Hello Games has announced that its ever-expanding space exploration sim No Man's Sky will get its next big update this summer, and will also be heading to Xbox One.
The new update has been given the name NEXT, because, says Hello Games' Sean Murray, "it's an important next step on a longer journey for us and the community." No Man's Sky previous update, Atlas Rises, launched in August last year.
There's no word yet on what, exactly, NEXT will bring to No Man's Sky, but Murray calls it the "biggest update so far". It's seemingly so big, in fact, that it even gets its own logo.
No Man's Sky's entertainingly convoluted Waking Titan ARG appears to be back, and fans are picking apart its mysterious messages in a bid to work out what might be next for Hello Games' ever-expanding space game.
The work to improve No Man's Sky continues with an overhaul of the save system in patch 1.38 released on PC and PS4 today.
You are now given five save slots and existing saves will be mapped to them. Each slot represents a new game and choice of mode, and has two sub-slots within it, one for auto saving (triggered when exiting your ship, dying, and buying a Freighter or claiming a base) and one for saving manually, via a save point or beacon.
The aim is to make managing saves between game modes "much easier", Hello Games said.
He has seen things you wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser gate. Roy Batty's dying monologue is a key scene of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, its pathos buttressed by a sense of wonder in the face of things no ordinary human being will ever see.
Cut-price games from Humble, GamesPlanet, GOG and more.
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When I fired up No Man's Sky last week, with an eye on today's anniversary of its release, my save file showed that the last time I played the game was in late August last year. I had reviewed it and kept playing for a couple of weeks afterwards; despite the storm of controversy and disappointment that raged around the release of Hello Games' sci-fi exploration game, some of it justified, I had enjoyed myself. It struck me as a hypnotic curio, built on moonshot technology, that deserved neither the slating it got nor the outsized hype that had raised expectations of it to the realm of fantasy.
The ID@Xbox self-publishing program might be Xbox One's crowning glory at the time of writing, boasting 450 titles that have notched up well over a billion hours of play, but it could do with a crown jewel. The service has seen its share of critical darlings, from Superhot to Inside, but many of its best games are multiplatform, and many of its "exclusives" appear on PCs as well - part of a much-vaunted push towards device agnosticism that often feels like it's more in the service of Windows 10 than Xbox.
And opens up new performance options for both base and Pro hardware.
Hot on the heels of the Path Finder update, Hello Games has swooped in with a new patch to address No Man's Sky's outstanding console performance issues. Patch 1.23 now improves performance by up to 5fps on PS4 Pro in its 4K mode, and also adds the ability to lock or unlock frame-rate on both of Sony's PS4 consoles.
It's a double-whammy of good news for PS4 Pro owners though. If you're playing using the 4K output mode (rendering at a native 1800p), the game now avoids noticeable dips under 30fps. It's much improved, and engine optimisations in patch 1.23 keep the game above of the 30fps line, especially useful when paired with the new capped frame-rate feature.
Until now we've no choice but to play this 4K mode completely unlocked, meaning a jarring range of 30-50fps that never felt great in motion. If you want to push the bar with performance still further, No Man's Sky still runs flawlessly at 60fps in 1080p mode, but once again, you need to set your Pro to output at full HD on the system menus. This is pretty much the only outstanding criticism we have of No Man's Sky's PS4 Pro implementation - desirable features like a 60fps lock should be available to all users regardless of how the system menus are configured.
But the Path Finder update's 4K support needs some work.
No Man's Sky's latest 1.20 patch - the Path Finder update - is the biggest update the game has seen so far, and its new PS4 Pro feature set is getting a lot of positive attention. And rightly so: couple your console to a full HD display and Hello Games' space epic delivers a nigh-on locked 60fps at native resolution, representing an extraordinary upgrade over the base PlayStation 4 code, which in turn has received some welcome optimisation too. It's not a complete success though, and the Pro's 4K resolution mode isn't anything like as accomplished.
2016 was a strange year for video games. Recent memory is dominated by a handful of high quality blockbusters that failed to excite people. But let's not forget earlier this year, when a handful of superb blockbusters definitely did excite people. And I'm not just talking about Street Fighter, either (don't @ me).
In researching 2016, I was surprised to find it jam-packed with video game stuff. Lots of things happened. Lots of people left developers. Lots of people joined developers. Some developers closed down. Some developers sprang into life. Lots and lots and lots of video games came out, mostly on Valve's ever-bulging Steam. Most were crap. Some were good. But in the pursuit of some kind of meaning, some kind of trend, I was left frustrated. Video games continue to be very good, even though 2016, at its close, feels a little less groundbreaking than I'd liked it to have been.
January, typically a quiet month for video games, saw a number of high-profile developers move on. Marc Laidlaw, lead writer of the Half-Life series, retired from Valve. The move was seen as further evidence, not that it's needed at this point, that Half-Life 3 is just not happening. Then we learnt Leslie Benzies, long-time leader of Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar North, had left the company after a 16-month sabbatical. He later sued Take-Two for $150m in a move that's already aired a basket full of dirty laundry. Will the parties settle? I kind of hope not.
No Man's Sky just received a colossal Foundation Update, drastically expanding the space exploration game's feature list, and developer Hello Games has promised much more to come. While it's been cagey on the details of what that entails, recent signs suggest that the sci-fi game will soon receive land-based vehicles.
I liked No Man's Sky. For the two weeks just after launch when I was firmly under its spell, I really liked No Man's Sky, and was happily lost to its lulling loop of exploration and adventure. There's something soothing about the gentle brand of sci-fi that fuelled Hello Games and No Man's Sky's infectiously sanguine artwork, all hazy purples and pinks swirling together like the Chris Foss artwork that inspired it. If you've ever spent long lazy evenings leafing through dog-eared Panther paperbacks, No Man's Sky could feel pretty special; having been sucked in by the sci-fi splendour of those early trailers, it was every inch the game I wanted to play.
For many others it wasn't, though. Maybe it was the air of well-engineered enigma that lingered throughout the pre-launch process, the half-truths or, in one oft-cited example, the outright lies, but for many No Man's Sky fell well short of their expectations. Its more polite critics called it a husk, its more vitriolic an absolute sham and Hello Games' mute approach didn't help silence the almighty din that met the release. Until, eventually, it did. The subreddit slowed to a halt, charting only the number of days since Hello Games' had spoken about the game. Players moved on, and it seemed for a while that No Man's Sky was happy to be finally forgotten.
The Advertising Standards Authority has confirmed to Eurogamer that it has launched an investigation into No Man's Sky.
The watchdog launched its investigation after receiving "several complaints" about No Man's Sky advertising, a representative told me.
The ASA has the power to have advertisements it believes are in breach of its code of conduct withdrawn, and prevent them from appearing again. If an advertiser refuses to comply with an ASA ruling, it can impose sanctions, such as asking internet search websites to remove a marketer's paid-for search ads.
Shuhei Yoshida, the popular president of Sony's Worldwide Studios, has said he understands why some fans were critical of controversial space survival sim No Man's Sky - and blamed Hello Games' pre-release PR strategy for building up unrealistic expectations.
It feels strange to say it so soon after launch, but I think I'm about done with No Man's Sky. On paper it's very much my kind of game - I'm a big Elite: Dangerous fan and very much enjoy bimbling around in open world games - but there's simply something about the experience of playing No Man's Sky that rings hollow.
About 30 hours into No Man's Sky and I'm still loving it, even if its faults are beginning to pile up like a neat mound of Heridium. It's a soft, muted brand of adventure that Hello Games has crafted - "it is to simulated space what Finding Nemo is to the North Atlantic," said Alexis Kennedy for us on Saturday, and he's certainly got a point - so thank heavens for the PC modders who are here to serve up something for those who would like a little more meat on their bones.
No Man's Sky got off to a bumpy launch on PC, but developer Hello Games is confident that it's solved "around 70 per cent" of current support requests with the remaining 30 per cent being dealt with as we speak.
As for the current fixes, they should help anyone whose game failed to save until they died, spawned on a space station without the means to fix their ship, or had their save data corrupted.
Common crashes have been fixed as well, so the game should no longer freeze when warping, scanning, receiving a blueprint, or setting too many waypoints in the galactic map.
PlayStation 4 takes on budget and mainstream gaming PCs.
It's pretty obvious by this point that No Man's Sky has several clear advantages on PC over its PS4 stablemate. In the best case, it gets an expected push from 30fps to 60fps (and beyond), a vastly widened field of view, plus a clearer 16x anisotropic filtering pass for textures - with a bit of fiddling. With a slight reduction to terrain pop-in too, it's undoubtedly a better-looking game, though perhaps not the radical improvement PC gamers might have hoped for.
It's not all plain sailing though. Stuttering frame-rates and even crashes, are still a problem on certain setups. However, PC offers some enhancements to sweeten the deal, and while differences in shadow and texture quality are moot, the advances in overall presentation stand out. For example, tweaking the field of view slider from the default 75 value (as used on PS4) to 100 helps remove a very restrictive cone of vision. Going one further, editing the game's .ini file in the game's Steam directory lets us push this out to 140 - maximising that periphery, at the expense of introducing a fishbowl effect.
Texture filtering also gets a noticeable boost, with the right tweaks. Sadly, even with the arrival of the latest patch, the in-game setting doesn't show much of a difference between 2x and 16x settings right now - a blurry implementation regardless of what you choose, and one that matches PS4 closely. The good news is you can force the issue with your GPU's control panel; for example, Nvidia users can override the game's setting with its own 16x anisotropic filtering. This gets great results, and textures appear far cleaner at tight angles than the stock PC or PS4 settings.
Improves hardware support and framerate on PC, stability on PS4.
No Man's Sky launched to many technical difficulties on both PS4 and Steam. Crashes were common on both platforms and many PC users experienced optimisation issues that brought the framerate to a crawl. But now the game has a patch on both platforms that should alleviate many of these issues.
While Hello Games has yet to release its official patch notes, creative lead Sean Murray said on Twitter that the "PC build adds support for more hardware + improves frame rate at low spec. PS4 improves stability + lots more."
Hello Games released some PC patch notes on Tuesday that explained what the update's beta changed. So that should cover a lot of what's fixed here, though the specifics of the PS4 patch remain a mystery.
Modding of the PC version of No Man's Sky is under way, and modders have begun with a few graphics fixes, as well as some quality-of-life improvements that any player of the game will appreciate. Redditor TaintedSquirrel has a roundup.
No Man's Sky had a troubled PC launch, but developer Hello Games is on the case and just released a new "experimental" Steam branch that players can implement, effectively testing out an upcoming patch before it gets implemented as the new norm.
To access it, players need to right-click on the game from the Library page and select "Properties". From there, select "Betas" and the new branch should be listed in a dropdown menu under "Select the beta you would like to opt into." The code is: "3xperimental".
Reddit user DoktorFeelgood has "maxed out" the starship, exosuit and multi-tool without leaving the starter planet No Man's Sky - proving some interesting things about the way the game systems work in the process.
I'm writing this a couple of days after the release of No Man's Sky. The incandescent vapour of Internet opinion is coalescing around a cooling core of critical consensus. I imagine that by the time you read this there will have been magmatic eruptions of violent dissent, an orbit of backlash and counter-backlash. The world's telescopes will have been trained on Sean Murray as he explains in defiant, melancholy interviews and blog posts why No Man's Sky is only exactly what everyone knew it would be: the world's most ambitious, expensive and beautiful walking simulator. Except you fly, of course. I'll come back to that.
No Man's Sky has done huge business in the UK, topping the sales chart.
No Man's Sky is Sony's second biggest ever PlayStation 4 launch behind Uncharted 4, Chart-Track said. Remember, that's physical sales only. No Man's Sky also came out in download form on PS4 and on PC.
Hello Games' space title is fifth behind Destiny (PS4), Watch Dogs (PS4), The Getaway (PS2) and The Last of Us (PS3) in terms of new intellectual property across all publishers and Sony formats, Chart-Track added.
An obtrusive UI drops the photobomb on an otherwise breathtaking game.
No Man's Sky is a very pretty game. Its bold use of colour, surprising sentient life, and dynamic climate system offer vistas that stick in the mind for quite some time. While its procedurally-generated environments aren't quite as stunning as those shown in early trailers, it's not far off with each planet's terrain, skyline, flora and fauna offering a mesmerising sight for sore eyes. Some may be disappointed by its lack of thriving cities and lush forests, but for my money No Man's Sky still offers the most varied take on "barren alien wasteland" the gaming space has ever seen.
It's finally out, and so the mystery of what No Man's Sky is has been solved. Except there wasn't much mystery at all, it turns out - No Man's Sky, for all its soaring ambition, feels like it belongs to a long line of games that have taken the vast stretches of space as their canvas on which to work wonders. If anything, No Man's Sky feels like a game from another age, when you'd work through stacks of 3.5 inch floppy disks around a friend's house in search of something strange and new. The tension you get when a game built in the spirit of a more innocent time clashes with the suffocating hype, expectation and savage appetites of the modern age has made for a palpable tension of late, but hopefully it hasn't detracted from the marvellous achievement made by Hello Games. No Man's Sky may be on a different scale, and party to a very different audience, but it's more than worthy of rubbing shoulders with some of the following legends.
No Man's Sky is a fairly abstruse game. While it's not shy about introducing you to new gadgets, elements and alien civilisations, it's not exactly forthcoming with explanations as to what all these things are for. As a result, the opening hours of No Man's Sky feel like one long learning experience - punctuated liberally by sections of idle pottering around and no small amount of childish naming conventions.
"Undiscovered." This word, appearing in tooltips that hover by waypoints, moons, planets and star systems, is No Man's Sky's sales pitch in a nutshell. In this remarkable game of space exploration, a universe has been born by algorithm, and it's so incomprehensibly vast that the chances of seeing anything another player has seen are vanishingly small. Your starting position is randomly selected. Even the wildlife is generated from an unthinkable number of variations. Every discovery you make is logged to the game servers and reported in those tooltips, so if anyone has been there before you, you'll know.
No Man's Sky
Publisher and developer: Hello Games (with Sony on PS4)
Full dissection of Hello Games' use of voxels, procedural generation and more.
Five years in the making by indie developer Hello Games, No Man's Sky is a game of incredible scale from a relatively small team. Built on an in-house engine, the final product weighs in at a meagre 5GB on your hard drive - a tiny amount compared to any typical AAA release. This is far from ordinary, and with the game relying heavily on procedural generation, very little of the game's visual make-up uses pre-made textures or assets. Instead, the star of the show is the set of algorithms at its core - lines of code capable of generating terrain, plants and even unique wildlife on-the-fly.
I think it's safe to say that No Man's Sky has successfully captured my attention. This isn't overly surprising as I'm a big fan of Elite: Dangerous, a game which scratches many of the same itches as Hello Games' colourful new release. Coming to No Man's Sky as an Elite player, however, I had one question on my mind - not 'what do you do in No Man's Sky', but 'how hard have you got to grind to do it?'
We're into our first day with the highly anticipated No Man's Sky running on PlayStation 4 and by and large, in terms of performance, the game is holding up nicely. First impressions are striking: we haven't seen a game quite like this so far in this console generation - its engine relying on voxels and procedural generation to create an open-ended, unique journey for every player. And for a performance analysis, there's simply no telling what you'll find out there that we haven't. We'll continue to update with any further impressions but, we've played enough of No Man's Sky - on patch 1.03, of course - to get a flavour of how the game's mechanics all come together.
So let's kick off with the basics. The PS4 version runs at a native 1080p resolution, and commits itself to a 30 frames per second cap with v-sync engaged. And by and large, it holds up well. For any on-foot action across our very first randomly generated world, we struggled to find any drops at all. And this is really pushing the envelope here - our debut planet is high in flora and fauna, absolutely filled to the brim with tropical trees, hills and wildlife. But even with this immense density of detail, there wasn't much more than one single frame drop from 30fps across that initial hour of play.
Whether it's shooting chunks through the terrain, or sprinting around full-felt, that 30fps target doesn't waver. And from the first 12 planets we've discovered and put to the test, it doesn't appear to matter what climates or weather conditions are in play. Now the only slight downside to the frame-rate cap is the lack of motion blur to back it, in order to make panning motions appear a little smoother. But that's a nitpick: those after super-smooth motion are best advised to wait for the PC version, but for PS4 we're getting an evenly frame-paced delivery at a straight 30fps.
Contrary to popular belief, our jobs rarely consist of playing games all day. Mostly it's just a rushed 10 minutes or so here and there before we slink off back to our desks to write another thousand words of copy. I'm happy to report, however, that today we'll be bucking that trend with a mammoth No Man's Sky livestream that may well last the length of the working day and beyond. Will there be mammoths? You never know.
You may have seen reports circulating over the last few days that review copies of No Man's Sky have been very late in arriving. It's true - we have just received our PS4 copies today, and the game is released in the US tomorrow and in Europe on Wednesday. (The PC release date is Friday, and advance copies of the PC version are unavailable at present.)
The embargo for reviews and all other coverage generated from these review copies, which were supplied by Sony, is tomorrow at 4am UK time. Unfortunately there's no way that we can produce a review of No Man's Sky that meets our standards of thoroughness, or is fair to the game itself, in that time. I'm working on this review myself; if I can, I'll update you with some impressions tomorrow, but my focus will be on producing a full review later in the week, very likely after UK launch.
With review copies originally due on Friday but then delayed until Monday, some sites, as reported by Kotaku, have obtained copies of the game via retailers who were willing to break street date, so they could start work early and bring you their verdicts sooner. This is fair game, in my opinion, and not that unusual in circumstances when publishers withhold review copies. On rare occasions, we've done it ourselves. But we haven't this time. How come?
But anyone playing early will have to start over to see them.
No Man's Sky developer Hello Games has detailed an enormous day one patch with far-reaching changes for the game.
Your progress through the procedurally-generated universe of No Man's Sky will now follow one of three set paths. Each will have a "significant impact on what you see later in the game", Hello Games boss Sean Murray has said, and the game's story has been rewritten to allow for multiple endings.
There's also now a far higher chance of player "collision", as you can scan for areas visited by other players and drop by.
When No Man's Sky was unveiled in 2013, one of the many things about it that caught the eye was its music. Now, the people behind the ambitious space game's soundtrack have announced it'll go on sale alongside the game this summer.
Reach for the stars: The first hands-on with Hello Games' epic.
Well over two years after No Man's Sky was unveiled, Hello Games' Sean Murray is still fielding the same question that's been circling this game from the very start. And each and every time he's answered it patiently, diligently and, somewhat commendably, without displaying any frustration at having to repeat himself all over again. So, with No Man's Sky finally available in playable form during a press event, let's run through this one more time. Just for old time's sake. What is it you actually do in this game?
During last week's Sony conference at Paris Games Week, we were finally given a release window (though not a specific release date) for No Man's Sky. While still exciting, it was hard to shake the feeling that the announcement was somewhat muted compared to the game's previous conference appearances.
Highly-anticipated galactic sandbox game No Man's Sky will launch on PlayStation 4 in June 2016.
Sony just revealed the date during its ongoing Paris Games Week 2015 PlayStation press conference.
Earlier this week there were rumours online that the game would get a surprise launch this week - but it is clear that No Man's Sky studio Hello Games is still deep in development on the ambitious project.
The Late Show host Stephen Colbert is no stranger to video games after having the likes of PewDiePie attend his show, an honour usually bestowed to movie stars and presidential candidates. This time the 51-year-old host gave the prestigious program's spotlight over to Hello Games, the 10-person Guildford-based studio making No Man's Sky.
"It's not the prettiest planet. I've seen better. But I've also seen a lot worse."
During Sony's E3 press conference last night Hello Games' Sean Murray played eye-catching PlayStation 4 game No Man's Sky, showing off combat, exploration and the massive scale of the space game in a five minute demo.
A brief look at the artwork that inspired Hello Games' space exploration epic.
Science fiction has always been at the core of No Man's Sky. That might seem like a superfluous thing to say, given its scope, its fantasy and its attempt to realise the awe-inspiring spectacle of a life lived amidst a near-infinite sea of stars, but it's a very particular brand of science fiction that the team at Hello Games (they're a small team, I think I've heard) have taken to heart.
Sean Murray explains what to expect on your way to the centre of the universe.
"Space is big", wrote Douglas Adams in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. "You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space..."
Hello Games' Sean Murray took to the stage at Sony's PlayStation Experience event to show some more footage of the ambitious and exciting No Man's Sky.
The video, below, features over four minutes of footage of the science fiction game. We see a pilot launch, land on a planet, jump out and walk about, before we zoom out to get a glimpse of the hugeness of the game's infinite procedural universe.
And why it's the first game designed for the YouTube generation.
There's a time and a place for subtlety, and the stage of a platform holder's conference very likely isn't it. Having just played a starring role in Sony's E3 show, Hello Games' Sean Murray watched the rest unfold in bemusement in the green room, puzzled as to why every grotesque fatality in the newly revealed Mortal Kombat 10 was met with a cheer. "What is that about?" he asks no-one in particular. "It all seems a bit brutal for us Europeans."
Over the holiday Joe Danger developer Hello Game's Guilford office was flooded with the insurance refusing to cover the natural disaster. This left many concerned that the four-person studio's highly anticipated first-person sci-fi epic No Man's Sky would get delayed. Hello Games has updated its blog to let us know that won't be the case and everything's going to be okay.
If you're on Mars next October you should probably be careful. There's a comet swinging past - comet Siding Spring - and while it's unlikely to connect with Big Red itself, it will bring glittering meteors spinning in its wake. Lots of meteors, actually - some of which - and I shivered when I read this line on the front page of the New Scientist website - "could pose a danger to orbiting spacecraft."
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