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Off The Fence With No Man's Sky


I've really been conflicted over the past several months. The debate on whether to take the leap and pre-order the highly-anticipated No Man's Sky, which releases Aug 9, 2016, has ebbed and flowed with each update provided by Hello Games, every leak revealed by any number of sources and every conversation with fellow gamers looking for the next big game.

No Man's Sky has so much potential.

In the end, that's what has kept me from pulling the trigger.

We can call it Peter Molyneaux Syndrome. For better or worse, that man knows how to be ambitious. Referencing him here - in this context - is admittedly unfair to him and to Hello Games and that team because the game hasn't come out yet. Also, Mr. Molyneaux has never tried something as ambitious as No Man's Sky is attempting.

We all know the promises by now. Quintillions of planets. Billions of years of potential gameplay. Millions of players from hundreds of countries, each carving their way through it all.

"Don't do it. DON'T!"
Yet my imaginary Molyneaux continues to whisper at my subconscious. But this week, he was no longer whispering. Instead he was begging me to forget this space epic altogether.

So what changed? What forced me to get off the fence and decide to forget any inkling I had of dropping my hard-earned cash on what has the potential to be the greatest game ever seen to this point?

It was an article from PCGamer's Christopher Livingston this week detailing everything we know so far about the game.

It's been confirmed that the game is as huge as they said it would be. Therein lies the problem for me.

While the game will contain a massive universe, it appears as though it will be filled with mostly loneliness.

Pew-Pew guns, yes. Other humans, well, maybe.
They've scaled the game in such a way that - as Livingston points out - the likelihood of you running into another human player is slim. The likelihood of you running into a human player that you actually know will be even slimmer.

Sure, there will be a galactic map, showing you the general location of your friends. Unfortunately, two people on the same planet are still worlds away from each other. Particularly when the entire game was designed to be big and only big.

The second major issue for me is that the game is missing the single most important thing a game this big must have as of March: a story. In Livingston's conversation with the game's creator Sean Murray, the entire goal of the game is centered around making money and discovering new locations.

That's it. Make Money. Find another planet. Make money. Find another planet.

Mass Effect without any of the fun stuff.

Oh, but you can name stuff. If you discover it first, that is.

ASIDE: How long until corporations are sponsoring players into naming horse-like creatures or plants or entire in-game planets after their dotcoms?

The impact we have on this world that Hello Games is creating appears to be limited as well. The planets, which are all "procedurally generated," can be modified by users in the forms of digging or presumably building. But any work a player does on that planet simply will not be seen by other players who visit that planet. As told to GameZone (and reposted in the PCGamer article):

“Changes the player makes are saved locally,” Murray explained. “So if you start destructing the terrain, that’s saved on your own machine. And if you try and make -- what we would consider -- really significant [changes], some of those [changes] are stored on the server, along with the discoveries that you make. But in general, a lot of what you’re doing is considered insignificant. If you kill a creature, we scratch that, we save that that’s happened, but we don’t feel the need to like, kill that creature for everybody.”

So what is the point, exactly?

I could end up completely whiffing on this and No Man's Sky could be the greatest game ever created. But from what I'm seeing, I'm more apt to assume that this will be the video game equivalent of Ridley Scott's Avatar: a technological gem that has to be seen but after a few hours, just sucks.

Peter Molyneaux may not have delivered on his promise of growing a tree from an acorn, but at least I enjoyed the hell out of Fable. I just can't see the same happening with No Man's Sky.
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