No Man’s Sky: Plans For Survival And Enjoyment


Photo by “NickatNite”

I pre-ordered No Man’s Sky on PC so I won’t be able to play it at least until Friday and possibly not even until Sunday or Monday. I wanted to write something timely but all I can really put down about it right now are my plants for how to approach the game.

The impressions I’m reading suggest what I expected — a lot of surprise and mixed feelings about the core gameplay loop, about how much NMS seems to embrace the mundane in order to enhance the notable things players might discover. Personally I’m completely fine with this, but I understand how it clashes with the pacing most popular video games have set up.

What I’m reading about NMS suggests players are spending a lot of time just trying to find resources and get from place to place. Maybe there’s a lot of that mundanity between each space battle or each interesting discovery. Meanwhile most $60 games push players from interesting point to interesting point. If these games do have “low-key” moments they’re usually very controlled peaks and troughs of pacing, like a movie pretty much. Even popular open-world games usually have something going on every few hundred yards.

What I’m reading about NMS though is pretty much how simulation games work — “simulation” meaning games that try to offer a more free-form experience built entirely from systems interacting with systems without any curated pacing. ArmA is like this in comparison to more conventional military shooters, where 20 minutes of quiet surveillance and approach can be punctuated by five minutes of intense combat.

My previous posts about procedurally generated space games should hint that I’m going into NMS hoping to make it through the game as an explorer. I’m gonnna try to see if I can make a living in the game just scanning planets and creatures. What I’m hoping for is the kind of experience where maybe one planet out of 20 has some really interesting aspect to it like being a water world or orbiting extremely close to a massive star. I don’t even know if stars will have different sizes in NMS. I know it’s not going to be as much of an astronomy nerd game as Elite: Dangerous, but Hello Games is trying to control its universe for a good sense of discovery. I imagine the survival aspect might be just one barrier to exploration.

The main reason I think I’m going to find enjoyment out of NMS is because I’ve already found enjoyment in similar games doing things most people would probably find boring. A lot of people might see “getting to that planet” as too little incentive to keep playing a game, but that exploration in and of itself is probably going to be enough for me. Finding points of interest like crashed ships or ancient ruins with resources on them is just gravy. I’m willing to embrace all the mundanity between that.

That aspect is probably why Hello Games on its blog for NMS expected it to be a niche and divisive game. I’ve been enjoying a lot of niche and divisive games recently.


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