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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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Jeff Minter Names “No Man’s Sky” as His “Game Of A Generation”

Jeff Minter Names “No Man’s Sky” as His “Game Of A Generation”

“On the eve of the next generation” of game consoles (the new Sony PS5 and Microsoft Xbox Series X), Edge magazine, in issue #352 (Christmas 2020 issue), is running an article entitled “Games Of The Generation.” The piece includes a variety of industry notables sharing their pick of a game released since the arrival of the PS4 and Xbox One worthy to receive this title.

The list is comprised of 20 games, their advocates describing their reasons for bestowing such singular note upon them. Some are extremely well known — Red Dead Redemption 2, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Ico — while others are less so. And among them is Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky.

“…our Games Of The Generation awards go to the crème de la crème — those Edge has judged to represent the pinnacle of game design as we know it today.”

Within, legendary developer and founder of Llamasoft, Jeff Minter, has named No Man’s Sky his Game Of The Generation. With a development career that began in 1981 with titles for the Sinclair ZX80 micro, Minter is known for a great many (and frequently psychedelic) titles across many platforms, including 8 and 16-bit Ataris, C64, Amiga, Nuon, PC, iOS, Xbox 360, and PS4. Some of his most notable titles include Gridrunner; Hover Bovver; Attack of the Mutant Camels; the Virtual Light Machine/Neon; Space Giraffe; Tempest 2000, 3000, 4000; TxK, the iOS Minotaur Project; and Polybius. Additionally, he has long been one of this writers’ true industry heroes.

Jeff Minter explains why No Man's Sky is his game of a generation.

Soon after the launch of No Man’s Sky back in 2016, Minter began tweeting his enjoyment exploring the wild and alien, procedurally generated worlds that Hello Games had brought into being. A post on his blog from September 2106 (don’t let the title fool you) expresses the degree to which the game had impressed him. (His post was included in a list of articles reacting to No Man’s Sky on the first post made from this blog, “A Few Words About the Best Game I’ve Ever Played: ‘No Man’s Sky’”, on September 1, 2016.)

A brief excerpt from Minter’s assessment of No Man’s Sky (shown in full, above), follows.

Regarding a ‘game of the generation’, I think for me it’d have to be No Man’s Sky. Even back at the very start when there wasn’t a great deal of complex gameplay in it (and the developers were taking a right kicking for that), nonetheless I thought the style was fantastic (recreating almost perfectly the style of 1970s sci-fi book covers) and remarkably creating an explorable universe in that style was quite an amazing achievement. …

This nod from industry veteran Jeff Minter is mighty kudos, indeed, for Hello Games and the universe they have created with No Man’s Sky. And, thinking about it, this seems a rather apt post to have put together on Thanksgiving Day!

A New Traveller Describes His Enchantment With the “No Man’s Sky” Universe

A New Traveller Describes His Enchantment With the “No Man’s Sky” Universe

YouTuber Ben Is Bread recently posted a video entitled Why I Needed No Man’s Sky, in which he shares his experiences playing the game after downloading it for the first time several weeks ago. Being a gamer who has run an active YouTube game channel for several years, Ben was well aware of No Man’s Sky and the travails of its launch, but had never stepped into its universe until recently. (And it’s worth noting that the video was published a week before the Origins v3.0 update landed, notably enhancing variation within the game.)

I don’t feel like I’m just playing or going through No Man’s Sky, I feel like I’m actively engaging and experiencing it … At the end of the day I feel something playing this game.

The video spoke deeply to me and certainly resonated with my own feelings surrounding the game. That you are reading this post on my No Man’s Sky blog, you probably have some idea of the regard I have for the game.

And, so, I wanted to share this video with those who feel likewise, as well as those who have not yet had the chance to see how they feel about No Man’s Sky.

What kept me constantly fascinated with this game was the joy and satisfaction I found in discovering and exploring the crazy hostile and beautiful worlds this game creates… There were just so many points in my journey where I would stop exploring, stop mining, stop looking for materials and — just take in the experience. No one else had ever been here. No one else had ever stepped on this planet and seen what I’d seen.

For right now, in a stressful and confusing time, where so often we can feel trapped and helpless, it’s incredible to be able to explore, to discover, to have curiosity and wonder what lies just over the horizon…

Related link:

Does Expired Patent of the “Superformula” Tie to Rumors of More Alien Worlds in “No Man’s Sky”?

Does Expired Patent of the “Superformula” Tie to Rumors of More Alien Worlds in “No Man’s Sky”?

[ NOTE: This post contains references to allegedly leaked information about upcoming versions of the game and, as such, should be viewed as a spoiler post. Be warned. ]

On June 5th, Hello Games updated the Steam (PC) Experimental Branch of No Man’s Sky with an update several gigabytes in size. (The Experimental Branch is a beta version of the game that Steam players can opt into in order to see the latest features and help Hello Games work out the kinks by providing feedback and bug reports.) The patch notes for this release say only:

  • Replaced networking back end.
  • Upgraded to OpenVR 1.10.30.

Upon receiving this update, Experimental Branch players began seeing little platform icons attached to players wandering around in the Anomaly (a networked area of the game). Hello Games also released this beta version of the game (or a similar version) for the Xbox One via the Xbox Insider Hub, a Microsoft service that allows users to opt into betas, akin to Steam’s beta option. Players on both platforms running these betas are seeing each other, with appropriate platform icon, in the Anomaly at the same time. This, along with a host of platform icons discovered in the beta release by data miners, clearly speaks to some level of cross-platform gameplay on the way.

Now, since May 19th we’ve known that new content of some sort was on the way, thanks to a tweet from author / scriptwriter Greg Buchanan who was behind the (great) Artemis storyline from 2017’s Atlas Rises update to No Man’s Sky. On May 29th, Hello Games posted the Beyond Development Update 11 page on their website, detailing a number of new things going on in the game, including mention of a content-related hiatus to the weekend missions.

Beginning this weekend, there will be a short pause between seasons of weekend missions. These will be returning very soon, featuring new story content we’re really enjoying from one of the writers on Atlas Rises.

(There actually was a mission this past weekend, but it appears that it may have been a test of the new networking back end / cross-play and only visible to those running beta versions on Steam and Xbox One.)

The following day, an anonymous post appeared on 4chan (let me pass the salt) entitled “No Man’s Sky summer update leaked details.” Within, the poster claims that according to his/her source, a content update is imminent and that it will tease out details of what is to come in a larger summer update. I am not going to print all of the details that were mentioned, here, but will say that what caught my particular interest is the suggestion that this coming update is “heavily focused on pro[c]gen” (procedural generation), with the indication,

…my source has told me that hello games have been working on ambitious things with their procgen and will improve terrain diversity and formations. new biomes will be introduced & more “alien” planets.

Additionally, data mining efforts of Procedural Traveller on the June 5th PC Experimental release reveal several findings that seem to backup the notion of new biomes on the way. (It is worth bearing in mind, however, that there are some items found in the data from even years past that have not come to fruition in the game.) Also, a number of mild visual / rendering changes have already been observed by myself and others in the PC Experimental version.

The reason that this struck a chord with me is the fact that just last month, the patent for the “Superformula,” created by Belgian biologist Johan Gielis, expired.

The Superformula (image: Johan Gielis / Botanical Society of America)

The Superformula is, as Gielis describes it, “A generic geometric transformation that unifies a wide range of natural and abstract shapes.” It is basically a modified take on an equation that describes a unit circle. The equation contains a number of variables and the geometric shape that it generates depends on the particular combination of values plugged into it.

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“No Man’s Sky Living Ship” Brings Organic Ships…And Oddities…To the Universe

“No Man’s Sky Living Ship” Brings Organic Ships…And Oddities…To the Universe

Yesterday, Hello Games unexpectedly released a significant update to No Man’s Sky in the form of “Experimental Branch Update 18/02,” the details of which they posted to the Steam community discussion forum, as per usual with updates on the PC Experimental branch of the game. The list of changes was long, bringing significant quality-of-life improvements as well as performance optimizations for both standard and VR display modes. (Some players have observed changes in certain flora rendering, as well as several worlds that have changed color.) It didn’t take long, however, for the community to realize just how significant an update Hello Games quietly dropped, here…

Bizarre Living Ship in space

As PC Experimental branch players (such as myself) began to land in the Anomaly, they encountered extremely unusual, heretofore unseen organic crafts landing on the pads. What’s more, flying through space, we began being contacted by these strange “living ships” which broadcast to us pure music, to which our void eggs resonated in response, translating the melodies into navigation coordinates… And, so began the update’s new quest line.

It was quite clear that Hello Games, with “Update 18/02,” had stealthily deployed an enormous update to No Man’s Sky. As we began tracking the tonally-conveyed galactic coordinates and following the new quest line, we encountered strange and enormous crafts and structures drifting through space as we flew planet to planet and system to system. The first that I happened to encounter, in a lovely pink-hued system (above), was identified as a “Living Metalloid.” What was the nature of these extraordinary objects? None of these things were mentioned in the patch notes posted to Steam… Just how much was waiting unannounced out there? We continued to explore and share findings on the Discord. It made for a surreal sort of evening.

Things became rather more clear when today, announced in a tweet by Sean Murray, Hello Games officially released No Man’s Sky Living Ship, update v2.3 (presently available on all supported platforms).

Explore space from a different perspective with the Living Ship update. Introducing a new class of biological ship, a new story mission, mysterious space encounters, space NPCs and more.

Like all major updates of the game, Living Ship has a highly-visual release page on the No Man’s Sky website, detailing and illustrating much of what has been added to the game, along with a fascinating trailer video with a Rutger Hauer / Blade Runner-inspired voice over. [ Update: It turns out the voice over is Rutger Hauer, and it was created by him for No Man’s Sky before his passing. ] And “much” is indeed the word.

After following a new series of missions, “Starbirth,” players will be introduced these new procedurally-generated, sentient starships, of which there are dozens. The “Call of the Void Egg” quest line will allow players to grow and, ultimately, fly their own living ships. Traveling through local space will now bring chance encounters with the aforementioned strange, new objects as well as space NPCs hailing for a trade…or possibly something less desirable.

The No Man’s Sky Living Ship page goes into detail on these and many other new aspects of this major update. Hello Games’ chief, Sean Murray, discusses the thoughts behind the Living Ship upgrade and what lies ahead in a recent GamesRadar+ interview.

“No Man’s Sky” Wins Excellence in VR Adaptation Design Award for 2019

“No Man’s Sky” Wins Excellence in VR Adaptation Design Award for 2019

Road to VR award graphic

No Man’s Sky has won Road To VR‘s Excellence in VR Adaptation Design Award for 2019 in the publication’s third annual Game of the Year Awards.

Road To VR indicates that games ported to VR often come out wanting, due to aging game engines or a lack of commitment to fully realize the VR experience. They salute Hello Games’ work in delivering the full experience to VR with all the bells and whistles intact.

… Here, No Many’s Sky bucks the trend by presenting a fun and fully-playable VR mode, which thankfully came to all users this summer for free as a part of the base game on PC or PlayStation 4. The VR mode is basically exactly what you’d imagine from No Man’s Sky in VR; blasting off into space is magical, exploring planets is awe inspiring, riding around in exovehicles is really awesome. It also looks great too, as the rich and vibrant universe demands even more inspection from the immersive viewpoint of a VR headset. …

No Man’s Sky chief Sean Murray recently acknowledged the win in a retweet of the award results.

Other kudos that Hello Games’ work on No Man’s Sky has garnered over the past year include winning the Game of the Year 2019—Best Ongoing Game award and the Game of the Year 2019: Best VR Experience award.