Fixing No Man’s Sky

Today Hello Games released some light details on their plans to update No Man’s Sky. I thought it might be a good time to show the part of the script/video that I cut when I reviewed it, since it was my ideas for how to improve on what’s in the game without resorting to a total redesign of all of its systems. Even though some of what I suggest does come close to drastic.

I cut it for many reasons but not because I think the ideas aren’t good. I thought it might be interesting for some of you to read. If anything to see how much potential there is in the game’s core ideas.

For some context it was meant to be slotted into the video between the first section and then the part where I speak about my journey to the center.

 

 

 

 

This part might be a bit indulgent or rude of me. And maybe it’ll fall flat on its face. But let’s try to be constructive for a few minutes. Let’s try to make No Man’s Sky an actual game.

We’ll identify the core parts of the current experience that we can expand upon. I’m going to keep these broad enough that they obviously apply to what’s in the game today. Let’s go with four:

 

Exploration

Gathering

Aliens

Progression

The biggest and most important change we’ll make effects all of these. The addition of a capital ship that the player has from the start of the game. Preferably this is where the player would start, and going through it would be a tutorial of sorts. You have this big, giant ship that’s damaged for a reason that doesn’t matter for the purposes of this video. Sections of it are wrecked. Its engines are down. As you move through it at the start, you see this planet through the many windows as you learn the basics. The end here being that you find a ship in a launch bay and use it to fly out, and get a great spectacle moment of flying down and landing on that planet that you’ve been seeing this whole time.

So why is the addition of a big ship like this so crucial?

For one, it means that exploration can now be more extreme. Since your mothership functions like a space station, you can now actually be the first person to ever explore a star system and not have their be a million aliens with their ships, stations, and planetary bases there before you. It also means that you have a permanent home that is mobile enough to come with you. So you can have a much more meaningful crafting system tied to all the resources you’re gathering—and you have the excuse to not have the player fiddle with so much inventory management, because you could call shuttles down from your mothership to pick up things for you. And these resources can be used in much larger quantities to construct upgrades on your base—fixing rooms around the ship, and providing new options for the gathering side of the game.

Let’s start with a good example. You can upgrade the ship bay so you can collect a whole fleet of starships that you find and/or purchase in the game, like they’re an expensive garage full of cars. Think a ship looks cool? Get it and add it to your collection, without having to lose another ship that you like. If you fill up your hangar then use more of the resources you’re collecting to increase space.

Find aliens stranded on planets after they crashed there? Offer them a home on your mothership. Spend resources to build rooms. Put them to work. Certain aliens could be better at some jobs than others. They could craft things for you. Research blueprints that you can’t find anywhere else. They could teach you more of their language.

And like the problems, this keeps going: think an alien animal you just scanned is really cool looking? Spend resources on your ship. Create animal pens. Have a system that’s based around capturing creatures for your own alien menagerie that you can visit and admire between planets. Same goes for plant life that you like. Make your own alien garden.

So much potential is opened by having this. With your inventory slots freed you can now make the upgrades more meaningful instead of just being more slots to carry things around. There’s a place to upgrade both your armor and ship in permanent ways. Fun ways. Upgrades that can make you run faster, jump higher, glide around for a bit in addition to the jetpack, a grapple hook, a short ranged teleport. Maybe you could unlock the ability to mark resource nodes for a team of your alien crew to come down and collect instead of you going through the monotony each time. How about a long ranged teleport back to your mothership from a planet, so that you can actually let yourself get lost instead of being tied to your ship every time you land. Hell because of the mothership idea there could be planets with environments so hostile that your smaller ship can’t even land on them, so you’d have to research this kind of teleport technology to reach the surface and then survive long enough until there’s enough energy accumulated to teleport you back or something. There you go there’s a whole new type of encounter. Survive for as long as you can, and there could be special resources to collect during these challenges that you can’t acquire anywhere else.

Basically upgrades that give you more options and ways to play instead of just an upgrade to how long your shields last until your second shields take damage instead of the first type. Your armor should be like a character in its own right, that you are upgrading both internally and externally. You should be able to take it off when you go back to your mothership and admire how good it looks. Instead of slapping down upgrades into inventory slots like they’re stickers in a collection.

On top of this there should be hand-crafted content, as well as more resource types. Your journey to the center of the galaxy should be an exciting one. So if we imagine the whole galaxy here, you could have progression levels for each belt of stars as you get closer. Upgrading your ship’s engines to be able to warp should be more meaningful. So in the outermost belt you have the most tame, standard planets with the most mundane resources. You use these to repair your basic warp drive functionality and reach the second belt of star systems. Here the planets are slightly more exotic, but there’s also a new tier of resources to find—oxide, isotopes, etc—that you use for new things. And another warp drive upgrade so you can reach the third level of stars. With another tier, another warp drive needed for the next one. And so on and so forth.

The first system you arrive at at each progression jump should have some sort of pre-determined task or mission—and a tailored set of planets created for these tasks—to give some moments of gameplay that are heavily directed. Maybe they build into a story line. Or are just planets tweaked by Hello Games to make them stunning like they did for the gameplay trailer. You still have the option to explore other star systems within the current tier that you’re in for the procedurally generated stuff, so there’s still that potential to find pretty planets and gather things.

There could be a computer that inhabits your mothership that gives you direction—it could even be Atlas. Or some sort of commander type figure like Nada or Polo. I guess. Because I still don’t know who they are. Essentially the game can use these jumps to the next level of star systems—that you can’t make until you’ve upgraded your warp drive with the current tier of resources—as a chance to put the player into the middle of some carefully created content as a break from all of the randomly generated stuff.

A series of adventures on your way to the center of the galaxy.

And if that idea of a few handmade star systems is too much work or too big of a departure from the base game, then having teams of alien workers on your mothership is enough to provide some direction when you get to planets. You can scan them as you do now and get requests from your workers—Oh, Captain, this planet has some interesting ruins. Please explore them while you’re down there for our research. Or—Oh, Captain, we’ve detected a small deposit of Unobtanium at the bottom of a complex cave system. See if you can retrieve it while you’re down there. It can be used as an excuse to give you tasks that can use the generated planets that you come across.

I’m not saying these changes would make the game fantastic. It’s not a 10/10, but it’s still an improvement that I think is still within the ideas the game claims to hold. And players who want to play the game as it is today—going from planet to planet to look at pretty things—could ignore almost all of it and carry on as normal.

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