There’s something magical and open-ended in this medium, still, some promise and wonder in the impossible. But sometimes, you have to look very hard to see it, and you risk getting hurt.
I wonder about the reception No Man’s Sky is getting.
You know No Man’s Sky. It’s the Spore clone everyone is worried will be a rapturous triumph, full of beautiful procedural planets and open-universe exploration. The mini-Star Citizen, the new EVE Online. It’s being made by ten devs in the second floor of a strip-mall building in England, and it’s carrying either the promise of the industry or a disgusting amount of hype that we will again fall for.
It can speak French in Russian. It once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels. It is the most interesting game in the world.
The appeal is the same that Mario and Zelda games held for our younger selves—I wonder what’s around this next corner? It’s dressed up a little in HUDs and colourful worlds and space, but the appeal is the same. We keep going, because we want to know what’s over the next hill and be better than it, because we always have, in every game.
Amidst all the hype and the questioning of the hype, that’s it. I try to remember that. We want to see what’s on the other side of the hill.
I think they’re counting on a little of the Minecraft appeal to carry over, but I’m not sure it will.
Minecraft has the benefit of being extremely granular—I can stumble across a beach, make a tiny golem out of some cobblestone (my friends have no idea, the number of tiny cobblestone golems I’ve left scattered through their worlds) (I once made one ten stories tall that dripped lava from its hands) and leave it there, and come back a day or two days or a year later and see how it has fared. A dolmen of my own making.
But in No Man’s Sky, I don’t see that kind of granularity. Instead, in the preview footage we’ve been shown so far, it feels like we’re being taken on a guided tour, safely ensconced within our vehicle. Like nothing so much as a planet-sized wildlife preserve the Jetsons might visit.
If a pink tree falls in a procedurally-generated forest, can I carve my initials on it? And if I can’t, do I care?
To some extent, I can understand the forum hyperbole. It’s about value.
It’s not like our parents are still wrapping up these little boxes of magic in coloured paper. At a certain point, one’s level of investment in these things changes. We drop healthy chunks of budget, we justify it by calculating money-spent-per-hour-of-enjoyment. We need to get value out of a thing that we ourselves value, in order to prove to everyone else why we do this.
When something doesn’t live up to our standards, it has sinned.
But looking at No Man’s Sky, I wonder, sometimes, if we shouldn’t learn to forgive that which has sinned against us.