I’m a pretty big fan of Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky, although that’s something of an understatement.
I’ve played the game for over 400 hours so far, having explored 415 planets across 135 systems. I’ve been rather prolific on Twitter, sharing experiences and evangelizing the game out of a sense that most unhappy players don’t quite “get” it. I'm a denizen of the related Reddit subs and have gained some small renown there. My wife and 10-year-old daughter are likely very tired of hearing No Man’s Sky anecdotes.
All told, I’ve spent around $4,000 on the game. This is how it happened.
Adding it all up
I first heard of No Man’s Sky in the summer of 2015. The previews looked pretty amazing and, as I had a PS4, I was excited for its release. I also grabbed Elite:Dangerous when it landed on the Mac; I wasn’t a PC person yet, and was amazed by its realism.
My impression of No Man’s Sky at that point was that it would be less of a “whole scope” universe simulation than Elite; it seemed from previews that No Man’s Sky wouldn’t be presenting an “I can fly from point A to point B across the galaxy without ever breaking frame” environment, and I wondered if that would make for a smaller experience.
I spent months in Elite: Dangerousmining and fighting, but I became frustrated when the difficulty of amassing assets in order to upgrade ships became a huge barrier. I wasn’t having much fun, and as a result, I pretty much stopped playing.
No Man’s Sky was released a few months later. I purchased a digital download of the game for PS4 on day one and began playing. I fell in love immediately.
I recall waking up on my genesis planet and walking about the lush alien landscape in wonder. I remember making the extremely long trek in order to find the elements needed to repair my initial ship so that I could venture onward.
I walked through the trees, boosted up cliff faces with my jetpack and gazed at planets hovering on the horizon. I ran around with the various creatures skittering about the landscape and experienced a feeling of incredible immersion as the scale of the thing sunk in. I could explore every inch of this massive planet if I wished. And there are over 18 quintillion planets in No Man’s Sky’s procedurally generated universe. My earlier concerns about No Man’s Sky feeling “smaller” than Elite: Dangerous ended up being unfounded.
This is when I started spending real money on the game.
My PlayStation 4 was in my den entertainment center with a few other consoles, tied to the wall-mounted screen. I wanted to get as deep into the experience as I could after the first few days, so I pulled one of my Mac’s displays off the desk to clear a space in the basement computer room, bought a 32-inch curved 1920-by-1080 display, and plopped it and the PS4 down next to the Mac and started playing.
This turned out to be a great move; it was so much nicer than playing from the couch across the room. I ran the game like this for a couple of weeks, getting up well before dawn to get some time in before heading to the office most days, and it was awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I wanted to take things farther, to get all that I could out of the game. I decided to build a high-end gaming PC specifically to play No Man’s Sky.
What I was after was a locked 60 fps or greater frame rate, and adjustable field of view since the PS4 version is locked at 75 degrees, the potential for a higher resolution display and the option of using mods. While I’ve built a good number of PCs for myself and friends over the years, it had actually been a long 18 years since I’d done it last. I spent a few days learning what I needed to know about the latest PC hardware and got to work.
Once the parts arrived, I spent a Saturday building a Skylake Core i7-6700K PC around an ASUS Z170-Pro board, with a factory overclocked Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card, solid state drives and 16GB of RAM. I replaced the PS4 on the desk with the new PC, loaded up Steam, bought No Man’s Sky again and started fresh.
Going from 30 fps to a locked 60 fps was huge, as was a 95-degree field of view. I spent much of my free time playing No Man’s Sky as the months passed, liking it more and more. I began picking up related toys along the way, things like T-shirts, stickers, posters and the Explorer’s Edition box set. This was my third time purchasing the game.
I then took the big step of replacing the 1080p Samsung with a 32-inch, 75Hz ASUS 2560-by-1440 display, bringing 75 percent more pixels to the game. I am able to run a solid 60 fps with v-sync enabled and all settings maxed, though I’m not using motion blur. I’ve found 75 fps with v-sync stutters on some worlds, for what it’s worth.
I was recently on a tech forum asking advice on GPU performance tuning for the new display when I got several replies pointing out that I have “a crazy powerful PC just to play No Man’s Sky,” with others saying,“That’s a lot of coin for one game…”
It is a lot of money for one $60 game, I found myself admitting. I sat down and went through email receipts to calculate just how much I’ve spent on this game. I was a bit astonished at the tally. Obviously, I knew it would be high, but …
As of today I have spent $4,373 USD on No Man’s Sky in total.
The bulk of the money was spent on PC hardware, which can be used for many things other than No Man’s Sky. I am calling the hardware purchase “money spent on No Man’s Sky“ because I have no particular interest in using a Windows PC for much else. I use the iMac next to it for most things, and I certainly would not have put together this PC were it not for No Man’s Sky. I have installed a few other games, including The Witcher 3, Dirt Rally, Forza 3, and Elite: Dangerous, but I spend very little time in any other game on this PC.
So why write this?
I’m not trying to brag about how much stuff I’ve been able to purchase. My concern that this post would be taken that way almost kept me from publishing it. But the reason I am posting this is the same reason I’ve been evangelizing the game on social media.
All my life, I have dreamed of a game like this: an interesting, alternate universe that’s massive in scale, in which I can freely wander and explore at my own pace. That is what No Man’s Sky is to me, and it’s been my observation that many others are similarly moved by the game.
The fact that the universe is procedurally generated, and that even the game’s creators can’t describe everything that’s out there to be encountered, adds to the incredible sense of the unexplored and the alien. There is a lovely feeling of solitude to the whole experience of discovering a world, leaving your mark on it and moving on to the next.
The reason I’m sharing the fact that I’ve spent so much on No Man’s Sky is to suggest that maybe there’s more going on in this game than those who panned it took time to notice. How could a guy like me who has been playing video games for 37 years go in so deep on a game that’s just … hollow?
I think No Man’s Sky is an astounding achievement, and I hope to prevent the curious from giving it a pass because of the #gamebro hate that I feel is a bit misguided. No Man’s Sky truly is an escape to another world. Countless other worlds, actually. It’s a singular experience that should not be missed.
For me, No Man’s Sky has been worth every penny — all 437,300 of them.
Blake started gaming on the Atari VCS at age seven and hasn't stopped since. He co-founded TouchArcade, the iOS game review website, and is an avid retro-computing collector and enthusiast, sharing those adventures on his blog ByteCellar. He lives in Alexandria, VA.
More From Polygon
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild guide and walkthrough
- Zelda: Breath of the Wild speedrunners are taking down the game in less than an hour
- ToeJam & Earl is coming to Nintendo Switch
- Take a look at Battlefield 1: They Shall Not Pass
- Hands-on with Mass Effect: Andromeda multiplayer
Co-host has been appearing on right-wing media
Capcom’s survival horror game spreads to two more platforms
Bet the studio didn’t see this coming
Look mom, no mods!
Play Dropshot for free starting March 22