I want to talk about the No Man's Sky [official site] pre-official-launch-but-post-unofficial-launch patch notes. They contain what lead developer Sean Murray describes as spoilers so if you want to go in without knowing much and have an unsullied first exploration don't read any further.
I swear I'm about to talk about the patch and what the launch update will contain in a moment, but I also thought it would be a good time to flag up Rami Ismail's blog post about day one patches. He's not anything to do with No Man's Sky and, because of various NDAs he can only talk in generalities about his own experiences BUT it's a really useful insight into why day one patches happen and why No Man's Sky's patch might have happened. It focuses on the console certification process for games and the timescales for that versus what you can do on a lot of PC game distribution platforms.
Murray's blog post on the subject notes: "We’re already proud of what we put on a disk, but if we had time, why not continue to update it?"
Now, this doesn't address concerns like a lack of review copies for PC ahead of when people will be buying said game or the disparity between the console release date and the now-global shift to a 12 August PC release date but I do think it's all useful stuff to know and bear in mind when approaching games.
What I'm getting at with all of this is that if you pick up the game on any of the current official release dates this isn't really an update, it's just the base game. But if you've been hungrily consuming early streams, pre-official release impressions and so on things might look a bit different so I figured it was of interest to people thinking of picking up the game:
Here are the additions Murray says the team has made over the last few weeks - they include the removal of some exploits (including the infinite warp cell one which would let a player get to the centre of the game's universe in about 30 hours), alterations to inventories and the creation of more intense sunsets:
The Three Paths – there are now new, unique “paths” you can follow throughout the game. You must start the game on a fresh save, with the patch, as early choices have significant impact on what you see later in the game, and the overall experience. The Universe – we changed the rules of the universe generation algorithm. Planets have moved. Environments have changed biomes. Galaxies have altered shape. All to create greater variety earlier. Galaxies are now up to 10x larger. Diversity – Creatures are now more diverse in terms of ecology and densities on planets. Planets – we’ve added dead moons, low atmosphere and extreme hazardous planets. Extreme hazards include blizzards and dust storms. Atmosphere – space, night time and day skies are now 4x more varied due to new atmospheric system, which refracts light more accurately to allow for more intense sunsets. Planet rotation – play testing has made it obvious people are struggling to adjust to this during play so it’s effects have been reduced further... Terrain generation – caves up to 128m tall are now possible. Geometric anomalies have been added. Underwater erosion now leads to more interesting sea beds. Ship diversity – a wider variety of ships appear per star system, and are available to purchase. Cargo and installed technology now vary more, and ships have more unique attributes.
Inventory – ship inventories now store 5 times more resources per slot. Suit inventories now store 2.5 times more per slot. This encourages exploration and gives freedom from the beginning. We’re probably going to increase this even further in the next update, for people in the latter game phases, and will allow greater trading potential. Trading – trading is deeper. Star systems and planets each have their own wants and needs, based off a galactic economy. Observing these is the key to successful trading. We still working on adjusting this based on how everyone plays, but all trading values have been rebalanced across the galaxy, giving a greater depth. A bunch of trade exploits were uncovered and have been removed Feeding – creatures now have their own diet, based on planet and climate. Feeding them correctly will yield different results per species, such as mining for you, protecting the player, becoming pets, alerting you to rare loot or pooping valuable resources. Survival – recharging hazard protection requires rare resources, making shielding shards useful again. Storms can be deadly. Hazard protection and suit upgrades have been added. Liquids are often more dangerous Graphical effects – Lighting and texture resolution have been improved. Shadow quality has doubled. Temporal AA didn’t make it in time, but it’s so close Balancing – several hundred upgrades have had stat changes (mainly exo-suit and ship, but also weapon), new upgrades have been added. Combat – Auto Aim and weapon aim has been completely rewritten to feel more gentle in general, but stickier when you need it. Sentinels now alert each other, if they haven’t been dealt with quickly. Quad and Walker AI is now much more challenging, even I struggle with them without a powered up weapon. Space Combat – advanced techniques have been introduced, like brake drifting and critical hits. Bounty missions and larger battles now occur. Pirate frequency has been increased, as well as difficulty depending on your cargo. Exploits – infinite warp cell exploit and rare goods trading exploit among other removed. People using these cheats were ruining the game for themselves, but people are weird and can’t stop themselves ¯\_(シ)_/¯ Stability – foundations for buildings on super large planets. Resolved several low repro crashes, in particular when player warped further than 256 light years in one session (was only possible due to warp cell exploit above). Space Stations – interiors are now more varied, bars, trade rooms and hydroponic labs have been added Networking – Ability to scan star systems other players have discovered on the Galactic Map, increasing the chance of collision. Star systems discovered by other players appear during Galactic Map flight Ship scanning – scanning for points of interest from your ship is now possible. Buildings generate earlier and show up in ship scans Flying over terrain – pop-in and shadow artefacts have been reduced. Generation speed has been increased two fold (planets with large bodies of water will be targeted in next update) Writing – The Atlas path has been rewritten by James Swallow (writer on Deus Ex) and me. I think it speaks to the over-arching theme of player freedom more clearly now. Early mission text has been rewritten to allow for multiple endings.
Also of real interest to me was the little section at the end where Murray adds a little about what the team are working on now:
"Next up we’re adding the ability to build bases and own giant space freighters. Temporal AA and my new cloud rendering tech should be coming soon too. It will really change the game again, and enhance it visually."
It's interesting because when I attended the hands-on preview at Hello Games' studio the impression I had was that the game was all about encouraging you to keep moving, keep exploring so you wouldn't be building bases of any kind. Obviously a game can change over the course of development but the ability to build bases feels like it runs counter to so much of what I saw and thought about the general thrust of the game.
Here's what I said at the time:
The game mechanics are also a point where the team needs to keep tight control. They’ve gone with a core set which are all geared around getting people to move and to explore. You can’t build because that encourages you to set down roots, there’s no multiplayer (encountering another player would be more akin to Journey, perhaps, and is expected to be an incredibly rare event) because multiplayer encourages people to cluster and stay.
Encouraging players to move is also the reason the game currently doesn’t have temporal aspects like seasons or the deaths of suns or different biomes on a planet. “I don’t want [players] to be just staying on one planet. I think some people will but I don’t want people being like, ‘I can’t leave this until I’ve gone to the North Pole!'"
I don't want to speculate too much until I see the actual implementation/if it even happens because there's been so much of that regarding No Man's Sky, but just on a conceptual level that one surprises me.
Disclosure: Our Alec has done some last minute writing on No Man's Sky. He won't write about it on the site anymore. Or make eye contact with us.