Big Pic­ture Mode

In­dus­try is­sues given the widescreen treat­ment

EDGE - - SECTIONS - go­ing to be pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated, so let’s never try that again but it didn’t re­ally work out, This col­umn was NATHAN BROWN

Nathan Brown on No Man’s Sky and nd the per­ils of over-am­bi­tion

Less than two weeks into my brief spell at a Lon­don univer­sity, I was stag­ger­ing home through Soho late at night and spot­ted an un­mis­take­able fig­ure up ahead. It was 1996, and there wasn’t a shred of doubt in my mind about who the lanky, be­spec­ta­cled gin­ger fel­low was. I picked up the pace and there, in­deed, was Chris Evans. These days he’s the voice of BBC Ra­dio 2 in the morn­ings and the face of Top Gear’s post-Tory-gob­shite-era rat­ings nose­dive, but back then he was ac­tu­ally, like, cool. But not, in turns out, in per­son – at least not when ac­costed by a drunken stu­dent on Shaftes­bury Av­enue at mid­night on a Tues­day. He was brusque; I, of­fended and full of teenage bravado, said some un­pleas­ant things. He crossed the street to avoid me, so I started shout­ing in­stead. For a few years I would dine out on this story: look what a dick this fa­mous man is. The penny dropped even­tu­ally, of course. The dick was I.

I can only hope that one day a cer­tain sub­set of No Man’s Sky play­ers will feel the same. Pas­sion is what drives this medium, ad­mit­tedly, whether you play games, make them, or write about them (god knows the lat­ter camp isn’t in it for the chicks and money). But rarely have I seen so stark an il­lus­tra­tion of what hap­pens when pas­sion spills over into some­thing much darker than with all this No Man’s Sky busi­ness. I might, in my mar­garita-in­duced fer­vour, have been a bit un­pleas­ant to Chris Evans. But I didn’t send him death threats – I just slagged him off to ev­ery­one I met for a year or two, which is, of course, ab­so­lutely fine. These peo­ple. Oh, you re­ported that No

Man’s Sky was go­ing to be de­layed again? Death threats. Bet­ter send some to the peo­ple mak­ing the game too, just in case, be­cause noth­ing mo­ti­vates a team to re­ally knuckle down and fo­cus on the task at hand than the nig­gling worry that the guy that brings the sand­wiches round is re­ally ac­tive on the sub­red­dit and has stashed a knife in the tuna brioche. And when the de­lay is of­fi­cially con­firmed? Tell Sean Mur­ray, the like­ably di­shev­elled head of stu­dio, to watch his back, be­cause we’re com­ing for him.

This is a re­flec­tion of the world we live in, of course. Yes, I saw Chris Evans on the street one night in 1996 (20 years ago? Good god). But af­ter that he re­treated to his TV and ra­dio stu­dios while I got on with the im­por­tant busi­ness of spend­ing my stu­dent grant on wa­tered-down cock­tails and PS1 games. Yet the death-threat­ener, the on­line abuse-hurler, the com­ments-sec­tion-rage-frother and so on go to bed at night, wake up the next morn­ing and main­tain the ex­act same re­la­tion­ship with the ob­ject of their ire that they had the day be­fore. And it is pre­cisely be­cause of the ap­par­ent close­ness of this re­la­tion­ship, I think, that peo­ple have turned so fe­ro­ciously on Mur­ray now that No

Man’s Sky is in the wild and fail­ing to meet ex­pec­ta­tions. When such a small team, dream­ing big, is judged to have failed to meet its prom­ises, the re­ac­tion is more per­sonal than if a 600-per­son team had done it. When Ubisoft Montreal made – OK, half- made –

As­sas­sin’s Creed Unity, the en­tire com­pany’s rep­u­ta­tion suf­fered. With no dis­re­spect to the dozen-or-so other peo­ple who made No

Man’s Sky, Sean Mur­ray is Hello Games, and so this is all his fault.

I re­alise I’ve writ­ten about this be­fore – of the power of the on­line hate mob, of the dark­ness be­neath the de­light that is the so­cial In­ter­net’s di­rect line be­tween cre­ator and con­sumer. But I’ve writ­ten about an aw­ful lot of other things too, and what re­ally strikes me about No Man’s Sky specif­i­cally is how many of them the story of its de­vel­op­ment touches upon. The con­sumer’s dis­trust of, but si­mul­ta­ne­ous in­abil­ity to not get swept up by, the hype cy­cle. The per­ils of over-am­bi­tion, even if that’s what we re­ally want from our games. Our fail­ure to ac­cept the need for de­lays. Our as­sump­tion that if a pub­lisher de­lays the ar­rival of re­view code, it must be sit­ting on a stinker. And that if promised, or hinted-at, fea­tures don’t make the fi­nal cut, it’s be­cause the de­vel­op­ers are liars. How ap­pro­pri­ate that a game of such un­prece­dented scope, that gives ev­ery player a uni­verse to ex­plore, should also en­com­pass just about ev­ery trou­bling as­pect of the way the games of to­day are made, played, mar­keted and dis­cussed. I’ve en­joyed my time with No Man’s Sky, though I’m also dis­ap­pointed with a lot of it. I ex­pect a lot of you feel the same about this col­umn, too. That’s fine – but easy on the death threats, please. I get enough of that in the of­fice.

With no dis­re­spect to the others who made No Man’s Sky, Sean Mur­ray is Hello Games, so this is all his fault

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