No Man’s Sky is an Introvert’s Game

According to Steam, I have played for 36 hours since the game came out. I’ve got my Atlas Pass v1. I’ve only jumped a few systems so far. I’m still using the Omega bonus ship. I’ve installed about a dozen mods.

That’s the sad part. That I like the game. I’m enjoying it. But I can’t deny all the complaints. I know exactly what they’re talking about. I can feel it too to a degree. And I’ve installed those mods to breathe a bit more life into it, still hopeful that the devs will add more content in the future.

And after thinking about it, for just a few hours (not 36), I think No Man’s Sky is an introvert’s game. It’s not about a glorious adventure through the stars where you team up with your friends to take out pirates, track down Alosaurus size fauna, run and blast sentinels while doing… I don’t know what.

No Man’s Sky is chill. It’s slow. It’s relaxed. It’s existential.

Yes, there are hundreds of thousands of players out there. Every planet has hundreds of stations with about 4 out of 10 containing an alien. And the stations have an alien. And every ship has an alien. A single alien. Alone, sitting in solitary, interacting through barely understandable dialect and sometimes through a counter or even a view screen. And you’re there too, jumping from planet to planet, in your tiny ship. All alone.

And the universe is proc-genned. It doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t care about what you think is fair or just or even or truly random. It does what it does. It’s not our galaxy. It’s No Man’s Sky’s galaxy. And it’s weird, yes, I know. And what happened to the three big races, the ones from the ruins we keep finding? They were great once. Everything was great once. Then something happened. And now everyone is alone and weak and almost biting at you for a few units, some radioactive isotopes or just a piece of advice.

This is not an extrovert’s game. This is not a run ‘n gun, shoot ’em up, 5 minute match thrill of a game. This is slow. This is dark. This is Goth. Mention one sky squid and it’s practically Lovecraftian. It’s a game that almost laughs in the face of the premise that a game’s primary function is to deliver enjoyment to its player.

I’m not saying it’s perfect. It’s not. Far from it. It’s a great show of force. It’s a great platform with a lot of potential for things to come. It’s wide and shallow…

…and I love it as it is and as it will turn out to be.

Posted in Art, Gaming, Humanity, Philosophy, Practice, Thinking Out Loud by with 4 comments.


  • עודד says:

    Haven’t played (yet – too Windows for me for now, maybe later when I’m more bored and/or it goes on sale), but as far as I understand the game precisely mimics how we expect the real universe to behave if we ever get some sort of FTL working: “the universe is a big place, perhaps the biggest” and we are just a few people, “all alone in the night”.

    Possibly except the part about going to new start systems and finding planets: best plan I read about it is to watch from orbit for several years to locate the planets, before you can land. I assume it’s a bit faster in No Man’s Land ?

  • Eran says:

    Well, the flora and fauna tend to be too similar from planet to planet but other than that, yes.

    In No Man’s Sky, a planet cycle takes about 15 minutes of real time. It’s supposed to be a game after all. I wouldn’t want to spend hours wandering around just to see the sunrise.

  • One thing i have to say, i absolutely love the deep dialogue in this game, i honestly feel that one of the biggest things about this game that gives me that explorers feel, is coming across something like a stone monolith, and reading what it has to say. Not once has it ever repeated the same message. And each read is deeply thought provoking, and also weighs heavy on yourself, because each time you must make a decision, and many times even if you fully know the languages, the best decision is still not perfectly clear. So far, this is probably one of the best if not the best aspect about this game.

    • Eran says:

      You know what? I think you very much right. This is one of the shining points of the game. Though I do think I’ve seen at least one message twice, there’s definitely a lot of variety and it’s always interesting. Because this is where the lore of the game is and it allows you to build all those stories in your head, like I explained here.