(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, www.SeventhSanctum.com, and Steve’s Tumblr)
As we wait for No Man’s Sky (and due to the recent delay, wait more than we thought), I wanted to explore just what No Man’s Sky is about and what it means for the final game.
It’s obvious I’m a big booster of the game. I even feel that everyhing NMS promises is likely due to what they’re doing and how it’s approached. I consdier a delay completely understandable and probably a good thing.
So now I’d like to take a look behind the curtain of No Man’s Sky and make a shocking statement – none of the gameplay is particuarly innovative.
Shocking? Amazing? Clickbait? No, actually the gameplay for NMS has been done before, which is both why it will succeed and why it will probably be good.
The Parts of The Journey
So, let’s look at what No Man’s Sky promises. A quick examination and you’ll realize that it’s almost all be done before.
A Galaxy To Travel: Seen this since the old Elite days, it was there in Captain Blood, it exist today in Elite: Dangerous, Starbound, and more. The quality of planets may vary, but no, nothing unusual here. Speaking of planets, NMS promises . . .
Procedural Worlds: Sure Minecraft brought the idea of a huge procedural 3D world, but since then it’s kind of become standard. It seems every ten games out there promises a planet-sized world or giant sandbox. NMS just promises more, though what’s appearing is really all math. On those worlds you’ll experience . . .
Encountering Life And Recording It And The World: Though we’ve seen that with, say, Pokemon snap and most games that let you name things and places. Yes, it’s nice, but exploration has been a part of games for awhile. Though while you find new ways to name creatures, you’ll be engaged in . . .
A Survival Sim: NMS offers you a chance to mine resources and avoid nasty critters in an environment that’s temporarily modifiable (yes, theres some promise of permanent, but it doesn’t sound like every grenade scar remains). We’ve seen this before in many game forms, and though the procedural nasties and environments are nice, it’s still something other’s have done. Of course while survive, you’ll be busy . . .
Crafting Items: I do not have to explain how we’ve seen crafting games before. So let’s move on to when you get tired and get offplanet via . . .
Spaceflight: Yes, No Man’s Sky lets you take off of planets, fly through virtual solar systems, and so forth. Again, we’ve seen that since back in the day of Eon or Starglider. Sure there’s space combat, which we’ve also seen. Of course to have those ships you need . . .
Supplies And Trade: Space trading games have been around for decades as well. NMS sounds like it has a relatively simple mine-and-trade, make-and-trade, and get-credits-and-trade game. Nothing much new, though some of your interactions will involve . . .
Alien Races: NMS is going to have various races and factions. You’ll interact with individuals and do things that affect reputations with various factions. In turn, that’ll affect how they treat you. It’s neat, and the language system is nice (though you may see similar mechanics, such as the ones in Out there), but again, we’ve seen it before.
So, No Man’s Sky, when you look at the parts, has been done before. In fact, it’s kind of been done to death in separate pieces.
Which is why the game will not only work, but probably be amazing.
The Greater Sum Of Familiar Parts
So the fact that NMS has a lot of standard gameplay elements is a good thing.
First, it means that they can be done. There’s precedent, research, examples, and more for the creators at Hello Games to draw on to make the game work. There’s math and there’s code and there’s a sense of history to know what to do and what not to do.
Secondly it means Hello Games is using familiar mechanics which means the game will (probably) be quite playabe. The game’s familiarity is going to make its wide, procedural universe, accessible to people.
Third, it means the game will proably be well polished because it builds on familiar ideas.
It’s great NMS is made of so many common parts, because all these common parts can be done well and in a playable manner. That means the combination . . .
. . . the combinaion will probably be amazing.
Take all these familiar mechanics and ideas. Polish and organize them. Now link them together coherently in a universe made from procedural algorithms so you experience effective gameplay in an infinite set of worlds. Now give it that unique 70’s sci-fi cover look.
That’s the magic. No Man’s Sky is both evolutionary and revolutionary, building on familiar parts, but tying them together in a way that hasn’t been done yet. It’s not the components, it’s the combination, all these popular elements tied together tightly to give you a galaxy, a universe.
Nothing Special Is Amazing
So, no, NMS rally doesn’t push the boundaries of games so much as it has many mechanics merged together to create the experience of exploring the universe. That means it can succeed, that means’ it’ll be accessible – and that means that it’s probably going to be pretty amazing.
What’s behind the CUrtain? Not The Wizard of Oz working a con-job, but more a group of actors putting on a show. We look behind the curtain and see “yeah, these folks are doin a pretty good job.”
Now we can enjoy the show in Agust.