One of 2016’s biggest games is No Man’s Sky, a PlayStation 4 exclusive that’s set to release on August 9. The most notable thing about the game is its scope, which is, effectively, boundless. You play as a space explorer who travels the deep reaches of the universe, finding new planets and species while engaging in good old-fashioned space battles.
The most jaw-dropping part is that the game will contain, literally, billions of planets. As great as that sounds, there’s reason to worry that No Man’s Sky won’t live up to expectations.
1. No Man’s Sky: Hyped to the heavens
Any game this hyped is bound to fail on some level. Of all the games on the horizon, none has built up as much pre-release hype as No Man’s Sky. It all started with the game’s announcement in December 2013, when Hello Games revealed the immense scope and ambition of the project. The game has gone on to capture the interest of PS4 owners everywhere.
It’s easy to see why. Not only does it look great in trailers, but the development team has shown up in the unlikeliest of places. Development head Sean Murray has appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to preview the game. The game has been covered extensively in places like Wired, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. For a game that’s not out yet, it seems to be everywhere.
This kind of press has jazzed players up so much that news of the game’s slight delay was met with death threats both to the person breaking the news and to the development team. People want this game. The problem is that no game could possibly live up to such bloated expectations. Whatever No Man’s Sky turns out to be, it probably won’t be the golden, flawless experience many fans currently picture.
2. The developer’s history doesn’t inspire confidence
Developer Hello Games has only worked on one series since it began in 2009: Joe Danger. I have nothing against a good stunt motorcycle game, but the Joe Danger series isn’t exactly ambitious. These are cartoonish games about keeping a stunt biker from taking comedic spills. Contrast that with the billions of explorable planets in No Man’s Sky and the discrepancy becomes quite clear.
Hello Games has never made anything even close to a game as ambitious as No Man’s Sky. That’s not to say it can’t be done! We just point out that this is vastly different territory from the company’s proven talents.
It’s worth noting that at least some of the people at Hello Games have worked on bigger titles before forming the studio. The team is made up of veterans from companies like Electronic Arts and Criterion Games. But it remains an enormous leap to go from making a simple game like Joe Danger to a massively complex one like No Man’s Sky. Does Hello Games really have what it takes to stick the landing?
3. Procedural generation on an epic scale
Lots of games nowadays are procedurally generated (meaning they use randomized environments), but most of them are small-scale games, like Rogue Legacy, Spelunky, The Binding of Isaac, and Downwell. Each of those games is assembled on the fly out of pre-constructed parts that are fitted together more or less randomly each time you play.
They’re also all 2D games built for re-playability. You play, you die, and hopefully you learn something you can bring to your next attempt. But No Man’s Sky isn’t a small-scale game. Not even close. It’s a 3D game about exploration. And unlike most exploration games, which are carefully crafted to keep drawing you further into the game world, No Man’s Sky uses code to randomly generate the planets, along with everything on them.
From the plants to the animals to the resources, everything just poofs into existence without the guiding force of a human designer. That’s the only feasible way it could contain billions of planets. The potential problem is that when a game builds its own environments, those environments might not be very interesting to explore — especially after you’ve seen a handful of planets already.
After all, how exciting can these planets be without being individually designed? What will make players want to return time after time? We have no idea, but we hope Hello Games has an answer to that question. Otherwise, No Man’s Sky could quickly become a slog.
4. It looks kind of dull
Based on the many slices of No Man’s Sky gameplay videos that have hit the internet, we have to say, it looks kind of boring. We have nothing against games that reward exploration or move along at a leisurely pace. But if the thrust of this game is to explore the universe, collect resources, and craft things, then it’s probably not for us.
It’s likely not for a lot of people who are more inclined toward action-packed games. We’ll certainly withhold final judgment until we can get our hands on it, but as impressive as it is on a conceptual level, we can’t say the gameplay shown so far looks all that compelling.
It wasn’t until March of this year that Sony announced June 21 as the release date for No Man’s Sky. Then just a few weeks from the game’s scheduled launch, news came out that it was delayed until August 9. Video game delays happen all the time, so a single delay doesn’t mean it will be a bad game.
In fact, delays are generally a good thing, because they mean the game will have more development time before being released — more time to root out the bugs and make everything just so. That said, a delay this late in the development cycle could spell bad news for the finished product.
It could mean the game needs work the developers won’t have time to implement. If it does release in a somewhat unfinished state, it could always be patched later, but that’s not ideal, especially for fans who are waiting with bated breath.
But seriously, let’s hope for the best
I hope No Man’s Sky delivers on every fluid ounce of its tidal wave of hype. I would love to spend dozens of hours exploring vast new worlds and galaxies — but only if the game is enjoyable to play. No Man’s Sky may be the game it’s hyped up to be, but a bit of healthy skepticism never hurt anyone.
Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed
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