No Man Sky's redemption
No Man's Sky is an exploration real-time strategy survival game developed and published by the indie studio Hello Games. It was released worldwide for the PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows in August 2016, and for Xbox One in July 2018. The game is built around four pillars: exploration, survival, combat, and trading.
Since its reveal at the 2013 VGX show and over the course of its development, the potential of No Man's Sky had been widely promoted across the video game industry and created a great deal of hype. Matt Kamen of Wired UK called No Man's Sky "perhaps one of, if not the, most hyped indie titles in the history of gaming". Much of the attention has been drawn to the massive scope realized by the procedural generation of the game, and the relatively small size of the Hello Games' team behind it. No Man's Sky was seen as a potential industry-changing title, challenging the status quo of triple-A game development, which according to Peckham, had become "rich and complacent". The game had been considered to have similar potential to affect the game industry as Minecraft, though in contrast, The Atlantic's David Sims opined that Minecraft's relevance took several years to develop, while No Man's Sky was burdened with expectations from the start. No Man's Sky has been considered by Nathan Lawrence of IGN as a mainstream-friendly space flight simulator game, providing controls that were "simple to learn and fascinating to plumb" compared to Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen while still offering engaging gameplay.
Two weeks before the official release, a Reddit user was able to purchase a leaked copy of the game for the PlayStation 4 from eBay for roughly $1,250, and started posting various videos of their experiences in the game. Other users also claimed to have leaked copies, and began sharing their own gameplay videos. Some of these reports included negative elements about the game, including frequent crashes and a much-shorter time to "complete" the game by reaching the center of the virtual galaxy than Hello Games had claimed, leading many fans to express concern and frustration that the game might not be as good as they anticipated. In response, Murray asked fans waiting for the game to avoid these spoilers, stating "We've spent years filling No Man's Sky with surprises. You've spent years waiting. Please don't spoil it for yourself."
Some retailers broke the street date, as several players, including journalists at Kotaku and Polygon, streamed their starting playthroughs of the game starting from 5 August 2016. Polygon noted that Sony had not issued any review embargoes for the game at this point. Hello Games reset the servers for the game just prior to 9 August 2016 so as to give all players a clean slate. Prior to official release, Sony requested sites to take down videos from early copies, citing that due to the nature of the game, they considered that Hello Games' vision of the game would only be met once a day-one patch was made available at release. Some of these video takedowns had accidentally included users discussing the game but without using these pre-release footage videos, a situation that Murray and Sony worked to resolve.
The day-one patch, which Hello Games had been at work at since the game went gold in July, altered several aspects of how the procedurally generated universe was created, such that existing saves from previous copies would no longer work. This patch also removed an exploit that was observed by pre-release players that allowed them to complete the game much faster than anticipated. Commentators noted that the patch would substantially change the aspects of the game previously critiqued by aforementioned early players, and believed some of the changes were made specifically to address these concerns.
Concern was raised by the fan community when OpenCritic, a review aggregator platform, stated that there were going to be no review copies of the game prior to the public release and a review embargo that would end on the date of release. The lack of review copies is a general sign within the industry that there are concerns by the developers or publishers that a game may not live up to expectations and thus indicates that they want to minimize any impact reviews may have prior to release. However, both OpenCritic and Sony later affirmed there would be pre-release review copies and that they were waiting on a pre-release patch before sending these out to journalists. Eurogamer noted that they had expected to have review copies by 5 August, but these were pushed until 8 August so as to get the day-one patch in place, a situation they attributed to the certification process required by Sony for any games on their service. Because of the late arrival of the review copies, and the size of the game, critics presented their reviews "in progress" over several days, omitting a final review score until they had completed enough of the game to their satisfaction.
At launch, a number of software bugs affected both the PlayStation 4 and Windows versions. A game-breaking bug occurred with an in-game pre-order bonus spaceship players could collect that would potentially strand them on a planet, and a resource duplication exploit could significantly reduce the time needed to reach the game's endings. The Windows version also garnered several reports of poor graphics rendering, framerates, and the inability to even start the game. Within a day, Hello Games had identified several of the common issues and issued patches while working to provide better technical support and resolve other issues. Murray stated that their initial patches for both systems would be "focused on customer support" before moving onto adding in new features.
Release and Backlash
No Man's Sky received mixed reviews at its 2016 launch, with some critics praising the technical achievements of the procedurally generated universe, while others considered the gameplay lackluster and repetitive. However, the critical response was marred by the lack of several features that had been reported to be in the game, particularly multiplayer capabilities, though Murray had tried to downplay expectations prior to release. Many called No Man's Sky one of the most disappointing games of 2016 with some going as far as to say one of the worst. The game was further criticized due to Hello Games' lack of communication in the months following the launch, creating a hostile backlash from some of its player base. Murray stated later that Hello Games had failed to control the exaggerated expectations of the game from the media and the larger-than-expected player count at launch, and since have taken an approach of remaining quiet about updates to No Man's Sky until they are nearly ready to ship to avoid miscommunication. The promotion and marketing for No Man's Sky became a subject of debate, and the video game industry has used No Man's Sky as an example of missteps to avoid in marketing.
Hello Games went radio silent for approximately 2 months after the games' release. In November 2016, a large update known as the "Foundation Update", added the ability for the player to define a planet as a "home planet", and construct a base on that planet from modular components created from collected resources. Once constructed, the player can then immediately return to their base via teleportation from a space station in the rest of the galaxy. The base supports adding special stations, such as research terminals, that can be manned by one of the sentient aliens, which can help to unlock additional base components and blueprints, tend to harvesting flora for resources, and other aspects. The player may opt to tear down the base and relocate to a different home planet at any time. The player also has abilities to construct devices such as automatic mineral drills in the field. The player is able to purchase starship freighters, which serve both as a space-bound base, with similar base-building and construction options as the planetary base, and as additional storage capacity that collected resources can be transferred.
The Foundation update also adds in two new play modes, with the original gameplay considered as the third, default mode. Survival mode is similar to standard gameplay but the difficulty is much higher—atmospheric effects have larger impact on the exosuit's armor, alien creatures are more hostile, Sentinels are more alert and deadly, and resources tend to be sparse. If a player should die in Survival mode, they must restart without being able to recover their lost progress, though they still possess their credits, alien language progress, and known blueprints. Creative mode removes much of the mechanics that can kill the player's character, and gives them unlimited resources for constructing bases.
A second update released in March 2017, known as the "Path Finder Update", added several new features to the game. Among these included the ability to share bases with other players, as well as new vehicles called exocraft to help in exploration. The exocraft can be built on the player's set home planet, and called upon on any other planet via a minor update released a few days afterwards. The update also contained a permadeath option that wipes the player's progress completely on death; support for Steam Workshop for user modifications on the Windows version; new base building features and materials, ship and multitool classes and support for PlayStation 4 Pro enhanced graphics.
A third update, titled "Atlas Rises", was released in August 2017. It included significant contributions to the game's story mode, added an estimated 30 hours of narrative, and added procedurally generated missions. The player can use portals to quickly transport across the game's galaxy. A limited online cooperative mode, called "Joint Exploration", allows for up to 16 players to explore the same planet and use voice chat and text commands to communicate to others in close proximity, seeing each other as glowing spheres, but otherwise they cannot directly interact with each other; Hello Games called it an "important first step into the world of synchronous co-op". The update was preceded by several weeks of a "Waking Titan" alternate reality game.
Following these updates were things that people didn't ask for, but were implemented out of the goodness of their hearts. These features includes VR support, base building, driving, ride animals, own multiple ships, and ect. This can be seen in a spreadsheet made by Internet Historian.