I started playing No Man’s Sky on launch day on the PS4, and a few weeks later I decided to build a gaming PC in order to play at a higher resolution and framerate. Among the parts I ordered for the build was a Corsair keyboard with Cherry MX Red linear keyswitches. Cherry Reds are ideal for gaming, but make any sort of actual typing a rather unpleasant affair. For quite a while I had been wanting to switch over to a board with a somewhat more tactile feel.
The other day, I ran across a reddit post showing a keyboard with an uncommon feature: a small OLED display. The display works in conjunction with driver software to provide status information from supported apps, but it also can be used to display a static image or animated GIF*. The user that made the post is an Elite:Dangerous fan and showed an animated GIF of the wireframe Cobra Mark III ship from the 1984 original Elite on his keyboard display. I quickly realized it would be fun to use that display for some sort of No Man’s Sky image or animation. So, I finally replaced the PC’s keyboard with a Steelseries Apex 7 TKL board with Brown switches, providing a subtle tactile feel. (I am something of a keyboard hound, actually.)
The new keyboard has quite a nice feel and its little 128×40-pixel OLED display is a fun little feature.
After the board arrived, I sat down and made a little pixel-artNo Man’s Sky-inspired scrolling GIF and loaded it onto the keyboard. It’s definitely fun to glance down from the screen and see my ever-scrolling homage to the game, there on the board’s little display. I’ll soon put a few other graphics together for the display, in time, to add to what’s already out there.
I felt readers might enjoy this little exercise.
* GIF is pronounced with a soft “g”.
Did You Hear About That Nutter Who Dropped $4K on “No Man’s Sky”?!
In a nutshell, it started out like this. I first heard of No Man’s Sky in the summer of 2015. The previews looked pretty amazing and, as I had a PS4, I was excited for its release. Not long after, I grabbed Elite:Dangerous, which I had been following with interest for some time, when it landed on the Mac (I wasn’t a PC guy…at the time), and was amazed by its realism. Comparatively, my impression of NMS at that point was that it would be less of a “whole scope” universe simulation than E:D; it seemed from previews that NMS wouldn’t be presenting an “I can fly from point A to point B across the galaxy without ever breaking frame” environment and I wondered if that would make for a much “smaller” experience. Months passed and I was spending time in E:D, mining, fighting, but became frustrated because the difficulty of amassing assets in order to upgrade ships was, to me, a huge barrier and I eventually lost a good deal of interest. I wasn’t having much fun and as a result I pretty much stopped playing.
Months more passed and No Man’s Sky was released. I purchased a digital download of the game for PS4 on day one and began playing. I fell in love immediately.
I recall waking up on my genesis planet and walking about the lush alien landscape in a sort of wonder. I had to make an extremely long trek in order to find the elements needed to repair my initial ship so that I could venture onward. Along the way, walking through the trees, boosting up cliff faces with my jetpack, gazing at planets hovering on the horizon, running around with the various creatures skittering about the landscape, I experience a feeling of incredible immersion and the scale of the thing reality sunk in. I could explore every inch of this massive planet if I wished. And there are over 18 quintillion planets in No Man’s Sky‘s procedurally-generated universe. My earlier concerns about NMS feeling “smaller” than Elite:Dangerous were certainly for nought.
The PS4 I played with was in my den entertainment center with a few other consoles, tied to the wall-mounted screen. After just a few days in, I wanted to get as deep into the experience as I could, so I pulled one of my Mac’s displays off the desk to clear a space in the basement computer room, bought a 32-inch curved 1920×1080 display, and plopped it and the PS4 down next to the Mac and started playing. This turned out to be a great move — so much nicer than playing from the couch across the room. I ran like this for a couple of weeks, getting up well before dawn to get some time in before heading to the office most days, and it was awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I wanted to take things farther, to get all that I could out of the game. I decided to build a high-end gaming PC specifically to play No Man’s Sky.
A month ago I shared my feelings about Hello Games’ space exploration game No Man’s Sky. (Spoiler: I loved it — and still do, about 150 hours in.) In the post I mentioned that parts were in the mail for a high-end gaming PC build that would allow me to enjoy NMS at 60fps with adjustable POV angle as well as mods. Well, the parts arrived, I built the PC, and I wanted to check back in with a brief report. (Apologies for two non-retro-related posts in a row.)
With the exception of the retro-recreation of my circa 1996 5×86-based PC that I put together three years ago, this is the first PC I’ve built in 18 years. The last was an AMD K6 233-based machine sporting (originally) the ill-fated 3dfx Voodoo Rush board (later a Voodoo II). I assembled it in 1998. I went with Asus for the motherboard on that K6, the recent 5×86 rebuild, and this Skylake gaming PC. They know how to make a motherboard.
It’s an Intel Skylake Core i7-6700K 4.0GHz + Nvidia GTX 1080 system running on the Z170 chipset (full parts list here). The tower is on the floor and on the desk is a curved Samsung 32-inch 1080p display plus a 7-inch secondary display that I use to monitor CPU load and temperature so I can see what kind of a workout games are putting the system through. The curved primary display adds to the “cockpit” feel of the setup to a surprising degree. One detail I’m particularly happy about is that I was able to put the 10,000RPM, 6Gb/s SATA WD VelociRaptor that booted my old Mac Pro back to use as a data drive in this build. The system is running Windows 10 Pro 64 and gaming is really all I’m using it for; in all other regards I’m an OS X (/ UNIX) guy. I pulled the ten-year-old 30-inch Apple Cinema Display off the desk in order to make room for the new system, so it’s down to one external screen on the iMac.