Is It Too Late to Save No Man’s Sky?
No Man's Sky

During Black Friday, Hello Games announced a massive update to No Man's Sky titled Foundation Update version 1.1. The question on everyone's mind, of course, is will it really improve the game? Well, to start off with this is a truly MASSIVE update. When Hello Games says “foundation” they're not talking about a house of cards, but the basis of a pyramid.

Before we get into what the update includes, let's remember what the main problems with No Man's Sky were. There were definitely many, but I will focus on the two largest ones. First, it took forever to get into the game. For most critics and reviewers it wasn't until twenty hours in that they began to truly fall in love. Frankly, big universe and tiny storage compartment is the most tedious of exploration gimmicks. Second, procedural generation doesn't always equate to logic. It all starts to look like a children's flip book of monsters, where something with a dinosaur head can have tentacles for legs. Or my personal favorite, an antelope with testicles for a head. It's not just the weird either, procedural generation can also make for a very difficult and frustrating experience. For example, if your luck of the draw happens to be desert planet after desert planet with barely enough resources for the next warp out.

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Now for the update. I won't be able to mention all of it, much less address how each one grapples with the two latter issues. Thus, I've picked out the largest and most significant of them - but be sure to check it out in full on the No Man's Sky website. These include: new game modes, base building, farming, and making camp. The new game modes include Normal, Creative, and Survival. Normal is “the original chilled exploration experience,” Creative “allows players to explore the universe without limits, and build a huge base,” and Survival “changes the game, creating a much more challenging endurance experience."

This, and a lot of accompanying minor updates concerning inventory, address the first issue of monotony within the game. Creative mode can help change the pace of the game, allowing the player to achieve their goals in a much more timely fashion whether those goals are building an minor empire or just finishing the game. I don't know about survival mode, as the descriptions are not yet detailed enough. But the phrase is promising and might very well include more engaging gameplay per planet. It might, for example, bring a little more science in and force the player to battle with staying warm, fed, and hydrated on completely inhospitable planets.

Next is base building. This is described as “creating your own, fully bespoke outpost... using modular structures and decorations, replicated from resources gathered while exploring. Recruit alien lifeforms to help research new technology. Farming, engineer, weapons and science specialists are hirable from Space Stations. Use Terminus Teleporters in Space Stations to teleport to and from your base at will. Expand your base with storage containers to stockpile precious resources and rare products. Find [a better] location and you can simply dismantle your previous [outpost] to refund all of the spent resources.” Again, a much faster way to gain resources and organize them to exact specifications.

No Man's Sky

Farming can be done within the player's chosen base and plants provide infinite supply. Making camp is an elaboration on base building, in which Hello Games explains that the player can “build essential equipment in the field on-planet, place save points anywhere in the world, crucial for Survival mode, automated Harvesters gather resources from mineral deposits in your absence, waypoints can be placed and colour-coded to allow explorers to return to discoveries, Communications Terminals allow explorers to leave sub-space messages for others to find, and discover nearby mineral deposits, uninhabited bases or suit upgrades with the use of a Signal Scanner.”

All of this helps tremendously with making No Man's Sky less a grind-topia and more a Minecraft set in space. But about the second largest issue about the weird and woeful results of procedural generation? Well, Hello Games does lend one major point to it, stating simply that “terrain generation and colourisation algorithms have been revised to produce more aesthetically interesting planets... Rebalanced resource availability, increased the number of different NPC character models generated per system, adopted new method.. for more lifelike clumps of plants, fixed elevation cache mismatches [that were] causing errors in creature knowledge and pathing, fixed slow memory leak in creature role allocation.”

Well, it's not perfect, but it's certainly a start. This update is definitely on the right path to improving No Man's Sky to whatever it was meant to be at the start with all those promises. Perhaps now we will see more clearly what Hello Games' vision was.

Christine Pugatschew
Christine Pugatschew

Contributing Writer
Date: 11/30/2016

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