The impending release of long-awaited space exploration game No Man’s Sky has been fraught with controversy.
It began when Redditor daymeeuhn reportedly paid $1,300 on eBay for a copy of the game two weeks before the release date and leaked information and gameplay videos. Following this, outlets such as Kotaku and Polygon went out and located retailers that were selling early copies when they found out that review copies would be delayed almost to the game’s launch.
Now, it’s been announced that a massive update will be available prior to the game’s release. Day one patches are always controversial, and this one, in particular, has caused a stir due to the sheer amount of content it contains.
1. Paths Will Dramatically Change the Game
Hello Games released the patch notes on their official site, and the changes are significant enough to completely alter the gameplay experience. They have added three different “paths” for players to follow, and it seems that your choices early on will affect what content you see later in the game. This is the most notable addition, but many other aspects have been tweaked or overhauled entirely. See the patch notes below for the full details of what’s coming.
- The Three Paths – there are now new, unique “paths” you can follow throughout the game. You must start the game on a fresh save, with the patch, as early choices have significant impact on what you see later in the game, and the overall experience.
- The Universe – we changed the rules of the universe generation algorithm. Planets have moved. Environments have changed biomes. Galaxies have altered shape. All to create greater variety earlier. Galaxies are now up to 10x larger.
- Diversity – Creatures are now more diverse in terms of ecology and densities on planets.
- Planets – we’ve added dead moons, low atmosphere and extreme hazardous planets. Extreme hazards include blizzards and dust storms.
- Atmosphere – space, night time and day skies are now 4x more varied due to new atmospheric system, which refracts light more accurately to allow for more intense sunsets.
- Planet rotation – play testing has made it obvious people are struggling to adjust to this during play so it’s effects have been reduced further…
- Terrain generation – caves up to 128m tall are now possible. Geometric anomalies have been added. Underwater erosion now leads to more interesting sea beds.
- Ship diversity – a wider variety of ships appear per star system, and are available to purchase. Cargo and installed technology now vary more, and ships have more unique attributes.
- Inventory – ship inventories now store 5 times more resources per slot. Suit inventories now store 2.5 times more per slot. This encourages exploration and gives freedom from the beginning. We’re probably going to increase this even further in the next update, for people in the latter game phases, and will allow greater trading potential.
- Trading – trading is deeper. Star systems and planets each have their own wants and needs, based off a galactic economy. Observing these is the key to successful trading. We still working on adjusting this based on how everyone plays, but all trading values have been rebalanced across the galaxy, giving a greater depth. A bunch of trade exploits were uncovered and have been removed
- Feeding – creatures now have their own diet, based on planet and climate. Feeding them correctly will yield different results per species, such as mining for you, protecting the player, becoming pets, alerting you to rare loot or pooping valuable resources.
- Survival – recharging hazard protection requires rare resources, making shielding shards useful again. Storms can be deadly. Hazard protection and suit upgrades have been added. Liquids are often more dangerous
- Graphical effects – Lighting and texture resolution have been improved. Shadow quality has doubled. Temporal AA didn’t make it in time, but it’s so close
- Balancing – several hundred upgrades have had stat changes (mainly exo-suit and ship, but also weapon), new upgrades have been added.
- Combat – Auto Aim and weapon aim has been completely rewritten to feel more gentle in general, but stickier when you need it. Sentinels now alert each other, if they haven’t been dealt with quickly. Quad and Walker AI is now much more challenging, even I struggle with them without a powered up weapon.
- Space Combat – advanced techniques have been introduced, like brake drifting and critical hits. Bounty missions and larger battles now occur. Pirate frequency has been increased, as well as difficulty depending on your cargo.
- Exploits – infinite warp cell exploit and rare goods trading exploit among other removed. People using these cheats were ruining the game for themselves, but people are weird and can’t stop themselves ¯\_(シ)_/¯
- Stability – foundations for buildings on super large planets. Resolved several low repro crashes, in particular when player warped further than 256 light years in one session (was only possible due to warp cell exploit above).
- Space Stations – interiors are now more varied, bars, trade rooms and hydroponic labs have been added
- Networking – Ability to scan star systems other players have discovered on the Galactic Map, increasing the chance of collision. Star systems discovered by other players appear during Galactic Map flight
- Ship scanning – scanning for points of interest from your ship is now possible. Buildings generate earlier and show up in ship scans
- Flying over terrain – pop-in and shadow artefacts have been reduced. Generation speed has been increased two fold (planets with large bodies of water will be targeted in next update)
- Writing – The Atlas path has been rewritten by James Swallow (writer on Deus Ex) and me. I think it speaks to the over-arching theme of player freedom more clearly now. Early mission text has been rewritten to allow for multiple endings.
2. Those With Early Copies Should Wipe Their Saves
While this may sound like an excuse to discourage buyers from playing their copy obtained before the intended release date, director Sean Murray warns that “you will miss out on new content and experiences if you don’t delete your save before updating”. While your save file will still technically work, you will lose out on the new paths if you don’t start with a new save file (as detailed in the patch notes above).
He also goes on to note that this recommendation only applies to the day zero patch; obviously, wiping save games will not be necessary for future updates.
Based on the notes, it sounds as though the changes are dramatic enough that the final product will be a completely different game than the one early buyers have been playing up until now. Therefore, it’s best to start from square one in order to experience the game the way the developers intend.
3. Updates Are the Reason for Delayed Review Codes
You may have heard by now of what Kotaku calls the “The No Man’s Sky Review Copy Debacle”. This game has been in the works for five years now, and after suffering through numerous delays, gaming outlets were understandably disappointed when they did not receive early review copies of No Man’s Sky. The patch is to blame for this, as well; had they sent out early review copies, the product that was reviewed would have been drastically different than the one that ended up in players’ hands.
As you can see in the tweet above, review aggregator OpenCritic did assure reviewers that early review codes would be sent out. Sony has told reviewers to expect review codes sometime today, the day before the game’s scheduled PS4 launch. They have cited the pre-launch patch as the reason for the delay.
Many players are taking the late review copies as a red flag (review copies typically go out a week or two before a game’s release), but Hello Games insists, as they did with all the delays, that they just want to ensure that the game is absolutely ready before it’s out. Murry stated in the blog post, “We’re already proud of what we put on a disk, but if we had time, why not continue to update it?”
4. Servers Will Be Wiped Prior to Launch
Also stated in the patch notes are the fact that the servers were to be wiped last night and again today in preparation for launch. If players choose not to delete existing save games as recommended, they will not be affected – the server wipe will only apply to “discovery online storage”, according to a tweet by programmer Harry Denholm. This means that any discoveries that have already been made will be erased so that all players will start off on equal footing with regard to the game universe. The slate will be wiped clean, so any exploration players have already done will be for naught.
Denholm initially tweeted about the server wipe in response to a Kotaku article, which he posted a screenshot from, in which they state that there is a planet named after them. The article in question has since been updated.
5. It is the First of Many Planned Updates
In the blog entry, director Sean Murray briefly touches on some the other plans that Hello Games has for the future of No Man’s Sky, including specifics for future updates. He states, “Hello Games will continually update No Man’s Sky this way. This is the first of many.”
The next update will reportedly add visual enhancements such as improved cloud rendering and temporal AA. It will also allow players to construct bases and own “giant space freighters” (possibly adding a new dimension to the trading aspect of the game). These are just the additions that are explicitly stated, but Murray ensures players that they have “a lot of ideas”.