Tales From One Man’s Sky: Why Am I Still Here?

I’m still playing No Man’s Sky [official site]. I realise this puts me in a peculiar category, a group titled “Those Who Realised How Far Short It Fell From Both Its Claims And Expectations But Still Find They Can’t Stop Wanting To Go Back”. Us TWRHFSIFFBICAEBSFTCSWTGBers will tell you, yes, you’re absolutely right, the game has no point, no deeper purpose, no real goals, no good reason to carry on. We’ll nod at you, distractedly, while mostly focusing on mining the tower of Emeril in front of us, hoping you’ll leave and stop making us question it.

Why am I still writing about it on RPS? Simply because I’m still playing it. I’ve got to justify the ridiculous amount of time to myself somehow. Haven’t we given it enough coverage if it’s not everything we’d hoped? That rather supposes a far more strategic and business-focused approach than I’ve ever taken to this website: I just write about what I’m playing and hope someone wants to read it. It’s that sophisticated. (And they do – NMS makes up our most popular articles, so it’s good business by mistake!) Let this boring paragraph be the reason you don’t leave your boring comment.

No Man’s Sky absolutely should have had more to do. I think it’s a core failing, and I can’t wait until Hello Games can feel enough distance from the project to openly talk about its development – to find out how they managed to create an entire bloody universe and never get around to thinking of a reason for having done so. Everything scripted there is to do feels slap-dash, barely considered, half-finished or genuinely insulting (if you’ve completed the Atlas “quest”, you’ll be nodding furiously here.

Whether the game is sticky for you, it seems, comes down to whether you find an affinity with its mechanics. I think you’d have to be a pretty dreadful person to not find a good few hours of entertainment in just exploring what NMS offers, even if it’s a time that ends in the disappointment of anticlimax. As glitchy and fizzy as the graphics may be when landing on a planet’s surface, the fact that you just picked a random star system amongst a number that might as well be infinite, and then a planet within that system, and what you’ve landed on is unique, its flora and fauna unique, its geography unique (yes, not unique enough, but still, unique) – that’s all amazing. You can run about gathering resources, or scanning creatures, or nagging aliens, or just admiring the sun behind the hills.

And if you’re bored, hop into your ship and fly somewhere else. Pretty quickly you can leap between stars, then multiple stars, then find short-cuts through black holes, perhaps on a voyage to the centre of the galaxy, perhaps just moving about at random. And, I would contend, at a certain point for every player it becomes starkly apparent that, well, there isn’t really a reason for any of it. I tip my head back until my forehead rests on my spine to laugh at those who, after 15 hours (about twice the length of the average AAA game) of enjoyment, claim to have been robbed because they don’t want another 15 hours. But I don’t disagree with the disappointment. It’s just, for reasons I’m going to try to explain to myself, I’ve found enough to stick around.

I Want A Bigger Spaceship

Let’s face it – we all want a bigger spaceship. No Man’s Sky, I think more accidentally than anything else, adopts a key feature from MMOs in keeping the player wanting to progress forward: a lack of inventory space. While World of Warcraft may once have had you feverishly completing quests and killing mobs in the hope of being able to buy a bigger knapsack, NMS has me most enthused about getting more inventory slots on my ship. I currently have 38 and that’s taken dozens and dozens of hours to reach. But I know they go up to 48, and so I cannot rest.

There’s no good reason for this. I want a bigger spaceship so I have more room for gathering resources to sell in pursuit of my goal of getting a bigger spaceship. I know that on purchasing or finding my 48-er, I’m going to feel such a blow of ennui. I’ll have all the space I need for the nothing I have to do.

I’ve already maxed out my personal inventory and my Multitool (48 and 24 respectively), so it’s just the ship to go. And for now, it pointlessly drives me on.

There are two routes to finding a better ship. You can earn money to buy one, which is just so bloody galling when the game has no means to sell your current one. To get my goal, my 48-slot ship, is likely going to cost me over 100m units. The other option is switching ships for wrecks on planet surfaces. It’s not hard to find them, but it’s tedious, and there’s a 50% chance any wreck will be one slot worse than your current ship, the other half only one slot better. While Gek planets have a weird exploit that lets you identify as many wrecks as you want from one station, it’s still an agonising process to go about it that way. I’ve opted for a bit of both, earning as much as I can (I just cleared 60m units!) while grabbing any better ship I discover.

I Feel Like I’ll Be In The Best Place If More Arrives

This is completely ridiculous, but I have to acknowledge to myself that I’m thinking it. I have this deranged fantasy that Hello Games are secretly beavering away on a massive update of feature content that they didn’t manage to get finished in time for launch, and suddenly the universe will be stuffed with plots and quests and reasons to be. And if I’ve got all the best equipment the base game offers, then I’m primed to enjoy anything added to come after that!

I’ll be best equipped to dive into the lovely storylines they’ll add, to set off on the chain of events that leads to my having one of those enormous ships you see warping in when zipping around a solar system – I’ve convinced myself that’ll have to be a thing it adds. Sure, no, they never will, but this is about my own delusions see. I’ll have all the resources I need to build my own bases, to craft a bigger, better ship from scratch (it keeps giving me blueprints for core ship components that it offers no means to build, which makes me wonder if this was meant to be a thing), to build my own used shipyard and sell the bloody things I previously spent 20m on, rather than madly abandoning them on a space station.

I Just Like Mining And Dicking Around

I find it relaxing. Doodling around on a planet, looking for valuable ores, mining giant towers or boulders, discovering to my joy that all the caves are packed with Vortex Cubes, selling my stuff at a store, hunting down that elusive eighth species type… It’s aimless, but in that aimlessness there’s catharsis. It’s not enough on its own – I’ve been catching up on old episodes of Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, listening to audiobooks, ‘watching’ less visually involved things on iPlayer, and so on. It’s been just the tonic for a stressful month, an extremely pleasant happy-place to visit, mill about, meander, and pursue ultimately meaningless goals.

I have perhaps been too disparaging above, perhaps. I really can’t tell any more. No Man’s Sky has become, to me, this bizarro-world of mediocrity that I find utterly consuming and compelling, calling to me like a siren who then can’t be bothered to drown me. And I’m still playing.

Disclosure: Alec did some writing for the game so doesn’t write about it for us.


  1. Abacus says:

    You’re supposed to be busy with the Obduction Wot I Think!

    • Geebs says:

      Tens of hours of aimless wandering in No Man’s Sky sound suspiciously like the symptoms of a man who has recently encountered That Puzzle.

    • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

      I’m hoping they’ve farmed that out to Cobbett… ;)

    • GG7 says:

      I’m still playing NMS also. I bought it on both the PS4 and the PC, but since I started in on the PS4 version first and have invested over 100 hours into my save so far, I have yet to play the game on my PC past the initial starting point of taking off with the ship.

      I never agreed with all the hate over this game. I followed its development starting all the way back in 2013, and nearly everything negative I read about the game missing this, and not having that doesn’t jibe with what I read and watched coming from Hello Games.

      The multi-player BS is the biggest annoyance simply because HG and Sean Murray always downplayed MP and always stressed that NMS WAS NOT a traditional multi-player type of game. I took that to mean NO Co-Op and NO PvP.

      Needless to say, when the game launched without those features I was anything but surprised. It was exactly what I expected. A single player game with online components for logging progress, discoveries and sharing that data with everyone else in the game. END OF STORY!

      As for the game itself… I am still finding a lot of new things I haven’t seen before along with a bunch of stuff I see all the time. That doesn’t bother me. I wanted a space exploration game, and that is exactly what NMS is.

      Once you figure out that cherry picking the STAR TYPES you choose to visit will provide you with the types of planet biomes you are looking for. (O, M and E Class Stars almost always have at least one Tropical Planet with lush vegetation and oodles of exotic animal life) If you want the more common planets, then stick with the F class that most players navigate to, often ignorant of the better options listed above.

      But bottom line for me…. No Man’s Sky is a work in progress, and I have absolutely no problem supporting the future development of this game via my $110.00 total investment between my PS4 and Steam versions. (I paid $47.99 for my PS4 hard copy with Amazon Prime).

      Not enough $$ out of my wallet to spend even an hour of my personal time complaining about what didn’t make it into the launch version of NMS.

      All those entitled consumers out there demanding refunds after playing NMS for over 50 hours are not gamers, but a strange collection of wannabe gamers that should find another hobby. They are ruining video gaming as we know it with their warped views on what a video game needs to deliver at version 1.xx.

      Just look at all the idiots complaining about the Battlefield 1 “BETA”. Hello!?? Its a BETA you morons! You are supposed to be helping the developer TEST and DEBUG the game, not spend hours whining and complaining that the game isn’t behaving like a final retail release!

      Same idiots that hated on NMS. Same idiots that need to put down the controller and find another hobby. Something they actually like, and one they actually understand the nature of.

      • passiveJAC says:

        I have to agree with you about the general attitude as far as this game goes. There are way too many people who either expected something incorrect or something impossible from this game. I never really got on the hype (my thoughts were “hey, this is a game where you fly in space and look at planets. That’s, like, exactly what I want from a game”), so I basically got what I expected. There’s a lot that this game offers by design for a specific audience. Too many people just thought they were getting something else.

        Now, I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed by some features (or lack thereof). But this article basically sums up my love for this game. It is what it is, and I think accepting that was what let me enjoy it.

      • banter says:

        thank you so much for being able to articulate it very well. these are my feelings as well.
        Thank you

      • banter says:

        Thank you so much for being able to articulate it very well. these are my feelings as well.
        Thank you

        double post sorryt originaly meant for GG7 but i agree with you both :) ps: just joined now to thank you dudes

  2. Pogs says:

    Intervention anyone?

  3. Jakkar says:

    I get the feeling the original title of this post was not “Why I’m still playing.” but “Why am I still playing?”.

    You poor bastard.

    We’re here for you. There are other options.

  4. Gorgonos says:

    I get the same soothing effect playing NMS as I had while I was happily probing planets on Mass Effect 2 :)

    • phreddo says:

      I loved that part of ME. The planet scanning was fun to do and a nice break from shooting.

      • sebmojo says:

        Testify. I loved it too. The ‘ptank’ noise of the launcher, the allllmost mindless level to which it engaged you, the occasional jackpot of a cool mission…

    • SaintAn says:

      In the only real Mass Effect I explored planets on my fun little Mako instead.

  5. CartonofMilk says:

    your reasons for playing were mine exactly except at a 36 slots ship, maxed exo inventory, maxed multi tool and about maybe 30 hours in is when i realised i’d had enough. And the whole I Feel Like I’ll Be In The Best Place If More Arrives” paragraph is like my experience with Elite Dangerous. I keep playing it every few months and getting more ships (i’m only missing the like 5 biggest ones by now) and all because i think someday i’ll have a good reason to have all this. It’s yet to really come, but someday… (tough at least with ED we KNOW more is always coming)

    Space games need to come up with a better incentive then just bigger ships. For all its missions and BGS and mechanics, ED like NMS still boils down to getting a bigger ship. i mean all you do only serves to get you more money and all you can do with this money is buy ships…

    And I thought having to find a station that sells the ship you want was annoying in ED but that was before i experienced buying the ship you want NMS. I mean i guess if you’re willing to settle for ANY ship with more inventory space thats fine, soon enough one will come, but i’m the kind that wants to get the exact ship i just saw 5 mins ago. And that implied waiting at a station for 3 hours (i counted it) until the ship I wanted with the number of slots I wanted landed. It’s so head-scratcingly stupid. That would about sum up my review for NMS. Head-scratchingly stupid (and half-assed)

    • Ckrauser says:

      It’s been almost a month now since I stopped playing, but I remember being able to follow ships to their destinations if you so desired, allowing you to purchase that ship you mentioned much faster. Although I suppose depending on the planetary system that could mean following them for upwards of half an hour. But even then, the ‘flight path’ lines can be followed ahead of said ship to the port it will eventually land at, letting you wait there instead.

  6. Danarchist says:

    The hope of ‘More’ from the devs or an over enthusiastic modder are the reasons I give myself to keep playing. That and the fun I have with my wife renaming the animals, plants, and systems I find. Everything from “Murder Squirrel” to “Disappointment Prime”, she stands behind my desk and giggles, that alone is worth it.

    I have started making my own fun as well. I have geared out my 28 slot ship to the point I only have 4 slots for inventory (er 8 if you do not count the things I have ‘pinned’). I am enjoying attacking those giant trade vessels and trying to empty all 3-5 of them out before sentinel ships smoosh me. Granted with no inventory this doesn’t pay well, but damn its fun trying to keep the senti-police on the other side of them from me while i blast away.
    I am easily amused i guess

  7. Stevostin says:

    It wouldn’t be dumb from them to actually do that big update. Changing the public perception from their game is a huge stake for their future and they certainly cashed in way more profit than needed to fund that big update.

  8. Mostquito says:

    Hey everyone, who cannot leave the never ending grind circle!
    There are ways of cure that can help!
    (I know, I am one of you!)
    It is called cheat codes and trainers!
    Try them out and set yourselves free!
    (Till the next grindfest anyway…)

    • TWChristine says:

      So then you have the result with none of the work. “Huzzah! I have a million golds! And the biggest ship!” While the grind may not have exactly been fun, you were at least doing something, and potentially enjoying it during that time. This way though you go from nothing (or some), to everything and then..you’re done. So then you go to the next game, put the cheats in, go from nothing to everything: done, onto the next game. I don’t see how that’s any better, but I can see how it’s worse.

      Example: The Sims.

      • TWChristine says:

        (And I was going to say, before this stupid computer decided I was already done..) When that first came out, I wanted to build a really nice house, but my little people weren’t pulling in much money. So I did the money cheat, got millions of monies, and built a huge, amazing looking mansion with everything they or I could ever want. And then I realized there was nothing else interesting to do and quit. So yes, the end result of “So this is it..” is the same had I cheated or not, but I can see it having been more fun if I had done it the long way.

      • Marr says:

        Well, most games have more to do than just maxing out your stats, and offer plenty of entertainment beyond the mechanical challenge of ‘beating’ them. There’s exploring the world, building bizarre characters that wouldn’t be feasible without haxx, in a sandbox engine you can even build an entirely different games within the game. (Spleef!) With infinite money in the Sims you can use it to create bizarre dystopic social experiments. https://aliceandkev.wordpress.com

        • DancesWithSheep says:

          Sometimes even cheating needs self control. I cheated in NMS to give myself a thirty slot ship and an unlimited jet pack boost, I loved boosting up high to look around as there’s no pan option when flying using m/kbd. The expanded ship was to get over the initial grind as I thought this was about exploring, not crafting. With those little helpers I happily spent around thirty hours tootling about before I found out about what happens if you reach the galactic core and stopped.

          I cheated in the Sims too, I gave myself a few grand start so that at least my sims had boosting bathroom breaks. I spent a serious amount of time in the sims.

          I have always contended that if someone wants to cheat a single player game then that is up to them although I would wag a warning finger muttering about careful what you wish for.

  9. K_Sezegedin says:

    You’re weird John, played this for 17 hours and I think it was too much.

  10. Tartrazine says:

    Obsessed with a self set pointless goal.You and Dave Gorman would get on like a house on fire.

  11. Freud says:

    I don’t mind John’s reviews but his taste is games is very far from my own. He adored Kingdoms of Amalur, which was was a single player version of a grindy, simplistic MMO. Now he’s all into NMS.

    It seems he just likes scope, no matter how barren the actual gameplay is.

    • Danarchist says:

      Funny thing is I enjoyed Amalur as well, I found the combat entertaining. I guess my tastes are similar to his. I guess I will have someone to talk to when the rest of the public merges into the hive-mind they seem to be shooting for.

      • DancesWithSheep says:

        I too enjoyed Kingdoms of Amular although I did end up over levelling myself through taking every quest I could find? Shame the financial side went so horribly wrong, I would have loved a sequel.

      • Lord Byte says:

        I absolutely detest grindy mindless MMOs, I’ve played many, and most I didn’t even last the first week (WOW was the only one that engaged me… for two months). But I loved Kingdom of Amalur, because it had something those MMO’s don’t. Agency over the storyline, you’re not the 7583256 who killed the big bad evil Overlord. You were THE ONE!

        Okay that’s not entirely true, I played Eve Online for years, but then only because I had interesting things to do outside of grinding (and wasn’t a face in the crowd. In our tiny bit of 0sec, I was a celebrated Fleet commander (Of 100+ ships at times). Well… I won quite a few hopeless fights! ). The moment I only had grinding left… I stopped.

    • Nauallis says:

      Yeah, that guy, how dare he like things that I don’t like. It’s just inconceivable.

      • Freud says:

        I don’t have a problem with him liking the games he likes. Each to their own.

        But as a reviewer, he’s not one I can lean on since his preferences are so different from mine.

        • Nauallis says:

          Okay, great! What does commenting this add?

          • Freud says:

            Considering he’s one of the reviewers on this site, discussing his gaming preferences in a post where he describes why he continues to play a game most have long abandoned since it was a bore seems appropriate.

            You being triggered by this and deciding to police the comment section seems less so.

          • Nauallis says:

            Um, sure. Because we all care about your preferences! Unless you were trying to be snarky? Your original post just comes across like you’re trying to be a dick. So you don’t find John’s outlook as a reviewer helpful. Fine, I don’t have a problem with that… but, why do you feel the need to tell everybody else? Everybody is entitled to an opinion, but let’s be honest: Yours sucks!

        • John Walker says:

          It’s such an odd statement for you to make, considering my review of this game raises all the issues you allude to in great detail. And this being an article that tries to explore why I’m still playing despite not being satisfied with the game because of all those raised issues…

          • sianma41 says:

            Is it though? If the comments is just a place to discuss the article then it seems perfectly valid. I agree with him to be honest – I appreciate your recognition of the games flaws but as we obviously have differing tastes in games it would be silly for me to put too much credence into your reviews.

            If you believe Mr. Freud has been rude then that’s unfortunate and perhaps you would be right, but you called me a pretty dreadful person in your article. (Yes I admit to being a little put off by that).

            P.s. I wonder if something to do with getting a sense of wonder or not from No Mans Sky comes from growing up with procedural generation? Because that’s all it was to me, an obvious computerised facade of a universe with nothing real enough to invoke a sense of wonder. It might of helped if I could actually fly around on the planet properly grumble.

    • NoDoubt says:

      Loved R:KoA. Was so sad when I learned the company bit the dust. I just thought the skill tree was fun to personalize and the combat mechanics interesting.
      As far as NMS, I’m pretty much still playing for the same reasons posted in this article. Currently I’m trying to earn units to go ship shopping at different stations. I’ve already maxed out everything.

  12. Plank says:

    You should try Gardening With Your Mind John. You have to leave your base of operations and navigate your way to a store without a compass to gather tools, seeds and lager while avoiding eye contact with all those zombies out there.

  13. aego says:

    I think by this point more disclosure words have been written on this site about Alec’s writing for NMS than Alec’s actual writing in the game.

  14. Jediben says:

    Sorry the ‘average’ AAA game is NOT only 7 hours long.
    Witcher 3, Deus Ex, any of the total war games, Tomb Raider, FIFA, Crusader Kings, Diablo, Overwatch, Starcraft, Elite Dangerous, The Sims, Grand Theft Auto, Football Manager, Hitman
    ALL far in advance of 15 hours.

    You do GOOD AAA games a disservice by taking Call of Duty or Battlefield as your yardstick for average and it just shows you STILL can’t admit you were wrong to pimp NMS so heavily.

    • Thurgret says:

      Does Tomb Raider have all that much content? Otherwise, yeah, clocked probably a mean of 40-50 hours (and median of more like 25-30 – the Witcher 3 and Crusader Kings 2 skew the numbers) of the games I’ve played off that list. If I expect a AAA game to provide fewer than about 15 hours entertainment, I don’t tend to spend more than €30 on it.

      • Thurgret says:

        Also, do we count CK2 as AAA? Paradox does like to sell itself as ‘indie’, I feel.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      Just a little hyperbole on John’s part I’m sure, not meant to be taken totally seriously…

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        But all games aren’t the same. For a linear corridor shooter then sure you’re probably done in seven hours but if a strategy game grabs me I’ll get to triple digits, hell I’m probably over a thousand hours on Factorio by now. Haven’t played NMS yet but if you’re selling an open-universe-explorathon I could see people being annoyed at being laughed at for only getting 15 hours.

    • geckoagua says:

      Is that why this reads like a desperate justification veiled behind casual non-concern? I was half-convinced it was a deep cut joke about all the denial ‘well I’m having fun’ posts during NMS’ release-cum-mourning.

    • Marr says:

      And those 15 hours in NMS weren’t enjoyment for most people. Mine was 10 hours of digging around desperately hoping something cool would happen, thinking “Seriously, it this IT?” Followed by another five dicking around with mods, for which HG get no credit.

    • hpoonis says:

      I use AAA in small, electronic devices. Am not a band-wagon leaper.

    • John Walker says:

      You appear to have stumbled at the word “average”.

  15. Captain Narol says:

    “an extremely pleasant happy-place to visit”

    I think you nailed it, John. I have the feeling that the universe of NMS, with its total freedom and almost complete lack of challenge and goals, is a haven without pressure for many people who just want to escape to some alien place utterly different from our reality.

    Maybe NMS is not really a game, but just a shared dream. Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

    link to azlyrics.com

  16. saluki says:

    The only way out of this trap (because it is a trap) is to uninstall it. I had a very similar experience with Elite, where, I knew it wasn’t that great, or at least, I personally didn’t have any fun playing it, but some combination of the mechanics and the anticipation got me stuck in the Skinner box pressing the food lever over and over. As long as it was in my library I was compelled to open it up and grind away a little more. Uninstalling it was the solution for me since it built a long delay into starting it up again — long enough to come to my senses before I fell under the spell again.

    I had a similar experience with NMS but fortunately it only took me 8 hours to figure out I wasn’t having fun: it was just the same sickness pulling my strings.

    • HoboDragon says:

      I recognize that. I have a pretty big Steam library and a dedicated large HD keeping many games that I don’t play but sometimes end up returning just because I am bored, or, when new, some sort of addiction that makes me return as in NMS. I am keeping it in the hopes of the promised updates (haha, how stupid is that with the recent history of the game). So I should uninstall it plain and simple.
      On my PS4 it is easier to uninstall – there is less HD space…..

  17. Niente says:

    I’m still playing it also. 99 hours and counting. I no longer look for animal life apart from water dwelling creatures and don’t spend more than 5 minutes on a planet if it isn’t ‘exceptional’ in some way.

    I’m going to finish the Atlas Path then go to the centre of the galaxy. I know I will do both things without getting bored. it just keeps pulling me back even though I can clearly see all the many shortcomings of the game.

    I suppose I just really like it.

  18. Distec says:

    Shamus Young has done a few pieces on the game and I find myself syncing up almost perfectly with his experience; wonderful in the beginning, but becomes progressively worse/boring/irritating when most of the game systems are laid bare in front of you. I don’t think the majority of the game’s perceived failings can be attributed to some genre mismatch with its audience, as much as some of its defenders will insist. It is riddled with annoying and seemingly half-finished features that undercut its alleged objective of providing casual exploration*, and many of them seem to stand alone with no interesting connections to the others. The space combat alone is just dreadful and enough to knock off several points from whatever mental score you want to give it. It’s not even the most frequent annoyance I encounter in the game (relatively uncommon for me actually), but when it occurs I just want to walk away.

    I appreciate that others are quite happy with the product they purchased, but I am genuinely puzzled by some of the weird, abstract arguments as to why “NMS is fine, no seriously, it’s just not for you”. If most of your audience thinks the inventory management is annoying, that’s a good indication that something’s wrong or could be improved at the very least. When critics say NMS fails as a game, I take them to mean issues like that. And yet this often prompts a particular kind of pushback; that I’m unfairly judging it against the status quo, placing arbitrary restrictions on how games should work, or otherwise limiting what the medium can be.

    I can’t summarily dismiss those arguments. But I gotta say it’s kinda strange seeing bad game design dressed up as a legitimate, mould-breaking expression. Plenty of past games have had novel or “unconventional” gameplay systems which we now rightly see as effin’ terrible, but there seemed to be less of the “That’s just your opinion, guy” stuff going around.

    *That was the aim, right? I honestly don’t know any more, but that seems to be where the consensus has settled.

  19. ZXDunny says:

    Back in the 80s, I was browsing my local Boots for games. One caught my eye – it was heavily discounted which suited my teenage pocket, and was, most importantly, in a double-cassette box. It was “Explorer” by the RamJam Corporation – and boasted of over 2 million screens of action and entertainment on a strange alien planet where you’d crash landed. I bought it – and… Well, there wasn’t much game. You had to find pieces of your ship based on compass bearings to beacons scattered about over this enormous landscape. And that was it.

    But it was in 3D, first person. Kinda. It was glorious to behold. Trees, forests, quaint native mud huts, lakes, rivers, waterfalls. The graphics were, to be honest, stunning for an old 8bit Speccy.

    There was combat of a sort – occasionally a robotic insect-like thing would fly around on the screen and you had to shoot it. If you wanted to. You could just move on instead. There were portals to other parts of the planet.

    It was, as the reviews of the time said, a bit crap. But I loved it. I played it for months and months, because a single session would take 12 to 15 hours. And of course, you couldn’t save your game at bedtime… I think I eventually managed to track down three parts of my ship, but the real joy was in wandering around the planet, seeing what there was to see, which for a game in less then 40Kb of RAM was an incredible amount.

    I’d already been bitten by Elite and I felt that this was what might happen if you were to land on a planet.

    I still occasionally fire up Explorer for nostalgia’s sake.

    And I think that’s why I’m still playing NMS right now.

  20. Laurentius says:

    That’s who you are, with constant knack to go against popular opinion of “en masse” of people who “are obcjtivly wrong” and are probably “bad people”. Rememebr Mass Effect 3 ending? It was really likely that when opinion of “gamers” shifts NMS out of favour, you will take it as your game to play and write about for weeks.

    • Captain Narol says:

      One Man’s Sky is another one’s garbage, that’s quite life in a nutshell.

      Deal with it, he’s not even doing that on purpose.

      • Laurentius says:

        For sure. I don’t mean that John actually dislike NMS, he really enjoy this game, that’s obvious. What I mean is that I have a strong suspicion that had John, insted of being exposed to twitter and gaming sites gneral negativity toward NMS, was hanging around NMS sub on reddit, its ooverwhelming fanboism would cause to John’t interest in this game to wane. I might be wrong of course.

  21. virtenebris says:

    I don’t know why it is such an enigma with No Man’s Sky that someone should _still_ enjoy playing it? The game has been out for a month, and why the heck would you not want to still be playing it? ONE FREAKING MONTH?!! I am enjoying it, too, and it has lost nothing of its charm. Are we really this shallow that we have to be ashamed now for wanting to play a game, because we personally find it mesmerizing and fun?!

    What about all those Counter Strike players that have 2,000 plus hours logged, or those playing Bioshock, Fallout, WoW… nothing has changed there, yet people enjoy it. Why not enjoy what you like?

    I don’t see why you need to justify it, just because half the internet is bitching and whining? Those who wanted a refund, have it by now, I’m sure, so they can shut the hell up. Everyone else just enjoy. And you’re right, it IS relaxing.

    • SerDirtnap says:

      It is very mysterious. Almost as if people have individual tastes and can enjoy things that other people don’t. Sounds crazy but I have heard of it happening!

    • qrter says:

      He doesn’t need to justify it, but he also can’t ignore the fact that he rationally thinks the game isn’t a very good game, so he tries to find out what keeps him going back to it.

      • virtenebris says:

        So, what constitutes a good game? Isn’t a good game good by just wanting people to play it? I mean if you look at other AAA titles such as Assassin’s Creed for instance; all you do is run around and collect things, which a kill at the end. Then you move on to the next mission, rinse, repeat. The same goes for pretty much any game, open world included. Even GTA. You might have more of a story, but ultimately, in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t improve the game play. So what is it that people want?! (And I don’t want another ‘they lied’ debate. Not the first and not the last time that a game didn’t look like E3. Watch_Dogs is a prime example, and they had a MUCH bigger dev team).

        • Jediben says:

          With NMS there is NO gameplay… you don’t do anything but collect things to make bigger things for no reason but to make them. I have a wall of paint you can watch dry if you want to save £30 next time?

        • drombi says:

          Well put, Assassins Creed is a good example.

          • hpoonis says:

            I do agree in part to that statement about Assassin’s Creed…certainly with III and Black Flag…but the reason I actually enjoyed the others is to explore the locations. I appreciated the detail that went into recreating Venice, Rome, London, etc. III and IV were just generic, bland seascapes, small islands, or 18th century wooden buildings of the sort one could probably find anywhere at that time.

    • hpoonis says:

      Anyone racking up 2000 hours on Cunterstrike is probably of the sort that has a selective yellow, weapon with blue strips and a log that reads ‘Property of Wallahalla’ or some such game-name. Those kinds would stick around with any title if they get to change their clothing, weapon, hat, dog, horse, dragon into something more personal. I hazard that, for them, their idea of immersion is ‘how can I personalise it to make it like me’ than have more to do/see.

      On a side note: seriously! This is a UK-based organisation who do NOT have a UK-based spell-checker! For f*ck sake, man! Get a grip! If I wanted cheesy Americana I would inhabit IGN with their annoying videos and game-show presenters all saying ‘like’ every other word.

      • Captain Narol says:

        Cunterstrike sounds like an intriguing game concept…

  22. Chorltonwheelie says:

    “to find out how they managed to create an entire bloody universe and never get around to thinking of a reason for having done so.”

    This has pretty much convinced me to buy the heck out of it when it’s available for one of our new plastic fivers.

  23. geldonyetich says:

    I can’t recommend the model of blogging about whatever you’re playing that week, as I’ve been doing that for years and have 1 follower and less than 200 hits a week to show for it.

    Or maybe I’m just a lousy writer.

    As pertains to No Man’s Sky, I am generally where you are in hoping Hello Games is able to… well, finish No Man’s Sky. However, my approach to this is to eschew the easy endorphin hits of multitool use, and instead play something else entirely, lest I am completely burned out from No Man’s Sky before the miraculous patch e’er descends from ‘bove.

    • hpoonis says:

      One wonders if it is actually possible to include more specific things to do in a pseudo-random universe…or even more to experience.

      How hard would it be to create a pyramid of animal behaviour? Giving even procedure-generated animal life a predator/prey status, herbivore/carnivore, defensive flags – indicating natural toxin or camoflage, etc. Predators having venom, whatnot. All these things could be based upon a hierarchy seen on our world but adapted to suit the various generated portions that make up the animals on the game worlds. Ie., if it has a sphincter for a head, it spits toxic shit….or some such based upon a scale factor for possible evolution, or creature size.

      In all honesty, I was seriously looking forward to getting my hands on this for years…but the tide of opinion based on actual playing time from the gaming world has dissuaded me from ANY Man’s Sky. I was intrigued by the idea of (in effect) a limitless area to misbehave in but, like others, feel that I would get bored with the only gameplay currently available…and that limited scope is NOT worth the exorbitant price that this sells for. Am not even sure I would pick it up at a boot sale for half the current price.

  24. qrter says:

    My Steam counter says I’ve stuck 51 hours into the game (although a couple of those hours were me getting the thing to work), and I enjoyed my time with it, but it does feel like an empty shell of a game.

    I hit my point of saturation when I looked up how to get the second Atlas pass, and read..


    .. that you basically get that blueprint/recipe randomnly. Fuck that. Done.

  25. Shadow says:

    The fact a game is addictive is only a neutral trait, and that you’re stuck in its Skinner box is far from positive. You don’t need to justify yourself, John, but there’s nothing redeeming about NMS to be found on this article.

    Perhaps the current circumstances of your stressful life make NMS particularly alluring, as it’s usually the case with addictive “bizarro-worlds of mediocrity” (i.e. cheap bland MMOs), but in the end they’re just that.

    It doesn’t take much for a game to become a vessel of escapism. My girlfriend, for instance, obsesses with cheap Facebook games during stressful times. Addictive? Check. Simplistic? Check. Absence of challenge? Check. Easy on the eyes? Check. That’s all.

    • Sleepy Will says:

      It’s definately a discussion to be had – given that I saw a documentary on gambling recently and the owners and industry flunkies of those electronic roulette machines had the gall to claim gambling wasn’t addictive, and they were taken seriously by the people who can actually regulate them – I foresee a dark, exploititive future for skinner box games

      • JFS says:

        Gambling addiction is a diagnosable psychiatric disorder everywhere in the world. ICD-10, chapter V, F63.0, and DSM-V section 312.31 for the USA.
        I understand this is not really about science, though. It’s sad how you can get away with stuff if money.

      • Captain Narol says:

        It’s already the present :

        Clicker heroes, adventure capitalist, Candy Crush Saga, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, etc…

  26. icecoldbud says:

    I think it would be rather funny if a 200 slot ship parked next to John in a spaceport. Ha.

  27. Marr says:

    Jennifer Diane Reitz (Of Happy Puppy Games) tried to write No Mans Sky for the C64 30 years ago, but it was a casualty of Activision’s corporate collapse. Looks like we lost a cult classic. link to jenniverse.com

  28. Railway Rifle says:

    “this bizarro-world of mediocrity that I find utterly consuming and compelling, calling to me like a siren who then can’t be bothered to drown me.”

    I just love that sentence.

  29. drombi says:

    Great article! My experience is very similar to yours. I actually “finished” the game, saved my progress file elsewhere (everything maxed), and began again. What a beautiful, relaxing game it is. It is also an amazing technological achievement. To hell with the flaws, I’m enjoying the game they created. I’m looking forward to the inclusion of NVidia Ansel in NMS (announced by NVidia). Go to NVidia and type in Ansel, NMS is there. This will allow for extreme high resolution image capture with HUD removal and free camera placement. Ansel is currently available in Witcher 3, and several other games. It’s FREE!

    NMS has a similar design ethic as Mojoworld, a planet creation program from about a decade ago. Mojoworld had a huge community of dedicated users that created, shared, and explored procedural planets. We did it because it was fun, and amazing. Some wonderful art came from this community. My point is: When I can capture and export high-res images from NMS via Ansel, I’ll be creating beautiful sci fi images, and gameplay for me will be secondary. Maybe. It does have that Rain Man thing that’s hard to explain to those why don’t need occasional outside focus. Gotta watch Wapner, gotta watch Wapner, gotta watch Wapner… Hey a drop pod!

  30. frightlever says:

    “And if you’re bored, hop into your ship and fly somewhere else…”

    and get bored there instead.

    80 hours. I can’t really complain. Still no idea if I got an ending or not. I did get fed up fighting the galaxy map interface so never made it to the centre, although as far as I can see that doesn’t get me an ending either. Uninstalling seemed like the most certain ending I could get.

  31. ZakG says:

    [quote]No Man’s Sky has become, to me, this bizarro-world of mediocrity that I find utterly consuming and compelling, calling to me like a siren who then can’t be bothered to drown me. And I’m still playing.[/quote]

    ‘Like a siren’ – what a fantastic line John :) And have you looked into the Mods yet? They might add some ‘content’ while we wait on Hello Games to reveal the future of NMS.

  32. JFS says:

    So I guess RPS still hasn’t gotten over the somewhat embarrassing aspect of being on the hype train at first? Just let it slide. It’s okay. We’re all there, by your side. We don’t mind anymore :)

  33. stinky78 says:

    Why Am You’re Still Here? Either you’re taking drugs, nothing in real life to do or other games to play or maybe just an over hyped fanboi. Game has nill to offer, this procedural generation is a joke, cave the same, water plants the same, ships will be the same just as ive seen same creatures over and over. But hey, fanbois can always call those with a clear mind for haters since we dont accept lies and false advertisement.

    • Captain Narol says:

      Why are you still here ?

      You have nihil to offer and your procedural generation is a joke. You’re all the same.

      1/10 for a least picking a truthful name.

    • hpoonis says:

      Fanbois. Is that decorative French wood?

  34. guruerror says:

    Mr. Walker…I’m right there with you. It’s unbearably big, entirely too empty, and absolutely pointless; but I’m there every night.

    It’s like my own personal zen garden and my mining beam, my rake.

    • Captain Narol says:

      I got it !

      No Man’s Sky = Best “John Walker Simulator” Ever !!

  35. pix says:

    I also played for a lot longer than I should have, but I disagree that grinding 100m is less tedious than checking out (on average) ~24 crashed ships. Search for a bunch of transmission towers at a signal receiving station and go ship hopping. If you have more transmission towers lined up on the same planet, you only have to get the next ship flight-worthy. You can also tear down sub-specced ships for hard to get resources. I maxxed my ship before I finished the Atlas path. And once you are at 48, you can spend some time in each space station to see the (ridiculously small number of) ships that have been generated for that system. If there is one you like, go crash hopping again to find it as a wreck.

  36. poliovaccine says:

    See, the whole problem with looking for “a point to all this,” looking for some kind of purpose in games is, well… even in real life it’s sort of transitory and nebulous. I think you gotta just take your doses of fun as you find it.

    Anyway, “dicking around” is a time honored tradition, and in any game that edges towards simulation more than being goal-driven, that often shakes out be the primary means of having fun. Ref: SimCity, Grand Theft Auto(s), Kerbal Space Program, Morrowind/Skyrim (yes they have main quests, but those are hardly the reason you play those games).

    But yeah… not just with NMS, but with any game, I always have a sort of inward chuckle when people say about it, “There’s absolutely no point to xyz..!” Because they’re not wrong… but I do sometimes have the same complaints about school, work, maintaining social connections, attending family gatherings – and in every single case, I find the complaint ceases to exist once I stop making it, and instead just engage with the task at hand on its own terms, rather than (impotently) fighting it with mine. But with games, we even have the further option of not playing at all!

    So while I don’t exactly *disagree* with that complaint, it’s hardly enough to get me to stop playing a game. I mean games have evolved and expanded, and their industry is subject to entropy, just like anything else.

    Basically, “if there were no point to playing No Mans Sky, it would be necessary for us to invent it,” haha

    • poliovaccine says:

      Not to mention… anyone who bristles at praise for NMS had damn well better not enjoy things like Proteus, Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture, Euro Truck Simulator, The Forest, Subnautica, The Long Dark… or well, like what you want, but you’d threaten to buck my idea of your consistencies, dammit..! Cus to me, approached in the vein of any of those games, as a walking sim OR a “mere survival” sim, it hits all the same marks.

      I think it’s still just suffering from overinflated expectations compared with the standards by which we rate many other games. I don’t know what all the hype promised, but many people seemed to expect something very different than what they got – in fact still do. But to me, having not followed the hype/developer babble (since I knew from day one it wouldnt run on my machine haha – tho by now I’ve had the chance to play it), I had only a peripheral idea anyway, so no expectations were unmet. But more importantly… I don’t see what the hell is so wrong with this game? People gripe about things, and call things boring, that they seem to *love* in other games. I honestly, earnestly don’t get it – but I do also feel like sort of a space alien to the situation due to not having followed the hype, I feel like that is a big gap.

      People better in the know, am I wrong about that stuff? Because from my perspective, I see the criticisms as perfectly fair, but the level of dissatisfaction, and sometimes downright vitriol, still seems out of proportion. I am trying to imagine the reasons for that.

      • Jediben says:

        I detest all of those games, so we’re sweet still, right?

  37. virtenebris says:

    I agree with you entirely on all accounts. I also wasn’t in on the hype a lot, and even watching videos from E3 presentations, interviews, or information in hindsight, I’m not sure what the negativity is all about. I think people seem to take too many things for granted, or seemingly forget that sometimes what’s shown at an event such as the E3 won’t be the final product.

    I keep citing Watch_Dogs for that which looked a lot less polished in the final release, but was barely playable at that.

    I think the main problem is that so many people get hung up over minutiae; in interviews it was said that players could meet in theory, and once when directly asked perhaps a too clear ‘yes’ was given as answer, and when it happened, players couldn’t see each other at all, etc.

    I think we the problem of a developer here that has created such a vast game, that they weren’t really sure themselves what the total capabilities are, and having no experience in marketing, or dealing with the media vultures and whiny gamer base, they perhaps made statements they shouldn’t have made. That’s the thing though, if you’re a gamer, a programmer and designer, and you made something you dreamed up, you get perhaps a little too excited for your own good; like when you show your pals your first little app you created, or your first level for a game you made, and you think it’s the best in the world.

    I think two mistakes were made: They were showing too much of the game, before perhaps realizing that they couldn’t quite complete it that way, or they weren’t given the time; with a huge publisher like SONY on their shoulders I’m not surprised at all. Then people griped about the price tag, but then, 15 people in a team; they gotta live and eat somewhere down the line.

    I for one am very happy with the game, reached my 100 hours yesterday (according to Steam, which means as of right now I paid $0.60 per hour — which is NOTHING), and will certainly continue playing it. It’s exactly the relaxing bit of fun I need after a long day at work. And I agree with “The New Yorker” who called it ‘visual poetry’.

    If you have no imagination, patience, a sense of wonder and a little bit of a science nerd in you, you will not like the game. And that’s fine, but that’s why you have a lot of other games to play. Move along, leave those who have fun with it, to it.

  38. mattleaf says:

    Yeah, I’m still playing. But I’m over it. The whole premise of No Man’s Sky is actually what keeps me booting the thing up, but then it’s always such a slap in the face of what the game actually is on each play through. Which is such a shame, somehow I think my hopes for what this game could be is what keeps me wanting to look over every horizon. But I dunno man, how about a waterfall? How about some actual waves in the ocean? How about, something to actually do in caves? And actual real differences between cave systems. No Mans Sky.. yeah, graphically it’s nice. But lets not pretend its something other than what it is – its one solar system, with 18 quintillion variations. Unfortunately, they’re simply not individual worlds with interesting things to do and see on every planet. They’re ultimately a remix of the same world. Over and over. Every single world IS the starting planet. And that’s fine, it’s totally fine. It is what it is.

  39. consoleoperator says:

    The development of your character through the multi-tool, ship and suit was horribly underdeveloped, with no balancing mechanism to pace this aspect of character progression against the exploring and “story” aspects. You can essentially max out everything before you even leave your starting solar system.

  40. Premium User Badge

    Buzko says:

    Never played the game, but Sam Bee’s Full Frontal is truly wonderful.