Life, The Universe And Gaming: I Want No Man’s Sky To Succeed
“Take my love, take my land. Take me where I cannot stand. I don’t care, I’m still free. You can’t take the sky from me.”
Two weeks ago in my previous column, I kind of broke the internet when I said that I want Destiny to fail. I didn’t expect that column to be noticed by so many and the resulting backlash I received was… absolutely flattering. Thank you internet. In time I plan on creating a much lengthier elaboration on that column so as to further detail my opinions, thoughts and discussion points. Since I now know people actually care about it that much. For the moment, I thought it would be a neat idea to address those folk who made the assertion that I am just an angry fanboy who is cynical, jaded and incapable of not being negative towards a newly releasing game. You know, a games journalist in 2014.
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The thing is, there is a game that I hold in the highest esteem, that is an almost direct comparison to Destiny and yet I consider it to be superior in almost every possible way. And I thought it would be a cool idea (if only just to have a tongue-in-cheek shot at the hundreds of commenting readers who now wish me dead) to list those out in a separate column piece. Specifically, this one. Here, today.
I really like No Man’s Sky. Typically indie gaming doesn’t impress me that much. Apart from Dust: An Elysian Tail, not since the likes of Bastion, Braid and Limbo have I been properly blown away by an independently developed game. Sure by the strictest definition, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is such a game, but I think we are all in some unspoken form of agreement over exactly what constitutes the type of indie game to which I’m referring. A small team, limited resources, the freedom to do as they please within some confines of rationality. That sort of thing.
Before we get going, I think the best way to understand this game to its fullest would be to watch this trailer for it:
Done? Cool. Now. Let’s do this thing in points, shall we?
No Man’s Sky is a better open world.
The beauty of the sci-fi ‘open universe’ (I totally just made that up) setting of No Man’s Sky is that it is not a strictly scripted open world. Things are not particularly placed but rather procedurally generated, which means that you don’t actually know what to expect and so you are truly an explorer. You aren’t simply going through the paces and ticking certain locations off a checklist a la every Bethesda game; you’re actually exploring for yourself and discovering. This is the undeniable beauty of No Man’s Sky.
It’s not about fighting, either. Unlike every other open world game ever. As you would have heard in the trailer, you start off in an uncharted area of the universe, alone. It is then up to you what you wish to do with yourself. At some point you will encounter other players and you might choose to fight them or to explore together. Exploration will take you to various planets that are entirely new to the both of you, with entire ecosystems of their own; you could again choose to kill things in this world and upset the balance, or simply go about your merry way. It further isn’t necessarily a given that you will survive fighting, if you should choose to go that route.
This is organic. This is dynamic. This is an open world. In Destiny players will spend half an hour battling the same monster and eventually take it down and feel good about themselves. In No Man’s Sky, you will explore a world with creatures far larger and every bit as insurmountable as their size should make them seem, and you might opt to fight them anyway and die, or you could simply leave them alone and explore elsewhere. It’s not just about the killing. It’s about more than that. A sci-fi fan would understand.
This, coincidentally, is also the difference between Star Wars movie fans and Star Wars universe fans. Also, Star Trek fans.
No Man’s Sky does not look like other games put together.
Remember “Halo Borderlands” each time someone spoke about Destiny? Well nobody is going to call No Man’s Sky ‘something’ plus ‘something else’. Sure there are some games that inspired No Man’s Sky’s creation. The likes of Elite, for example. But they’re far too old for the younger generation to remember anyway, and really it’s only Destiny that actually compares to No Man’s Sky from the games that are currently in development.
It’s not the regular kind of MMO, so it cannot be compared to the likes of economy simulator EVE Online or every-other-MMORPG-ever World of Warcraft, nor can it be compared to regular singleplayer games such as Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto V. No Man’s Sky is actually unique and therefore, innovative. Innovative by the strictest definition meaning, “featuring new methods; advanced and original”.
No Man’s Sky is possible on (almost) any platform.
Destiny and No Man’s Sky will both be releasing on PS4 first. Those lucky PlayStation 4 owners will have a choice of two undoubtedly great open world sci-fi experiences. However once the exclusivity rights are up, Destiny will head to Xbox One as well — which is likely when I’ll play it — but for the moment, PC gamers are left entirely out in the cold. It’s been oddly polarising watching console gamers who outright hate each other, uniting in their love for Destiny against the PC Master Race.
Don’t worry PC gamers, No Man’s Sky won’t leave you guys out in the cold. While right now it’s only coming out on PS4, the developers have stated their desire to get the game out on as many platforms as possible. That means nobody misses out. Nobody has to suffer exclusivity rights and being discriminated against because developers are either not allowed to or unwilling to release on their preferred platform. And we know how much I hate exclusives in any case.
Hopefully no DRM will be tied to this game; I’d absolutely hate it if a game on this level of awesome was linked to something like uPlay.
No Man’s Sky will not cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop.
Probably the biggest point in No Man’s Sky’s favour is that the maximum size of the team behind the game is ten. Hello Games, the developer for No Man’s Sky, has four key people involved with the studio. Their previous gaming foray was Joe Danger, which didn’t do too badly on its own. Now, with just a handful of developers, they are creating something truly spectacular. And do you know what? Unlike Activision’s statement that they’re investing upwards of $500 million into Destiny over ten years — although I’ll grant that developer Bungie has since come out and said they don’t even know where Activision pulled that kind of figure from in the first place — Hello Games is not throwing large wads of cash in the direction of No Man’s Sky.
Instead what you get is a self-publishing indie studio that has crafted an experience in which their unbridled love and attention has been poured, and it will release to the world and be a massive success. And there was no gross over-expenditure that might threaten the profit-driven economy that is the games industry. Hello Games actually suffered flooding recently at their studio, and almost all of their equipment was compromised. But did that deter them? To quote Leonardo diCaprio in his latest non-award-winning masterpiece performance: “Absolutely fucking not.”
Which makes it even more of an accomplishment considering:
No Man’s Sky stole the show at E3 2014.
Absolutely. Unequivocally. Unashamedly. Irrefutably. Inimitably. No other game had such an effect on the world as No Man’s Sky. Even the Xbox One exclusive Sunset Overdrive didn’t cause this much of a stir during either the press conferences or the actual show itself. E3 2014 was indisputably No Man’s Sky’s for the taking. And do you know what else didn’t steal the show in quite the way everyone has been going on about it?
That’s right. Destiny.
If you caught the Firefly lyrics at the beginning then congratulations; you’ll probably love No Man’s Sky. Earlier on, I used the comparison of Star Wars movie fans and Star Trek fans. In many ways, No Man’s Sky is the Star Trek to Destiny’s Star Wars. One is about exploration, diplomacy and the wonder of the universe, with a small budget and a handful of people working to create something special with very little. The other is an exercise in excess that while quite entertaining and with its fair share of action and thrills, could never truly justify the fervent following that it has garnered. No matter how much cash that following is willing to part with.
We obviously know how that has played out, many years later. Fucking JJ Abrams… still, while I continue to expect Destiny to sell amazingly well and I expect a lot of gamers (including myself) to play and enjoy it, I stand by my belief that No Man’s Sky is a game for the dreamers, the explorers and the proud sci-fi geeks who watch Cosmos: A Space Odyssey and read Stephen Hawking books and know that games can be so much more than guns and battles. And that is why I want No Man’s Sky to succeed. Because it bloody well deserves as much.