So begins Week Three of Blaugust 2019. Developer Appreciation week. The title isn’t giving greeting to Games in general. Rather it is indicating that we’ll be talking about the developer behind the once much maligned No Man’s Sky.
There is no denying that mistakes were made in the marketing around No Man’s Sky. Gamers as a bunch while not happy about it, have certainly come to expect some… ‘flux’ between developer promises and end product. There are whole rafts of reasons why something discussed early on in a development cycle might not make it to the launched product.
But Hello Games (and in particular, Sean Murray lead dev and face of the project) took this to some really extreme places. The one that everyone typically recalls is multiplayer, but there was more. Much more. I would argue some of those additional missing aspects to be even more impactful of the overall experience, too.
The difference in this case though, isn’t that it was just early video or promises latched onto.
A month out from launch, Sean was out in front of media, launching new footage and in general hyping up a version of No Man’s Sky that simply did not exist in any playable form.
I don’t think this narrative should be allowed to be retrospectively altered. I don’t think that people angry about this should be cast as merely ‘entitled’, as if there was no legitimate reason to be upset about what happened. Nor do I think it is OK to blame the consumer for being suckered into believing there would be multiplayer.
Having said all that though…
Sean said it very well in an interview last year:
“The internet is really good at knowing when somebody has made a mistake, [but] it’s not necessarily the best at determining the most appropriate response,…”Sean Murray, talking to The Guardian (2018)
And this is exceptionally true.
Death threats were made against the team and Sean personally for how things unfolded. It should probably go without saying — but that’s never OK. The entire interview is well worth a read. Even though Sean was understandably reluctant to dredge through the details of the launch era the insight into the pain and worry caused is clear to see.
But They Didn’t Give Up
And this is where the ‘appreciation’ part of this post really begins.
I don’t know commercially how they’re even funding these updates. I haven’t looked into sales figures around each update but while I would assume there to be a spike I also struggle to imagine it’s sufficient to break even.
Perhaps I’m totally wrong — maybe the early cycle of refunds of NMS meant there was much left money left on the table after all.
But whether it’s commercially viable or not. When this sort of thing happens, the usual response is to head for the hills and maybe one day return under a new banner. Or to simply move on to a new title and try put the last one behind you.
Hello Games has stuck around and put in some huge effort into bringing the original vision if not all the way, then at least closer to being reality. Reading the Reddit post I referenced earlier is actually quite amazing. It puts into context how much of what was missing at launch is present now.
There might be some line of sight to eventual monetisation of this work. Some sort of expansion or full on NMS 2. But after bringing in true multiplayer, controllable Freighters, base building and technology research, improving the flight model, expanding planet biome diversity and just a craptonne more. All for free. At this stage I’d say they’ve earned the right to it. I’m extremely appreciative of the work Hello Games has pumped into NMS.
And if you’ll excuse me a moment, I need to go jump back in with a friend! :D