No Man’s Game: when a game falls short of everyone’s expectations

If rumor is to be believed, these stars’ names are neither randomly generated nor player created.

I first started No Man’s Sky on the PC launch day. I didn’t really care about all the worlds. Discovery and exploration wasn’t really on my mind. Instead, I was just trying to find the answer to one question:

Is the player character a guy?

While everyone else was running around screaming about lack of multiplayer, I was partially relieved. Sean had said that we couldn’t see ourselves — only other people could. I had hoped we would be some kind of new and exciting character — something non-humanoid and foreign.

Player characters don’t matter. We’re literally invisible.

“You can see what other players look like by watching streams of them playing! :D”

The breathing noises still bothered me. They sounded male, and I’m not particularly fond of playing male characters in games. I found myself trying to rationalize playing the game. “Well, the developers are a small team of guys. Obviously they’d just record sound clips of themselves and call it a day.”

My daydreams of being a cute girl wandering through space by herself remained daydreams. I couldn’t actually do it in game.

No Man’s Sky isn’t my game. It isn’t anyone’s game.

That’s a silly reason to stop playing a game. Everyone has head-canons projecting themselves into games or stories they have no business being in. But No Man’s Sky isn’t the game I was hoping it would be. I’m not the only one who feels that way.

I’ll admit, I spent most of this time trying to come to grips with the fact that I couldn’t be a cutie.

A lot of people claim Sean Murray lied to them. He didn’t lie. No Man’s Sky just isn’t his game. His game was amazing. It had limitless possibilities. It had a fully realized and simulated periodic table. There was going to be an endless variety in planet environments and the life on them. You could do literally anything you wanted to. It was going to be an anything game.

No Man’s Sky isn’t his game.

What we got instead was a lot of potential but not enough content to go with it. When you have a limited number of building blocks and an algorithm that just isn’t creative enough, you start seeing the same things everywhere.

Truly limitless potential.

Some players were excited about exploring. There were going to make their mark on the universe. They would name everything. It would be like being a scientist, or an explorer. They were going to see sights no one had seen before. They were going to go places no one had gone before.

No Man’s Sky isn’t their game.

NPCs are everywhere. The galaxy is old and well traveled. There are ages worth of mass produced relics, artifacts and outposts on every planet. Our “discoveries” amount to Europeans finding the “New World,” sticking name tags on everything and calling it theirs.

You only see these specific aliens every couple systems, but their races? They’re on every planet.

Others were anticipating the thrill of space travel, of zooming between planets and flying between the stars. They dreamed of large space battles and flying through asteroids. They wanted to thread their ship through arches in the ground. They were hoping that they could actually see where they were about to land their ship so that they wouldn’t fall to their deaths when they disembarked.

No Man’s Sky isn’t their game.

Planets are ugly and pixelated. They don’t even move. They’re permanently stuck in place and just sit there waiting for people to fly at them. Autopilot keeps you from crashing your ship into stuff (except when it forces you to crash your ship into stuff, which typically kills you). Hyperdrive is hilariously boring.

With some lazily made radial gradients, you too can fly among the stars!

Some people feel that games should be priced reasonably. If a game doesn’t have much content, story, quality, or point, it shouldn’t cost more than games that are better in all those aspects.

No Man’s Sky isn’t their game.

Some were lucky enough to return it for money to buy other games with. Others are not as lucky.

These are just a couple viewpoints about the game, but many people have a similar story. They expected something amazing and exciting from the smidgen of videos and screenshots we got of the game, and they were let down by the poor execution or lack of the feature they wanted.

So if No Man’s Sky is No Man’s Game, then what is it? Whose is it?

xkcd‘s Gnome Ann loves this game.

But, if you’re patient and willing to look beyond this game’s flaws, it’s still a game. It might not be the game we all wanted, but it’s still a fun, leisurely activity to try when you have nothing better to do. And hey, you might still find something pretty from time to time.

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