GOTY 2018: Best Continuation

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This year we've brought back our category awards to recognize achievements in specific areas of game development. There are 10 awards in all, with two new ones being awarded every day this week. Keep checking back for more winners!

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Best Continuation: NEXT update, No Man's Sky

Hello Games | July 24th, 2018 | PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One

Runners-up: DELTARUNE | Prey: Mooncrash

This summer, nearly two years after receiving asinine death threats and shitty Steam reviews, Hello Games launched NEXT, its 1.5 update to No Man's Sky. Finally, the game was shaped into a state more closely resembling that mind-blowing E3 2014 trailer.

Hype is a funny, fickle creature. "Gamers" were so thirsty for the version of No Man's Sky they saw in trailers that, when the release product failed to meet those expectations, they revolted. They demanded. They threatened.

I don't envy Hello Games' experience over the last two years. Whether or not Hello Games founder Sean Murray was at fault for hooking his caboose to the hype train and getting gamers frothing over a product that could never meet their expectations is beside the point. Games are products, first and foremost, and they are designed amidst a modern backdrop of CI/CD: continuous improvement, continuous delivery. Incremental changes and tweaks should be expected. We're long past developers launching a perfect, bug-free game. Games, perhaps unfortunately, are as much a service in 2018 as are our paid apps and Blue Apron meal kits.

Or, actually, maybe "Games as a Service" isn't an unfortunate state for the industry. Because developers like Hello Games, if committed enough and backstopped by enough capital reserves, can buckle down and work insanely hard to deliver the product they seemingly promised to deliver. Is this fair? Is expecting a form of servitude from developers until they "make it right" a logical evolution of customer entitlement? I don't think so, but I can't deny the improvements the NEXT update made to the core gameplay loops of No Man's Sky. Everything felt logical for the first time in the game's history. Gathering resources was no longer a complex math problem or tedious side job: it felt attainable and, surprisingly, rewarding.

Even though I didn't stick around long after NEXT launched, I sunk another 12 hours into a game I'd completely abandoned almost two years prior. If that's not the best continuation of 2018, and a testament to developers doing their damndest to payback the hype they built a half-decade earlier, well, I don't know what is. — Aaron Thayer