I love video games. Some would say that I may have a problem. In particular, I love games in space that involve me piloting a ship through the cosmos to see what’s on the other side. Story is important to me, but not necessary to have a good time. Therefore, when I heard about No Man’s Sky, it sounded right up my alley.
I’ve made a rule for myself, in a fit of protest against the cycle of pre-ordering a game based on trailers (and then being disappointed by a game that can’t possibly live up to expectations), I wait — at a minimum — until the reviews are out. As the launch date for NMS kept creeping closer, it continued to seem overly ambitious, and any real details about anything other than the genius of the procedurally generated environments of the world were scant at best. Then the day crept closer and closer.
There was no way for our site to request a review copy, even though we had been trying for months. Then the news came that those fortunate enough to receive a review copy actually didn’t get one until launch day. Apparently there was mix up and delayed the release of review copies. For those who are unaware, the press usually receives review copies several weeks in advance, because games are hard to judge after a few hours of play, especially in a game as expansive and vast as NMS aims to be (think Fallout except with a basically infinite number of places to go). This is usually indicative of either a studio fearing negative reviews on a product that underperforms what it claims to deliver, an incomplete game, a game with severe glitches, or a game with little content. Basically, if you’re going to be shipping a bad game, then you want the reviews to go out as late as possible. In this case, most reviewers didn’t get it until launch day. Our games editor, Jerry, picked it up on launch day for the PS4, and I was going to pick it up for PC.
As the first video began to roll in I got really excited. I understood that this game was going to be light on story, but it seemed to have a cleverly constructed world that would lightly touch on storytelling through the ruins and aliens you encounter. It seemed right up my alley.
I will say I was frustrated by the delay of the PC launch. Essentially this game is a MMORPG where it’s a great race to the center of the galaxy, and on your way you get to make your mark on the universe. I wanted to be the first people on my course to name a planet Pooptopia. I didn’t want to already arrive and all the clever poop jokes be taken up. PS4 players already got a head start, and I waited anxiously for that day to come where I could leave my pooty humor mark on the galaxy.
The day before launch I logged in to steam. When you preorder a game, especially a huge AAA title you get to preload it. That’s because these files can be upwards of 30 GB and can take 3-6 hour to download. When the game launches, you want to be ready. To my complete surprise, there wasn’t a Preload button in sight. I couldn’t believe it, but I decided,”Fine, I’ll just wait until midnight and load it, that way it’s good to go in the morning.”
Well, I fell asleep. I woke up in the morning and decided to load the game while I got ready for the day. I had a ton of errands to run and wasn’t going to be able to make it back until late in the evening. I opened Steam and the game still had no button to install. I jumped to the game page and saw, to my horror, a counter. The game wouldn’t unlock in my section of the US until noon. NOON! For a AAA game!? What!?! I was really getting angry by this point. I should have realized at this point how much of a group of amateurs Hello Games is. This is an indie game, and I should have expected this. Even though games from the big studios are usually rather uninventive and conventional, they understand the logistics of launching a game. They know that when you pay $60 for a game, that you want that game ASAP. As a gamer, you plan your day around your first gaming experience with it. Instead everything about this launch screamed amateur.
At this point I figured I could just install the game remotely through the steam app while I was out, but no. I couldn’t remote install from the app either, that would be too easy. So I got home, rushed to my computer, and began installing the game. I had to start and stop the install on a few occasions because of how much bandwidth it was sucking up. Eventually, after a couple of hours, it was mine.
Finally, after a week of anticipation, and many starts and stops, it was mine. I pulled up my comfy chair in front of the desk, made myself a cup of coffee, and clicked play on No Man’s Sky.
The screen turned a brilliant blue…
stars flitted past the camera simulating the illusion of warp speed …
The letters crawled across the screen NO MAN’S SKY …
then a bright flash transported me to the desktop of my computer.
That was weird. I clicked play again, the same sky, the same stars, the same text, and then the same flash and return to my desktop. There was no crash report, or anything to indicate the game had failed. I did this six times before diving into the forums. The PC port was experiencing a ton of issues, like the game crashing, or the screen tearing, or being unable to return to the game after you ALT+TAB out of it. The forums were a minefield of bile and misery. It seems almost no one was having a good time.
I waited a weekend before I found out the reason. Granted, this has not been confirmed to be the reason for the game killing crash, but the game is a OpenGL 4.5 game. I have a newly build rig, but I have an old graphics card, an AMD 6900 series. It only supports OpenGL 4.4. Hello Games, in their infinite wisdom, doesn’t allow their game to work on card that don’t support 4.5 nor on intel integrated graphics processors. This means over 25 percent of PCs on steam can’t play the game.
I can’t even describe how irritating this is. I can run most new games on near max settings (I can run Warhammer: Total War on medium settings). I can’t understand how they could so throughly botch the game to such an extent that a Total War game runs better on my PC. This isn’t even talking about Witcher 3, which I can run at higher specs than the PS4 version. I would love to tell you my thoughts on the game, but the PC port is such a pile of garbage that my gaming rig can’t even play it.
If you can’t ship a game that works right, much less one that doesn’t ship on time, then you shouldn’t charge $60 for it.