Few videogames divided opinion on the scale that Hello Games No Man’s Sky achieved.
When it touched in 2016, the gaming community witnessed one of the greatest firestorms of modern times. A swell of opinions that ranged from passionate defense, through to outright anger. Some felt lied too; others felt dismayed. It was a game that came to represent the worst of hype culture, a title that got caught up in its own ambitions.
Hello Games experienced the full brunt of gamers fury, with Sean Murray becoming the main target for hate. What was once a passion project had quickly turned into a nightmare of epic proportions. A videogame that for many other developers would be a reputation sinker.
But Hello Games haven’t given up. In the shadow of the game’s launch, the team bunkered down and got to work. Radio silence was the order of the day, as the team focused on delivering the features that gamers expected. Breaking radio silence, the team eventually pushed out a series of patches; adding in features and making the game more complete. Now you can build bases and traverse the worlds you explore from the comfort of your own rover. With rumors pointing to a major update rumored to be hitting sometime over summer (Possibly finally bringing portals into the title) – the game appears to be moving from strength to strength.
Is it enough to bring back dismayed gamers though?
It’s not uncommon for videogames to get such a long development tail in modern times. The likes of Street Fighter V and HITMAN didn’t arrive in the best of states, but constant support and additions made them impressive offerings; eventually. Final Fantasy XIV is the poster child for what a development shift can achieve – and how titles can shift public opinion through determination. It’s this attitude that is likely spurring on the team at Hello Games – but it’s arguably a much harder sell than any of those titles.
Part of No Man’s Sky problem is that Sean Murray harmed the game more than he helped in the end. An overambitious sales pitch from a developer who couldn’t keep expectations grounded. Many gamers bought into that hype wholesale, running into No Man’s Sky expecting a universe of excellence – only to be greeted by disappointment. Because of the nature of gamers attention span, many have already long since moved on. No Man’s Sky is yesterdays news to many, and it would take something special to get them invested again. This is the challenge facing the team.
Even if the game became excellent and managed to achieve some of the expectations from those disappointed gamers – it probably wouldn’t be enough to change the games reputation. The legacy of a shaky PC launch still haunts the Steam version of the game, which sits heavily in negative reviews. It’s a legacy harmed by the fact that the team didn’t speak in the wake of the games release. That silence only created a void for the gaming media (us included) and gamers at large to dismantle the games legacy.
The damage from this still haunts the game in many respects. In the fury of that discussion, many didn’t appreciate the game that was. At its core, No Man’s Sky had some interesting ideas – and if not for the trailers showcasing features like space battles – the game probably wouldn’t have been open to such scolding. The problem almost a year on though is that other games are vying for that crown – and arguably doing it better.
In particular when games like Astroneer are delivering more satisfying experiences at a fraction of the price. Giving gamers multiplayer and endless worlds to explore without the taint of misrepresentation lingering over the title. Free of No Man’s Sky and it reputation, imitators and other titles are seemingly springing up to try and make their name. This is how the videogame industry works – and it will continue to do so.
Perhaps it’ll be in the success of these games that NMS will inevitably find its true legacy. While the improvements to No Man’s Sky may never bring back the number of players Hello Games may like, its legacy may serve as a warning to others. A videogame that only got better, but never hit the heights it promised.
I personally don’t foresee myself returning to No Man’s Sky anytime soon. Anything they add to the game at this point would only make me wish that it had been there at the start. Few videogames ever get a true second chance, and I feel that Hello Games efforts to find one for their universe spanning title may not be enough to save the games long-term legacy.
But it’s promising for those who have remained loyal that the game continues to find new directions to explore. Hopefully these gamers are the ones who Hello Games can win over, and give them the experience they so desperately crave.