@NoMansSky Is Not The Game I Paid For

THE last few months have been hell. Quite apart from the personal loss (see earlier posts), I’ve been working on a web site project that for reasons I won’t go into, has a lot of work to do in a short deadline, and that’s meant long days and weekends. Everything else has gone to the wall; I’m supposed to be editing Artemis, but after working for eleven hours without a break I couldn’t brain any more. I haven’t had time to write a blog post in months. I haven’t even had the oomph to tweet.

Things changed a couple of weeks ago. August 11 was deadline day. The project still wasn’t 100% (but thanks to RESTeasy and AngularJS, it was close—without those, it would have been way further behind), but enough of the cogs were in place so that preliminary testing could start.

Then came August 12, and with it the release of No Man’s Sky on Steam. So, while I was still busy getting the last bits of the web application working, I was looking forward to being able to relax with a game I’d been waiting for since I’d pre-paid for it in May.

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The trailers had been awesome. Dinosaur-like alien animals wandering along a lake shore. Rhinoceros things chasing prey through a forest. Space battles. Eighteen quintillion planets, each unique. And at last, I could play it.

So I installed it and started playing. No tutorials other than that it starts you off with a busted starship, so you have to figure out how to mine materials to make the repairs. Once I got my ship off the ground I was able to start exploring, and it was fun.

For a while.

Then I realised that it wasn’t as much fun as the trailers and the hype had led me to believe it was going to be. Is each planet unique? Maybe, if you take small variations into account. But I found that a lot of the desert planets are pretty much the same as each other. And the hot planets are pretty much the same as each other. And the cold planets are pretty much the same as each other.

And where were these huge dinosauroids? I haven’t found anything bigger than a large dog.

As far as variation across any given planet goes, forget it—explore the few hundred metres around your landing spot and you’ve explored the world, because if you take off and land somewhere else, it all looks the bloody same. No world I found had polar regions and tropics and deserts and mountain ranges and oceans, or even two of any of those. Basically, pick one of the above, and imagine a whole world made of it, and that’s a planet in NMS. So much for spending a few hours exploring to see what a planet has to offer.

I carried on, mining stuff to keep my ship and exosuit charged, and finding new tech “recipes” to improve the ship’s weapons and such.

Warp into a system, land on a planet, mine stuff. Hit the other three or four planets in that system, do the same. Gather materials to make a warp cell, charge the warp drive, warp to the next system. Rinse and repeat. It gets old pretty quick. I began to wonder if there was anything more to it. There doesn’t seem to be.

Even after five or six dozen planets in a couple of dozen systems, I still haven’t found a planet like the ones in the trailer. No big lizards. Quite a few planets are devoid of animal life; some are just dead rocks.

And about those worlds and systems . . .

Eighteen quintillion planets. That is a HUGE number. If every person on Earth was playing NMS, there would be something like two or three billion planets for every single player.

But there aren’t that many people playing. From what I’ve read, the number of players is somewhere around the one million ballpark. But let’s be generous and say they have ten million. That’s still (punches numbers into calculator) something like two trillion planets each.

Yet after fewer than a dozen warps, I hit a system that someone else had discovered a couple of days before. By all accounts on the Steam discussion boards, this is a common occurrence.

THAT SHOULDN’T BE POSSIBLE. Not so often that people are reporting it daily. Not with that many planets. There are basically two possibilities here:

  1. The game is starting all the players in a microscopically tiny region of the potential universe; or . . .
  2. Hello Games and Sean Murray are lying about the number of planets. After all, if they used 32-bit numbers instead of 64-bit, there would be about four billion possible planets. That’s still a bloody big number—so big that I doubt there’d be any way to tell the difference by just looking at the galaxy map. But with “only” four billion planets the chances of running into a system that someone else already encountered are much higher. High enough that it could conceivably happen daily, I think.

So all in all I have to say that No Man’s Sky is a BIG disappointment. And at sixty bucks (which makes it the priciest game I have ever bought) that stings. I feel ripped off.

I’m pretty sure Hello Games, with only fifteen developers on staff, weren’t able to deliver the game with all the content they intended and promised—but instead of saying so, they left the $60 tag on a game that is maybe worth $20. Hell, maybe less—I’ve bought better games for ten bucks.

See, here’s the difference between Hello Games and me: I know I’m not going to hit the deadline for preliminary testing, and I tell the analysts what’s going to be missing, and they tell the customer. So when the deadline comes the customer isn’t all bent out of shape about the missing bits. And in the meantime I’m still working on those bits, and if I can get some or all of them working before preliminary testing becomes Final Qualification Testing, that makes them all happy and shit. HG didn’t do that. They led the customers to believe that the game would look like the trailers, right up to release day, and then everyone’s upset and Hello Games goes all quiet. Not professional, guys.

I’ll continue to check it on Steam every so often, and any time there’s a patch or upgrade I’ll play for a bit to see if any of that promised content shows up. But I’m not holding my breath.

Meanwhile, I’m going to get on my gaming system and play some. But not No Man’s Sky. I think I’ll play Sir, You Are Being Hunted—a game that delivered what it said it was going to.

[Update: I thought about it, and it struck me that HG could have come clean before release day, but they didn’t. They could have dropped the price, but they didn’t. They could have apologised, but they haven’t. They haven’t done a damn thing to make up for what they’ve done. Fuck them; they’re not getting a free ride on my dime if I can help it. If it’s not too late, I’m hitting up Steam for a refund.]

[Another update: Steam doesn’t refund money on games played for more than two hours, a limit you’d exceed pretty easily in NMS. I think it was closer to twenty hours before I even began to suspect that the game wasn’t going to be up to expectations. Oh, well.]

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