What is Exploration? - A look back at E3 2015 - Gametrailers Just Played "No Man's Sky"



  • I was watching YouTube videos, and the below clip from last year's E3 coverage autoplayed for me.

    I really enjoyed re-hearing Brandon Jones' ask questions about No Man's Sky, and in retrospect he absolutely was right about everything.

    In a weird way, it actually nails what exactly Sean did wrong, and where he sort of fooled journalists at the time. "Its a mystery!" - That being said, we now know that Sean Murray completely lied about a huge number of things. That's not something that you can blame Ben or Ian for. At the time, Ben especially, was extremely optimistic about Hello Games and the features that Sean was promising. No one at the time would've thought it was just Peter Molyneux-speak.

    But, Ian and Ben said something multiple times, the game is about exploration. My initial thought when looking at this post-NMS is;

    What is exploration?* Is it just looking at stuff? Because Google Earth is the greatest exploration game of all time then. I'm interested to hear what aspects or mechanics in video games make exploration satisfying to each of you. :)



  • Also see another conversation from E3 2015 by Funhaus. Around 10-14 minutes Spoole and Lawrence get into a really good topic.



  • I'm so glad I wasn't excited for this game.
    I'm so glad I didn't buy this game.



  • Brandon Jones didn't make a statement to be right, all he did was ask questions with no answers



  • Exploration can mean many things, but I can probably split it into two broad categories:

    1. Exploration as a means of finding items, abilities, etc.

    2. Exploration for it's own sake.

    The first type is by far the most common in video games. Gamers often want that carrot-on-the-stick to push them forward, and by hiding a bunch of random objects in an environment, they are encouraged to "explore". Even in games that do this forward by having more complicated rewards (example - hidden cave dungeons in Skyrim to encourage you to explore the world), it is less about the actual act of exploration, and more of exploration as a means to find something.

    The second type is much more rare, which is partially why even after the "you can't do anything in NMS" backlash I still bought the game. Here, you explore just because you can. While the first one is going on a hike to reach the summit of a mountain, this one is just going on a leisurely stroll through the woods with no purpose. The goal of this type of exploration is usually to just enjoy the moment-to-moment joys of wandering in an unknown place



  • Exploration only works as a sell when the environments you're exploring are lovingly crafted or there's worthwhile secrets tucked away to find in the environment you're exploring. When neither of those are present, an exploration game is really just an open world, check things off a list, tower game. That's basically what NMS was, just think of beacons as your towers and the check list is never ending.



  • The problem with NMS is that there isn't so much to explore. The diversity of planets, animals, plants etc. was really lacking.
    A good exploration game in my opinion was Xenoblade chronicles. Exploring in that game was such a joy, because they constantly presented new things to discover and new ways to use those things. Elder scrolls and Fallout franchises also do exploration well, as they present these giant worlds that you can explore, and even if you get lost, you have story to guide you. Also Dark souls, while not especially exploration focused, it has extremely high risk, but if you do explore, it feels sooooo rewarding.
    NMS was probably the first game that was too big for me. Too much space, not enough to see or explore.



  • Brandon was spot on that time, and I think that Ben and Ian fell too easily for an empty promise. NMS never seemed appealing to me, since I know that I wouldn't enjoy the type of game that was promised, but when I heard the concept I couldn't help but be skeptical, since it would be a true technical miracle to pull of what they were selling, and that raises all kinds of flags for me.

    Reminds me of a kickstarter, that I'm very glad it failed, they were promising a game were you could essentially customize the powers of your character, so you could have play the game with whatever character and in whatever way you'd like, which is clearly impossible, and people where savvy enough not to fund that trainwreck. I don't know if it was Sony's endorsement of NMS or just the way it was presented, but people fell to easily for what was promised.



  • @Nillend Completely agree with Fallout, to me just going around those game worlds, to see what I stumble upon is really entertaining, and a clear demonstration of how exploration done right can be a joy



  • @bard91 They definitely did! But so did a lot of people that E3. The Funhaus video is literally Spoole getting made fun of for the first 20 minutes, and he accurately predicted everything. (He ended up doing a 24 hour playthrough of No Man's Sky as well).

    It's just super interesting to look back and realize what he lied about. I think we have a lot to learn from a journalism point of view, and even from a game design point of view. The features that people desperately wanted, and how to achieve that specific feel.


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