I would totally disagree with you actually Minecraft is a gem because you CAN build what you want, you can install mods, and start building things you never knew you wanted. You can spend 5000 hours to build the most intricate castle ever designed with a behind the scenes in-game logic system running moving walls and randomly moving enemy spawners or just a nice looking tree house. Same although much more dumbed down for Starbound and Terraria. All these are games where you can substantially shape the worlds. Though these 2 are totally inferior to Minecraft. There is also FortressCraft Evolved, which I didn't play since it's "Evolved" moniker so yeah, but I would think that ranks 2nd to Minecraft
Ah, but NMS is not the same genre as Minecraft. I use Minecraft (and the other two) as examples simply for that analogy. NMS, as I keep telling people, is a survival-genre game. Minecraft... you can call it the same thing, but to me it's more like the entire genre is sliced in half. You have games like Minecraft on one side, with the survival elements and the building, and then on the other side, those games have those elements WITHOUT the building. You're not meant, in those game, to "shape" anything at all. Your only goal is not to get overwhelmed and destroyed (or whatever) by the world you're in. A good example, actually, is Dwarf Fortress's adventure mode. Same idea, all these infinite places to explore, things to do.... but you cant SHAPE a thing. Nothing at all. The only thing you can "build" is a rather crappy fire that never actually accomplishes anything aside from throwing smoke around that every other character can see right through. The whole "don't screw up" element is still there, and 95% of your time in that mode will be spent wandering, only small amounts of it involve actual action. That type of game tends to be like that.
This is all separate from anything resembling narrative, though.
NMS is nothing of that. It is not a builder game, it is not a sim. It is a... very fancy... walking simulator. The more you abstract the gameplay concepts the more you will see it. There is no element in NMS that is interconnected, races just exist, animals just spawn/unspawn, so do resources and sentinels, bases on planets, planets and entire systems. If you aren't there and don't intend to go back then they might as well not even exist.. because to the game, they are just background images.
So imo NMS is a pretty walking simulator. But it isn't a good game. Not even a finished game, actually. If it had been designed for the "exploration" crowd then it would not have so little to actually +see+ ;p
This bit doesn't make sense to me, considering the earlier Minecraft bit. Minecraft.... has less "interconnection" than any other game on this list (this being part of why I like it), and WAY less than NMS. No story, no characters, nothing cemented. Even the game's closest things to other "characters", the Villagers, are utterly blank slates. You could replace them with jpeg images of a cactus and nothing would actually change. Everything you say about NMS in that part there can (and does) apply to Minecraft as well in the exact same way. Except more. NMS characters at least speak, and there are some named ones with importance to the lore. Minecraft.... has none of that. Just "Steve", and even that's just the fan-given name to the main character, who is just as replacable as the aforementioned walking cacti. ALL of these characters and mobs in Minecraft have literally no function or purpose whatsoever unless A: you walk up to them and interact with them, usually by smashing them with something, or B: they are a monster and attack you. There are three, and ONLY three, exceptions to this: 1, Wolves will attack certain animals 2, zombies will attack villagers 3, Guardians will attack squids. Other than this, the world has no autonomous interactions. You either do something with a mob or object, or it may as well not be there, really.
The only actual "core" element to Minecraft is the Enderdragon, because it's connected to the "ending". But even that is just a random thing, a dragon, smashed into an arbitrary "boss" slot that needed filling, just.... because Notch wanted a boss in the game. The other 2 bosses, the Wither and the Elder Guardians, are equally random, having zero connection to anything, and the same non-existent lore as absolutely every other thing. I mean, a three-headed, charred, flying skeleton, and some spiky eyeballs with deathrays... much as I like Minecraft, even I thought these might be a bit TOO random (particularly the Wither more than anything else). The Wither in particular may as well not exist, as nobody ever bothers dealing with it. That though is a whole other rant from me, about THAT thing and it's stupid Beacon.
If there's something else you mean here, I kinda suspect it's one of those meanings I'm not actually capable of understanding. For example I haven't the foggiest clue what "abstract the gameplay" means. That one just bounces off me, really. May as well be quantum physics.
I still don't get the "walking simulator" bit either, which I've heard from a few others as well (all who, coincidentally, haven't played it themselves). I've been playing this game in the *exact* same way I play Minecraft; moving from one task to the next either A: as goals present themselves to me, which then often lead to other choices/goals, or B: because I randomly feel like it, so long as "it" is something that will accomplish a thing for me. As with Minecraft I'm not very patient and I don't like doing the same thing for long periods of time. In Minecraft, I'll start out mining, for instance.... and then 5 minutes into that digging will decide "that's enough coal", even if it's not, and go randomly towards some shiny thing that I may or may not have spotted during that process. Which then leads to other things, that lead to more things, and none of these take up much time individually, yet at the same time I never go after anything unless I think it'll serve some function for me. NMS is like that; if it were just endless walking with nothing to DO, I wouldn't be playing it, since I cant focus in that way. If I'm on a particular planet, I'm not there just to walk around; don't get me wrong, the scenery is bloody fascinating. But I always have some THING I want, some goal in mind. None of which are decided by the narrative (whatever there is of it, I haven't been following it very well), but all of which are decided based on whatever I think is a good idea at the time. Maybe I'm after a particular tech for dealing with pirates (which get more and more frequent), or maybe I'm after certain suit upgrades, or a new ship. I have specific sequences of tasks & events that I'll do to lead me to any one of these, all of which can branch out into other possibilities that I may or may not do, if they seem like they'll get me some useful thing. In other words, movement with actual purpose/function. I'm not too fond of the idea of going places without a reason, never have been. The "reason" being practical things, mind you. If the reason is "story" I don't bother.