No Man's Sky's Marketing Was Not Misleading, Ads Authority Finds

Image: Hello Games

The independent regulator for advertising in Britain, the Advertising Standards Authority, has announced overnight that the advertising for No Man's Sky was not misleading to consumers.

In the ruling published on the ASA's website, the independent regulator revealed that 23 users complaints were filed against No Man's Sky, arguing the game was "not as depicted or described" on its Steam page.

As reported back in September, complaints to the regulator ranged from the following: the size of creatures shown in screenshots and pre-release footage; the lack of large-scale space combat; the behaviour of animals in pre-release footage; the UI; the quality of graphics; written references to a lack of loading screens, trade convoys, NPC factions; flowing water; the behaviour of NPC pilots; and more.

As part of their investigation, the regulator reached out to Valve and Hello Games. It appears both assisted the regulator in its investigation, with Hello Games providing additional gameplay footage "from a play-through that had started from the beginning of the game and lasted for four hours". The British developer also gave the ASA a copy of the game and the specifications of the "PC with average specifications" with which the footage was recorded from, in a bid to answer some of the criticisms around graphics.

The general takeaway is that because No Man's Sky was a procedurally generated game, the images and videos used for the game's marketing were only indicative of the content players might expect to see, not guaranteed to see, and therefore not likely to mislead.

On complaints about the change to the game's UI:

We understood that the user interface design and the aiming system had undergone cosmetic changes since the footage for the videos was recorded. However, we did not consider that these elements would affect a consumer’s decision to purchase the game, as they were superficial and incidental components in relation to the core gameplay mechanics and features. We therefore did not consider the ad was likely to mislead in that regard.

When it came to the lack of large space battles in-game:

A number of complainants were concerned that large-scale space battles of the type shown in one of the videos was not part of gameplay. We acknowledged Hello Games’ assertion that the larger battles were more unusual, and noted the footage they provided of a materially similar type of battle. In relation to these features, we considered that the ad did not depict gameplay that differed materially from the footage provided by Hello Games, and that it was therefore unlikely to mislead.

The No Man's Sky developer also supplied the regulator with footage of animals behaving presumably behaving a little more normal than this. And while "animals in the trailer were shown moving large trees", the regulator found that it wasn't a substantial enough element to sway a purchase.

Because the complaints were levelled against the game's advertising on Steam, the regulator's ruling only refers to the game's visual quality on PC. There's no mention of the game's quality on console, or the difference in visuals between platforms, although after viewing "the game and the footage provided by Hello Games (including material from third parties" the ASA found that No Man's Sky was "capable of producing graphics of much higher quality than that shown in the videos and of comparable quality with the screenshots.

It's important to note that the regulator did not reveal the videos or screenshots Hello Games supplied as proof for their arguments; it's entirely possible that Hello Games could have, for instance, pointed at the work of screenshot wizards like Yousbob, jim2point0 and Berduu.

The full ruling makes for interesting reading, although the literal approach by the regulator (as regulators are want to do) gets a little dry.


Comments

    The correct decision.

      While this tops the list of "yeah, no shit." headlines i'll read this week, I can't help but worry for the future of creativity and ambition in games.

      This is how we treat the dreamers and innovators. People like Peter Molyneux who dreamed big, didn't talk like a goddamn robot to people and whose reach occasionally exceeded their grasp. Molyneux had his flaws. And Sean Murray certainly made a few mistakes with NMS, but ultimately we need more games developers who are crazy enough to make promises they might not be able to deliver on, not less.

      I don't want to live in a world of creativity that's suffocated by PR double speak and checked ambitions. I don't want yearly sequel iterations and guns in every game. Failure is so much more important than success because it keeps you going and it keeps you learning. We should celebrate what Sean Murray tried to achieve here and wish him the best for the next one, not crucify him in every way we can imagine.

      "If at first you don't succeed, you'll know you're aiming high enough." - Adam Grant

        Sean Murray didn't make mistakes, he had a deadline, everything shown was intended and Sony was nice enough to give them more time, but it wasn't enough. They had to put it out otherwise they would've had to deal with a very angry sony.

          I'm more talking about mentioning features in interviews that weren't 100% locked in. And also not being upfront about previously mentioned features not being in the game yet on release. Being silent after the fallout, etc. I know it seems completely backwards to the PR world, but actually being honest and showing customers you are a human being does wonders for how they will receive you. Even if they are pond scum like a huge percentage of the video game fanbase.

    Whaaaaat? All the "lies" were really just people hyping themselves up based on uneducated guesses and assuming things that were never promised?

    Who'd have thought? Except literally everyone except a butthurt minority, I mean.

    Well, I assume we won't hear anyone else complaining about the game now that this has been settled.

      Nah, people are still pulling up year or 2 old interviews to try to keep the flames going.

        Nah. I think it is much more likely that people will behave entirely rationally from now on w.r.t. the game.

      if only, they might just start moving on how its all a conspiracy, playstation bought the panel blah blah. hehe.

      Haahahaahahaahahahahahahahahahah ahaha hahahaha hahahahaha.

      *breathes*

      HAAAAAAAahahahahahahahahaha.

    Horrible decision. Anyone defending this is as clueless as the ASA.

    There is not one gameplay video in existence that in any way approaches whats in hello Games completely misleading AD. NOT ONE.
    I dare anyone to show me their best video of NMS that comparative in overall quality, creature number/diversity...and more thats, shown in the NMS ad.
    Show it, if you can/dare to.

    Completely ludicrous. Now NMS gamers legal suit should include Hello Games AND the ASA.

      Are you really upset at Hello Games, or are you actually upset at yourself?

    Where was the mention of things like freighters or base building? both things that were talked about in interviews which should be directly associated with advertising. You can't tell me you don't watch an actor talking about a movie they star in that's coming up and expect that plot details or anything specific that they mention hasn't been vetted by the studio and is in fact real?
    What about the fact that they stated verbatim that it was a shared experience and we were all playing in the same game world and that it was possible to meet up with other players, however unlikely?
    If you keep picking away at all these 'little' things that individually have been deemed 'not significant enough' on their own, you do get a larger descrepancy between what was said and what was produced.
    Was it all enough to warrant people getting refunds? that really depends upon what game experience you were expecting. Everyone has a different point of view, and to be fair, the scope that was attempted by Hello games was HUGE, which is potentially the biggest downfall of the game. In it's essence, it's a vast ocean appearing before you that inspires awe and wonder, until you dip your toes in and find it's only 2 inches deep.
    I find their lack of communication dissapointing, but to their credit, their behind the scenes effort to add the missing features and improve the game is applaudable.
    Perhaps one day it might actual live up to all the hype and I have no doubt that Hello Games want nothing more than for it to live up to it's expectations.

      The complaint that the ASA accted on was directed at the Steam page, and the Steam page was investigated.

      Legally, interviews, press conferences and livestreams aren't counted as advertising so the ASA couldn't really touch that stuff even if they'd wanted to.

      I personally disagree on the ASA's decision here on the steam issue but as far as things like multiplayer go, HG were within the law. Total assholes for lying in interviews and on twitter right up to (and past) release maybe but you can't charge someone simply for being a dick.

      Last edited 01/12/16 5:18 pm

    Terrible decision... the excuse is its a procedurally generated game after 4 hours of gameplay.

    What about the reviews that showed the "procedurally" generated content shown in the videos were not part Iif the final code proven by 1000s of hours of gameplay observations from consumers.

    The whole its part if the code you didnt play in 4 hours doesnt cover the fact it was never in the final code.

    This is a bad decision... its perpetrating the lie that code in demo videos will be in the final release

      What's not procedurally generated about it? Unless they manually crafted each world, then yes, the game is procedurally generated.

      Procedurally generated doesn't mean infinite, it doesn't mean random and it doesn't mean the generation is constantly going on. It means that instead of manually hand-making each planet they have a set of parameters and a program that generates worlds based off of those parameters. Even if the whole universe is static, it was still procedurally generated at one point. Just because it doesn't continue getting generated as you play doesn't mean it wasn't generated procedurally

    I want a refund because....the water just isn't flowing. I have a thing for water that flows and I was promised water that moves in a flowing like manner and now my day, nay, year has been ruined. Sean Murray is some kind of sick weirdo that likes his water to be still. Dam you 2016

    Sensible minds prevail. absolutely the right decision.

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