No Man’s Sky review mashup

In which it seems that, for some players, after all that deliciously hot, dirty Hype, the game could be the second coming of Molyneux – and yet others simply term it “No Man’s Sky Spore – Sean ‘Vague Cardboard’ Murray’s procedurally mis-generated, Sisyphean inventory grind survival, Chungus units resource micro-management placeholder busywork hype simulator

Amazingly, the first and most prescient review for NMS was out a whole year ago, possibly indicating the existence of time travel:

Imagine soon afterwards however a vast, swirling conjunction / mashup of various No Man’s Sky reviews – a swirling aggregate data cloud of cosmic internet space dust, dramatically gathering for a brief while, generating lots of noise – but almost no heat or useful light.. kinda beautiful and hollow:

“But yeah, I think you have to be willing to embrace it with a bit of imagination, otherwise you are going to find it a little bit repetitive..

– And I guess one of the things you’ve done is make up your own stories along the way?

Yeah, you can – you know, pretend your a sickly boy, alone in his bedroom, pretending to have fun”

Dodgy Landscapes in No Man's Sky
Dodgy Conceptual Landscapes in No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky Spore Hype Culture Terminology:

  • “Resource Gathering” = gamified busywork
  • “Quintillion” = wilfully vague illusions of infinity
  • “Possibility” = psychological manipulation
No Man's Sky vlle shill review (Metacritic)
No Man’s Sky vile shill review (Metacritic)

“A bad Unity project”
~Jim Sterling

No Man's Sky: Waste of Time
No Man’s Sky: Waste of Time

A deliberate examination of scale, loneliness and randomness
~ Zam, What No Man’s Sky means for the future of open world games

Metacritic on No Man's Sky: "no substance"
Metacritic on No Man’s Sky: “no substance”

You – no, not you, you – the one writing the comment – the one who started writing the comment before the video even started – uh, stop – start put that on ice,  maybe watch the video first, okay? Let me just warn you – if you think this video is about you, right, and, you’re thinking to yourself ‘oh I don’t do any of those things’, then, the video is not about you. Okay? If you don’t think the video should apply to you, don’t behave as if it does, because I know some people are going to do that, because that’s what people do. So, just remember this is about a subset of a subset, and there’s a chance you’re not it in it – it’s just that subset of a subset is a really horrible pit of Fuck, and it deserves what’s coming next. So let’s all see what’s coming next together shall we?

There’s this movie called The Signal – no, not the movie everybody’s thinking of when I say The Signal – a different one, less famous one, that was out in 2007. It’s a movie in three parts about an inaudible, well, ‘signal’ that drives people into a murderous frenzy, creating chaos and violence among all who are exposed to it.  When I think of Mo Man’s Sky, the allegedly ambitious crafting survival thing Hello Games finally released a matter of days ago, “The Signal” comes to mind. It’s about the only explanation I have, for the fury, the obsession the wanton psychological anarchy that it seems to inspire. I can only believe the studio behind No Man’s Sky since its announcement in 2013 has been sending out some sort of subtle radio-wave that burrows into people’s minds and turns them into compulsive fucking weeeeirdos – and I don’t get it. I mean I never got it before launch, I certainly don’t get it now that I’ve played it and discovered it’s another survival game, with all the meter management, resource collector-thonning and incessant inventory fiddling that has come to typify the genre. On a bigger scale most certainly – but that just adds to the boredom if anything. After my first few hours with the game I could only think, “This? Really? This is what had sub-Reddits in arms and the Internet frenzied at all these years? So much angst, so much drama – for this?

No Man's Sky: No More Content
No Man’s Sky: No More Content

But anyway, this isn’t about No Man’s Sky exactly – nor is it even about that game’s fan base – for indeed the game has multitude of admirers, and I’m not one to judge them. You like what you like – you do you – and if you spend sixty dollars on *any* video game I only wish you the best, and hope you feel you’ve got what you paid for. Now this is all about a particular subset of no man skies’ impassioned fanbase – the true zealots, the hardcore freaks – who have sunk their very identities into this game, whose emotions where as gas-soaked kindling near a lit flame, whenever a mere mention of this game came up. To differentiate them from your average, normal No Man’s Sky fan, I shall actually label them “No Man’s Boys”, for indeed they have behaved as screaming piss boys for months on end, and deserve to be scorned as such

This doesn’t include your average NMS Sub-reddit poster or lover of the game, but a whole other breed of religiously loyal attack dog – ones that have marred their communities as a hole by trading in death threats, harassment, and an endless cavalcade of pathetic, undignified, infantile tantrums that have reflected incredibly poorly on the No Man’s Sky community as a whole, to the point where “No Man’s Sky fans” has itself become an unfairly maligned label. ‘No Man Boys’ have quickly become perhaps the worst fan base subset I’ve ever seen – and that’s in a world where Sonic communities exist! The personal hopes and dreams they invested into this game manifested in truly horrifying ways, to the point where average, everyday issues that affect the development cycle of *any* game, were twisted into earth-shattering events and used justification for fucking *awful* behaviour. The biggest example of this behaviour came with the second release date delay for the game. The first time No Man’s Sky was delayed, there wasn’t much of an issue people – seem to accept it, largely. The second time however – oh fucking boy, it was Jason Schreier of Kotaku who broke the news, revealing via sources that No Man’s Sky would miss its June release date and he pushed back two months to August

The immediate response among the No Man Boys was to label Jason a liar, which was fucking amazing in and of itself – yes, yes, make up a fairly inconsequential two-month delay that the studio could have easily refuted within minutes – I can’t think of a petty or more pointless idea outside of a Konami* board meeting – but then the No Man Boys decided to step things up a bit, and begun to issue death threats to the reporter. In a truly baffling display of shooting the messenger, Schreier was harassed and threatened, not for celebrating, not for even causing, for merely reporting on a game’s delay. Shortly afterward Hello Games would confirm Kotaku’s report, revealing that, yes, No Man’s Sky would launch in August. And what do you think the No Man Boys did? Do you think they apologized to Jason and decided that two months wasn’t going to destroy them ah-ha-ha! No, mate. Nah, they just transferred the death threats from Jason to No Man’s Sky director Sean Murray – because *that* makes fucking sense. *That* makes games come out quicker. *That* makes you look like someone worth listening to. Death threats are just for reporters and developments – customers too can just as easily be targeted, like this person on the NMS sub-Reddit who gave a detailed, fairly written non-antagonistic appraisal of the game, and explained in an honest way why they’d personally be returning it. This innocuous post was enough for the Redditor to be sent scads of insults, anger and of course threats of death. Death threats. Fucking death threats all the goddamned time. Abusive *and* unoriginal – what a winning combination

*Note: fcuk Konami

The gibbering irrationality of this fanbase subset would only continue to take a spotlight in the months following. *Any* bit of news about the game was descended upon, and torn apart like that girl in that bit of Interview With A Vampire where all the shitty little vampires who weren’t Antonio Banderas ate her all up. That’s another good name for these sorts of fans actually – shitty little vampires. “Waaah No Man Skies’ only 30 hours long because a guy on Reddit said so, waaah the games only six gigabytes big, waaah it’s got a one patch” – it’s not like talking or even criticizing some of the issues with the gang was bad – discuss the day one patch, discuss its file size, there’s stuff you can talk about there – but it was the fucking *way* every single issue was turned into a fucking hysterical panic parade, that made the rest of us shake our fucking heads in disgusted bemusement

And this went both ways too; you got your people who have invested so much into the game being the biggest, most perfectest game ever – and the people who have invested so much into the game being the shittest, most overrated just flop ever. Every game has its zealots and it’s crusading detractors, taking their impassioned emotional stakes in video games too embarrassing extremes. But No Man’s Sky is a whole other level – a new high for extremism some among fanbases – oh, and this is before we get to that bit where I had the unfortunate honour of publishing the game’s first big review – a critical review, that called the game boring, because that’s what I think it is – and the response from the No Man Boys was the fucking DDOS my website and bring it offline for a day. Yeah, that happened! I had the sheer shitting gall to say I thought No Man’s Sky was mediocre – not even shit, just pedestrian – and was taken down by some script kiddie dildos who thought the only rational response was to try and stop the world from seeing the review – a review on a site with no ad revenue, so it didn’t matter to me that everybody could still read the fucking thing by a google cache. Smooth move, dicks for eyes – you sure fucking showed me!

The DDOS thing was enough to demonstrate to me that No Man’s Sky zealots are truly the fucking worst. I mean, I’ve had threats over reviews before. I’ve had people wanting to see me get fired from websites for giving out scores they didn’t like. I’ve had the odd handful of creeps who won’t let go of some critique as if it were a personal insult, and held on to that garage for years – but this? Nah, never had someone gone to those lengths to silence me over a review. That’s the kind of behaviour I’ve come to expect when I talk about social issues and stir up that shit hive of shit bees – but a fucking video game review – as in a review of a video game? Jesus fucking christ! Months of angst – of whipping each other up into a frothy mob – death threats, attempting to censor criticisms you don’t like, and all of this without anybody saying anything vaguely ‘feministy’. For one single video game – I just don’t get it!

Walt Williams on No Man's Sky Capitalism
Walt Williams on No Man’s Sky Capitalism

I mean, I don’t get it when people do it for the other reasons too, but there’s just something extra puzzling to me when its revolving around just another procedurally-generated survival crafting game. I guess one thing’s for sure; I must have been right about the game being boring if its most passionate fan children are still here, on the internet, complaining about other people’s opinions – I mean, for a game so purportedly encapsulating, with ‘endless playability’, these fucks sure do still seem to have plenty of spare time to whine on social media, I mean look at this jackass – why isn’t he – why aren’t you playing it? Why aren’t all of you antisocial malcontents playing your fucking spore craft game that you were so mad about waiting an extra two months for? It’s out now – it’s yours, play it – enjoy it for the love of God, have some fucking fun for once in your pallid, banal, unoriginal, weak, rudderless, moth-eaten, ignoble, platitudinous, dishwater lives!

I mean, can’t you all just settle yer’ shit for like five minutes? Is that even possible anymore? Can you chill the dick out even a moment, and pull your fried brains out of your unremarkable arses – and before anybody points out, I realize this isn’t helping but we’re way past the point of fucking compromise now! Ya’ll need to be told – you fucking pitiful! And this is what you sound like [queue clip of awful fan singing] and *fuck* the Hype Culture that led to your existence, too

I don’t for a second want to let the ‘Triple A’ game industry off the hook for this bullshit. The companies that profit off turning their customers into not just fans but goddamn evangelists, knowingly and manipulatively. I’m not even explicitly talking about Sony or Hello games here – if anything No Man’s Sky is just as much a victim of Hype Culture if anything else. The P.R World is a world of ‘calls to action’, of making unreasonable promises now, and damning the fallout later. Of actively seeding, and growing this level of unrealistic expectation and never having the fucking spine to call out the resulting horde of unhinged abusive creeps they helped to breed. No you may not have actively created humans so fucking empty that your products are what they cling to and fight rabidly for, but you’ve certainly made an environment where they feel OK being the fucking worst

And then there’s the media, sponging off that Hype Culture and its never-ending search for hot takes, caught in a feedback loop with its audience where Hype leads to Hype-mongering that leads to more Hype. Interviewers and previewers and news, making rods for their own backs by unquestioningly repeating promises and swallowing corporate lines without a hint of scepticism, and setting themselves up for a fall when the game comes out and the reviews are inevitably eviscerated, because they’re either shilling because they’re too positive, or they’re click bait because they’re too negative. Torn apart by a dumbfounded and delirious video game cult, whose empty souls are fed to bursting point off a decadent and excessive diet of diseased publicity

No Man's Skype (Sean Murray & Johnny Cash)
No Man’s Skype (Sean Murray & Johnny Cash)

And somewhere along the line Forbes will do an article same critics are out of touch, or something – that’ll keep things going for a little while but it’ll have petered out by then, and we’ve all forgotten it about a month for two and then none of it will’ve really matter in the long run – at least until the next big triple A game comes along, with its huge batch of hype and this whole sorry, miserable affair begins all over again.

Just, god dammit, god damn you all, yer’ terrible bunch of fucking.. loads.. like I say though, most of you are OK


You know I’m hardly the first to mention this, but there is a poetic irony that bears repeating – that  No Man’s Sky is praised for its meditative qualities, its soothing, calming traits – and yet its most ardent, most hardcore, most crusading fans are so angry – vitriolic, agitated, swarming like furious Hornets! Please keep playing the game – play it forever – keep away from everybody else, play it until you’ve calmed down, please?

~ Jim Sterling, Sky Hype

– And then there was nothing (/much)

The Hype Train was in motion and you can’t really blame Hello Games for taking full advantage of that
~ Total Biscuit

– Yes you bloody well can!

♫ Sean called up in the middle of the night
Like a firefly without a light
You were there like a slow torch burning
I was just a key that you kept on turning

So tired from Hype that I couldn’t sleep
So many secrets, the internet won’t keep
Promised myself I wouldn’t weep
One more promise The Industry can’t keep

It seems no one can help me now
I’m in too deep
There’s no way out
This time I’ve really led myself astray

Runaway Hype Train, never going back
Wrong way on a one way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere
Somehow in space I’m neither here nor there

Can you help me remember how to smile
Make it somehow all seem worthwhile
I know now how I got so jaded
This game’s mysteries all seems so faded

I can go where no one else can go
I know what no one else knows
Here I am just drownin’ in the rain
With a ticket for a runaway Hype Train

Everything’s never cut and dry
Day and night, earth and sky
Somehow I just don’t believe it

Runaway Hype Train, never going back
Wrong way on a one way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere
Somehow in space I’m neither here nor there

Pre-purchased tickets for a runaway Hype Train
Like a madman laughin’ at the rain
Little out of touch, little insane
Just easier than dealing with the pain

Runaway Hype Train, never comin’ back
Wrong way on a one way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere
Somehow I’m neither here nor there

Runaway Hype Train, never comin’ back
Runaway Hype Train, tearin’ up the track
Runaway Hype Train, burnin’ in my veins
Runaway, cos’ it always seems the same ♫

~Soul Asylum, Runaway Hype Train

Jim Sterling on No Man's Sky
Jim Sterling on No Man’s Sky

On the mere idea that Abzu is a game that somehow ‘helps Players feel connected to Nature’ (whatever that is)

To consider how Abzu might feel like the kind of pleasantly sinister nature simulation – a new age experience piped in to ‘inspire’ disobedient prisoners in VR Hell

“I wanted to create a game where everyone can experience wonder, adventure and personal transformation, as I have, under the sea”
~ Abzu’s creative director Matt Nava

A quick dirty mashup of two articles from Kotaku via Theodore Miles


The ocean is hardly a difficult setting for modern games. Some like SOMA or Depth embrace the horror of the pseudo unexplored, while others, like Subnautica, simply emphasize the boring aspects of surviving underwater. “Abzu” however, Giant Squid’s new video game construct for the PC and PS4, simply frames the ocean’s knowable depths as a place of life, beauty, and discovery. (That is, its arbitrary framing – “life, beauty and discovery” seems no less entirely artificial as that of the equally philosophically dubious Soma)

Abzu has several team members from “Journey”, and this lineage shows. The player is cast as a nameless diver exploring a vast ocean. There’s some mystery to be solved, but it’s presented in light suggestions rather than as a central plot. The plot appears to be loosely based on the Babylonian creation myth in the Enûma Eliš, the words of which are featured in Abzu’s soundtrack. There are vague gestures toward the myth’s exploration of life and death and the conflict between fresh water and the ocean, but whatever loose form the new age story takes is mostly backdrop to Abzu’s lifeless, brightly-colored virtual world and the largely empty pleasures of moving through it

You spend most of your time in Abzu simply swimming around, taking in the sights. The visuals are stylized but simultaneously realistic, especially in the rendering of Abzu’s abundant ocean life. Giant Squid has gone out of their way to model their strange idea of diversity, and the game has a wonderful sense of life and scale – a sense that’s entirely illusionary, consider most players have nothing whatsoever to compare it to. There are huge whales, darting schools of tiny anchovies, and lobsters and octopuses crawling around the darkened depths of the sea floor. There are also more mystical sections, peppered with hulking, spectral sea life. Many spend most of their four hours with the game just diving around looking at fish, aided by the game’s darkly laughable “meditation mode”, which swaps from third-person controls to a first-person spectator view. You can navigate from one kind of fish to another, watching them explore, mill about, and occasionally eat each other

Entering meditation mode is one of the game’s few actions besides swimming. There are occasional ‘lite’ puzzles to solve in order to open gates to progress, but that’s more or less the only essential function in the game. (A controller is strongly recommended if you’re playing on PC, and I didn’t even attempt to use my keyboard.) You can ride fish and other sea life, find secrets in the forms of underground ideological fissures and hidden nautilus shells, and enter the above-mentioned meditation mode by sitting atop shark statues that pepper the world. Certain sequences are more scripted, moving you through areas via a current in which you can only move up and down

You can also interact with a little robot companion, who is necessary to unblock certain areas. (Why exactly you’re a diver with a robot is part of the game’s core mystery.) Pressing a button makes your character call to the robot, who makes a sound in return, but many players couldn’t figure out exactly why anyone would want to do this. Some experimentation suggested the robot echoes the sounds players make, while at other times  it might be leading them to secrets or spots they could interact with. All of Abzu is shrouded in mystery – but the mystery of what your controls do and why is no less unsatisfying than the general mystery of wondering what’s around the corner

Though Abzu clearly wants to employ a light touch, the minimalism works against it at times. Many of the plot’s bigger points – like precisely what you imagine your doing playing this game – feel like they happen out of the player’s hands, and when the game built to its emotional crescendo some can’t help but feel a little at a loss, not sure what was going on and what their role in it had been. Not having a plot spoon fed to you seems fine, but the sparseness of Abzu’s interactions leaves some feeling a little left out of what was happening around them (ie. in actual reality.) The game’s end, though visually and musically gorgeous, felt like it wanted to be a bigger emotional corporate payoff than it was given how little players felt like they’d actually done

Abzu appears a “lovely, pleasant” game, one well worth experiencing. It unfolds in entirely expected directions however – a disturbingly relaxing exploration in a beautiful and mysterious world that’s busy dying because its inhabitants are too busy playing around

Unlike most people dim enough to willingly label themselves “Brits”, I’ve not deep and abiding love of creepy David Attenborough‘s nature documentaries that stretches back to my earliest imagined rose-vaseline-lens memories of watching lions and tigers padding around the savannah on TV with my idiot family. More recently, the Planet Earth, Frozen Planet and Life series have provided a quiet backdrop of vague environmental noise to everything from uneventful days working at home to vacuous weed smoke wreathed student parties. Some find deep tranquillity in both Attenborough’s voice and their own enduring wonder at the creatures that live on Earth – enduring that is for the exact duration of the program

Like many players, I won’t ever see most of these animals in real life. If I do, it will not be in their natural habitats, environments that are shrinking by the day. (I still get amused now and then that Frozen Planet was broadcast in the US and other countries without its final, vital episode on climate change and the effect that it is having on the animals it purports to document.) Some live as part of an endless dystopian megacity, some work on an unknown random B.S website, and though they very occasionally fantasize about spending weeks trekking through a jungle or braving the Arctic, instead they spend most of my time with other members of my own species – Big Scientists. For us, Nature documentaries are merely just another way to to pretend connect with some vaguely imagined world somehow apparently ‘outside’ the dark human sphere called the brain

Video games, like most of the technology that uses us in our everyday lives, is precisely meant to distance us from the false notion of “the natural world.” If there are animals in games, we are supposed to hunt and kill them (Tomb Raider, Far Cry) or ride around on them. That might be because in the real world its they how hunt and kill us. Rarely can we just watch them, be with them, marvel at them. Abzu, by contrast – an insidious little mobile game about ocean exploration playable and finishable in one four-hour stretch on Friday – is apparently a game about “being in nature”, whatever that means

Like space, the deep ocean is a tragically tired metaphor for the unknown. Thing is, we do know what’s down there, and even if we’re privileged enough to spend a great deal of money and time training to travel to the ocean in a marine life polluting vessel, dive down with oxygen tanks strapped to our backs and water pressure compressing our fragile lungs and vessels, few actually want to ever see it all up close. Abzu however conjures a fantastical, colourful series of virtual ocean environments rendered in pinks and yellows and deep, calm blues and fills them, mostly, with the real creatures: orca, barracuda, clownfish, sharks and dolphins of different genera, turtles, massed shoals of flitting, silver fish. It reserves the most majestic of these creatures – blue whales and humpbacks with their dead, pseudo-sentient eyes, great white sharks – for breath-stealing set-piece moments, but most of the time, you are free to float and dive with all kinds of artificial sea life, and just watch them “be”, whatever that means

Abzu and the modern postmodern video games press needs to be seen as “embracing freedom and ease of movement.” Swimming in Adzu seems as effortless as the precisely lack of effort needed to remotely imagine its “Naturalness”™. There are places underwater where your diver can sit, cross-legged like some garden centre Buddha, and you can simply flit between the different species surrounding you, watching barracuda snap up smaller fish, or manatees glide with surprising grace. There is an exacting point to all this. Abzu has an unstated story about itself that it needs to distract you with, and along the way it gives you some vague mysteries to think about. Still, for some its was a game about ‘presence’ and ‘appreciation’. (Or, less grandly, a game about idly watching 80s screensaver fish)

The art and animation are both genuinely astounding. The fish – large and small – move so convincingly that some particularly impressed players actually have to keep reminding themselves that someone had to program them to do so (the games industry, perhaps.) But there is another small element of cruel genius in Abzu: if a creature is big enough, you can grasp its flipper or flank and swim alongside it. When you do so, you have a little influence over the creature’s direction, but not much. You’re along for the ride, but you can’t force it to go where you want. (Like that still makes it alright.) This blandly tactile element reinforces the growing fake sense of connection with Abzu’s dead sea life

Abzu has drawn inevitable comparisons to Journey, and the two games share several team members. Though Journey’s ultimate destination was more impactful for some than Abzu’s, the process of getting there was much more enjoyable and thought-provoking

Technology is an ironically malevolent force in Abzu, but technology – whether it’s Attenborough’s voyeuristic crew’s cameras or, more rarely, video games – allows nothing but a fake plastic connection to the creatures we ‘share’ the Earth with that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible. It has made some players idly wonder – for a couple of hours at least before pausing to idly brush the Dorito chip dust of their stomachs while rebooting COD – how games, rather than removing us from the physical reality of ‘our’ planet, might (somehow) enable us to like, ‘forge a greater connection with it, man’ – and better approach the imminent threat that we face from our own aggressive stupidity in the wilful mass consumption of seductive digital illusion and undead reality simulation

The senses, the natural windows of the soul, are open on the side which looks out on the external world; consequently, our first knowledge is sense-knowledge, and the first idea which we glean from sense-knowledge is naturally the most imperfect, that is, the vaguest and least definite of notions – the idea of Being
~William Turner, History of Philosophy

Drake album cover remix of CN Tower, Toronto by Caitlin Cronenberg

A remix of Drake‘s album cover; Caitlin Cronenberg’s image of CN Tower, Toronto

Drake album cover - CN Tower Toronto by Caitlin Cronenberg
Drake album cover – CN Tower Toronto by Caitlin Cronenberg

An arresting image of ‘towering’, monolithic power – a raw designer bleakness, desolate and amazingly oppressive – an artificially brooding megastructural erection to hyper-narcissism

An alternative, doubly-inverted retro sci-fi take (19.7MB .png file):

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Retouched “Dual Universe” MMORPG developer bullshot

A retouched and enlarged hybrid concept-screenshot (/ bullshot?) from the developers of Dual Universe MMORPG – performed here as an artistic response to No Man’s Sky:

First, the dubious (if also admittedly pretty neat looking) digital original-original – dig the disclaimer at the bottom:

Dual Universe concept art / screenshot (bullshot?)
Dual Universe concept art / screenshot (bullshot?)

Now a retouched, revamped version – a *slight cough* ‘mood piece’, made even more Bullshotty (ie. generally softening and warming the conceptual edges of its possible media reception) – warning 6MB .png file ahead:

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