No Man’s Sky came out recently and depending on who you ask, it was either a success or an enormous disappointment. Was this the game that was supposed to revolutionize all indie games forever? No. Was No Man’s Sky going to keep us glued to our computer screens for hours and hours on end? No. Is it going to make us appreciate every single curve, ridge, and intricate detail placed in this procedurally generated universe? No. In my opinion, is it a bad game? No, but it isn’t really phenomenal either.
No Man’s Sky is a $60 game that managed to demonstrate some of the things that are wrong with how we psychologically approach buying games.
For starters, a common trend that we as gamers have been known to do is to get excited about new projects that come out. I mean REALLY excited. We tend to talk about it to our friends, post about it on message boards, post links to it on our Facebooks, and make articles about it months in advance. We love cool games! That’s awesome, but a critical problem occurs when we can become so excited that we suspend our realistic expectations and concerns in order to preserve this image of what we ideally expect a game to be.
Now, this is what makes that a huge issue. We, as a community, tend to want these game projects that we’re excited about to succeed and in order to do that we fund them and encourage our friends to do the same. With new platforms like Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and just basic preordering, we are sending a message that as long as the game looks promising enough we are willing to give our money to unfinished products. You might be thinking by now that not every project or game that is funded turns out badly and you’d be right. However, it's a gamble. No one is saying that you shouldn’t fund a cool project but you also have to understand the limitations and the actual content you should expect to see. Games that are funded can be delayed, unfinished, poorly done, or even just broken on release and it wouldn’t matter to the developer since the consumer has already paid full price for the game.
Let’s look at an example with Mighty Number 9, this was a game that managed to receive a ton of funding. People were excited about it as the return of Megaman-style gameplay and an exciting spiritual successor to an accomplished franchise. However, the project was delayed…
Soon after, the project went radio static, and then there was a marketing blunder, and then the project was delayed again, and so on. However, most people had originally praised this game and its art assets. They had already invested their money into this game’s success and wanted to reap the reward of investing early. At launch, the game was a disaster. It wasn’t what people had wanted and the original promises of the game fell short. This is one of the situations where we as the customer were disappointed. But should we have been? It was a game that made a lot of promises and we didn’t care how it was going to achieve those promises. We just wanted it to be perfect and when time passed, we let our imaginations and expectations heighten leading to disappointment.
Now back to No Man’s Sky, this game was highly touted as the game that would be the best game of 2016. It was going to have procedurally generated worlds that made each planet unique, endless space exploration, a combat system, breathtaking graphics, and an unlimited plethora of things to do. For months, many people could not stop talking about it. Even I was somewhat excited by it, but when it came time to put my money where my mind was…..I waited. I recognized that what this studio was trying to achieve was a lot on its plate. I was not really aware of what experience the studio had and began to question if such a game that would represent an indie triumph would be able to really achieve all of those goals. Although in some ways I would call No Man’s Sky a success because it does achieve most of those goals, but it doesn’t achieve them well. Yes, the graphics are beautiful and it did live up to the number of planets promised, but expecting every planet to be unique in a procedurally generated game should invoke a tiny bit of skepticism. The planets are all massive and technically different, but there’s a large feeling of emptiness and a lack of variety. This is a game where we as a consumer expected endless adventure, but didn’t question how or why. So, why do we keep doing this? Why do we fund games and somehow let the extreme expectations that ourselves and our friends place on the game determine its present worth?
We subject ourselves (and our wallets) to disappointment when we invest in projects with unrealistic expectations and allow others to get us even more excited about games that haven’t been fully thought out yet. We must begin to apply more skepticism before preordering games and fully funding them. No Man’s Sky is not a failure, but instead it gives us a reminder on the reality of what we can expect from most independent projects. So consider this next time that amazing new kickstarter game comes out, “Will this game most likely be able to really live up to the expectations put before it?” The idea might be the coolest thing you ever heard of, but is it feasible for a small team? Lastly, is it worth the price? You can always support something by donating to its campaign or buy it at release if you don’t want to preorder. Just remember, take your time and really consider the goals and feasibility of each project.
I’d love to dive into this topic more, but with a currently busy schedule I’ll have to explore this more another time. Have an awesome day, everyone!
Did you agree or disagree with this article? Let me know in the comments below.