The makers of No Man’s Sky need to start talking again

It blew our minds, too. Before No Man’s Sky had even arrived on PC, two players on the PS4 version wound up in the same star system, contacted one another over chat, and attempted to meet, first in a space station and then planetside while both livestreaming the game. The result was a crushing disappointment for them and everyone watching: the two players couldn’t actually see one another despite being in the same place at the same time in No Man’s Sky’s shared universe.

More disappointing: this happened on the day the game was released, and over a month later we still don’t have a clear answer as to why. In such a massive universe, the chances of two players finding each other was supposed to be nearly zero, yet there were also supposed to be systems in place to handle it if it ever occurred. So, what’s the deal? How did this thing that was never supposed to happen happen, and it having happened, why did nothing happen? Was it a server problem? A feature that wasn’t working properly? Or was the feature simply not included to begin with?

the Hello Games Twitter account hasn’t made a peep since August 27

We still don’t know. Sean Murray (who tweets under @nomanssky, unusual in that it’s both his personal account and the game’s official one) tweeted a few more times in response but other than vague mentions of easter eggs and unexpected player counts (it was the biggest Steam launch of the year), there were no concrete explanations. This fits with No Man’s Sky’s brief history in general. As the days and weeks since launch passed, more questions mounted about the game’s features and issues but few official answers have been given. And, for over a month now, Sean Murray has been completely silent, while the Hello Games Twitter account hasn’t made a peep since August 27.

Space stationary

Until about a week ago, I’d been playing No Man’s Sky every single day. My review wasn’t particularly sparkling: I found it repetitive, I thought many of its systems and menus were poorly designed, and while its procedural generation produced some lovely sights I generally found the planets and alien creatures underwhelming. Yet I continued to play for at least an hour each day. I’d been trying to find another player, to make my own attempt at meeting someone, to answer that unanswered question for myself.

In a way, the search for other players was more enjoyable than anything else I’d done in that it gave me some purpose in an otherwise aimless trip through the galaxy, and the first time I detected another player’s discovery in my own game felt like a bigger discovery than any awkwardly lurching alien dinosaur or stationary animatronic NPC I’d come across. I landed on the same planet the other player had been on, walked the same turf they had sprinted over, noted that they had scanned three different species of creature while they were there. They seemed to have been in a hurry: they hadn’t visited the other three planets in the system, and hadn’t renamed any of their discoveries before moving on. I friended them on Steam and invited them to join a new Steam Community group I created in case they wanted to respond. They never did.

For a week I continued searching, steadily plunging closer to the center of the galaxy, scanning for new discoveries each time I dropped out of warp. Over that week I wound up stumbling upon the discoveries of four players in total—planets they’d visited, animals they’d scanned—and one player I contacted over Steam actually responded to my message, though only days after I’d sent it. I’d moved well past that system by then, and I mulled over warping all the way back or moving on. The decision was taken from my hands when—first—a glitch caused my game to crash any time I opened the galaxy map, which essentially imprisoned me in the system I was in for a full week, and—second—a patch killed my connection to No Man’s Sky’s servers for another five days, meaning I couldn’t scan for other players at all.

There was no announcement from Hello Games, like “We know online services are down and we’re working on it.” There was nothing at all. My irritation wasn’t that there were bugs—every game has them—but that I didn’t know if Hello knew about them, or was trying to fix them, or when fixes could be expected. Loading up the game faithfully each and every day to see for myself if it had been fixed began to irritate me. Why am I spending my time to check on No Man’s Sky if Hello Games isn’t even taking a moment to tweet or write a forum post about it?

Black holes

When developers are silent, it allows outspoken players to influence the narrative about what's happening

A developer has a responsibility to its fans, and plenty of tools to reach them: Twitter, forums, and even in-game announcements allow constant, and direct communication between players and developers. At the same time, despite a marketing partnership with Sony, Hello Games is a small team of just over a dozen people which doesn’t leave a lot of manpower to respond to questions and complaints or engage in chats on forums. (The tech support ticket I submitted on August 19, for the issue that had me trapped in a single solar system, wasn’t answered until September 6.) Lack of time, lack of staff, and an eager press (hi there) ready to pounce on any hint of a story—there are several legit reasons why Hello Games and Sean Murray are being cautious about what they say publicly.

Complete silence, however, goes against the precedent for modern games, and other small development teams, like Subnautica creator Unknown Worlds, manage weekly news posts to keep its community informed. Even the sole maker of Stardew Valley has a separate account for handling complaints and questions with customers. When developers are silent, it allows outspoken players to influence the narrative about what's happening, as this Reddit thread in particular showed, with players digging through the past, pulling up interview quotes and pre-release footage in an attempt to prove No Man’s Sky was marketed and sold under false pretenses. Amid silence, disappointment and confusion can quickly turn to frustration and anger.

In the meantime, work continues. The PS4 version recently received patch 1.09, which, like 1.08 before it, contained no official patch notes, leaving players to once again carry the burden of answering their own questions about what has been fixed, changed, or added. I get that there are some reasons for Hello to be careful of what it says, but when you won’t even quickly type up a list of patch notes? That’s not being cautious, that’s being completely negligent of your community. Take an interview (probably not with me). Do an AMA. Tweet something. Tweet anything. It’s time to start talking again, while there’s still a community to listen.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.