Here I* am, still thinking about whether or not to preorder No Man’s Sky for its PC release on friday. The game sounds interesting enough, even if I’d say it lends itself better to the couch and tv in the living room than the PC at the desk. I’m fine with everything I’ve read so far and didn’t expect anything else, maybe because I didn’t care much for the hype beforehand. It’s released now and it seems to be a single player game, but I didn’t take a longer look at the game before it was released. Insofar, I’m glad the PS4 version released a couple of days before the PC version; that way, I still have about 48 hours to make up my mind.

The thing is, to me, the game loses value as soon as it is released. Strange as it might sound, I actually do want to name species, planets and stuff. So as soon as others go about doing that, the chances of me being able to call something “Strangebird” or “Legolas” become slimmer every day. And the game would lose some of its attraction for me.

Interesting, though, is to see how much the devs seem to skirt around that multiplayer thing- my guess is that if it was clearly labelled as singleplayer game, Massively wouldn’t have covered it.

Another thing popping up in my head is the lack of content in NMS- yes, i said it! 18 bazillion planets don’t really mean a thing to me if

  • I can’t build a base (apparently an upcoming feature)
  • there is no civilization- and I’m not talking about a strange building here and there, but cities, skyscrapers, sentient species moving on planets (don’t really know if NMS has something like this)
  • I can earn spacebucks, but don’t really have a way to spend them (possibly ship and multitool upgrades)
  • what am I gathering resources for?

I mean, even if it is great for exploring, for sure, it could still feel empty. Ah well, but I’m the guy who plays Civilization games on an Earth map, if possible, because I don’t find randomly generated worlds to be plausible. Maybe I lack fantasy.

This got me thinking, however- I take a very different approach to MMORPGs. Here, I’d welcome more fluff, more things to do just for the sake of doing them. Housing, for instance, doesn’t need to have an ingame advantage like storage, bank access or something similar for me. Sure, it’d be nice if all the furniture were usable- sitting on a chair, maybe drinking from a cup and so on. If an MMO offers created content only, I find it lacking in a similar way I think some things might be missing in NMS.

It’s too extremes, actually- one singleplayer game giving freedom without- for lack of a better word- substance and one MMORPG feeling like it’s trying to force us through a narrow tunnel. I don’t like either- and for MMORPGs, especially, I can’t help but think of doing things this way as missing an opportunity thinking about the shape an MMORPG could take, and in the end it’s just a game. This might be the times we’re in, right now: all the expectations thrown at virtual online worlds culminated in them being…games. That, coupled with free-to-play might possibly be one reason out of many for people like me switching around MMOs like crazy, despite the fact that they’re huge timesinks that nobody has time for. It might also explain why some people feel a disconnect to MMORPGs right now.

I always liked city-builders. They’re my second-favourite genre, to be honest. They allow for creativity, they’re endless, but they also offer a gamey part as they throw problems at their players from time to time. I feel if a game wants to hold its players’ attention for a longer time, it needs to offer both guidance and freedom, created content and the possibility to do something in a free form.

Interestingly, there will be players out there who don’t want that mixture- they might be perfectly fine with exploring a procedural universe for the sake of exploring- and there are players who play MMORPGs just for their content. Strange thing though, I can’t really imagine how the latter would play out. Devs can’t possibly create content fast enough for your consumption if you’re focused on that and even if, well, I don’t know- is gameplay in MMORPGs actually compelling? Maybe in Blade and Soul, but that is still quite repetetive.

As for NMS? Undecided for now. I expect me to cave in as I usually do when I’m “undecided”, but there’s still time.

*introduced capitalized I in a hotfix after receiving a bug report