Apple-Obsessed Author Fella

Five Things I’d Like To See In No Man’s Sky

*stomps feet like petulant child*



*kicks sand*


*stabs somebody*

Okay, I apologize for my tantrum.

I’ve been playing No Man’s Sky. A lot. I love it. It is oddly relaxing and calming. It is punctuated with moments of bizarre beauty. It skips along to moments of emergent narrative, like the time I lost my ship, or the time I lodged my ship between some rocks (due to a bug, admittedly) on a high security sentinel planet with few resources — I had to move hell and highwater just to repair the ship and get it summoned to an outpost I found halfway across the planet.

This is a game that highlights the journey over the destination. It is experiential and strange.

It’s also occasionally very hollow.

What I mean is, it often feels not like I’m traversing a real universe (which, obviously, I’m not, though it is the game’s job to convince me that I am) — but rather, that I’m traversing a backlot set at a movie studio. I feel like at any moment I could walk up to one of the creatures, or the cliffs, or the alien outposts, and I could kick them over. A cardboard proxy would fall with the illusion neatly spoiled. It all feels like vapor. Like none of it really matters. Sometimes I feel like a space tourist, which is exciting in its own special way, like I’m collecting postcards on my lonely voyage through the interior of the universe. Other times I feel as if I’m haunting the universe like a ghost just passing through, ineffective and unseen.

I thought it would be interesting (for me, maybe not for you) to put together THE THINGS WOT I’D LIKE TO SEE in this game. Just as an experiment of me shouting into the void to see if the void answers back. So, here we go. Things I wanna see in No Man’s Sky, starting now —

1) I WANT THINGS TO MATTER. Jesus, god, half this game feels like the knob that makes the toast darker on the toaster — it says it does something, and you spin spin spin the knob, but the toaster is gonna make the toast as dark as it jolly well fucking pleases. The knob is an illusion. The cake is a lie. And No Man’s Sky is full of inconsequentiality. The creatures you find fake an ecology, but they have none. They don’t eat. They don’t fuck. Some try to kill you and most don’t. They amble about, purely decorative. Sometimes you feed them and they shit like, nickel or other elements? I dunno. It’s not just them. So much of the game seems disconnected from the larger system. I don’t know that my standing with the alien races matters. I don’t know that me learning their vocabulary matters. If I name a creature or a place or a fucking cactus, what does it matter? Who will see it? (I’ve gone back to worlds and found my names erased or changed — some discoveries suddenly undiscovered.) The game fakes complexity. It fakes connections between systems. But most of it is a painting of complexity — the suggestion of connection without anything hooked up to anything else.

2) I WANT TO OWN STUFF. Right now, the game allows you three things: a suit, a tool, a ship. I like this, it’s simple. And I like how you upgrade these things and they stay with you. You carry them on your journey, and you have nothing else to call your own. That’s interesting philosophically and narratively, but over time, it’s less interesting as a game mechanic. What I mean is, we are given a bounty of riches in a nearly endless, infinite universe. Planets of such volatility and beauty make for interesting travel — but once in a while, I want to do more than simply be a tourist. I don’t want to be an explorer — I want to be a fucking settler. I want to find a place and stay for a while. I believe this is changing soon with the addition of building bases and capitol ships, but boy howdy, would I like a little Minecraft injected into this game. Minecraft gives me a procedural world and I can wander aimlessly — or I can hunker down and build a fort. Or a castle. Or a palace. Or a statue to my own brilliance. I want to own planets. I want to settle. I want to make mining operations and have droids do shit for me and I want to make spaceships that I can sell to other people. Or, at least, I want the ability to build a fucking house where I can live and have a Space Dog and I can park my multitool and take a shit or have a nap or — really, something, anything that gives me a sense of intimacy and permanence. Let me construct. Let me sculpt. Let me settle the world on which I’m standing should I so choose.

3) I’M SO GODDAMN ALONE. The creators have rightly and fairly said, “Hey, if you want multiplayer, then go play Destiny.” Which is reasonable. I don’t want to play a No Man’s Sky that has me running around a random planet with a thousand other yahoos — probably a gaggle of twelve-year-olds screaming racial epithets at each other as they camp a valuable mining spot. I don’t want this to be Eve Online, which is one of the most punishing, venomous galactic experiences you’ll have. But sometimes, too, this game feels so woefully, miserably alone. I like that at times. But when I name an alien critter, I want it to be like a name I carved onto a wall — I do it in the hopes someone will pass by and see it. Once in a while I’d love to experience the genuine thrill of seeing another actual living being in the universe. How sublime would that be? A moment of connection in a sea of isolation. I need a smaller universe. I need contact — once in a while, real, bonafide contact. Which seems impossible, here. The game does not merely have minimal multiplayer — it has absolutely none. The promises of some connection — a shared universe — is yet another of the game’s many illusions.

4) PIRATES ARE MY SCHEDULED “WELL I GUESS I’M GONNA FUCKING DIE” TIME. It happens every galaxy, now. I’m flying. Some turd-dick pirate scans my ship. Said dick-turd attacks. And I die. I die because the game offers me nothing in terms of beating them. Mostly I just spin wildly about as the computer lasers me to death, and then I have to go and repair my ship and find my grave and it’s like — fine, this is my DEATH TIME. But once again, the illusion is present. The game manifests this as a challenge, but it is the illusion of a challenge. You can beat the pirates, but there’s little reason to do so outside of avoiding the consequences of dying. You get nothing for it, and it’s hard and random, and again, who cares?

5) MORE COMPLICATED PLANETS WOULD BE NICE. Right now, NMS takes on the Star Wars theory of planet-building, mostly — a planet is one thing, one biome, that’s it. You don’t get snow here, you don’t get tropics, there’s nothing polar, nothing equatorial, there’s no difference between a lake and an ocean. Minecraft actually gets some of this right. At least a procedurally-generated world there has variance. This is just… the same thing with tweaks on the theme. Variety is real, but the value of that variety is (once more, say it with me) an illusion.

To sum up:

I want fewer illusions.

I want more systems to matter.

I want to feel like I’m doing something, like I’m making a difference.

I want to feel alone, but not so alone my only friend is a fucking volleyball with a painted-on face.

This is a beautiful game. It is meditative and fascinating. I love it and consider it a wild — if flawed — success, despite what you feel might be criticisms — these don’t diminish my love, I just want to love it more. Or, rather, I want it to have more longevity. Minecraft is a game deceptively simple that I’m still playing, and I can play it to survive, or to create, or to destroy, or to wander. I need NMS to have more axes of entry — more routes to affecting the universe and leaving my own footprints behind. That’s what we want to do — we want to go onto the moon and leave our bootprints in the dust. What that means to you, well, I don’t know. But the above post is what it means to me.

You playing the game?

What do you think about it?