[UPDATE: Several people on Reddit have commented that what I report is a well known glitch that Hello Games has yet to fix. The glitch was new to my experience as a player, but it’s interesting to see that it has happened to many other players, specifically when landing too close to a landscape feature or monolith.]
As an archaeologist interested in video games, I consider glitches (aka gamifacts) to be archaeological artifacts, something rare/unusual that a game gives up when the code doesn’t work as intended. On Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, I found a pretty awesome glitch in No Man’s Sky v1.13 on my PlayStation 4.
Planet Peerenste Zentak is one of four moonless planets in an O-class system, Dokudalire-Usa, in the Euclid Galaxy. I touched down at a transmission tower, retrieved a distress call from a downed spacecraft, and then flew to its location. The spacecraft was located inside a small depression/crater with a small cave opening to one side. By luck/accident, I landed my ship so that the cockpit/canopy broke the barrier of the crater wall, allowing access to part of the cavern system that was not the official entrance.
As soon as I stepped out of my ship, I immediately fell maybe a few hundred meters into a circular, water-filled abyss. Sustaining no damage, I looked up to see the planet’s cave network above me in the sky (top image). I could also see the bottom of my ship, and of the crashed spacecraft with its debris field (see image below). Here I was in the Upside Down* of No Man’s Sky.
I swam to the surface and tried to jetpack up to the caves, but could only get about halfway before exhausting my fuel. I also tried lobbing grenades into the water below or into the caves above, but without any effect. The only way to return to my ship was to die, so I swam downwards, running out of oxygen and life support in the process. I never reached the bottom of the watery abyss, dying a couple of minutes into the dive.
Respawning atop my ship, I could jetpack safely to the nearby wreckage, but my corpse remained in the abyss (according to the symbol on my HUD and on the ground. I went back to my ship and was able to recreate the glitch, falling into the abyss again, but was unable to reach my lost inventory far below me, out of sight.
I respawned again atop my ship, and decided to film the glitch. This first video shows how the glitch appears from in front of the canopy. That circle you see is the abyss I fell into:
The next video shows me trying to jetpack away from the glitch, but I am clearly stuck. You can see me break the barrier to the caverns in seconds 10 and 11 before plunging into the abyss:
The following video shows me trying to jetpack out of the water to get back to the cave system, but failing. You can see the curvature of the tubes as well as the stalactite and stalagmite features, and where they should be anchored. Another planet hovers in the distance:
I shot the final video underwater where you can see the spherical “bottom” of the abyss, which I’m guessing leads straight to the core. You can also see a brilliant star, another planet, and the complex maze of caves up above:
I was unable to recover any of my corpses/inventory, was unable to reach the bottom of the pit, and was also unable to re-trigger the glitch by taking off and landing my ship in a similar spot.
What I discovered, however, about No Man’s Sky from the bottom up was that there are several cave systems at least on this planet, and that they are not connected, varying in shape, size, and depth, but only by small degrees. Their organization seemed to be organic, with shapes behaving naturally thanks to the procedural generation algorithm(s). Perhaps the most interesting thing was that the planet’s mantle was water(y), with an ambient temperature suitable for a human swimmer (without relying on the suit’s built-in protections). I wonder if this is true of all worlds in the game, and if the liquid center has some kind of function regarding rotation/orbit (likely not, but who knows). I could not see anything resembling a core, and it is unknown just how far down the mantle goes.
I’ve seen other glitches in No Man’s Sky before, but nothing of this scope and scale. Some of the best archaeological discoveries are accidental, and this is no exception.
*The Upside Down is a reference to a place in the Netflix original series, Stranger Things.
—Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming and the No Man’s Sky Archaeological Survey