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A Day-One Player’s Opinion on the Procedural Generation of “No Man’s Sky” in 2020

A Day-One Player’s Opinion on the Procedural Generation of “No Man’s Sky” in 2020

Scanning my YouTube feed just a short while ago, I spotted a video that grabbed my attention. The video in question is entitled “My Honest Opinion On No Man’s Sky Current Procedural Generation: A Review In 2020“. Regular readers are surely aware that I have rather strong opinions on the procedural generation in No Man’s Sky and how it has changed over time. As such, I began watching to see what the video’s creator, Thunder (THTDI Inc), had to say about it.

This video spoke to me.

Fifteen minutes later, I sat down to make this post and share a wonderfully succinct take on the current state of proc gen in No Man’s Sky, its effects on exploration (as compared to that of the early days of the game), and how things could be made better for those of us that are interested primarily in exploration, above all of the other gameplay aspects that No Man’s Sky has on offer.

As a day-one player with 2,500 hours in-game, I have shared my wish, on this blog and through various other outlets, that Hello Games let the proc gen engine “off the leash” a bit in order to bring to the universe new worlds that are truly shocking, wildly alien, and, as such, extremely engaging to explore at length. In the pre-NEXT days, such worlds abounded but, as I’ve expressed previously, perhaps to a fault.

While I, personally, find many more stunning vistas in Foundation [v1.1 circa November 2016], I can’t deny that sometimes the terrain is difficult or even downright troublesome. And, the non-stunning worlds can be rather similar and fairly monotonous to encounter. This adds to the intrigue of approaching an unexplored world and wondering just is waiting on the surface as you descend through the atmosphere, because it could be something quite strange and unusual. But, then, it might just look like this.

In order to get back to that wild, no man’s land (…or sky, as it were), I have been playing Foundation 1.1 alongside the current game for the past year or so. (Tips, for anyone interested in doing so). In a post providing an update on that effort, A Progress Update From a “No Man’s Sky” Time Traveler, I concluded that, while the wild, unbounded terrain of olde makes for extremely engaging exploration, the direction that Hello Games went in the NEXT release, where worlds were made more approachable perhaps, was likely a good one for the majority of gamers out there.

Thunder, the creator of the presented video, points out that a few new biomes would indeed add variety, but unless the proc gen is allowed to vary the worlds with a wilder, more random hand, that variety will be limited. I think the ideal would be a combination of the sorts of worlds that we presently enjoy in Beyond, along with new, wilder worlds that are truly aberrant, even eerie.

Recent rumors, alongside an expiration of the patent of the Superformula, have lead to speculation that a proc gen overhaul may be in the works. Time will tell, on that front. Whatever the case, I was eager to share this video with readers and would love to hear the thoughts of others as regards the worlds of No Man’s Sky.

Community Event #27 : A Pearl of a Weekend Quicksilver Quest

Community Event #27 : A Pearl of a Weekend Quicksilver Quest

No Man’s Sky Community Event #27 took place this past weekend on a lush world with skies and grass of blue. The event was centered at the site of a crashed starship. Upon arrival, players found the wrecked hull of the downed ship aglitter with a strange static energy. The sickly smell of scorched hair and flesh emanated through the waves of static. A demand was heard — and a threat. The hunt for Albumen Pearls commenced.

I participated in the event in the early afternoon of Sunday the 3rd and saw much activity on the ground and in the skies as other interlopers labored to quell the demands of the static anomaly. As well, a more than usual number of player bases had been constructed across the surface of the event planet, and other planets in the system. Some of those I visited were quite impressive in their design and construction. And some were well-stocked with a certain, particular type of flora that made things a little easier for those accepting the assistance… (And this weekend, that was me.)

The accompanying video shows some of the highlights of the weekend event, as I experienced it.

It’s great to rake in that Quicksilver, as a player who recently resurrected a two-year-running Eissentam galaxy save file that sat dormant since NEXT landed in 2018, and is trying to secure all the base adornments. But, the real fun of these events, for me, is seeing other players doing their thing, along with the wild bases they inevitably create within the event system.

Community Event #25: A Craving for Cubes

Community Event #25: A Craving for Cubes

This past weekend saw No Man’s Sky Community Event #25. I participated in the early afternoon of Saturday the 18th and was pleased to see a good many other interlopers in the event system, laboring to assuage the hunger of the event planet which, it was revealed, required an offering of Vortex Cubes. This, it seems, was the disturbance detected by Nada and Polo and conveyed by Hesperus.

The event took place on a megaflora planet featuring forests of behemoth, leek-like life forms. Locating Vortex Cubes on this world meant descending into subterranean caves or boring through the very bedrock with the Terrain Manipulator. The task was simple enough and the cravings of the planet were satisfied in fairly short order. During such events, though, it’s seeing other members of the No Man’s Sky community running about the world and, also, visiting the bases that some of them leave behind, that provides the most enjoyment for me.

The accompanying event video shows some of the action during the event and highlights a few of the bases found on the event world and on others in the system that I happened to have visited. I hope readers enjoy the glimpse of the weekend’s activity.

A Tour of My “Sky Island Cottage” Base

A Tour of My “Sky Island Cottage” Base

During the summer leading up to the release of the Beyond update (No Man’s Sky 2.0) in August of 2019, I travelled to a small community hub known as Neo Wanderers (and later as The Masters Association). It is the third player community in the Euclid galaxy that I joined, after the Galactic Hub [ base photo ] and the Korvax Ascendancy [ base photo ]. What I didn’t realize before I set out was just how small a community it was — in fact, on my platform (PC), I was then and am now the only resident in the system.

No matter, however. After arriving at my destination, I explored the planets of the core system and, as I was flying over an orange and blue ocean world, I spotted a small pair of floating rock islands that struck me as the perfect place for a cozy little base. I touched down, wandered through the small patch of trees atop the main floating formation, and began construction of what has become perhaps my favorite of the bases I have created so far in the No Man’s Sky universe.

The floating rock island on which sits the Sky Island Cottage

One of the hallmarks of the base is an extensive use of lighting — both inside and outside the cottage, on the ground, in the trees — extensive. Sadly, when Beyond arrived, the base went dark, and seeing its power and wiring requirements (which is a mechanic I’m glad Hello Games added, actually), I knew the aesthetic of the base would be destroyed if I were to wire it up. And, so, I left the base behind and moved on to other things.

Happily here, nine months later, the recent arrival of the Exo Mech update (No Man’s Sky 2.4) brought with it the Electrical Cloaking Unit that allows the wires that power various base components to be hidden! Noting that, I returned to my Sky Island Cottage, located and tapped into an Electromagnetic Power Hotspot, and went crazy crazy with the wires. And, a few hours later things were as good as new — better, in fact, with some tweaks and additions I’ve added along the way.

I made a walk-through video to have a record this base, in the event that the Beyond update reset the universe. (I didn’t see the wiring thing coming…) That video is shown here, along with a few photos, old and new. I hope you enjoy my build. If you’d like to visit, the base can be found in the Euclid galaxy on PC, in Normal play mode at coordinates 09DC:0082:0DDE:0079. Find a portal and stop in for a visit, why don’t you?

Sky Island Cottage portal glyphs
I’ve Seen Things…In the Living Ship Universe

I’ve Seen Things…In the Living Ship Universe

Since the Living Ship update landed a few weeks back, new living ships and the pulse-driving space encounters have been the hot topic in the No Man’s Sky community. As mentioned in my last post, I eagerly ran through the Starbirth mission and successfully hatched my own living ship. Since then, I’ve spent most of my in-game time warping through a great many different systems, exploring what’s out there in the way of space encounters, and upgrading my living ships as opportunity has permitted.

That’s “ships,” plural; after a few days I decided I wanted to seek out a living ship of a different design, so I purchased a second Void Egg from the Quicksilver merchant and, upon pulsing out of the Anomaly, was contacted by the alien Host who sent me coordinates to a spot on the surface of one of the system’s planets. Upon landing, I found my new living ship gently quivering at its crash site, waiting for me. (The entire Starbirth mission does not repeat when a new Void Egg is acquired, happily).

I passed up the first few ships presented to me, but in just the third or fourth, I found real keeper with which I am very pleased. I have been upgrading it and exploring with it, seeking out new, as yet unseen, phenomenon waiting to be discovered.

Some of these moments of discovery I have put together in a short video, presented here. But be warned — it will be a spoiler if you’ve not yet experienced some of the strange encounters shown within (and I’ve certainly not yet seen all that’s out there to be found in this update).

It’s an eerie place out there, travellers…

A Base Tour from the Last Days of Atlas Rises

A Base Tour from the Last Days of Atlas Rises

When No Man’s Sky NEXT landed back in July of 2018, the universe was “reset.” To incorporate the dramatic changes to the types of planets and their terrain generation, Hello Games rebooted the NMS universe. Leading up to the release of NEXT, we (the player community) saw this coming — it was not a surprise.

Not long before the release of NEXT, I had put the finishing touches on the base I was most proud of up to that point, an orange, multi-level base situated on a mild and picturesque desert planet in the Eissentam galaxy. It was, I think, the seventh base I had created since Foundation v1.1 introduced base building to the game. (Before NEXT, players could have only one base at a time, and they had to be situated at the one-room starter bases randomly speckling the surface of viable planets (which are now the base computers you may have stumbled upon, oddly just sitting in the middle of a field.)) Since I knew that this lovely base may end up at the bottom of an ocean ( [Narrator]: “It did…” ), I decided to make a brief video tour of the place, to remember it by.

A while back I posted a (very) quick and (rather) dirty tour of my third base, located on an extremely harsh ice world. Here I share the desert base that was a casualty of the NEXT update.

Incidentally, when NEXT landed, I restarted the game anew back in the Euclid galaxy, wanting to stay “closer to the action,” what with the multiplayer component having been notably extended. Just a few weeks ago, I dusted off this Eissentam save and have been playing in that galaxy primarily, working to upgrade everything with the new hardware and systems brought by NEXT, Beyond, and the other upgrades. After sitting dormant for a year and a half, I have relocated this base to a current planet (a base capability that came with NEXT) and am exploring outwards from there. Seeing this base reappear in the current game was quite a moment of nostalgia, I can tell you.

I hope you enjoy the little tour of my base in the last days of the Atlas Rises era.

Exploring a Golden, Lush World from Times Past

Exploring a Golden, Lush World from Times Past

As mentioned in earlier posts, I am presently exploring the historical universe of No Man’s Sky Foundation (v1.1, circa 2016) alongside the current universe of No Man’s Sky Beyond. In so doing, I regularly encounter a great many striking worlds — bizarre and spectacular, both — in my travels. I have shared a number of these in earlier posts and in my Back to Foundations photo gallery.

Recently, while exploring the Foundations universe, I set down upon a lush, golden planet that was truly breathtaking. A planet part ocean, the land is covered in vibrant grasses and trees and rises in places to great, craggy heights. I was so struck by the beauty of the world that I wanted to share it with readers, and have captured a bit of footage while just wandering the hillsides. I hope you enjoy.

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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 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.

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