ASA Investigating No Man’s Sky’s Steam Advertising

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority is investigating No Man’s Sky. An RPS source filed complaints to the ASA regarding the trailers and screenshots used to sell No Man’s Sky on Steam, arguing that they are unrepresentative of the product being sold. That source – and the ASA have confirmed to us – that the regulator agrees and has contacted both Valve and No Man’s Sky developers Hello Games for their response.

The ASA have compiled a list of the ways in which they believe No Man’s Sky’s advertising is unrepresentative. Here it is in full:

Videos:

User interface design
Ship flying behaviour (in formation; with a ‘wingman’; flying close to the ground)
Behaviour of animals (in herds; destroying scenery; in water; reacting to surroundings)
Large-scale space combat
Structures and buildings as pictured
Flowing water
Speed of galaxy warp/loading time
Aiming systems

Screenshots:

Size of creatures
Behaviour of ships and sentinels
Structures and buildings as pictured
Store Page in general:

Quality of graphics

References to: lack of loading screens, trade convoys between stars, factions vying over territory

The complaint, our reader tells us, was made not out of malice against this particular game, but rather a desire to make a larger point about the nature of the way he alleges customers are misled by gaming advertising. “My hope,” he tells us, “is this could give Valve a reminder/prod that they themselves have a responsibility, they can’t just blame individual publishers, and this might help them keep future games being listed, more honest.” This wouldn’t be the first time the ASA has ruled related to Steam, after finding a Grand Theft Auto V sale “misleading” late last year.

After being contacted, Hello Games and Valve will have the opportunity to remove the marketing materials voluntarily, and if they do so then the complaint will not be pursued further by the ASA. If no changes are made, the ASA can pursue their investigation further and bring sanctions against both Valve and Hello Games. This all but requires to take down the current trailers and screenshots on the game’s store page, which – without doubt, in my eyes – do not accurately depict the game being sold.

There has unquestionably been a lot of vindictive behaviour in response to No Man’s Sky’s not being what people had hoped/imagined it would be. But there is also room to recognise that No Man’s Sky is undeniably not like the game it’s still being advertised as on Steam. Honestly, I’d assumed they’d have taken down those wholly inaccurate trailers by now, but the game (which I love as much as loathe) is still being sold with years-old promotional material.

Those vast snakes cutting ravines in the ground, the beautiful dinosaurs so elegantly stomping, the ability to upload discoveries without opening the menu, scans taking one second, water lapping against shores, vast fleets of ships warping in to solar systems, AI ships fighting on your side in space, seamless transitions into planet atmospheres, in-atmosphere ship combat… It’s all still there on Steam, and yeah, actually, that’s kind of shocking.

It is of course normal, and almost unavoidable, for a game’s early trailers to not be accurately representative of the final game. Games find their limitations, or make significant changes for good or vital reasons, and of course make iterative aesthetic or design changes in the process of completion and refinement. Complaining about such changes is fruitless, and woefully misunderstands the nature of game development. There is of course a lot of room for debate about the reasonableness of releasing overly ambitious trailers in an attempt to hype player expectation, especially when pre-orders are available (never pre-order, folks!)

But I think a good point is made by raising the issue of such dated promotional material being the front-and-centre face of the game’s store page. Even some of the static screenshots for NMS are unlike the game they’re selling. For instance:

And I’ve played at least a hundred hours of the game and never seen a planet that looks like that most iconic image of the game at the top of this post. Brendan covered these differences, and his disappointment related to them, in a previous post about No Man’s Sky.

We are keeping an eye on both the game’s store page for changes, and the ASA’s bulletins, and will let you know what happens next.

Disclosure: Alec wrote some words for No Man’s Sky which is why he doesn’t write about it for us.

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148 Comments

  1. benexclaimed says:

    I wonder if the morons involved understand that the only likely effect of something like this is less openness throughout development.

    • John Walker says:

      This appears to be quite specifically about how the game is being promoted *now*, which is showing very inaccurate trailers that do not represent the game being sold.

      • Rizlar says:

        Indeed, as someone who mostly ignored the marketing, enjoys the game and doesn’t give a hoot about the drama I’m still really surprised that they are using this marketing material.

      • snowgim says:

        Yes, I was about to say I didn’t really see anything in the trailers that wasn’t in the game, but I guess I wasn’t looking close enough before. There is a hell of a lot of stuff in those trailers that I haven’t seen, and based on the variation of planets I’ve been to so far I do wonder if any of it actually exists in the game.

        • Marr says:

          This is what makes focusing on procedural generation perfect for NMS style shenanigans, it’s natural to give the game much benefit of the doubt, and by the time you’re convinced it really is the nothing that it looked like you have 50 hours gameplay on record and are officially a satisfied customer.

          • Niko says:

            But if you’ve got it in you to play a game for 50 hours, maybe you actually like it? Because otherwise you’ve either been doing research or it’s an odd obsessive thing.

          • Marr says:

            Nah, people grind through hours of skinner box tedium every day. Doesn’t have to be enjoyable in any way, they just need to believe there’s some awesome payoff waiting at the far end. Combine that with sunk costs psychology and off you go.

    • Sleepy Will says:

      That sounds like a very good thing, because the marketers seemingly couldn’t help jumping on the hype generated from the open development, the hype built to ludicrus levels and well, it all ended in death threats.

    • MalikDama says:

      Never punish anyone for bad behavior, it will just teach them to hide it better.

      • Ethaor says:

        They’re not trying to have them pay money for past false advertising. They’re trying to have them depict the game today for what it is today, not for what they hoped it might become a year from now.

        That’s not punishing them for bad behavior, that’s asking of them to have now a normal behavior.

        If it were me, I would certainly punish them as hard as law would allow me, so that other marketers and other shady developers don’t get any ideas getting rich on hype and people’s credulity.

        Hopefully NMS shall stay in people’s mind as a lesson for everyone.

      • poliovaccine says:

        Not if the punishment is DEATH!

        • Premium User Badge

          magogjack says:

          Ha ! Can’t argue with that.

        • Niko says:

          “I eat death for breakfast!” (I say as I pour milk into a bowl of Grim Reaper Cereal. The box depicts a black-robed figure with a scythe, standing in a wheat field.)

      • jhk655 says:

        lol, what an absurd statement. Can you imagine if the justice system was based on that principle? What a moron.

    • Premium User Badge

      Jdopus says:

      Had the developers of no man’s sky exhibited genuine openness they would have announced when features were cut and explained why.

      You don’t measure transparency by how much self-aggrandizing information a company releases to the public, you measure it by a company’s willingness to release information that doesn’t make them look good.

      No Man’s Sky’s development was not genuinely transparent because while they released a lot of information, they released only information which made them look good and no information which made them look bad.

      • Premium User Badge

        Jdopus says:

        But hey, if you’re a fan of this brand of openness, I’ve got a really great report here for you to read. This company truly set high standards for transparency by the definition you’re using.

        link to picker.uchicago.edu

    • Jokerme says:

      Less openness throughout development is what I want. They should only show the finished product. Not dreams and fantasies.

      • Chaoslord AJ says:

        Funny just the thing I was thinking too. They may pay me for play-testing or showing off their game on the internet if they like.
        Think about say Nintendo’s next Zelda. PR, yeah lots of. Say in the developement for players: none. End product will be working and fun as always, no doubt, not a broken mess of player inputs.

      • Sizeable Dirk says:

        The gaming dark ages when the gaming community and hype was mostly kids talking shit in schoolyards.
        When CES was just another trade show where game publishers showed a batch of new releases for distributors to pick up.
        The “press” there were mostly people who couldn’t care less and had the weekend covered by some distributor and just counted the minutes until they could escape to the closest casino.

        Even reading official format magazines there weren’t really that much on upcoming releases more than some speculation and two screenshots a few months in advance. Then a new Zelda game or whatever just stood there on the new releases shelf in the store one day.

        I don’t know if I’d like a return to that but damn is it tedious with announcements for teaser countdowns to a 4 second teaser trailer of a titlescreen to a sequel to something that has barely started pre-production.

      • ThePuzzler says:

        If you want less openness then you can have that already. Just ignore all previews.

    • Vacuity729 says:

      I take it you’re not familiar with games like Prison Architect as a model for “openness throughout development”? It’s a good example, but I there are plenty of others. No Man’s Sky didn’t have it.

      As it happens, I rather enjoy NMS and don’t regret my purchase, but I have found myself wondering how the trailers and pictures on the store page can honestly be used as promotional material at this point.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        Yes. I could list of dozens of individuals or small development teams. (Squad/KSP, Tom Francis/Gunpoint etc) who do it well.

        A few AAA might do, but less so. However, even the AAA know not to over promise, or limit previews to “cut scenes” so they can never get caught out over promising. Sad but true.

    • melnificent says:

      You know those videos from alpha builds that state “Alpha footage”, this is why. It won’t affect those videos, what it does is make developers and publishers have to check that their videos are representative of the final experience.

      More interesting is the investigation of “bullshots”, ie. Quality of graphics, as that could have wider reaching repercussions in the gaming industry.

      • poliovaccine says:

        Interesting point… not sure if this is what you were thinking of, but I immediately think back to stuff like the GTA3 box art, cus it came in a box, and how stuff on boxes always looked way smoother and higher res than you could ever get it to look in the actual game… or how mods exist to make Dark Souls 2 or Watch Dogs or Mafia 2 look more like their prerelease footage… could be a pain in the ass dilemma for developers who want to be able to change their mind about something they’ve shown without having to update the public on it every single time… unless they let em just put a disclaimer or something, in that scenario. But is all that even what you were thinking of when you said that? Cus I have a feeling there are more implications to it that I’m just not imagining right now.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      The only point to “openness throughout development” is creating a hype for selling the product.
      I don’t care about the increment developement of unfinished products, only the finished product and if it’s good and working flawlessly or not.
      The steady advice of “the community” to some devs who don’t know themselves where to go with their game have seldom created a superior product.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Seriously do you people have any idea how fucked all of game development would be if you were not allowed to change any aspect of *anything* in a game that has ever been shown in promotional material (trailer, demo, etc)?! Imagine having to run every level design or graphics change you make by an advertising authority before you release a game! This is what you want?! Are you insane?

      People would just stop promoting games altogether and just quietly release them, going: “take it or leave it”.

      • hungrycookpot says:

        I’m pretty sure that’s not what anyone is suggesting. Nobody at any point said that NMS had to adhere to marketing material present 2 years ago. They’re saying that it SHOULD adhere to marketing material that is CURRENTLY being used to advertise the game, and having no official marketing material which actually represents the state of the game.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          >I’m pretty sure that’s not what anyone is suggesting.
          How about every Reddit thread and YouTube video minutely analyzing every little thing ever said about NMS for ‘evidence’…

          • Premium User Badge

            zapatapon says:

            You started your last comment here with “you people”, but actually intended to address a reddit audience? You appear to be confused.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            It should be obvious that is directed at everyone participating in this whole “No Man’s Lie”-nonsense both inside and outside this thread.

          • Distec says:

            Your indignation seems based on the premise that Hello Games didn’t lie about anything, or was not engaged in any dishonesty. I think that’s a very hard argument to make at this point. These fields have been thoroughly ploughed for a few months now, and it is dead obvious that promised features (some overtly and some slyly) are not in the game. And while it’s hard to discern what was “cut” versus what was never present, one could reasonably argue that Hello Games had some obligation to come clean about the state of the game.

            I also see no point to this sadly typical “grrr Reddit/Youtube” routine. It’s 2016 and the internet is going to put your products under a microscope. I can understand being put off by the angry, self-righteous tone from a lot of the net’s incessantly pissed off denizens. But your problem seems to be that that these forms of evaluation exist at all, as if they’re unfair to the developer.

            They’re not. At all.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            I don’t take issue with their existing, though I hold that type of ‘analysis’ in about as much esteem as people who nitpick continuity errors in movies… I take issue with it dominating the entire conversation. Here is a game that does truly remarkable things and is, when taken on its own merits outside of the hype, a really interesting sci-fi exploration game… but all anyone wants to talk about is whether Sean Murray indicated this or that in an interview one time and whether 60 dollars is too expensive for a game that is in some ways repetitive. Never mind that far more repetitive and less ambitious games receive no such criticism.

            I will leave you with this: link to youtube.com

          • Elvisman2001 says:

            All they have to do is change their advertsising video to this, and poof! Problem solved.
            link to youtu.be

          • Marr says:

            > Here is a game that does truly remarkable things

            Name three.

      • Minglefingler says:

        Except that the issue here is Hello Games using advertising material that is unrepresentative of the game after it’s been released, it wouldn’t be so hard for them to replace the Steam trailer with one was was accurate. Yeah games change during development, just advertise them accurately after development is complete. Also, no one is advocating games companies submitting their trailers to an advertising authority for approval, they’ll investigate if they receive a complaint about misleading ads which is fair enough really.

      • dongsweep says:

        You are making this too complicated. The Steam page has videos and screenshots that do not represent the game people can currently purchase (not pre-purchase, that is a different argument). Considering someone opens the website (having never heard of the game) and looks at all the trailers and screenshots and thinks they will enjoy the game and proceeds to buy it only to find out all those advertisements still available are from a build that does not exist is not something anyone should defend. Either they remove all their advertisements and leave the store page blank or they make new trailers and screenshots from the finished product to show what people are buying. I understand your point about games change and all that but what is advertised post release should be what is released. Frankly, I wonder how you can defend this unethical behavior.

    • Booker says:

      That would be really awesome, if there was less lying during the marketing of a game! :)

    • Kittim says:

      God, people like you make me sick.
      And I feel I’m OK to say that. After all your calling people morons.

      You seem incapable of understanding that the games software industry is not your friend.

      It’s not a case of less openness during development. It’s a case of delivering something that accurately represents what you’ve been touting to your consumers.

      You are a unit that gives software publishers money, that’s all that matters to them. Don’t believe anything different.

      Valve pay for you to fly out and get a tour of their offices? That’s called marketing, someone has a job where they balance the cost of flying one spotty git out for an all expenses paid trip against the good karma they’ll get from sheeple that don’t know any better.

      You think companies on Facebook are cool? Bollocks! If they didn’t get something out of it, you can be damn sure they wouldn’t bother.

      Anything that makes the games software industry accountable and forces them to deliver on their promises is of paramount importance.

      Just go on YouTube and find a few E3 vs Release videos or example.

  2. gingerbill says:

    They should get in trouble , they told lots of blatant lies , there are many videos showing them lying about the game not just the trailers.

    I’m surprised they have been let of so lightly by game journalist . This isn’t people nit picking small missing features , this is just blatantly saying things are in your game that are not there.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Yeah if they’d only investigate one game it had to be NMS. They advertise a game that’s not there.
      “Games can change a lot during the developement”. Yeah why not sell it on the base of what’s in the finished product regardless.

      • Someoldguy says:

        Compared to all the massive companies that actively lie about their products – particularly their damage to health – it’s really pretty trivial. I wish it was as straightforward to hold them to account.

        • Chaoslord AJ says:

          Yeah I meant related to the realm of video games. Not talking about asbestos, thalidomide and other phenomenona.

          • Niko says:

            And so the everlasting dispute whether games are art or chemical products continues.

        • Kittim says:

          Do not trivialize lies.
          I’m not just talking about Hello and NMS, it’s the entire industry.

          Just because it’s a game does not make it trivial. 10 pence is trivial, £50 is not.

          The “Things can change during development” excuse is fine as long as it details what has changed and what impact that change has made on the fidelity of prior marketing.

  3. Dicehuge says:

    I hadn’t really followed the development and the promises so when I got nms I was just bored, rather than outraged and incensed. But I was totally astonished to see those videos are still on the steam page. Breaking some promises is kinda to be expected, but to still be advertising those broken promises as if they’re in the game is ruddy mischievous of the devs.

    • Urthman says:

      I can totally understand needing to cut features and scale back on the quality of graphics for performance. What I can’t understand is how a developer who truly loved their game and wasn’t just trying to scam people would want a trailer sitting out there on the front page reminding everyone of the stuff they had to cut, the graphics quality they couldn’t quite pull off.

      NMS is a pretty good game. It’s a great game for people who are really into the kind of experience it offers. Why would you want to sell it with a trailer that makes the actual game look bad in comparison?

    • PseudoKnight says:

      Agreed. I had to go check the Steam page after this because I had no idea they were still showing that initial vertical slice video on the store page. I have no problems with a developer dreaming big and talking about it. The game is what it is when it’s released. You shouldn’t use your dream video to get people to buy your released game. That’s blatant false advertising. Unlike a lot of the other complaints, this one is genuine and straight forward.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    This absurd. Anyone care to explain why No Man’s Sky is getting this treatment while Bioshock Infinite, which also changed significantly from early trailers, did not? I seem to remember it getting a lot of 10/10s.

    • Premium User Badge

      Jdopus says:

      Because the Bioshock team announced changes to early builds and did not continue to advertise their product with cut features after it had changed dramatically on full release.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      I mean “User interface design”, “Speed of galaxy warp/loading time”, “Structures and buildings as pictured” are you kidding me?!

      Size of creature: I have personally seen several large creatures in the game. I’ve also seen planets not at all unlike those pictured above.

      The only legit complaint in there are the changes to atmospheric flight control and the lack of complex creature AI and that falls squarely in the realm of “things change during development” if you ask me, certainly not larger deviations than the things that changed in Bioshock Infinite.

    • John Walker says:

      Were it to continue to advertise the final product using those early trailers, then yes, it would get the same treatment.

    • MisterFurious says:

      What’s absurd is thinking that a game company should be able to get away with false advertising just because others have.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        You don’t seem to grasp the concept of a game in development not being identical to the finished product.

        • Llewyn says:

          You don’t seem to have noticed that this specifically refers to advertising the finished product with footage of the “not identical” development project.

        • Zenicetus says:

          We all grasp that just fine. What’s at issue here is running advertising after the game is released that isn’t representative of the game.

          That’s called deceptive advertising, and it should never get a pass from the gaming community, game journalists, or the legal authorities (where applicable).

        • Kittim says:

          @Ninja Dodo or whatever.

          “You don’t seem to grasp the concept of a game in development not being identical to the finished product.”

          Ok, here’s something you should be able to get your head around…

          Here’s my promotional video for a awesome car I’m developing, it’s great, carbon fiber, v12. Just look at those beautiful lines. I’m taking preorders now at 10% off the release price. In fact, for only 70% of the cost of the car, I’m going to include revisions to this amazing car.

          4 Months later…
          Here you are, your fantastic car, in solid steel, look at that four cylinder engine, a masterpiece!
          And because you also purchased the revisions, I’m going to give you an ashtray RIGHT NOW.

          But wait, there’s more! In another 2 months, I’m going to give you SLIGHTLY BETTER MPG. And OMG! Wait another 3 months and you’ll be in the possession of a HAND BRAKE. Chills!

          The games industry needs a f’ing big kick in the goolies.

          Stop enabling them.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      @John & Jdopus: Except that’s not really true is it? Because people are dissecting every little thing Murray and his team have ever said or suggested as some kind of binding legal document and they did no such thing for Binfinite.

      This whole thing is insane and the only possible end result is going to be that developers will stop being open about games during development OR just plaster everything with giant useless “EVERYTHING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE” disclaimers.

      • Zenicetus says:

        That isn’t the only possible result. Another one would be that publishers and developers would be more likely to run trailers and screenshots that actually represent the game once it goes final and up for sale.

        What, exactly, is stopping Hello Games from putting up new trailers that show the actual game?

        Personally, I think this is more laziness than nefarious scheming. They just never bothered to create more promotional materials, and left the old ones running after the game went on sale. Regardless, it’s still deceptive advertising and they need to be called on it.

      • Dicehuge says:

        The people treating trailers as ironclad promises is an issue entirely separate to what this complaint and what John is talking about though. The complaint relates specifically to CONTINUING to advertise features that aren’t in the COMPLETED game, it isn’t about advertisements of what might be in a game that isn’t out yet. This isn’t about “don’t make promises you can’t keep”, all they had to do was not have those trailers on the steam page at launch.

        • try2bcool69 says:

          They put out 4 or 5 “accurate” trailers in the week prior to the PS4 version release, so I’m not sure why they didn’t use them on Steam, even though they were PS4-centric.

      • Shiloh says:

        I don’t buy this argument. And even if I did, I’d rather see ***not representative of gameplay*** or ***features subject to change*** on every single pre-release trailer than have the devs/publisher pass it off as a true representation of the game.

        Transparency is good. Obfuscation and evasion is bad.

        Good devs understand this.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        Let’s not pretend that replacing the trailers would really make any of this ridiculously overblown hysteria go away.

        • TechnicalBen says:

          You seem to have judged people and how they feel even though they are trying to give logical and contractual examples of their purchasing decisions.

          Why is this?

        • Arglebargle says:

          More Ninja, less Dodo….

        • Kittim says:

          And let’s not pretend that you have a realistic grasp of the situation.

          Anyone peddling lies or misinformation about what they are selling, regardless of product should be made accountable and should be forced to tell the truth.

          If that means that 20% of all games disappear, so be it. They would be the 20% of games that were not as advertised. The ones where consumers were cheated.

          I’m sorry if your need for escapism feels threatened by such an outcome. Indeed, I’m a little worried you may resort to hard drugs in order to keep reality at bay :/

      • hpoonis says:

        I do not understand why anyone should feel developers should be ‘open and transparent’ during development. I recall reading nothing about what Jeff Minter, Braben et al were up to. I recall no speaking out from Nintendo, Sega or whomever regarding impending software at that time. Yet I was more than content with finding out that game X was not as entertaining as I had hoped. I spent my money, I made my choice. Most gaming reporters probably only had access tot he software very close to release date. No early access, no misunderstandings, no ‘lies’.

        Th real alarming thing here is that all those who got their knickers in a twist and are declaring lies, sex and videotape from anyone probably spend far too much of their lives on the internet. If you all want to be spoonfed your lives vicariously through the ‘online’ world there would be no surprises in your existence.

        Ultimately, I waited for this title since the initial snippets were revealed some years ago. Sadly, I doubt I shall be picking it up any time soon. Not because it may be tedious, repetitive, unwieldy blah blah blah but, primarily, for the fact that all those who were expecting something else have soured the experience so much that it has become something that can quite easily be avoided…yet I was looking forward to finding out myself.

        Prior to the explosion of online reporting, whether professional or not, those earlier gamers were more dedicated if they were inclined to know more, the journalists had to work harder, fewer publications meant that every word wasted was money spent. This entire affair has been dissected again and again until there is fuck all that remains to be said, seen, experienced that has not been said, seen, experienced by every man, Jack and his wife.

        15 years ago, if a person bought a game that they were unhappy with, the only people who knew would be the gamer, his family, his gaming friends, maybe some others. Now the entire fucking planet is subject to everyone’s criticism, personal perspective and collective sheep-like attitudes that have, in many cases, coloured people’s opinion of a thing long before they themselves ever got to figure it out for themselves.

        How many of you ever wrote a letter to a newspaper, or a magazine? The mere act of putting the letter in the post required far more time and effort than the majority of folk is willing to expend. If that letter was actually published there was a certain amount of self-satisfaction that one had written a piece that was deemed worthy of publication where, once again, every inch of space was valuable.

        Clear examples are the fact that more of you in here use acronymns for software titles because you lack the stamina to type the entire text and those of us who are not in these little coteries have no clue as to what software you refer to.

        • ButteringSundays says:

          Quite right. And we’re all guilty of it to some extent.

          Everybody having a global voice has enabled some amazing things to happen in society, but it also means that everyone thinks their opinion matters. Steam reviews are a great example of this – schools should issue them as homework the amount of effort some people put into ‘do you recommend this game wot you bought’ – it’s frankly absurd.

          On balance who’s to say whether this phenomenon is good for society or bad – it’s complex. But the narcissism is tiring.

          Presented with some degree of irony, of course.

        • Marr says:

          15 years ago the game also wouldn’t have sold out on day one, and word of mouth had plenty of time to go around and warn everyone off when something turned out to be a dud. We waited for the end of the month for reviews to show up in the dead tree press.

    • fish99 says:

      The point isn’t just that the trailer is misleading, it’s that it’s being used by Valve in a digital store to sell the game today.

    • MisterFactoryNewPotatohead says:

      It’s simple really, even with changes, Bioshock was still considered a good game. NMS wasn’t.
      Sure, Bioshock got a free pass. I think no one’s gonna go after them now. But then are you saying NMS should also get a free pass?

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        And there it is. Binfinite gets a pass because it is considered more of a fun game (debatable… personally I’ve had more fun exploring No Man’s Sky than I ever did shooting up most of Bioshock Infinite, though I did like Burial at Sea).

        Actually my point is “getting a free pass” isn’t even the right term. Games change during development. That is how game development works. Games should be judged on what they are when finished, not on what they could maybe have been or what you imagined them to be. By all means get excited about things, but learn to read or watch a review before you buy things and don’t pre-order or crowdfund unless you’re open to the possibility of disappointment.

    • minijedimaster says:

      The only thing absurd here is you trying to white knight false advertising.

      • jrodman says:

        You really should learn other, more accurate, terminology here.

        Sure, he’s conflating various things and as a result effectively defending deceptive advertising practices. Call it foolish, bizarre, or self-defeating. Or even go as far as to make accusations: lacking in perspective; a confusion of interests by being too close to the problem; or acting as if an ulterior motive is present.

        But not “white knighting”. The term doesn’t even apply and has seriously odious connotations.

        • minijedimaster says:

          I think my terminology was straight forward and easy to understand. You just like to hear your self talk and try to sound smarter than you actually are. I’ll stick with my method thx.

          • PseudoKnight says:

            Easy to understand? I’m confused by your use of terms. Are you saying he’s defending false advertising? Rescuing it because it’s incapable of rescuing itself? None of the [awful] connotations make sense. Are you hoping that we’ll just get “white knight” as a negative and it’ll all make sense? “Ah yes! White knights! I hate those guys. He must be wrong!” I’d avoid labels like that if you hope to communicate ideas effectively. Since you dismissed jrodman’s far more eloquent post, I’m sure you’ll find some convenient label to apply to me so that you can dismiss me too.

            I disagree with Ninja Dodo’s assessment. The two instances aren’t equivalent, but there is something there about the vehemency in which the community went after NMS’s communication failures. I think it was compounded by a misunderstanding of how game development works and a devaluation of games “without a point”.

          • Niko says:

            Ahh, you sneaky (reads from paper) ess… jay… double yew?

          • aerozol says:

            So nice to have the RPS community not let things like this slide, thank you jrodman and PseudoKnight.
            Adults (and children!) acting like adults together, including under No Mans Sky news articles, what a dream.

          • Premium User Badge

            zapatapon says:

            Evidently, minijedimaster means that False Advertising isn’t Ninja Dodo’s to rescue, because False Advertising can defend itself well enough.
            Ain’t that right, False Advertising?

    • Freemon says:

      It looks like you’re saying is that I, as a developer, should be allowed to advertise my game with trailers and screenshots that represent what I wished my game looked like, instead of what it actually looks like. Or am I missing something?

      Isn’t that blatant false advertising?

      Which seems to be the whole point of this article to be honest, from the title to the last sentence. If the game is wrapped in cheddar and a reddit controversy, that’s not relevant at all to the news being served here.

      The news here is: game uses false advertising. Game gets reported to ASA. ASA gives it enough merit to warrant further investigation.

      Don’t mix it with anything else. ASA is not investigating this because the game has overwhelmingly negative reviews or because there’s a reddit wildfire around this game. It is investigating this because it believes the false advertising complaints might have some merit.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        No. Work-in-progress trailers, screenshots, interviews and other material represent games as they are at that stage of development, sometimes with scripted elements standing in for systems are not yet finished, but always reflecting the intentions and plans of the developers at that moment in time. All of these things can change to varying degrees over the course of development because of design changes (maybe a feature turned out to be boring or frustrating and was cut for that reason), technical requirements or problems (maybe it turned out to be impossible to include that feature or effect and still get 30 or 60 fps), running out of time or budget and any number of other reasons. All of these things can contribute to a game being different when it is finished from how it was when it was first presented. There is no deception there, just the complicated creative process of game development and its various problems and limitations.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          … but that is also why you should read a review to find out how well the developer’s succeeded at making the game they intended to make. Some games get closer than others. As I recall even the rightly beloved Witcher 3 had some controversy around early screenshots showing more densely populated streets which evidently had to be scaled back slightly for performance reasons in the final game. That’s how game development works.

        • klops says:

          The amount of you (intentionally) missing the main point is astonishing.

        • minijedimaster says:

          This article and the charges from the ASA are not about the fact that features were cut and that trailers showing features cut exist out in the world. It’s about the fact that Hello Games STILL HAS THOSE TRAILERS ON THEIR STEAM STORE PAGE OF THE FINAL GAME THAT IS ON SALE TODAY.

          Why is this so hard for you to understand?

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        As to the ASA thing specifically, anyone claiming this has anything to do with applying consistent standards for fair and transparent advertising and isn’t just an attempt to punish Hello Games for making an arguably disappointing game is being incredibly disingenuous.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ingix says:

          People will let things they conceive to be “incorrect” or “not as they should be” slide because they think it is too much hassle to complain about them, or that it will not change anything. But from time to time, when things are at least perceived to be “extremely incorrect”, somebody will actually complain to some authority. Possibly because No Man’s Sky was the straw that broke the camel’s back for that person.

          It possibly has something to do with the fact that the whole situation exploded after the publication of the game. Having confirmation that that person is not the only one who considers the still being used trailers as not in line with the actual game could have been encouraging him to complain.

    • jrodman says:

      You are expressing indignation at imprecision and generalization while acting with imprecision and generalization.

      You can make no meaningful contribution to any part of this debate, discussion, or social goings-on by insisting on claiming that the overall court of public opinion in the lowest common denominator places of discussion is the same as requesting for current in-place, ongoing deceptive advertising be corrected. Those things are absolutely not the same. Yes, they are both related to the general public opinion evaluation of No Man’s Sky, and you could make some kind of nuanced, informed, or even slanted commentary about that. But by attempting to flatly equate them, you are producing only noise of the sort that you are attempting to cast out.

  5. hpearson says:

    Spore had an awesome looking E3 presentation(2007) and another with Robin Williams. Many features seen were cut from the game and most of the game reworked. If you look at the trailer of E3(2008) it showed a more accurate product. Spore got a lot of flak for he development direction it took but they were honest and open.

    No Man Sky kept up the charade until launch (even withholding press copies). There was no attempt to show the customers a valid image of the game to make an informed purchase.

    Every game goes through a development phase and features change but the final trailers / store page should be accurate to what the customer will receive for purchasing.

    To the argument “That feature will be patched in later”, bullocks! If the game isn’t ready: early access.
    If the game is released: don’t advertise a feature until it is implemented. You are tricking customers into thinking they are buying a feature but instead they are buying the promise of the feature to come. (This distinction need to be laser cut clear)

    • hpearson says:

      Imagine renting a movie due to the actor on the cover only to find out the actor isn’t in the movie at all.

      If the actor was cut from the movie don’t advertise that he is.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        This kind of happens. Some low budget films advertise artistic boxes with characters (usually drawn mind) that are not in the film. Or they have a top Star act for 15 seconds answering a phone and calling in the “agent” who is a b movie actor to do the rest of the film.

        The only reason this does not get into the news is like 5 people buy that film… if it was a Sony back film, with big advertising (like, oh, NMS!) then it would get in the news and there would be backlash.

      • Geebs says:

        Back in the nineties, “unofficial” DVDs in Vietnam all had Mel Gibson’s face poorly photoshopped onto the cover. I’d really love to see that version of Showgirls one day…

        • jrodman says:

          The Mel Gibson showgirl? I was never that big a fan, but I’m pretty sure I’d be entertained all the same.

      • Premium User Badge

        DelrueOfDetroit says:

        The Thin Red Line?

      • Niko says:

        Imagine buying a Game Boy game depicting a muscular half-naked man fighting skeletons on the cartridge, only to discover that actually protagonist is a tiny pixely knight!

        • ButteringSundays says:

          I can’t believe you’re the only person to mention this.

          20 years ago box art barely had any relation to a game at all!

          (Not that this is a good thing, just a ‘you don’t know you’re born’ type situation)

          • Sizeable Dirk says:

            I really wanted to play as that Scurvy Alcohol Baby Syndrome US Mega Man. :(

  6. geldonyetich says:

    Anyone who both played the game and recently watched the E3 trailer that is being currently used to actively promote the game should be able to see how, indeed, it is quite the misrepresentation of the game. Examples include:

    * The dinosaurs in the trailer are significantly more advanced and varied than anything you can find in the game.

    * The dinosaurs in the trailer have realistic behaviors that simply do not exist in the game.

    * A dinosaur knocks over a forest of trees. There is neither the ability for animals to knock over trees nor forests significant density to be found anywhere in the game.

    * The interface looks a lot more elegant and polished.

    * The other spaceships interact meaningfully with the player. There is even a dogfight against a capital ship with the other ships assisting. Neither meaningful spaceship interactions nor capital ship dogfights significantly exist in No Man’s Sky.

    * The general resolution and filters used by the E3 video provide a better visual than anything you can find generated by the actual engine.

    If this legal action results in honesty in game trailers, I’m all for it. The E3 video was, at best, a presentation of what Hello Games would have liked to have made, a diorama for a game in development, and it had no business being present and re-broadcast during and after release.

  7. Flank Sinatra says:

    The last thing I remember hearing from Hello Games, a week after it came out, was that as soon as they fixed the bugs they were going to start adding new features to the game, like bases and freighters, within a couple of weeks. But then nothing. They have gone completely silent on Twitter and Reddit. Not encouraging.
    The only way for Hello Games to redeem themselves is to continue to update and build NMS into something greater than what they advertised in the trailers. They could turn it into a massively multiplayer first person 4X game or something. A game worth $60, not just a tech demo. They’ve got the time and money, now they just need to repair their reputation. If they leave it as is, Hello Games will never sell another game again. Goodbye, Hello Games.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      They’ve been consistently releasing fixes.

      • minijedimaster says:

        Fixes != Features

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          And if you were paying attention you would know they have said they plan to first fix any outstanding issues that people are having like crashes and bugs before they start adding more features.

          • aircool says:

            Which means they’ll be ‘fixing’ it until no-one play is anymore. No new features, just endless patches…

            …and why no patch notes? Because they don’t change anything, it’s all a conspiracy so they can keep ‘fixing’ the game and not bother their arse to make it into something that’s not shit.

    • Niko says:

      Okay, the suspicious silence from devs aside, the idea they can make NMS into a MMO is kind of ridiculous. You have to build that kind of game from the ground up, and even in that case it’ll be a huge chunk of the budget.

  8. Shiloh says:

    They should replace the Steam/E3 trailer with that “No Man’s Sky/Jurassic Park” video. That would be much more like it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Nauallis says:

      But then there’d be a reasonable accusation about false promises from the music not actually sucking that much! Creature behavior is legit though.

    • klops says:

      I giggled

  9. f0rmality says:

    lol dude Reddit is not an, “RPS source”

    link to reddit.com

    Come on now. Give credit where credit is due.

    • f0rmality says:

      link above is to the, “source,” in question.

      • Bloodoflamb says:

        Neck beard Redditor thinks Reddit is the source of all news.

        Turns out that a person can post both on Reddit and be a reader of RPS who would be willing to reach out to RPS independently. It also turns out you have no fucking idea who their source is. So don’t talk like you do.

  10. crowleyhammer says:

    Surely Konami should have been done for this when they advertised pes using the PS4 graphics and gameplay when they released the shitty pes we ended up with!

  11. cunningmunki says:

    Good old ASA. I’ve used them a few times and they’ve always come through.

  12. Jediben says:

    This is delicious.

  13. Vermintide says:

    Good.

    Developers could get away with what the NMS devs basically tried to do back in the early days. Back then videogames required a certain amount of imagination no matter what, so your exaggerated claims weren’t really false advertising so much as a “serving suggestion”.

    However the fact is video games are maturing, they have come on leaps and bounds since the days of buying obscure 8-bit computer games on a tape at a market for a few quid. They need to be fit for purpose, and sold as advertised, in the same way that every other consumer product has to be. Devs and publishers may have a hard time coming to terms with this, but the days of the wild west are over. They didn’t end with the great piles of buried ET carts in the mid 80s- they ended when Steam finally put in a refund policy.

    Sadly I have a feelin the biggest weak link in this chain is still going to be gamers themselves. Too many of us are still going to fork over for pre-orders, microtransactions, and DLC that should have been in the game to start with. Gamers will bitch and moan about it online until the cows come home, but at the end of the day they’ll still open their wallets, and offer their rears to the mighty Activisions, EAs and Ubisofts, regardless of what stunt they try and pull.

    • aircool says:

      EA are a strange one. I know that they’ve released some turkeys over the years, but I have never had anything but a positive experience with their customer and technical support.

      I’ve had games sold to me at half the Origin RRP (for reasons I’ll withhold) as well as being given discount codes and all sorts for what are, minor technical issues which they’ve fixed.

      They have come on in leaps and bounds over the last decade or so (with a few blips), but their customer/technical support is outstanding. I’ve had issued resolved whilst using their chat support where you’re actually getting one on one customer/technical support in real time.

  14. GSGregory says:

    This is nothing new. One piece pirates 3 uses video and screenshots from the ps4 version to sell the steam version even though the ps4 version is the only one that got graphics updates, online play and a few other features. Games use blatantly false marketing all the time these days but no one holds any digital market responsible.

    • minijedimaster says:

      Soooooo, whats your argument here? Because something similar happens with other devs/games that its ok here? Are we now unable to enforce advertising laws because others who have broken them have gotten away with it?

      • GSGregory says:

        Literally how the fuck did you come up with any of that from what I said?

  15. CriticalMammal says:

    I’m actually very curious to know how much Sony had to do with that area and why no one stepped in earlier to tone things down. From the sound of things Hello Games was missing some key elements that could have ironed out issues with a PR team (not literally just Sean Murray), and the QA testers hired right after release. They really needed that stuff considering the scope of the game and it’s no wonder everything came crashing down without those resources.

    • hpoonis says:

      All of this negative feedback means nothing to Sony, they are deliberately using Hello Games as the scapegoats. Little or none of the vehemence is being directed at them. Yet I can’t help feeling that things would have been different if this were purely a computer release and not a project compelled by a silent partner to include their hardware.

  16. aircool says:

    When you say games advertised on TV (like Overwatch), you get a nice little caveat saying ‘not actual in game footage’.

    What is being shown on the Steam Store isn’t actual gameplay footage either so should really come with the same caveat.

    No Man’s Sky actually managed to piss off enough people so that in the future, there will be less ambiguity, because lets face it, video games are still way behind the curve regarding consumer rights and standards.

    Whilst I can understand why Steam is reluctant to give refunds for over two hours of play time, two hours isn’t always enough time for faults and discrepancies to rear their ugly heads, particularly if you’re troubleshooting crashes and waiting for yet another patch.

    However, that’s a problem for Steam and Publishers. As far as I’m concerned, if the game stops working, or still has major issues with crashes, bugs and gameplay, then I should be able to return it within the period designated by our (country’s) consumer rights laws.

    No Man’s Sky has attracted a lot of deserved criticism, mainly for it’s marketing and price. You pay £40, then you expect a game that’s worth £40.

    If the game had been released for, say, £15 under early access, they could have saved themselves from the shitstorm and have a large and loyal userbase.

    As for the excuse that, as a small independent developer they were naive in their public relations, that’s just bollocks.

    • Flank Sinatra says:

      Even if NMS did look and exactly like in the trailers, there’s just not enough content in it to justify charging the same premium price as a AAA game like Skyrim or GTA V. I don’t care how many billions of planets are in the game if they’re all just copy-paste, mix-and-match of the same limited pool of assets with very little gameplay built around it.
      The fact that No Man’s Sky costs the same as The Witcher 3 is the real crime.

  17. Moonracer says:

    The store page on Steam doesn’t accurately represent the game. That is bad. False advertising is bad.

    Asking a company to simply change the advertising and nothing else seems like a slap on the wrist to me.

    • Marr says:

      It’s an interesting and positive development to see some consumer protection happening, but so little and so late. Hello Games made three quarters of a million Steam sales in the first 48 hours and basically nothing since then, so yes. Symbolic gesture only.

  18. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    >And I’ve played at least a hundred hours of the game and never seen a planet that looks like that most iconic image of the game at the top of this post.

    This is my current planet:

    link to static.giantbomb.com
    link to static.giantbomb.com
    link to static.giantbomb.com
    link to static.giantbomb.com (assembled with Autostitch from multiple screens)
    link to static.giantbomb.com
    link to static.giantbomb.com

    With procgen you’re never going to get that *exact* planet out of 18 quintillion but I’d say that’s pretty damn close.

    This was my starting planet:

    link to static.giantbomb.com
    link to static.giantbomb.com
    link to static.giantbomb.com
    link to static.giantbomb.com

    No large creatures? What about this?

    link to static.giantbomb.com
    link to static.giantbomb.com

    (found another that was bigger but this one was more interesting-looking)

    Aquatic environments & fish:
    link to static.giantbomb.com
    link to static.giantbomb.com

    (no mods used except Fast Actions which removes hold to click)

    More screenshots: link to steamcommunity.com

  19. Chorltonwheelie says:

    Gamer’s Stockholm syndrome this.
    Can you imagine fans of other pastimes contorting themselves to explain this sort of behaviour away?
    Remember the claims made for Valhalla on the C64 (c’mon old farts), Black and white…loads of ’em?
    Because devs have got away with this sort of nonsense in the past doesn’t mean we have to put up with it forever more.
    I feel for NMS. They are kinda paying for the sins of bigger, badder fish but it’s got to stop sometime and this is as good a place as any to start.

    That said, don’t pre order…you’re asking for it you daft sods.

    • klops says:

      I can easily imagine fans of other pastimes contorting themselves to explain this sort of (bad) behaviour away. Think about movie star fans defending a shitty movie because they like the star, sports fans defending an asshole player because they support the team (Pepe in Real Madrid is a good example) and so on.

      Fortunately these are irrelevant things. The problem comes when this fanboyism/-girlism and turning a blind eye on certain things happens in things that really affect the world, like politics, religion or rising children.

  20. lancelot says:

    John, have you ever looked at NMS’s Steam page? Because that “most iconic image” is the very first screenshot on the store page of NMS. And every Steam discussion worth reading brought up the issue of the materials on the store page.

    But RPS and some other sites were very carefully avoiding that issue and instead talking about how people were “imagining” a different game.

    And now all of sudden you can see the issue, and say that earlier you just “assumed” that the issue wasn’t there.

    I find your article disingenuous.

  21. Distec says:

    So you’d rather have a completely different argument from the one currently taking place?

  22. PancakeWizard says:

    While I think that NMS should just take off the videos that aren’t accurate, I’m sceptical that those contacting the ASA were doing it out of a sense of consumer activism.

  23. racccoon says:

    No Mans Sky is a great fantastic game made by a small independent company in a tiny office, who all managed to create a game never before seen!
    What Hello Games achieved is amazing and will become a stepping stone for future games devs, where they will be able to improve on its diversity and not so much the first steps of new code. Well done Hello Games..for your bravery, determination and guts! At least the game is playable and was released thereabouts on time.

    As for another space game called Star Citizen who have done nothing but begging with bowl that has holes in it for unbelievable amounts of cash! Star Citizen have produced a massive variety of false claims & produced so many lies through their theatrical performances on stage and off! they have advertised falsely, constantly, for years and years & still going on! Where’s there audit? Star Citizen on release the game is going to be the biggest explosion never before seen in gaming.(flop)
    Star Citizen is a game that needs a full investigation, as their achievements are total bullshit! yet with all this SC still keep son begging and begging!
    So after that…
    Its a.. hats off.. to Hello Games.. for.. the greatest achievement in gaming… well done!

  24. EricSnowmane says:

    The simple act of being able to make a game of the magnitude that is No Man’s Sky is amazing for an independent developer. There’s something that needs to be remembered: An independent developer does not have the finances that a AAA company does and doesn’t have the manpower of one.

    The features missing from NMS are impressive, perhaps overambitious, but the fact that they’re missing isn’t what the problem is. Even AAA titles lose features or graphical quality on release. A company like Hello Games, when they realise something is too ambitious to pull off, will have to make bigger cuts to content than a AAA company that is able to bring in the manpower needed to realise a lofty goal.

    The problem is the lack of transparency from HG. It’s one thing to cut features, but adjust the marketing material and explain away a few issues with the game and inability to make something work well when it has to be altered procedurally for 18 quintillion-gazillion planets, flora, fauna, and NPCs. It’s completely another thing to promise features that existed in theory on small scale demos, but when release day comes not have them in and not have an explanation that the game is drastically different from what was promised.

    All that said, I enjoy the game. It’s not what was promised, and that’s a big no-no, but it’s still a game that I find satisfaction in.

    • Marr says:

      The magnitude is entirely illusory though. If it didn’t have hyperdrives and everyone was stuck in a single system of half a dozen planets the game wouldn’t actually be significantly reduced. If you were really patient, you could see more than half of what it has to offer without even repairing your ship.

  25. fearandloathing says:

    Ugh people still going on and on about NMS being indie title. No folks, it’s not, you’re just emptying out what it means to be an “indie game”. NMS did not receive huge coverage in all kinds of media “just because”, that was backed by a sizable ad&HR campaign and we still don’t know the extent of partnership with Sony. Your normal indie games do not have that, Undertale didn’t, Limbo didn’t, no proper indie game did. It is not an AAA game, yet not an indie either, simple. Stop whitewashing it, the devs simply did not deliver what was promised, and that’s their fault only, they built the hype train, fed it continuously and they should suffer for it. But believe me, they will not, I’m sure regardless of all the shit the game got, it’s still making a huge profit. That only shows what kind of a shithole the videogame market has become, some games simply cannot fail. Regardless of how mediocre they were, or how much they exploited the consumers in the past, no big AAA series flopped (CoD, BF, Total War etc.) people just keep on throwing money at them. NMS reached that degree of too-hyped-to-fail thanks to the coverage.

    • hpoonis says:

      “NMS reached that degree of too-hyped-to-fail thanks to the coverage.”

      Are you suggesting that all of the “over-hyped” blame lies purely with the developers? Is it your argument that every single viewer, reader, prospective purchaser is a Hello Games employee? If not then the only explanation is that the fault of over-hype lies purely with the general public.

      All of those re-postings of each and every little snippety-snip of “No Man’s Sky” stuff over the last few years lie at the root of this debacle. Each of you who propagated the deception is the creator of your own unhappiness regarding this issue.

      Ultimately, it comes down to this, as soon as people dip into their wallets they introduce emotion into any purchase. Whether or not that purchase is a house, a car, or a software title.

      • fearandloathing says:

        I think it was fairly clear what I thought about the gamers, as in saying “people just keep on throwing money at them”, hence any claims that I found the fault totally in devs is not valid. However, and unfortunately at times, my position in the market puts me on the side of consumers, that’s where my interest lies so I don’t go out of my way to defend a company. And boy, you are really strawmanning there, reaching conclusions about my purchasing behavior far beyond what I’ve said and all, and your seemingly logical conclusions have little logic in them, sorry if that’s rude. No, the fault is not purely of the public because the game was quite obviously falsely advertised. IT is the devs responsibility to keep the audience in check when they are hyping about the features that are not really in the game. I guess you used that particular direct language as a figure of speech, but in fact all of your “you”s should’ve been “they”, I haven’t bought the game, don’t plan to, and I don’t deceive myself as to cause my own unhappiness. Well I do that but that’s on the philosophical level, so I couldn’t care less about NMS. But I agree on the emotional side of purchasing, which is why we see people with clouded judgments, sadly. Had everyone been rational, Total War would not become the mediocre slugfest it is now.

        • Premium User Badge

          Nauallis says:

          Oh yup, that’s so right. If only Sean Murray had personally contacted me to tell me my hype was overreactive hype and that being excited is bad, ayup, I definitely would not have had any hype.

  26. partTimeCrazy says:

    it would be nice if this also had an effect on the videos and screenshots for VR games as what you see advertised does not reflect the quality you see in the current level of headsets…

    • Marr says:

      I think there’s a general understanding that a flat static screenshot cannot in any way usefully represent the experience of VR gear. It is a valid representation of the art style of the games, which is pretty much all you can do with a screenshot.