The Promise Is A Dangerous Thing
It has been a year since gamer’s finally got their hands on the highly anticipated No Man’s Sky. For Hello Games this marked the beginning of the sky falling down around them. The backlash surrounding the game was vicious. At times completely uncalled for yet this time, a lot of the anger did seem justified. Hello Games had promised a lot of things. Hype surrounding this game was at fever pitch. The end product delivered simply did not reflect the initial pitch from game designer Sean Murray. He promised multiplayer and a deep experience where the trillions of planets all looked and played vastly different.
Procedurally Generated Content
The game’s core promise was procedurally generated content. Meaning that assets generate randomly meaning the potential size of the experience would be humongous. Sean had mentioned time and again the vast potential scope of the game’s universe. The main selling point of No Man’s Sky was the scale and the fact that the game was so big you could spend your whole life playing and only see 1% of it. Madness, exciting and bonkers. Gamer’s were going nuts but at the same time concerned, could this be possible? If it is what would the quality of the exploration be?
After a number of delays intended to polish the game. No Man’s Sky launched and it is fair to say people were pissed. Savvy researchers returned to promotional interviews with Sean Murray. Ticking off all the features promised for the game, comparing it against the actual product. Things were not looking good at all, there were a lot of missing features and people felt ripped off. It’s one thing getting a game and it not being to your personal taste, you win some you lose some. To get a game that was mis-sold, that’s a whole new story and also a whole new untapped conversation.
Game Development Is A Challenge
Let’s remember though, game development is fucking hard and so is the games industry in general, it is always changing and adapting. No Mans sky is case zero for developers having to re-adjust and make sure they can deliver what they promised. On steam, people were getting refunds, a fairly bonkers phenomenon for digital video games but why is that? You would not put up with being sold a BLT and then tucking into a fish pie, so why are video game sales any different? And especially digital sales?
Games get sold in all states, some have glitches, sure, others are flat out broken and still no refunds are given. Developers then come along and patch the game (all being well) and off you go. This is still a less than acceptable approach, so why is the video game space so different? Is the complexity of the product the cause? A smartphone is a similarly complex product (certainly more so than a BLT). You’d be entitled to your money back with a faulty smartphone, why not a game?
Don’t Promise If You Can’t Deliver
No Man’s Sky opened up a whole conversation about marketing of games, buying a game, customer rights, developer’s obligations and so on. Whilst the ripple effect from NMS on the industry has been hard to tell, you can certainly bet your bottom dollar that indie developers don’t want to repeat Hello Games’ mistakes. Some of their mistakes came from that of being too eager to show off the potential of the game, whilst not having the staff in place to truly deliver on the vision for launch, ultimately relying on gamers good will (not a good idea) to see what the came could become. Some mistakes were completely avoidable; simply don’t promise things you can’t deliver. Others, not so much and were symptoms of having ambition, being a little naive and trying something new.
Atlas Rises Update Could Redeem No Man’s Sky
It is nice to read that NMS has a loyal fan base. Atlas Rises 1.3 the new major update adds more content and functionality and should breath new life into the game. Unfortunately the worst of the damage is done. Hello games now have the war scars, and likely the foresight to avoid this in future. That said, it will take a long time for gamers to trust them again but they’ve clearly learnt from this experience and with these huge content updates are making strides toward repairing that damange. I for one am thankful for a game like NMS though, one that was willing to push the boundaries, even if they just stumbled and fell a little along the way.
Jake Buchanan | @hdd_heart