Yes, this is an article about No Man’s Sky, because in the end of the day, someone has to say something to all those nay-sayers and non-believers. As much as you may not like the game or something about it, you have to remember that it may be someone’s favourite game for some very valid reasons. Hence the title of the article.
It may not be your Sky, but it’s someone else’s.
Before I start off, I have to say at this point that I have not tried out the game yet. I have though watched a bunch of YouTube videos, listened to the soundtrack a bunch of times and seen people stream it for a couple hours. I am here to talk about the game’s release and not about the game as a game. I am very dissappointed with a lot of things and I figured I shouldn’t wait until the review of the game before I say all these things.
Why am I dissappointed? Well let’s take it from the top shall we?
So many so-called reviewers, take a step forward and talk about the game, believing they too, can have a valid opinion about it.
One would say that as a person writing about games nowdays, you should be afraid of the competition that lurks out there. Be it the fact that there are so many good native English writers or that there are so many people interested in writing about the same thing as you, you have many reasons to be afraid and many ways to get lost in a sea of writers that are either better or worse than you. However, what we have experienced the past few days has given me proof that even when it comes to judging interactive art people are pretty bad. Or at least, makes their worst self come out.
It was quite apparent how unprepared and uneducated people can be when it comes to judging interactive art the moment No Man’s Sky released on PS4 and reviews, streams and all sorts of opinion articles started rolling out. The same kind of people that would talk about Dark Souls 3 using the most intricate of vocabularies to sound cool when showing off how much they loved that AAA game, yes those kind of people, would go to the same kind of extent to explain a game that is simple when it comes to explaining its complexity. No Man’s Sky, being a procedurally generated experience, only has as much to talk about when looking at its core gameplay. The developers of Hello Games themselves explained that they planned to make a game that would provide the player with a solitary space exploration experience and that was it. Sure, updates would make it way more than just that the more the game progresses through time, but what we have right now is what it is.
No, I am not talking about all those bimbos on twitch, I am talking about people who act as knowledgable gamers.
Now take a moment and realise how far that is from any other game that is also priced at 60 euros. The price is a huge factor too, but we’ll get back to that later. What I want you to focus on here is that the people that either, paid for it, or got it for free, felt the need to judge it in the same way they would judge another title of the same price. Not only that, but because it is an indie game, boldly trying to accomplish something entirely new, they had to go and make all sorts of obscure comments as to how they like it but they feel it’s lacking things.
Lacking things? Really now?
This is who we are. Bold personalities daring to judge the artful creation of a company that put its very lifeblood to see the completion of a long-time running project. Full of bumps and difficulties along the road, No Man’s Sky was pushed back quite a few times. Yet another “The Witness” story where we wait for something that has been hyped for far too long. But not really. Being an indies PR person for IGN in the past and now for my own website, I have been following No Man’s Sky closely and never once did I feel there was not a good reason for a delay on that game’s release. Not only that, but I am also quite surprised that it came out with so much well-developed and well-tested content. You can judge them all you want for being late when it comes to the arrival of the full game, but for an indie company, Hello Games has done an exquisite job thus far. No major bugs or issues. Nothing as big as Batman-being-ported or anything like that.
But jumping back on the judgement that the game has seen the past few days, it is crazy seeing how clueless most people talking about it are. I am not going to even mention of how surprised I am at how little people know about space since I know education is turning from bad to super bad in pretty much every country around the world, but when it comes to video games, I expected a little bit more. I’ll say once again that it excites me when people actually spend extra time to write or talk about a game instead of just playing it. It shows how much people love it as an activity. However, the selfish nature of us humans somehow compels us to try and look smart when talking to other people (or when writing something that we know will be read). That leads to all kinds of stupid words and actions. Such as calling the game monotonous, too simple, boring, expensive or even ugly. It really leaves me speechless, but at the same time, makes me somewhat pissed enough to sit down and write about it.
I would like to address these, repeatedly heard, concerns that I have heard about the game. Be reminded though that I have not played the game and I am only judging from what I know about the general games business and what we have seen of the game pre-release.
It can be a monotonous experience for sure. This is as simple as saying “it might just not be your kind of game.” If you are not into space exploration or survival oriented games, then yes, you are most likely not going to like the game. The game makes a somewhat unique combination of those two elements and through that allows the player to have a very interestingly solitary exploration experience. I say interestingly solitary because there are not that many games that will manage to give you the feeling you are entirely alone at times, exploring totally unknown worlds. So no, if you are into those kind of games, you will most definitely not find the game to be monotonous. Instead, you will be surprised by its depth and how well the procedural generation helps the game in keeping the player’s interest the more he/she progresses through it.
Moving on to the statement that the game is “too simple” I am simply going to say that the title works on the basis of procedural generation of content. How can you say the game is too simple when after only a couple days since release, there have been more than a million discoveries, all of which have something that makes them differ from others. Maybe you mean the gameplay is too simple. Well no, not really, if anything, it is very simplified and allows for people to be as extensive as they’d like with it. If you are a hardcore explorer of survival video games, you know what I mean. Pushing your bars to the limits but at the same time calculating every single ratio of survival in specific situations is what excites some. It may not excite you, but yet again, maybe you are just looking at the wrong game.
The game is simply not for everyone. The devs said it, I said it, even your momma probably told you but you just don’t want to listen.
Moving on to the pricing part, I have so many things to say. It has become, tiring even, to talk about this since I have talked about pricing on indie games time and again in the past. People never want to listen or understand since they are too blinded by the marketing that is thrown in their faces. I am not going to give you the classic example of “you buy Call of Duty every year, what makes you mad about buying an entirely new game like No Man’s Sky” but what I will do is speak about indie companies in a more general manner.
Let’s say that Hello Games did have some sort of experience with making games as well as with marketing and publishing them. When it comes to a bold project the size of No Man’s Sky, it is only logical that when the game releases, it will most definitely have a price higher than just 20 bucks. I did not expect it at 20, 30 or even 40. I did indeed expect it around 45 and was a bit surprised myself when I saw the price tag at 60 bucks. Nonetheless, Hello Games probably has way better explanations for the reasoning behind the pricing of the game than any of the ones I will ever give you. In a try to explain it though on my own, I will tell you the following. How often have you supported entirely new, risk-taking, projects? If this isn’t the kind of interactive art you are looking for, why do you even bothering talking about the price?
It is somewhat stressful to listen to people that mostly play AAA games, talk about how a new indie game has a very high price for them. It makes me want to punch them in the face. Sure, AAA game making companies give you the sure recipe and stuff, but do they really? If you are willing to buy into the art of a known artist then why are you not willing to support the little guy too when he makes something huge? If anything, he is no longer a little guy due to just the huge creation he has presented to the world. He does not need your money to know he’s made something amazing. If that was the case, all of the game developers around the world would be constantly sad because of bad reviews on their games. There is always that part of the gaming population that will have a bunch of bad stuff to say about your game and let’s face it, that percentage of the population is unfortunately increasing. Can’t be the cool kid anymore if you are not hating on something.
I found it so funny that people even wrote their “reviews” on 9gag. If you think that is the right place to put a review, then you are clearly doing it for the attention.
I want to simply say that for once, I am very nervous about spending 60 euros on a game. It may be an indie game, but I have kind of missed this feeling. It is as if indie games have spoiled me by being so cheap. Even though I have always pressured developers of games I loved to find ways for me to support them even more (merchandise etc.) I have forgotten the feeling of being afraid the game you will buy might not be that great. Even if it is not though, then I can just blame the marketing and the hype that all the lying media have build around it. That is a totally different issue though and although it can be connected to supporting the developer, it is also somewhat poisoning our thoughts and not letting us take our chances. I for once hope I could have spent more money when I bought Hyper Light Drifter, Transistor, Super Meat Boy, Necropolis etc. Just because I got review codes from the developers themselves for some of those, I went out and actually bought the collector’s edition of them or their OST on vinyl. Just because I want to support the developers no matter what. I wish I would have spent that money before even playing those games. Yes, that way I would have made some bad decisions because of that, something that a low price-tag allows me to avoid right now, but at the same time, the indie games business would have been able to thrive way more than it is right now and more developers would have been able to feel like making games of better quality. Even more, they would be supported even more.
In the end of the day, it just makes me sad how we have grown to see things like No Man’s Sky to be expensive and yet inside a week, we will spend money on trivial things that will not even close provide us the same kind of experience that No Man’s Sky could provide us. We have grown into the logic of buying but judging without prior knowledge or experience just because we are allowed to. This is why there are so many games journalists too and instead of that being a good thing, the whole field has been linked to bad names and reputations. We can talk about this some other time though since it would take us at least another two thousand words to talk about how some journalists developed their notoriety.
I am pretty sure I’ve left some things unaddressed, but it is only fair to leave some open spaces here and there since we are talking about art anyway and when it comes to art (be it interactive or not) opinions can vary. Those of you that are informed enough to make something out of all of this are welcome to come and ask me to have a conversation about it. Those who probably got pissed half-way through should reconsider how much they value their ego since the aim of the article was not to show off how well I know stuff compared to others but just to provoke discussion around a certain kind of situation that is taking place with the release of No Man’s Sky.
Regarding the game itself, I have been heavily considering to either buy the Limited Explorer’s Edition which is overpriced (as f#ck) for what it contains or just buying the game and the OST on vinyl. I have loved 65daysofstatic for the past 7 years or so, so it only made sense to me that I cannot buy into this holy marriage for me that is, indie games and post rock.
Hopefully Hello Games will stop being so busy with giving codes to people that have only ever played AAA games that make it on the front page of big sites or people that judge the game after playing an hour and give also some attention to people that live and breathe indie games on a daily basis.
Either way, exciting times to be an indie games journalist.
-Konstantinos “Kelfecil” Christakis