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Alarms ring out. A disconnected voice is speaking. It could be my voice. Air is moving. Rushing? My head throbs. There are lights. Rings of lights through squinted eyes. I try to move. Moving hurts. Everything hurts. What is that noise? Focus. I need to focus. I close my eyes, I will adjust my eyesight later. First, let’s see what part of me works, then I’ll deal with everything else. I move my toes and feet, wiggling at first then raising them to check if they function, “phew” I breathe. Oh, I can talk too, okay this is good, let’s see what else I can do. I move my right hand upwards, heavy, sore, but functional. I try to repeat the same with my left, but a sharp pain fires up to my shoulder in response. The pain doesn’t subside. This is less good. How do I turn off this damn alarm? I open my eyes slowly to adjust to the brightness, a strong glaring sunlight. Colours too. I can see an array of colours, some near, some in the distance. I try to focus on the colours and shapes closest to me. Pulsating in a reddish hue I read the words ‘Life Support Critical - Suit Breach Detected’. I’m wearing a helmet, and a suit, yes, an exosuit, my exosuit, I think. I roll my head to my left to try and identify the source of the pain. An unnaturally smooth object blocked my view, curved and sharp like a broken metallic eggshell. It was crushing my left arm. The mere sight kicked the rest of my senses online, adrenaline flooded my body. My arm is crushed and my suit is probably punctured. I need to act. Now. Trying to lift the fragment with my right arm is useless. The object's surface is so smooth it is hard to get any purchase with a single gloved hand, not to mention it is damn heavy. I need a lever. Reluctantly I lean up as much as my body would allow to see if there is anything usable at hand. I gasp. For a moment, the pain, alarms, chaos seems to dull as I soak up the panorama before me. It is a landscape of spectrum; wild and teaming with vegetation and life of which I have never seen before (I don't think so anyway…). Enormous trees with fat, bulbous trunks clustered the rims of rolling, uninterrupted hills. Thick green leaves branch off the trunks and hang so low they meet the grass. Incredible flowing red grass, for miles it seems. The rippling grass gives off a silver tint from the reflecting sunlight. Overhead in the bright blue sky a flock of… something wheels through wispy clouds, I could hear them calling out. The vista stretches on, seemingly unbroken, to the horizon. The moment quickly passes as the searing pain grows in my arm. I look to my right, nothing immediately passable as a lever in sight, just that sea of red wavering grass. I look down at my feet, another fragment within grasp. I use my heel to slide the piece to my free hand. It was flatter than the problematic fragment, around 3 feet in length, and not very thick. It will have to work. Okay, the next challenge: A fulcrum. There is nothing immediately around the crushing fragment that I could wedge my lever against. I roll to see what is in the vicinity that could be usable, my arm screams at me to roll back. I close my eyes. Maybe I shouldn’t move this fragment, what if I bleed out? Or my suit decompresses? I guess if that was going to happen it would have happened by now. The moving air seems to have stabilised, which likely means I’ve equalised with this planet's atmosphere, and the atmosphere isn’t bad (for now, I could just be suffocating more slowly, or breathing in toxins). No, I need to move this fragment. Think. My left arm seems to be stretched out to the side, underneath the fragment which lays across it. In my hand on my right I have the second longer, but thinner, fragment to serve as my lever. Ah. I have had a fulcrum all along. My head. Well, my helmet to be precise. I can slide the lever under the fragment to my left, rest the lever on the visor of my helmet (and hope it holds...) and pull down with my right hand. I follow the steps of my plan, and ready myself to pull the lever downwards. The fragment resting on my helmet blocks most of my view of the sky and it’s creatures above. I shift my grip on the lever a couple of times to find a comfortable but effective pulling point at the furthest end. And pull. Pain rings back up my arms as the fragment shifts slightly, it’s working. But I need to pull harder. My grip tightens as I tense my whole body into the pull. *Tink* Oh no. *Tink Tink* No. Small fractures appear in the top right of my helmet. *Tink Tink Tink* More now. On the left too. Webbing out. If I can just shift my arm free. I turn my face away from the (reinforced..?) glass of my helmet visor and pull down with the weight of my whole body. *Thunk* I gasp for breath as I roll over to see my freed arm. Through my spiderwebbed broken helmet visor I inspect the damage. Broken definitely but amazingly little blood. I’ll need to reset the bone, but first I need to catch my breath. After a moment I hazily climb to my feet, clutching my fragile left arm. My head swims and it takes me a moment to steady myself. I fumble at the buttons on the exosuit to quiet the alarms and warnings (they aren’t helping). Then a question: How did I get here? The question forms in my mind and whilst I knew I had the answer… I couldn’t grasp it. My head is hazy, like a heavy fog blocks the way to the answer. Let's start with what I know: My name… My stomach sinks. My name… what is my name? I must know that? I do know it. It’s in my mind but it’s blocked, blocked by the fog, the static. I get queasy with trying to grasp the answers, my body shivers. It must be amnesia.. Right? As I finish that thought my eyes focus on back onto the landscape around. The rolling red grass and the barrell-like trees. It seems strangely familiar. My eyes stop on a path, a scorched path. Red grass tainted black by fire. Still smoldering in places. The scorched path stretches on for what must be a half a mile, littered with anomalous metallic debris. The destructive path and it’s debris seem to converge on a point. An object. A ship. My ship. My body straightens at the sight of the crashed shuttle. Plumes of smoke and ripped bulkheads. The ship is a wreck, but it’s my ship. My ship and my journey. The questions on how I got here and who I am still echo in my mind, but I know that is my ship. My ship and my sky. The pain in my arm seems to ease, I start to walk the scorched path to my ship. The ship I will fix. I will fix my arm, I will fix this ship, I will fix… This is what I must do. I breathe easier, more certain of my task. I know the answers I seek are in the sky. My eyes look towards the creatures rolling through the clouds. My sky.
It doesn't seem too long ago since Hello Games was being burned at the stake by an incensed online mob following the initial of release of No Man's Sky, and I have to admit I was pretty disappointed myself. But fast forward two and half years and the sentiment has changed: The NMS community is positive, the developers are sincere and the outlook is promising. What caused this change? How did NMS go from hot garbage to hawt shit? Here's my thoughts: The Hype Machine I think one of the core issues with the NMS launch was a combination of insatiable online hype along with a pressured development studio wanting to maximise that opportunity. Rewind to before the games launch and Hello Games had been subtly introducing themselves into the gaming arena through events, particularly their announcement at the VGX awards back in 2013. Soon after they had caught the attention of Sony, who's keen eyes saw the gaming market was craving a new-gen space sim. Sony ultimately funded and help market NMS in preparation for it's launch, and as an indie studio Hello Games couldn't be happier. This is where I believe things went awry: News and features for NMS began to roll our frequently throughout 2015, culminating in a released date being announced at Paris Game Week during a Sony press conference. From that time things went shaky. NMS dropped from further expos and event with Sean Murray (Lead Director for NMS) stating he wants to devote more time to polish.: "we get one shot to make this game and we can't mess it up." - The weight of the sentence even more visible now. It was clear from that, and other interviews and tweets that NMS wasn't quite ready. My opinion is that Sony wanted to get first-to-market with a new space sim and ride the hype that was palpable at the time. Hype is great tool for marketing, and just being on reddit and twitter it was clear how excited some people were for this game (especially since preorders had exceeded expectations) Then the game launched, and quickly people realised large portions of what had been promised were not in the game. Including a fundamental component: multiplayer. The following weeks of the launch NMS was slated and review bombed across the board. Many angry that they had been misled, missold and lied too. On a lot of components these people were correct. To make matters worse, Sean Murray and Hello Games went silent. They stopped tweeting, declined interviews and were non-existent as the hate poured out. Update, Update, Update Faced with one of the largest backlashes in the gaming community, Hello Games had a mountain to climb to bring back players and bring back integrity to them and the game. In November 2016 (a couple months after release) they broke their silence and released the Foundations update. This update fixed many of the bugs, fundamental features and components of the game. Received well by many, they managed to claw back a lot of the gamer base that had initially left (steam numbers going from hundreds to thousands). This seemed to be the new strategy for Hello Games: Full, comprehensive updates, with little to no details announced before they are ready. The subsequent updates started to add a lot of what was promised. 'Pathfinder' added planetary vehicles, 'Atlas Rises' added a new story arc, 'NEXT' (arguably the most important update) added full multiplayer, feighters, enhanced graphics and heaps more. 'Abyss' and 'Visions' added underwater and a wide variety of biomes and environments. This update schedule seemed to work, with average player base across platforms steadily rising after each update, and all the while Hello Games were cautious with their communication of such updates. Humbled Devs The interesting thing to note is how Hello Games have conducted themselves throughout. Let's face it, they screwed up big time at launch and released half a game. But their subsequent attitude has brought NMS to a great place. Other studios and their parent companies may have just moved on (ahem EA), some may have lashed back at the community (ahem Blizzard) but Hello Games listened, they listened to the hate, the feedback and abuse (I mean who sends death/bomb threats to a game studio?). Since then they have been quiet and confident with what they have been working on, showing only fully built features and communicating honestly and openly What's Next The future looks promising for No Man's Sky. Sean has promised heaps of updates to fully deliver on the vision that was promised, and the upcoming update shows this with support for VR. Further updates are promised, and the player base has been increasing over time. The response from the community has also been positive, online sentiment has shifted. Old players are returning, and things are on the up. I think this is a tale a lot of studios and publishers should learn from. Whether the lesson is not rushing to market, or managing your game post-launch, Hello Games set an example in delivering what is promised. Harlan NB This post probably sounds like I'm a Hello Games shill, but honestly I'm impressed with what they have done