No Man’s Sky attempts to hit the Bartle archetypes, to various levels of success. You’d have to put a lot of effort convince me that either the Killer or Social types have much weight here, which dramatically reduces the feeling of competition and FOMO. The Achiever and Explorer types are the main targets.
Achievers are goal setters, where progress for the sake of progress is the main joy. The goals can be self-defined or system driven, but they are there, and the goal is often times worth more than the journey. RPGs tend to scratch a crazy itch for achievers, as there are numerous levels of goals within (quest, levels, stats, items). Games with logistical challenges are also a big hit, be it Valheim, SimCity or Factorio.
Explorer certainly have goals, but the journey is the key driver. Looking under each rock, they take joy for cataloguing the world and see how the pieces fit together. A goal is often just another part of the journey to the next exploration bit. Games with large maps and interconnected systems really resonate here, so things like Minecraft and Skyrim are like crack.
NMS has a lot of content for both types. A practically infinite world to explore (I am the first human discovering some planets in a game that’s 6 years old). A very large swath of procedural tasks to accomplish (on a per-planet basis, this dwarfs most “games”). There’s a substantial amount of “stuff” to find and catalogue – language alone has 700+ words for each of the 3 species. There’s a tiered systems of resources, where complex ones can only be crafted. There’s a “system of trade” that has market forces within (you can “crash” a market by flooding it). And there’s a collection system with an RNG rarity tier on top of it, meaning that there’s usually a carrot of sorts to aim for.
One of the twists here is the interconnectivity of these systems. Valheim forces you to explore in other to achieve, that’s where all the bosses are and by consequence, the ability to use any of the new materials. And exploration is generally gated through achievement, you simply need a better boat to get across the ocean, or armor to avoid squito. NMS is in this vein, where you absolutely need to move between planets and explore them to some level of detail in order to acquire necessary stuff. There are certainly “golden planets”, where you can set up self-sufficient mining operations – I mean it’s a game of odds after all. But you still need to find them, and the only way to catalogue a planet is to land on it.
This effectively placed tiers on NMS’s various systems, in that in order to progress (achieve) you need to find (explore) the necessary components. Some of them are obvious – find copper. Some less so – Vykeen Daggers are randomly dropped from specific events in certain systems.
Where things get a bit tougher to digest is when you apply scale, as with all other logistic games. You will find dozens if not hundreds of systems in your travels – let alone planets. Organizing them is just bonkers. Mining is useful, until it’s not because you have what you need. There’s no automation of this system, just some standalone pieces. Exploration will reach a point where you simply accept the infinite variety of things – which I suppose is a message in itself. Never have I seen a game better reflect the adage of “stare into the abyss and the abyss stares back at you”.
These are far from complaints. The journey along the path lasts as long as you want it to last. The infinite goals are there as long as you want to achieve them. I’m frankly amazed that this game even exists.