Mike and Gus talk about God of War, Microsoft’s first party problem, Nintendo’s Labo and Switch cracking, and E3 wishes!
Mike and Gus talk about God of War, Microsoft’s first party problem, Nintendo’s Labo and Switch cracking, and E3 wishes!
Happy Halloween everyone! It’s one of my favorite holidays (I’m a sucker for Christmas, too), and I thought I’d celebrate the occasion by discussing two of the hottest horror games out there: Friday the 13th The Game, and Dead By Daylight! More specifically, I’m going to tell you which is more worth your time.
Dead by Daylight came first, and it’s a fairly simple game. One person gets to be the villain stalking their prey, while four survivors must escape the semi-large arena they’re placed in. In order to do so, they must go around the map and repair five generators which power the escape gate. The villain, of course, has to stop them.
One major thing this game gets right is the intensity of the chase. A villain’s proximity can be determined by musical cues, so when they’re close, it’s time to run, and once you’re being chased, you can’t help but sit on the edge of your seat. Villains. Are. FAST. They have that ‘power walk’ thing going for them, but they can catch up to you if you’re not careful. As a survivor, your job is to outmaneuver them by hopping over short walls or windows, and to slow the villain down by knocking pallets over. Of course, these pallets are destroyed in a couple of short seconds and the chase is on again. You’ll feel hopeless, but there’s plenty of chances to escape. You can temporarily blind the villain with a flashlight. Your teammates can help create a distraction, or maybe the villain wants to go make sure nobody’s about to start a generator. Even if the villain grabs you and (painfully) tosses you on a hook, your teammates can save the day… as long as they’re not too busy running for their lives.
Another plus is that this game allows horror fans to live out their fantasies. Want to be Leatherface, Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger? You can! Fancy Laurie Strode on the survivor side? Well you can do that too!
The downside to this game is that the ‘repair the generators’ bit is the only means for escape, leaving the game with a distinct lack of variety, at least on the survivor’s side. It takes a long time for the repair process, too. It probably takes over a minute without any complications, such as the villain showing up. You can also have setbacks during repair as well… that is, if your reflexes aren’t fast enough. Having to run around and do this time and time again is a chore, and once all the generators are started, guess what? The gate needs to be powered on… which is another ‘hold a button for over a minute and hope the villain doesn’t show up’ game. And, of course, because that’s the only way out, they tend to camp that part of the map. Not the most brilliant design. This game has been out for quite some time now, and they still haven’t added any escape-based variety.
Also, if you want to be a villain, you’ll rarely jump right into a match. You’ll have to wait for people to join your lobby, whereas with survivors, you can jump from game, to game, to game, without having to wait.
Still, the thrill of the chase is what makes this game so addicting and fun. Being able to play as your favorite horror villains helps, too.
It’s worth noting that the base game is fairly cheap… $20. If you want to play as these other villains, you’re going to have to pony up some money for DLC. The good news is that players are never segregated according to what DLC they own or not. You can play with anyone on any map, and play against any villain or survivor… you just can’t play as the DLC characters themselves. If you want everything this game has to offer, it’s best to pick it all up during a sale (like right now).
Friday the 13th The Game is similar to Dead by Daylight, in the respect that one person gets to be Jason, and everyone else – 8 people, to be exact – play as counselors who need to either survive for 20 minutes or escape. There’s a small handful of maps to play in, but everything is generated at random. Cabins and other key areas or items will always change up match to match, so neither Jason nor the counselors can cheese by memorizing where everything is.
I’ve never seen anyone last a full 20 minutes against Jason. He is, without question, overpowered. I mean, he’s supposed to be, right? He’s Jason! So, escape is what you’ll want to focus on. Try running cabin to cabin, looking for useful items. You’ll want a map to find other key points on the map, some first aid spray, something to arm yourself with, as well as things which will aid in your escape.
Maps will have a car or cars to repair and possibly a boat. Cars require gas, a battery, and keys. Boats require gas and a propeller. You can also find a fuse to fix an electrical box which allows access to a phone to call the police. Five minutes later they’ll arrive at one of the major roadways… but can you hold out that long? Even entering a car or boat doesn’t entirely guarantee your safety, as Jason can get right in front of you, effectively totaling the vehicles.
As Jason, you have certain powers at your disposal. You can teleport to any point on the map, see counselors outlined in red, or speed to them sort like the evil entity in the Evil Dead films. The counselors CAN kill you, but they’d all have to work together and be extremely lucky. Counselors can outrun you, at least for a little while. Eventually their stamina runs out, and if you chop them up with a weapon along the way, they’ll accrue damage and slow down. Another thing you’ll want to make sure doesn’t happen, is someone finding a stationary radio to call for help. If they do this, Tommy Jarvis will come equipped with a gun and loads of stamina. His job is to make sure everyone else gets out alive.
While Dead By Daylight is quite a bit of fun, I’m a much bigger fan of Friday the 13th. The developers really nailed the look and feel of the films, and you couldn’t really ask for more than what they’re providing with this multiplayer experience. What sets it above its competition is the variety of ways in which you can plot your escape, because Dead By Daylight is lacking sorely in that regard.
Friday the 13th is also on sale currently for 50% off, but I can’t recommend a purchase to everyone. You have to be a fan of the franchise in order to really appreciate this, otherwise you might feel the game is too simplistic, or may not be able to wave off Jason being overpowered. But if you are a fan, you absolutely owe it to yourself to play this game!
More and more these days, people are ditching physical copies for digital, and it isn’t hard to see why. You can pre-load a game and play it right at midnight without having to wait in any launch lines. No more clutter on your shelves. You don’t have to worry about losing a disc, or having someone steal it from you. There’s cons, of course, such as the inability to sell or trade digital products, but there’s an even bigger reason which most people shrug off with indifference: You may not own said product for as long as you’d like.
No, really. Tell people that their purchase is only good for as long as the service provider allows, and they’ll laugh, saying, “Come on, bro. It’s 2017. It costs companies next to nothing to share this stuff on their servers. If you ever need to download your games again, it won’t be a problem.”
Nintendo Wii owners probably have something to say about that.
At the end of September, Nintendo made a statement:
“Dear Nintendo fans,
On January 30, 2019, we plan to close the Wii Shop Channel, which has been available on Wii systems since December 2006. We sincerely thank our loyal customers for their support. You can still ad Wii Points until March 26, 2018, and purchase content on the Wii Shop Channel until January 30, 2019. In the future, we will be closing all services related to the Wii Shop Channel, including redownloading purchased WiiWare, Virtual Console titles, and Wii Channel, as well as Wii System Transfer Tool, which transfers data from Wii to the Wii U system.
If you have Wii Points to spend, content you want to re-download, or content you’d like to transfer from a Wii system to a Wii-U system, we recommend you do so while the services are still available.
Thank you for supporting the Wii Shop Channel and for being such great fans of Nintendo.”
This presents a multitude of problems.
Nintendo may be giving people adequate notice, but that’s the only kudos they get in regards to this announcement. Problems ahoy!
The Wii may be 11 years old at this point, but people can still access content on the Wii Shop Channel on their Wii-U. This may seem like a non-point, but the Wii had over 200 classic games that never made their way to the Wii-U shop. We’re talking Bonk’s Adventure, Bubble Bobble, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Chrono Trigger, Commando, Double Dribble, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Mega Turrican, Super Turrican, and many, many more. So if you have no interest in the retro game market or emulating old-school games, a lot of these will be disappearing.
So, why not buy what you’d like in the next year and be done with it?
Well, hard drives don’t last forever. Nintendo makes products which last for a long time, but if you’ve got a Wii that’s already pushing a decade, it’d be risky to buy stuff now just so it could go belly up in a couple of years. And, that’s really the bottom line here: You could have invested hundreds, or even thousands of dollars through the Wii Shop Channel, and it won’t matter. If that little storage disc inside the system breaks down, it’s all gone.
We could just say, “Well, that’s just a very Nintendo-like thing to do. We’re not surprised. But Sony and Microsoft will never…”
But we don’t know that for certain, do we?
With the PS4 offering zilch in the way of backwards compatibility, I think it’d be great if they kept the PS3 servers alive indefinitely… or, at least, enough to satisfy whatever the demand is. I doubt that’ll be the case, though. One day they’ll want to reallocate those resources. Microsoft, on the other hand, are doing that whole backwards compatible thing, so they’ll probably keep the Xbox 360 economy kicking for some time. But make no mistake about it, folks. The very moment these companies realize they’re spending more money to host these servers than they’d prefer, they’re going to do something about it. I’m not saying this because ‘evil companies are evil’, but because that’s business. When the numbers don’t line up, adjustments will be made.
So, will access to these servers be available 20 years from now?
“Who cares about what happens in 20 years!”
Well, I’m 35, and 20 years ago I was probably playing Super Mario 64… and I still play that game whenever I get the chance. If you’re in your teens or even your 20’s, trust me: Time sneaks up on you faster than you think it will.
Ask yourself this: Is the convenience that a digital library brings worth an inherently shorter lifespan?
For some, the answer may be yes. There’s a lot of people who trade up and never look back. Still, I find it hard to believe that people are fine with spending $60 for a game they won’t have access to indefinitely.
This is something people need to talk about. It needs to become one of the big conversations online. Again, I know it’s easy to wave this off as ‘Nintendo being Nintendo’, but if they’re able to do this without much backlash, it sends a message to Sony and Microsoft that they should have no problem doing the same. If you’re vying for a digital future, do whatever you can to ensure that your library doesn’t eventually disappear!
I find myself having the same conversation over and over again. It’s usually a lengthy debate that spins its tires on the same worn treads, but it basically goes like this:
Friend: You bought that game?
Friend: Why would you give them your money after they (insert random shitty business tactic here)?
Me: Because I wanted to have fun playing a game I thought I’d enjoy?
Friend: That’s fine, but you should also forfeit any and all complaining about (insert random shitty business tactic here).
Any time this comes up, I can’t help but give a defeatist sigh.
It’s worth talking about though, because I feel it represents a lot of the dominant conversations about ‘speaking with your wallet’ online. I mean, hell, I’ve got a website dedicated to sharing the seedy underbelly of AAA game development. That means I stand atop Mount Sinai, telling the masses that these companies – Bungie, Activision, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Sony, etc. – are taking advantage of them, and that they should use the knowledge I impart to make educated decisions the next time they want to buy a game. And yet, I’ve bought games like Shadow of War, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Destiny, No Man’s Sky, and so many others.
This hobby turned into a passion. When I wasn’t playing games, I was talking about them, reading about them (oh hai, Gamepro!), or watching TV shows inspired by them. Over the years, I’ve developed a great wealth of knowledge, even about the stuff I didn’t own or didn’t particularly care for. Once the internet came to be, I finally had an outlet where I could discuss games and the industry they hail from with likeminded people.
Point 1 – The Community
Growing up, I was clearly spoiled. But more importantly, gaming, for me, has evolved into more than just sitting down and playing the games.
I like to be part of the conversation.
Game launches are a special time. It’s when months, if not years of analytical hype – for better or for worse – comes crashing down. In this respect, it doesn’t really matter how good or bad a game is, because people are going to break it all down with their praise, criticisms, and everything in between. It’s during this release window fervor that the gaming community feels most alive, and I genuinely love being a part of it.
Of course, upon entering these discussions, I realize the pools I’m wading through are far from pure. For example, certain fans have a tendency to praise most anything their beloved studio churns out, or people bash games they’ve never played because the hate train’s pulled into the station. It’s hard to stay away from these reactionary responses, but I also appreciate these opportunities to educate people.
Point 2 – Challenging Widely Accepted Perception
While I use reviews as a rough indicator, I never take them at face value. So, if a game receives universal praise or is shunned entirely, I’m compelled to check it out for myself. We all know that hype and hate trains exist, right? If I had listened to everyone back in 2014, I would have believed Shadow of Mordor was an amazing game… but it wasn’t (not bad, but average). Not for me. On the flip side of the coin, everyone berated The Order: 1886 for being short and too cinematic for its own good, and while it was flawed, it didn’t deserve the hatred that had been dredged from the bowels of the internet (at least, not in my opinion). So yes, I’m always curious to get hands-on with a divisive title so I can see what all the fuss is about.
Point 3 – But at the End of the Day…
This is where the more ‘human’ side of me begins to come out.
I can talk about bad business practices all day, but after all is said and done, I relent because I just want to have fun. With all the bickering over microtransactions and crappy DLC models, it’s easy to forget that video games are still pretty fun to play. Shadow of War may siren to other studios that, ‘hey, you can throw loot boxes into single player games now’, but I still want to play that experience. Same goes for Battlefront II, because I loved the last one and enjoyed the recent beta.
Hypocrite, I know.
But that’s also because I remember that video games were never perfect. People look back on the history of video games with rose colored glasses, saying, “There were never any microtransactions or DLC back in my day!” But if there were ways companies could suck money out of your wallet, they were doing it. Classic arcade games were cool, but you died every 15 seconds because they were designed to vacuum quarters out of your pocket. Gimmicky accessories were released in quick succession, and many of them didn’t work as advertised (as cool as the Power Glove looked, it was a real piece of crap). Nintendo introduced an add-on for the N64 in Japan (which was very short lived and a retro gaming collector’s dream to obtain). Corners were often cut during game development, and at times proved detrimental. And despite what many are lead to believe, games could often cost a bit more than $60.
Get my point?
Things have ALWAYS been shady. If I wanted to draw a strict line in the sand between their bullshit and my money, I wouldn’t have enjoyed a game in the last 30 years.
How Does Supporting Games With Bad Business Models Make Me Feel?
Although ‘fun’ is my bottom line, that doesn’t mean I’m turning a blind eye to the practices that have infiltrated the gaming world. I’m well aware of the ‘slippery slope’ and how I’ve contributed to it. I’ll say that I rarely buy season passes, or even cosmetic items for that matter… but deep down inside, I know that’s not the best justification. When I buy even the base product, I’m telling studios I support what they’re doing, not to mention a potential customer for their DLC and microtransactions. Yes, that makes me feel dirty, and yes, I am, at times, disappointed in myself. I don’t like being part of the problem.
So why do I keep riding this merry go round? Well, because these are the choices I’m left with:
I can take a stand and never buy any of these exploitive games, but then I’d be sad I was missing out on the fun.
Or, I can continue to have fun playing the games that come out, but try and spread awareness about the things I see happening in the industry.
Obviously, I’ve chosen the latter.
I don’t believe that boycotting games or even particular studios is the answer. Because even though I haven’t bought the game, plenty of other people will. My sale won’t be missed. Casual gamers don’t care to delve into the stuff happening behind the scenes, so they’re going to buy whatever they like anyway.
In preparation for the 2016 in review conversation we’ll be having on the podcast in about a week, I decided to write down a list of all the games I’ve played. Not just the games from this past year, mind you, but ALL of them. Didn’t matter if it’s a game from 2002 I was playing for the first time, or if it was an old favorite I was revisiting for the 18th time. Old games are just as much a part of our ‘gaming makeup’ each year as the new stuff we play, so here’s what I came up with:
Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue
Far Cry 4
Batman: Akrham Knight
No Man’s Sky
Final Fantasy XV
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Life Is Strange
The Witcher 3 (restarted)
Dark Souls 3
Forza Horizon 3
Gear of War 4
Dead Rising 4
Kirby: Planet Robobot
PvZ: Garden Warfare 2
Street Fighter V
Grim Dawn (official release date)
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Super Mario Run
Skyrim Special Edition
Dragon Quest VII
Earth Defense Force 4.1
Super Mario 3D Land
Grand Theft Auto Online
Grand Theft Auto 4
Super Mario 64
Mega Man 2
Mega Man 3
I obviously didn’t play all of these games from start to finish. Some I may have only played for a couple of hours. But even so, that’s one hell of a list, isn’t it? Great titles, alright ones, and even a few stinkers, but overall, I’d say 2016 was rather enjoyable. Still, this list presents a bit of a problem, namely the inadequacies of the gaming industry as a whole. Forty-three games, and you know what I noticed about them? Thirty-two are either sequels or stem iteratively from existing IP’s. Mmhmm. Thirty. Two. That’s insane. Even if we take older games off my list, we’re still talking close to 20.
Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with sequels or reboots. Doom makes a compelling argument for being my favorite game of the year. Hell, Dark Souls III is up there, too. Oh, and surprisingly, Gears of War 4 has proven to be quite memorable, as well. I also don’t care how many times Nintendo throws Mario at me, because he always amounts to a good time. Point is, I don’t personally mind when studios lean on formulas that’s proven to work them. No, it’s when they cross that line… when they insist on using that mindset as a crutch, that’s when I get worried.
And I’m worried now.
Gamers routinely say this is the best generation of gaming to date. Sure, they’ve conveniently overlooked the unnecessary iterative consoles and the sea of unfinished games that’s been released… but vidyagames, right?!
But seriously, I can’t deny there’s been some titles genuinely worth swooning over, but that’s not unique to the here and now. There have always been great video games, and there always will be.
But from a first party perspective, Sony and Microsoft have been playing things far too safe. They’ve relied once again on the likes of Killzone, Infamous, Gears of War, God of War, Forza, Halo, Ratchet and Clank, Little Big Planet, Uncharted, The Last of Us, and a handful of others. These are franchises that also defined the LAST generation of gaming, and while I understand the desire for studios to milk a cow’s supple teats until they’re coughing up powder, they’re leaving the PS4 and Xbox One without identities of their own.
The Xbox 360 was defined by Forza, Fable, and Gears of War. But what does the Xbox One have? Sunset Overdrive was largely overlooked, and Quantum Break was disappointing.
The Playstation 3 had Infamous, Uncharted and The Last of Us. But PS4? Well, it has Bloodborne… but that’s about it. Nobody cared about Knack, and while Until Dawn is great, it isn’t a title that’s going to sell systems. Driveclub has its fans, but still hasn’t managed to evade the stink left behind by its troubled launch. And it’s not even worth mentioning The Order: 1886 (I didn’t think it was terrible, but it’s certainly frowned upon by most of the gaming community).
So, if video games aren’t giving this generation a definitive voice, what is?
Well, the struggle over resolution and frame-rate, for one. But outside of that, this generation will likely be remembered for the releases of the PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio. I mean, their very existence could very well change the way consoles are developed and sold from here on out. I don’t have a crystal ball or anything, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we never saw a Playstation 5. If each console is only somewhat better than the version before it, a new naming convention could take over: Playstation Nitro, Playstation Beyond, Playstation Zen, etc. All only somewhat better than the previous iteration, and yet still years behind what PC hardware brings to the table.
And if I were Sony and Microsoft, I’d start thinking about how big a problem that might be.
This isn’t rocket science. GAMES should define how we feel about any given generation. Sure, we’ll also develop an attachment to hardware designs, but games are what matter most. Unfortunately, the gaming industry has lost sight of that, and that could very well bite console developers in the end. If Microsoft and Sony want to continue down the path of pushing consoles more than first party exclusives, they’ll eventually be perceived as third-party machines. If that happens, it leaves the door WIDE open for Steam machines to make another push, and with Steam having almost any third party title you can dream of, and for less money, that platform could finally become a contender in the living room.
And speaking of third-party, it’s pretty clear the AAA heavies have gotten lazy, too. They’re just too afraid to let go of moneymaking franchises. People often complain about being bored of the same old crap, but how do these companies respond?
“We’ll make our games look better. Cool?”
But people aren’t complaining about graphics anymore. That narrative just isn’t driving the industry as much as it used to… at least from the perspective of consumers. Gamers want better writing, character depth, enemy AI, etc. But nooooo… all anyone has done is say, “Better volumetric fog, god rays, and particle effects! That’ll revolutionize everything!”
Shadow of Mordor had the right idea with the Nemesis System. It was basic, yes, but I was convinced it was the first baby-step in this industry’s journey to develop better AI… and yet nobody has tried to emulate, let alone best that system since. Nope, every other game still features enemies that either stand against a single guard post, or walk in the same L-shaped pattern over and over.
So let me ask: Is this truly the best that AAA developers could pull off in 2016? Is this REALLY the best generation of gaming ever? I don’t think so, and furthermore, I think the industry CAN do better. Not only CAN it do better, but there’s nothing wrong with EXPECTING better, either. But with so many people literally buying products before they’re finalized, what incentive does this industry have to change its unfriendly business tactics?
Well, consumers have to realize that more powerful hardware isn’t going to solve a damn thing. If you want better quality products, you have to stop pre-ordering games. Stop telling studios you’re willing to buy their crap sight unseen. Also, if you’re not having much fun playing the games being released on the PS4 or Xbox One, playing them on a PS4 Pro or Xbox One S (or even the Xbox Scorpio) isn’t going to change that. Your gameplay will be enhanced, but enhancement of non-enjoyment is still just that… non-enjoyment.
If you want newer, better IP’s, and advancement in storytelling and AI, then all you need to do is keep those conversations in the public eye. Keep those narratives strong so AAA publishers and developers can see that they’re no longer going to get away with repackaging the same two or three gameplay formats time and time again. Make damn sure they know you want more than just: FPS – The Game / Blasting From Behind Cover – The Game / Stealthily Wipe-Out Poor Enemy AI – The Game / Detective Mode – The Game.
Not that AAA games should be villainized, though. Again, I still find them to be quite enjoyable. I’m just disappointed that the industry refuses to broaden its horizons in the ways that are most needed.
The good news? As long as you’re willing to wander outside the AAA scene, there’s plenty of great games being released by smaller and/or independent studios. Ori and the Blind Forest, The Witness, Inside, Limbo, Absolute Drift, Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight, Axiom Verge, Grow Home, Child of Light, Never Alone, Outlast, Trine, Braid, Undertale, Owlboy, Soma… and these are only some of the most notable choices. And hey, if none of these pique your curiosity, there’s still decades worth of games for you to go back and enjoy.
It’s easy to forget that gaming isn’t a ‘box’, but an art form that we can enjoy… well, pretty much whenever. Games take a bit longer to digest than music albums, movies, and even a number of books, and as a result, people always feel like they have to play the newest stuff and never look back on the old… and that’s just simply not true. If you find yourself in a rut, just look at your back catalog or start working on games that you may have missed. Sure, there are some titles that may not have aged as gracefully as others, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that most hold their own quite well.
We have recently dropped additional details about the upcoming Batman game – currently under development by WB Montreal – on our podcast, but for those that haven’t listened in, I figured it’d be a good time to put those details into writing. But first, here’s links to the previous information that was brought to you exclusively by Byte-Size Impressions:
In our last couple of podcasts, Gabriel Galliani – journalist with the Official Playstation Magazine in Italy – decided to drop some new bits of information and even field questions from a comic book savvy audience (a big thank to Slcmof of Youtube and Twitter for that). Here’s what Gabe had to say:
He’s seen a vertical slice of the game and also has evidence to support that claim. The visual aesthetic is bleaker than that of previous Batman games. The city gives off a ‘something happened here’ vibe, and there’s even a bit of fog to help push the darker atmosphere that much further. There’s still neon lighting in Gotham, but doesn’t seem as prevalent as it did in Arkham Knight (of course, things can always change during the course of development). Featured landmarks we can expect to see are the Monarch Theater, Goth Corp., and even a rundown version of Wayne Enterprises.
To add to the roster of characters that have already been leaked, Gabe was also able to add:
-The Dee Dee Twins
He also confirmed a rumor – which originally circulated on Neogaf – about the Black Mask being female this time around. The villain’s identity should make sense and not seem ‘out of left field’, her costume will be extremely sexy yet maintain a dose of class, and seems to enjoy treating her victims with both syringe and hammer.
Jason Schreier of Kotaku has spilled a few beans about the game recently as well, up-to-and including an appearance by the Penguin. What’s interesting about this is that Gabe, who has an extensive list of the characters that should appear in-game, knows nothing about that character appearing in this game. That doesn’t mean The Penguin won’t be in it, just that this information hasn’t also come his way.
Another interesting bit of news from Mr. Schreier is that the long rumored Suicide Squad game is being canned, as WB Montreal have been shifting things internally for various reasons. While this may have put a temporary hold on the Batman project while the dust settles, they’ll probably get back to it with an even bigger push until the game is ready to be revealed and eventually released.
For future updates on this game – as we’re able to reveal more once bits of information are verified by multiple sources within WB Montreal – make sure to keep an eye pressed against the site’s news feed, Twitter account, and an ear glued to the podcast, because you never know when or where the info will drop!
Everyone knew that at the very least – and the very least is what they gave us – that No Man’s Sky would have us gathering and managing resources so we could make our way to the center of the universe. Why? “Because! That’s why!” Its real appeal stemmed from a procedurally generated universe, as it promised each player would embark on a truly unique journey. Nobody would ever share the same experience, and because of the size of said universe, you might not even encounter another player online.
Problem was, the game really didn’t deliver more than the whole ‘procedural generation’ thing. You’d go from world to world, breaking things down with a tiny ray gun to collect resources, satisfy a multitude of needy ‘feed me’ meters (health, suit, ship shields, ship fuel, ray gun energy, etc.), and craft various other things that are necessary to finish the game. That was it. Blast, blast, blast. Mine, mine, mine. Occasionally you’d be harassed by drones that serve no purpose other than to slow your game down. Maybe you’d see an animal or two, meet a trader in an outpost, scan the environment with your info gathering techno-goggles, and not much else… unless you left the planet, at which point you might have a few space pirates trying to take you down. Rinse and repeat a gajillion times, and that’s No Man’s Sky in a nutshell.
At first, it wasn’t a horrible way to spend your time. If you wanted a ‘chill’ game that provided something different than the usual loud action most modern games provide, No Man’s Sky could scratch that itch, at least for a little while. It’s so easy to be fascinated by the one thing this game does that nothing else in the AAA scene has: Planets are large and any place you see, you can go there without hitting that ‘sandbox wall’. And hell, you can even look up to the sky, see a planet or two, and say, “Gee, I’d love to go there”, and then actually do it. Between that and seeing the various styles of world the procedural generation formula could create, it was enough to keep players hooked for hours…
…Until you realize that it’s all basically the same. All that ‘freedom’ came at the cost of actual gameplay. Sure, one planet might be red and lush with plants, while another would be dark and rocky… but because the game has to be careful not to strand you on any given planet, you’re mining the same resources no matter where you go. All the abandoned bases you come across look the same, as well as the space points spread across each planet. There’s always a trader outpost, some sort of facility to break in to, and some alien monuments where you can learn bits of language. Once you’ve had your fill, you leave one planet to hop to the next, only to find you’re doing the same shit over and over again, regardless of how each planet’s been ‘dressed’.
Coming to that realization is when I started to feel more and more disgust for the game… because for all the comments I’ve made about Destiny being an empty shell of a game, it’s No Man’s Sky that earns that ‘accolade’. A lot of others felt the same way, too… and I’m talking about the people that actually tried the game without letting all the ‘Sean Murray lied’ stuff affect their objective opinions.
But that disappointment quickly ruptured into something else… hatred. Sean Murray made a couple of passive-aggressive remarks at launch and then POOF, just disappeared. A lot of people were upset that there was no more transparency. Hell, they weren’t even sure if their $60 investment would amount to something greater, or if Hello Games had simply disbanded as a result of the shame their product had generated. Couple their radio silence with Shuhei Yoshida throwing the studio under the bus, and it seemed like the future for No Man’s Sky was basically dust in the wind.
And now, out of nowhere, Hello Games have resurfaced to release No Man’s Sky version 1.1. And to be clear, this was the best possible way to come back to the gaming community. Sean Murray did enough talking prior to the game’s release. Anything they said post-launch would have been met with more and more skepticism, so they only thing they COULD have done was shut up, and work on their game. Now that they have something to offer, they’ve broken that silence.
So, version 1.1 allows you to claim a home planet, build new save points across planets, build self-owned outposts from uninhabited bases, transportation and even teleportation of materials you’ve collect to freighters in space, create tools which will actually auto-mine while you’re off doing more important things, additional aliens inhabiting trading posts (there’s now two where only one used to be), you can hire aliens to work in your home base, and they’ve even added new, challenging modes that cater to a variety of play styles. I’m writing off the top of my head here, but I believe there’s a pure creative mode where you can do and build whatever you want, ‘normal’ No Man’s Sky but with the new gameplay features added, and a ‘Survival’ mode where it’s still No Man’s Sky, but with permadeath as a penalty.
So, does this resolve the issues the game had at launch?
This is one of those ‘the answer must come from within’ moments. Because if mining and hopping around a planet is all you want out of No Man’s Sky, then sure, this patch is going to make for a substantially better experience. The fact that you can actually do more with your resources than fix, fuel and fly is going to appease you, making this the ‘Sci-fi Minecraft’ you probably wanted from the get-go. However, if you actually wanted a world that’s brimming with life and activity, then you’re going to dislike the experience just as much as before.
I’m in the latter camp, because what really sold No Man’s Sky to me was not just the chill playtime it offered, but a universe that actually looked… well, alive. That’s what No Man’s Sky really needs. Not this base building crap, but ships making space and the skies on any given planet look busy. We need alien races that do more than sit or stand behind a counter waiting to sell you stuff, and more importantly, THEY need to have some sort of history. There need to be factions that unite or rebel, and that needs to be seen and felt based on the solar system you’re visiting. How about seeing some miners in some of those caves? Or just some aliens in space suits hopping around a planet’s surface just for the hell of it? How about seeing more wildlife? Some of these ideas are a personal wish list, but others were blatantly shown in early advertisements and shown off in early footage.
Oh, but don’t tell the ASA. They have apparently made a ruling on whether or not No Man’s Sky’s ads were misleading or not, and they basically said, “Nope! All’s good!”
Anyway, there’s an even larger problem with these improvements: They completely go against the game’s core objective, which is to ‘get to the middle… you know, because, just do it’. No, patch 1.1 basically wants you to settle on a single planet and whittle tens of hours away on building a home and research facility.
But the first argument that’s come up when I’ve discussed this with friends who are savvy about video games has been, “But, Minecraft doesn’t really have a real end game. People just create or play the survival mode, and they’re more than content just staying in the same little world. So, why should people get pissed at No Man’s Sky for doing the same thing?”
Well, the simple answer is, “No Man’s Sky is not Minecraft.” It never was. It never will be. Minecraft is about surviving in a given area… period. A world is generated, and it’s your job to create and adapt so that you can have food, shelter, and whatever weapons are required to fend off the dangers that come at night. What you’re doing is playing a ‘stay put, and make this your home’ survival game. There is no end goal. Not even an arbitrary ‘get to the middle of the whatever’ sort of thing. No Man’s Sky, on the other hand, is a completely different beast. The point is to gather resources not only to survive the harsh conditions of any given planet, but so that you have what you need to keep moving. How much different could the objectives possibly be?
And a lot of people fall into the trap of comparing No Man’s Sky to Minecraft, not just the friends I speak of. And, not to offend them or anyone else, but why is there any compulsion to compare them at all? Is it because they don’t fall into the typical mainstream classification system of third-person/first-person shooter, stealth, RPG, or racing game? They’re survival games, and that’s where their similarities end. Hell, Don’t Starve has more in common with Minecraft than No Man’s Sky does.
So what does this Foundation Update tell us about No Man’s Sky and the ‘vision’ that Sean Murray and Hello Games had for it? Well, I think it tells us an awful lot… just not what people want to hear. Honestly, I don’t think No Man’s Sky was ever going to realistically deliver everything they had shown us. Sean Murray got a case of Peter Molyneux brain – wanting his ‘baby’ to be everything a standard development cycle could never provide – but at the end of the day, No Man’s Sky would be lacking that ultra-idealistic vision, and the game would disappoint. No Man’s Sky probably could have been more at the time of release, but I think an unrealistic wishlist kept this team’s focus away from building an actual game. So, once time and money was up… well, we saw what happened. “Here’s our universe of nothing. Get to the middle.” And now that they’re trying to ‘fix’ the game… are they working towards finishing that original design they had showed off a couple of years back? Nope. They’re instead building whatever they feel they have the time and resources for, original intent of the game be damned.
I’ve seen people online actually recommend re-buying No Man’s Sky because update 1.1 is THAT different.
You’ve been burned once already, OK? Don’t be a sucker two times over.
Like most other games, people bought this thing sight unseen. No Man’s Sky was pre-ordered so much, you’d think it was going to be the last video game ever released. No reviews, no actual day 1 gameplay, no word of mouth… just people buying a game based on hype. Hype that was created by Sean Murray, Sony, and of course the media. Ain’t that a vicious circle? Company wants to sell you something, the company catches the media’s ear, the media reports to you, you get excited, and because you’re excited and want more, the company continues to upsell, the media continues to act as a shitty marketing echo-chamber, and you eventually decide to buy shit without even knowing what it is. If you were to temper your expectations and hold on to your money until a game is released, this cycle would break. The major players in this industry would have to adapt. And, if they can’t get you to bite on a game BEFORE it’s released, what would they have to do? Make a game that’s actually worth your time and money in the first place, right? Right. Otherwise, their product would be dead in water.
Last but not least, the Foundation Update has been poised not as a ‘hey look, our game is better’ patch, but an ‘our game is going to GET better’ patch. That’s right. They’ve dropped this as sort of the new ‘foundation’ for the game, and they’re going to build off of this. This is, somehow, supposed to make us excited. Maybe it would if this were an early access game we paid $20 for, but it isn’t. It’s a game that was shown off on Sony’s E3 stage, had appeared on Colbert’s late night program, and was subsequently sent to factories so discs could be pressed, placed inside plastic cases, and shipped to your local retailers. For $60. Sean Murray had been told by Geoff Keighley – who’s an epic douche for not telling everyone how problematic this game seemed mere months prior to launch, by the way – that he should probably pursue an early access route, but nope. Murray said, “LET THERE BE A $60 PRICE TAG!”
And so it was.
And so it was hyped.
And now, because they delivered a modicum of substance in a single update, people are getting excited that No Man’s Sky is going to be some great game again? Have you learned nothing? And what good does rebuying the damn game do, anyway? Let’s say you spent $60 at launch for this. It was only a matter of weeks – IF THAT – before Gamestop was offering something like $12 for a trade-in copy. So, let’s say you traded this game in for $12 in store credit. You essentially paid $48 to rent the game for a little while. It’s now $28 at the time of writing on Amazon. So, Foundation Update and all, if you rebought the game today, your total investment in No Man’s Sky would be $76 plus tax. If it wasn’t worth the $60 before, do you really think it’s going to be worth $76?
A little reason here, folks. A little reason.