Money isn't everything. Too often the worth of something is based upon how well it performs in terms of sales, or at the box office, or even how much income we earn as people. This needs to be kept in mind for one of this year's biggest releases, because, as I said, money isn't everything.
No Man's Sky is one of the most talked about video games in the history of the industry. It has more planets than any one person will ever see and the majority of them probably won't ever be discovered. But this fascinating concept has attracted gamers and non-gamers alike to the point where we can almost guarantee monetary success for Hello Games.
However, just like with ourselves, the success of No Man's Sky doesn't simply hinge on figures, this explorative space adventure will need a lot more if it's to succeed in our eyes.
What No Man's Sky Needs
First off, before we start talking about what'll make No Man's Sky a success for its fans, we should examine what Sean Murray and the team at Hello Games actually intend for the space adventure. And perhaps the best way to jump into this is to examine the game's multiplayer, or lack thereof.
Though all of us will be inhabiting the same galaxy once No Man's Sky releases, Sean Murray believes that, potentially, none of us will ever meet another player on our adventures. This isn't by accident. This procedurally generated galaxy is supposed to offer players the opportunity to come to grips with the enormity of our own.
However, the multiplayer aspect of the game is designed to give you a sense of cathartic relief. Think of what it'll be like to have journeyed on your own for hours on end, to suddenly come across a planet someone else has named, or a creature someone else discovered. Murray wants us to feel connected to these traces of each other without ever meeting in person; a relationship no doubt familiar to any gamer.
You'll feel isolated while playing No Man's Sky and Hello Games hope that this isolation will lead to us asking important questions about humanity's own role in the universe. Of course, the game is designed to be fun, too, what with its combat, crafting and explorative features. But this notion is at the heart of this game's design. So what will that be like to play?
Connecting With No Man's Sky
There are four aspects to No Man's Sky that Hello Games have outlined: exploration, combat, trading and survival. These four pillars represent how we'll interact with this galaxy, as opposed to just flying around looking at weird alien species. And they're important. Because, while this game is built around a fantastic idea and its technological achievements are bound to impress, No Man's Sky's main threat is boredom.
Now this could be said for every kind of game. But when you deal with procedural generation even the developers don't know what to expect. Perhaps one of us will randomly spawn on one of the most boring planets that the game's algorithm created. And perhaps the next ten planets we visit will be just as bland and resource-scarce as the first. On the other hand, we could see everything spectacular about No Man's Sky within the first few hours and then suddenly be dulled by repetition and lesser versions of the beginning.
In order to ensure that players don't become too familiar with how the game works and what its algorithm creates, Hello Games will need to guarantee that the peripheral gameplay mechanics can keep us engaged even when the planets can't.
Can It Succeed?
Whereas other indie developers can monitor the pacing and flow of their creations, Hello Games are handing control over to an algorithm and ourselves. We'll set our own pace with No Man's Sky, we'll set our own priorities and the game will mold itself into what we want it to be — within reason.
While this prospect is incredibly alluring and I find myself terribly excited for the release of this game, I'm cautiously optimistic about whether this space adventure will succeed in terms of long-lasting appeal. I've no doubt I'll be captivated by its opening moments; figuring out my own form of survival, crafting everything I can and destroying my foes in my very own starship, but I wonder whether the appeal can keep me engaged as I chart the depths of space on my way to the center of the galaxy.
Procedural generation has always become predictable when used in previous games, even if it was initially impressive. Can Hello Games break the mold with their technology and truly succeed with No Man's Sky?
Luckily, we only have a few weeks left until we find out.