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Survival of the Fittest - No Man's Sky Vs Subnautica
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 08:25pm 12/08/16 | Comments
No Man's Sky has managed to gain most of the media attention, but Subnautica presents a solid case as a game worth just as much. Read on to know why...

You know it’s interesting, scientists have a saying that suggests we know more about space than we do the depths of our own oceans. Each year we discover more than 1000 new marine species, and these aren’t just of the small, crustacean variety. Over the past decade, we’ve added more than 100 new varieties of sharks and rays. In 2014 two new dolphin species were discovered and, the World Register of Marine Species adds new marine animal findings to its database, daily. The ocean truly is the last terrestrial frontier for humankind.

Obviously we’re yet to find life outside of our own planet, but the odds stack heavily in our favour that we will, be it microbial, carbon-based, intelligent or in realms we can’t possibly comprehend. It’s estimated that between 10 and 20 billion potentially habitable worlds exist within our own galaxy, and our galaxy is just one of an estimated 100 billion in the observable universe. This is largely looking at planets inhabiting the Goldilocks zone, too. Moreover, every year we discover more and more extremophile life-forms, organisms that, by our understanding, shouldn’t be able to live where they do, let alone thrive. The most extreme case of these diehard life-forms is the Tardigrade (or “water bear”), an animal capable of living in near absolute zero freezing temperatures, to well over the boiling point of water. They’re also the only known organism from Earth capable of surviving in the vacuum of space -- they might be the closest thing to aliens we’ll find before E.T. gives us a call.

In terms of fantastical investment from an exploration perspective, both our own oceans and space represent the best unknowns, and it’s with these two frontiers we compare two games boldly taking us to places we desperately want to go.

No Man’s Sky is currently the talk of the industry. This is a good thing for such a small team who had lofty ambitions. Review scores are trickling in, mere days after release though -- a little too early for mine, because there’s simply so much to explore and learn within the game that scores can’t possibly be accurate just yet. But I digress. What No Man’s Sky represents is an explorer in all of us, while having to adhere to concepts of practicality such as being able to travel across planets, between planets and beyond solar systems to find new planets. It takes construction and resource gathering seriously enough that they become your job; the means by which you can afford to travel between the stars on mystery vacations. It offers us a seemingly infinite universe to explore, where all you need to get from A to ℼ is a hyperdrive fueled by Antimatter and Thamium9 (to make a Warp Cell). Mysteries present themselves and, as you slowly decode an ancient alien language, your own mark on your trails is left with funny system, planet and neighbourhood names, created by you for the world to see.

Subnautica is, conversely, one-percent of No Man’s Sky. In scope.

While NMS has you scouring multiple planets across myriad systems, Subnautica gives you one -- a water planet where you’ve become an abandoned alien on a hostile world. Your starship has crashed into this ocean planet and its nuclear core has exploded, irradiating a massive chunk of the explorable space now within your vicinity. Similarly to No Man’s Sky, you have the ability to craft items by harvesting natural resources such as copper, titanium, lithium, lead et al with your Fabricator to create items required for crafting. Equally similar between the games is the requirement to find, or earn, blueprints to craft more and more advanced technologies -- one for helping you explore the universe, and the other for helping you explore a reef.

Clearly one game being about exploring space with the other an ocean world is a differentiator, but that’s more aesthetic than anything, so while they have similarities in their foundational gameplay loops: gather, craft, earn, advance, repeat, there’s a large difference between them that isn’t as obvious as you might think. And this comes by way of the explorable spaces themselves. In No Man’s Sky every system and world you encounter is procedurally generated. This means they have a list of ingredients floating around in the game’s matrix, and each time you visit one, these ingredients come out in different manifestations. But, by and large, each one follows specific requirements for the game’s gameplay loop to function: find Signal Scanner, create Bypass Key, search for Monoliths, Colonial Outposts, Transmissions or Shelters. Visit them, gain blueprints, learn alien words, fix broken systems, interact with aliens, dabble in intergalactic market. Move on.

In Subnautica you need to survive first and foremost, and depending on how you decide to play the game, this can become your driving force. Survival Mode requires you to monitor your water and food, along with your health. Bearing in mind, that this is an ocean water planet, so you also need to craft your own fresh water, and your food and water deplete relative to game-time. Exploration of the alien depths isn’t to uncover an ancient alien race, or learn its language, it’s to find parts of your downed vessel to learn how to craft better digs; it’s to craft new and more extensive equipment to lighten the load on your personal micromanagement; it’s to thrive. You’re a stranded survivor, each and every day you need to tackle new tasks to make life as comfortable and sustainable for you as possible, and as such this alien world becomes your new home. And it’s here the game’s truly split.

It’s fair to say in No Man’s Sky, you’re a drifter. No place ever feels like home, and it’s the ever-expanding journey that drives the player. But the repetitive nature of the game’s systems stacked against a non-persistent game-world warps player-attachment. You’re not wholly making your mark on, and in, the game. It’s like someone gave you a join the dots puzzle, with no clues or numbers and told you to make it up as you go along. In Subnautica, however, your mark is an indelible one. The game-world becomes an intimate frenemy as you learn which direction relative to the hulking crashed starship sews what resource. And you pride yourself on knowing how to get the most out of each resource-gathering outing. Your attachment to the world builds from this knowledge, and from building. You might be lost and alone, but you can still create wondrous underwater lodgings, and do sick things like build fishtanks in them, right next to big walls of glass, looking back out into the ocean you just fishnapped your new pets from. Enjoy your new home, Dory, and say hi to Nemo as he swims on by.

And there’s a mystery to Subnautica, too. There’s a Heat Signal constantly calling to you (I haven’t gone to it yet, so no spoilers in the Comments, please), while your telecommunications periodically drop you cryptic and strange messages. There’s the lingering question of why your ship went down, and where it was going in the first place. It rarely holds your hand too, and while it’s in early preview stage, the core gameplay systems are already near-perfect. It’s an incredibly gorgeous game that doesn’t need to flex a procedural tech muscle, and the visual flair here simply adds to that player-attachment mentioned earlier. No Man’s Sky is a technical marvel, don’t get me wrong, but it’s almost like marveling at a machine that can combine every word in every language together to create unique sentences. After a while, you won’t care what the sentences say because they won’t apply to a whole (and yes, I acknowledge that there is an ancient alien mystery, or ‘story’ in NMS, but it’s incredibly lite-on when stacked against the scale and perceived diversity any such star system jumping reality would present).

At its core, No Man’s Sky is lofty in ambition, but barebones in substance. It’s not hard to survive in the game, often making the weapon and shield upgrades superfluous and annoying because of the inventory space they take up. It’s a repetitive affair that tries to hide said repetition through aesthetic uniqueness, but really, visit one planet in the game, and you might as well have visited them all. The game’s biggest strength so far is in the oft challenging space combat, and it’s in this area it truly shines, but these are few and far between unless you decide to play like a jerk and attack everyone, and everything, you see. It’s not a measured game, and while you have all the choice in the universe to play it how you like, there’s no hiding the fact that, generally, no matter where you are, you’re going to be doing the same thing.

Subnautica is similar in its survival traits, especially where resource-gathering and crafting is concerned, but it’s an absolutely measured experience that ties the player to the player-character plight, and gives you a living, breathing persistent playspace to live in. The incremental paces you make as you journey through its watery make-up feel rewarding, and thriving in such a hostile world is a far more tangible goal than just star-jumping. If you’re finding the grind of pressureless space too much, bear in mind that there’s another survival option out there, and even at its preview stage in development, it’s presenting itself leagues above everything else.
Read more about No Man's Sky on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!

Latest Comments
Posted 09:56pm 12/8/16
also subnautica isn't even finished so while it's still only about catching fish and not getting eaten by the reapers, there's still things being added to it and the story is being expanded (at least the crashed ship is being expanded and more pieces to the puzzle are emerging)
Posted 12:15am 13/8/16
Ill have to check out subnautica sometime when it's on special. I'm just doing some TAFE stuff while I wait for NMS to unlock so then I can begin to download the bloody thing.
Posted 11:53am 13/8/16
From what I've read NMS is rough on PC...console port....
Steve Farrelly
Posted 01:07pm 13/8/16
I'd hope that's not the case, it was being built first for PC before being picked up by Sony. It runs pretty well on PS4, but I def think it would be more fun using mouse and keyboard
Posted 01:26pm 13/8/16

I'd hope that's not the case, it was being built first for PC before being picked up by Sony. It runs pretty well on PS4, but I def think it would be more fun using mouse and keyboard He says it's super "intensive" on PC and had to turn down the graphics a bit. Dunno what his specs are tho.
Posted 02:24pm 13/8/16
Yeah, apparently the UI is also not tailored to mouse and keyboard either, its still the console UI
Posted 11:15pm 13/8/16
I feel bad for the Hello Games guys though, the sort of hatred the internet is spewing at them and the whole "This is a triple A release and its awful I'm going to sue you!" type s*** thats going around, but its like 15 guys making this game, not hundreds like an EA title or an Ubisoft title, its just 15 guys who have probably been working like 20 hours a day 7 days a week to madly try and fix s*** and get it ready.

There was such a terrifying level of hype and fanaticism built up around the game, it was always going to disappoint the internet, but thats a shame cos it means nobody is appreciating what is essentially a tiny little indie dev has managed to pull off, going blow for blow with the big guys. Whether I like it or not, I gotta take my hat off to them for even being able to pull it off at all.
Posted 02:35am 14/8/16
A tiny little indie title charging $60USD...
Posted 07:10am 14/8/16
I got it for $45 USD from GOG. I've been playing it and i have not left my initial solar system yet. Yeah, there are some issues that the Devs will need to deal with soon.

- Performance issues and video settings
- The UI is a bit crap and needs work for PC.
- Ship handling is not great, I don't like not being able to control the ship better. I can't fly close to the ground and land myself. Landing itself can be an issue. Also taking off can shoot you into space when not intended.
- People are reporting crashes. It's only crashed 2 times for me I think.
- I am sure a lot of work went into the game but I don't think it may be worth the asking price. $25-35 USD would probably be better. Until they do more things with it and fix it up.

If you like grinding sort of games, you will like this.
Posted 10:13am 14/8/16
It's heaps better with a controller, I would recommend using one if that's an option.

It's still a little buggy, if you're not dying to play it, I would probably wait a month or two and play it through then.

I'm playing it though, and it's honestly not that bad.
Posted 01:45pm 14/8/16
meh, definitely bargain bin stuff to maybe check out in 6 months or so...Sony thru a s***load of money at them, they completely forgot about PC. The devs have apparently said they will have to get a team in to 'fix' the pc issues. But we still want you $60 clams USD please....yeh right. Lack of co-op is the kiss of death, game will be dead in a week or two. But they probably still made a s***load on the 'pre-orders' generated by the Hype machine.
Posted 09:10pm 14/8/16
People don't have to buy it. For all its faults it's impressive what they've achieved. I'm interested to see where this is at in 12 months. Has anyone finished the story yet? Been watching bits and pieces on Twitch while working.
Posted 10:41pm 14/8/16
Played a mate's copy of NMS last night and today via Steam Family Sharing. I'd say about 4ish hours or so? While I can appreciate the technical achievement for a small indie team, it really is a flawed game—disregarding the s***** performance.

The game design is just riddled with inconveniences and annoyances. The inventory is frustrating, the UI is bad, the flight controls are restrictive, the combat is just downright clunky, exploration is regularly interrupted with annoying resource management, and to be honest, a lot of the time, it looks like a luanch Xbox 360 game. They were VERY selective with their screenshots. They weren't a lie or anything, but you're more often than not looking at blurry textures stretched over a rolly-polly height-map terrain.

But yeah, I agree Khel. I feel kind of bad for Hello Games, because I don't think they ever really anticipated to get this sort of reaction. What they've done is still impressive, and the s*** that's being piled on them by some gamers is just absurd.

The real shame is that if they had another 12 months of development time, it would probably be awesome. The space travel was sort of what I'd hoped EVE Online was going to be when I played it, it's just a shame there's not much to do other than scan stuff and shoot rocks.

For all its faults though, I hope they're not dissuaded from making a sequel or something. I reckon a NMS2 could be truly spectacular.
Posted 02:32am 15/8/16
I ended up getting it because it seemed like something I don't mind supporting and I have very poor impulse control, and yeah, the flaws are pretty much exactly what I expected the flaws to be. I mean, performance is a huge issue at the moment (it runs pretty s*** on my PC and starts stuttering horribly when I take off in the ship and I'm flying around at planet level), but that is what it is and hopefully it'll be fixed soon. Actually, it was partly the way they've responded to players that are having problems and their efforts to keep the community looped in that made me feel ok about still buying it even in its current state.

The procedural tech behind it is as cool and impressive as I expected, I played it for hours just on my initial starting planet exploring stuff. It falls down at times with a stretched, s***** looking texture or some terrain that doesn't look like much more than giant square blocks of differeing heights that have been eroded a bit, but when it works its truly impressive. I used plasma grenades to blow my way down into a huge underground cave network last night that was FULL of gold and plutonium. Came out with my suit and ship inventories full of gold and plutonium after literally hours of exploration and made like half a million credits, that was damn cool.

I like the whole slow burn of figuring out the mysteries and collecting language and piecing it together bit by bit and seeing more of conversations (actually, I really enjoy that aspect far far more than I should). And I like the feeling of discovery as you fly around and find new stuff. However, I feel like this isn't going to keep being fun. I mean its fun for the first few hours cos its the first time you're doing a lot of these things, its the first time I found a distress beacon that led me to a crashed ship I could salvage, or the first time I found a mysterious alien monolith, or the first time I explored and underground cave network full of riches. But will it be fun the 5th time? Or the 10th time? I'm thinking no, no it wont.

Because thats the other side of the coin of procedurally generated worlds, when you drop little bits of gameplay in there like a base with an alien in it or a secured warehouse or an alien monolith, they tend to be pretty canned and generic and static, I mean they have to be right cos you have no idea what sort of world they're going to get injected into so they have to be generic and bland enough to work in every possible situation. Which means once you've seen one alien in a room standing at a table with a trade network terminal next to him, you've kinda seen them all.

My first few hours spent on my starting planet, I was exploring everything, I was going to every question mark that come up, looting every box, talking to every alien, because it initially gives that same sense of progression you get in other games. Then you realise, you're not really progressing through the planet like you would in any other open world game, its not like Velen in the Witcher 3 where you can explore all the areas and do all the stuff and that zone can be considered 'cleared'. When you explore all the waypoints on the planet, then it just generates more planet and more waypoints. When you loot all the boxes, then theres just more boxes. Then you realise theres 3 or 4 other planets in the same system all with more boxes and more alien monoliths and more aliens standing behind desks, and then theres billions more outside of that. It starts to make that whole gameplay loop feel not only repetitive, but utterly pointless and inevitably pretty unfulfilling because you never reach a point where something feels done or cleared or beaten.

But, that was kinda how I expected it to be, I went in with my eyes open. For now the thrill of exploring and seeing new things is still carrying the game for me, and likely will for long enough that its still a worthy purchase. I think I need to adjust how I play though, its not a traditional game though, you shouldn't be thoroughly trying to explore and see every single thing on a planet, cos you just can't really, and then you burn yourself out cos you have to repeat the same loop on the next planet and the next planet and the next planet. Just enjoy exploration, fly around, see some new animals and some new scenery, maybe stop off and grab some s*** you need when you need to craft stuff, but I think I'm definitely going to take a more skim-reading type approach to exploring planets as I go forwards instead of the thoroughness I put into the first one.

My hat is off to them though, on a technical level. As a technically minded person I admire and respect the s*** out of their procedural tech and have since I first saw it demoed, was always dubious as to how it would translate into actual gameplay, but the tech itself has been realised well enough that I'm happy to throw some money at them, especially if like Midda said it encourages them to keep going and do a NMS2 with everything they've learned.
Posted 08:27am 15/8/16
Subnautica is pretty amazing.
Posted 10:56am 15/8/16
RE No Man's Sky PC performance issues.

C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\No Man's Sky\Binaries\settings\TKGRAPHICSSETTINGS.MXML

i edited this file in notepad.

changed the GSync value to false. saved and ran the game.

changed VSYNC to off in the menu, and framrate to MAX

went from 15FPS to 60FPS.

give it a shot guys, might be the fix you are looking for.
Posted 11:02am 15/8/16
I've got no problems with FPS in general, it runs fine, it just stutters like a motherf***** when you're flying, like its trying to load new stuff in and thats hitching up the rest of the game. When its not stuttering though my FPS is fine.
Posted 01:51pm 15/8/16
Subnautica is pretty amazing.

I've played about 65 hours of it and honestly I've run out of stuff to do. I've started over a few times, gone after the reapers in the seamoth to taunt them and and attacked them with the repulsion canon or whatever it's called. Used the terraformer to tunnel my way across the map and explored some weird unfinished area that was like just a giant monolith (omg it's full of stars).

Being unfinished I know there's more coming and I don't regret buying it but it's just endless resource collecting and building massive bases (yes I know there's PDAs and bits of the story). They're slowly getting the exosuit in there (now called the PRAWN suit... really?) so I'm kind of looking forward to that but even in experimental mode you can collect the fragments but you can't build it.
Posted 02:51pm 15/8/16
I'm sort of hoping that Dual Universe will be the space exploring/building experience I am looking for.

Dual Universe tech demo by Novaquark.
Posted 11:49am 17/8/16
Looks promising.
Posted 02:45pm 17/8/16

Because thats the other side of the coin of procedurally generated worlds

Roguelikes have been doing this for years and they do it very well with a s***-ton of replayability.
Posted 02:52pm 17/8/16
Still the same thing though, they're just the same chunks of gameplay assembled in different ways. Even if the colour pallette is different and the alien is wearing a funny hat, its still the same beats just dressed up differently. Can't really generate any sort of meaningful narrative or character development procedurally so the whole thing ends up coming off feeling pretty bland and lifeless.
Posted 01:27am 19/8/16
Seems like a bit of a catch-22 though. How can you have a procedurally generated universe that is unique and also have strong customised narrative throughout?

I also think the hype train just got out of control, no way they'd ever meet those expectations. The game is essentially what they said it would be imo. Steam has it at 24,000 positive reviews and 19,000 negative reviews. Seems like most publications are giving it okay to good ratings.

Defo don't think they deserve the hate that's getting spewed their way, the gaming community is still so bleak! It's a indie studio and game after all. I imagine some peeps in Sony's marketing department decided to jump on the hype train and push it down the AAA marketing route. Can hardly blame the dev studio for that, or even the marketeers really, consumers need to use their brains.

I'll wait a bit longer for more patches and then check it out on PC I think.

Edit: btw, Fallout 4 and Skyrim were buggy as f*** at release and those studios basically backed fixes off onto the modding community.
Posted 07:00pm 25/8/16
Sounds like hello games bit off more than they could chew... Should have started out with smaller games and built up from there.. Quality over quantity.
Posted 08:58pm 25/8/16
Subnautica just got the exosuit upgrade so now we get to hang on to reapers and ride them like cattle! yee haw
Posted 09:36pm 25/8/16
I'm still playing it. The game seems suited to me, I like mining for rocks (Jesus Christ Marie, they're not rocks. They're minerals). I found a huge vein of Emeril the other day and a Nickel one yesterday. I need to get a new ship, 26 slots is wearing thin but with a******* drone attacking me every 10 seconds, it's gonna take longer lol.
Posted 04:11pm 29/8/16
If they release a mod pack for the community NMS would explode.

Also, why the f*** is there no multiplayer? The game is crying for it. NMS + Dead Space game would be awesome. Imagine getting on a ship thats infected and whoops you're dead and it's spreading.
Posted 04:24pm 29/8/16
Imagine getting on a ship thats infected and whoops you're dead

Sounds like the best game ever!
Posted 03:02pm 03/9/16
Does no mans sky have underwater tits?
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