Just as I was about to begin the No Man’s Sky Archaeological Survey (NMSAS) post-mortem report for a project with good intentions that stalled once the team actually began to play the vanilla version of the game, Hello Games released a major update on November 25, 2016 (Thanksgiving in the U.S.), version 1.1, the so-called “Foundation Update.” This update is less Asimov and more about laying the groundwork for future iterations of this procedural universe exploration game. Read the full patch notes. Two major needs for the team have now been met: a) a Photo Mode for photography without any cruft (to supplement those shots where the planet name is included), and b) COORDINATES. More about coordinates in a minute. There are some other cool new toys to play with archaeologically:
With the right resources (typically iron) you can now build Communications Stations/Terminals with your own personal message that sends a subspace signal, which acts like off-world beacons did in the original version of the game. Archaeologists can type in information about their discovery for others to read—think of it as a plaque placed near a monument.
Signal Scanners operate like the older beacons players could find scattered across planets in the original version of NMS. Players can build their own beacons now, and can place them wherever they like. Like those beacons, the new ones contain coordinates so that one can pinpoint their location in the universe and then on a planet’s surface. More about how the “hex” system works can be read via this reddit.
Now that NMS has done away with the old beacons, replacing them with player-built Signal Scanners, players can now build their own beacons, which allow them to PERMANENTLY mark places of interest during their travels. These beacons can be color-coded to indicate the types of things players want to tag. For archaeologists, different colors could signify different ruins types. Note that the beacon blueprints are awarded after following a quest chain in v1.1 that requires you to build your own base, claiming a planet as a temporary homeworld. That’s right: players are now building within the game. While game-placed material culture and built environments are more sporadic in v1.1, and are predictable in placement, shape, and function, player-created bases introduce humans building within various biomes. NMS v1.1 also includes a “Creative Mode” for free-play very much in the spirit of Minecraft, becoming less of a game, and more of a sandbox.
To try these tools out, I first found some ruins (above and below) by correctly answering a number puzzle found in a Korvax observatory. When you do this, a purple “ruins” icon appears on the horizon along with an estimated time of arrival should you be walking or flying.
Arriving at the ruins, I first did a drone-style flyover in my spacecraft, and then landed to photograph the ruins (with Photo Mode OFF first so I could record planet metadata, and then with Photo Mode ON for some pretty shots), and then to video a walkthrough to film each of the three buildings, their graphic elements, and other features (e.g., Gek monumental sculpted head).
Following photography, I set up my suite of three tools just off-site so as to not interfere with the ruins. I set a Beacon to mark the permanent waypoint for this set of ruins.
I then set up a Communications Station to enter basic information about the site (I’ll write more next time).
Lastly, I set up a Signal Scanner in order to learn the coordinates of the ruins. In this case, the coordinates are YANMA:05AD:007D:02A7:00D5. Archaeologists on the NMSAS team can now FINALLY enter coordinates into the FAIMS data management software for proper record-keeping.
I was curious to see how the coordinates changed, so I walked 90 seconds in a straight line opposite the ruins and placed another Signal Scanner. The coordinates were the same, except the first bit: TAGA.
I then walked another leg of the triangle another 90 seconds to place the third Signal Scanner. The coordinates here are the same, excepting the first set, which reads XEDI. It’s comforting to know that coordinates can be fine-grained like these, roughly half a kilometer apart in this test case. This will become important as the NMSAS team places Signal Scanners, Communication Stations, and Beacons near ruins, plaques, monoliths, portals, and buildings constructed by Gek, Korvax, and Vy’keen races. We can begin to determine patterns of placement, which could help forecast where to find similar structures on current worlds, or on those that have yet to be explored.
Note that in v1.11, these non-human structures are considerably more rare than they were in the vanilla version of the game. This makes the game more challenging, and the archaeological data gathered on them all the more important.
Stay tuned for more exploration notes from the Euclid galaxy.
-Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming