Life Support At 75 Per Cent

I had stood upon the top of that hill, having waded through the ranks of the yellow thigh high grass. The crest giving way to an expanse of clear blue water that faded into a turquoise canvas as it stretched further into the horizon. The planet around which my personal moon circulated hung heavy in the sky. Much like the Creator watching over Paradise. Distant yet ever present. There was nothing to disturb me but the breeze. Could I have found it? Could this be Xanadu?


The spell now broken, I trudge off to mine some plutonium. My launch thrusters are dry. Again.

There’s a way point in the distance I need to get to. There’ll be a blueprint housed in another familiar looking outpost on this undiscovered planet. Which will tell me which elements I need to dig for now. All the while my ship guzzles Pu like it’s going out of fashion.


No Man’s Sky has been described as a game for people who just want to let loose and relax. The perfect medium for lighting up some astroturf and soaking in the starscapes. If the first few hours have told me anything, it’s that No Man’s Sky does not want me to relax.

It wants me to switch off.

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It is a game of busy work and mindless chores. The player is never left wanting for things to do, the systems simply will not allow it. This is not relaxing. There is a fundamental lie woven into this experience. As I atomise another identical looking column of heridium with my multitool, so that I can construct a random blueprint, so that I can mine faster, so that I can trade more efficiently, so that I can accrue more credits, so that I can install more inventory slots, so that I can –

So that I can realise what I am feeling is not relaxed. I am feeling nothing at all.


Now I know this is going to sound ludicrous, but it wasn’t too far into the whole thing that I realised it was filling the kind of niche as something as openly reviled as Candy Crush Saga. On the surface these games couldn’t be more far apart, but their cores, the centre’s of their universes are strikingly similar.

Both are easy to pick up. They rely on systems that are simplistic yet ever present and intrusive, that require the player to undertake a set of fixed actions in order to progress. The framework around these cores is built upon the twin pillars of randomness and luck.

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 It may be the case that at a certain point you will have upgraded everything enough times that you’ll not need to worry about fuel, or batteries for your suit for periods of hours rather than minutes, but the experience No Man’s Sky is striving for is one of the wayward star mapper. Why then is this witheld until so late in the game? Why do the ludic systems  in place act as a barrier, and the utter antithesis of what the developers of the game have stated is the entire point of it?

It is as if there was no confidence that this game would be accepted as an experience, that perhaps customers would reject it without sufficient gameplay features and stats. In striving to make it more like a game, somewhere along the line it lost a part of itself and morphed into something limited, despite its sheer size. It is a shallow universe. At its centre is a dark star that irradiates fear. Casting the audience and  vision under a blanket of mistrust.

It needs crafting. It needs mining. Or else what is there to do? What would be the point of ochre sunsets and emerald bluffs, if there were no systems to encourage play?

To grant some morsel of meaning to the infinity they have struck a vein of the most common mineral in the gaming ecosystem. The dopamine shitting, habit forming, repetitve gameplay feedback loop.

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Atlas guide me, so that I may pray upon the altar of the engagement loop.