Is No Man’s Sky A Good Game Of Inventory Tetris?

No Man’s Sky is about two things: exploring procedurally generated planets, and inventory tetris. The latter might not have been what people were expecting, but if you’re playing the game, you’re going to spend a lot of time shuttling elements back and forth between two inventories, deciding whether to discard some titanium in order to make room for thamium9, and trying to squeeze in enough crafted upgrades to try feel like our character is actually a spaceperson rather than a slightly lost mining robot with a penchant for taking (often beautiful) photographs.

Managing resource and artifacts can be an integral aspect of a game, from Diablo and Grimrock to NEO Scavenger, but given the amount of time and effort this aspect of No Man’s Sky takes up, is it a good game of inventory tetris?

Inventory Tetris in itself is not something I object to, and used well it can actually be a clever mechanic. In action RPGs, sorting the junk from the tat from the legendary swords serves as punctuation. In Diablo we head back to town at regular intervals to sell, salvage and stash our loot before heading out into the field for another round of slaughter. It’s a natural break in what is essentially repetitive monster-bashing and while it may not be enthralling in and of itself, it performs an important function in controlling the flow of how we play, while never truly intruding on the core of the game.

In No Man’s Sky the same task is simply too frequent and too restrictive. Knowledge of a near-filled inventory sits like a constant presence at the back of our minds that says, “Yes I know you’d like to explore this pretty cave some more, but it will serve no purpose and aid you no further unless you throw something else away.”

Almost every Immersive Sim game uses inventory management to some degree to create meaningful decisions. From System Shock to Deus Ex Mankind Divided, these games give us limited space – not so we can gauge how far we’ve come by game’s end, but so we have to decide who we are in this world and how we want to approach it. Whether we’re stuffing our pockets full of hacking tools, or hoarding dangerous weaponry, we’re changing the ways in which we can interact with the world. The early Resident Evil games and their excellent remakes employ inventory in a similar manner, with limited space heightening the survival aspects and ensuring we never have quite enough tools at our disposal to truly feel safe.

You make these choices and sacrifices in No Man’s Sky too, but they’re rarely decisions that feel meaningful. Picking between a pile of plutonium that you know you’ll need in 20 minutes, or a pile of gold you could sell for a trickle of income, is for the most part just frustrating. Similarly, crafting a starship or exosuit upgrade into existing inventory space can feel like taking a leap forwards and a leap backwards simultaneously. Even the one aspect of this that feels promising – grouping upgrades in your inventory for a bonus – goes bafflingly unexplained (though allow us).

Compare this meaningless item shuffle to perhaps the best recent game about inventories, NEO Scavenger. The post-apocalyptic RPG begins with you wearing a hospital gown and only able to carry what you can hold in your hand. You’ll rob the first person you meet just to steal his trousers, and cheer when you discover he had a crumpled plastic bag in his pocket. Half an hour later you’ll weep as that plastic bag rips, spilling your collection of empty water bottles and torn up t-shirts on the ground and damning you to likely death.

Your concern with what you’re carrying and how much you can carry produces stories you want to share, while shunting you to engage with NEO Scavenger’s other systems.

No Man’s Sky is not a game without pleasures. The moments of awe and the feelings of wonder are present, while the procedural generation uses limited assets to create something that often feels far greater than the sum of its parts. But as a mechanic in No Man’s Sky, inventory serves as only a driving force for unsatisfying progression and a roadblock or barrier to engaging with the game’s other parts. It warps the fantasy of stepping inside a scifi book cover in unpleasant ways.

In the days post-launch when my friends and I were still excitedly chattering about what we’d seen and discovered in No Man’s Sky, a worrying pattern began to emerge – we started to gauge our progress based primarily on the size of our inventories. “I stayed on my starting planet because I heard it was the best way to get 30 slots in my exosuit” one friend would exclaim. With a superior snort, I’d counter “I farmed a cave for two hours and now I’ve got a 23 slot ship!”

Aside from casting aspersions on the character of both me and my chosen gaming companions, this anecdote highlights the shallow nature of progression in No Man’s Sky. Getting a new spaceship in any space exploration game should be a moment of pride – of expanding horizons and possibilities, where the hours of toil pay off. In No Man’s Sky it boils down purely to ship aesthetics and an increased inventory size. It was with some horror that I realized I’d allowed one particular ship purchase to be dictated by pragmatism, purchasing an especially ugly space hauler, simply because I could shove an extra 500 plutonium deep into its bowels.

The problem becomes more pronounced the more we play. Planets start to blur into one, as once novel scenery becomes commonplace and space creatures begin to feel like slight variations built from overly familiar constituent parts. New discoveries become few and far between and the emotions that accompany them fade into the background, but the sorting and collection of elements sadly never recede from prominence. Eventually, inventory tetris – bad inventory tetris – is all that’s left.

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  1. spec10 says:

    so true. unfortunately.

  2. ChrisGWaine says:

    The details of the game systems are a bit poor all round. One can have some fun with ideas for how to make the most of that, but they aren’t systems that do much to encourage one to have fun exploring the worlds.

  3. milligna says:

    NMS was much more interesting to talk about before it came out than after, huh?

  4. aircool says:

    Tedious. So god damned tedious, and unnecessary. Having to refuel stuff every time you take off, shoot something or just fart!

    Having to go into your inventory to recharge your shields or reload your weapons in the middle of space combat (shit space combat as well) is such poor design.

    No sort or search, or anything else to help you with your inventory. Even when you recharge stuff, you have no idea whether you’re recharging using your suit supplies or your ship supplies.

    It is just… so… fucking… bad.

    What fun is had in exploring is slowly buried under the tedium of keeping your inventory tidy enough to be informative whilst recharging, recharging and more fucking recharging. Then pointing a laser at rocks, having long and after a while, pointless conversations whilst aliens give you technology you’ve seen a thousand times before.

    The game tricked my brain into thinking I was doing something useful, but I wasn’t. I was just torturing myself.

    • Distec says:

      My brother picked it up on PS4 before I got it on PC. When I saw him recharging his shields from his inventory screen while 3 pirates wailed on him, I assumed he was doing something wrong.

      “Dude, can’t you just press a button to fill ’em up again? They’re eating you alive while you’re stuck on that screen. Didn’t the game give you a prompt to follow? Pay attention when it comes up again!”

      I later realized that this is just how the game works. What the shit. Was this really considered acceptable? At least on PC you can be slightly more snappy since you have a mouse to quickly pinpoint what you need, but it was torturous watching him drag his cursor across the screen with a controller. There is simply no reason not to have a dedicated/contextual keypress to recharge your shields, especially when I’m in the middle of of a fucking fight… one that isn’t much fun to begin with any way.

      • Distec says:

        Obviously, if there’s another method available that the game simply didn’t tell me about, then I’m all ears.

        • Danley says:

          Yeah, you load all your good items into your exosuit inventory and all your shit into your ship inventory, then you let your ship get destroyed. You can go back for the shit stuff if you want to, but otherwise will keep all the good stuff. I’ve yet to be attacked again in a system I got destroyed.

          If you get pulled out of warp by too big of a gang to survive long enough to kill, this is your only option. I know you can run if you weave asteroids or head towards capital ships with their own weapons, but if for some reason you keep running and don’t kill those ships, you have to fly back and either commit suicide or kill them or you don’t get to use any forms of hyperdrive until you’ve landed or reloaded.

          Space combat is stupid and not worth playing.

          • Danley says:

            But I spent $50 for Proteus and am pretty happy with my purchase of No Man’s Sky as well.

          • Distec says:

            Damn. Well, I guess our current “optimal” approach is halfway on the right track:

            When thrust into space combat, walk away and make yourself a sandwich.

  5. jack4cc says:


  6. Premium User Badge

    Godwhacker says:

    Well, yeah, it’s not the best, and hopefully it’s on the list of things to improve.

    Still finding the game fun generally though, despite 90% of the internet insisting that it’s the worst thing ever.

    • shrieki says:

      same here! i never even pay much attention to the “inventory tetris” it´s probably horrible but who cares if i can just slam everything in there.
      need to throw something away ? here you go ! there is plenty more! haha the only thing i ever care about are warp-cells anyway.
      i have always free space if i want to.
      the devs already said cargo haulong and storage will come so i just chill and explore and am happy! :)

      • shrieki says:

        err “cargo hauling transport containers” :P

      • Archonsod says:

        I’ve never bothered with it either. As soon as I realised you can pretty much always find whatever you need in any given system I just tricked out my suit, ship and tool with upgrades. You only really need enough slots to craft the odd warp core and one or two fuel stockpiles. Anything else you can usually find.

  7. shrieki says:

    40 hours in and i dont agree with the generalization made at the end of the article “The problem becomes more pronounced the more WE play”
    like if as everybody has the same experience. not really- for me exploration is still very enticing after 40+ hours and i always find awesome stuff.

    personal opinion piece … i know! and i love it ! but saying “we” like a nurse in the hospital just annoys me LOL :D

    • Danley says:

      I could see how that notion would make a person’s collectivist gag reflex go off, but I think in this case he was specifically talking about the group of friends he’s played No Man’s Sky with.

      (In general though, there does seem to be a lot of ‘What No Man’s Sky should do for us!’ going around.)

    • KDR_11k says:

      I often see players talk about exploring for 40, 80 hours. What are you exploring for, if you don’t mind me asking?

      Personally I guess I have a mindset that’s too analytical and mechanics-based, when I descend towards a planet I see an ugly mess of noisy terrain. When I land on a planet the only things I really note are which uncommon or rare resources are available and whether there’s a major hazard (red text in planet summary) or some aggressive wildlife and whether the planet has a lot of water area. Everything else is the same to me, terrain is just random noise between the landmarks, animals look different but act similar (especially the dangerous ones tend to be the crab and mantis types that look pretty similar everywhere), plants and ore rocks look different but function exactly the same. The landmarks on each planet are identical (slight variation based on the species controlling the system). It’s almost like seeing a new mall and checking which of the stores that are in almost every mall are present in this one. Does it have a Media Markt or a Saturn? Where’s the GameStop that’s in each of these? Which drug store and which super market is in the basement?

      Comparing terrain wandering in NMS to a real life hike, NMS is significantly more uniform. On a hike I find forests in different types, maybe a brook or a river, different types of paths, buildings of all kinds, etc. And the things are connected, e.g. a river is at the bottom of a valley, rock outcroppings show things about the geological past of the area, even souvenir shops are built based on their environment. When I find a statue there’s often a history to it, whether it’s a local legend, a local event or even a national hero that I know from elsewhere. Many of the things you encounter IRL are connected, are there for a reason. Was the area formed by glaciers in the ice age? Is the plant life affected by agriculture? What did that historic battle involve?

      All of those connections are missing in No Man’s Sky. There’s little to learn from exploration, there’s no connection to be made between the elements you encounter. There’s no question about the geological nature of the place with the flying donuts, the level generator just decided that it would place the donut shape at that height above the terrain. There are no different areas to walk to, no change from forest to plain or beach, no city, suburb, town, farm,… No different wildlife or plantlife to find in specific areas, nothing you see in the distance and think “I want to see that up close” except those mineable pillars. As the descent from space showed, the planet is just a uniform, monochromatic mass of equally distributed objects. Survey your first landing site and chances are good you’ve found about 80% of what exists on that planet.

      I understand that NMS doesn’t want to have you explore different regions of a planet since that would take away the focus from space flight so everything is a single-biome-planet but it really goes too far with the uniformity.

      And hell, I don’t even have to learn or read the landscape like in unmodded Minecraft where you have to memorize the various places near your home to navigate it safely and quickly, where exactly that misplaced cobblestone was on the path or which rocks to hop to in order to climb up that slope. It’s all just pointing at markers and running in a straight line, jetpacking to go past any obstacles.

      Of course the story does explain that things have no purpose but is hanging a lampshade on your deficiencies really enough?

      • Distec says:

        Your second paragraph onwards echoes something I said prior to NMS’ release. And it’s why the regular script of “Q: What do you do? A: Explore!” was never satisfying to me. Without any other meaning to the activity, or any rich baked-in history that could tell a story about its environments, the whole thing seems surface-thin to me. It becomes little more than a screenshot generator with a fair bit of tedious busywork between the good ones. It’s a bit ironic that a game ostensible focused on exploration feels so much less compelling than the open worlds of more “gamey” titles like Skyrim or The Witcher 3.

        Granted, those games encourage exploration because there’s usually tasty little treats when you get to the end of a dungeon or the top of a mountain, which I guess some people would see as cheating since it’s dangling items in order to reward the exploration itself. But at the end of the day, I found those to be much more satisfying.

        I shouldn’t have to put up a disclaimer about subjective opinions and all that, so this sentence here should suffice.

        • MultiVaC says:

          That was sort of what raised some red flags for me also, because I really doubted the ability of procedural generation to create places that are really worth exploring. I had hoped that NMS would manage to mix things up in a way that could make it work, but unfortunately that never seemed to happen. I’m also playing DX:MD right now and it makes a pretty convincing case that procedural generation is lightyears behind what handmade environments can offer. There is so much more satisfying exploration potential in a couple of city blocks of future-Prague than there is in 18 quintillon NMS planets.

          • aircool says:

            I thought I would be disappointed with the size of DX:MD, particularly when I took a train from the central station in the city centre to the northwest and found out it was just the same map and quicker to just walk there.

            Anyway, there’s just tons of stuff to keep you entertained. Robbing the bank twice before actually needing to, and joining the dots between all the people’s lives.

            Also, the copycat killer quest was funny even though I couldn’t complete it properly.

          • Marr says:

            And yet procedural generation *can* make places worth exploring, if there’s any depth to the systems. Dwarf Fortress generates maps by simulating geological processes, Minecraft has dozens of different biomes and smart systems for blending from one to another at the boundaries. They both result in scenery far more compelling than the endless blur of NMS planets.

      • Danley says:

        I thought I had once heard that each planet would have multiple environments, but maybe I’m mistaken.

      • Premium User Badge

        Captain Narol says:

        “What are you exploring for, if you don’t mind me asking?”

        Like Forrest Gump could have said :

        NMS is like a box of chocolates. When you land on a new planet, you never know what you’re gonna get. Strangely Beautiful landscapes or an awful rocky scenery ? Cool-looking alien creatures or ugly monsters ?

        I definitely never get tired of it…

        To Infinity and Beyond !

        • Marr says:

          I guess I also have an analytical and mechanics-based mindset, because I know what I’ll find on every planet in this game. The same arrangement of low hills and caves with a uniform white-noise distribution of loot crates, buildings, monoliths, ore crystals, and giant ore deposits with one handcrafted terrain feature copy-pasted everywhere, possibly floating in mid air. What I won’t find is surprise, mystery or challenge.

  8. italianprick says:

    Bottom Line is: Neo Scavenger is a better game than No Man’s Sky in every possible way and more people should play it.
    Seriously. That game is amazing.

    • Crusoe says:

      Gather round, one and all, for this comment speaks the truth!

      Neo Scavenger is indeed an incredible game, once you get stuck in.

      • jrodman says:

        Is it possible to get past the high failure probability? I’ve become increasingly averse to this style of gaming over time.

        It’s actually harder to phrase than that. I play dungeon crawlers that I’m very likely to die in, but not because of things I don’t understand, but more just my execution slips at some point.

        Neo Scavenger sounds like it’s just got oodles of mechanics that I won’t know about until I’m dead. Maybe it’s just not for me.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Godwhacker says:

    There’s quite the hate campaign going on against this game. I put a (positive) review on Steam saying basically “it’s not perfect but I’m enjoying it” and it received 23 downvotes within 10 minutes.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      The review rating thingy states:
      Was this review helpful? [👍 Yes][👎 No][😊 Funny]

      To be fair if it was just “it’s not perfect but I’m enjoying it” it isn’t much in the way of helpful purchasing advice for others. Those get downvoted a lot even for games without a full blown community war going on.

      • MajorLag says:

        Remember when “reviews” were “recommendations” and there was no voting? I do. I also remember when suddenly there was voting and people took the time to find my old recommendations and mark them unhelpful because I wasn’t trying to be a game journalist.

        I don’t pay much attention to Steam reviews anymore because of the voting. I see what Valve was trying to do, but I don’t think it has worked out at all.

    • Premium User Badge

      Captain Narol says:

      I noticed too that positive reviews on Steam get systematically downvoted.

      All positive threads in general discussion about the game also get
      invaded by people always repeating the same negative things.

      If that’s not an organized campaign of denigration, it looks and smells like it !

  10. KDR_11k says:

    I don’t like the upgrade grouping mechanics since it seems to be a per-upgrade calculation based on how many adjacent modules it has so optimal layouts put the higher powered items in the center and the weaker ones at the edge. Since the upgrades cannot be moved, only disassembled and building them is very expensive (some cost so much you have trouble just fitting the resources into your inventories) you cannot experiment AT ALL and if you really want to build that optimal loadout you pretty much have to rip all the bits out (at least on the multitool where you don’t have spare slots used as inventory space) and reassemble them in an ideal pattern with the high cost parts being the most crucial and hardest to add.

    Since you can’t carry enough resources to build the full upgrade suite with you pretty much have to half-build the thing and use it to gather the remaining materials which will require visiting many planets (again, can’t stock up on enough of those uncommon and rare resources). It’s bad enough to rebuild all those parts whenever you get a new multitool (thankfully I’m finally at 24 slots which AFAIK is the maximum so no more trades there), I don’t want to rebuild them to optimize the layout…

    Also the absurd prices of larger ships… Since I installed the insanely expensive hyperdrive upgrades on my current 21 slotter I can’t afford to do a minor trade up but any major step costs many millions of units which would require hours of pure grinding as those aren’t sums I come across naturally…

    • Premium User Badge

      Godwhacker says:

      Crashed ships have a 50% chance of having an extra slot- if you’re after more space looking for transmission towers is your best bet

      • JuJuCam says:

        Yes, but crashed ships have a 100% chance of having broken necessary components that you probably don’t have the resources to repair. So it’s a choice between spending ages grinding for units so you can buy a new ship, or spending ages first finding a crashed ship via a transmission tower and then scavenging for the sometimes rare components required to make your probably ugly new ride spaceworthy. Not exactly the most interesting choice in gameplay history.

        • ChrisGWaine says:

          Finding transmission towers by searching for transmissions doesn’t take ages.

          Find a ship that isn’t bigger: claim it, scrap its components and then go back to your old ship, taking as much of the resources as you can (prioritizing stuff that’s harder to find).

          Find a ship that is bigger: scrap the components of your current ship, move the rarer stuff over, do minimal repairs to the new ship and go looking for more.

          Do this a few times and you should have what you need to get your eventual pick of ship rebuilt decently.

          I won’t claim it’s especially interesting though.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ben King says:

            I got to play some over the weekend on a friend’s PS4 and repairing superior crashed ships was actually the most fun I had in the game aside from getting lost in caves then punching my way out with grenades. The ship repair really gave me something fun to do each play session. The UI is incredibly bad though. press X or press Square? I really never ever know. I’m really looking forward to the next few months of patches then nabbing it on sale once some of the hiccups are ironed out. I think I agree with some of the earlier comments suggesting that reading about how the game was made is significantly more interesting than seeing it in practice.

  11. Archonsod says:

    “Inventory Tetris in itself is not something I object to, and used well it can actually be a clever mechanic.”

    I don’t think I’ve seen it used as a clever mechanic outside of the old point and click games. You bring up a good example of why it’s largely pointless with Diablo – indeed the same is true of most RPG’s and ARPG’s. All the best gear tends to be monster drops, so there’s little use for the money you earn (usually the mobs have enough cash to keep you stocked up with potions / scrolls etc). It’s more of a crutch than a mechanic – it disguises the repetitive and tedious nature of the gameplay rather than enhancing it.

  12. Urthman says:

    NMS is also about thinking of clever names for weird plants and animals, which is actually a pretty satisfying gameplay mechanic if the stuff you name has enough hooks to make thinking of a really apt, amusing, or clever name feel like success.

  13. Zekiel says:

    Not saying its right for every game, but one great decision in Pillars of Eternity was to give you an unlimited stash in which to stick loot. No more inventory tetris. Even better, you could turn it off if you wanted to deal with limited inventory!

    Personally I don’t think the game suffered in any way from having unlimited inventory. If I wanted to play tetris there’s a really good game called Tetris.

    • Kipex says:

      This. I despise the fact they still don’t have a system in place for Diablo 3 that would allow you to get infinite stash space. I understand it requires resources in an online environment, but that’s one case where I’m fine paying for it.

      The first thing I mod in games like Witcher and Fallout, is the weight limit, as I would much rather enjoy playing the game instead of worrying about what I can and can’t carry. Yes, I’m a hoarder in many ways, but in many games it also has the purpose of allowing me to complete multiple objectives without having to run back and forth every 5 minutes.

      The most annoying thing about such weight and inventory limits is that they very rarely have any reasonable relation to realism anyway. It’s like, ok so you are carrying 5 sets of armor and 10 weapons and food for the next year. At that point, why do you even force the limit. I appreciated the fact that Pillars of Eternity seemed to understand this and just gave us the freedom to pick up what we want, while still very much being a serious cRPG. Like you said, it didn’t have a downside.

  14. dongsweep says:

    This game needs the skiing mechanic from Tribes

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      Also the multiplayer mechanic from Tribes. Also the shooting from Tribes. Also the weapon selection from Tribes. Also the vehicles from Tribes.

      Fuck it, let’s just play Tribes.

  15. grrrz says:

    I’m playing out there these days (I don’t have the fancy equipment required for no man’s sky), and it’s the same problem. Inventory space becomes the most important thing in the game, and there’s no chance of getting far without lucking out a ship with a descent inventory space. Haven’t gotten near the end though, the game becomes tedious as you start over again and again (and poorly optimised to play with a keyboard). Besides that the aesthetic is lovely, and the game would be intriguing if you hadn’t to start over again and again.

  16. geldonyetich says:

    “We want everything to be procedurally generated in No Man’s Sky, so your job is to design predurally generated inventories.”

    “No problem, I’ll just spam out inventory slots at random. Maybe with proximity bonuses or something.”

    “That’s clearly inadequate, but I guess it will do as a placeholder until we think of something better. It’s not like we’ll be forced to put the gane out early or something.”

  17. Silvarin says:

    Inventory management in No Mans Sky feels like camouflage to me. It gives you “something” to do, in a universe where nothing ever happens.
    The big problem i have with the game is its inability to create stories, to let something meaningful happen. It’s a giant stage, waiting for a play that will never start. You can go anywhere, but why would you?

  18. Ryos says:

    Its not inventory tetris unless things take up more than 1 slot, like in RE4.

  19. Shiloh says:

    It’s a poor game to be honest, full of odd design decisions and stripped down mechanics. The proc gen stuff is for the most part pretty dull, the compromises the dev team made to get the game out for the big Sony console release seem to have gutted the PC version, and I’m frankly a bit suspicious of the whole “x quintillion” stars thing, given how often players are seeing other players’ discoveries and are even starting on already discovered planets… not to mention the features that didn’t make the final cut but which the devs somehow neglected to mention had been ditched… and no one can tell me the warp screen isn’t a loading screen, I mean c’mon really…

    • Geebs says:

      The warp screen is obviously there while the game wipes the last system out of memory and generates the next. I guess you could argue that it’s not actually “loading” the data from the hard disk. That’s insanely pedantic, but then I assume that the slightly odd overemphasis on loading screens that I keep hearing about comes from some similarly pedantic overanalysis (probably with underlining in red done in MS Paint) of some off-the-cuff remark by the developers?

      Bottom line is – it’s intuitively obvious that a game that would, if ‘decompressed’ by running the process gen for everything from the start, be orders of magnitude too large to fit in memory, would have to occasionally distract the player while it does stuff in the background. NMS’s world generation is actually ridiculously quick.

      I agree with all of your other points, though.

      • Shiloh says:

        Sorry mate, I don’t want to be “that guy” but when you say the world gen is quick, do you mean the macro planetary level i.e. big round thing floating in the sky when you come out of warp? The actual planetary surface gen is piss poor – viz massive amounts of pop in and fuzzy lo res textures appearing beneath your ship as you overfly the terrain. In my opinion, Space Engine actually does a better job and that’s one Russian dev creating it.

        I am admittedly sounding like I care more about this than I actually do, but snow jobs like the marketing of this game really irritate me. I should probably just go off and faff about with Space Engine (which I do really enjoy for what it is and for which I’ve lobbed some cash the dev’s way).

        • Geebs says:

          Looking back, I came across sounding a lot more “that guy” than you did!

          I’m afraid I’ve not played Space Engineers, only looked at videos. The planet generation looks pretty good although the planets look somewhat smaller, which makes a significant difference in terms of memory requirements, etc. The larger the proportion of your assets you can keep in memory at one time, the less you have to generate on the fly, and I think No Man’s Sky comes down hard on the “generate on the fly” side, which is why I think it’s impressively quick. Smaller planets also have a closer horizon, so you draw less stuff and have fewer depth range issues to deal with.

          It does seem as though Space Engineers has a slightly narrower selection of foliage, etc. per planet. No Man’s Sky doesn’t have the world’s most attractive textures but it does draw a lot of different levels of detail at the same time.

          The ugly fade-in effect in No Man’s Sky isn’t in itself an artefact of procedural generation, but is in there because it’s cheaper on resources than drawing a lot of transparencies (i.e. fading from one level of detail to another), which gets very expensive on the GPU if there’s a lot happening on screen at the same time. I think it was a very poor trade off, because it draws attention to itself even more than just snapping from one detail level to another would.

          From my point of view, it’s perfectly reasonable for people to rag on NMS for not being what it was hyped to be. However, I still think what it’s achieved is pretty much at the bleeding edge of what’s technically possible in a nomad simulator, so it’s actually surpassed my personal expectations.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      *Spoiler warning*
      Not all those stars are in the same Galaxy, and all players start in the same one, and the same distance from the centre. Thus you easily get a “birthday problem” style “two people having the same result”.

      I suppose they did that as an instancing limit. There would no doubt be better ways to do it. But it is how it is done. You have to progress to new Galaxies to get to those quintillion planets (which again, may be revised down for release due to floating point errors or what ever).

  20. Stevostin says:

    The best inventory for me was the one in E.V.E online. It was various pattern of empty blocks more or less following actual pockets on your armor. And you had different armors trading speed, resistance and inventory space – not only by amount of slots but also the way they were spread. There also was a bag, but what was there was not quickly accessible. It was simple and enjoyable enough, yet it was all about decisions and trying to find good combinations.

    I wish every similar game had taken a similar approach. That game had its flaws but some part really were amazing.

    • asthasr says:

      18 quintillion is just 2^64. That means that there could be 64 possible “on” and “off” flags determining the “variety.” The number of possible combinations is immense, of course, but how different is a world with one flag different?

  21. Xocrates says:

    Here’s the thing though:

    I get the very distinct impression that the tiny inventory you start with is very intentionally designed to encourage players to NOT hoard. You’re meant to be a wanderer, taking only what you need when you need it.

    I can’t say it’s well balanced, and the fact that you can end up with a pretty spacious inventory by the end game undermines this somewhat – though it still fills up a bit too fast -, but everything about the gameplay and particularly the fiction supports this.

    NMS is very much a game about exploration for the sake of it. I get that many, many, people don’t like it because of it and that’s fine, but it underlines the true tragedy of NMS:

    NMS is an incredibly niche indie game that ended up being marketed as a mass appeal AAA.

    • RobF says:

      Yeah, totally. I think it gives a fairly rough first impression as the inventory space is a little too tight to begin with and the tutorial focus on collection of stuff is kinda misleading when you’re supposed to be off exploring BUT yeah, it’s a game that works best when you take what you need and just move on. There’s rarely any need to hoard or play inventory shuffling that way.

      Aside from refuelling every 4 jumps (where there’s often hours inbetween for me because I’m off looking around) and a bit of mine laser refuelling every now and then, I’m not really playing in there too much. If I need an upgrade, it’s invariably only one or two planets between making it so I can just cash in at the space station or a trade platform, get the upgrade then get back to moving on.

      I’m not sure why it has to be ‘meaningful’ (whatever that means), it’s just a bit of busywork to break up the exploring every now and then. It’s kinda fine, really.

      • Silvarin says:

        I don’t like busywork and i think most people don’t. If a break up in exploring is needed (why though?), than this is the least appealing option to me. I would have liked the game to make me WANT to explore, instead of forcing it on me through the artificial barriers of a crafting system. To me, it feels like a lack of confidence in the game from the developers.

        • RobF says:

          I’m not sure it is a lack of confidence so much as understanding that an entirely unguided experience leaves the bulk of people lost, so it needs something in there to keep folks busy. And, y’know, when I say ‘busywork’ I mean that it’s click four things every now and then, it’s not exactly a biggy.

          A larger problem, I think, is that its hitting right up against expectations from games that do involve huge amounts of fiddling and busywork so folks get themselves in a bit of a mess trying to min/max stuff in a game that’s just about ditching everything and moving on.

      • Premium User Badge

        Captain Narol says:

        I think like you, it’s really a game in which you don’t have to hoard stuff…

        Sell everything you don’t need soon and move on to next planet, then inventory won’t be a big problem. It’s confusing at first because people are used to hoard stuff in almost all other games, but NMS is a different beast.

    • Someoldguy says:

      I finally got over the hoarding mentality when I found a planet full of vortex cores. It made me clear out my inventory to free more spaces for cores to sell. A few trips hunting cores and I realised that I really didn’t need most of the stuff I had been hoarding at all.

  22. GameCat says:

    Inventory tetris article and not a single mention of the best one from Resident Evil 4? Shame.

  23. baidi says:

    It’s weird. This is such a thing about this game but I’ve never felt limited by the inventories. I’ve even “downgraded” ships because they’ve looked cooler. A tab of plutonium, a tab of zinc, get mining and when I’m full I’m full.

    I think once you pass over into the logic of the game, and forget the logic of other games, and realize that there is no use hanging on to anything because everything is in ample supply, it makes more sense. For example, selling all the warp core ingredients when you’re saving for a ship in a system to allow you harvest more at your day job to get the cash to get that sick ship, or trashing all of your upgrades that you don’t need at this exact instant. Once you’ve got it, the game becomes about hunting down those warp core bits and bobs, and the occasional scarcity of this or that to achieve the new task at hand is really engaging (Neutrino Modules?).

    At the minute I’m in full tourist mode. Warp Drive is fully charged. Doing big treks, stopping off at the frequent terminals to offload all the junk i’ve accumulated since the last one. Plutonium and Zinc are everywhere, so I sell all that off too. It’s a different headspace from those RPGs where you hang on to four swords because you can’t work the math right now between DMG and DMS and bonuses Vs whatever elemental force and so on.

    Just sell it all, and think about what you need to get done what you’re doing right now.

  24. DThor says:

    There are plenty of things that are skipped in games in order to actually have a fun experience – you don’t need to regularly stop off at the local gas station in FO4 to drop a deuce. For me, the mini game of inventory management ranks up with that particular activity. I’m willing to acknowledge that having a limited inventory space adds a tangible strategic element to gameplay, but I like it to be somewhat innocuous – like Witcher, where it essentially forces you to at least consider the crafting/resource part of the game. They still cut you a lot of slack since you can carry around infinite amounts of many things.

  25. Xenomorph says:

    Or start looking at mods. Maybe there’s already something that covers some of the things you don’t like too much… still, even modded there will always be inventory management. We all have a greedy gene somewhere.

  26. Xenomorph says:

    My inventory nightmare started back in 1994 with ufo enemy unknown. How many clips, how many grenades, blah blah. Almost every game i played that has an inventory has some sort of nightmare associated with it, top #1 i recall would be Diablo 2. Never a game had such a greedy effect on me, to the point where most of the game was actually hauling stuff back or stashing it away for no reason. All games with an inventory and loot have the same issue: theres just not enough space. Now let me tell you, theres phases in NMS that some ppl fail to understand. First is fixing the ship. Second is upgrading exosuit and ship. Third is tourist mode. THEN, inventory doesnt matter as much. We can still go on a rampage grabbing those Gravitinos and murder sentries, but just because we can, not because we need to. Honestly, right now i think im playing the game as its supposed to be. Make a sluggish run to the center of the galaxy, and see what i can find in the way. And although ive seen some uninteresting and repetitive stuff, ive also seen some of the most amazing landscapes and whacky creatures. Theres recycled stuff alright, which doesnt bother me (thinking that every planet and every creature would be unique is completely out of reason), but things have been growing/changing in size and shape and the potential for amazing shots are there in every corner. Most planets are kinda meh, but and im somewhat surprised that there are actually so many planets with things on them, as opposed to the 0.0000001% or whatever that it should be for big space rocks. Ive been finding myself spending hours in a certain planet, for no reason, except it looks so damn cool.

    • shrieki says:

      yup- totally agree with you. after some initial struggle with not fully being able to appreciate the moments the game provided – the game managed to transmit a very relaxed attitude to me. tourist-mode is a good way to express it.
      not worrying about the effectiveness of the way i play- no worries about anything – just traveling and explore. sometimes i embark in active little expeditions for specific material but even if i just stroll around aimlessly the game provides everything i need sooner or later.
      some planets i leave immediately other i have a little stroll and on a few i unlock 100%

      it took me a while but now i never feel pushed to do anything specific in the game – it´s just freeflowing exploration.

      game crashed only once on me and i cant remember any bug worth of mentioning. it runs smooth and fabulous.
      for me it´s a work of art.

  27. mercyRPG says:

    Reminds me of the somewhat similar inventory in excellent
    Wills and Wonders, only the devs managed a neat solution there, I kinda like very much.

  28. Premium User Badge

    mecreant says:

    It seems like most of the effort and inspiration went into creating the procedural universe. When it came to giving the players something to do in that universe they simply copied the gameplay from Out There. The inventory management makes sense for a rogue-like that is played in short sessions like Out There but not in a game like No Man’s Sky.

  29. PiiSmith says:

    I have not bought NMS, so I am commenting on this from an outsiders perspective.
    The strangest thing for me, is that Hello Games, after a big promotion push before the release just have disappeared. There is no attempt of them to redeem the situation, to listen to people and tell them that they are working on fixes, to get the narrative in their hands.
    Instead it seems they have withdrawn leaving millions of customers with an unsatisfactory product. It seem they knew it before they even released it and they just tried to to grab as much money as they could and run.

  30. Aphex242 says:

    I played for about a day and a half, totally engrossed. By the end of that time when I walked away from it, it all felt so incredibly pointless. Yes I started the quest thing, yes I got a ways in, blah.

    The game was just such a disappointment overall. I didn’t even really read much about it prior to the release, sure I saw the screenshots, heard it was about exploring, etc.

    But the interface and controls are just trash, and worse, there’s really very little driving you forward. After exploring 15 or so planets you’ve basically seen the vast majority of what the game has to offer.

    It gets to the point where you’re like, “Oh okay, this planet’s version of those big round plants looks like that.”

    Tedious. To a fault. Totally agreed on the inventory tetris thing.

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