Did You Hear About That Nutter Who Dropped $4K on No Man’s Sky?!

NMS-ATLASPeople who know me both online and IRL know that I’m a pretty big fan of Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky.

Actually, that’s something of an understatement.

I’m about 330 hours in so far (405 planets across 128 systems). I’ve been rather prolific on Twitter, sharing experiences and evangelizing the game (out of a sense that unhappy players don’t quite “get” it), I’ve been a denizen of the related Reddit subs since Launch Day (9 August, 2016) and have gained some note there, and I’ve made several posts about No Man’s Sky here since launch: A Few Words About the Best Game I’ve Ever Played: No Man’s Sky, My Skylake Gaming PC Build, Procedural Planetary Exploration Across the Decades. My wife and my 10 year-old daughter are pretty tired of hearing NMS anecdotes, I’m quite sure.

In a nutshell, it started out like this. I first heard of No Man’s Sky in the summer of 2015. The previews looked pretty amazing and, as I had a PS4, I was excited for its release. Not long after, I grabbed Elite:Dangerous, which I had been following with interest for some time, when it landed on the Mac (I wasn’t a PC guy…at the time), and was amazed by its realism. Comparatively, my impression of NMS at that point was that it would be less of a “whole scope” universe simulation than E:D; it seemed from previews that NMS wouldn’t be presenting an “I can fly from point A to point B across the galaxy without ever breaking frame” environment and I wondered if that would make for a much “smaller” experience. Months passed and I was spending time in E:D, mining, fighting, but became frustrated because the difficulty of amassing assets in order to upgrade ships was, to me, a huge barrier and I eventually lost a good deal of interest. I wasn’t having much fun and as a result I pretty much stopped playing.

Months more passed and No Man’s Sky was released. I purchased a digital download of the game for PS4 on day one and began playing. I fell in love immediately.

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I recall waking up on my genesis planet and walking about the lush alien landscape in a sort of wonder. I had to make an extremely long trek in order to find the elements needed to repair my initial ship so that I could venture onward. Along the way, walking through the trees, boosting up cliff faces with my jetpack, gazing at planets hovering on the horizon, running around with the various creatures skittering about the landscape, I experience a feeling of incredible immersion and the scale of the thing reality sunk in. I could explore every inch of this massive planet if I wished. And there are over 18 quintillion planets in No Man’s Sky‘s procedurally-generated universe. My earlier concerns about NMS feeling “smaller” than Elite:Dangerous were certainly for nought.

gtx1080_450pxThe PS4 I played with was in my den entertainment center with a few other consoles, tied to the wall-mounted screen. After just a few days in, I wanted to get as deep into the experience as I could, so I pulled one of my Mac’s displays off the desk to clear a space in the basement computer room, bought a 32-inch curved 1920×1080 display, and plopped it and the PS4 down next to the Mac and started playing. This turned out to be a great move — so much nicer than playing from the couch across the room. I ran like this for a couple of weeks, getting up well before dawn to get some time in before heading to the office most days, and it was awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I wanted to take things farther, to get all that I could out of the game. I decided to build a high-end gaming PC specifically to play No Man’s Sky.

nms_pc_sticker_600pxWhat I was after was a locked 60fps (or greater) framerate, adjustable field of view (PS4 version is locked at 75°), the potential for a higher resolution display, and the option of using Mods. While I’ve built a good number of PCs for myself and friends over the years, it had actually been a long 18 years since I’d done it last. (I switched to Mac in ’99 after Jobs’ return to Apple.) So, I spent a few days learning what I needed to know about the latest PC hardware and got to work.

Once the parts arrived, I spent a Saturday building a Skylake Core i7-6700K PC around an ASUS Z170-Pro board, with a factory overclocked Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card, SSDs, and 16GB of RAM. After chasing my daughter off the thing, I replaced the PS4 on the desk with the new PC, loaded up Steam, bought No Man’s Sky (again), and started anew.

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Going from 30fps to a locked 60fps was huge, as was a 95 degree field of view. I spent much of my free time playing NMS as the months passed, liking it more and more.  And, being enthusiastic, I began picking up related toys along the way — t-shirts, stickers, posters, and the Explorer’s Edition box set (third time purchasing the game). Just a few weeks ago I took the big step of replacing the 1080p Samsung with a 32-inch, 75Hz ASUS 2560×1440 display, bringing 75% more pixels to my horizons. I am able to run a solid 60fps (v-sync) with all settings maxed, though I’m not using motion blur. (75fps v-sync stutters on some worlds, for what it’s worth.)

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So, recently I was in a tech forum asking advice on GPU performance tuning for the new display when I got several replies pointing out that I have “a crazy powerful PC just to play No Man’s Sky.” “That’s a lot of coin for one game…” and the like. And I had to admit…that is a lot of coin for one $60 game. I kept thinking about this, so I sat down and went through email receipts to calculate just how much I’ve spent on this game. I was a bit astonished at the tally. Obviously, I knew it would be high but…

As of today I have spent $4,213 USD on No Man’s Sky.
( Update 3/8/16 = $4,397 )

mba_nms_600pxNow, I’m certainly not writing this post to brag about how much stuff I’ve been able to purchase. Concern that this post would be taken like that has almost kept me from publishing it. No, the reason I am posting this is the same reason I’ve been evangelizing the game on social media. More on that in a moment.

To say that No Man’s Sky has had a rocky life is an understatement. The hype storm that the media spun up starting years prior to its release was immense. Many who had been waiting for NMS felt it did not live up to the hype or to certain promises made early on by Hello Games. Many jumped in, ran through the story mode (the “Atlas Quest”), “finished” the game, and felt the experience too shallow. Until the huge Foundation update, the biggest NMS Reddit sub was filled with more seething vitriol than I’ve seen anywhere else on that website.

I feel that No Man’s Sky has largely been misunderstood. The countless worlds that make up the NMS universe are not merely places where you can find resources to fuel your ship to “race to the center” and then be done with it. These are enormous, fully realized, procedurally generated worlds with incredible detail. A person could spend months exploring a single planet or moon (and I’ve chatted with several who have). A player who has “finished” No Man’s Sky has missed the point; they have not fully experience the game, I feel. I present a quote from my first post about No Man’s Sky,

All my life I have dreamed of exactly this in gaming — an interesting, alternate universe, massive in scale, in which I can freely wander and explore at my own pace. That is what No Man’s Sky is to me, and it’s my observation that many others are similarly moved by the game. The fact that the universe is procedurally generated and that even the game’s creators can’t describe everything that’s out there to be encountered ads to the incredible sense of the unexplored, the alien. There is a lovely feeling of solitude to the whole experience of discovering a world, leaving your mark on it, and moving on to the next.

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The reason I’m sharing the fact that I’ve spent so much on No Man’s Sky is to suggest that maybe there’s more going on in this game than those who panned it took time to notice. (How could a guy who’s been playing video games for 37 years go in so deep on a game that’s just…hollow?) And why is it that I care? Because I think No Man’s Sky is an astounding achievement and I hope to prevent the curious from giving it a pass because of the #gamebro hate that I feel is misguided. No Man’s Sky truly is an escape to another world — countless other worlds, actually. It’s a singular experience that should not be missed.

For me, No Man’s Sky has been worth every penny.

Update Note: In response to some of the comments I’m getting — yes, the bulk of money spent here was on solid PC hardware, which can be used for many things other than No Man’s Sky. I am calling this PC hardware money spent on NMS because I have no particular interest in using a Windows PC, I use the iMac (2011) next to it for everything else (I am a Mac / UNIX guy), and I certainly would not have put together this PC were it not for No Man’s Sky. I have installed a few games besides NMS (Witcher 3, Dirt Rally, Forza 3, E:D, etc.), but as evidenced by my Steam profile, I spend very little time in any other game on this PC.

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23 Responses to Did You Hear About That Nutter Who Dropped $4K on No Man’s Sky?!

  1. Kristin L. Day says:

    Your enthusiasm is great. Whole i really enjoyed NMS, I got kind of stuck though with the game. Maybe you can help me… it has to do with the placenta of new technology in your exosuit or weapon. See, as you know there is a benefit to having the icons touch which give a synergy or something. But I can’t move these icons to where they can touch… sometimes
    .. I don’t get why they don’t make these easy to move. I hope you know what I mean? Even when I started over once I read that you need to place these icons together… sometimes you just cannot. Any advice? Please? I’d love this game if I could resolve this.

  2. Kristin L. Day says:

    Sorry for the typos… using my phone…

  3. Marc Newton says:

    Mmmmm have you been paid handsomely for this post ! 😃 To be honest I haven’t played the game . Like countless others I was major excited for the release but after reading all the bad reviews and press I declined a purchase. You are Definitely in the minority in your view but you are entitled to it . If I can see it for a reduced price in store or on Playstation store I would consider a purchase. Your post has given me some hope ! Please tell me this isn’t a publicity stunt and is genuine!!!!

    • Soulseekerii says:

      I also love NMS, it is truly a Explorer game. I really enjoy running/flying around each planet to find every possible base, drop pod, signal antenna, resource depot, etc.
      Of course, getting the $$ bonus once u find all the living creatures on each planet is nice also.

  4. I feel the same. I’ve only put around 100 hours into it, and felt the same about elite (thpugh biying a HOTAS has made that game much more endurable) but I knew months prior what NMS would and wouldn’t be. It’s a game that – for me – is a golden achievement and the first real step toward how games will likely become more excitingby design in coming years. It’s a game that games like wing commander and books like Dune promised me in my youth. It’s a shame that people won’t give it the time it deserves.

  5. Pdavis says:

    Glad you wrote this. I get what you did and why. I’ve done something similar with other games in terms of building a specific PC. I’d love to play the game with as high a resolution as you but the route I’ll be taking is the upgraded PS4. The rumor of a higher rez version of NMS appears to be solid.
    I only wish they’d release mods for the PS4 (as they’ve done with a couple other games now) and that there was a way to utilize a multiscreen setup with the PS4.

    *fyi my reason for not going the PC route is that as many times as I’ve tried I just cannot enjoy a game using a keyboard and until there’s higher quality PC controllers that don’t cost a fortune I’ll stick with consoles.

  6. Dan says:

    I thought I was crazy for spending $300 on no man’s sky. I had to upgrade to 64bit windows and upgrade the graphics card in my gaming computer. Thanks for making me feel better and nice setup!

  7. Captain says:

    What, exactly, is there to explore “for months” on a given planet or moon?

    I haven’t played the game myself but have watched a number of people play it on YouTube. From what I’ve seen, the number of animal species or interesting geographical features that might spawn on a single planet are astonishingly few, and would therefore never give the impression that the player was on an actual planet with a real ecosystem. This phrase that is commonly used to describe the game thus appears quite accurate (from a spectator’s viewpoint): ‘a mile wide but an inch deep’.

    So I’m genuinely curious about why you say there’s supposedly so much to do, especially before the base-building update came out.

  8. d0x says:

    You bought a GTX 1080 and a top end CPU for no man’s sky? Why? it’s a visually and computationally low end game.

    It’s also a horribly boring game with as close to no content as you can get. I’ve seen $4 alpha early access games with more content and better visuals developed by a single person.

    Absurdly wasteful but it’s your money.

    • Blake Patterson says:

      I have 360 or so hours in at this point. I can’t see my interest in exploring these procedural worlds drying up anytime soon.

      As for CPU and CPU, at 2560×1440 with all effects jacked to max, certain biome combinations will stutter at my locked 60fps v-sync settings. I’ve toned down one low-hanging-fruit setting (Reflections) to avoid this, but NMS eats GPU. That said, it could be further optimized, surely, and I hope that happens as the game evolves. A lighter CPU could’ve handled the game fine, but I was building from scratch and wanted to future-proof as best I could.

  9. Matthew says:

    I can certainly relate to spending a lot of money for just one game. In my case it was just around $1200 for an updated computer mainly to play Minecraft better! I like shaders and mods but vanilla is super nice with smooth frame rates. I do play other modern games too but Minecraft is my main game.

  10. Renar says:

    2Pdavis:
    Do you know you can use gamepad from any high-end console with PC? It costs less than stick with consoles “because I cannot play with keyboard”

    • Blake Patterson says:

      Indeed. I use a PS4 Dualshock 4 with this PC for NMS. The game recognized the controller and even uses the iconography of the PS4 controller on-screen. There’s one free button that I map to screenshot trigger, to save nice vistas!

  11. Chris says:

    I play this game a lot and what u said is what I think about the game

  12. Frank says:

    The only issue I have with NMS is the difficulty finding good places to exchange notes with fellow players about tactics as generally any positive posts about the game attract a heap of trolling by lowlifes getting off on abusing people, most of whom have either never played or clearly are better off in a PVP FPS or structured theme park space opera with linear developer written mission paths. In some ways NFS trolling is a bit like macho V8 muscle car fans bitching about how they were “conned into buying” a light weight female-targeted sports car. Seriously what were some of these people thinking even buying the game in the first place?

    Moneywise it is a personal choice what to spend but gamers can be a spoilt, tightass and entitled lot. Compared to most other real world hobbies I have indulged in, a gaming PC is a bargain compare to sky diving, building vintage motorcycles, real world aviation, joining a golf club or even going out on Friday night to a restaurant or nightclub.

  13. Micheal Qualls says:

    Can’t wait for Sar Cirizen to be developed enough to enjoy. I like it now… but that’s it… just like. But if they keep working on it, it will be better in every than E.D. and NMS.

  14. I am not a hater of the game– I actually like it– but I really don’t understand this level of love… Like yourself, I have long wanted a game that just felt vast and open for exploration (you also mention Elite: Dangerous, which is something I who’ll likely pick up when it’s available on PS4), but my main issue with NMS is that alt fought yet may be 18 quintillion planets, every one I have been to so far has looked remarkably similar.

    In addition, due to the general same-ness of the planets, there isn’t really anything worth exploring. Anything moderately interesting that you will find on a given planet, you have likely found on the previous planet and will find again on the next. The gameplay is basically “find a building (identical to the ones you found in the last planet), collect upgrades for your multi-tool, learn a new alien word.” I feel that there is a 4- or 5-step process that you repeat a couple of times on a planet, then go to another planet and do it again. It is the very definition of repetitive gameplay.

    As I said, I don’t hate the game or anything, but after 20 minutes, you have seen most of what it offers. Everything that follows is a minor variation (or exact duplicate) of what you have already done.

  15. Pingback: A Few Words About the Best Game I’ve Ever Played: No Man’s Sky [Updated] | Byte Cellar

  16. phaedrus3000 says:

    since you are going all out… do you have an audio card with 5.1 audio? or maybe there is one built into the motherboard? i would definitely recommend it if you dont.

    i have two cheap stereo speakers set up as surrounds and some parts of the game sound so much better, especially the dog fights out in space. other cool sounding bits are standing in the space station with the ships whizzing around you. the jetpack sounds when you go into a cave sound pretty neat as well.

    • Blake Patterson says:

      My motherboard does support surround, but the way I am experiencing it is via a Logitech headset with USB dongle (which is its own sound card) that renders surround as best it can. I’ve never seen two desktop speakers doing surround, but thinking about it I suppose if I had two speakers plugged into the USB surround dongle, it would do the same thing as the headphones are doing. Unsure if my motherboard audio can break out surround with two speakers (which would be software post-processing) or not. (Motherboard 6 1/8″ jacks for discrete surround.)

      What is your config comprised of, specifically?

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