We all know the story of No Man’s Sky and its unlikely revival. A title, through the persistence of Hello Games, rose from the ashes after numerous marketing missteps threatened to shorten its lifespan.But did we go back and see exactly how Hello Games changed the course of No Man’s Sky?Of course, the game’s 14 major content updates are largely thanks to its return, but When Has the Atmospheric Space headline turned things around? Is there a specific update we can point to and say, “Yeah, that’s the moment when everything changed?”
Fans and critics alike consider the game’s multiplayer update No Man’s Sky Next to be its lifesaver, however, I think the game’s early problems stem not from a lack of online player numbers, but from an incomplete exploration loop. Why Should I explore? What drives me to continue categorizing the depths of space beyond my curiosity? Hello Games must find the answers to these questions before they can hope to bring their game back to life.
Although No Man’s Sky has undergone tremendous changes since its release, the game presents its pilots with the same tasks today as they did in 2016: embark on interstellar journeys, map new planets, and unravel mysterious alien universes. Only this time, they have a place to call home.
Hey, I’m Alex Van Aken from game informer, that’s how base building saves No Man’s Sky. If you enjoyed this video article, be sure to watch Associate Editor Jay Guisao’s article “The Weight of Departures and Reunions in Final Fantasy VII Remake.” Curious what score the original Game Informer No Man’s Sky got? Read game reviews here.
We definitely recommend watching the video in the player above for the full experience, but here’s the transcript if you need it:
Nearly five years after its original launch, No Man’s Sky is a very different game than the first game we played. Not only has Hello Games lived up to its original promise with numerous updates and content drops, but the studio has also shaped its once lackluster survival sim into a one-of-a-kind space adventure. While the original experience lacked the requisites for long-term player engagement, today’s No Man’s Sky offers a plethora of meaningful activities for you to engage in, including character customization, underwater settlements, cooking and farming, abandoned freighter crawls, tech trees , as well as the recent tameable companions and pet trades. Damn, the game now even supports virtual reality.
In addition to introducing new and expanded systems to bolster No Man’s Sky’s weaknesses, Sean Murray and the team reinforced the original project’s strengths that were worth sticking with. Multiple remakes have made the title’s mesmerizing planets even more compelling, adding fluorescent foliage and landscapes from your favorite sci-fi movies.
But the game wasn’t always that good.
Despite having more than 18 quintillion planets, No Man’s Sky was basically an empty experience when it was released. The title’s procedurally generated biome offers players little change, and without flagship features like multiplayer or massive space battles, it’s just a shell of what was originally promised. However, the original version of the game loop is basically the same as it is now – repair crashed ships, explore space, harvest resources to survive and fund further expeditions. So, what exactly is missing?
Well, the only meaningful system that encourages planetary investigation at launch has to do with the Analysis Mask, an essential multi-tool technology that allows players to scan for undiscovered flora, fauna, minerals, and points of interest. Not only will it tell you how close you are to the aforementioned wonders, but it will also allow you to upload your findings in exchange for points that can be spent on ships and items. While Analysis Visor is a well-designed game mechanic, Hello Games desperately needed to create additional ways to motivate players to keep playing No Man’s Sky.
After all, the game’s main mission, which is to reach the center of the galaxy, is yet another victim of an over-hyped and misleading marketing campaign. After diving into the game for hundreds of hours, players who finally manage to travel to the center of the galaxy will find themselves at an alternate starting point, stripped of everything but what’s in their inventory. Hours-long journeys are meaningless when the final destination robs you of your progress and rewards.
So how exactly does base construction save No Man’s Sky?
Well, in a world where every atom is programmed, players need an anchor that keeps them interested and, more importantly, rewards them for the time they put into the game.
Enter foundation updates.
The Foundation Update, released in the fall of 2016, established the game’s base building system. We didn’t know it at the time, but the first update would ensure No Man’s Sky’s legacy, as I thought it would be critical to the game’s revival and eventual success.
So, what does this new patch introduce? Well, for starters, players can make modular structures and decorations. By piecing together floors, walls and doorways, you can theoretically build the foundation of your dreams. Yes, No Man’s Sky is now a “Minecraft in space” and it’s pretty cool. Sanctuaries not only serve as a base on a planet of your choice, but they also offer new features that make exploring and surviving less tedious. For example, players can seek solace from a dangerous storm by simply hanging out at their base, rather than escaping into the confines of their ship’s cockpit.
For the more economically driven players, the game’s new farming system allows them to grow and harvest crops outdoors or through a hydroponic lab.You can make a lot of money selling these harvested agricultural materialbecause the game describes them so eloquently.
But what if a player wants to leave their home star system entirely? Wouldn’t building a base on a planet stop them from pursuing far-flung space? Fortunately, no. Hello Games foresaw this potential problem and developed a solution. The studio was quick to introduce teleporters and cargo planes into the game. Freighters are large ships that travel with players to new star systems and act as bases on wheels, while teleporters allow players to teleport between bases, freighters, and any space station at will.
Base building also addresses many of the quality-of-life issues that plagued earlier versions of the game, notably the overall lack of inventory space or permanent storage. With ground-level roofs, players can now stockpile precious materials instead of discarding or selling them to create more space in their pockets.
With all these new features explored, No Man’s Sky is finally starting to feel like a game that prioritizes player freedom over a ruleset that simulates worthwhile progression. However, Hello Games didn’t stop there.
Thirteen subsequent content updates eventually made their way to No Man’s Sky, nearly every one of them building on the framework of the Foundation update. The Path Finder and Atlas Rises updates came out in late 2017, respectively, and introduced starship and multitool specializations, a range of land-based vehicles and hangars to store them, more base parts and exterior finishes, and a layered crafting system Unlock valuable items with different resource combinations. In 2018, Hello Games released No Man’s Sky Next, Visions and The Abyss. These three chapters establish the game’s full multiplayer suite, co-op base building, large underwater environments and settlements, and submarine outboards that offer new avenues of exploration.
One of the most important and necessary additions to No Man’s Sky is the Construction Research Station, which permanently connects to the game’s base building and exploration systems after it was introduced in the Beyond update.
Here’s how it works.
Players venturing into space can search for salvage data, a valuable currency buried in underground tech modules. In order to pinpoint the item’s location, which can be scattered across almost any planet, the player needs to scan the surrounding environment with the Analytical Visor. Once mined, the recovered data can be exchanged for countless base building parts at the base’s building research station, including agricultural modules, aquatic buildings, lighting, transportation, and sci-fi decorations. With the addition of a building research station, base construction becomes a natural driving force for exploration. Previously these recipes could only be obtained from special NPCs, but can now be researched more easily through this process. If you wish, the salvage data you collect can be distilled into a separate currency called Nanite Clusters, which can be used to upgrade your starships and utility tools.
No Man’s Sky adds more essential tools, including Exo Mechs, a new terrain editing system, and a nutrient processor for use as a cooking appliance. All of these aforementioned features provide the carrot stick that No Man’s Sky desperately needed at launch. Still, even after five years, Hello Games continues to update to shape their game into what we’ve always wanted it to be. None of this would be possible without the base game system introduced with base building.
Like I said, the games that can be played today are a far cry from the original release. Today, No Man’s Sky is an experience that truly captures the awe and wonder of space and the unknown. The game piqued our curiosity as we fired up the hyperdrive and jumped to the speed of light to find our next step.
Nonetheless, No Man’s Sky is simply intoxicating.