A year after its release, No Man’s Sky remains a controversial topic. Any bit of news soars up the search result ranks. People still argue about whether or not No Man’s Sky is, was, or has the potential to be a good game. After all, it was the perfect storm of misfires. PR, expectations and more seemed to all balloon into impossible heights, dooming the game to crash when the real product launched. But to its credit, Hello Games has been busting ass to add more stuff to do in No Man’s Sky and develop it into something it wasn’t, only a year ago. This continues with Atlas Rises, bringing No Man’s Sky to version 1.3 and adding new features, improvements, and overhauls to this game that was already enormous in scale.
But perhaps most importantly, Atlas Rises plants the seeds of what may be the most eagerly-anticipated feature that everyone thought was supposed to be present at launch: multiplayer. Everyone was convinced, through bad PR or bizarre interviews with No Man’s Sky’s creator, that players would be able to somehow interact with each other in these procedurally-generated worlds. That wasn’t the case and the game’s reputation suffered for it, but now it’s getting ready to happen.
Amongst additions and changes to the game’s story, new features such as terrain modification, and visual upgrades, No Man’s Sky now features “Joint Exploration.” This is the blueprint, if you will, for what eventually is planned to be some sort of major cooperative element. For now, says the Atlas Rises website, this feature is limited. Players can meet each other, explore together, and even speak with each other through VOIP chat. This mode is represented as “glitches” in the simulation, and players currently see each other as ghastly, floating orbs. Using the Ancient Portal feature, players can meet up and find others, and go exploring together.
In its current form, it literally is just Joint Exploration. Players can’t mechanically interact and do things like trade items or work on similar tasks, but they can journey together and speak, the beginnings of a shared No Man’s Sky experience. This isn’t what people had in mind when they thought of the idea of multiplayer, but the important part here is that it isn’t there yet. This is the first step of getting a structure in place. What’s to come next, according to the update, is “synchronous co-op.”
When it was still on the way, the message of No Man’s Sky was all about promise. The promise and wonder of exploration. The ability to have unique experiences compared to other players as everyone explored their slice of the galaxy. But what good is such an experience if you can’t also share it with others? That’s the next question Hello Games and No Man’s Sky need to answer. And luckily, it seems like the brand, despite all the hitches and drama, still has the pull, the mindshare, to ensure people still care when it finally happens. It’s gonna be huge.