Hello Games boss reflects on how Burnout games affected No Man’s Sky

Hello Games’ sci-fi adventure No Man’s Sky has been on quite the journey, one that is almost symbiotic with the central theme of the game itself. Upon launch, the Guildford-based developer of No Man’s Sky faced a significant backlash from fans who were aching for the game to be what it promised to be, but instead of running away from the problem, Hello Games has worked tirelessly to acheive what they always believed deep down could be something great. As a result, the game is growing in popularity.

In a new interview with GamesIndustryBiz, Hello Games founder Sean Murray has been talking about where No Man’s Sky is at right now, and how it finally managed to get there, with even Murray himself surprised at how well No Man’s Sky is doing, considering what they’ve been through.

> “I’ve been consistently wrong; each update we’ve done has been significantly bigger than the one before it. Next, particularly so. We saw the kind of numbers that a AAA game would be happy with at launch. It was very successful for us, and the player base has stayed strong.”

He also admits that there was a notable potential exit strategy when things first went wrong.

> “It would have been very easy, given the commercial success of the game and the strength of the reaction around launch, to basically do anything else. But the team here were hungry to keep working on it. I don’t think it was every really that much of a question.”

But it was Murray’s past experience working on the Burnout games at Criterion that forged his commitment to staying on the road to recovery with No Man’s Sky:

> “We did Burnout, and then Burnout after Burnout. While that was fun, it was just never as fun as the first one we worked on where it felt a lot more blue sky and the game could be anything. And making games is really hard. Making Burnout 4 was just as hard as making Burnout 3, even though it shouldn’t be. If you’re going to work hard, it’s more exciting to do something innovative and new.

> “Updating No Man’s Sky allows us to focus just on what’s new, rather than trying to revisit the whole of the game and do it with slightly different characters, ships and environments. It’s fun to look at what features we don’t support right now and just go after that… When we move on to new games it makes sense to focus on stuff that’s big, silly and ambitious, because that’s what gets us out of bed in the morning.”

Hello Games has learned a lot of lessons from No Man’s Sky’s launch debacle, and Murray thinks the essence of what makes the game different and worth playing was ultimately infectious, which was both a good and bad thing for the studio and the players.

“As a naïve studio, we definitely got excited about our game, people got excited, and we talked about it way too early,” he admitted. “When you’re an indie studio working hard to survive, the one thing that doesn’t cross your mind is, ‘People are too excited about my game.’ We are in the lucky position where we can be more cautious in future, and we will be.”

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