My column has returned to the Escapist. One of the great things about reaching a new audience is I can whine about stuff that still bothers me but that my regular readers are totally sick of hearing about. With that in mind, this week I’m whining about the circus of random inputs and baffling design decisions that is the No Man’s Sky interface.
Here on the blog, I usually post my “This Dumb Industry” columns on Tuesday. I think I’m going to move TDI to another day of the week so we don’t wind up with both articles going live at the same time.
I’m not sure what to suggest about leaving comments. In the old days, I encouraged people to leave Experienced Points comments on the Escapist. But things are a little janky right now. The comment counters don’t work, so every article claims to have “0 comments”, even though you can click through and see the comments work just fine. I know the team is still working hard on the site and I’m sure details like this will be ironed out soon. In the meantime, feel free to leave comments either here or there. Here is a direct link to the Escapist comments for the column.
Also, I really need to get around to updating the splash image one of these days. I think that picture is about 8 years old. Obviously I’m way more handsome these days because that’s how aging works.
Anyway, I think the deficiencies of the No Man’s Sky interface are clearest when comparing it to Minecraft. I do a bit of that in the column, but let’s explore that idea further…
Both No Man’s Sky and Minecraft are trying to accomplish similar things. They’re both designed to allow the player to arrange a large number of items in a finite grid of inventory slots and move items between different sorts of containers. Minecraft does this but showing both your inventory and the target container at the same time. You can click-and-drag items, split stacks, send stacks, or pick up single itemsActually, I can’t remember how many of these features belong to the core game and how many are from mods..
In No Man’s Sky, your inventory is divided into several different screens with different stack sizes. You can have things in your pockets, your spaceship, your vehicle, your capital ship, or in your “high capacity” pockets. Each of those is a different inventory screen but they’re all bundled together under the same hotkey. Which screen will appear when I hit the inventory key? “It depends.”
When you’re looking in a container, you don’t get to see your inventory and the container side-by-side. Instead, you can only see the container and have to remember the state of your various storage locations. If I need to take 1,000 units of iron out of my vault, I have to know without looking if I’ve got room for it in my pockets or my spaceship.
What you end up with are all of these pages of inventory that smother the viewport in grids and yet don’t provide you with the information you need. Paradoxically you wind up with something that is both overly complex and yet lacking in features. You’re subjected to a deluge of information and yet you can’t see the information you’re interested in. The system runs on complex rulesDifferent types of storage have different stack sizes, different ways of upgrading them, and different default behaviors. that don’t lead to interesting gameplay.
The whole thing is almost beautiful in its awfulness.
Tragically, there’s no way to fix any of this. Addressing the inventory problems would require a massive redesign that would involve throwing out a lot of ill-conceived systems. I can’t imagine doing something like that in the context of an update / patch. The problems cut to the heart of this misbegotten design that’s focused on using bulky resources to fill bars.
What a shame.
 Actually, I can’t remember how many of these features belong to the core game and how many are from mods.
 Different types of storage have different stack sizes, different ways of upgrading them, and different default behaviors.
Was it a Hack?
A big chunk of the internet went down in October of 2016. What happened? Was it a hack?
The product of fandom run unchecked, this novel began as a short story and grew into something of a cult hit.
The Best of 2013
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2013.
Batman: Arkham City
A look back at one of my favorite games. The gameplay was stellar, but the underlying story was clumsy and oddly constructed.
Two minutes of fun at the expense of a badly-run theme park.