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No Man’s Sky isn’t 30 hours long, silly

Take a chill pill

Space warfare in <em>No Man’s Sky</em>.
Space warfare in No Man’s Sky.
Hello Games
Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

No Man’s Sky has been billed as a game that’s as infinite as the universe itself, or close to it, with over 18 quintillion — that’s an 18 with 18 zeros after it — planets scattered across its virtual galaxies. Even if you visited one of those planets every second, and could travel between them instantly, seeing the entire game would take you nearly 585 billion years. (For reference, that’s more than 42 times the age of the known universe.)

It’s only natural to want to test a claim like that, which is exactly what a Redditor named daymeeuhn began doing after he bought an early copy of No Man’s Sky last week for more than $1,300. After spending a few days with the game, daymeeuhn has found himself somewhat unsatisfied with the experience, primarily due to bugs that he ran into along the way to the center of the in-game universe.

More notably, many of the folks who have been following daymeeuhn’s updates on his playthrough have also been disappointed by the amount of time he said it took him to reach the center, which is the game’s end goal: approximately 30 hours. That estimate instantly punctured the gigantic hype balloon surrounding No Man’s Sky, with some interested parties saying that they’re canceling their pre-orders because they feel like developer Hello Games stretched the truth.

If you want to cancel your pre-order and wait for reviews of No Man’s Sky, that’s your prerogative; in fact, we’d recommend that as standard operating procedure anyway. But don’t get up in arms because the game is quote-unquote only 30 hours long.

No Man’s Sky - a plane near two monoliths Hello Games

The guy did something unusual

The thing about daymeeuhn’s playthrough of No Man’s Sky is that it’s not necessarily representative of the average player’s experience. He claims that he saw "A LOT of what the game has to offer" and didn’t simply race toward the center. However, his method of completing the game involved an unconventional tactic.

Daymeeuhn found a rare item that fetched an extraordinary price in the in-game economy. He essentially farmed that resource so he could sell it for a massive profit, and then he bought upgrades for his ship that allowed him to partake in what he calls "warp jumping" — hurtling toward the center, skipping parts of the game that a typical person would likely play through.

For his part, daymeeuhn characterizes his method as a shortcut rather than a cheat or exploit: He says the game clearly highlights the resource as an option, that it’s not something secret that he stumbled upon. And he insists that he didn’t play No Man’s Sky with the sole intent of min-maxing his build so he could reach the center as fast as possible, saying, "I actually intentionally took time out of my warp jumping over the course of going to the middle to explore planets to break up the monotony of it."

The operative phrase is right there at the end: break up the monotony of it. I’ve played No Man’s Sky for a bit, and although I don’t know if the entire game is monotonous, I feel confident in saying this: If you’re playing in a way that leads you to stop and smell the roses — i.e., to do what the game seems to encourage — just to "break up the monotony of it," then maybe don’t play that way.

"Wait for reviews" doesn’t mean one review

Let me be clear: I don’t want to cast aspersions toward daymeeuhn. He’s just relaying his experience playing No Man’s Sky, and there’s no reason to believe he’s misrepresenting the game. He’s even trying to help out Hello Games, suggesting that the studio reduce the market price for the resource that he farmed because it "[ruins] the game."

At the same time, here’s some perspective: All of this is from one person. (There is at least one other individual in the spoiler thread on the No Man’s Sky subreddit who’s posting videos, but daymeeuhn is the main provider of commentary about his playthrough.)

If you were excited enough about No Man’s Sky to pre-order the game, maybe don’t let one person’s opinion change your mind. To be sure, the bugs are a concern, but Hello Games spent the past month working on the game’s first update, so the game that daymeeuhn is playing right now is likely different from what you’ll see at launch next week. (Considering how many times No Man’s Sky got delayed, and how small Hello Games is, it’s no surprise that the company has been working feverishly to put the final touches on the game.)

If you were cautious enough about No Man’s Sky’s hype to wait for reviews, continue doing that! Don’t let daymeeuhn’s experience turn you off to the game, especially since — as I noted above — most people won’t do the weird thing he did. You’re better off seeing what critics and YouTubers have to say about No Man’s Sky at launch.

No Man’s Sky isn’t 30 hours long

This seems almost beside the point, but I feel like I have to state it for the record: No Man’s Sky isn’t 30 hours long, and even if it were, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Daymeeuhn raced through the game, which is why he was able to reach the center in less than a day and a half. And that doesn’t mean that Hello Games was lying about the length of No Man’s Sky, as much as there is a "length" to this freewheeling space exploration game.

In a December 2014 interview with Game Informer, No Man’s Sky creator Sean Murray said that making your way to the center of the universe would take somewhere between 40 and 100 hours. That’s quite a wide range, of course, but Murray even made room for the possibility that "some speed runner will prove me wrong." That’s basically what happened here!

That’s to say nothing of the fact that 30 hours is a long time, whether you’re playing Pokémon Go or Fallout 4. Like a lot of adults, I find myself with less and less free time these days, and — surprise! — I don’t always want to spend it on video games. So who knows? Maybe I’ll just take after daymeeuhn and speed through No Man’s Sky anyway.

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