REVIEW: No Man's Sky vividly realizes the meaningless emptiness of space


Yes! Infinitely this. And that’s why I can’t be bothered with procedural content generation as a vector for exploration. Because all there is to discover is a slightly different output of the same algorithm. If it’s a good enough algorithm maybe you’ll occasionally find some chance combination of building blocks that make something memorable and exciting, and I guess I can understand how some people might find this accidental assembly more impressive because it wasn’t authored…but I don’t. And ultimately all you’re getting is a pretty screenshot. The discoveries that actually thrill me tell stories, give me unique avenues for gameplay, or at the very least provide a meaningful and distinct boost in my ability to deal with the challenges of the game. You don’t get any of that without a designer putting it there.


Well, I’m still very early, but it’s one hell of a tech demo. But there’s very little pushing forward aside from my own curiosity. I’be started the Atlas path, but aside from reaching the first marker and getting a new one a few systems away, not much has happened.

My suit is up to 25 slots, which is nice, and I’ve been making a lot more upgrades. I’ve kind of been focusing more on that, since I don’t have to worry about moving to a new one later.

I’ve learned over two hundred words now, which is pretty cool. I seem to be making steady progress with the factions, but aside from a different dialog option here and there, not sure what else that does.

I can’t help but think how cool it would be to take a small slice of this massive universe and convert it into something more along the lines of Escape Velocity with more story and interaction between the factions.

I’m enjoying it, and it’s exactly what I suspected, but I totally get why it wouldn’t appeal to a lot of people.


I still really like it. I totally don’t care that I’m the only one.


Two things:

  1. I love that front page content automatically appears here now. It definitely draws me to those articles more readily.

  2. Great review. I haven’t played it but plan to pick it up when I get a new PC because I think my daughters will really enjoy the different worlds and creatures.


Looks like McMaster is drunk again…


Do you mean that it is in the Games category? I find it odd that this is in Games instead of Front Page. Regardless, I enjoyed the review and glad I didn’t have time to play, so I didn’t pick it up.

edit: ok, so Tom wanted front page article on games to go into Games and movies to go into Movies.


I like the game alot as well. And there is alot to criticize about the game. I actually think it wouldnt take much to make the game more playable. They just need to add more stuff to do. whether its building and defending a base, making money, or exploring more complex planets. also,they could make the combat alot more deep with a deep tech tree PLUS more random spacecraft (I love how some of the spacecraft looks)

As is, I think this is the perfect game for the type of people who can spend hours just wasting on Google Maps… a somewhat passive imaginative experience.


This would certainly make me a lot more interested. But really, I’d settle for a new, modern Escape Velocity.


The Front Page category I think was just a migration target for historic stuff. I believe Tom’s intent was that all future front page posts will go into their relevant forum category - Games, Movies, etc.


I hope this is true. I’m as good about visiting the Front Page category as I am the front page itself, so having things go to the right spot will force me to do so.


I can’t speak for other people, but I personally like to look around for great vistas. I’m always eager to see what small variation in color or composition will result in something I personally find remarkable. In many ways, I’m always looking for the next sci-fi book cover that only I will get to see (even if many are similar enough that most people won’t tell the difference), as if I’m some kind of photographer.

I also like to go around, trying to guess what will be around the corner, even if I know all the possible variations (pod, crashed ship, beacon, etc). I like to see a smoking pod in the ground, and right after landing, to be surprised by spoting a monolith in the distance. For me, it feels cool, sometimes even if it is the umpteenth time it happens.

I like the random nature of procedural generation, because sometimes you’ll find extremely cool things that are (ultimately) a product of chance. I enjoy that kind of thing in the same way (and I’m going to be a HUGE nerd now, so bear with me) Dr. Manhattan was awestruck when he found out who Silk Specter’s father was, and how unlikely that was. Because when things are created and crafted by humans, they’re imbued with meaning; but when you find something remarkable out of random chance, it’s a blank canvas where you can paint your own meaning (or lack thereof), and for a moment be awestruck by how chance can produce beauty - only to realize that you imprint beauty on that product of chance yourself, by witnessing that, by just… being there.

Those moments in No Man’s Sky (and similar games) are, to me, a bit like that single plastic bag flying around in the famous scene from American Beauty - the meaningless product of chance imbued with meaning. No Man’s Sky gives me that in spades - through procedural generation of terrain and features, by random chance uncovering alien words, by the vague excerpts of text when I interact with a monolith or an abandoned station. It gives me randomness so I can imprint meaning (or the lack thereof), and I love it for that.

Now, I can see how much better a game it could be. There’s a lot of potential to be uncovered there. There are also a lot of oversights, and a lot of compromises that hurt all aspects of the game in the end (most of which you mentioned in your review). But I like what’s there. It could be more, but for what I wanted and expected… it’s enough.


Tom your review sums up perfectly what I think a lot of players think of No Man’s Sky.

From my experience this is a “game” is a loose sense of the word. It isn’t really story or objective based. There isn’t a lot of varying gameplay mechanics. You basically spend time wandering around strange generated environments. And yes they do repeat and some of them are no fun to be at. So you just leave! And find a better world to wander around!

Also being of an altered state of mind helps a lot.

I look forward to what they might add to the game to make it more interesting. Hopefully some kind of base building?


Just as I predicted pre-release. Procedurally generated games are boring as hell.


Procedural generation is about the only thing the game has going for it. It’s the gameplay (or lack thereof) that’s the problem.


With the half-baked survival gameplay they duct taped onto the procgen I would rather they extricate it altogether and turn the game into a touristy walking sim. Enjoy the sci-fi cover panoramas without needing to stand there spraying a beam into rocks ad naseum.


I still fire up Minecraft and just wander around new worlds sometimes. I think it’s too soon to make any blanket statements about them. Plus exactly how much is procedurally generated will vary among games claiming that feature. No Man’s Sky feels like an amazing foundation for a game they didn’t finish making. Whether that’s actually the case and it improves with updates or whether Hello Games never really has the ability to improve it, I don’t think NMS is a strike against procedural generation in a meaningful way.


People have been making procedurally generated games for over 30 years. I don’t think it’s too soon at all. There are games that have managed to layer enough interesting stuff over the procedural content generation to not suffer too badly from the intense dullness of said content (many roguelikes, for example; Dwarf Fortress; etc), but quite often that’s because there’s a ton of systems that interact in interesting ways. When you don’t have that (i.e. No Man’s Sky), well, the flaws with the method become especially glaring.


You should look into 3030 Deathwar Redux, Naev and Endless Sky for starters.


“3030 Deathwar Redux” is my new favorite game name.