No Man’s Sky was released under a heavy storm set up by its players. But what can we learn from all the backlash?
As of this point with the title, I’m pretty sure we all know what game I’m talking about without even looking at the image. Yes, another No Man’s Sky article. I swore I wouldn’t write about it, but as of now, I can’t help it. The hate train is very strong and honestly I’m getting sick and tired of seeing everyone hate on the game, especially those in the Indie Development community, whom this article is mainly focused at.
I’m going to start off by saying that I have yet to play the game, so if you want to give me flak about that, then so be it. I’m on the outside looking in on this situation. I’m not a part of Hello Games, nor am I a part of Sony. I’m not a fanboy as some would try to say. I’m approaching this entire subject from a neutral standpoint. I’ve chosen not to play the game up to this point because I’ve wanted to remain neutral and also because everyone should know by now that most games recently are released full of bugs due to harsh deadlines, so I choose to wait a month at least before picking up any new games just so the developers have all the major issues ironed out. What I have done, though, is read just about every article published about the game and its “shortcomings”. I’ve also watched just about every video that has been published surrounding the interviews, the reviews, and the “edited interviews” such as the more popular one “An honest interview with Sean Murray”. I will not provide links to any of these things specifically because that is not the point of this article. The point of this article is to shed some light on things that are quite frankly not really mentioned much by anyone since there is so much hate flying around.
I’m overall disappointed in a very large portion of the Indie Dev community, not only on Facebook but on Twitter and Reddit as well. There is so much hate flying around that I’m actually embarrassed to be a part of the community right now. The Indie Developer’s community is supposed to be a community of developers that are there to help, support, and encourage each other but most of what I’ve seen just ends up being endless crap-slinging and insults toward Hello Games and especially Sean Murray. Everyone has seemed to forget that Sean Murray is only human just like everyone else, yet they expect him to be 100% perfect. People like Jim Sterling from Jimquisition also puts him on blast. Now, someone like Jim who is very popular in the gaming world and has been around the industry for a long time should at least have the common decency to also cover the potential unforeseen circumstances that could have happened behind closed doors between Hello Games and Sony. I love Jim and his reviews but I’d have hoped he’d have covered a lot more into the actual development process and the things that can happen in any given project when you have deadlines imposed on you by any AAA publisher, let alone Sony.
The most common complaint in regards to No Man’s Sky and Sean Murray/HG seems to be these assumptions that he “lied” about a lot of “core” features that were supposed to be in the game. Like I said, I’ve watched just about every interview that exists with Sean Murray. What I see is a guy speaking on behalf of himself and his development team toward the passion that he has toward the game and toward the features that he planned to include in the game. What I see is a guy having every intention of implementing those features in the final product. What most people don’t understand here is that game development, in general, comes with an enormous amount of unforeseen circumstances that could happen especially when dealing with AAA publishing. Most people who have worked in AAA before know that deadlines are very unforgiving. When there is a deadline imposed on you by a publisher, you cannot miss that deadline under any circumstances. I was actually very surprised to hear that Hello Games was able to delay the release of No Man’s Sky, to begin with. When the game was first announced, it was targetted at hardcore gamers who liked to explore, discover and figure things out. The problem was that Sony marketed it to everyone (as they tend to do specifically to increase sales) instead of only the intended audience. This game was originally intended for a very niche audience, that definitely doesn’t mean everyone.
What everyone needs to do is take a step back and look at the bigger picture here. Everything that Sean Murray said, he most likely fully intended on including in the game upon release. When you are an Indie without deadlines imposed by a AAA publisher, you can take all the time in the world to complete your game to your exact specifications. When you have deadlines imposed by a publisher, sometimes things don’t always work out how you expect them to. Sometimes features need to be cut in order to meet that deadline. For all any of us know, Sean Murray and Hello Games were actively working on many of the systems that they talked about having in the game. Now, of course, I’m speculating but why wouldn’t they? Would it make any sense whatsoever not to be working on any of the features discussed in any of the interviews? No, it most definitely would not. I don’t know about anyone else but I like to keep an open mind about things and think of the bigger picture and not just what everyone else is saying, talking about, or complaining about. From my experience in game development, chances are they were indeed working on the “missing features” including multi-player support in the months prior to the release. Are we considering the fact that the game was indeed delayed? Why was the game delayed? Don’t you think that possibly the reason it was delayed was because they were trying to get these “missing features” implemented and/or working before the release? Sony allowed them 1 delay for some extra time to get things done. They couldn’t get things working by the deadline so they had to be cut. I don’t know about anyone else but me personally, coming from a developer’s perspective, I’d rather cut a feature and add it later fully polished than release the game and have said feature be broken. He was going to get flak for it regardless, but he would have gotten arguably MORE flak for releasing it broken than not having it at all upon release.
Anyone who’s familiar with game development knows that things like this happen. For people to go off and rant about Murray and Hello Games, knowing these things happen especially in AAA development is very much jumping on the hate train with everyone else and not having an open mind to the bigger picture of dealing with a AAA publisher. Anyone who’s an indie developer and is hating on Murray or HG should be ashamed of themselves.Surely there have been times in your lives where you’ve wanted things to turn out a certain way and have said things were going to be a certain way with your game but because of unforeseen circumstances, you either had to change the plans or change your mind entirely and remove it. If you’ve said something like this has never happened in your life, you’re a liar yourself. We’re all human, nobody is perfect. For anyone to expect Sean Murray or Hello Games to be inhuman and be 100% perfect is not very reasonable at all. Anybody can say if they were in Sean’s position that they would have done things differently. It’s easy to say that, but unless you’ve actually been in the position to deal with a AAA publisher, you honestly have no idea what it’s like or what you’d do in any given circumstance, especially when you are bound by an important contract such as that.
Now, I’m not going to say Sean Murray and Hello Games are entirely innocent because they aren’t. They very well could have cleared the air and talked to their fans about the changes or cuts that had to be made as soon as they had to be made. After all, being transparent about your business, especially when you have so many people relying on you to release a good product, is of the utmost importance to most consumers and is arguably a direct result of why they’ve received so much flak. The fact that Sean/HG didn’t address these things might not be entirely their fault, though. None of us know the specifics of the contract between HG and Sony. We don’t know if Sean or Hello Games were sworn to secrecy about certain aspects of the game (or lack thereof). We don’t know this. Everyone assumes that because there was nothing said that the game was released anyway maliciously with the sole intent on being dishonest to the fanbase. Why is that? Why do people assume that he released the game knowing that features were cut and did so purposely just to rip people off? I mean come on, seriously? There are some people in the world that would do exactly that but Sean never came off as that kind of a person to me at all. How do we know that Sony, being really popular and an authority figure in the game industry, didn’t superimpose said authority on HG/Sean and make sure that he couldn’t talk about certain aspects of the game just so Sony had a fall guy when they rushed the release and wouldn’t let them delay anymore? You don’t. You speculate. You assume.
If Sony didn’t impose secrecy on them, then I will agree that both HG and Sean are 100% irresponsible in how they handled PR and the transparency of their business and their product. However, I’m willing to entertain the possibility that they weren’t allowed to talk about whatever they wanted because of the contract. I’m also willing to give them the benefit of the doubt because they haven’t come out and said they wouldn’t be adding in the features that they planned with the money they received from sales. If they have no intention of adding in those features with the money from sales, that would honestly be a very bad business practice on their part and they would definitely lose the faith of everyone who believed in them and their game, more than they already have. In my opinion, the reason they’ve received so much hate in the first place is because most people don’t stop to think about the bigger picture that I’ve talked about here. Why? I can’t answer that, but perhaps they are too lazy to do research and are ignorant to how AAA publishers work. They’d much rather complain and hate on it with the rest of everyone.
So, with all of that being said, before any more people go jumping on the hate train, do yourself a favor and think about the bigger picture. Don’t be like everyone else and hate on the game just because of what you’ve read about or even because of playing it and it not being what you expected. Take into consideration the possibilities that could have happened between the “missing features” that were discussed and the “final” released product. Also take into consideration that the game has not even been out for a month yet and the developers have been too busy fixing bugs and cleaning up issues, they haven’t had time to add any new features yet.
I hope this article has been informative to everyone in regards to the potential unforeseen circumstances that can happen in any game’s development, not just when working with a AAA publisher, but especially when working with a AAA publisher. Maybe next time people as a whole will be a bit more educated or at least do research and find things out for themselves instead of following everyone else.
Thanks for reading!
EDIT: Was thinking about something else today. Hello Games has been constantly releasing updates for the game since release. A total of 7 patches so far, that means that they’ve released 2 patches a week at least since the game was first released almost a month ago. This proves that Hello Games and Sean Murray haven’t “stole everyone’s money and ran.” They are still actively working on the game to bring the experience that they intended to the game. I’m unsure why everyone is STILL saying a month and 7 patches later that they are liars and thieves. Give them time, they’ve made good on bug fixes so far and have even announced some new interesting features that they have planned. Oh well, I guess to each their own, you can’t make everyone happy even if the game was 100% perfect there would be someone saying something negative somewhere.