Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

No Man’s Sky – Suggestions

Posted by Rampant Coyote on September 22, 2016

nms-2016-08-23-23-54-42-75It’s been a month since the overhyped procedural universe game No Man’s Sky was released, to the disappointment of many. I’m not going to comment on what was done right or wrong here in managing expectations. I’m still playing. It’s an easy, go-to game to jump in and play for a few minutes (which usually stretches into significantly longer). It actually matches what I expected the game to be pretty well, so I’m led to believe that either I have a lot more realistic expectations than your average gamer, or I was reading and watching different previews from everyone else.

I’ve put about 70 hours in over the last month. Man, that’s kind of a lot. While I’ve not gotten to the center of the universe yet (I’m deliberately avoiding the Way of the Atlas), and haven’t even died yet (though I’ve come close), I figure I’ve put enough time to be decently informed on it. Even given that what was delivered was closer to what I expected, I’m able to see deficiencies… including faults I would have included myself if I’d been making the game. So from the comfortable vantage point of 20/20 hindsight, here are the things I would have done differently:

A MUCH Deeper Tech and Crafting Tree

Seriously, the tech tree is something that gets exhausted within about a dozen hours or so. There should be much more to the tech that unlocks after you max out the “basics” – maybe stuff that’s unique to each of the three races. Maybe stuff that’s not all compatible, so you have to choose which tech path to install (although you could uninstall those upgrades later and try a different type of tech). Ideally, these would be technologies that granted special abilities, not just enhancements to standard abilities.

Seriously – it doesn’t need to be Minecraft level, but it should be something to keep players occupied for more than the first two or three star systems.

Oh, and better yet… with all the ancient history going about in the lore, why not some ancient technology that’s far superior to anything that can be created today. Maybe some of those abandoned buildings that tell of performing research on the Sentinels could reward you with ancient Sentinel technology that cannot be crafted or replicated.

nms-2016-09-19-21-28-01-26Gated Content

The goal of the game – so much as there is one – is to get to the center of the universe. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to see much difference between the early worlds and… at least the ones at mid-game. Everything is laid out on the table from the get-go. Some would call that a feature… but for me, that’s a design flaw. Being able to see new things is part of the reward for pushing further towards the end-game.

Space Combat that Doesn’t Suck

No Man’s Sky is not a space combat game. That’s fine. Bare-bones is… well, acceptable. But right now, it’s a buggy afterthought. Especially when enemy ships just pass through the giant freighters…. what the hell? It’s probably because the AI isn’t handling collision avoidance (which is admittedly not a simple problem). But… when you have super-simple, bare-bones space combat and even that is kind of a joke… yeah. No.

nms-2016-08-25-22-28-45-29More Asynchronous Multiplayer Features

First off – I know the websites and hardcore gamers have cried out about the lack of cooperative (or competitive) multiplayer. If I may wax old-school-gamer, I remember wishing the same thing and joining legions of fans on the early web and Usenet groups wishing for the same thing in Daggerfall. It was only years later, playing a lot of MMOs, that I realized what a terrible idea that was. A world that big (a fraction of No Man’s Sky’s size) would mean you’d almost never see anybody. What a waste of multiplayer.

However, early on in the game, I found myself competing with another player over discovering and naming local planets. Maybe my experience was rare, but that’s how it turned out. We competed for local star-systems, and were at least in the same solar system at about the same time. I logged out one night with half the flora and fauna of one planet discovered and named, and the next evening logged in to find that other player had discovered and named the rest of it.

What this made me think was that it would be cool if there were more asynchronous multiplayer features. If there were more ways for players to have an impact on the universe and on each other – even if logging in at different times and on different sides of the galaxy – that would be cool. It would also require much bigger server requirements, which is a major drawback, but not nearly so bad as trying to add synchronous multiplayer. But just things like leaving notes for other explorers, or the maps of regions they explored. (Granted… the more you allow players the ability to leave their mark on a game online, the more you are going to have a universe flooded with penises.  It’s one of those sadly unavoidable laws of the Internet.)

nms-2016-09-12-22-03-33-68Cities and Civilization

There, I said it. If there will be a No Man’s Sky 2, I would like procedurally generated cities. And ruins of cities. This isn’t something I knew I wanted until later in the game. But as much as I’m a fan of classic pulp sci-fi, the lack of any semblance of civilization… where the entire universe is just tiny one-creature (at best) outposts and isolated one-building ruins… really feels wrong after a while.

Procedural generation could definitely handle it, but that’s a crapload of new procedural content styles, and probably some fundamentally different gameplay. That’s a tall order for a small studio, so I totally get why that’s not there. But still, it feels wrong.

Space Station Variations

Seriously. I know they are really not much more than a fancy trading menu, but… it’d be nice to have space stations worthy of exploration.

nms-2016-08-24-22-04-57-64Surprises / Rarities

Crashed space ships, black holes, and portals are really nice, rare events that spice up the game. So are the ultra-rare, high-value resources found on some planets (most of which result in immediate attack by Sentinels when you take them). There needs to be more of that. Not more of these particular events (that would make them… not rare), but more things like this. Rewards for exploration, or for moving on to the next planet instead of just making a beeline for the core because it’s all alike.

Story / Event Segments

The lore of the universe is interesting, but it would be nice to have some full-fledged events taking place that actually have rhyme or reason. They wouldn’t have to be of the caliber of Soldak Entertainment’s excellent action-RPGs, or to the level of the “anomaly” ship / station that you periodically encounter. Just little quests or events that involve the player and perhaps require some additional searching or hunting. Or – best of all – there are some causal relationship things going on that link events, give them a reason and ground the events in something less ephemeral.

It’d be nice if those ships you see flying over the planet seemed to have some kind of purpose… a purpose you could potentially become involved with. As it is, without even a veneer of purpose, they feel like the lifeless set-dressing they are. Looking at the screenshots, the mind creates a story. It would be cool if the game provided a few more hints here and there to encourage the mind to keep doing so.

nms-2016-09-15-22-45-54-76Something Cool in the Caves

Okay, this is my dungeon-delving self coming out… but something more than mine-able resources or vortex cubes inside the caves would be cool. Structures or events that cannot be found on the surface. I want caves of mystery, man!

More Simulation

So… I totally get that No Man’s Sky is designed to appeal to a more casual crowd. I love how speed scales naturally to allow you to jump between worlds and systems while still working when you are flying close to the surface or just walking around. And games like Elite: Dangerous are so not casual-friendly. But I’d love to see a hint of more simulation in the game. Really, I want Elite: Dangerous smooshed together with No Man’s Sky, if possible.

nms-2016-09-19-23-35-11-83Ship Cosmetic Customization

Man, if only some of the space station variations they don’t have had a shop where you could adjust some of the accessories or paint schemes for your ship…

Bank Accounts

Yeah, another great role for certain buildings in non-existent cities or the non-existent space station variants… a bank account to store rare items that you might need later. Yeah, that detracts from that fun quest to increase your inventory space, but seriously… with those expanded tech and crafting trees the game doesn’t have, that would be pretty essential. Stored items would magically be available in bank locations throughout the universe.

Anyway, some of these changes could be added to the existing game, if Hello Games felt so inclined. Or they could be part of a new and improved sequel. Or… more interestingly… a sequel that somehow used the same universe and naming database (“the universe, 200 years later, not exactly as you left it.”)

I still like the game… but it still kind of feels like the potential for a much bigger, better game is there.

Filed Under: Design, Impressions - Comments: 4 Comments to Read

  • lakerz said,

    I think you make many fine suggestions on how to improve the core experience of this game. Reward exploration is the biggest. Devs need to put in a lot more random and cool stuff that one can stumble on in a planet or whatever.

  • Mephane said,

    “Oh, and better yet… with all the ancient history going about in the lore, why not some ancient technology that’s far superior to anything that can be created today. Maybe some of those abandoned buildings that tell of performing research on the Sentinels could reward you with ancient Sentinel technology that cannot be crafted or replicated.”

    I am quite tired of this kind of thing in games. The “ancient tech/magic is far superior to the modern stuff” trope annoys me a lot, but much worse is this element that essentially means that “normal” stuff is inferior and you are supposed to load yourself up to the brim with ancient/alien/weird equipment eventually. More often than not, the game soon devolves into the hunt for the ancient/alien equipment ASAP, treating even the good “regular” equipment as a mere throwaway stepping stone.

  • Max said,

    Great suggestions Jay! You should forward them to the devs. Crashed ships DO already exist though, and yes, you can loot them or even fix them up and make them yours. (At the expense of your current ship of course).

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I was listing crashed ships with the other rarities that I liked that I thought there should be more of in the game. I didn’t mean to suggest that was something that wasn’t there. Sorry about that.

    Although something like the giant crashed freighters that appeared in the E3 demo… those would be cool.

    Yeah, I’ve encountered a few crashed ships… one that I found as I was flying over the planets’ surface, but most through observatories or orbital scanning. Never found a decent upgrade on my existing ship, though.