Hello Games

Hello Games

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.

Waking on a new world. This shot doesn’t show it obviously, but planets can have more than a single biome/texture type now. I can’t begin to express how happy this makes me.

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)
Visibility conditions were amazing before the storm hit. In this shot, I’m no longer even sure I’m still heading toward the shelter I saw as the storm rolled in.

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.

Ringed planets might not have been in at launch. But they certainly are now. And they look even better from the surface.

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

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3 thoughts on “Hello Games”

  1. Back when No Man’s Sky was announced I was intrigued at the same intrigued and a bit cautious about it. Intrigued because because it was a sci-fi game (we don’t get nearly enough of those) and it seemed to be about exploration (which can be fun but isn’t my main appeal in a game). The reason I was cautious is because the only thing I saw of it was a short video in an E3 stream that showed pretty much nothing about the actual game. I also pretty much avoided looking into anything else about the game after that as this is kind of my way of avoiding hype and regretting bad decisions later.

    Then the game launched, there were all those terrible reviews and I was glad I avoided it entirely. Then the big updates came and good people started to say the game was improving. That started to tilt the game back in my “Might buy it, maybe” list. Now it is only not back to that list I might just buy it just for the principle to support a developer who could have called it quits but stuck it out and tried to provide the game they promised even if there wasn’t any financial compensation to do so.

    The only reason I am not doing so right away it the same I am still avoiding other games: My giant backlog. But if the itch for something more sci-fi/building-like/exploration-like hits me I will probably buy it :)

    • NMS is in a super interesting spot right now.

      I’d still be loathe to tell anyone to jump out and buy it right now! RIGHT NOW! Especially not if talking full price.

      But as you say, if you’re in the mood for something like it, this is now a pretty dang good option. The changes across the title between launch and now are crazytown.

      Even some little sounding things make the game sooooooooo much more enjoyable now. Like allowing you to fly your ship as crazy low as you like (instead of the launch state autopilot enforcing a minimum height at all times). Or the fact that planets can now have diversity of biome on them (a little, at least. Before they were all a single texture, essentially).

      And I haven’t even really got to the super meaty stuff enabled by getting a Freighter. I almost wish I didn’t know some of it was there, even though it’s game function it’s to a spoilery level to me. Haha. It would’ve been even more fun to discover the specifics on my own, I think. So I shan’t spoil it here.

      Suffice to say, my thoughts about the game now are generally positive. But not without reservation entirely.

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