Earlier this year, we reported that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK had begun an investigation into Hello Games and Valve regarding No Man's Sky after multiple people had filed complaints with the agency. Today, the ASA has issued their ruling on the matter, along with details into what they were examining and how they reached their decision.
The ASA was investigating the No Man's Sky steam page, as that is where the complainants pointed at, citing the trailers, description, and screenshots as things that they believed were misleading The ASA took a look at it under 4 different sections of the CAP Code, including two separate entries for Misleading Advertising, Substantiation (as in, unsubstantiated claims) for another, and finally Exaggeration. In the end, they ruled that no further action was required as they did not find that either Hello Games or Valve were in breach of the code in regards to No Man's Sky.
A large part of the ruling appears to be in regards to procedural generation and what that can mean for the game and expectations players should have. A key statement to understanding this ruling, and important to hold in mind as looking at it is as follows:
The summary description of the game made clear that it was procedurally generated, that the game universe was essentially infinite, and that the core premise was exploration. As such, we considered consumers would understand the images and videos to be representative of the type of content they would encounter during gameplay, but would not generally expect to see those specific creatures, landscapes, battles and structures. We therefore considered whether the game and footage provided by Hello Games contained gameplay material of a sufficiently similar type to that depicted in the ad.In this statement, you can see that it is an attempt to marry the understanding of player wishes and hopes, to the realities of what a procedurally generated universe entails. In particular, one of the challenges faced was that very few are likely to see what is precisely depicted no matter what happens, should the procedural generation function properly.
Some complaints (one that you may have heard over the internet at large as well) is that various parts of footage on the No Man's Sky store page cannot be found in the game. Hello Games was able to provide footage depicting similar buildings generated in the game for the ASA, and were able to do similar things for most features such as battles, interaction between player and non-player characters, animal interactions and more. There were some points that the ASA was not able to match to footage or their own experience in-game (yes, the ASA played No Man's Sky to investigate), in particular, there were no signs of an animal moving trees or a ship flying underneath rocks similar to the ad. In both cases, they ruled that they were brief shots and unlikely, on the basis of the store page, to materially influence a consumer's decision to purchase the game.
In regards to the quality of the in-game graphics, the ASA looked into what hardware the advertising graphics had been created on and whether or not the quality of the graphics was greater than what the game could produce. Hello Games provided information that the graphics for the video were created using a PC of average specifications (as per the Steam Hardware survey), and were recorded at 1080p/30 FPS, with anti-aliasing on. Hello Games further stated that most PCs of players with a typical gaming computer could run the game at 1080p/60 FPS and that the visual quality had been improved since launch. Additionally, footage from Hello Games, both from internal and external sources, showed graphics that were of much higher quality than the video and comparable with the screenshots. There was a minor exception in relation to water in two screenshots, and a type of illumination in the video, but the ASA ruled that it wasn't significant enough to be misleading.
There's a lot more to read if you want to check out the full ASA ruling, but at this point, you probably have an idea of the angle they approached and ruled from. It is important to note the ASA was only investigating the Steam page and not any other claims that were made by the developer or in other forms of advertising.
Do you agree with this ruling? Does this ruling impact your opinion of No Man's Sky in any way? Share your thoughts in the comments below!