No Man’s Sky. Go anywhere. Encounter unique flora. Encounter unique fauna. Encounter unique rocks. Trade with other species. Encounter unique rocks. Swim in the sea. Fly in the air. Sting like a bumblebee. I treated the hype and wild speculation with the contempt it deserved.

I still don’t know how I stretched this project out over two years. But there’s a Behind The Scenes video with some answers…









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24 thoughts on “A Field of Flowers

  1. Thank you!

    And congratulations on finally getting this out the door, after all the obstacles.

  2. I’m fascinated by Chris’s mention at 16:20 of some of the Dungeon Master designers unconsciously bringing D&D design artefacts into the game, and it only being looked at critically because the other designers didn’t have that baggage. I’m gonna read his paper if I can — brain doesn’t like that kind of focused attention most of the time anymore :-/

  3. OMG that list of credits, I want to watch this now… but I’m at work after standing on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck for 80 minutes and already behind. Can’t wait for tonight :/

  4. Ah, anon comment fail… also, looking at that list of credits again, I might be even more excited for the behind the scenes video which, magnificently, is 1:30 longer than the film. Right, back to work…

  5. Andy, you might alternatively try Chris’ blog posts on it which is where I caught wind of this. When Chris said he was going to Rezzed, I – forever the opportunist – jumped at the chance to get him talking about it in person instead of me just summarising it.

    Kfix – glad you enjoyed it. I always hope that even if ppl don’t get much out of the content, the form carries them through. The “behind the scenes” was always intended as bonus content for the those who really dig the films and I’m not pushing it hard. If someone is hungry for more, they’ll find it. It’s actually much longer than I expected!

  6. Pairing the Buck Rodgers theme with Noctis made me laugh. It does feel like I played that game back in the 1980s.

  7. Dungeons & Dragons is clearly the second most prevalent influence on video games after James Cameron’s Aliens.

  8. Heya Urthman. All those sections originally used modern music but in the end realised I needed to go for something from a more… nostalgic age. Buck Rogers just seemed to fit!

    I should nudge Chris and let him know his next paper should be on the lineage following Aliens…

  9. That was truly wonderful, and even if it was two years in the making, it was two years well spent.

    The fact is, No Man’s Sky — perhaps more than any other game, or at least more than any other I can think of — is an ongoing and potentially never-ending product. Like you, Joel, I have returned to it several times as updates have come out and the promise of the game has grown with each. What frustrates me is that in growing the promise, they’re doing more planting in your delightful analogy: putting more flowers in the field.

    To my eyes, they have neglected to do much weeding, and that’s where my personal frustration with the game lies. Its interface is a disaster; not until Fallout 76 had I experienced something so clumsy and ineptly constructed. Its experience remains… lacking. Sometimes collection and survival games hold onto you, draw you forward; this one does not. I can’t say exactly why, or what’s missing, only that something ineffable is still absent from No Man’s Sky.

    Did I hear Chris Bateman correctly? That people denied the influence of tabletop gaming on video game interfaces and experiences? Who on earth are these people? How on earth could they possibly deny that influence?

    This video is a gem. Thank you!

  10. Hooray! I want to play at least half the games in the end credits.

    This is reminding me that I blew up halfway through the first planet in Mirrormoon EP. Like, I got something I could experiment with, I experimented with it, and I think I knocked something out of alignment that’s hard to put back. Or I just needed to take better notes on my experiments and figure out what was going on. Either way, I was like “gosh I kind of want spoilers” but I know that’s wrong and evil. Now that I type all that out it could almost exactly be applied to Fez (did I ever mention that I think I got my main save of Fez permastuck, like I just can’t get back out of the world I’m in?)

    …it so much should’ve been gigantic space Proteus. Why isn’t it just gigantic space Proteus?

  11. Yeah, Mirrormoon made me sad because it looks like most of the appeal is figuring everything out, but I couldn’t figure everything out.

  12. Steerpike

    Thank you, sir. I think they’ll keep adding new content until the money stops coming in. Right now, people continue to buy NMS (we bought another copy just recently so my wife could join me). Perhaps they’ll DLC things when new purchases start to peter out.

    But yes, the core loop or collect/explore is quite tiring and the game doesn’t make me feel like I’m achieving anything. Every target and goal the game sets looks like boilerplate text as if it doesn’t care, it’s not a crafted narrative thrust but something random and indifferent. That’s not entirely true because there is a stronger narrative arc now but the game seems to enforce a Chinese wall so thick between the narrative part and the game part it makes the game goals feel so arbitrary. “Put your signal booster in three random places.”

    I would have loved to have gone into detail about the interface – how you have to press three fucking keys to turn on a torch in a menu that automatically disables if you’re not quick enough – and the torch quite easily disables itself at the drop of a hat. Like what is this?!?!?

    Yes people denied the influence of tabletop on videogames. I should have asked him who those people were 🙂


    I don’t even know if those games from the end credits will become a reality. It was a bit of “get naked! show crap from your hard drive” thread which was really interesting but who knows if any of it will get finished!

    The thing about Mirrormoon is that it was a multiplayer game. There’s only so much you can solve alone – you have to go off and find the observatory and the anomaly to finish it and that’s only doable if you’re working with other players. Searching every single system is crazy and very boring. MMEP is a bit of a weird one and I cannot quite put my hand up and recommend it. The original puzzle, the one that starts your adventure – it pretty cool though.


    When you say you couldn’t figure everything out – how far did you get?

  13. Oh! The newsletter is coming soon. Possibly tomorrow. It’s already written, I just have to go through the motions of pushing it into Mailchimp and tidying it up.

    I almost gave up on a newsletter for November because the last few weeks have been just crazy.

  14. I had sort of assumed none of those games would become a reality–that the idea was “These are game ideas I thought better of and went on to do something else.” Sort of like the Bring Out Your Dead jam. But they look great! Which perhaps–perhaps like No Man’s Sky–tells you about the tantalization of screenshots. They are surely best left as something we see in the distance and think how lovely it looks before we go on to other things, like the flying elephants in Through the Looking Glass.

    The thing about Mirrormoon is that it was a multiplayer game.

    GRUMBLE. You’ve written a whole post about this, I guess (that is, the puzzle game/secret box that only works in the first flush when multiple people are solving it). Though it seems like getting off the first planet should be something that could be done single-player, and I didn’t figure that out.

  15. I should be clear. You can play a lot of Mirrormoon by yourself – get off the first planet and visit lots of others. But completing the game is difficult alone. I’ve never seen the end.

    Ironically I don’t think I’ve ever written about the multiplayer aspect of Mirrormoon but it was in bits of The Developers Who Won’t Hold Your Hand / Figure It Out that I edited out, I think.

  16. I don’t remember Mirrormoon very well and I suspect that reflects how little I understood. I made some things happen. I did things that had surprising effects beyond the planet, if you know what I mean, and that was cool, but confusing. And maybe that happened after I’d gotten to a second planet? I feel like maybe I left the first planet but couldn’t understand navigation?

    I think the ship itself stymied me. I felt like there were too many places where I might be making the wrong assumption about what did what *and* the feedback about what was happening when I made the ship do things was really hard to decipher. Both in a “What are the instruments trying to tell me?” sense as well as a “What am I seeing outside the window?” sense. I felt like, in the absence of understanding, I had to just try every combination of everything, which was just too big and tedious.

    But now it’s been long enough that starting over wouldn’t seem like a chore and maybe I’d pay better attention this time…

  17. To Urthman’s comment about the appeal being in figuring things out, and then being unable to do so — seconded. In fact I can apply similar sentiments to lots of games, and I don’t want to speak for Urthman here but what was said certainly resonated with how some games make me feel… which is to say, dumb.

    I enjoy puzzle games sometimes, and I definitely enjoy mysterious, esoteric stuff that I have to figure out on my own (witness 56,000 words written on Dark Souls), but when I CAN’T solve the puzzle or CAN’T deconstruct the mystery, I feel almost embarrassed, like I’m playing it wrong and if only I were a better person I’d not have this problem. It’s not insulting so much as humiliating.

    Interestingly, when I’m able to succeed in an otherwise really fiendish game (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, for example; a game with brutal puzzles that I nonetheless finished) I tend to hold the game in really high regard. Not because I “beat” it, but because of the dual accomplishment of requiring that I figure things out and letting me do so, without being too simple. Since these two objectives kind of conflict, it’s understandable that so many games don’t do it.

    Mirrormoon EP… this title rings a bell. Did I play it that year I was at Eurogamer?

  18. I felt like the ship wasn’t what was stopping me! I was on the surface of the planet and summoned what seemed like, well, a mirror moon, and there was something that was maybe directing me to a spot but I couldn’t find it and I felt like I had maybe gave something a random spin that I needed to be back at its original orientation and getting it back to its original orientation would be tedious. But I could have the wrong end of the stick completely.

    This is not the only Santa Ragione game I have found to be fairly impenetrable.

    The similar Fez thing… I think there’s a place that you can’t rotate if you throw a switch or drop an object or something, and I managed to freeze rotation and get to a position where I can’t unfreeze it without getting up higher than I am and I can’t get up higher without rotating? I forget the details. But it had a similar feeling of “Well, I was experimenting, and I didn’t know what I was doing, and I knocked things out of alignment in a way that put things in an impossible state, and that’s my fault for not knowing what I’m doing but the reason I had to experiment without knowing what I’m doing is that the game is about not explaining things!”

  19. Steerpike, I think it was. Looking back through the archives, the year you visited was the year Mirrormoon was at EGX.Here’s my post at the time that has a video in which you call me a warlord. Or at least having a face of a warlord.

    Matt, the first puzzle is the big one which is scripted and you have to go through several stages to complete it. I quite like it although it’s less of a puzzle and more of a “what thing should I do next to move things forward”. This was basically the original free prototype “Mirrormoon”. I don’t think it’s possible to screw this one up.

    After that it’s procedural generated puzzles most of which are short and feel like truncated extracts of the first big puzzle (and some not terribly interesting). Some of the planets have interesting things in them but I only found one of the unique objects once (it was a chair I believe). Occasionally these puzzles are exasperating.

    The ship isn’t as complicated as it appears and the problem I had was a belief I had to keep searching for something but really I had to work with other players. I didn’t have that revelation until some time after I abandoned it, I think.

  20. Joel, I’m really glad that you finished A Field of Flowers. I enjoyed it a great deal, and the behind-the-scenes companion video too. Congratulations!

    (I’m well, just extremely busy. :))

  21. Thank you Shaun! I’ve been unable to respond to your comment for the same reason! I’m glad to hear someone got something out of the bonus video. I never intended to put too much effort into it (which I think shows, or shall I say hears, those audio levels!!) and I even forgot to put in a bit of me recording narration which I actually have. But it was all a bit of a rush at the end. Deadlines, eh.

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