The power of Hype

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In the past few months or so, lots of people have been talking about No man’s Sky. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s basically a huge open-world adventure video game in space. The world is procedurally generated using deterministic calculations. This means that for every single player, the universe will look the same, contain the same planets, the same animals, etc. but there is no need to save that information on any server. Each player, when they get close to something, has their own computer generate it from a fixed random seed, and it’s unloaded as soon as they leave. This allows the game to contain a terrific amount of content without needing the devs to buy billion of dollars’ worth of servers to hold this information.

The universe of No man’s sky actually contains over 18 quintillion (1.8×1019) planets. For reference, as of today, our rough estimates of the number of planets in our entire universe is about 1024 planets, and an incredible majority of those are not even close to being able to hold life, but still, No man’s sky is said to hold about 0.0018% as many planets as our universe, they are all different and most hold unique life forms, plants and landscapes. That’s pretty mind blowing.

As you would expect, the game was hyped pretty wildly. People were looking forward to it. Exploring an entire universe, albeit a smaller one, was great. The developpers specifically mentionned that multiplayer would be possible, but extremely minor. What are your odds of running into another player randomly when you both explore maybe one planet every 20 minutes, and there are 18 000 000 000 000 000 000 of those out there? The game is really about single player exploration, survival, adventure, and a little bit of combat.

Oh, and also, people hate that game.

There has been several minor annoyances with the game. First of all, the multiplayer promised is dubious at best. When two streamers on Twitch tried to meet up by sharing coordinates, they couldn’t see any traces of each other. Then the devs flip-flopped on the issue, vaguely mentionning unforeseen glitches on the servers, other multiplayer “features” yet to be seen, but basically this was false advertising, or misleading at best, as the feature seems to have been at least partially removed from the finished product without warning anyone beforehand. Then there were several delays and issues after release, leading lots of player to feel like this was an incomplete product. And then there’s the 60$ price tag, who hurts most when you feel like you’re playing an early access beta instead of a real game. I guess the devs just messed up on a couple things, and now they’re paying the price.

So basically, they created a huge exploration/adventure game on the scale of the universe, in which there are nearly infinite unique planets and alien species, and includes optional combat and potential future multiplayer. Some of the features were not as great as the trailers pretended, but most sellers like Steam offer a way to get at least a partial refund to make up for it. So obviously people hate the game and are sending death threats to the developers.

I understand that the ones who actually bought it and perhaps missed out on the refund period, and were underwhelmed by the game might regret it. I’d understand being mad. But really, when you put things in perspective, that’s still one hell of a game. It might actually not be your type if you like mainstream games, so you can be angry about it, but the game is not worth that much hate.

What happens is just that the publicity was good, and the game was hyped like crazy. Then, when the devs released a crazy impressive game with slightly fewer crazy impressive features than what people thought there would be, the game instantly fell down to “it sucks” level, because people are comparing it to their expectations.

I just thought that was an interesting phenomenon. If you don’t show off your game enough, no one will buy it. But if you actually succeed at getting a ton of publicity and making everyone look forward to it a lot, then you have way higher odds of making everyone hate you.

I could be wrong, but if that game had slightly lower expectations, for example by never even mentioning multiplayer in interviews, I think it would have become a cult hit. It might not have sold tens of millions of copies, but like Undertale or The Stanley Parable, it would have one crazy-dedicated, maybe even obsessed, fanbase, and would overall qualify as a success. It would probably never reach a huge fanbase like Minecraft.

Also, here’s a message to all gamers out there, on behalf of all decent gamers: Please stop sending death threats to people, no matter the reason, but especially to people who are literally giving us what might be our only way to ever explore a universe easily and for a low price. That’s really not nice. Oh, and that’s a crime pretty much anywhere, so you probably should stop doing it even if you really really like it.