Following numerous complaints, the UK Advertising Standards Authority looked into whether or not the No Man’s Sky Steam page could be interpreted as false advertising. The page contained an E3 promotional video and various promises some gamers contended were not in the actual game.
Hello Games, the creator of NMS, argued that because their game is based on a procedurally generated universe, gamers simply did not find those elements in the game because everyone’s gameplay experience is different and randomly generated.
While I would argue it probably isn’t a good thing for game developers to have to fear retribution by arbitrary UK bureaucracies while marketing games, that does not mean that Hello Games is not guilty of deceptive advertising.
The video (shown below) they used on their steam page was from E3 2014, and displayed a representation of the game that is vastly different from the actual experience.
Hello Games argued to the authority that the footage used in the E3 preview was actual gameplay from the actual game. But it is doubtful the world they showed was procedurally generated in the same way as the final product.
First of all the creatures seem way too logically constructed. The procedurally generated creatures in the final version look like a mad scientist put six different animals in a blender and then hastily slapped the parts together again. The creatures in the E3 video all look like slick alien twists on brachiosauruses, rams, and rhinos.
This video does a good job at showing the expectations vs. reality.
Then there’s the moment when the rhino alien comes crashing through the trees, frightening the other animals. Animal behavior is not nearly that complex in the final product. The animals just derp around with no real purpose or feeling of naturality.
The advertising authority called this a “fleeting and incidental scene that wouldn’t likely mislead a consumer into buying the game.” I may be one person but this fleeting and incidental scene gave me a huge hypegasm in 2014.
Another complaint was about large scale ship battles. These scenes were in the game apparently but are very hard to find. It took over a week after launch for anyone to spot them.
Probably Hello Games sorriest excuse was regarding ‘warring factions.’ During marketing, the game’s lead developer Sean Murray weaved wild tales of players’ ability to side with different alien factions which would hurt your standing with others. The Steam page specifically mentions “factions vying for territory.” None of this was in the actual game, which only gave players the ability superficially interact with factions in lame text interactions.
Hello Games excuse for the deception was that they did include factions and that these factions sometimes said mean things about each other. AHHHHHHHHH.
While there was nothing major to pin down Hello Games, it was clear their advertising was deceptive. And this investigation only pertains to the Steam page and not the many, many false promises Murray made during development.
And where’s the sand worm, Sean? You promised us a sand worm!