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Friday, November 30, 2018

I Don't Want To Leave

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Open world games such as Minecraft or No Man’s Sky are sometimes overwhelming to those of us who like a little bit of structure in our lives.  After all, we are essentially given not just a blank canvas, but a blank studio, gallery, and entire world in which to create.  The level of awareness of how big the world or universe is in regards to what your footprint is could crush your mind.  You start out at spawn, and immediately worry about survival, so you cobble together a shelter or hide out where it’s safe until you can fully prepare yourself to venture beyond the safety of your immediate surroundings.  As you gain experience and develop more survival skills, you explore further and further.  Your original base is no longer something you need and you want to look for greener pastures or more advanced resources.  You want to move somewhere that your level of evolvement is now at the bottom of the scale and you can work your way up to the master of the domain.  Rinse and repeat.

And especially, in a game like No Man’s Sky, you will shed resources a lot. You will throw away things that seem so important or valuable all because you need more room for consumables to build and survive.  It’s the equivalent of people who survive a shipwreck on an island with a case of extremely expensive 100 year old scotch and they use it for fuel because survival is more important than status or wealth.  Many times, and I mean maaaannnnnnnnyyyy times I have come across worlds, rich in valuable resources that I would love to plunder, only to jump in, grab a small, totally unrelated item, and then jump out.  I may be tempted to grab a couple of high quality items if they are close by, but usually inventory space doesn’t allow for a profitable haul.  The game actually forces you to play slow. It hamstrings your efforts, even though you may be capable of higher functions with items such as advanced mining lasers or hazmat gloves.  And until you progress far enough into the game, you won’t have access to more storage on your person, at a base, or in a freighter.  Probably the best option at this point is to acquire a bunch of starships, park them in your freighter, and use their inventory space to hold multiple stacks of resources you need.  You can always jump back to them and pick up what you need.

But that causes another issue.  Travelling.  How many times have you gone somewhere, say in Skyrim, or Minecraft, or No Man’s Sky and not had what you needed or the inventory space to carry what you came for?  Imagine it, you’ve landed your ship, walked over a mountain towards an item or location and then realized I am missing something that I need or I can’t even carry this.  So, you have to hopefully have something you can drop or you spend an hour creating something to recharge your tools or suit, and then scrapping the rest to make room… A simple walk becomes a two hour ordeal.  And when you don’t have hours to play, it can be frustrating to make very small moves towards a goal.   So there you are, bebopping around the universe looking for a handful of items because they can’t all be readily available in the system you start out in. So, off I go to another system, and another, and the explorer in me is conflicted with the achiever.  I want to search for all the species and all the plants.  I want to discover and catalog all the planets, not just a landing patch on each one.

In the early days of No Man’s Sky, the idea was that you could discover planets and creatures and name them, uploading them to the servers which would retain that information for when the next player, who happens to warp on by, can see your discovery.  It was a multiplayer feature in a single player instance.  It meant “discover all the things” which had me wondering that if the universe of No Man’s Sky was based on algorithms and is procedurally generated, how does every player exist in the same space? But, of course, with the advent of this new type of feature, mapping and discovery, that meant that he/she gets to the end fastest, gets the spoils of being first but misses a lot of stuff along the way, something I find annoying about people who speed run in order to have arbitrary bragging rights. 

But I learned to let go.  I learned that no system is a snowflake.  For as unique and detailed as each system and all their planets may be, the one thing I learned in No Man’s Sky and Minecraft is that I can pick up, go somewhere else and find exactly what I need, albeit after maybe a wasted day, looking over new planets.  The stuff in my inventory can be valuable but materialism in this game is almost as inconsequential as your own physical existence in the game.  It’s all data. There’s a pattern.  It’s repeatable.  It happens once and it happens again.  It took me awhile to leave the worlds I was so accustomed to, so familiar with and enjoy finding the next place that is somewhat new but somewhat the same.  At one point in my early travels, I gave up on the allure of trying to reach the destination and worried more about the journey.  I spent a lot of time just hanging out in the third system I traveled to. I hopped all over the place to max out my ship’s inventory.  I maxed out my weapon.  I maxed out my exosuit.  I linked all the upgrades.  Everything was great… and then it all changed.  And I was reset in a way.  Suddenly, all the bragging rights and inventory and discoveries didn’t matter.  I’m now playing differently.

No Man’s Sky is meant to be enjoyed, experienced, not rushed to conclusion.  And unfortunately, you have competing in game directives.  Follow the path, but explore and build.  So, you move from place to place and keep building, leaving remnants of your existence scattered about the universe.  When in reality, what I want to do is settle down and explore an area that holds so many possibilities.  But I have to continually put that desire on hold due to a requirement that forces me to go somewhere else.  There is no rooting yourself in the experience because the ability to do so requires you to leave your immediate area and after searching countless systems and countless worlds for that perfect paradise to build and grow, your objective lies somewhere else, like a princess in another castle.  The main issue became tracing back over your steps.  After a few updates my progress was lost, planets changed, bases reverted or became missing.  And for me to travel back along my path trying to find previous worlds and systems became annoying.

Luckily, the NEXT update somewhat reconciles this quandary.  I can explore any and every world.  I can follow the path as long and as far as I need to, but along the way, I need to leave breadcrumbs. In every system that has an essential component or seemingly perfect world, I place a base.  Getting enough resources to plop down a wood shack and a portal isn’t too hard.  As I move further and further along, it just means more names on my transporter list.  Even if I don’t put a portal down, at least I can get back to the space station and fly down to where my base is located.  Then, when I find the perfect place to park, I can build my final base and connect a portal network to the essential locations for resources needed to complete base quests.  The main annoyance will be teleportation times but that isn’t as bad as having to physically fly to different systems. 

I don’t have to leave.

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