No Man’s Sky is, by far, one of the most anticipated games of the year, if not the decade. Ever since its original announcement from Sean Murray of the newly-established Hello Games, people have been scrambling to find out exactly what the game is all about – and the studio has, in return, been intentionally vague.
However, all has now been revealed with both the PS3 and PC launch dates having come and gone – but not everything went to plan, it seems. Bugs and crashes, confusion about multiplayer and apparent disappointment from a section of gamers that were perhaps a little over-hyped has made the launch of No Man’s Sky anything but smooth.
Whether you are watching from the sidelines or in the thick of the action as a purchaser, there are plenty of lessons to be learned from this rocky path ahead for No Man’s Sky. Here are just three things that any developer should know before announcing their game – and be ready to deal with come launch day.
1) Sometimes players do the impossible
One of the biggest questions asked about No Man’s Sky was how players could interact with each other. When asked if players would ever be able to see each other and interact, Sean Murray hinted in interviews that multiplayer was something that could happen – but it would be very unlikely for people to be able to do so.
However, the internet and its denizens merely took that as a challenge, and in very quick order a pair of players managed to find themselves at the same planet at the same time in the same place – but something appeared to be amiss. The two players couldn’t see each other, and despite both of them being online at the same time, the day/night cycle on the planet was at different points for each of them. Apparently, multiplayer interaction was not something that was possible at that time – perhaps due to player circumstances, server issues, or something else entirely.
This sparked a controversy, with some gamers even going so far as to say that Hello Games had outright lied to them. On first glance, it appears that the circumstances do not fulfill what Sean Murray had said was possible in a few different interviews, and the audience is understandably angry. However, this could simply be another bug that requires a fix, or perhaps could be the result of a developer that needed to push out a game without any more delays and weren’t expecting players to be able to do the impossible quite so quickly.
Two players finding each other on a stream in the first day – that has blown my mind
— Sean Murray (@NoMansSky) August 10, 2016
No real clarification as yet from Hello Games themselves on the matter, so we may have to wait to find out exactly what the situation is. Until then, the lesson here is not to underestimate your playerbase, even with 18 quintillion planets on the radar – especially when it comes to multiplayer.
2) PC ports are still an issue for developers
With hundreds of thousands of players recorded on Steam at launch, it would be an error to name No Man’s Sky anything but a success – if only in terms of numbers. According to the official No Man’s Sky Twitter page, the sheer number of people deciding to boot up and get exploring has been overwhelming; though with the enormous amount of hype that has surrounded the game almost since the announcement, you have to wonder why they weren’t prepared.
A frankly insane amount of people have just tried to run No Man's Sky for the first time within 15 minutes of it releasing.
— Sean Murray (@NoMansSky) August 12, 2016
However, this overwhelming horde of PC players is somewhat marred by the equally enormous multitude of error reports on the game, many of which are reportedly game-breaking. People have cried out about crashing on start up, and those lucky enough to get into the game seem to be encountering frequent bugs and performance issues, even on high-end machines. YouTube personality and game commentator John Bain AKA TotalBiscuit has released the aptly-titled “No Man’s Sky isn’t working well on PC for some people at the moment”, which covers many of these issues.
Among his complaints are clunky controls and frequent stuttering, as well as FPS drops and a very strange take on graphics options. It’s a clear demonstration of one of the many difficulties that developers have when trying to create a game that works well on multiple consoles – particularly when it comes to PC. As Bain highlighted, the sheer diverse range of different hardware and software that you have to take into consideration when creating a PC game, let alone a ported one, can result in issues such as these; though No Man’s Sky seems to be suffering particularly badly from nearly all of them.
As a result, the game has been slammed on Steam reviews, dropping in score into negative territory extremely quickly; though at the time of writing, it is sitting at 50 per cent. Considering the majority of the poor reviews seem to deal with performance issues without any reference to gameplay, there is one lesson that we can all learn from this: PC ports aren’t easy, and getting it wrong can be devastating on launch day. Here’s hoping they can get a few more patches pumped out over the next few days!
3) Too much hype can be as bad as too little
It’s brilliant to be excited about an upcoming title, but it’s also important to be careful about building the hype up too much. This goes for both players and developers, and if there is one thing that No Man’s Sky did, it was build hype.
In some ways, it wasn’t even intentional. The developers of Hello Games themselves have said that they didn’t want to reveal too much about the game in advance, in order to preserve the element of discovery and surprise; something that I can certainly empathise with. Even the original gameplay reveal trailer was relatively barebones, as were the more recent iterations, showing the basics of what was planned for you to do in No Man’s Sky.
However, as John Bain also explained, the fact is that when no information is given about a particular game, the nature of the gaming audience is to fill in the blanks. That goes double for titles like No Man’s Sky that have an emphasis on player freedom. When there’s a title that promises an enormous, procedurally-generated universe, but then essentially fails to elaborate on what you will do in said universe, people are going to let their imaginations run wild. And that results in nothing but disappointment – how could anything we could develop right now live up to the expectations of hundreds of thousands of gamers, hungry for a game world that gives them true agency?
Too much hype can be just as bad as too little; expectations dashed is just as painful to a gamer as missing out on a gem. Of course, we could be cynical and say that too much hype results in better sales figures – and we likely wouldn’t be wrong. But I’d like to stay optimistic, just for a moment, and assume that people who have dedicated their lives to making games want to produce a product that people are happy with. And to do that, you have to let them know what they are in for – especially if you expect them to pay the full price of a AAA title.
No Man’s Sky was, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most anticipated games of the year. It’s release has resulted in a fair few arguments, contentious tweets and disappointed sighs; but also some lessons, for both developers and gamers. PC ports are huge undertakings that need excellent quality assurance, sometimes the hype results in disappointment and, perhaps more than anything else, be ready for an enormous influx of players if you’ve spent the last two years creating an incredibly anticipated game.
Developers and players, take heed – there are lessons to be learned from No Man’s Sky.