Returning to No Man’s Sky

I took a break from No Man’s Sky for several months. The emotional turmoil of the 2016 presidential campaign and election took up almost all my “processing power”. Then there was Christmas and some family issues. Finally on January 2, I got back into my spaceship to see what was going on. There had been a big game update called The Foundation Update which added many cool new features such as a choice of play styles (normal, creative mode, survival mode) and the ability to build a home base and modify it. You can even invite NPCs to live with you and work there.

On the other hand, apparently the planet generation algorithm has been tweaked to allow the creation of a wider spectrum of planet types. When I tried to return to planets I had previously visited, they had been changed. Some of their names had been lost (reverted to their original game-generated names) and most of them had different terrain types. I felt sad about the familiar places I had lost.

So I left the past behind and traveled to some new star systems. I was looking for a planet where I could build a base. You can’t build a base on just any planet — it has to be a planet that already has a “habitable base” marker. I had read that if you use “free exploration” mode on the galaxy map, you could travel to stars that were red, green or even blue. These supposedly had increasingly rare resources and increasingly dramatic alien life.

My first trip to a blue star system was a disaster. Each planet was extreme — radiation, heat, cold — and several of them had Sentinels that would attack on sight. I didn’t find any interesting life forms (my main interest) though I did see some extremely weird resources I had never heard of before.

Also, any trips between planets resulted in attacks by other space ships (which disables pulse drive, slowing you to a crawl) or even attacks by Sentinel ships (which I had never seen before). One of these battles was so terrifying that I called my son in a panic and handed the mouse over to him. Even he struggled to survive this battle, exhausting all my shield resources. Eventually he made it down to the planet’s surface, and even there the Sentinels (and their enhanced, robot-like fighters) were beating us to a pulp. He managed to blast off, circle around, and shoot them from above.

Crazy levels of adrenaline, but I left this star system ASAP!

After that I made a hurried survey of about 30 planets. Land, walk around, take some pictures, leave.

Finally I found a planet with a habitable base that was kinda-sorta OK. I really wanted a planet like one of the old ones from before the upgrade. But no luck, and I was getting tired of searching. My planet that I settled for had moderate weather, no radiation, relatively peaceful Sentinels. The terrain was semi-arid and not very diverse, but dramatic storms caused the purple grasses to wave in the wind. There were a few peaceful herbivorous animals. The main problem was almost no resources except for iron. The deposits of iron were hidden in beautiful, colorful caves, well-hidden from Sentinels, so that was a plus.

It began to feel like home. I renamed the planet Northruby because of a huge ruby-like structure to (what I think was) the north.

My new base was equipped with a Teleport terminal. In order to activate it, I had to travel to the nearest space station and teleport back home from there. Amazingly, this process does not expend any resources; even my ship was transported!

I have lost track of the details, but after further faster-than-light-speed voyages, my home teleport offered the opportunity to warp to the space stations I had visited in distant star systems. I set up a work station, then transported offworld to hire a friendly Gek to work at my base. He said that he would love to have company and could I hire more workers? If I gave him certain resources, he could set up a science station for my next employee.

I thought to myself “Fetch quest!” But that’s OK, my Gek friend was charming and it was nice to have company in what had previously been a very lonely universe.

To be continued!

No Man’s Sky meets Mass Effect

In my version of the Mass Effect storyline, Commander Anna Shepard chooses to take over for the Reapers. They relinquish their powers to her, in shame and humility. To the galaxy at large, it seems that the Reapers have been destroyed and Shepard has disappeared. Only Liara knows the truth about what has happened, and she is good at keeping secrets!

Meanwhile, the galaxy has entered a new age of exploration. New alliances are forged.




These are screencaps from NMS that I played around with using GIMP (free art software!) and a Wacom graphics tablet. I’m just getting the hang of GIMP. I know the more I practice, the less awkward it will seem.

No Man’s Sky and Gamer Backlash

I was awakened out of a sound sleep last night by shouting and swearing. It was a gamer.

Let me explain. Once I have fallen asleep, I sleep like a log — but I have trouble dozing off. If I don’t have something to focus my thoughts on, my mind runs like a hamster in a wheel. It has to be something familiar enough to be relaxing, but still interesting enough to stop the wheel from spinning. Sometimes I listen to audiobooks or podcasts; lately I’ve been listening to familiar videos. Noah Gervais is a favorite (I’ve watched or listened to his videos multiple times). Last night I drifted off to his review of No Man’s Sky. But it turns out I had left my You Tube setting on “autoplay”… and so at 4 am I was awakened by someone yelling F-bombs in my ear. It was a gamer, ranting about No Man’s Sky.

I hurriedly hit “X” to close the window; I don’t even know who was speaking. The intensity of the anger was like the shouting I hear when there’s been a car accident in front of our house. Or the way our apartment neighbors used to yell at each other in the months before their divorce.

And I know it’s not just the one guy who is angry.

steam-review-nmsThat’s 65% negative reviews. If you actually READ the reviews, they are enough to blister your eyeballs. The hostility continues in the comment sections after articles (here’s an example at Kotaku). And the Reddit environment is caustic enough to challenge the most extreme of extremophiles.

Even my son, who is normally a soft-spoken person, howled in outrage when I started up the game. Something about the loading screen wasn’t right? I don’t understand. It seemed fine to me.  And as he watched over my shoulder, he kept doing this


This is frustrating for me, though. It’s hard to listen to. I LOVE the game (OK, I loved it more after my son hacked into it and added 2 billion credits to my account). I worry that the negative backlash will make it harder for such groundbreaking games to be produced in the future.

My son and his friends have been gaming since they were 10 and have experienced (I’m estimating) HUNDREDS of games. They are connoisseurs. They have very clear cut ideas on how things should be done.

I’ve had very little experience with gaming, but I’ve been a musician for years. I have clear cut expectations about what an instrument should be like. I have to admit, if I ordered a keyboard instrument online, and instead of this I got this


…I would probably be upset.




But I’d like to think that I could get over my disappointment, put my expectations aside, and at least give the new instrument a try. Noodle around with it. Find out what it actually was good at. Who knows, maybe it was actually something like this?




I hope that instead of dropping F-bombs and howling in outrage, my review would be something like “I wanted a piano, and this sure as hell isn’t a piano. If you were looking for a traditional piano, don’t buy this. But if you would like to try out some groundbreaking new technology, all I can say is…”




Credits and Notes

The colorful “definitely not a piano” thing is by Knock On Wood Quality Wooden Toys.

And for you youngs, the thing with all the knobs and wires is a Moog Synthesizer, which started to become popular around 1967 ( I was about 10). Nowadays the technology has become so mind-bogglingly advanced that the whole thing can be emulated, realtime, in your PC. Whoa. It’s available here



No Man’s Sky — Third Star System — Elfangol, Daubertia

For a more detailed description of these two planets, see here.

I’ve made my second warp jump


To the system Eiyodawak S77, which I renamed Locria, in honor of the Locrian Mode. It has four planets, one of which has a moon.

The first one I encountered was Elfangall Tachig, which I renamed Elfangol RFL.

This is the first planet I have explored that has large bodies of water. From the air it looked like a water planet


…and I imagined something Earth-like. However, Elfangall has high levels of radiation, and arched rock formations that seemed quite “unearthly”.



The pleasant temperature of 22 degrees C ( 71 degrees F) made me want to take off my exosuit, but the radiation level was too dangerous.

The next planet was Batungbara Piptakm, which I renamed Daubertia in honor of a friend of mine who has a PhD in plant pathology. There was a diverse collection of plant-like and fungus-like things here which I’m sure she would have been fascinated with.


However, it was not an easy location to study botany. Within a minute of stepping outside my ship, I saw this


This Therapod-like lifeform (and other species similar to it) it were a constant source of danger. Several times I was attacked the very minute I left the spaceship. I wondered if they were able to see or hear the landing from a distance.


My Favorite Game Reviewers

There are several game reviewers who are responsible for getting this 50+ year old mom into the world of gaming. One is Alex Shaw (and his team of merry friends) who create fascinating, often hilarious podcasts. I LOVE their discussions of the Mass Effect series. Thank you so much Alex, Sharon, and friends for hours of enjoyment.

Dan Floyd of Extra Credits teamed up with James Portnow to give the infamously difficult Dark Souls games a try. Dan’s series, informally known as Dan Sucks at Dark Souls, gave me the courage to try the game myself. I mean really, could I do any worse than this?

Dark Souls # 10 — Loot Runs

Thank you Dan and James for hours and hours of pain despair fun.

And finally, there’s Noah Caldwell-Gervais.

When I was in high school I had a class called “The Rise and Fall of Practically Everything”. The class met for two hours a day and combined history, art, and literature. We wrote essays and term papers and created art projects; in my case I learned calligraphy and made my own illuminated manuscript!

Imagine if the smartest guy in the Rise and Fall class spent hours writing an eloquent, well-thought-out essay, and then used the essay as narration for a video. A video about gaming. That’s what Noah’s videos are like. I feel my brain expanding every time I listen to one. (I treat Noah’s long videos like podcasts, and have them playing while I do something else.)

Thanks Noah for expanding my brain, and challenging me to be a better writer.

Here’s the most recent of Noah’s videos —

No Man’s Sky — Sixty Hours In

One month later — sixty hours in — I’m continuing to enjoy No Man’s Sky. You would think  that a random assortment of planets would make for a story that feels sort of, you know, random. But instead the story feels dramatic, with twists and turns.

For example, after several planets where dangerous “animals” jumped out of hiding and attacked me, this latest planet seemed quiet.

Too quiet.


Welcome to Chadwickia 913!

The first half-hour I spent here, I jumped every time I heard a noise or saw a shadow out of the corner of my eye. I’m finally starting to relax and let down my guard.

I have not yet seen any forms of “animal” life except for these underwater organisms


At one point I saw something deep underwater that looked like bones — a giant ribcage from a huge vertebrate?  Uh oh, if there’s dead ones, there could be live ones nearby…

On closer examination, though, they turned out to be random rock formations, not “ribs” at all.

Are there any life forms here that we would call “animals”? In 3 hours of exploring, the only thing I have found that moved was this curled up plant-worm-scorpion thing. It lashed out at me as I walked by and sprayed me with a mist of toxic liquid.


The Toxic Squirt is the coiled up spiral thing on the far right.

Could this be one of the few underwater “animal” life forms that made it onto the land? Or is this a specialized plant, more like a Venus Fly Trap?



No Man’s Sky and the “Explorer’s Mod”

When I first heard about No Man’s Sky, my initial reaction was “Cool, an exploration game! I really enjoyed the exploration in Mass Effect; I just hope there isn’t too much combat in this game. Combat is so boring”.

Unlike so many other people, I was not disappointed in No Man’s Sky. I was hoping for hours of exploration and very little combat — so the game has greatly exceeded my expectations.

HOWEVER, I do have a special mod to my game, let’s call it the Explorer’s Mod, which improves the game a lot — makes it much less “grindy”.

To get the “Explorer’s Mod”, all you have to do is edit the memory of your game (in my case, I asked my son to do it) and add two billion credits to your account.



Think of it as a research grant.

No more mining for resources while hiding from sentinels! No more shuffling items in my inventory! Now I can focus on what’s really important —  to explore, take photographs of landscapes and lifeforms, and to catalog new species. Along with this scientific mission there are responsibilities. I have to find blueprints for the best technology, and learn how to use them.  I have to figure out how to use the navigation system…try to avoid getting lost…again.

Part of the Explorer’s Mod Research Grant is the constraint “DO NOT KILL ANY CREATURES”.  Not even in self-defense. And ever since the time I saw a clump of “mushrooms” get up and run away, I haven’t killed any “plants” either.

It’s great not having to worry about money, but there are still many challenges. Here I am trying to take one more picture of a new species before my shields fail.


In that case, it was not a good decision.




Another challenge is the calculation “Do I have enough resources with me to go to that area over there on foot, or should I run back to my ship before I freeze to death?”

And, I have had to bargain with dozens of aliens in order to find the ship that had the technology I wanted. This was a slow process that took endless patience. Although, I have to admit, it was great to be able to afford whatever caught my eye. (Don’t you just love that new starship smell?)

Wealth does not solve all my problems — it appears that some resources are not for sale. I need Emeril to construct a shield upgrade — but I couldn’t find it in any of the space stations; no fellow travelers had any for sale either. My research grant doesn’t help me here. I really will have to brave the Sentinels and mine for Emeril myself.

Another challenge is Space Pirates. In this case, I have broken the rule “do not kill any creatures”.


I’m hoping it’s possible to improve my shields so much that shooting pirates is no longer necessary.