A quick shout out to my fellow American Interlopers out there exploring the universe, travelling from system to system, galaxy to galaxy, here on the 4th of July, American Independence Day. To mark the occasion I’ve indulged in a modest fireworks display from my lighthouse base perched upon a craggy islet on planet Distira in the NMSCord Hub system (Euclid galaxy).
So, grab your space apron, get out in the yard, and fire up the Nutrient Processor for a good old-fashioned Hexungulatis barbecue. Have a great Fourth!
Back on launch-day in August 2016 I began playing No Man’s Sky on the PS4. I fell so wildly in love with the game that a few weeks later I ordered parts and put together a gaming PC so that I could play No Man’s Sky at 60+ FPS with higher resolution options and also have the ability to adjust the player’s field of view (which one could not, on console back then). I detailed the system build in a post from way-back-when, but in a nutshell, the system consisted of:
As I’d hoped, this setup ran the game incredibly well. I started using it back in “the early days” and I played on this PC a little over six years, for what’s now 3,800 hours in the game, all settings on “Ultra.” In that time, I doubled the system RAM and in order to move up from 1080p to 1440p, the GPU and display were upgraded to:
This worked out very well for quite a while but…those pesky (frequent and free) updates Hello Games keeps releasing began to take a toll on performance. (At the time of this post, HG has released 161 updates, 30 of them major.) As certain updates brought richer worlds with more details — Origins and Next Generation in particular — I noticed that framerates started to dip here and there. And, whereas a few years ago on my Freesync-linked GPU and display I had been mostly in the 80-95 fps range with very rarely a dip below 60 fps, recently when walking on worlds with particularly dense ground features, I began to see brief dips into the low 40s and occasional stuttering, even when framerates were up in the 70s and 80s. I have a little 7-inch secondary display constantly running on the PC, displaying system monitoring information from the app HWiNFO64, and I noted that the GPU was often not fully loaded, which showed me that I was CPU limited in terms of performance; the Skylake CPU was not able to keep the GPU fully fed. And so, I decided to finally upgrade the PC.
After bringing myself up to speed on the PC CPU landscape out there, and acknowledging that I don’t use this Windows PC for anything but gaming (the performance / efficiency cores proposition offered by Intel therefore not being of interest to me), I decided to upgrade the CPU to a Ryzen 7 7700X, which also meant upgrading the motherboard and system RAM to the DDR5 required by the Zen 4 architecture. I would also stay with Windows 10 Pro 64-bit. (Incidentally, this is the third AMD-based system I have built. The first was a 5×86 160MHz system from 1996, which I rebuilt not all that long ago, and the second was a K6 225MHz system from 1997.)
I posted on the Ars Technica forums asking for advice on making this upgrade and was given much helpful advice and told that if there were a MicroCenter near me (there was) I could get a number of in-store discounts, including a free 32GB DDR5 RAM kit, among others. And, so, I headed to the Fairfax, VA MicroCenter and purchased the aforementioned CPU along with an ASUS B650-A motherboard, a heatsink/fan combo, and a few other odds and ends. All of that in hand (including the free 32GB of DDR5 RAM), I headed home and opened up the gaming PC, swapping in the new parts for the old, reusing the GTX-1080Ti, the Fractal Design R5 case, the EVGA PSU, the optical drive, and my SATA SSDs. I took advantage of a $60 MicroCenter discount and purchased a WD_BLACK NVMe 2TB SSD for just $20 over the price of the 1TB unit to further increase loading speeds in the game. The core component build-out of this upgraded PC presently looks like:
ASUS B650-A ROG Strix motherboard (with WiFi, Bluetooth)
EVGA FTW3 GTX-1080Ti (11GB, factory overclocked)
32GB G.SKILL DDR5-6000 RAM
WD_BLACK SN850X 2TB NVMe SSD
Noctua NH-D15 CPU cooler
If you have a local MicroCenter — by all means use it.
Here, I will note that the GTX-1080Ti is a GPU that was “too good.” Nvidia released it to the market — only shortly — based on AMD’s performance claims about their upcoming Vega architecture … that ended up being exaggerated. Real-time raytracing hardware aside (the GTX has none), the GTX-1080Ti with its 11GB of RAM is approximately equal in performance (chart from Maximum PC magazine, June 2022) to the RTX-2070 Super and the RTX-3060 (but with more RAM), especially with older games — I would not trade it for either. The RTX-2080 is only ~10% faster in most cases. It seemed a foolish idea to consider upgrading the GPU at this time, not to mention — I didn’t have the budget for it.
As we have detailed in severalposts 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.
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.
On the 2nd of September Hello Games released No Man’s Sky Frontiers, one of the largest updates the game has ever seen. It brought a great many additions, including the Settlements mechanic that allows people to run their own Mos Eisley-style city, a massive overhaul to base building comprised of a staggering number of entirely new and very nicely designed construction parts, and many other optimizations and quality-of-life enhancements. I am not going to try and summarize the update here; Hello Games does a pretty good job of that on their website.
Another way that Frontiers enhanced the game is by laying the groundwork for the third community Expedition that many of us had been eagerly awaiting. It’s been a few weeks since it landed and I have finished the mission, which was very enjoyable, as were the previous Expeditions — it’s an expansion to gameplay that I well appreciate.
One aspect of the launch of Expedition 3 that I particularly enjoyed was Hello Games’ inclusion of one of my in-game photos of my current Settlement on a violent, torrid world (shown at the top of this post) in the Expedition 3 release notes. Images created by /u/Consistent_Clock_120, u/BreezySaturn97, u/sByybz, /u/SpaghettiboiDudeMan, u/vestele8, u/tyrannosaur85, @Risbeak, and Zaippi, and myself were featured in the Community Spotlight section of the release page. I am thrilled to say this is the second nod that the creators of our glorious Sci-Fi universe have granted me, the Beyond Development Update 10 from April 2020 featuring a work of pixel-art that I created on a 35 year old Commodore Amiga computer.
I wanted to make a quick post sharing both my excitement for the recent updates as well as my inclusion in the No Man’s Sky Community Update. Thanks for the update as well as the mention, guys!
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.
My daughter, who is very well aware of my more-than-passing fondness for No Man’s Sky, is quite an artist. She enjoys spending a lot of her free time sketching, painting, and otherwise creating (rather unique, in my not so humble opinion) works of art.
For Father’s Day this year, she really put a smile on my face with a card she made for me featuring a watercolor rendering of a dad and daughter pair of blobs.
Now, I know not everyone is a fan of the blob (I’m looking at you ECDMDragon (Discord)…), but I think they’re pretty cute. And clearly the girl does as well.
I thought I would share the “fan art” here and wish a belated Happy Father’s Day to all the other interloper dads across the universe.
A few weeks back, in mid-February, Hello Games released another (free) No Man’s Sky update: Companions, version 3.2. This time around, Sean Murray and his team have given us the opportunity to explore the vast reaches of the universe with a special fauna friend at our sides.
Upon encountering a creature of their liking, players may engage with it and make that beastie their bestie. In fact, players can have a stable of up to six special sidekicks that can be summoned to any planet’s surface or the Anomaly where these precious pets can be shown off to others. Companions will aid players by scouting ahead and discovering resources as well as doing their best to protect their kind keeper during hostile alien encounters. Additionally, one is able to “induce” an egg from their companion, which can be genetically modified in a new Anomaly station or just allowed to run its natural course in delivering a new, bouncing baby companion.
While I always appreciate a new update from Hello Games, and I thought Companions sounded interesting, I didn’t really picture spending too much time with the added features — they’re just in-game pets… A few days (or hours, really) in, however, I was loving it! It was lots of fun warping from system to system, looking for that perfect new companion while picking up some of the most bizarre creatures out there along the way. I finally settled on a pink robotic fellow that I named “Pixel,” whose wild frolicking had me laughing as I ran about new worlds, exploring. In time, however, Pixel produced an egg which I tried my hand at genetically modifying in hopes of creating a smaller robo-companion. Thus hatched “Subpixel,” son of Pixel. And Subpixel is the companion I feel will share in most of my future explorations. We have a delightful time wandering about new worlds, dodging sentinels, or just watching the sun set upon the distant horizon.
As you can see from the above video, Subpixel is a spritely little fellow and it’s a miracle he hasn’t worn out his batteries.
A Look at My “Forever Starship,” Found Way Back in NMS 1.0
On Saturday, October 29, 2016 (at about 9:52am) I found my forever starship. It’s a fighter, of silver and red.
This was in the original release of the game, when crashed ships were everywhere and you could grab one, fly off, find another, and repeat — usually jumping up a notch in slot capacity every time. That dynamic ended a few weeks later, though, when the Foundation update landed.
I present this post as a pictorial of one of the very nicest looking ships I’ve encountered in the game in my nearly 2,500 hours in, but also as a sort-of bug post aid for Hello Games because, as you can see, with the release of Beyond, the wing nacelle color treatment has become anti-symmetric; the color of one wing engine evolved to not match the other over the course of a few updates. I have only seen this in fighters with this particular wing arrangement, known as Wing_K (and quite a few other than mine: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4). I’ve reported the issue to Hello Games via the ticket page, but it is, as yet, unaddressed. [Update: Skel#8634 (Discord) let me know that there is a mod that partially works around this issue, for PC users who want to give it a try.]
It is interesting (this issue aside) to see how the design of a ship’s features has evolved over the nearly four years since No Man’s Sky launched, especially the extraordinary details that have been added in recent updates. With the release of Beyond, the scale of the game’s ships increased significantly, a move necessitated by the addition of VR gameplay. This allowined for greatly more intricate details to be put in place. The ships, today, look incredible and far more refined than they did “at birth.”
▲ No Man’s Sky 1.0x – October 29, 2016▲ No Man’s Sky 1.0x – November 6, 2016▲ No Man’s Sky Foundation – January 15, 2017…
Just a brief post to give my appreciation to Hello Games for featuring my Amiga pixelart drawing in the Community Spotlight section of their latest Development Update. I posted about the drawing in question not long ago on this blog, and apparently, through some avenue, it landed in front of the Hello Games team and was met with fondness.
Yesterday, Sean Murray tweeted out the Development Updates page, and several Twitter followers were quick to alert me to the inclusion of my fan art in their release. It was a lovely thing to see, for me.
It’s always fun to paint on the 35-year-old Amiga 1000, but this sketch wasn’t the first No Man’s Sky project I’ve carried out on this, my favorite of vintage computers. About two years ago I transformed my favorite NMS travel photos to Amiga format images and created a slideshow that ran on this same Amiga. I made a blog post and video of the project and it seems Sean Murray was impressed.
Now all we need is an Amiga port of the game… Well, I’m not going to hold my breath on that one. 🙂
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.
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.