The great irony of life in the information age is that most people don't read or listen to the wealth of information available to them. Headlines are skimmed, assumptions spring from very little and misinformation spreads like wildfire as a result.

This aspect of the modern world could apply to politics or education, but I'm going to apply it to Hello Games' PS4 and PC sci-fi exploration game No Man's Sky, because I'm a games journalist and serious subject matter terrifies me.

No Man's Sky is now a game that's out there. After two and a half years of hype and questions, a small indie team from Guildford has delivered to the world an essentially-infinite universe to explore. Some people are already, inevitably, disappointed.

There's nothing wrong with being disappointed, there's nothing wrong with hating it, there's nothing wrong with the game not being a game for you. What I find confusing, however, is how some are claiming to be disappointed because No Man's Sky isn't the game they expected.

Since the game was announced in late 2013, studio founder Sean Murray and his team have been bombarded with questions about what No Man's Sky actually is beyond the initial set-up of its procedurally generated world. Murray has certainly answered these questions in vague ways at times, and probably in vaguer ways than were needed, but by the early months of 2015 enough had been revealed that what the game is should have been abundantly clear.

No Man's Sky space station
There are some massive space stations in No Man's Sky Hello Games

Talking to Geoff Keighley and VGX 2013 host Joel McHale following the announcement trailer's debut, Murray was vague because at this point there were only four people working a project in its early stages.

"We wanted to make a game about exploration, and we wanted to make something that was real," he said. "In our game when you stand on a planet and you see a mountain, and if that mountain is three miles away or where it is, and you can see it, you can walk there. You can go and explore it. But if you see a planet on the horizon, that's a real place... and you can get in your ship and go there. It's always first person. There is combat on planets, there is combat in space."

The game's next major appearance came in June 2014 at E3, after Hello Games had signed a deal with Sony to bring the game to PS4 as a console exclusive, alongside a PC release. There he revealed a little more, saying: "We're going to start every player on a different planet, so no two people will have the same experience. This universe we've created is so vast, it's so boundless that it's actually infinite and we don't even know what's out there."

In a video put together for PlayStation and published shortly after E3, Murray said that each player would start on a different planet located in the outer edge of the galaxy. He also described the closest the game has to an end-game.

"Everyone starts on a different planet, but everyone starts on a different planet on the outside edge of the galaxy – and they all share that same galaxy," he said. "For most people they will try and make a journey to the centre of the galaxy – and there's a reason why you would want to do that. That is a journey they will undertake and to do that they will need to upgrade their ship, upgrade their weapons, upgrade their suit and plan and co-operate with other players to extent and actually be quite clever."

In December 2014 the game appeared at PlayStation Experience, which spawned an article on Eurogamer called – yup – "So, what do you actually do in No Man's Sky?".

"As [players go on their journey], they're upgrading their ship, they're upgrading their weapons, they're upgrading their suit. And they need to do that because they're very vulnerable, they will be attacked by AI, potentially – very rarely – other players, things like that, if they cross paths with them. There's space combat, there's combat on the ground, there's trading if you want to do that, mining resources and stuff, there's exploring if you want to do that. There's all those things in a core loop. Most of them give you money – which we call Units – and you can use that money to upgrade your ship. And you need to do that to be able to travel further."

The multiplayer aspect has proven controversial. Two players arranged to meet in the game on the day of its release, found the same location but weren't able to see each other or interact – something which hasn't yet been addressed by Hello Games. If the feature isn't currently live, then there have been some misleading comments, but interacting with other players was intended to be incredibly rare anyway.

Everything else described above represents the final product well.

Then, in the summer of 2015, IGN ran a series of videos in which basically everything was shown in action. Space stations were shown as the largely empty trading spaces they are in the final product, talking with non-player character (NPC) aliens was shown to be the simplistic interaction it is in the final product, and so on.

To really drive the point home, Hello Games again outlined what No Man's Sky is the day before it launched in the US on 9 August. This is the crucial part

Here is what No Man's Sky definitely is:

  • Exploring a universe of pretty procedurally generated worlds, with beautiful creatures
  • Trading with NPCs
  • Combat against robots/mechs and cool space battles
  • Survival/crafting in a universe sized sandbox

That covers it. You explore, you gather, you trade, you upgrade, you move on to the next planet or star system, and there's a dash of combat in there to mix things up a bit along the way.

It won't be to everyone's liking, and that's all well and good. A game like No Man's Sky was never going to have the broad mass appeal of a Call of Duty or Pokémon Go anyway. Nobody can reasonably claim however, that the game has been advertised as anything other than what it eventually ended up being.

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