No Man’s Sky – Freedom has Consequences

No Man's SkyNew gameplay of the long anticipated game No Man’s Sky has emerged through an “IGN First” video. Fans of Sony or the ambitious title will quickly notice some graphical differences between what was shown at E3 and what we are seeing now. And these differences are in the best way possible as the graphics and textures are more fleshed out and applied. Understandable concerns about the game abound as it boasts of a massive universe that procedurally generates. I think the footage continues to establish just how promising the game is and how in many ways it’s going to change open world games as we know it.

What happened to the goat?

In the video they encounter a goat that decides he doesn’t like you. They are given the choice to shoot near him to scare him away or kill him. They decide to take the less “we come in peace” approach, and they execute the feisty fury friend. There are immediate consequences as Sentinels start showing up to protect the planet. Similar to GTA and other titles, a star rating begins to escalate the more Sentinels they decide to kill. Things quickly escalate as more and more Sentinels show up and larger ships as well. Eventually they are overwhelmed and die, respawning with any non-uploaded discoveries or resources lost. This, to me, is one of the most promising things about the game. Giving us vast worlds and planets to explore is great, but if the freedom has no impact or consequences then it feels disingenuous and flat, making all the choices, planets, and discoveries a moot point. So what you do seems to really matter and impact the universe around you.

Explorer, Pirate, or Trader

Around 12 minutes through the video we are given a glimpse into how dynamic and different space travel and exploration can be. They stumble upon a space battle that leaves behind some dropped loot to be scavenged. Sean Murray, the founder of Hello Games, is then asked about just being focused on exploration or scavenging. He responds by saying that you can focus purely on combat if you want, and that it is a popular way to play the game. This again is where I see the game bringing a new depth and breadth to the open world genre. Rather than choosing between being kinda bad, kinda good, or a little or both, this game lets you carve your own path. Often open world games simply bring you along a fairly detectable linear path where your choices make only minor differences to dialogue or in game relationships. This game seems to be giving you choices with respect to identity and experience that are, in many ways, unprecedented and unexplored. My choice to play as a space pirate may give me a completely different experience than my friend who does everything he can to peacefully explore and discover as much of the universe as possible. This truly feels like a “choose your own adventure” game with almost limitless possibilities.

What about the graphics?

What impressed me the most about this video is that it retroactively shows the integrity and intelligence of the team at Hello Games. This may be the first game to ever show dumbed down graphics at an E3-sized conference only to unveil improved and cleaner looking graphics through later less meaningful reveals. You get a glimpse into what they value as a development company when they strip the game down so it runs smoothly and correctly at an E3 conference viewed by millions when compared to other companies who have done the exact opposite. It also shows that they didn’t give us a pre-built shrunk down version of the game at E3 as he said that his demo worked in rehearsal which is why he was able to present. He wasn’t blowing smoke when he said that because why else would you strip down the graphics unless you were actually making sure the massive game is given the best chance at running smoothly in front of a live audience? Once again they end the game footage reveal by pulling back and showing the entire galaxy and its center which continues to daunt and stretch the imagination. This is one area that may hurt longevity, which may sound counter-intuitive… How can a massive seemingly endless universe pose a problem to longevity of play? The experience is going to have to be rewarding enough to keep people coming back as the overwhelming size of the game may drown people in a feeling of futility leading them to walk away. From what I’ve seen, I think the future is bright not only for this title, but the other games it will undoubtedly influence.

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