[E3 2015] This Is Likely Why No Man’s Sky Is So Confusing

NMSConceptArt

Another major gaming event has gone by and No Man’s Sky has had another major showing leaving a bunch of people still confused about it. Based on some E3 interviews I’m starting to figure out just why these people are confused and why developer Hello Games is being pretty cagey about the fine details of the game. This is going to sound pretty harsh, but it seems to me like most of the disconnect is coming from PS4 owners who are only used to console games and the way console games are advertised.

I’ve already gone over my own suggestions about what playing NMS might feel like. There are also people who’ve compiled absolutely massive collections of information about what you’ll actually do in the game. What I want to talk about here though is what Hello Games wants for NMS and how that might actually have conflicted with the nature a big show like E3. Simply put, I don’t think Hello Games really meant for the game to be hyped up and scrutinized as much as the next Uncharted or Halo would be before release.

At E3 Gamespot had an interview with the main guy on the game, Sean Murray, in which he compared NMS with the recent glut of open-world survival games that have hit Steam. He directly named games like Salt and Standed Deep, both of which put players on procedurally generated island chains where they must gather resources and build boats to continually travel between islands and survive. More importantly, Murray pointed out that these games didn’t have any big fanfare before becoming playable to the public. They just showed up on Early Access, people started playing them, and word of mouth materialized. DayZ and Minecraft are probably the ultimate examples of this.

This is likely the kind of reveal Murray and the rest of Hello Games intended for NMS, they just wanted to skip the public alpha part and have the game more or less “done” when it launched. I’m sure the people at Hello Games are to this day weighing their decision to show it at VGX in 2013. As soon as the world saw that trailer Sony started hyping the crap out of it, putting a lot of focus on the sense of scale and procedural generation. This went to the point where a lot of people now believe that’s the entire point of NMS, and all you do is just walk around a bunch of planets, where extensive information has been made readily available detailing combat and other elements.

This reveal put NMS into the sights of people who expect games to have detailed and extensive PR cycles elaborating every gameplay detail before they’re out. DayZ and Stranded Deep didn’t have all this PR and advertising. People had to dig for most of the hard information on those games while playing them. Murray says in basically every interview Hello Games wants to intentionally keep most  of the game a secret until it’s out not because they aren’t confident about it, but because it wants to preserve a genuine element of surprise and discovery.

The other element is that the genre NMS neatly fits into — the space exploration and trading simulation, is basically nonexistent on consoles. Heck, even the recent style of open world survival game still hasn’t really crossed over to consoles yet. When someone shows a 30-second trailer of a first person shooter for PS4, most PlayStation gamers can fill in the blanks because they’ve played that kind of game before. NMS on the other hand is essentially a whole new genre for a lot of them. The sandbox gameplay loop absent a main story goes completely counter to the standard console action game. This could explain the confusion I see from a lot of people. It’ll be interesting to see how this changes over the course of the next year or so. Elite DangerousDayZThe Long Dark, and some other games of this style will be making their way to consoles in the coming months alongside NMS.

If you’re still frustrated about what you’ve seen on NMS so far, just ask yourself: would DayZ or Stranded Deep have demoed well in a three-minute presentation on an E3 stage? Probably not. When people investigate those games they usually do it by watching YouTube videos and Twitch streams, or reading stories of people’s personal experiences. I have a feeling that when NMS comes out that’s probably how most people will learn its fine details. So if you want to know more, you should probably just wait until the game is out and see what other people are saying about it.

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