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Month: August 2021

Five Years in “No Man’s Sky” – 1,000 Photos Are Worth a Million Words

Five Years in “No Man’s Sky” – 1,000 Photos Are Worth a Million Words

Five years.

It has been five years since I first blipped into the No Man’s Sky universe, finding myself dazed and standing next to that downed Rasamama S36 starship back in August 2016. After exploring the alien surrounds to find the elements needed for its repairs, I lifted off into space and set out on a journey of exploration that has not slowed down since.

A day one player, I quickly found No Man’s Sky to be the best game I had ever experienced (in a rather long life of gaming). The surreal and alien landscapes of one world after the next ever captivated me and I was gripped with the drive to relentlessly explore the strange and boundless universe that is No Man’s Sky.

In the aforelinked blog post written just weeks after I began my journey, I said of the game,

Playing No Man’s Sky is the best and most breathtaking gaming experience I have ever had in my life. The sense of the infinite and of limitless discovery is tremendous. I am just lost in this game.

“Game.” Is it a game? It certainly seems more of a pursuit, a hobby, even a passion than a game to me. Inserting one’s self into No Man’s Sky is to begin a potentially endless adventure, visiting world after world after world that no eyes have ever seen before. Worlds placid, worlds violent. Worlds teaming with beautiful and fascinating life both plant and animal. Dead worlds, as well. You can never know what’s waiting down below when you drop into atmo.

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.

Having started out on the PS4, I quickly decided to build a high-end gaming PC specifically for the purpose of playing No Man’s Sky to the fullest, at a higher resolution and framerate and with faster storage than the PS4 could offer. Over the years, as Hello Games graciously extended and expanded the game with update after (free) update, I upgraded the PC in various ways and accumulated a perhaps shocking amount of No Man’s Sky related schwag / merch. (Time is not the only thing I’ve put into this game, as a Polygon article from 2017 details [updated version of the post, here on the blog].)

With what I believe is certainly the friendliest community in all of gaming, the social aspects of No Man’s Sky have been a real pleasure to be part of. Sharing stories, screenshots, planetary coordinates and just getting to know fellow players on the related Discord and subReddits has been a lovely experience. Making a new friend by happening upon a fellow Traveller, tending their base on some planet in the corner of the galaxy, is a rather nice occasional treat, as well.

At just over 3,200 hours in-game at the time of this post, I have found certain particular gameplay pursuits that keep me busy. For example, I’ve taken to building “tiny home” bases on particularly breathtaking worlds. More recently, I very much enjoyed playing through the two community-centric Expeditions that have recently taken place as part of the No Man’s Sky Expeditions update, which landed this past March. I’ve made a little fan art here and there. And, of course, I am ever exploring. Sharing what I’m up to in the game is the main point of this blog, so if you’ve an interest, have a look around!

Perhaps my favorite pursuit in No Man’s Sky is in-game photography. The game’s visuals are amazing, and capturing that perfect shot (thanks to the superb Photo Mode the game provides) of a world that almost certainly no one has ever before explored is extremely rewarding to me. This has been the case since the beginning and, as such, I keep several galleries of No Man’s Sky exploration photos. Photo sharing is a big part of the NMS Discord; showing the vistas you have captured and seeing what others out there have encountered is a lot of fun. Another way I like to share my shots is in a public Flickr photo gallery I maintain that contains, presently, 1000 images I have captured in my travels over the past five years, going all the way back to day one. These are the photos I consider to be the best of the approximately 15,000 screenshots I’ve apparently taken in the game since the beginning.

To mark the fifth anniversary of No Man’s Sky‘s launch, I wanted to focus on that gallery, which provides what I think is an interesting look at a Traveller’s (me) encounters across all versions of the game, starting on PS4 and ending on the PC. So much has changed, and such sights were seen. Take a look back through the various ages of No Man’s Sky — at the sights that most captivated me.

Godspeed, Traveller. After all, new Frontiers await

A “Photo Mode” Glitch in “No Man’s Sky” on PC and How to Work Around It

A “Photo Mode” Glitch in “No Man’s Sky” on PC and How to Work Around It

One of the things I most enjoy in playing No Man’s Sky is in-game photography. The visuals are so, well, otherworldly and striking that capturing the perfect shot is a challenge I take on many times in each play session. When No Man’s Sky Pathfinder (v1.2) was released, Hello Games added a proper Photo Mode to the game that is, in my experience, unmatched in any other game out there. It allows the action to be frozen while camera placement and various other filter options are tweaked for just the right shot. They further improved Photo Mode in the recent release of No Man’s Sky Prisms (v3.5), adding several new controls. In No Man’s Sky, “virtual photography” or “gametography” is quite a pleasure and easily done.

Unfortunately, despite the numerous enhancements (including VR gameplay) that No Man’s Sky Beyond (v2.0) brought upon its release in mid-September of 2019, it introduced a glitch to the screenshot system that is still there to this day. It doesn’t affect everyone; it is an issue for PC players using certain anti-aliasing settings. It took me a few days after Beyond arrived to notice it but I soon saw that, after the update, screenshots captured in Photo Mode, upon close inspection, looked as if the anti-aliasing had been completely turned off.

Now, a bit of history. With the release of No Man’s Sky Foundation (v1.1) in late-November 2016, Hello Games introduced (among many other features) TAA or temporal anti-aliasing. Prior to this, FXAA or fast approximate anti-aliasing and SSAA supersampling anti-aliasing were the two AA modes available in the game. TAA is much cleaner than FXAA, and is the mode I choose to use on my i7-6700K PC with Nvidia GTX-1080Ti. Another available mode is TAA+FXAA, but to me this looks a bit too soft, ever so slightly blurry — I prefer TAA. (SSAA was removed from the game early on.) And, with the release of No Mans’s Sky Prisms (v3.5), Hello Games added DLSS or deep learning super sampling for PC users with Nvidia RTX-class graphics hardware, which uses machine learning to perform rather impressive asset upscaling to 4K resolution.

As in-game photography is such a big thing for me, I tried a few different approaches and discovered that if I set my shot up in Photo Mode as per normal but used Steam’s F12-key screenshot feature, the resultant image looked great, just as photos taken with the “Take Screenshot” button / key used to look, before the glitch arrived. This has been my workaround to the issue, but I have submitted the issue with screenshot examples to Hello Game’s tracker site.

Click the photos in the embedded gallery above and have a look at the full-sized screenshots provided to see the issue described here. The top two screenshots were taken shortly after Beyond landed in 2019 while the bottom two were taken yesterday, in the Prisms update. The TAA anti-aliasing mode is active in both sets of photos. (And for a brief time there was an issue with the zoom / aspect ratio between the two screenshot approaches, as demonstrated in the first pair of screenshots above, but that was addressed in short order.)

Zoomed: Photo Mode “Take Screenshot” key on the left, Steam F12 screen capture on the right.

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