The closer it came to launch, the more skepticism seemed to dominate any discussion of Hello Games' No Man's Sky. From a stunning Video Games Award Show performance in 2013, excitement surrounding the game's release was enormous. Promises that the game included a practically infinite universe to explore and interact with surrounded the game's announcement.
Quite rightly, after a long wait players had very high expectations of what to expect from the final product. As release approached, these expectations appeared to continue to be dampened. News websites seemed to consistently raise similar questions about the game: wondering what is there to actually do in this universe being the chief among them. This doubt culminated with the release date being delayed one month after the expected release which many took automatically as terrible news (as opted to just a fact that sometimes, things get delayed), and the day one patch preventing any reviews at the game's release.
It's no surprise that many outlets and players seem disappointed with a game that had been continuously built up since its announcement. These issues have occurred before, and will no doubt happen again (probably really soon with The Last Guardian's release imminent). Once again, the issue of raising hype surrounding a game to amazing levels seems problematic.
These issues are no doubt exacerbated the increased price of the game, which is higher than what is typically expected of an 'indie' title (to whatever extent the distinction matters anymore). Personally, picking up a game for close to £50 does come with increased expectations when there's such a huge level of hype around a title.
This is especially true considered alongside other indie titles - I've played through Transistor or Bastion far more than once each and they only cost £8-£12. Discussing the problems with boiling down a the cost of a game to its length isn't my aim here, but when a game is pitched at a certain cost (and £50 definitely isn't insignificant) it does create certain perceptions. Expecting more from a game that costs more, while not always entirely reasonable, is inevitable.
The size of the studio, Hello Games, no doubt did not help to meet this level of hype. The studio did not have a task I think anyone envied them for following the announcement of No Man's Sky. For a relatively small studio, who have worked only on a few Joe Danger titles, the task of meeting expectations was probably daunting. As hype kept piling up and up, this probably became more apparent to the studio, especially when the development of the game was under real scrutiny at each step.
The launch of No Man's Sky illustrates many of the issues present surrounding hype and building hype up to extreme levels. The game already seemed to have a fan base before its release. Building expectations higher and higher over a long wait is sure only to increase pressure on a title to deliver. Ultimately, delivering on the expectations mounted on it would have been a near impossible task for No Man's Sky.
The game promised to be everything to every type of player for a long time. People expected multiplayer and it wasn't until relatively late that it was corrected that multiplayer wouldn't really be present. This does indicate the need to be realistic in approaching a game in what's expected from it. More though, it demonstrates a need to be realistic in how a game is presented.
Clarification on some finer points of the title would no doubt have gone a long way in assuaging some of the mixed reaction to its release, many were surprised by the survival-heavy gameplay. This is in addition to the increased price tag which definitely had a role in increasing expectations.
None of this is to say that No Man's Sky isn't a fun game. I've spent a decent amount of time with it and it has kept me interested so far. It's loop of exploration on beautiful planets is still engaging. Interacting with aliens in choose-your-own-adventure style choices is fun and not something I expected. Some of the events present are also pretty exciting, finding and fixing a crashed ship is always exciting. There is a lot to like about the game.
How long this will last is a different matter but for now, I'm entertained by it. Also, having avoided the slew of survival games on Steam over the past few years, the mechanics feel somewhat fresh for me. I'm not sure I'd say I'd pay close to £50 for it but that really remains to be seen, reaching the centre of the universe may prove to be a worthwhile goal. No Man's Sky is definitely an interesting game that I'm sure I'll get enjoyment from but also it's an insight into how hype can harm a game in the long run.