Every few years or so, a couple of people go all over the country (in this case the United States) make all sorts of wild promises. Promises to restore this, change that, make that thing great again if only, only we will listen to them and not that bitter, antagonistic, dreaded other person. Thus the population is polarized between the two. The wild promising continues increasing until it climaxes in November when finally one of them is tasked with making good on their promises. It's at this point that reality intervenes and few if anything significant happens, changes, or is made great. Repeat every few years.
At this point, you're probably wondering why is this on a gaming blog. But you shouldn't. See, this whole process above is eerily similar to how video games, usually "Triple-A" games, are made and marketed to us masses. You have wild promises about something new, different or it does that thing on an unprecendented scale that will change everything. Then once you've convinced your spouse, significant other, parent or gaurdian, to let you spend $60 dollars or more (you just gotta have that season pass too) to buy it, the most anticipated game in the history of ever, reality is right there to slap you out of your hype-induced insanity. That and the game stinks. Repeat every time you have at least $60 of disposable income.
We fall for it, every time. I don't mean "we" to mean you, dear reader, and myself specifically, but there's enough of us as a market that falls for this same gag that game publishers continue to hype up new games as soon as possible. Often times, long before some of the more important parts of the game have even finalized. More importantly, the games are hyped up before game studios have decided what's not going to make it into the game. That last bit is critical when the game is released. It's the ammunition that reality uses to leave your expectations a heap of broken dreams and unmet expectations.
If you haven't read it, my colleague mechwd, has written an excellent article asking the question of whether we expect too much from games. The answer is blindly obvious. Of course we do because they want us to. Game advertising's goal is to get you excited about the game they want you to buy. It does not do that by advertising features, or gameplay, but rather by trying to establish an emotional connection with you, the potential sucker, I mean buyer. Here's the latest exhibit in the fine art of emotional advertising.
Here's sort of the inner dialog your emotionally hyped brain is having now that you've watched it.
Emotion: I want to be a pilot now!
Reason: But the game's rated "M" and there's no gore filter
Emotion: Did you see that Titan! It had an electic sword!
Reason: I don't think the game is going to be anything like the trailer.
Emotion: You played the beta, you can walk on walls, hook people, and totally shoot stuff.
Reason: I had a negative K/D ratio in the beta.
Emotion: Preordering now!
Reason: Sigh. I'll look up the trade-in value of No Man's Sky.
Should it be a surprise to anyone that expectations are high, perhaps even unrealistically high?
Now we can focus a little on No Man's Sky, both a benefactor and victim of this vicious cycle. Full Disclosure: I preordered No Man's Sky and I actually like playing it. Imagine for a moment, that you're pre crazy beard Sean Murray and Sony has offered you a crap ton of money and help to get your fledgling game off the ground. You've told Sony some of your ideas about the game, none of which are actually in the game right now, others you aren't sure could ever be in the game, but the execs liked it and everyone was happy. Time marches on. Now your beard is a reflection on the amount of personal time you have as a game dev and it gets a little longer every time you have to cut a feature to make the ship date. Still the crowds were wowed at E3, even through you die a little on the inside when you think of everything that isn't ready and how little time is left. By the time August 21st rolls around, the game is a shell of itself, when compared to the expectations. You and the entire staff at Hello Games are shells of themselves considering all they put into the game, except for your beautiful untamed beard. Reality has had its way with Hello Games and is now about to be unleashed upon the general gaming public. Very few reviews of No Man's Sky focused at all on the technical achievements that made the game possible, or for the fact it came from the same shop that released Joe Danger. Nearly all of the reviews focused on what wasn't in the game or what was "promised" and was missing. To be honest, I don't recall Sean Murray ever solemnly swearing upon the grave of his father, Inigo Montoya Murray, that multiplayer was going to be in the game. He didn't have to. No Man's Sky was no match for reality. No game is.
A couple observations from the aftermath of No Man's Sky. First, it's initial trajectory release parallel's that of Bungie's Destiny. Destiny was released after nearly 18 months of hype and delays. What was the initial verdict? Mediocre story, minimal content, and a very flat Peter Dinklage performance. Honestly, if you have Nathan Fillion in your voice cast, you should automatically give him more lines. Reality had given Bungie some lemons. Luckily, Bungie had enough manpower, reputation, and good enough game play to make reality take the lemons back. But it took time. I would say that by the time The Taken King was released, Destiny had a better story, better content, and Nolan North out-dinkled the Dinklebot. Hello Games doesn't really have any of those things. Sean Murray's beard could very well get much much longer before No Man's Sky gets better.
One final thing about No Man's Sky. Its design culture. No Man's Sky feels like it was supposed to be an old console game. It just doesn't have some of the things that games are expected to have. Online multiplayer being one of them. Beyond that, No Man's Sky is a stand alone game and isn't dependent on servers anywhere, much like Super Mario Brothers for the NES. Reality says that some day, Destiny's servers will be retired and the game will go with them. Titanfall 2 will be replaced with another online experience. But No Man's Sky is a game where you don't need servers to connect to in order to play it. You might not be able to share your discoveries, but you can still play. Sometimes reality punches in your favor. Just don't count on it.