If video games could have mental health problems, No Man’s Sky would be the poster child for bipolar mood disorder. First came the extraordinary high when No Man’s Sky was presented as Sony’s indie game darling at their E3 stage show in 2014. This was followed by two years of incessant hype when the game’s lead developer Sean Murray seemed to be everywhere, all the time, telling anyone who would listen about all the wonderful things the game was going to have. Players bought into it and the anticipation was intense.
Then came the extraordinary low when No Man’s Sky was released and it all came crashing down. The professional reviews were not good. Metacritic scored the game at 71 on the PS4 and 61 on PC.
Fan response was worse. A movement got under way demanding refunds because so many of the features Murray said would be in the game were missing. Criticism of Murray was harsh, brutal and unrelenting. A month after No Man’s Sky released, the search string “Sean Murray lies” returned 6200 hits on YouTube. Many of the videos were ugly. After riding No Man’s Sky‘s back for two years, Sony appeared to distance itself and point the finger at Murray as the cause of all the problems. It bottomed out when the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority announced they were investigating No Man’s Sky for misleading advertising.
Throughout all this, Hello Games, No Man’s Sky‘s developer, remained largely silent. They released a series of patches with notes listing what had been fixed. On September 2, they posted a note saying they were listening to the feedback and were hard at work making the game better. Since then, nothing. . . . until yesterday.
On Black Friday Hello Games announced they will be releasing an update for No Man’s Sky this week. They call it the “Foundation Update” because it “added the foundations of base building, and also because [it's] putting in place a foundation for things to come.” There’s no mention of what those things might be.
After a brief summary of what they’ve been up to since the last patch was released in late September, Hello Games addressed the controversy surrounding the game.
The discussion around No Man’s Sky since release has been intense and dramatic. We have been quiet, but we are listening and focusing on improving the game that our team loves and feels so passionately about.
Positive or negative feedback, you have been heard and that will truly help to make this a better game for everyone.
This update will be the first small step in a longer journey. We hope you can join us.
Hello Games has responded with dignity and class throughout this entire saga. They met vitriol with restraint and did not blame game players, Sony or anyone else when they were the focus of withering criticism. That being said, No Man’s Sky is likely to be at or near the top of almost every “Disappointing games of the year” list for 2016. And for good reason.
The thing about bipolar mood disorder is that the highs and lows are not permanent; the person who suffers from the condition vacillates between the two. Wouldn’t it be a great story if the Foundation Update turned out to be the foundation of No Man’s Sky‘s long climb up to the game we thought it was going to be? If the video game exemplar of bipolar mood disorder turned out to be video game’s ugly duckling?
Sure it would be great but Hello Games has talked the talk without walking the walk in the past. As the Who once said, we “don’t get fooled again.” The good news here is that it looks like Hello Games didn’t take the advance-order money and sneak off into the night. They didn’t give up. That’s admirable, but this time I’ll believe it when I see it. I hope I do.