Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Space Log: 'No Man's Sky'


I'm on a strange planet, gathering resources feverishly. I'm worrying about my health and life support systems. I'm very eager, as with most games, to master the controls quickly, master my resources, go exploring and feel immersed, adventurous, inspired...

Secretly, I'm hoping the experience will be unique and yet also shared. Maybe I can find things no one will find (and share them online), maybe I can make some good-looking space videos from my footage, maybe I'll be able to leave some kind of mark or artistic message on a planet for some future gamer to find... However, I'm hoping they'll be other players around somewhere, and maybe the setting will promote some kind of talking point, or... something... I want to see a bit of story somehow too, or some science-fiction problems to unravel... Maybe the game will even bring people - mankind even - together...

Remember the game Journey? Even touches of that would be ok.

Who knows? Did the developers of the game know? The big hook is that the game is a massive 'procedurally generated' affair in that there is a living universe going on. The lifeforms are also generated and 'live' ... sort of...

The line on the official site reads: No Man’s Sky is a game about exploration and survival in an infinite procedurally generated galaxy

It's a mysterious website, of course and with no mention of Muliplayer anywhere for the moment (Oct 2016). But what a nice canvas. What an elaborate, long-running party to invite everybody to...

So I purchased my Limited Edition Box and am into 'No Man's Sky'... I was still enjoying it actually, when a sort of backlash began against the game online. I'm thinking it's a big shame. This surely can't go wrong.



Is the proof of the pudding just in the eating? No, not these days of easy streaming, the proof is about the sharing, and - in fact - the game doesn't look that bad... But the controversy is taking centre stage at the moment as the success of the game 'as a game' raises questions.

How 'good' are the sandbox / 'make-your-own-adventure' features of this 'Space Survival and Exploration Sim'... You can subscribe here or to my Youtube channel to see - maybe - some of my own, shared adventures recorded. They may not be anything originally anticipated. You see, I had hoped to meet some fellow travellers, like in Journey. I had maybe hoped to create something or join some sort of cause. The canvas was a good one. But maybe the canvas is just too big for Hello Games to manage. Will they pack up and sod off on holiday? Or will they stick onto the hype they started and do something rich and rewarding with the procedural magic stuff?

So what did I really want from such a game? Its success was not a big surprise.

The trouble with the 'big games' is they attract a lot of attention these days. A lot of hopes. They offer a lot of possibilities for multi-gaming, video sharing / streaming skills, artistic creation, silly moments, hidden messages, hidden meanings... And most of the people bothering to provide feedback or to write Twitter posts, reviews etc. on the young-ish side of life; a big chunk of the internet. People want a vehicle to share with others. People want to 'own' experiences and share a sort of wry 'enlightenment' they can master by skill, chance or personal taste. Original trailer for the game:




Did the creators of 'No Man's Sky' know themselves? Not judging by a lot of the flak they seem to be getting now. Of course they wanted to hype and market an experience, an endless universe. But it sums up lots of questions and maybe that's where the game will ultimately score: by providing a potent question mark - or a black, monolithic signpost - in the evolution of big, modern, complex games.


ok... language is good... now what...

Was it all just too big? Is it that when games get so big and so complex, they start to imitate Life too directly, and people will be more easily tempted to switch off, than waste hours of time in upgrades and exploration?

In the end, what is the experience of a game going to provide? I don't want to just go about surviving and finding things, although this is OK if there's something really intriguing there. Alien Isolation was so intense in its focus as a survival game, that this was offering a unique, survival experience. It becomes amusing to find out how people play and fail at that game, how long they will last... And by sticking close to a well-known movie, it uses that super-dark, signature spirituality and wraps it up in its bleak, predator-prey experience.

So a game has to provide more content by way of connection and inspiration. It has to be a potent, heady brew of art, sound, story planning, multi-player input and challenging, changing interest. Or else it needs to focus on pure fun/challenge and the Single-Player mode, (although these are getting a bit old hat and lonely now, in this connected age).

I reckon that 'No Man's Sky' proves that people wanted that heady brew of something media rich, something internet-rich, collaborative, spiritual, fun, artistic, escapist, challenging... but instead have been left somewhat in the cold, gazing at another procedurally-generated planet. Sure, this can stick around on my shelf for a good while, but...

And meanwhile in Star Wars Battlefront, large multi-player teams are attacking the Death Star in a very direct, specific type of fantasy experience that is also a familiar and social or co-operative experience.

Let's see if 'No Man's Sky' will just trundle along and fizzle out, or whether new updates can enable the procedural wizardry to offer some potent depth to itself and to other games to come...

So... in the meantime, stay strapped in for any of my further comments or adventures. One thing about the game is you need your paddles in space. And since I've bought the boat as it is now, will sail on for some hopefully interesting discoveries, forever searching... for the ultimate game... a universe to fill with my own people, my own past, present, future... !! Hold on, has the kettle just boiled?


No Man's Sky : WIKIPEDIA information




Continued space adventures....