Update: It seems No Man's Sky Limited Edition boxes have a PEGI sticker on them which obscures a previously included 'Online play' icon.
Two spacefarers met each other yesterday in the vast 18 quintillion-planet universe of No Man's Sky. Except they couldn’t see each other or interact in any meaningful way. They moved around, set off explosives and neither of them saw any effect of the other. While this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, it is at least one aspect of the game that seems to totally contradict what the developers have previously promised.
The players, Psytokat and Thesadcactus, bumped into each other (figuratively) after Thesadcactus landed on a planet and realised it had already been named by another player. He got in touch with this player – Psytokat – and they arranged to meet up in the same place at the same time for a joint Twitch stream. But when they did, they saw nothing. After trying other locations they concluded that nothing they did was directly affecting their counterpart's world.
It is possible that the two players were just victims of unlucky instancing – being placed in different “worlds” despite their proximity. Or server problems may also be at fault. But it may also mean that seeing other players is simply not a feature of the game. The problem with this? Well, the developers said it would be.
Sean Murray of Hello Games has previously said in interviews that it would be possible to run into other players, even if it was extremely unlikely. On the Late Show With Stephen Colbert he was particularly explicit about the possibility. Click here to watch the relevant part of the interview.
Murray was asked if you could see your own character in the game. He said no.
“The only way for you to know what you look like is for, you know, for somebody else to see you.”
“Can you run into other people,” asked Colbert, “other players on the game?”
“Yes, but the chances of that are incredibly rare just because the size of what we’re building.”
But now it looks like this may not be the case. Murray heard about the meeting between the two pilots and tweeted about how surprising it was , but he didn’t clarify why they weren’t able to see one another.
“Two players finding each other on a stream in the first day - that has blown my mind,” he said. “We added a 'scan for other players' in the Galactic Map to try to encourage this happening. We wanted it to happen - but the first day?”
Every game box and store listing describes No Man’s Sky as singleplayer – that’s an important point to make. But the previous promotional guff has always emphasised online elements. And that interview with Colbert is a pretty straightforward. The game was always bound to fall victim to over-promising, and it looks like this is a small example of that. Murray has recently been downplaying those elements in the past few days, saying that people shouldn’t be expecting a “multiplayer” game.
“We do have some online features and easter eggs so people can know they are playing in the same universe,” he said in another tweet. “It's about cool ‘moments’.”
If you’re wondering why all I’m quoting is tweets, it’s because Hello Games haven’t yet responded to us (or anyone) about the meeting of the two players. If and when we do get an answer, we’ll let you know. For now, this is an unsolved mystery. Server problems, instancing or long-lost feature? Place your bets below.