Hype, False Advertising, and Refunds: A Look at the No Man’s Sky Controversy

Hype, False Advertising, and Refunds: A Look at the No Man’s Sky Controversy

You’ve probably heard of No Man’s Sky. Really, it’s borderline impossible to not have heard of it, with how much discussion it’s been provoking online as of late, in combination with the massive amount of hype it generates prior to release.

Unfortunately for Hello Games (and perhaps fortunately for consumers going forward), the discussion No Man’s Sky has been stirring up hasn’t been of a particularly positive nature. A large number of people are almost flat-out outraged about the final state of the product that they had been eagerly anticipating. Actually, anticipating may be putting it lightly. From the moment the first trailer was shown in 2013, almost the entire internet lit up with excited chatter about the game. A real, infinite space sim? With procedurally generated worlds, creatures, and plants? Alien races with warring factions to run into and trade with? Space combat? Landing on meteors? The (albeit small) chance of running into another player and co-oping the game like Journey or Dark Souls? Sounds great right? Sign me up, Hello Games!

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Looks beautiful, right?

Except, the game shown off over these past few years was not what we got. The final product is vastly different from what was shown. Now, this isn’t something new to the gaming industry, obviously. Developers have a bad habit of taking screenshots, dubbed “Bullshots” by online gaming communities, that were taken at higher resolutions than the actual game, often boasting upped graphics settings too, not available in the final game on consoles. So, you may be thinking. Is it the players’ fault for overhyping themselves based on mere trailers? Is it Hello Games’ fault for fabricating trailer material? The answer to both of these is yes.

Although in this case, Hello Games has a lot more to answer for than just premade trailer footage.

You may remember a special little game called Aliens: Colonial Marines from 2013. That game infamous for being a pile of garbage, but that’s not the reason I mention it. Gearbox’s Colonial Marines is a textbook case of the exact same issue that No Man’s Sky faces. The footage, demos, everything shown for Colonial Marines was fabricated in order to generate hype and sales for the game. None of it was a representation of the final product, and none of it was even planned to be. In order to clarify just how serious this was for Gearbox, and how serious this could be for Hello Games, Gearbox got sued over the game for false advertising, forcing publisher Sega to step in and pay $1.25 million to settle it. With how things are going, Hello Games could be quickly careening down the same path.

Now, just a quick note before I really get into the specifics of the drama and controversy around this game. I was not excited for No Man’s Sky . I didn’t overly care about the game, and actually forgot it existed until around this April. I’m not “butthurt” or any other type of meme buzzword. I’m not disappointed in the game, and I’ve only played it because I borrowed it out of curiosity from a family member. I am entirely objective here, and not fueled by any particular personal feelings of betrayal, hate, and indeed, butthurt.

Let’s begin.

NoMansSky_Gameplay

Newsflash: It doesn’t look this good.

Perhaps the biggest kick in the teeth to those who were excited about the game was that some of the most anticipated and exciting features were straight up lies. The worst offender? The lack of multiplayer features at all. Initially promised, and continually reiterated right up until the game’s launch, was that, although rarely, you would actually be able to encounter other players and adventure alongside them. It was even promised that you could grief other players in a way, perhaps hinting at some form of PvP combat in some form. The idea of exploring undiscovered planets with your friends sounds amazing, but alas, it was not to be. On August 9th, two players managed to meet up over Twitch, and were shocked to discover that it was all a big, fat lie.

There is no multiplayer in No Man’s Sky. None. You cannot encounter other players in the game.

But you can definitely encounter random game crashes. All the time. On a CONSOLE. But, the fun doesn’t stop there. Despite an addition delay just to get it working on PC, that port was infamously bad, like worse than PC Dark Souls bad. The game was straight up broken and nonfunctional on release day, and is apparently plagued with issues. The console version still crashes too. It’s downright incompetent, considering both versions have been delayed to hell and back.

It doesn’t even end there. The sheer amount of missing promised features and issues can’t even be fully covered in depth in an article. This Reddit post does a good job of outlining all of the missing features, including, but not limited to: giant creatures, destructible space stations, hacking, and more. Evidently, it’s not entirely just down to people being “overhyped”. This was a factor obviously, with people theorizing and predicting their own gameplay features based on seconds of footage, but as said, Hello Games has a lot to answer for.

Or maybe not exactly Hello Games as a whole. No, most of this can be pinpointed to one guy and his constant stream of straight-up falsehood.

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Just look at that grin.

This man is Sean Murray, and if you followed No Man’s Sky, you should recognize his face. This is the face of both the world’s greatest marketer and the biggest con man of the year. Taking a note from Peter Molyneux, but with somewhat more malicious intent, Sean Murray lied through his teeth, dodged questions, and promised features that were not in the final game. Even from as far back as 2014, even the trailers were fabricated, pre-made footage, despite claims to the contrary, claims that everything shown was procedural and current. If you want evidence, this hilarious video comparing the 2014 E3 trailer to the final game should help quench your thirst.

The true brilliance of Sean Murray’s lies though, is that he, and Hello Games as a whole has a shield to hide behind. Because of their technical status as an indie dev, despite No Man’s Sky having Sony as a publisher supporting them, people are quick to jump the aid of the “little guy”, even when they deserve the punishment they’re getting, and Hello Games is quick to use their small studio status as an excuse for any screwups along the way. Honestly, I find this deplorable, as it not only harms the credibility of the entire indie gaming scene, but also is a cheap, lazy way to avoid having to take responsibility for their failures.

The stupidest part about the whole thing, is that bugs aside, there ARE games I have played far worse than No Man’s Sky. It’s not the worst game ever made exactly, even as-is. The problem is that Hello Games, or mostly Sean Murray, weaponized the very concept of excitement and hype, creating a rabid fanbase for a game that wasn’t even out, and was never really worth it. Again, somewhat of an excellent marketing strategy, but it’s crashing down hard on them now, worse than most could have anticipated, with immense backlash. This whole thing will hopefully serve as a lesson to gamers, teaching them not to fall for the lies of developers, and not to get excited for something based on word of mouth, bullshot trailers, and vague concepts.

Oh, before I go, I should probably mention that if you fell for Murray’s ruse and are disappointed with the game, Steam is offering refunds for even people who have played MORE THAN TWO HOURS as long as you state the reasons for refund being poor performance or false advertising.

Also there are reports of your discoveries being overwritten and erased, killing off hours of gameplay and exploration.

Happy space travels, my friends.