A Look Back at Some Early Features Now Absent from “No Man’s Sky”

A Look Back at Some Early Features Now Absent from “No Man’s Sky”

Being a fan of all-things-No Man’s Sky, I keep up with several NMS-related channels on YouTube. The most recent YouTuber that I’ve started watching regularly is Kanaju. In his videos, he covers quite a few aspects of No Man’s Sky that I find to be of particular interest.

A couple of Kanaju’s recent videos cover features present in early version of the game that have been removed or evolved into something new and that current players may not be aware of. As someone particularly fond of the early versions of No Man’s Sky — to the point that I’ve become something of a Time Traveller, occasionally going back to enjoy those rather more rough-hewn worlds — I wanted to share these videos with readers who might just be surprised at the way things were.

The first video is entitled “5 Killed Features Worth Bringing Back.” I well recall all of these now-absent features, and it certainly is a walk down memory lane for this day-one player. I may not fully share the author’s desire for a return of all of these features, but it’s interesting to look back and to see where some of the current features and mechanics in the game got their start.

The second video, entitled “5 Lost Interiors You Can’t Explore Today,” takes a look at early iterations of player bases, space stations, The Anomaly, and the like. Pieces of the past can certainly be seen in the in-game present, and this one really shows the degree to which much of No Man’s Sky has vastly increased in scale.

As Kanaju acknowledges in several of his videos, 2018’s massive update NEXT (v1.5) marks a sort of before-and-after point for many aspects of No Man’s Sky. Hello Games chief Sean Murray, in a video interview about 2020’s Origins (v3.0) update, made mention of the notable changes that took place earlier.

The fundamental thing is that we have this universe that we built, like, four years ago and we released it and we said that thing of, “even we don’t know what’s out there.” But it was true to an extent, right? We didn’t know the kind of planets people were going to start up on and — and then actually that hasn’t been true for the last four years for us. We have a ever evolving game but that universe has been reasonably static, right? The same terrains and biomes and worlds out there to explore. We’ve kind-of calmed them down, actually. We’ve removed some of the craziness [in Atlas Rises and, to a much larger extent, NEXT]

While there is certainly more going on now in No Man’s Sky than ever before, thanks to the over 20 major (and free) updates Hello Games has given us, it’s interesting to look back — even for those who were not entranced by that feeling of simple solitude and limitless possibilities that many of us (well, some of us) so cherished.

WWDC Surprise: “No Man’s Sky” Is Coming to the Mac and iPad

WWDC Surprise: “No Man’s Sky” Is Coming to the Mac and iPad

Today, Apple live-streamed the keynote that kicked off its annual World Wide Developers Conference. Occurring every spring, WWDC serves as an opportunity for Apple to announce product updates to consumers, show off new software and OS features that are on the way, and put its latest development tools in the hands of the dev community.

During today’s keynote, Apple announced the new M2 processor, successor to the extremely performant / low power Apple M1 that kicked off the Mac’s transition from Intel-based processors to Apple Silicon. Apple showcased the M2’s performance in the first machines that will be receiving the chip, the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops. The coming, yearly update to the Mac’s operating system, called macOS Ventura, was also demonstrated. As is always the case, the new OS brings with it a variety of new technologies that were detailed during the keynote. One of those technologies is Metal 3.

Metal is a low-level, low-overhead hardware-accelerated 3D graphic and compute shader API created by Apple. It debuted in iOS 8 during WWDC 2014 and combines functions similar to OpenGL and OpenCL in a single API. Apple moved away from OpenGL as its core 3D API and created Metal in order to improve performance by allowing low-level access to the system GPU. It is comparable to other APIs such as Vulcan and DirectX 12 and is currently utilized by Apple’s macOS, iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS. WWDC 2017 saw the release of Metal 2 which brought various enhancements and optimizations. Today’s announcement of Metal 3 brings more features and improvements still, and Apple Senior Director of GPU Software Jeremy Sandmel took the stage today to demonstrate some of these new features.

And that’s when things got interesting. (The keynote video presented herein is cued up to the moment in question.)

The first first new feature of Metal 3 that Jeremy pointed to is MetalFX Upscaling which, it was revealed, is as a scaling technology akin to Nvidia’s DLSS and AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (both of which are supported by the PC version of No Man’s Sky). While he began to speak, saying the following (quote below) about this feature, the keynote stream highlighted a MacBook Pro laptop running a game that looked so familiar to me that, in this completely unexpected context, I had trouble recognizing it.

We continue to improve Metal. It’s the software that powers hardware accelerated graphics on all our platforms, and now Metal 3 brings new features that will unleash the full potential of Apple Silicon for years to come.

Gaming at maximum resolution and quality looks awesome. And, to help game developers increase the performance of realistic and immersive graphics, we’re introducing MetalFX Upscaling which enables developers to render rich, visually complex scenes even faster. It works by rendering smaller, less compute intensive frames and then applies high quality spacial upscaling and temporal antialiasing — and it’s so cool.

No Man’s Sky, coming to Mac later this year, will be one of the first games to use MetalFX Upscaling. The framerate increases give you that responsive feel — and it looks beautiful.

There was … a Traveller … jetpacking up the hill of … a paradise planet… It took a few moments for my mind to take in what I was seeing, and it was at about that time that he stated that No Man’s Sky would be coming to the Mac later this year and that it will be one of the first games to utilize Apple’s new upscaling technology.

This is amazing news of which no one had heard even a hint. Hello Games’ front man Sean Murray didn’t even tweet a teasing emoji leading up to it. This came as a complete surprise to the entire No Man’s Sky community.

MetalFX Upscaling demo clip from the Apple keynote

And, what comes as a further surprise to those who watched the keynote is Apple’s announcement, in their own press release, that No Man’s Sky will also be coming to the iPad later this year. Nowhere during the keynote video was an iPadOS port of the game mentioned, which is a little surprising considering that in 2021, the iPad generated over 90% the revenue of the Mac.

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“’No Man’s Sky’ Is a Joy to Play On Steam Deck,” Says TouchArcade

“’No Man’s Sky’ Is a Joy to Play On Steam Deck,” Says TouchArcade

As we have detailed in several posts on this blog, No Man’s Sky runs quite well on Valve’s new mobile console, the Steam Deck, which started making its way into the hands of early adopters a few months ago. As more people are getting their hands on the new console, reviews of the system and reports of how well popular Steam games run on it are popping up with increasing frequency. And, some from game publications who have not traditionally covered PC gaming…such as TouchArcade.

In their recent roundup, Best Games to Play on Steam Deck – From ‘Elden Ring’ to ‘No Man’s Sky’ and ‘Risk of Rain 2’, TouchArcade had this to say about our favorite procedural space exploration game:

Open world exploration adventure game No Man’s Sky is one I’ve hoped would come to iOS and iPadOS for a very long time. It felt like a perfect fit for Apple Arcade as well with how it gets major updates and supports playing with friends on everything. No Man’s Sky is coming to Switch, but the Steam Deck version has impressed me more than when I played the game on Xbox One X and PS4 Pro. It obviously isn’t as nice as playing it on a high-spec PC or PS5, but No Man’s Sky on a portable at 60fps is a sight to behold. My only hope for No Man’s Sky is cross progression between PC and consoles in the future. Until then, No Man’s Sky is a joy to play on Steam Deck.

Their thoughts on No Man’s Sky and inclusion of it in their “best games” roundup post is high praise that didn’t escape the notice of Hello Games’ chief Sean Murray. Sean recently tweeted a link to the post, with a brief quote from the write-up.

It’s fairly likely that PC gamers and traditional console players (Playstation, Xbox) haven’t spent a lot of time at TouchArcade, whose primary focus is iOS (iPhone, iPad) gaming. Why, then, am I writing a post specifically about their assessment of No Man’s Sky?

Well, when I saw that tweet from Sean, my heart skipped a beat.

And that is because, way back in early 2008, I co-founded TouchArcade with Arnold Kim of MacRumors. I joined the MacRumors team in San Francisco to cover MacWorld Expo 2007 and was in the keynote audience at the Moscone Center when Steve Jobs took the stage and showed the world the iPhone for the first time. It was an amazing event. When we learned, a year later, that Apple would be releasing an iOS (née iPhoneOS) SDK, we knew that games would be coming — and lots of them. So, in April of 2008 we launched TouchArcade (snapshot from Wayback Machine), which quickly became the largest website dedicated to iOS gaming, a distinction that it still maintains nearly 15 years later.

The site grew fast and it wasn’t long before we were staffing up, contributing to print game magazines, and running an iOS gaming podcast. In recent years TouchArcade has branched out to include Nintendo Switch gaming news and, as can be clearly seen here, Steam Deck-related news. I personally worked the site for six years — three part-time and three full-time. I have not been significantly involved in its operation since 2015, and a few years later I stepped down as co-owner of TouchArcade to follow other pursuits.

At any rate, I appreciate the patience exhibited by readers who made it this far; I couldn’t let a shout out from Captain Sean to the gaming site that I helped bring to life go without a little bit of rumination spoken aloud.

Godspeed, Traveller.

“No Man’s Sky Outlaws” and the Wonderful New Solar Ships

“No Man’s Sky Outlaws” and the Wonderful New Solar Ships

Last week, Hello Games released No Man’s Sky Outlaws, a major update to the game that might just have you singing “Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me!” Outlaws v3.85, Hello Games’ twenty-first major (and free) update to No Man’s Sky, greatly expands gameplay and mission mechanics for would-be pirates, including a new class of starships called Solar Ships, improved space battles, in-atmosphere ship combat, wingmen, pirate-controlled systems and space stations, visual enhancements, the sixth Expedition: The Blight, and much more, all detailed on Hello Games’ Outlaws release page.

Hello Games has a habit of releasing major updates when I am on an extended vacation with my family — and that was the case with Outlaws. As such, I was a bit late to the party in giving it a go (if only the upcoming Switch release were here already!). Having now spent a number of hours exploring the update, I am much impressed, and most so with the new Solar Ships. I can’t get over the look and feel of them, dramatically transforming as they take off, leave and reenter atmosphere, and land. Their solar sails, procedurally-generated variation, and “feel” — both on screen and VR is amazing to me.

I have been so impressed with these new ships that I put together a short video to share with readers, showing my first-acquired Solar Ship doing its thing, as well as a bit of the craziness involving both these new ships and ships of olde in a pirate attack on a planetary Trading Post.

While I am still feeling out the various new pirate mechanics and am only early-on in Expedition Six, the No Man’s Sky Outlaws update has added a whole new dimension to gameplay that I can already feel and much appreciate.

How are you liking it?

A Lengthy Session of “No Man’s Sky” Running on the Steam Deck

A Lengthy Session of “No Man’s Sky” Running on the Steam Deck

Last month I made a post featuring a short video by YouTuber PC-Gaming.it that contains a clip of No Man’s Sky running on the Steam Deck. It was our first glimpse of the performance of our favorite infinite universe, procedurally generated space survival / exploration game running on Valve’s new mobile console.

A much more lengthy look at No Man’s Sky on the Steam Deck was recently posted by YouTuber Gaming On Linux. The nearly 40 minute video shows gameplay across various biomes and gives a much better feel for the NMS Steam Deck experience. The on-screen performance meter shows that the game, capped at 60fps, plays fluidly and rarely drops below the capped rate. Also notable is the fact that it is running with AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) turned off, which raises the question of just how much higher a framerate could be achieved on the Steam Deck with the FPS cap off and FSR enabled.

Regarding the game’s performance on the Steam Deck, at the beginning of the video the reviewer states,

I’ve had a lot of people ask to do No Man’s Sky on the Steam Deck, so here we are. Truly I have to say though, I’m somewhat impressed by how far it’s come along. Before the release, while I was reviewing the Steam Deck itself, the game did not perform well — but now it’s perfectly playable. My save is quite early on but I’ve covered a number of different areas that you’ll find in the game in the video. Hopefully it gives you a reasonable idea of what some of the performance will be like.

The performance improvements spoken of by the reviewer are certainly due to the frequent and numerous updates to the Steam Deck software that have come, surrounding its launch. The Proton compatibility layer / translation software under which No Man’s Sky runs on the Steam Deck, in particular, may have seen ongoing optimizations for the console’s custom Zen 2 + RDNA 2-based APU.

Have a look and share what you think in the comments. Are you about to take exploration on the go with a shiny new Steam Deck?

First Video of “No Man’s Sky” on the Steam Deck Surfaces

First Video of “No Man’s Sky” on the Steam Deck Surfaces

[ Update – April 11: A longer gameplay video than that shown here has since surfaced and is featured in a more recent post elsewhere on this blog. ]

Last Friday Valve’s Steam Deck embargo ended and those with Steam Deck units in their hands have begun sharing thoughts, experiences, and gameplay videos. One such individual is Italian YouTuber PC-Gaming.it. On Friday, they shared a short video showing a person playing three games on the Steam Deck: Nier Replicant, Persona 4, and No Man’s Sky.

Within, about two and a half minutes of No Man’s Sky gameplay is shown towards the end of the video, starting at about the 5 minute, 47 second mark. An on-screen system monitor shows some interesting system performance metrics during gameplay.

The video shows the Italian version of the game being played at the Steam Deck‘s native 1280×800 pixel screen resolution. Framerate stays locked at 60fps for nearly the entire video and, while the GPU remains pegged at near 100% utilization, the CPU load rarely rises above 50% and stays at around mid-40% most of the time. Halfway through the NMS demonstration, the player jumps to the in-game graphics options screen and changes the settings from the Standard preset (with no anti-aliasing) to the Enhanced preset (with TAA enabled) — and this has no measurable effect on either CPU or GPU load, interestingly. With the CPU utilization so apparently low, there is likely room to edge up the settings further before seeing a performance hit.

And, here we should remember that SteamOS on the Steam Deck is Linux-based, and that the system is running the Windows version through Valve’s Proton compatibility layer / translation software (this has been verified) which necessarily impacts game performance to some degree.

The NMS graphics settings as well as the screen overlay also reveal that AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) scaling is not enabled during the demonstration video.

Traveller’s out there debating the purchase of a Steam Deck to play No Man’s Sky on the go should have a look at our recent post, “No Man’s Sky” on Nintendo Switch – So, How Will They Do It?, which looks at some likely approaches Hello Games is taking with their recently announced Switch version.

[ Proton performance is discussed in the comments ↓ ]

“No Man’s Sky” on Nintendo Switch – So, How Will They Do It? [Updated]

“No Man’s Sky” on Nintendo Switch – So, How Will They Do It? [Updated]

Many of us had wondered over the past few years if it would ever happen, and last week Hello Games announced that — yes — No Man’s Sky will be landing on the Nintendo Switch game console sometime this summer. [ Since this post was first published, a tweet from HG’s Sean Murray has announced October 7 as the launch date of the Switch version. More info can be found at the bottom of this post. ]

The news comes to the surprise of many who had assumed the Switch wasn’t up to the task of conjuring the limitless, procedurally generated universe of No Man’s Sky. And, indeed, Hello Games is certain to have had to make some compromises to get the game running on the Switch in a manner that maintains a solid framerate while remaining a real looker. But, as the No Man’s Sky Switch announcement trailer demonstrates, they seem to be having success in the effort. (And, yes, based on a number of small details in the trailer video, most notably the discernibly low resolution, I feel confident we have been handed in-game video of the Switch port of the game in that trailer.)

No Man’s Sky looks the best and plays the smoothest on high power gaming PCs, the Xbox Series X, and the Playstation 5. As the chart below shows, the older Playstation 4 — the game’s original target platform — is a considerably more powerful system than the Switch for playing a game like No Man’s Sky, which is particularly intensive as far as both GPU and CPU demands. So, how will they do it?

Nintendo SwitchPlaystation 4
CPUTegra X1 (4x ARM Cortex-A57 cores) @ 1.02GHzJaguar (8x AMD x86-64 cores) @ 1.6GHz
GPUNvidia Maxwell w/ 256 stream processorsAMD GCN Radeon w/ 1152 stream processors
GPU Perf393 GigaFLOPs1.84 TeraFLOPs
System RAM4GB LPDDR4 @ 1.6GHz8GB GDDR5 @ 2.75GHz
Memory Bandwidth26GB/s176GB/s
Max Display Res1920×1080 docked, 1280×720 mobile1920×1080

One approach is the use of adaptive screen resolutions. Many console games vary their screen resolution depending on the complexity of the scene being rendered, even on today’s most powerful consoles. I have analyzed a still shot grabbed from the Switch announcement trailer at different source resolutions with several graphics editors and, counting the individual pixels for a section of the screen and calculating across the full screen width, I have determined that it is being rendered with a horizontal resolution of 640 pixels. It’s hard to estimate what the high and low marks will be for rendering in No Man’s Sky on the Switch, but the indicated scene appears to be rendering at half of the Switch’s mobile resolution of 1280 pixels wide. Such variable rendering would certainly assist in keeping the game’s framerate fluid.

Screengrab from NMS Switch trailer

Another performance enhancing approach that will certainly be employed on the Switch port is the use of AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution, a set of open source high quality upscaling algorithms that allows a game to be rendered at a lower resolution and scaled up by the GPU to a more desirable target resolution for significantly improved framerates with almost no reduction in image quality. And, the GPU of the Nvidia Tegra X1 in the Switch supports this technology.

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My Community Base Tour and a Look at 40 More

My Community Base Tour and a Look at 40 More

On New Year’s Eve, as we said “Goodbye” to 2021 and “Hello” to 2022 (this has gotta be a better year, right folks?), another community base-building event was on-deck for the Quicksilver weekend mission (worth 1,200 QS) in No Man’s Sky.

I love it when base-building weekends come along, as I indicated in my recent post covering the shenanigans going on during the last such mission back at the beginning of October. They are great opportunities to get creative and build a base on the mission planet, chat with other Travellers that drop in while you’re doing your thing, and visit the huge number of other player bases that inevitably pop up all over the system in question. These are highly social weekends and are, at the moment, my favorite recurring event in the game.

On this New Year’s weekend I warped out to the Rulandt V system in the Euclid galaxy and set down on planet Petonia X which, by the time I arrived, was already covered in bases. I flew about, exploring the terrain from the air and found a tiny little rock island floating in a deep canyon and decided to build a cozy stone dwelling with a view and — I hope — a decent splash of character.

The video seen here includes bits and pieces I captured of my build process, along with a short tour of the finished base (which unexpectedly included a visitor checking out my handiwork) followed by fly-bys and quick on-foot exploration of 40 other bases made by fellow Travellers as part of the weekend event. There are some impressive constructions, out there, including a sprawling cave construction by u/E-Slick-73 that is extremely impressive (see video).

I hope you enjoy the video and please portal in for a visit to my base, as well as the many other great player constructions that await.

A Gallery of Anomalous Space Encounters in “No Man’s Sky”

A Gallery of Anomalous Space Encounters in “No Man’s Sky”

[ NOTE: This post might be considered to be a bit of a spoiler. Be warned! ]

In February of 2020, Hello Games released the Living Ship update to No Man’s Sky which brought players the chance to own and pilot a new class of sentient starship, hatched from an egg and featuring unique organic technologies. Along with these procedurally generated ships, the update added the possibility of new, anomalous encounters with mysterious space objects and strange new lifeforms while pulsing through a star system. Some yielding rewards and some bringing danger, quite a variety of strange encounter scenarios were added to the game. (The Desolation update, released a few months later, introduced the Anomaly Detector which allows the summoning of these near-space anomalies.)

I made a blog post talking about the update and sharing a video of some of the things I was seeing, just a few weeks after it arrived. I’ve experienced a lot more anomalous encounters since then and do quite enjoy the living ships themselves. They have a smoother sort of feel that’s hard to describe, flying them in the game as compared to the traditional ships, I’ve found.

Recently, we were talking about these encounters on the NMS Discord and I posted a couple of in-game photos of some that I’ve had since the Living Ship update. I received a few comments in response, several asking if one of the shots was generated using mods. (It wasn’t.) It has been my experience that, in these encounters, some anomalous items appear more frequently than others. The feedback that I received on the Discord would seem to bear this out.

Seeing this, I thought I would share a few shots of the more interesting such encounters I’ve experienced. These are a few of the things I’ve seen infrequently, or perhaps only just once. (I’ve taken photos of most every unique encounter I’ve had, pulsing around the systems out there).

So, what have you seen out there?

New Frontiers of Base Building in “No Man’s Sky” Expedition III: Cartographers

New Frontiers of Base Building in “No Man’s Sky” Expedition III: Cartographers

At the end of March, Hello Games released the No Man’s Sky Expeditions (v3.3) update which brought a new, periodic, community-focused play mode to the game. I published posts and videos about my experiences with first two community Expeditions, Pioneers and Beachhead, as I completed them, here at NMSspot. A several month hiatus from Hello Games followed but, happily, Expedition Three: Cartographers finally landed — and on the heels of the major Frontiers (v3.6) update that brought the all new Settlements dynamic, allowing players to basically run their own little Mos Eisley, as well as a massive overhaul to the base building system and the base parts to choose from. (And I must, here, mention that in the aforelinked release notes to Cartographers, I was humbled by Hello Games’ kind nod to a piece of my in-game photography, a pursuit I most enjoy while exploring within No Man’s Sky.)

Cartographers placed players on a toxic world with extreme geography and a disabled explorer ship. The ship in question was of a highly unusual configuration making the task of repairing it and getting off the planet a rather long and laborious one, far more involved than that of a traditional starship. Once repaired, the player was able to escape the planet and seek out the various rendezvous points in systems across the galaxy and complete the remainder of the Expedition.

Given that I would clearly be spending a considerable length of time on that starter planet, I built a base near my downed starship, trying my hand for the first time at construction using the aforementioned new base parts. And that was a learning experience; many of the parts were quite unfamiliar and in the days and weeks after the Frontiers release, a series of patches arrived addressing various kinks in the entirely new building dynamic. (Things have since smoothed out nicely.)

Building that initial base was good practice and by the time I was able to make my way to space, I was ready to give it another go on the final rendezvous world, the Expedition’s end planet (or moon, as the case turned out to be).

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