Back in 2013, Geoff Keighley and Joel Mchale helped unveil the first large-scale project from the indie developer behind Joe Danger, Hello Games. This debut of the universe-sized sci-fi title known as No Man’s Sky kicked off a pre-release period that grew beyond the expectations and capabilities of the small British team, with director Sean Murray attempting to keep the out-of-control hype of its audience within the confines of reality. After several E3 and PSX appearances, plus an extended spot with Stephen Colbert and countless articles, No Man’s Sky’s fanbase had all but fabricated their own version of what they believed the title would be upon its long-awaited launch, much to the chagrin of the hard-working developer. While pointing fingers at which faction is more to blame for this poor handling of the true nature of the game’s initial launch is a complicated and fruitless endeavor, the critical and fan response to No Man’s Sky upon its PS4 and PC launch in 2016 was varied, to put it mildly, which was equal parts surprising and expected, but disappointing nonetheless.
Over the past two years, No Man’s Sky has been receiving small but noteworthy updates to its dedicated but significantly smaller fanbase that were content with exploring and mining the quintillions of planets at their disposal. Back in March, Hello Games brought news of an upcoming Xbox One release, which would drop simultaneously with the promising Next update, which was later revealed to include the long-awaited multiplayer capabilities, along with a third-person perspective, more in-depth base building, a revamped campaign and much more. Since its re-debut last month, the reception towards the game has done a complete 180, with many of its previously lost advocates returning to give it a second chance. Much of the hatred that was previously aimed at Sean Murray and the team at Hello Games has since dissipated, as the expectations of critics, fans and the developer have gradually realigned to promote this deep and unique title that is no longer under the skewed perspectives of poorly-handled marketing or overly excited fanbases.
While the simplified story above makes this seems like a redemption tale that worked out in the end for everyone, there’s still several concerning elements that the social narrative often tends to ignore. For one, the overwhelming amount of often unjustified hatred that was sent towards Sean Murray and the team at No Man’s Sky can’t be swept aside simply because the game got improved a few years down the line. Eager fans who felt let down may now feel that this is a justifiable way to treat developers when the game isn’t 100% how they believed it would be, and that harassing them until it is improved is fully viable, when instead it is still just as unwarranted and despicable now as it was two years ago.
Additionally, from a developer standpoint, this trend of releasing titles with barebone features with the intention of potentially updating it in the months and years to follow with more content, polish and previously promised features has proven troubling. This has been particularly problematic when the original price of the game doesn’t align with a reasonable amount of content and polish, or if these future updates are partially or fully locked behind paywalls. As a result, this trend allows and potentially encourages publishers to rush a release based solely on the hopes that fans willing to spend the full price at launch will stick out a rough release period with the mere promise of fixes and features being added later on.
Nonetheless, there’s an undeniable sense of heart that has shown brightly from Hello Games since the game’s unveiling and throughout its launch and post-release period, as this small team has rocketed into the gaming and public eye. The highs and lows of this nearly five year journey has proven to be one of the more memorable stories of this generation of consoles, representing a cautionary tale for both fanbases and developers alike, and culminating with a released product that has brought positivity to both communities after plenty of yearning, patience and hard work. The social narrative can be alarmingly straightforward, with the lessons taught during the lowest and highest moments of the past half-decade often proving to be the most valuable. While the most intriguing portions of the production of No Man’s Sky have likely concluded despite the game’s ongoing development, embracing the full journey can still prove to be a heartwarming experiences, while simultaneously not forgetting about the crucial lessons for players and developers alike.