The concept of No Man’s Sky has been a dream of gamers and science fiction enthusiasts for ages. Being able to explore a practically infinite universe in a spaceship will soon become possible in this ambitious title. After many years of production and delays, Hello Games have finally announced that No Man’s Sky will have a solid release date of June 21st. Like many others, I cannot wait to dive headfirst into this game and spend copious time exploring the limitless universe. To start off, let me say that this is absolutely a day one purchase for me and I am fully ready to devote myself to No Man’s Sky. There are, however, some concerns to note before its release that should help to ground people’s huge expectations. Most notably, the fun factor.
We know that the universe of No Man’s Sky is so large that it’s impossible for any human to fully explore. In fact, it’s impossible for every human in the world combined to fully explore. A misconception is that the game’s universe is randomly generated or procedurally generated, similar to a roguelike but on a much grander scale. The truth is that there is nothing random about the universe and it is based on a complex algorithm. This means that every planet, rock formation, plant, and animal is carefully calculated through math. As a positive result, there will be absolutely no loading time.
Essentially nobody knows exactly what is in the universe, including the developers at Hello Games. No Man’s Sky is an open-world game, but not in the sense that a lot of people are thinking. When you find a cave in open-world games like Elder Scrolls or The Witcher 3, the first instinct is to explore it in hopes of finding something useful. This may be an item, weapon, a new ability, etc. Do not expect the same treatment in No Man’s Sky. The previously mentioned games have hidden secrets because the developers put them there for players to find. Hello Games have not visited these planets and therefore haven’t put anything in there. This is not to say there won’t be exciting things to discover in the universe, but don’t expect to find hidden secrets because you’ll probably be disappointed.
Additionally, Sean Murray has stated numerous times that No Man’s Sky is not an MMO, but players still seem intent on grouping up with their friends. You won’t be able to do that. Hello Games have not misled anyone into thinking that they will be playing an MMO. It is the player expectation that has created this hype. By all accounts, this game should be thought of as a single player experience. In most open-world games and MMOs, you start off insignificant and become a powerful savior. This is evident in Fallout, World of Warcraft, Skyrim, and many more. In No Man’s Sky, you remain insignificant. This could potentially be a turn-off for ambitious players, but it needs to be reiterated that you are and will remain a tiny, inconsequential being in a vast universe.
With so many places available to explore, there is also the concern of whether or not people will want to continue exploring after so many hours. Demonstration videos have shown numerous planets, though none of them appear to be drastically different. The algorithm generation system might prove to be nothing than variations of a theme, which could get boring quickly. Hopefully players will find something to do in this amazing universe.
There will be a trade economy present in the universe, but its purpose is a little unclear. If the chances of meeting another player are so low, then that must mean trading takes place almost exclusively with NPCs. We know that mining resources and crafting is a big part of the game, but the motivations for doing so have yet to be fully explained. The ultimate goal is to “reach the center of the universe” which will likely be uncovered in real time by players. This is one of the game’s hooks that may have created the MMO expectation.
No Man’s Sky does not appear to feature any sort of quest system, and it may in fact be an experience akin to Minecraft. Crafting and trading are also optional, so you can potentially never land on a planet and never leave space. It seems like you can play the game however you want, but this does not mean that any of it will be a fun experience. The expectations are absurd and the bar has been set extremely high. It seems like the game will inevitably disappoint in some fashion, even if it does prove to be enjoyable overall.
I anticipate critical reception on No Man’s Sky to be very divisive. Some will enjoy the isolation aspect while others will simply want it to be the MMO it was never meant to be. It may very well end up being a relaxing otherworldly experience rather than a grind-y time sink. There is no doubt that No Man’s Sky marks some sort of turning point for video games. It may be the beginning of a new era and an archetype for the future of video games to come. Despite it being “the future”, this does not mean it is perfected.
With all of that negativity put aside, let’s take a look at the bright side. No Man’s Sky releases in just 3 months and that is a dream come true for me. If anything, the game will be an amazing technical achievement that will help pave the way for future video game technology. It may not meet its very high expectations, but it will be hard not to see any value in the experience. More than likely, Hello Games started this project with a goal in mind and did not expect it to gain so much media attention. Whether this game meets expectations or not, I personally cannot wait to play it.