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No Man's Sky: A Learned Lesson In Over Promising

It has been a year since gamer’s finally got their hands on the highly anticipated No Man’s Sky and for Hello Games the sky began to fall down around them. The backlash surrounding the game was vicious, and at times completely uncalled for (not unusual for the internet) but this time, a lot of the anger did seem justified. Hello Games had promised a lot of things, the hype surrounding this game was at fever pitch and the end product that was 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.

The game's core promise was based on procedurally generated content, meaning that assets are generated randomly and the potential size of the experience would be humongous something Sean had mentioned time and again highly 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 went looking back at promotional interviews with Sean Murray and 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 but to get a game that was mis-sold, that’s a whole new story and also a whole new untapped conversation.

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 have been sold in all states, some have glitches, sure, others are flat out broken and still no refunds have been 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? Perhaps it is because of the complexity of the product being made, but compare this to a faulty smartphone, agruably a similarly complex product (certainly more so than a BLT), if it was faulty you certainly be entitled to your money back.

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.

It is nice to read that NMS has a loyal fan base and with the release of the Atlas Rises 1.3 major update addung even more functionality, that the game is moving toward those lofty ambitions. But the worst of the damage has been done and Hello games now have the war scars, and likely the forsight 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

No Man's Sky is available on PS4 & PC now!

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