In the six years since the launch of No Man’s Sky, the name of the ambitious space game has grown from a synonym for hubris to an unmistakable example of redemption through hard work and dedication. In 2022, “firing a No Man’s Sky” means saving a struggling game after a failed launch. No Man’s Sky update 4.0 will be released on October 7th and creator Sean Murray tells us that while there isn’t much to look at in this patch, it’s packed with quality of life improvements that continue to make space RPGs more fun and easier to play – whether you’re a newcomer or an experienced space pioneer.
“They’re not big, you’re not taking an amazing screenshot of these things,” Murray says. “But they are really important for the people who play.”
Big updates to No Man’s Sky’s version number have accompanied launches on new platforms, and in 4.0, that platform is the Nintendo Switch. Players who have sunk hundreds, if not thousands, of hours into No Man’s Sky – and Murray says people tend to play this game for a long time – will find that version 4.0 increases the level caps for ships and weapons, offering new reasons to venture into space and hunt for rare crafting materials.
New players will find the inventory system easier to manage, as Murray says it’s been revamped to make it less overwhelming. Streamlining the inventory system also ironed out some of the pain points that also irritated players long term.
Hello Games has also reworked the survival game mode No Man’s Sky.
“I have always thought [survival mode] was best for its first few hours, then it got less difficult and didn’t feel too different from some of the other game modes,” Murray tells us. “I think we managed to make it a lot more different.”
While No Man’s Sky is coming to the Switch this week, it’s already made its portable debut on the Steam Deck, where it’s surprised Murray and Hello Games with its popularity.
“It’s always been in and around the first five, first ten games played there,” Murray said. “We’re a well-played game on PC across the board, but Steam Deck in particular, which is exciting.”
Development of the Switch version of No Man’s Sky has resulted in changes that make it more suitable for “on and off” handheld gaming, as Murray puts it, which will also benefit players on the Steam Deck. The 4.0 save system, for example, constantly saves your game, so you don’t have to worry about returning to your ship or physical save point every time you want to end a session.
Again, not the kind of change that usually grabs the headlines, but has an impact nonetheless. As Murray points out, the 4.0 update is unique in that it was preceded by a long series of content updates since 3.0 that added big new features to the space game on a fairly regular basis. In May, the Leviathan update added space whales and a roguelike mode, and it was followed in July by Endurance, which introduced instant warping, larger fleets, and Nexus missions. Update 4.0 revisits some of No Man’s Sky’s less spectacular, but no less crucial, foundational systems.
While the story of No Man’s Sky in the popular imagination is a redemptive long arc, for Murray and his team at Hello Games, it was about maintaining a constant balance between the joys and challenges of making games. He says he reads every comment sent to Hello Games via email and Twitter – it all still goes straight to his phone and smartwatch. While there are too many to answer individually, Murray says he hopes players will see their feedback reflected in No Man’s Sky updates. The game itself is part of this ongoing conversation.
“That’s how I like to see it,” he says. “I hope that’s how it is. To be honest, that’s what’s believable and what people want to see from us. People don’t want to hear about me, they want to know what’s in the game. They don’t want to know how I feel or anything, and I have no interest in that side of things in any event.
Murray has learned a lot since preparing for the launch of No Man’s Sky, and he seems to have settled into a comfortable understanding of the sometimes difficult relationship between developers, a game, and its players.
“The simple truth for me is that making games is really hard,” he says, as we discuss the struggles CD Projekt Red had in “pulling off a No Man’s Sky” with Cyberpunk 2077. the difficulty with which everybody find it difficult. If you make a film, you release it, and it’s good or it’s bad, isn’t it? If you make a game and you do it badly, that would be the equivalent of making a movie and then it goes bad, people get stuck in the movies. Or no one can enter the cinema, everyone is outside. The cinema catches fire.
Murray says he’s sympathetic to players who are passionate about the games they play, as he sees himself as that kind of player.
“I don’t know how much other people care about games, do I? But for me, it’s something I’m very emotionally involved in,” he says, a smile widening on his face. “I’m sure for other people, music is their thing, or books, or movies, or whatever. And I like all those things too. But the level of emotion that I feel when I’m playing GTFO, or when I’m playing Diablo, or when I’m in VR… that Apex Legends win, or loss, hits like nothing else, you know?
No Man’s Sky 4.0 will be released on October 7.
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