Even prior to release, No Man’s Sky had seen its share of controversy. Sky TV had engaged the developers in a three year legal battle over use of the word ‘Sky’… because fuck if I know. Hello Games have settled that dispute, although no details have emerged as to how.
Also, less than a month before the game was to hit retail, Dutch company Genicap claimed they own the “Superformula” which No Man’s Sky uses for procedural generation. According to The New Yorker’s Sean Murray interview/article from 2015:
The problem nagged at him, until he found an equation, published in 2003 by a Belgian plant geneticist named Johan Gielis. – Excerpt from The New Yorker’s “World Without End”, 2015
Well, Johan Gielis is the Chief Research Officer at Genicap, allegedly holds the patent for the formula, and did not authorize Hello Games to use it. That, um, doesn’t sound good for Sean Murray.
But then it happened. No Man’s Sky was released to the masses, and everything should have been just ducky… but it was less than 24 hours before the internet exploded with rage.
A gamer on Reddit had found a star system that was previously discovered by another user, so he messaged this person to arrange a virtual meet-up. After lots of searching and even more confusion, they couldn’t find each other. Even though they were on the same exact spot on the same exact planet, they found themselves alone.
This news spread like wildfire because Mr. Murray had gone on record many times confirming players would be able to see each other in game. However, Murray had warned that the chance of this happening was very, very slim.
“People keep saying to us, ‘Yeah, but what if I knew where they were? Would I go there?’ And it’s like, yeah, but they are going to have to stay there for quite a while while you get over there. And then once you get over there you might land on the same planet and then you will say, ‘I’m on a planet the size of Earth and I am on a mountain. Where are you?’ Which is, I know, a weird thing and it’s a daunting thing.”
Is there any question in regards to what he’s saying? He’s saying yes, people can cross paths, but when you take into consideration the size of the universe, as well as the size of any given planet, it’d be like finding a needle in… well, the universe.
And this wasn’t the only time he reinforced the existence of this feature:
Even in this video:
So, does this make Sean Murray a liar? Some people certainly think so, and to be honest, the evidence IS pretty damning.
Despite the mounting evidence, however, apologists have been coming out in droves. So, let’s analyze their positions of defense:
“It’s not a multiplayer game!”
I know that, and in fact, most others do, too. Sean Murray has told us this time and time again. However, he specifically likens multiplayer to the likes of FPS’s and MMO’s. Sean and Hello Games have also clarified that even though players will be able to see each other, they won’t be able to pal around and play the game together. The things you interact with in your world is for you and you alone. Your paths will cross and that’s it.
So, the fact that this isn’t a traditional multiplayer experience doesn’t negate the idea that these two should have been able to see each other.
To make matters worse, Mr. Murray started to mislead people on Twitter, likely to stave off the sea of doubt beginning to flood his inbox:
“We want people to be aware they are in a shared universe. We added online features, and some Easter Eggs to create cool moments.”
“Two players finding each other on a stream in the first day – that has blown my mind.”
“We added a ‘scan for other players’ in the Galactic Map to try and encourage this happening. We wanted it to happen – but the first day?”
Well, no, they didn’t find each other… but these comments were meant to make people believe that they had. This is not how Mr. Murray should have presented himself to hordes of potential customers who felt they had been lied to for nearly three years.
“The back of the case, as well as the Steam listing, show this as a single player game!”
Package art had actually said otherwise, until they decided to sticker over it:
So they intended to advertise online play. Of course, they’ve tried to assure us the printing of the online icon was a mistake, but that reeks of PR nonsense. Sean Murray advertised being able to see others in the game… and just prior to release, he changes his tune to ‘no multiplayer’, and just out of sheer coincidence a piece of information on the case had to be stickered over? Come on. We’re not fucking stupid.
And besides, this argument is missing the point entirely. This isn’t about whether or not the game is technically multiplayer, or whatever. It’s about a developer who may have been lying to people for the sake of inflating sales.
Keep in mind that Sony, as their publisher, has a lot of control over what the product messaging should be. Why is this important? Well, No Man’s Sky had been cherry picked for hype because Sony’s release schedule – as far as AAA exclusives were concerned – was thin. I imagine Sony spent a bunch of their money to get this game completed as fast as possible. But even so, it took three years since its initial reveal to bring it to retail. This game was also never intended to be sold at full price ($60). To me, it seems like Sony, who was desperate to get additional exclusives under their belt in 2016, is responsible for driving up the price.
That’s right. You’re getting a game that was probably meant to be $40, for $60. Ain’t that great? So, at the end of the day, Mr. Murray may not have lied just to inflate sales, but to keep Sony happy, too.
“Maybe they were having server issues.”
This could be a valid response. Players have been experiencing numerous crashes since launch, and some have linked this directly to server issues (turning the internet off seemed to resolve things). One could also speculate that when push came to shove, explorative discoveries (systems, planets, etc) would prioritize higher than player-to-player ones. But again, instead of clarifying what may have happened, Sean once again muddied the waters with mixed messaging:
“There are way too many people playing right now. Maybe some of you can just log out? Decide amongst yourselves plz.”
“It is a testament to how amazing our network coders are that Discoveries are still working at all.”
“For instance over night we hit 10 million species discovered in NMS… that’s more than has been discovered on earth. WHAT IS GOING ON!!!”
So are your problems severe enough to hinder Discoveries, Mr. Murray, or not?
“Well, Mr. Murray did say some pvp stuff might make its way into the game later on…”
They MIGHT incorporate a planet that’s designed after Jurassic Park. They MIGHT incorporate a planet loaded to the brim with zombies. They might, they could, they would, they should, blah blah blah.
When you decide to spend $60 on a game, you don’t do it because of what MIGHT appear in the game. You do it based on what’s going to be there on day 1. A number of people bought this game because they were led to believe there would be sparks of magic, not unlike Journey, where you’d find another player and have a ‘moment’. Not because of hype, and not because they were delusional. No, because SEAN MURRAY told them so.
My Message To The Apologists? Stand Up For Yourselves!!!
Guys, don’t apologize this away. You can still appreciate a game while being realistic about the shitty things that come with it. In this case, when it comes to buying games, consumers have little-to-no protection. Nobody’s going to bat for us after we’ve been had, so we have to look out for ourselves.
As it is, companies show us very little of their products prior to release, and that’s misleading enough. But when a developer actually does interviews and sells you on a feature that’s not actually in the game, guess what? The store isn’t giving you your money back… unless you settle for half in trade at Gamestop. And that’s only store credit.
You have to decide what’s most important to YOU. If the game entices you enough despite the controversy, then buy it. If it doesn’t look to deliver what you wanted, don’t buy it. If you don’t want to support an alleged liar… don’t buy it.
And I’d like to make one last thing clear before signing off. I’m not out for blood. I don’t hate No Man’s Sky. As a matter of fact, the concept intrigues me enough to pick it up on PC. I personally don’t care about the reality of this feature. I never expected I’d run into another person anyway.
But that doesn’t mean Sean Murray’s feet shouldn’t be held to the fire. They absolutely should be.
I’m going to go into total speculation mode here, and guess that the No Man’s Sky team very much wanted this feature to be a part of the game on day 1. However, Sony worrying about their lack of exclusives this generation, likely told them to get the core game out of the way and worry about the rest later. If true, that means Sony’s actually pulling the strings. Even so, Sean signed the contract. That makes him liable. Furthermore, he could be giving straight answers instead of being vague on Twitter (and, at the time of this writing, he’s been offline for about two days).
However, I hope this is all just a misunderstanding. I hope it really was just a matter of the servers being overloaded… but only time will tell.