“Will It Be Good” Is The Wrong Question To Ask About “No Man’s Sky”

I’m looking forward to No Man’s Sky, a video game of space exploration.  If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a game a few years in development that promises exploration of a giantic, procedurally-generated galaxy. It sounds like it’s going to hit a lot of my sweet spots with exploration, mystery, procedural generation, and visuals off of a prog rock album cover.  If you’re not up to speed on it, this reddit archive is helpful.

As the game promises a lot, comes from a small team, and has had it’s share of delays, there’s obvious skepticism out there in the world of gaming – at least to judge by the threads, discussions, and so forth that I see.. The question comes again and again – will No Man’s Sky be any good?

That’s actually the wrong question.

Clearly, the game has a lot put into it. Interviews with the developers and demonstrations show a serious dedication to the project. There are videos discussing the procedural generation that seem to show that, yes, this giant universe can be made. The idea of wedding modern graphics and procedural generation together to make huge, infinite worlds doesn’t sounds particularly outrageous.  Getting it to work sounds at least probable, and we’ve seen demos constantly that suggest it’s going to work.

From what I’ve seen of the game, I expect No Man’s Sky’s going to deliver pretty much what’s promised – a change to run around an enormous setting, find stuff, build equipment, and explore cool things.

The real question is not “will it be good” – it’s “is it going to be what people want?”  Any team this public, any team making these promises, would be foolish to screw this up.  The question people should ask is really is this a game you’re going to enjoy.

From what I can tell No Man’s Sky involves:

  1. Traveling in space.
  2. In space you may encounter places to trade and enemies to fight, if you want.
  3. If you choose to fight, you affect how factions regard you, and may be able to call for help in fights..
  4. You travel to procedurally generated solar systems.
  5. You land on planets which are procedurally generated.
  6. On the planets you find resources, catalog things, upload data, and maybe find odd and interesting stuff.
  7. There are probably some other secrets and things you can do to have impacts.
  8. Build new equipment with resources, and go back to #1.
  9. This takes place in a sort-of-shared setting that happens to be enormous.

To me this sounds great. It sounds like a game I’ll put a lot of hours into, and then play more casually, now and then finding a new planet to wonder at before moving on.  This is something I easily see me playing for 3-9 months in total because it pushes all my buttons.  This and Starbound will probably occupy my gaming space for 2016 and parts of 2017.

But it’s also cleary not a game for everyone. You don’t build homes or colonies worlds, you don’t lead fleets or create super-customized ships. There’s the simplest factional system. It’s a game about a journey, and it has both classic space game elements while lacking others.

I think there’s reason to have confidence in the developers, but when the game hits I expect we’ll see people both enthralled and disappointed with No Man’s Sky.  The game is going to not be for everyone, and that seems to be due to a deliberate choice about development. However with all the hype, I think there are people who are interested in the game due to hype, not if they’d actually enjoy it or only because they’ve projected expectations onto it.

Once it launches in June 2016, I want to watch the public and reviewer reactions.  Me, I’ll be exploring space.

  • Steve