Simply mentioning the name No Man’s Sky may trigger lots of different thoughts, from disappointment, to fear. This was a game shrouded with excitement and high expectations. Following the 2014 E3 reveal, it’s understandable why fans were excited for the follow up game from indie studio, Hello Games; The idea of traveling across the universe with the ability to explore 18 quintillion planets was, and still is groundbreaking.
But when No Man’s Sky launched for PS4 and PC in 2016, it was a bit different than what had been advertised. Let’s just say Hello Games director, Sean Murray was overshooting the abilities of the developers and clearly misjudged how long things would take. During interviews, Murray promised lots of things that I’m sure he wanted to be included with the game’s launch. If I were in his shoes, I’d probably be a tad overzealous, too, especially with a game of this scope.
Upon release, fans were met with disappointment because of the unreasonable expectations they had. Sure, Murray exaggerating the features within No Man’s Sky is ill advised, but no game could ever compete with the expectations and hopes for this ambitious project. In my time covering the industry and as a fan, I have never seen anything like the buildup for No Man’s Sky. For a new IP, it was nuts how much hype there was.
When it came out that the launch version was essentially incomplete, the team at Hello Games was met with the backlash of the internet, going far enough to push some people to send death threats to the company; Under no circumstance is this okay. Even if developers outright lie and mislead fans, there is no situation in which the response should be murder. It should go without saying.
Understandably, Hello Games proceeded to retreat and quietly, chip away to undo their wrongs. They issued no statements concerning the rocky launch, which at the time seemed cowardly, but in hindsight, I totally understand why. Then, as time went on, updates started to roll out that added the features we were promised. Piece-by-piece No Man’s Sky started to become better and better.
Recently, the update titled, NEXT was released and my goodness, it’s almost like an entirely new game. Aside from it releasing on Xbox One, one of the biggest additions, multiplayer, has been a long awaited feature that we’ve wanted since launch. Being able to join friends to explore the galaxy or fight other players in epic PVP battle, this update is chock full of new things to try out.
I remember playing No Man’s Sky when it launched and while I wasn’t blown away with it, I was sure Hello Games had something special on their hands. The fact that they stuck with it after two years is not only impressive, but it shows the dedication and resilience of the development team. It would have been easy to just give up and call it a day, and I wouldn’t blame them for that. Getting death threats would be enough to drive me away from the industry, so the fact that the team hung in their and expanded upon the base game is nothing short of incredible.
What’s to blame here, though? Death threats aside, surly there’s something we could all learn from this, right? Is there something that could have prevented this backlash? For one, it’s important for a dev team to communicate with their audience effectively.
Of course, that’s easy for me to say, but it’s clear dealing with fans who were all chomping at the bit to play this game probably got exhausting. No Man’s Sky was in development for a long time and Sony was probably hounding Hello Games to get this out the door.
From a fan’s perspective it’s important to temper expectations, especially for a new IP. It’s alright to be disappointed and it’s most certainly beneficial to be critical of something, but something was wrong here. I worked in games retail at the time of launch and even setting aside all the inconsistencies between lead-up to launch and the finished product, the expectations were through the roof.
Both parties, the fans and developers/publishers can use this as a learning experience. It’s okay to come out and say to the fans, “Hey, this is our idea. We’re trying to make this work. It may not work. Please bear with us and understand that development is hard work.” And fans should understand that. As soon as the hype started building, Hello Games probably realized they were in trouble.
The great news is that No Man’s Sky is almost exactly what we wanted when it first launched. There’s multiplayer, spaceship fights, base building, and above all else, a studio that cares. If you haven’t tried No Man’s Sky yet, or even if you played it at launch, it deserves your attention now.