Lapidibus Memoriae in No Man’s Sky

Lapidibus memoriae is Latin for “stones of memory.” This is how I describe the communications stations left behind by players in No Man’s Sky. While most of NMS is the product of procedural generation of entire worlds (including material culture), players are able to create their own communication stations wherever they visit, leaving behind a custom message tied to their gamertag (name). This is not unlike pilgrims to holy sites who leave stones, or people on the Grand Tour who left graffiti on ancient monuments. It’s a personal statement and proof of having been somewhere. Comm stations are cheap to build (20 iron, iron being the most widely distributed element in the NMS universe) and are conceivably left for all eternity for others to find and read. Eternity can be brief for these memorials, however, as will be explained at the end of this report.

Part of my archaeological investigation of Drogradur in what is now the Legacy Hub is the documentation of comm stations left at that planet’s portal (and elsewhere in the landscape). On August 11, 2017, the Atlas Rises update (v1.3) disrupted all of the planets in the NMS universe and, in the case of the Galactic Hub and its capital of Drogradur, forced a mass migration to more habitable climes. I wanted to see what was left behind, and comm stations form a major part of documenting that abandonment, although what I found does not support abandonment, but rather rediscovery by players visiting the abandoned Drogradur as tourists. What did people write for others to find? I present here my preliminary findings.

Method

In order to document the portal-centered comm stations, I first took a top-down photo from my ship using the game’s Photo Mode, and then overlayed it with a Cartesian grid in order to assign relative coordinates to the stations below. I then numbered these for record-keeping in a spreadsheet. Here is the grid containing all of the outlying comm stations, the red box indicating a more detailed map (see below). I made this image on March 28, 2018:

No Man's Sky_20180326203339

Wide view of comm stations at Drogradur’s portal (PS4).

Here is the close-up grid with numbered comm stations. North is roughly to the right of the image.

No Man's Sky_20180326203519

Detail view of comm stations at Drogradur’s portal.

In all, I recorded 66 comm stations, 49 of which were quite near the portal, the remaining 17 on the periphery within sight when standing at the portal itself. When visitors arrive at the portal from another planet, they walk from north to south, exiting the portal on the left of the grid as shown above. When players wish to use the portal to go someplace else, they enter the active portal from the northern opening. Note that roughly two-thirds (42) of the comm stations are placed at (or near) the portal’s exit with a near-even distribution to the east and west. The comm stations do not currently display placement date, although some players have included dates in their messages.

Findings

The table below shows the preliminary data collected from each of the comm stations as recorded on April 3–4, 2018:

No. Location    (x, y) Color Placed By Content
1 -12,-3 orange LFCSTE88 Am I too late?
2 -10,-5 orange LordMarkov Greetings from Lord Markov (TSG)
3 -11,0 orange Olut_poika Lazarus .Is.Real.
4 -9,0 orange JakeTheRak Do you know the way
5 -8,-5 orange Hamletsbigtoe Behind you
6 -8,-2 orange WashedZebra Greetings from Auckland, New Zealand
7 -8,-1 blue pictmatrix Have I missed ANOTHER party? :/
8* -7,-3
9 -7,-2 yellow TOUCH-death So am I cool now?
10 -6,-7 orange finnigonis007 What up
11 -7,0 orange PixelLevi Call 911
12 -7,0 red DiamondThief_TDT Did u tuch my spagat
13 -6,0 orange Whyudra Dark Souls is to easy
14 -7,-5 orange Klunk234 Would you kindly? 27/3/18
15 -6,-2 orange annusatronchi They know you are here
16 -5,-3 orange trdnugit11 BTS
17 -4,-7 orange LORDBEN2010 Greetings from Canada, fellow travelers 🙂
18 -2,-5 orange Dahjiit Update on Easter day? April 1st?
19 -1,-5 orange ChemicalLust Melissa says greetings, Travelers!
20 -11,1 orange Tendani2006 Welcome to the Galactic Hub.
21 -11,0 orange vh191 Crap my ship keys. Hi from Norway
22 -9,3 orange cch156 Hi from h***
23 -9,2 orange TheLarssons555 Fullow da queen
24* -9,7
25 -8,1 orange HyperPhlex Hi from Dallas, TX USA 2018/03/05
26* -8,3
27 -8,1 blue TNT_MUSICIAN Hi:) from TNT_Musician.
28 -8,3
29 -6,0 blue MrSager77 2-4-18
30 -6,2 orange sharpmapper Welcome, Traveller, to the Galactic Hub
31 -6,1 orange Wild__Flowers_ We and kardian like you
32 -4,2 orange grizzly1964888 Pokemon go rules
33 -4,3 orange broncojim30 You have found de way my brudda
34 -3,5 orange FitzLC Where TF my ship
35 1,-7 blue Airmailrelic7 Greetings from Brazil!
36 3,-6 orange Rickachay Late to the party
37 4,-2 orange finn6193 Hello my friends I come frome the USA
38 5,-2 purple AlmondJoyattack Disco 4 eva long live ABBA
39 5,-3 green Obi-Won_1977 Greetings fellow traveller
40 6,-6 orange scm1971 Ireland welcomes you.
41 6,0 orange Ramialhilli98 Greeting from iraq
42 7,-1 orange Munnelaus Greetings from Virginia !
43 8,-1 orange insidezout80 Outstanding Vacation!! 5*****
44 9,-7 red w green trim aDanica Hola!! Baja California, Mexico
45 11,-4 orange JeepJones This rocks!
46 2,7 red Azazel0681 Greetings from France – 04/01/18
47 5,5 orange theFrozenGod Welcome! Cinci, Ohio!
48 8,1 orange Goodyman42 Hello from Wyoming, USA
49 9,3 orange DJ_D-Original Sup guy! Greetings from Boston! (^_^)
50 -9,-4 orange LFCSTE88 Am I too late?
51 -8,-2 orange StormNinjahd1 Hello
52 -9,0 orange tdawg099 Tdawg099 wants to join
53 -3,5 orange mat13242 No
54 -3,11 green c112780 Dude. Your high.
55 -2,6 orange HawknBaja WOW !!! Looks like I’m not the first lol
56 -2,12 orange its_a_cigaweed Puff Puff Pass!!!!!
57 3,-8 orange SmeggyFox I’ll be back for breakfast
58 4,-6 purple albi-six Smoke me a kipper skipper
59 6,-3 orange JessicaDaviesxx Live long the NMSRebellion!
60 8,-8 green bonski399 Anyone know new hub adress ???
61 1,4 orange ataricat Toronto, Ontario Canada says HI!
62 0,10 orange ZRayTGZ Greetings from Minot, ND
63 1,10 orange TutorSecond55 I am TutorSecond55. I have many names.
64 4,8 yellow KnightAlese Hail from Alese (TSG)
65 8,5 red jaw43058 This is nice and quiet
66 -12,-5 orange ToninGTA5 On senjaille

* = False read. These are round shrubs, which look like comm stations from above.

Many of the comm stations’ messages contain words of greeting not from the player’s homeworld in NMS, but rather from the players’ actual locations on Earth. The United States holds the lion’s share of location-themed stations from North Dakota to Ohio to Puerto Rico and elsewhere, with others from Canada, Mexico, Europe (France, Norway, UK), South America (Brazil), and Iraq, if the players are to be believed. Players are a mix of genders. Those stations containing dates are a mix of 2017 and 2018, more trending towards March and April 2018.

Two players are tagged with “(TSG)”, which is probably an abbreviation for The Spacing Guild, a group of players in the Federation tasked with helping other players find their way around the universe. Generic welcoming messages are frequent. One player asks for directions. Light humor is present (“where are my spaceship keys?” and “where is my ship?”), pointing to the fact that portal users are restricted to foot-travel until they build exocraft or import their ship/freighter. On occasion, comm stations are placed next to each other to simulate conversation. Station 56 makes a marijuana reference, and station 54 exclaims, “Dude. Your [sic] high.” Both stations occupy a mountain overlooking the portal.

Contemporary meme references also occur. Comm station 12 asks, “did u tuch my spagat?” This refers to the “somebody toucha my spaghet” meme, which made its appearance on December 25, 2017, itself a reference to a 1939 Terry Toons cartoon of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” The Earth-world continues to blend with NMS, and the messages are not unlike graffiti left by citizens of ancient Pompeii, a mix of greetings, names, places, humor, but there is a distinct lack of profanity, likely because of the game’s terms of service, or perhaps this is reflective of the nature of NMS players.

Below are screenshots of every comm station at the Drogradur portal as of April 4, 2018. Click on images to enlarge them:

Anomaly

After completing my survey of comm stations at the Drogradur portal, I remembered one message that greeted me during my first visit to the planet back on September 14, 2017. I recorded a video of it, and the first message was “Yeet.” This message and its comm station are no longer present at the portal. But this is not an isolated incident. Watch the short (50-second) video to see other messages that have since vanished:

 

Messages now lost:

  • Yeet
  • Hello from Colorado!
  • Non sei solo incontriamoci
  • The game
  • Yooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
  • We’re alive in here.
  • Greetings from Puerto Rico
  • Resist!

I do not know if other comm stations are now missing between September 2017 and April 2018. I counted the comm stations in the video (48), and then from March 28 (49) covering the same area, but these could reflect the removal of some stations and the replacement of others.

What might have happened? Players could have dismantled their comm stations over the past six months. Another possibility is that an NMS update removed some/all original comm stations, and the ones that I see now were all placed at the portal within the past few months. My video is from September 14, 2017. On September 15, 2017, Hello Games released patch 1.37. Patch 1.38 was released on October 3, 2017. Either of these patches could have reset comm stations, and I will need to review various user groups and subreddits to see if this was indeed the case. If that’s so, the comm stations that were placed as part of the old Galactic Hub’s farewell party to the capital are gone, replaced by those of more recent visitors who have arrived as tourists to this newly historic digital space.

—Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming

 

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