Lessons for game developers from No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky received the biggest launch an Indie game could hope for. Sean Murray and his crew of 13 at Hello Games were the darlings of the media and no one could stop raving about it since their debut at E3. The concept of an infinite procedurally generated universe and ‘quintillion’ planets to explore was just too catchy a headline to pass on. The dream hype created for the game truly became a case of ‘Be careful what you ask for’.
The backlash of this hype, however, is that expectation setting went out the window as everyone jumped on for a ride on the hype train. Games such as No Man’s Sky and Pokémon Go have managed to do the unthinkable, they have managed to capture mainstream media attention. The coverage was not limited to obscure blogs, fanzines, or game review sites but to top media properties such as Time, NYT, HuffPost, Business Insider, Tech Crunch and others.
Now post the release of the game the team has been firefighting and have tried their best to clear up misconceptions about the gameplay. Is it too little too late? Was there anything that Hello Games could have done differently? What is the level of communication appropriate while building such a game? These are some of the questions that every game developer now has on their minds.
It is the duty of the developer to set the right expectations about the game. It is also necessary that the media does not indulge in overtly clickbaity headlines and news stories that build up unachievable expectations. The onus is also on the gaming community including celebrity streamers, reviewers and the gamers themselves to take everything with a pinch of salt.
When it comes to mobile gaming a similar phenomenon was noticed with Pokémon which faced a backlash due to its server issues, the unhelpful updates, deletion of helpful features (Pokemon tracker) and the likes. The key learning here is that every developer must first be a patient listener to iron out major issues within the beta phase before a global release. It is also clear that game developers need to be more rigorous with their beta testing and should not give in to the pressures of the market no matter how many wolves are knocking at the door.