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Opinion – No Man’s Sky Doesn’t Have A Multiplayer Problem, Gamers Have A Solitude Problem

By: Mithrandiel

No Man’s Sky has been out for just about two weeks now, and in that time it has amassed quite a bit of negative press. Gaming sites such as IGN and Polygon, singing its praises hardly 3-4 weeks ago, have come down on the title as being solidly “Meh.” What was supposed to be a title designed to change the gaming world has arrived and is apparently not the game people were expecting.

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 8.04.31 PM

I’ve shared my thoughts on the game already, but given the continuing discussion around No Man’s Sky, what was promised vs. what was delivered, etc, I figured it would be a good opportunity to look at the debate surrounding multiplayer and what I think is at the crux of the matter.

NoMansSky_Monolith

There is quite a bit of talk regarding multiplayer in No Man’s Sky, as well as debate in terms of what Sean Murray promised players. There are a number of interviews that Sean Murray did in the weeks and months leading up to release in which he does state that encountering other players is a possibility, though given the sheer size of the universe, it would be extremely unlikely.

With over 18 quintillion planets, even if there were millions of active players, if you happened to warp to the right system and came across someone else’s ship at the right time, I would advise you to go out and buy a lottery ticket immediately afterwards.

NMS screenshot 2

Courtesy of Ubersandwich from subreddit r/nomanshigh

The problem is, it’s not about the multiplayer feature. Gamers across the country and around the world made their way into No Man’s Sky and found themselves utterly and completely alone. Perhaps they started on their journey to discover the mysteries of Atlas, maybe they thought they wanted to explore the universe…but the product of today’s gaming industry has very little patience for a world like the one Sean Murray and Hello Games has created.

Courtesy of u/RashFever from r/nomanshigh

Courtesy of RashFever from the subreddit r/nomanshigh

There’s a path to the center of the galaxy that you can follow, but even if you focus strictly on accomplishing that goal, it will take you over 150 hours according to Mr. Murray. So what is a gamer to do? Is there a central antagonist to fight? No. Is there a social hub to hang out and share stories of adventure and survival? No. Are there helpless NPC’s that need you to escort their undoubtedly slow ship across a perilous asteroid belt as endless hostiles bombard you from all directions? Thankfully, no.

So, what do you do? You land on a nearby planet and get out. Maybe you walk to the edge of a nearby cliff and inspect a herd of previously undiscovered creatures from a distance. Maybe you’re running low on supplies, so you go spelunking in a nearby cave and farm as much plutonium as you can carry before getting back to your ship. Maybe you’ve detected a nearby alien artifact and wish to understand more of their culture and language, so you seek it out. Then, when your curiosity has been sated, you step back into your ship and take off into space yet again. All alone in the universe, you hop from planet to planet…moon to moon…discovering new things and making your infinitesimal mark upon the galaxy.

Mithrandiel was here! No, not there...over there! Ah nevermind...

Mithrandiel was here! No, not there…over there! Ah nevermind…

This is where things go off the rails for so many people. The gamers expressing disappointment and frustration with No Man’s Sky don’t seem to know how to enjoy it as an experience. You’re not constantly in a frenzied first-person-shooter action sequence to help secure the safety of the galaxy. No – No Man’s Sky is not about you being the center of the universe; the savior or hero sent to save the day. You’re just another traveler – an adventurer in a large and unforgiving universe. As the game often points out, many people have come before you and many will come after – all that matters now are the experiences and memories you create for yourself.

BlueSpace

That’s not the kind of game most people are used to. Many in the gaming industry have spent the last 20+ years making games more intertwined with socializing. 2-player games have been around about as long as there have been video games, and while we’ve moved on from local co-op games to more online integration (a decision that is still a sore spot for many), the idea of having others involved in your gaming experience has become all but standardized at this point. Platforms like Twitch and YouTube have only heightened this dependence further, as a game with high “entertainment” value is helpful in attracting a large audience. Considering all this, for No Man’s Sky to land amidst all of these titles and platforms to stand alone as a thoroughly solitary experience would undoubtedly cause some waves.

Becron5

It’s precisely because of this gaming co-dependence that I believe the game has been received so poorly in the weeks following its release. Without other players to lean on, left solely to carve out an exploratory journey, gamers feel disconnected and the journey loses its meaning. My challenge to those who have abandoned No Man’s Sky would be to find meaning in the game with nobody else around.

Is No Man’s Sky a perfect game? No. I’ve encountered a fair share of crashes on my PS4 and I know others have experienced worse on their PCs. There are many elements of the game that could be improved and tweaked to make it an even better game (inventory, ship upgrades, interstellar travel, etc).

While there are improvements that could be made to the game, the experience remains one unlike any I’ve had before in my 25+ years of gaming. It’s an experience that’s all mine – and I like it that way.

 

9 comments

  1. Alex says:

    Great article, thanks for the insight, I agree

  2. Subspace Dandy says:

    The game was received so poorly because of fake marketing – only two screenshots in this article are from the actual game (the ones marked “courtesy of”) and the rest is from prerendered trailers, and stuff they show simply doesn’t exist or doesn’t look nearly as good. You land on a planet, you get out and… oh, look, it’s one of 8 possible variants with a random palette.

    I can’t speak for all gamers, but personally I’d be happy if NMS was a good solitude simulator slash pretty lanscape generator. It simply isn’t. You run out of things to discover in about two hours.

    • Ian Cooper says:

      You realize developers are allowed to use renderings, right? That’s not illegal or anything. Also, anyone who says the game has a “random” palette and only 8 possible variants is simply a liar.

      Maybe you should stick with Destiny.

  3. SHELOB says:

    Great article. Clickbait hot topic layered upon a punditesque blame shifting. We were promised player interaction. And at the first day, that was proven otherwise. How is this in any way the fault of player mindset. You deny the existence of both single player games, and players playing them. Not nice. You neglect games, where mechanical interaction and player interactivity supplies the experience, instead of assets directly translating to gameplay and gametime. No man’s sky lacks these assets, and offers no gameplay depth, that these assets suppose to replace. That, is why it’s bad.

    • PIX3LY says:

      “We were promised player interaction.”

      No, we weren’t promised anything. Gamers made assumptions, plain and simple. The game offers huge amounts of depth, if you’re willing to play it and figure it out for yourself.

    • Ian Cooper says:

      No one was “promised” anything. Anything a developer talks about prior to a game’s release is subject to change due to QA issues and deadlines. Anyone who doesn’t understand this really isn’t mature enough to be buying video games.

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "Opinion – No Man’s Sky Doesn’t Have A Multiplayer Problem, Gamers Have A Solitude Problem"
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