No game in the past few years has produced as much notoriety, hate, and overall controversy as No Man’s Sky. Initially starting off as just another indie project in the world of gaming, No Man’s Sky ended up generating a lot of attention once it was publicly shown to audiences during E3 2014. There were many factors that contributed to this hype, the first and foremost being the promise of procedural generation. Fans of the cult classic Spore knew very well the potential this mechanic had for video games, as it allowed developers to create extravagant character and world designs without having to invest large amounts of time into individual creation.
No Man’s Sky seemed to be the culmination of this hope, expanding the algorithm to an entire universe full of planet-sized planets and an innumerable amount of flora and fauna. Players were literally being given thousands of galaxies to explore to their own delight.
The second was the fact that when Sony decided to showcase the game at the aforementioned Electronic Entertainment Expo, it was the first time an indie-developed game was featured on the main stage. Adding to the incredible demo, this factor made it seem like No Man’s Sky was something revolutionary that would change the face of gaming forever.
And finally, there was the simple notion that production company Hello Games was trustworthy. Every interview with founder and director Sean Murray portrayed him as a genuinely honest man who did not have the same ill-intentions as more corporate companies like EA. This image was so ingrained in the media that he even attracted the attention of legendary industrialist Elon Musk.
Unfortunately for would-be fans, this all ended up being for naught. The first sign of trouble people should have seen was the constantly shifting release date. When a company has to keep pushing back their schedule, it creates pressure among the distributors to get the product out to consumers regardless of condition, patching having nullified the desire to create a bug-less title. However, the second and arguably more important omen was the reveal that Hello Games would be doing a dual PS4 and PC release. It is hard enough for AAA developers to pull this off in advance, but when you have an indie studio that literally has less than 20 employees, it was evident that something was going to go wrong.
And thus, it happened that No Man’s Sky was an atrocity. Glitches, FPS issues, control malfunctions, and a plethora of pre-release lies showered it upon release. The anger felt by gamers outdid the reaction to the ending of Mass Effect 3 six years prior, resulting in a record amount of refund requests on Steam. No doubt recognizing the weight of the ire against them, Hello Games discontinued communications with the public, giving sporadic Twitter updates until late February-early March 2017 when Murray finally spoke at GDC about the disappointment.
Since then, Hello Games has released two major patches to No Man’s Sky in an attempt to not only fix game-breaking errors but also to expand the amount of things to do in the vast open-world. The first was the “Foundation Update” which gave players the ability to build a home base on a planet, while the second was the “Path Finder,” which provided more vehicles to travel with, combined with the addition of a permadeath feature.
Now, some intelligent gamers have found the code for a possible third update in the works. As Christopher Groux of IB Times reports, a new internal depot going by the name of “oldbuildtest” was discovered, which hearkens back to some pre-release features prior to the game going gold. Whether or not this means we will finally be seeing some of those promises being kept is up for debate, but no one can deny that Hello Games is at least trying to repair their reputation.