Paco Hope My Random Musings and Rants

17Aug/160

No Man’s Sky = No Man’s Yawn

No Man's Sky was a widely anticipated, intensely-hyped game. It was big news at E3 in 2014 and 2015 but not so much in 2016. It was finally released to the public on 9 August 2016 and it's a huge yawn. I preordered it for PS4 and was so excited to start playing. The excitement is real and the game is awesome for the first few hours. Then it slowly settles in that I've experienced pretty much the whole game in the first 4-6 hours, and all it offers is endless repetition of the same thing. (If you think I haven't played enough, take a look at the screen capture at the bottom. It gives the vital stats. Maybe I have maybe I haven't.)

The game is impossibly large. The theory was that it is on the size of a real galaxy: astronomically large in a very literal sense. But once it came out that this is a single-player game, all that space suddenly seems pointless. When it turns out to be repetitive and homogeneous, it's also pointless.

When it was merely improbable that I'd ever meet another player, that seemed like an interesting challenge. I thought this would be a multi-player universe where I'd have to work incredibly hard to find another player. In fact, the lack of galactic cartography (I have no way to describe my position in the cosmos to another player) seemed like something perhaps the players would figure out how to do. I expected to see people figuring out how to map the cosmos and how to find each other as a cottage industry on some wiki somewhere. Now that I discover you can't see another player, who cares to try to find what they named or what they've done?

Intergalactic Groundhog Day

The game is absurdly homogeneous. Every outpost, building, trading post, observatory, etc. is cut from the same cloth. There's one, uniform architectural style across the known universe. Once I learned that, it's totally predictable what I will find. Is there a landing pad? I'll find a galactic terminal where I can buy and sell and find an alien. Is it a triangular little hut? There's an exosuit upgrade in it. Just a long sausage-shaped building? It'll have a multitool upgrade. The only thing that changes on planets, really, is colour.

Walking around empty, barren planets is authentically boring. It is just as boring in the game as it would be in real life. And there is SO MUCH WALKING. You spend a ton of time just trying to get from point A to point B. In the early game you accept this kind of walking as a necessary evil. It doesn't take long before the whole thing is just tedious.

Most things are Puzzles, and the Puzzles are Lame

The puzzles are lame, weak, and pointless. Sometimes the puzzles are simple number rotations. 6711, 7116, 1167, so the next number is 1671. Sometimes they're pretty simple math puzzles, like multiplying by 5, then by 6, then by 7, etc. Aliens themselves are simply puzzles most of the time. They say something in their language–of which you probably know 2-10 words, and then you guess what the likely meaning is. You have 2 or 3 choices, so you're right 33%-50% of the time. I've sometimes taken damage, even as much as half my health, from a wrong choice. But that has never mattered because I always have full health.

Aliens are lame. Basically, aliens, like observatories and monoliths, are just puzzles. You never meet the same one twice. You never interact with them in any meaningful way. They offer you a convoluted multiple choice question that, if you get it right, yields some small boon. They never threaten me. I'm never in danger from them. I'm always diplomatic and they always give me stuff. So far I've met 3 races of aliens and learned a handful of words in all 3 of their languages. That means the puzzles, which are essentially meaningless anyways, get slightly easier as I go.

It's a coin toss: 50/50.

Your typical alien. This one is a coin toss: 50/50.

Ship buying/selling sucks. You work and work and work to amass a bit of wealth, say 1.5M or 2M units to buy your first ship. Every alien you run into is willing to sell his ship. Apparently he walks after that, because he doesn't take your ship. He just disappears. You can't sell your old ship. It's just abandoned. You cannot get any money for it to put towards your new ship. You just buy some alien's ship off him (stranding him on the space station) and you glibly abandon your ship to the cosmos. The prices for ships are quite high. Amassing that kind of wealth takes a lot of time.

Mining is tedious. Early on your mining beam overheats so fast that any reasonable mining takes forever. Even with a decent beam, you still stand around mining a lot. And walking. And walking.

Sentinels are magically everywhere. Always. There are a number of planets where the game tells you "Sentinels: minimal". It doesn't matter. If you touch an Albumen Pearl, three sentinels will instantly materialise and attack—just like on the most densely protected planets. Sentinels aren't that tough. But they're a definite irritation. Fighting them is a pain and I tend to avoid it. You can kinda ignore sentinels a bit. And you can trivially escape them. I often find a steel reinforced door, which will alert the sentinels if I destroy it. No matter. I can destroy the door before they do much damage to me, and as soon as I enter the building, the sentinels get bored and call off their search for me. So I'm totally safe. Or, I just hop in my ship, lift off, and wait a few seconds. Then I land again and go back to what I was doing. Tedious, but effective.

This is a Wealthy, Highly Populated Galaxy

Resources are ridiculously plentiful. Need some Thamiam9 to craft that antimatter? Lucky for you every single planet is surrounded by an infinite sea of asteroids that blow up into Thamiam9. There's lots of Nickel, Iron, and sometimes Iridium floating around planets, too. On a planet you might find a lot of something (plutonium, gold, emeril), or not. If you don't find what you need, go to another planet or two. It'll be there. Thankfully all the resources look virtually the same on every planet. Sure, maybe alumninium is a crystal on this planet and a rock on that one. But they all look pretty much the same everywhere. I was really worried that I wouldn't know what plutonium looked like, but I would really need some. No worries. It's universally the same everywhere.

Every solar system has a space station. Every space station has an infinite amount of money to buy your stuff. Heck, even NPCs have infinite amounts of money to buy whatever you want to sell them. They might have finite resources to sell me, but they seem to have inifinite money.

How they managed to occupy it without previously discovering, Marshall neglected to explain.

How they managed to occupy it without previously discovering, Marshall neglected to explain.

If it's "undiscovered", why is it so damn crowded? Most planets have oodles of checkpoints, save points, shelters, and so on. Somehow a planet is "undiscovered" despite having 50 aliens of various races, 200 buildings, and a trading post that is actively visited by dozens of aliens. Supposedly undiscovered systems have freighters, space stations, and hostile aliens who scan your ship and attack. It reminds me of the quote below, from James Loewen's book "Lies My Teacher Told Me".

Who cares about naming? As you "discover" every fern, proto-dinosaur, and landmark, you get an opportunity to name them. This seemed cool in all the game trailers. When you realise that (a) you will never see that planet or that system again, and (b) neither will anyone else, what's the point of naming it? Even if I named the planet "Drink Coca-Cola", there's no chance anyone will ever find that to see it.

I can imagine lots of fun things to do with naming things. But when I realise that nobody, not even I, will ever see that name again, all the fun I can have with names seems to evaporate.

Uploading discoveries is needlessly tedious. You have to hold the square button on each and every stupid little fern, rock, tree, and animal you have found. We need an "upload all my discoveries" button. Every so often, I spend 5 minutes uploading discoveries and things. I don't get any joy from this, I just get a bit of money, which is why I bother.

There is No Reason to Invest Thoughts or Feelings

You never see places again. Since I'm aiming for the centre of the galaxy, I just start ignoring most systems and planets. What's the point in getting interested or invested in a system or a planet? I will never go there again and neither will anyone else. Even if I could, why would I? All the planets are the same and the resources are plentiful. There isn't much I will see on this planet that I won't also see on all the other planets. There is no joy in fully exploring something. The closest I came was on my first planet. I got to 71% and that was it. Despite finding plants, animals, and landmarks, there are certain special things you need to find on each planet to get the magic 100% (and concomitant bit of money). I just couldn't find them.

Space combat is hard and unrewarding. I'm not much of a pilot, and the game seems so bent towards inventory management that want to fly a BIG ship, not a heavily armed and heavily defended ship. I like the trade-off of cargo space versus ship upgrade. That's a great mechanic. But if I kit out my ship for combat, I'll have so few inventory spaces that I'll never be able to go anywhere. And combat isn't rewarding enough to do that anyways. I've blown up 10 ships so far and all I ever get is a bit of nickel or something. It's hard to do, and I burn time and resources recharging shields and weapons. In the end you get very little for it. I avoid combat as much as I can.

Drunk space flight is just fine. My ship has a perfect auto pilot. I fly full speed straight at planets. When I reach the atmosphere, "planetary interference" helpfully deactivates my pulse drive. I'm still careening at full speed straight at the planet's surface. Fortunately, auto pilot will automatically pull up. You never fly into mountains, you never crash. You can be a really sucky pilot and you'll do just fine.

My ship can't shoot on the planet. I can fire my lasers all I want when I'm on a planet. It never destroys anything, never mines anything. I can get into a dogfight with another ship, but I can't affect the planet or its denizens. That might just be a glitch and maybe they'll fix it eventually.

My stats as of this time.

My stats as of this time.

To give you a sense of how much I've played to get this review, here's a screen cap. I haven't played some amazing amount of time. But I've played enough to have informed opinions, not just guesswork.

Filed under: Technical No Comments
22Jul/160

All You Need to Know About Passwords: Longer is Stronger

Because I work in information security, I deal with passwords a lot. There is a really simple guide to making good passwords: longer is stronger. If you remember nothing else, simply remember longer is stronger.

11Jul/160

We Need More Than Two Buckets for Thought

I saw a really great article called "Blue Feed, Red Feed, See Liberal Facebook and Conservative Facebook, Side by Side" on the Wall Street Journal. It has an important implicit bias that hurts us all.

18Jun/160

PSN and Playstation Parental Controls are Totally Pointless

Playstation Network

Game developers generally ignore parental controls when they develop games. Sony permits these games to connect to PSN and to operate in an all-or-nothing mode. The parental controls don't matter because games will only play if all parental controls are disabled. This completely undermines the entire point of the parental controls. Parents get a choice: allow kids the full adult experience or allow them no experience at all.

17Jun/160

Considering Australia’s Gun Laws

img_6834-1.jpg

I keep coming back to the gunpolicy.org chart of Australia gun deaths. One of the interpretations of this chart i hear is "well, gun deaths were already trending down anyway." That's obviously true. But let's talk about the impact of the law.