A Glimpse of the Action at Community Event #11

A Glimpse of the Action at Community Event #11

This past weekend was community event week #11 in the No Man’s Sky universe and, as you might expect, I portalled in and took part. I enjoy the sort of mayhem that these weekend events bring, and was worried that the action I’ve been seeing during my typical, late-Sunday arrivals (as the event timer is nearly spent) would be absent during this earlier, mid-day Saturday partaking. Happily that wasn’t the case.

Stepping out of the portal and hopping over to the event site, I saw players chasing players, sentinels chasing players, walkers melting players, and raging, horned lizard-beasts that seemed pissed off at the whole affair. And, of course, player bases peppered the planet. I captured a little bit of the action while I was there.

See you out there next weekend, travelers.

A Walk Through the “No Man’s Sky” Redemption Story

A Walk Through the “No Man’s Sky” Redemption Story

A wonderful video has just been posted by Internet Historian that I very much wanted to share with readers. Entitled The Engoodening of No Man’s Sky, and at nearly an hour in length, the piece is Internet Historian’s take on what he calls the “No Man’s Sky redemption story.” 

I have repeatedly shared my strong opinion that No Man’s Sky had little room for “engoodening” just as it was at launch, which was, indeed, a minority — but not solitary — opinion. That being the case, there is much that I love about this video and the embattled journey that it details.

The narrator underscores the fact that the approach Hello Games has taken over the years since the game’s launch, in working their way up to the game’s current Steam rating of “Very Positive,” its winning the Game of the Year 2019—Best Ongoing Game award as well as Game of the Year 2019: Best VR Experience award, stands in rather stark contrast to those sadly taken by many other contemporary titles.

“…they never added pay-to-win, they never added microtransasctions or paid DLC, they never made VR as a second game. They didn’t give up on the game or scale their resources back to do it. They didn’t come out and call gamers entitled, they didn’t have loot boxes, they didn’t start work on the next big project or sequel. They didn’t do much of anything except get back to work.

Looking back over the three and a half years since the game launched, it seems clear that the saga of No Man’s Sky is one of — if not the — most dramatic comeback stories in the history of videogames.

A Look at the Wild Antics of Community Event #6

A Look at the Wild Antics of Community Event #6

The No Man’s Sky Beyond Development Update 3 (Patch 2.15) brought back the community events that we first saw for a period following 2018’s release of No Man’s Sky NEXT. I have participated in most of the events and have enjoyed them all, more for seeing other players on-site — the shenanigans going on — as well as the player-built bases that can always be found here and there in the vicinity of the mission target.

"Hot Air Balloons" above a river in a No Man's Sky screenshot

One of the busiest (even downright chaotic) events I’ve observed was community event #6 on the weekend of December 7th. I started the mission at the Nexus on Sunday, in the late afternoon / early evening when there were only a few hours left before the clock ran out.

I arrived to find five or six ships landed near the access portal, with many more zipping about at the mission target, a monolith by a lake, over which were flying two impressive “hot air balloons” (cleverly constructed bases). Players were everywhere — on foot, in starships, in ground vehicles. I came to find, later, that I caught footage of the Galactic Hub Defense Force (in their distinctive all-white, large fighters) engaging a number of “griefers” who were trying to obstruct the mission target with terrain. (Shortly thereafter, Hello Games released a patch including a bullet-item addressing this: “The ability to edit terrain in a multiplayer game is now its own permission setting, alongside the permission to edit a base.”)

It was quite a scene to behold.

I captured several minutes of video of the mayhem as I carried out the mission (on PC), which can be seen.

Welcome to NMSspot!

Welcome to NMSspot!

Welcome to NMSspot, my new place on the web to detail my No Man’s Sky adventures. 

I began playing No Man’s Sky on launch day (on PS4) and after 2,050 hours in-game, I’m still at it (now on PC). I’ve written a number of pieces about the game over the past three and a half years, posting them to my vintage computing blog in a not-so-on-topic fashion, for lack of a better place to publish (though one went out through Polygon). After so long in the game, I figured it was about time I setup a blog dedicated to this deep and abiding interesting mine, so here we are. 

screenshot of a section of the ByteCellar blog showing an older No Man's Sky post on the page

I have migrated the relevant posts I have written up to this point from the other blog to this one, preserving their publication date (if not the existing comments). With a dedicated blog, I expect to write rather more frequently about the game than I have been in the past. I hope you enjoy the site.

Hit me up on twitter ( @blakespot ), on Steam or in-game ( blakespot ), or on the NMS Discord server ( blakespot#0050 ).

A Progress Update From a “No Man’s Sky” Time Traveler

A Progress Update From a “No Man’s Sky” Time Traveler

Early in the year I posted A Few Words from a “No Man’s Sky” Time Traveler, detailing my decision to put my 1,600-hour No Man’s Sky journey on hold and jump back-in-time to late 2016 and the Foundation (v1.1) release of the game. (My help page provides assistance to those wanting to do the same.) In that post I explained my motivations for so doing and I won’t restate them here other than to say, in brief, I missed the wilder nature of the early games’ (pre-NEXT) worlds and that greater sense of the unexpected, waiting around every corner. That was over half a year ago and it seems a good time for an update. (And to the bulk of my readers who came to read about vintage computing adventures rather than those taking place in a boundless, procedural universe: thank you for your patience with another off-topic post!)

As I wrote the aforementioned blog post, I was 25-hours in on a new Normal-mode game started in the Foundation release (version 1.13 specifically), having archived my mainline progress to resume later. I ended up playing in Foundation for 10 straight weeks before archiving that save and going back to the then-current release (Visions v1.77) in order to get back into the active swing of things in preparation for the impending release of No Man’s Sky Beyond.

Beyond promised to bring VR gameplay, far deeper multiplayer, and a large bag of various quality-of-life improvements to enhance the overall experience. Shortly before it was released, I purchased an Oculus Rift S VR setup in order to immerse myself as fully as possible in the game. No Man’s Sky Beyond (v2.0) arrived on August 14 and it did, indeed, deliver on its promises. No Man’s Sky in VR is pretty amazing; I’ve spent hours in the game just slowly wandering about, examining prairie flowers blooming inches from my eyes, marveling at clusters of desert cacti towering above me, and running my fingers through blades of grass carpeting valleys that stretch off into the distance. And, what’s more, I’m liking the deeper online play mechanics introduced through the Nexus in the updated Space Anomaly (a sort of hub where players can easily find each other, explore together, visit each others’ bases). I didn’t expect to find particular fondness with expanded online play, but it feels like a nice addition.

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A Few Words from a “No Man’s Sky” Time Traveler

A Few Words from a “No Man’s Sky” Time Traveler

As those who follow me on any of my social feeds are quite aware, I enjoy the game No Man’s Sky. Actually, that’s something of an understatement. I’ve written quite a few words about the degree to which the boundless universe that Hello Games has given us to explore has captivated me in various blog posts over the past two and a half years. In the first of these, written three weeks after the game launched back in August 2016, I explained,

All my life I have dreamed of exactly this in gaming — an interesting, alternate universe, massive in scale, in which I can freely wander and explore at my own pace. That is what No Man’s Sky is to me, and it’s my observation that many others are similarly moved by the game. The fact that the universe is procedurally generated and that even the game’s creators can’t describe everything that’s out there to be encountered ads to the incredible sense of the unexplored, the alien. There is a lovely feeling of solitude to the whole experience of discovering a world, leaving your mark on it, and moving on to the next.

I began playing the game on the PS4 back on its launch day in August 2016. I was so completely drawn into it that just a few weeks later I decided to build a high-end gaming PC — something I hadn’t done in many years — in order to get the best experience possible in the No Man’s Sky universe. The system I built was able to achieve a higher resolution at a higher frametrate than the PS4, as well as allowing mods to be run (which, in the end, I decided to stay away from in the interest of experiencing the gameplay as intended by the developers).

It wasn’t until a week ago, however, that it enabled me not only to travel across the vast and myriad galaxies within the universe at the heart of the game, but to travel back through time within that universe, as well.

Let me explain.

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Today My “No Man’s Sky” Journey Reaches the Two-Year Mark

Today My “No Man’s Sky” Journey Reaches the Two-Year Mark

Blakespot's sketch of the Atlas diamond

Two years ago I downloaded No Man’s Sky on the Playstation 4 and inserted myself into its infinite universe for the very first time. August 9, 2016 was launch day for Hello Games‘ space exploration survival game and the start of my now two-year journey. While I have now spent over 1,200 hours exploring this fascinating alternate reality, on that particular Tuesday two years ago I had no notion of just how deep into No Man’s Sky I would come to find myself.

After falling quickly in love with No Man’s Sky at launch, I began to gear-up in order to immerse myself as fully as I could. After a few weeks I built a gaming PC in order to give the game more powerful hardware to render its worlds. As the months exploring rolled by, the shelves and walls of my home and my office began to tell the tale of my travels. My family was quite aware when an anticipated update was imminent, and they heard, I fear, a bit more than they were hoping to about the ARG associated with some of said updates.

photo of a starship flying through a green haze above a planet covered in gargantuan flora

Three weeks after the game launched, I wrote,

All my life I have dreamed of exactly this in gaming — an interesting, alternate universe, massive in scale, in which I can freely wander and explore at my own pace. That is what No Man’s Sky is to me, and it’s my observation that many others are similarly moved by the game. The fact that the universe is procedurally generated and that even the game’s creators can’t describe everything that’s out there to be encountered adds to the incredible sense of the unexplored, the alien. There is a lovely feeling of solitude to the whole experience of discovering a world, leaving your mark on it, and moving on to the next.

Here, two years later, I feel no differently and have had the pleasure of seeing that dream realized every time I return to this other universe of mine. Two weeks ago, an absolutely massive update arrived — No Man’s Sky NEXT — and everything in the game’s universe has gotten all the more rich, vivid, evocative.

Hello Games has worked tirelessly in support and expansion of No Man’s Sky these two years (and all of this for free to gamers) and for that, I and other explorers I’ve come to know through Discord, Reddit, and other avenues, are grateful.

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A Planetary Anachronism: “No Man’s Sky” Beautifully Rendered on the Amiga 1000

A Planetary Anachronism: “No Man’s Sky” Beautifully Rendered on the Amiga 1000

Blakespot's sketch of the Atlas diamond

It should be evident to anyone viewing this website that I have a bit of a vintage computer obsession. And regular readers who’ve been paying attention over the past year and a half or so likely know that my other obsession is the space exploration game No Man’s Sky. After watching an episode of The Guru Meditation (YouTube channel) the other day I got a nifty idea for combining the two and sharing the results with anyone who’d care to see.

No Man’s Sky is a game with some of the most beautiful visuals I’ve ever seen. And what’s more, those visuals render out an infinite universe made up of over 18 quintillion planets. Of all of the systems in my vintage computer collection, the Amiga stands out as having been furthest beyond the capabilities of its peers when it came to graphics rendering, among other things. The original Amiga’s 4,096 color palette seemed an infinite range of colors when compared to the 16 colors that was the typical best case scenario of the other machines of the day. And, with a clever graphics mode known as Hold-And-Modify or HAM, the Amiga could render with its full palette onscreen at once.

320x400 Amiga HAM-mode rendering of a scene from No Man's Sky

In the episode of The Guru Meditation in question, the hosts walk through converting modern, true-color images to the HAM8 mode of the late-model Amiga 1200. The results were impressive, shown on both LCD and CRT alike in the video. This inspired me to select a few of the beautiful in-game photos from the thousands I’ve taken along my No Man’s Sky journey and render them on my oldest Amiga, the original Amiga 1000 circa 1985.

The Amiga 1000 features what is known as the Original Chipset or OCS which delivers the 4,096 colors mentioned previously. The Amiga 1200, which came in 1992, introduced the Advanced Graphics Architecture or AGA chipset which expanded on the original HAM mode by introducing the new HAM8 mode capable of displaying 262,144 colors onscreen from the system’s 16.7 million-color palette, using eight bitplanes to work the magic that previously took six.

Investigating a reasonable way to convert the images, I discovered a fairly amazing Java-based application known, colorfully, as “ham_converter” which uses extremely optimized algorithms to get the most out of the Amiga’s bizarre HAM mode. The results, rendered in a 320×400 pixel interlace (and a 4:3 aspect ratio), are well beyond the quality that I recall seeing my Amiga 2000 generate with early, basic HAM converter programs, rendering MCGA images to the screen in HAM mode back in the early ’90s. In fact, they are so good that their shockingly high quality takes a bit of the “retro” out of this post; the images look a little too good! And, just to let you know this wasn’t just a click-and-drag process, the systems involved in the conversion were: a gaming PC [specs] able to run the Java app, an iMac [specs] not able to run the Java app (apparently) but also running an FTP server, an accelerated Amiga 2000 [specs] with a LAN connection and a floppy drive (and an FTP client), and the Amiga 1000 [specs] with a floppy drive, SCSI hard drives, and no LAN connection. Getting data to and fro was … involved.

After the images were converted, I moved them to the Amiga 1000’s SCSI hard disk and then spent a staggering amount of time searching for a slideshow program that would run on so early a machine, running AmigaDOS 1.3. But, I finally found one (QuickFlix from 1987) and the results can be seen in the embedded video. I felt that “going analog” and conveying the CRT experience, despite a bit of mild refresh-ghosting, got to the core of the experience better than simply throwing up a thumbnail gallery in the middle of this post. (Note that after the first pass through the slideshow showing the entire system at work, it repeats with a closer camera zoom for a better look at the images onscreen.)

I’m quite pleased with the end results (which can be downloaded here in IFF format). In developing No Man’s Sky, Hello Games have stated that they were visually going for the covers of the sci-fi novels of olde. Rendering the visuals of this modern title on the a 30+ year old Amiga platform seems something of an analog of that goal. I hope you enjoyed the show.

Related Links from this blog:

A Gamer’s Reflections as “No Man’s Sky” Turns One Year Old

A Gamer’s Reflections as “No Man’s Sky” Turns One Year Old

No Man's Sky Atlas image

Tomorrow, Hello Games’ space exploration and survival game No Man’s Sky will turn one year old. At 600 hours in, I have played the game most days of the past 365. As such, I could not let this birthday pass without comment.

After much anticipation No Man’s Sky launched on the Playstation 4 on August 9, 2016 with the PC version following three days later. And never have I seen a game generate such dramatic reactions from players. Some felt it didn’t live up to the (largely gaming media-fueled) hype. Others were under the impression that a true multiplayer game had been promised. But still others felt that No Man’s Sky was the game they had been waiting for their entire lives. Any of my regular readers are aware that I fall into the last category. Indeed, my deep connection with the game has prompted me on several occasions (such as this one) to use this vintage computing blog to talk about something completely unrelated to the subject, utilizing what soapbox is at my disposal to share my feelings about the singular experience that I find No Man’s Sky to be.

(A podcast that was recently recommended to me sums up the No Man’s Sky launch situation as well as the current state of things rather well.)

I have spent too many hours writing about the game to say it all again, here. For those who are interested, read my earlier write-ups about No Man’s Sky:

Instead, I wanted to mark the occasion by sharing a small selection of photos from the larger online gallery (300 or so, of the ~3,000 I’ve taken in game so far) that I’ve assembled along the way on my No Man’s Sky journey — a journey that is very much ongoing.

I started playing the PS4 version on launch day and then built a high-end gaming PC in early September in order to play the PC version which offered the potential for higher framerate, higher screen resolution, and mods (which I ended up deciding not to use). Hello Games has released two major feature updates to the game (v1.1 “Foundation” and v1.2 “Path Finder”), along with a number of small fix / tweak updates. The switch to PC and the feature additions brought by Hello Games’ updates can be seen in the gallery below, which is arranged chronologically, starting off with a shot from my PS4 insertion moment at the top-left.

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A Quick and Dirty Tour of My Extreme Ice-World Base

A Quick and Dirty Tour of My Extreme Ice-World Base

Nearly six months ago I happened upon an extremely harsh winter world, unique in its near total lack of flora and fauna. It’s all ice and storms and wild ribbons of stone meandering across its frozen surface. It struck me to such a degree that I built a base and made it my home. It feels like a real survival outpost in a lonely corner of the galaxy.

I’ve decided to pick up and move to warmer climes on a mountainous, desert planet around 50,000 lightyears away, but before I do, I have taken a very quick and dirty video (camera pointed at the screen, I’m afraid) of the place to remember it by.

I’ve never really seen another world like this one.