deal with that enemy is exponentially worse than having to hire a new follower.”

                  Just a little.

                  1. Paul Spooner says:

                    Agreed on “exponential” not being appropriate when referring to a single ratio. For that, I use “order of magnitude”, with a quantifier when possible.
                    Exponential is appropriate for a series, either growth or decay, though usually people mean “geometric” when talking about “exponential growth”.

                    1. Droid says:


                      Isn’t the only difference between “geometric” and “exponential”, though, that one is discrete, the other continuous? If you have 2d data points, for example, then you could both say that their growth/decay is geometric and that the function that best fits the data is exponential. So if they say exponential, I’d just automatically assume they’re extrapolating from what they have to a continuous model.

              2. MichaelG says:

                There are literally 0.3e1 things wrong with this game! It’s like, exponentially bad!

          3. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Ok,let me then add to this:Using decimate instead of devastate.Also literally instead of figuratively.

            1. evileeyore says:

              Yeah, those make my eye twitch.

              1. Adeon says:

                I literally decimated my lunch.

                The remaining 90% got put back in the fridge.

                1. Droid says:

                  I wanted to make this joke, but couldn’t quite get there. Kudos! Or “strength and honor”, rather.

          4. Mephane says:

            Since this has now officially become the place to list our nerdy pet peeves: one of the most cringe-worthy things for me is the misuse of “light-years” as a unit of time.

        2. Jabrwock says:

          “spelled wrong” is the way English developed as a language. :P

          Anytime anyone laments about texting destroying the language, I just start laughing.

          When my daughter was in piano, she had a newly immigrated Chinese classmate who’s mother was trying very hard to learn English, and kept asking me questions about grammar. I explained that for every rule, there were 10 exceptions, and it was best to just forget about rules and memorize conventions instead, but make sure they’re modern conventions, because they change over time…

          1. Warclam says:

            Must… resist… must not””that would be whose, not who’s.


            1. Droid says:

              Willpower, just like Fortune, is a fickle mistress, isn’t it?

            2. Daemian Lucifer says:

              You mean its whom/trollface

          2. Paul Spooner says:

            I suppose that explains your username spelling. I prefer the “Jaggodier Rock” permutation.

    2. Syal says:

      ‘Nu’ means ‘bug-eyed giant blue face with no torso’. Always has*, always will**.

      *time travel.

      **still time travel.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Chrono Trigger is still one of the best games ever.

      2. ThricebornPhoenix says:

        A revamped ‘bug-eyed giant blue face with no torso’ would be a nu Nu.

        … at least for now.

        1. Philadelphus says:

          And if it was also twisted into the shape of the Greek letter nu (ν), well…then it starts getting into Dr. Seuss territory.

    3. EwgB says:

      Well, that’s not spelling, that’s “nu spelling”! *duck*

  17. Julian says:

    “where else would you go?” the old Escape Velocity games were pretty amazing in this category, particularly Nova.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Star Control 2: The Ur-Quan Masters also managed to combine a great story with the feeling of exploring planets (even if those planets were hand-designed rather than procedurally generated, there were lots of them and you wouldn’t notice the difference on your first play through).

      I’d love to see a comparison between the stories of Mass Effect and UQM sometime, actually.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        I thought I remember Shamus doing a post on the Star Control series, but now I can’t find it. Help anyone?

    2. Jabrwock says:

      I haven’t played Nova in years… I just remember getting my butt handed to me any time I wanted to do a courier job. Those were rough routes…

  18. Sam says:

    The original x-com was “deeply flawed and annoying”? I mean if that’s your opinion, cool, but surely you realize that most people consider it a classic and using it as an example of a failed game is only going to confuse us.

    1. ehlijen says:

      He didn’t say failed. He sad flawed and annoying, which it quite admittedly was in places, despite being overall very enjoyable. It was also one of only a few games like it at the time (the only other one I can think of was Jagged Alliance), so it was either put up with the flaws, or play a different genre.

      1. Sam says:

        He says that “No Man's Sky doesn't really succeed” and then he says that it inhabits the “frustrating space alongside… the original X-Com”. This comparison doesn’t make sense unless you think the original X-Com failed. He’s not saying “No Man’s Sky is a great game, but with some glaring flaws” he’s saying “No Man’s Sky has some great ideas, but ultimately fails as a game”.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          It totally makes sense whatever you think about xcom.”Xcom is good,nms is bad” is one statement and “nms is a unique blend of genres just like xcom” is another unconnected statement.The two can exist at the same time because one does not imply the other.

    2. Matt Downie says:

      All DOS versions of X-COM have a bug which causes the difficulty setting to revert to “Beginner” after the first combat.

      That seems like a flaw.

      1. Sam says:

        Yeah, and it would crash and irrecoverably corrupt your save file… memories!

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      There are plenty of classic games that are deeply flawed and annoying.Fallout 1/2,planescape:torment,baldurs gates,etc,etc.That doesnt make them bad games.The opposite is true actually:they are so good that people are still willing to endure their wonkiness.

      1. Sam says:

        Right, but the article (as far as I can tell) is saying that No Man’s Sky *is* a bad game.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Yes,but that is not tied to the paragraph in question.A bad game can still share features with a good game,and those can be compared without comparing the overall qualities of those games.

  19. Duoae says:

    Although I haven’t gone back to NMS since last year, I am interested in this series because I really want a space exploration/combat game. I mean, the last time I had that experience was Privateer and, to a lesser extent, LAN Freelancer.

    Two games in 30-or-so years (and several that I tried but didn’t like because they were too arcadey or not arcadey enough)… I guess it’s a fine line to walk but I could see this engine being used in that sort of game.

    1. Droid says:

      Above, I suggested to Bloodsquirrel to try X3: Terran Conflict. If you haven’t heard of it already, it might be worth a try. It certainly scratches my itch whenever I want some unrealistic space explosions.

      1. Duoae says:

        I tried X2 – too boring for me. Maybe X3 is a big departure for the series but I don’t think so given the literature…

        1. Droid says:

          The biggest point in favour of X3 is probably the big array of mods that make the game so much more enjoyable, I want to say there’s bound to be something for you in there, but given the context here, that seems a bit foolish.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      If you dont insist on having it be 3d,try space rangers 2.Or space pirates and zombies.

      1. Duoae says:

        Tried SPAZ, couldn’t get into it. Space rangers link goes to SR HD – is that the game you meant to link to? It’s an isometric action game set on a planet? But with 4x stylings?

        I dunno, I mean, I was thinking more like Evochron Mercenaries than those two styles of games…

        Not that I’m not amenable to 4x – I still play MOO, MOO2, Gal Civ 2/3, Civ 4/5, etc. etc.

        Thanks for the suggestions though. But there really is nothing like Privateer or Freelancer – everything in the current era is too MMO-focussed.

        1. Mousazz says:

          Space Rangers is a top-down turn-based space shooter, where you control a ship and have to win a war against an enemy army (Dominator robots in SR2). There are 5 friendly races, each of which can hold several planets; there tend to be 1-4 inhabited planets per system (as well as space stations of various kinds), and ~50 systems in a galaxy, ~12 of which start on your side. You can do missions on planets for money and you can trade goods for money (which is what gives it that Privateer/Elite vibe).

          There are 3 minigames in the game – one is a text-based adventure mode for pre-set scenarios (used for missions), one is a 3d real-time strategy game based on capturing control points (used for missions), and one is an arcade top-down shooter which feels like you’re stuck in a pinball machine (when you enter a wormhole).

          I’d best describe the game as… Russian. Ambitious (and, in this case, working properly), but weirdly designed and unergonomic. A cult classic, in other words.

          1. Droid says:

            That reminds me of The Last Federation: Turn-based sh’mup 2D combat, real-time (with speedup and pause) strategy game where your goal is to unite eight different alien races into a federation to fend off some vague threat. Or you can fight that same threat in Obscura mode.

            The tactical combat is really fun and at times resembles a bullet hell, but there’s something very aesthetic about the bullet patterns they chose, and unlike bullet hells, you are not at all fragile, so it’s no big deal if you get hit, as long as your shields can regenerate the damage.

            The story is minimalistic and very ehh, and sometimes doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s unintrusive, though, so the gameplay mechanics can shine.

            If you like the mix of strategy/how best to apply limited resources and Shoot’Em Up with a pinch of bullet hell, definitely try it. If you’re only interested in the latter part, you could also try Starward Rogue, which is a proper bullet-hell game and a bit like that one game called Rogue…

            All of Arcen’s games are actually at least somewhat innovative and often turn out feeling like everyone overlooked a great niche for fans of two specific genres, because they usually make games that feel like a crossover of at least two of them. They still haven’t figured out how to make a GUI, at least one that doesn’t have “practical” as the best possible adjective to decsribe it. But boy do they know how to hit a note, mechanics-wise. And their post-launch support/continued development has been nothing but admirable.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Yes the hd basically just improved graphics while the rest is intact.Mousazz describes the game perfectly.Though there are even more things you can do in space like be a pirate,probe planets for materials and such,collect random junk in space,even scavenge stuff from battles you dont participate in.

    3. tmtvl says:

      For space combat I would highly recommend Tachyon: The Fringe. It doesn’t really do space exploration but if you want dogfighting in space, have at it.

  20. Stu Friedberg says:

    I didn’t buy NMS until the recent Atlas Rising update (1.3) and have (a mere) 80 hours in at this point, much of it in a single system. While I have some peripheral awareness of the “big story”, I’ve mostly been able to tune it out and just follow the storyline snippets the game is delivering to me. Currently, a dose of confusion, suspicion, and only slightly guarded hostility.

    I’ve been pretty happy with the game, as a game. For a solo exploratory sandbox, there is a surprising large amount of NPC presence, with ships flying around, NPCs hanging about bases and shelters, active trading posts, space stations, etc. And the Reddit community in particular is doing serious work to build MMO-like context outside the game among PCs. While there is not a distinct tutorial as such, the initial series of missions/quests does a pretty good job of easing you into various mechanics in an organic/natural way. You get a variety of different discovery modes, not least of which is just wandering around exploring the geography. You get PvE combat in modest doses. You get crafting, from trivial to fairly elaborate. You get multiple factions, with missions and other ways to affect your standing with each. You get multiple means for traveling a planet’s surface. You get multiple means of interplanetary and interstellar travel. You get multiple means of resource extraction/production. You get recognition (and in-game money) for finding things.

    While NMS is certainly not perfection, and I dearly wish a few mechanics were more clearly described in-game (quick example: how do you dig a hole with the terrain manipulator?), my reaction to the game mechanics is not as negative as Shamus’ summary. (And I look forward to his forthcoming detailed commentary.) I completely agree that NMS is not supplying an enjoyable Diablo-like loot/reward cycle; the time required is just too long for emotional reinforcement. But I enjoyed the non-PvP, high-security aspects of Eve Online, where time requirements might be days, weeks or even months before the payoff. By those standards, NMS is providing very quick gratification.

    I can understand why a lot of people would not care for this game, and that’s utterly ignoring the reaction on initial release. This is a niche game, no question. But it works for me as a respectable game.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Did you read the three articles linked at the top? I know it’s a lot of reading, but you wrote a long comment so I feel the question is fair. It would be interesting to see if you just don’t mind Shamus’ frustrations? Or if you are playing the game in a drastically different way?

      1. MarsLineman says:

        I read Shamus’s articles at the time (and commented on a couple of them). Like the OP above, I understand why some people would find this game very frustrating. But, having played NMS intermittently since launch (for a total of roughly 100 hours now), it’s easily my favorite game in many years.

        There’s a certain kind of imaginative exploration in this game that feels truly unique. And the progression, while slow and certainly grindy (especially if progression, rather than exploration, is your main goal), is very rewarding for me personally. I feel very attached to my particular radioactive homeplanet, to my freighter, and to my 5 different ships (which handle very differently depending on class, post-updates).

        The vast majority of my time in NMS has been doing exactly what Shamus listed as the game’s strengths- flying to a new system, landing on planets, and exploring. With the addition of base-building/ farming/ teleportation-to-base, the loop became fly around and explore for a bit, teleport back to base/ drop shit off/ harvest plants, teleport back to the space station (in the area you’re exploring) to sell your crafts (built from the harvest) at that space station, and then continue exploring. You keep expanding outward while slowly accumulating wealth, eventually enabling the purchase of a freighter and multiple additional ships.

        I personally find this loop to be very satisfying, despite all the little annoyances along the way.

      2. Stu Friedberg says:

        Did you read the three articles linked at the top?

        I’ve read them before, and just went and re-read them.

        I don’t really have much to say about “captivating” aka The Largest Game Ever. Some planets in NMS are quite interesting, or have a high density of useful stuff and alien sites (not a typo for sights, thank you). Other planets in NMS are pretty boring, or have too many predators roaming or too aggressive Sentinels patroling to be comfortable spending much time on. I’m fine with that.

        As far as “frustrating” aka 10 Things to do in No Mans Sky, I think a lot of the specifics have been improved by major updates since Shamus wrote that. I didn’t start the game until the recent 1.3 Atlas Rising update. I won’t respond to all ten items individually, but the only one that inconveniences occasionally me at 80 hours into the game is inventory. But it’s certainly no game stopper, inventory management is an integral part of many games, and there are NMS mechanics for investing resources to get more inventory slots, which I have used frequently (and which is why I find it only an occasional inconvenience).

        With regard to “ultimately disappointing” aka The Sky Isn’t Worth Fighting For, Shamus was obviously quite frustrated at that point. Again, game updates in the interim have changed some of his situations. I frequently avoid space combat, so am not an expert, but I will say that there are (now) many more options than Shamus had available. Frequently, you can bribe pirates to leave you alone. I have escaped combat by outrunning pursuers on multiple occasions. It is possible to recharge shields with two hotkeys. And a decent combat survival strategy, especially if you are not flying a fighter, is to stop maneuvering your ship and focus primarily on aiming/cycling your weapons, recharging shields when they drop. As far as combat rewards, until I reread Shamus’s article, I didn’t even know that kills dropped resources. I always get reasonable cash/unit bounties and good size allotments of Tropheum delivered directly to my ship inventory. Missing out on a few paltry minerals is not something I’m stressed about.

        So, to summarize, I don’t think several of the criticisms written in those three articles hold any longer, given the changes in game play over the last year. Or if they hold in part, they have been seriously improved. Other criticisms don’t bother me as much as Shamus. My approach to gameplay is perhaps different, as I’ve been focusing on building an initial base, to raise serious money through trade, before moving on toward the Center.

  21. Volvagia says:

    Before No Man’s Sky, Hello Games were the people behind the Joe Danger series and, as far as I can tell, it was essentially a video game version of Super Dave. How do you go from that…to this?

  22. Vi says:

    This is why I failed to come up with an answer to last year’s Fixing No Man’s Sky exercise. I have a clear idea of what my own perfect exploration sandbox would be like, but Hello Games isn’t my personal minion and probably would never want to swap their vision for mine. Any plan I offered would have to be aimed at creating their intended gameplay experience–yet, I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. It didn’t occur to me that they couldn’t either, and that that may be the root of the problem. It makes a lot of sense now that you mention it!

    I do hope I can learn from their mistake. I may kind of suck at game development, and I may constantly get stuck on overly basic things, but at least I think I know what gameplay mechanics make me entertained or frustrated. And maybe knowing is half the battle?

    1. Droid says:

      Not getting your basics right is just a sign that you haven’t yet had a lot of experience solving this one “basic” problem. No matter how difficult or easy something is, it’s gonna look daunting the first time you do it, and like a pre-schooler could do it once you’re very familiar with it. I remember struggling a lot with stuff like Taylor series, which is by now one of the most “basic” tools I use.

      Being able to determine what mechanics are going to be fun to play is an often neglected part of gamedev, because it’s easy to think that people are gonna like it while you’re getting excited for it; and not something you can always get right. After all, even in such masterpieces of game design as Portal, the dev commentary reveals how much iteration went into this, including throwing out already implemented features. So it is a very valuable skill no matter what.

      That said, your comment sounds like you’re trying to develop this on your own, which is probably very risky. Not even from a financial point of view, but for the quality of your game. Creating your own game perfectly suited to you will also mean it will lack things you don’t care about. Like Dwarf Fortress and a UI. Or Dwarf Fortress and a meaningful game loop. Yes, I’m digressing.

      Anyway, best of luck! What kind of game do you want to make?

    2. Gareth Wilson says:

      I haven’t played NMS, but to improve it I’d limit it to one planet. I’m dead serious. From what I’ve seen the game doesn’t take enough advantage of actually having whole different planets, rather than different biomes on a single planet. So generate a planet for the player at the start of the game and make it at least the size and diversity of Earth. Give the player an off-road car and a supersonic jet, but no spaceship. It should keep him amused for hours, and when he gets bored he can just start another game and generate another planet.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Yeah, take the NMS procedural generator and use it to generate biomes for KSP.

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