The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK's independent regulator for advertising, confirmed the results of its ongoing investigation into No Man's Sky today. However, the results are not what many gamers would have hoped for, claiming that #NoMansSky did not in fact mislead customers with its Steam page.
Their investigation came after 23 individual complaints emerged about the misleading picture that No Man's Sky presented on Steam, with regards to graphical quality, animal behaviour and space combat.
This ruling has added to the heap of confusion that already surrounds the space sim and its launch. Upon its release, millions of gamers were left infuriated and disappointed with what No Man's Sky actually delivered, which wasn't half as much as what the majority of gamers thought it promised. Now, with this ruling, gamers will feel even more let down that this wrongdoing hasn't been recognized.
On the other hand, Hello Games, the team behind No Man's Sky, might finally feel that they are out of the woods. This good news for them coincides nicely with the Foundation Update being released, which gives the game some well needed updates and additional features.
The Most Interesting Points In The No Man's Sky Investigation
When you watch the video above, which is the 2014 E3 trailer that appears on Steam, you will notice how little of it seems to appear in-game. The most obvious difference is how in the video you can see animals attacking, communicating and generally interacting with each other and the environment. Many gamers have voiced their views here, stating that the animals in-game don't seem to do much at all apart from squealing, ambling and attacking you.
In the ASA document it says that they were provided with 'similar' footage of animal behaviour in-game as was in the ad. Not sure exactly what 'similar' means here, but we'll go along with it.
The main defence from Hello Games was that "each user’s experience would be very different, it would be difficult to recreate the exact scenes from the ad." Interestingly, ASA also reported that Hello Games claimed that it would actually be fairly straight forward to locate the content from the ad, and it was actually in abundance.
The ruling even focused on the particular part of the video which shows a large animal crashing through the trees. They said that although this...
"was not observed in the footage or during gameplay, we considered that this was a fleeting and incidental scene, unlikely in itself to influence materially a consumer's decision to purchase the game, and that it was not misleading."
This is something I completely disagree with. When we see a trailer for a game, we build the picture in our minds of what it would be like to play it. If we see an enormous animal crashing through trees, we might not expect that exact thing to happen in our playthrough, but we do expect the emotion, interaction and behaviour shown by the animal to be replicated in one way or another. Agree?
What About Those Epic Space Battles We Were Promised?
In that same video, and in the text below it, it is shown to be obvious that massive space battles will occur pretty often and that you'll be able to immerse yourself in them.
"The galaxy is a living, breathing place. Trade convoys travel between stars, factions vie for territory, pirates hunt the unwary, and the police are ever watching."
Gamers were adamant on release when they said that trading in-game is a flawed mechanic, convoys don't exist, there is no way to destroy freighters or space stations and the friction between factions is not even worth mentioning—and definitely doesn't involve any kind of space battles that are seen on the scale of that in the video.
However, the ASA reported the response from Hello Games, which was that larger space battles are very unusual because they are more rewarding. On top of that, the notion that factions are vying for territory is simply "part of the story or narrative of the game and manifested itself through the player’s journey and interactions with three factions during gameplay."
Interestingly, Hello Games said that the word 'vying' was used "purposefully because it suggested that there was an on-going struggle." Lastly, the ASA was also shown 'similar' footage again, this time of space battles. With that and everything else in mind, they concluded that the game did not mislead on this point either.
And The Graphics?
Another one of the major sticklers, and one of the most common complaints for gamers, was how the video and the screenshots appeared to show graphics of a much higher quality than those that appeared in-game.
Here, it was widely ruled by the ASA that the game's graphics would be affected "by the specifications of each player’s computer, and considered that consumers would generally be aware of this limitation." They also said that from the footage provided by Hello Games, they understood that the "game was capable of producing graphics of much higher quality than that shown in the videos and of comparable quality with the screenshots". Therefore, they concluded that Hello Games did not exaggerate with the graphics either.
What Have We Learnt?
The ASA document also covers the difference in buildings and structures, the behaviour of sentinels and the representation of warping shown in the ad. For all points that were raised, the conclusion was that Hello Games did not misrepresent consumers.
As you can see, the main defence from Hello Games throughout the ruling from the ASA was that everything in the gorgeous ad is in the game somewhere, it's just that we have to look really, really hard to find it.
It seems that the procedurally generated universe is a perfect tool for advertising because with its apparent infinity, anything is possible and nothing can be proven not to exist. With everything that they said would be in-game actually being in-game, just not appearing on gamer's screens because it's too unusual or rare, the fairest conclusion is that Hello Games were simply showing off the very best of the game in their videos and screenshots. And let's face it, who doesn't?
No Man's Sky was sold and advertised on its depth, its unbelievable possibilities and its 18 quintillion planets. What has angered the gaming community the most since its release is how little depth the game actually has.
If the ASA is right, and everything that is shown on Steam is in the game somewhere, it means that the universe we are spawned in is actually a 'living, breathing' place, just not the one we expected.
What do you think about the ASA ruling on No Man's Sky?