The Cave of Forgotten Comm Stations: Excavating an Abandoned Base in No Man’s Sky

 

No Man's Sky_20180429072941

Plan of Communication Station Placement on “Pepper Dusk”, April 29, 2018

Introduction

I wonder what Werner Herzog would have to say about this project, visiting the abandoned site of a human-created base on a synthetic world, recording the locations and text of dozens of messages left behind by tourists just before a massive climate change event forced the population of this once-lush region of the galaxy to relocate to the stars. In his 2010 documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Herzog films inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France to document humanity’s oldest known pictures.

Here on Biorinerth ML518 in the procedurally generated universe of No Man’s Sky, we have the oldest (and only) settlement in the system, one surrounded by “drop pods” from 64 unique guests as well as the settler himself, Syn1334. The settler is no ordinary homesteader, but is rather the creator of the original Galactic Hub, home to hundreds of players conducting exploration and citizen science within this nearly infinite game. What better place to excavate than here in the Einhander system, conducting the archaeological equivalent of what might equate to Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home. I received written permission from Syn1334 prior to proceeding with the project.

This report is split into two parts, the first concerning Syn1334’s base, and the second regarding the “Cave of Forgotten Comm Stations,” and there are two appendices containing complete data and images. But first, one needs an introduction to Biorinerth ML518, known to the Galactic Hub community as “Pepper Dusk.”

The Current Landscape and Climatology of Pepper Dusk

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A “diplo” on Pepper Dusk, April 2018.

Pepper Dusk is one of four planets in the system “HUB-G-214 Einhander (6mDiplos, My Home) System//K4f” found in the Kogii Shallows region of the Euclid galaxy, a region that is part of what is now called the Legacy Hub (formerly Galactic Hub).

Planet Coordinates: 0468:0081:0D6E:0214
Portal Coordinates (from my signal booster): EUCO:0468:0081:0D6E:0214
Portal Coordinates (glyph address): face face bird moon pie face balloon ship triangle tent ship nebula

Circumference: ca. 8 minutes (480 seconds) at 4756u/s = 2,282,880u or ca. 2,282ku (exactly the same as Drogradur)
Diameter: ca. 726ku
Volume: 2 x 108 u = 200,358,829u

Distance from Syn1134’s base to the portal: ca. 45ku/27mi (9 hours @ 5ku/hr pace)

Pepper Dusk is now an isotopic planet where one can find the rare materials Gamma Root, Rubeum, Nickel, and Heridium. I write “is now” because when the “Atlas Rises” patch (v1.3) was released, it reset the universe, changing the climate and topography of each of the quintillion planets in the game. What was once a stable, livable world is now radioactive and victim to vicious storms of radioactive dust. As with every planet in No Man’s Sky, the landscape is heterogeneous across the globe: modest-to-moderate, largely subtle (not craggy) mountains and mesas/valleys are pierced with shallow caves. The ground is a mix of pink and green rock. Valleys and mesas contain occasional tall, entwined stalk plants with bulbous, green tops. Other green, yellow, and red plants are frequent and low to the ground. Mushrooms are common. Shelter is limited to caves because mountains leave one exposed. PCG-placed structures are rare and require a spaceship or exocraft to reach safely without exposure to the dust storms that bring extreme radiation.

Sentinels are “relaxed” but curious. Flora is classed as “generous” with “copious” fauna. Animals are everywhere with two of the 13 species hostile to people. Common resources include iron, titanium, carbon, thamium9, plutonium, platinum, and cave marrow.

The climate is arguably pleasant until the storms come. Interiors are a comfortable +66.2º F while exterior temperatures vary between +42.8ºF and +101.2º F, 6.6–7 Rad, 12.3–16 Tox. While it gets slightly cooler at night, Tox and Rads increase. Storms last around 4 minutes and appear about every 15 minutes, which limits any archaeological time outside (although caves provide protection). Storms bring the temperature to +77.7º F with 0.7 Tox and a devastating 9.9 Rad.

Days (sunrise-to-sunrise): 1 real-time minute = 45 Biorinerth minutes
32 real-time minutes = 1 24-hour Biorinerth day
Dawn: 0400 local time
Dusk: 1800 local time

Fauna: 11/13 species (9 are vegetarian): Iabumimae Thlamp (rare), Ubriaea Thlamp (rare) (Diplo aka dinosaur), Vaputeuseum Enrec (uncommon), Rigyronaeum Ganella (common), Atarelisum Ganella (common), Sagiagimae Ganella (uncommon), Unumosae Lebez (uncommon), Kroppagoea Lebez (uncommon), Fadiumus Faid (common): Discovered by SilfenPaths, Sacrumus Faid (common).

As of this writing, 16 Waypoints have been discovered by several people. These waypoints were logged between April 11, 2017, and Aug. 6, 2017. This last date is important because the Atlas Rises update was released on August 11, 2017, and signifies an abandonment of the planet after August 11th.

Syn1334’s “Peaceful Pepperbase”

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Peaceful Pepperbase, April 2018

Syn1334’s player base is publicly visible to people playing No Man’s Sky on PS4, but it is not in its original location, a glitch that I describe below. When I arrived in the Einhander system, on April 22, 2018, I was notified that Syn1334’s base had been located. Flying down to Pepper Dusk’s surface, I noticed several dozen comm stations clustered under a mesa. No base was visible, but the base flag icon pointed to a spot in the center of the mesa. I placed a signal booster in order to get the coordinates of the base, and also placed a comm station (“NMS Archaeology 22 April 2018” which has since disappeared) and beacon.

As I walked across the mesa, I pointed my multitool at the flag icon until I was atop it. The legend still indicated one second to go, which I interpreted to mean “down.” I headed into the caves to read a few of the comm stations, a few of which were dated by their inscriptions to mid-2017, before version 1.3 launched. Other comm stations are apparently underground, and at least one is in the air out of jetpack reach, only readable/reachable by ship.

From the vantage point of my signal booster, I scanned for natural resources, and in doing so inadvertently conducted a remote sensing event. Immediately a circle of purple icons appeared indicating valuable resources buried under the mesa surrounding the base flag icon. This is not a naturally occurring shape in the game, and helped establish a footprint of the base that had been buried in v1.3. This is not unlike identifying crop marks during aerial reconnaissance of a site/landscape, and showed me where to dig.

No Man's Sky_20180422230647

Crop marks from Grezac (Wikimedia Commons) and underground base footprint.

As it happens on other excavations, I ran out of time (I needed sleep) before I could continue my initial reconnaissance to form a strategy for formal investigation, resolving to revisit the following day. I established a save-point before leaving the planet by activating the beacon, which is what I believe caused the glitch of the base moving to another location (see below).

Returning to the mesa on April 23rd in order to photograph and map it prior to excavating the base, I saw with unease that the mesa was no longer empty. Instead, a generic, round base unit sat atop it. A resource-scan showed no sign of any buried structure. The comm stations all remained in place, however. Entering the base unit, I recorded its name (Locri), and noted that it was a “habitable base” meaning no player had claimed it yet. Following the codes of ethics followed by the No Man’s Sky Archaeological Survey and by the Galactic Hub, I did not claim the base, which would have wiped out any archaeology on the planet, if not the entire system.

No Man's Sky_20180423203732

Newly appeared base unit, post-save, atop the original Pepperbase location.

On the horizon, Syn1334’s base flag had moved to the opposite pole from where I stood. I flew halfway around the world to the base’s location to see it sitting directly on the flat landscape in perfect condition. There was no longer a need to excavate it. I took a quick tour of the base on foot and found a domed structure containing a ring of rare plants growing in hydroponic planters. The number of plants and the shape of the ring matched what I scanned in the landscape at the original location on the previous day. The base contained one anomaly, however. In v1.2, players could add a racetrack to their worlds for time trials of wheeled vehicles (exocraft). In this example (“Sgt. Pepper’s Cicuit,” the pylons indicating the racecourse hung in midair fading into the horizon, making the course impossible to navigate. The suspended pylons only went so far, which led me to believe that the rest of the racetrack was back at the base’s original position. This turned out not to be the case.

It would appear that by performing an explicit save on an occupied planet at the site of another player’s base and then logging out, that the game moved the player’s base to another, unoccupied location. This had an unintended effect on the archaeology of the planet. As I would discover, several of the abandoned comm stations had messages along the lines of  “nice base,” indicating that Syn1334’s base was indeed moved from its original location by the game based on my action of performing an explicit save on the ground nearby.

On April 24th, I returned to Peaceful Pepperbase to conduct an inventory and shoot a video walkthrough. I also photographed the interiors and exterior of the complex. I revisited the trail of race track pylons leading into the ground, and dug a test pit using my multi-tool’s Terrain Manipulator function to see if I could find a buried pylon, but the pit was sterile.

No Man's Sky_20180424213014

Sterile test pit with race track pylons leading into it.

I was visited briefly by Zaz Ariins who is identifying locations of heritage sites within the Legacy Hub. He wanted to build a monument, but I declined because it would disturb the archaeology (even though the base had moved to this new location). He understood, and there were no hard feelings.

Prior to documenting the base, I attempted to reset the base location to its original spot by warping to a new system, saving on a new world via beacon, and then warping back. My first attempt to fly to the planet afterwards crashed the game, but the second attempt allowed me to land; however, the base was still in its new location.

Inventory of Peaceful Pepperbase

Landing pad next to race track start: Entrance heading west from pad into the main building.
Main building, south wall: 4 hydroponic trays growing solar vines. Door in between trays 2 and 3.
Main building, north wall: three bay windows and a table topped with a lantern flanked by two chairs.
Main building, east wall (l to r): science terminal, 3 bay windows behind three empty hydroponic trays. Galactic Trade Terminal (Outpost 7-I-5/3), functional.
Main building, west wall (l to r): Exit to landing pad. “Mudroom” with botany station at far right. Random grid computer display. Weapon rack with four weapons (two blasters and two rifles). Circular entry to botany station.
Main bulding, center of room: 4 hydroponic trays arranged in a square with NipNip Buds
Main building, decals on the southern wall (exterior) l to r and then bottom to top: red star, green “fatty,” green ensign, white ensign, blue ensign, “Pokemon,” and top center is 7101334, which is Syn1334’s personal identifier.

Dome immediately south of western landing pad:

Door with “Pokemon” decal flanked on outside by decorative health (left) and shield (right) stations.
Inside: to left of door, exocraft station. Then clockwise: Habitable Base station, “Dersematc-Huel Base”, teleporter (non-functional), previous base item cache terminal, Architect Nuanni (Korvax blueprint trader station).
Up the central ladder: 16 NipNip Buds planted in a hydroponic stream around the inside of the dome.

Immediately southwest of the dome is a Nomad exocraft bay (functional)

Southern structure:

Patio in front of door. To right, table with six chairs. To left, table with three chairs.
To right of door on wall is a green emblem.
To right of door (looking outside), two hydroponic trays with Echinocactus. Then clockwise: entry to curved corridor, terminal with message module (when near it, “Message Module” appears on-screen in large text, table with four chairs and a plant on top, entry to curved corridor, another table with plant atop it and three chairs.
Corridor to left: goes to small domed room with a table and two chairs and a plant. Door is flanked by two NipNip Buds in a circular hydroponic reservoir.
Corridor to right: leads to a domed room encircled by rare plants (clockwise from the doorway): Albumen Pearl Orb, NipNip Buds, Mordite Root, NipNip Buds, Gamma Weed, NipNip Buds, Frostwort, NipNip Buds, Venom Urchin, NipNip Buds, Coprite Flower, NipNip Buds, Gravitino Host.

East: Race Track Terminal

No Man's Sky_20180424214347

Center of complex: NMS diamond Atlas sculpture

Racetrack beacons head north from the complex up into the sky and around to the east.

Peaceful Pepperbase is on a plateau on a mountainside dotted with short iron pillars, tall green, bulbous plants on twisted, thin stalks, spider plants, carbon-based dodecahedral plants, and four varieties of four-legged and flying fauna. More race track pylons are set into the hillside, leading up the old topography, sometimes hanging in space. A column of blue heridium is roughly south of the complex.

In an email that night from Zaz Ariins, he wrote:

Interestingly that’s not the final base build. Syn1334 waited something like four months for it to update but it never did. The build you see now is the same one I saw when I first visited some 10 or so months back so, as much as Syn1334 may recognise his base as something else, that man-shaped build of his is the iconic one for the system (and possibly the Legacy Hub’s real ‘capital’ build).

After completing my survey of Peaceful Pepperbase, I checked what I had found against a picture of the original base, which was recorded on the No Man’s Sky wiki, its page created in May 2017. This image reflects the version of the base I saw. A scan of the side of the hill on which the base now rests revealed the same pattern of purple (rare) icons that I saw when first visiting the planet, pre-save.

The Cave of Forgotten Comm Stations

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The Cave of Forgotten Comm Stations, April 2018

On April 26, 2018, I catalogued all 62 of the communication stations at the old location of Syn1334’s base (see Appendix 1 below for the full data table, and Appendix 2 for photos of every comm station), as well as three “outliers,” pods placed elsewhere on the planet.

No Man's Sky_20180429072709

Communication Station Icons surrounding the original site of Peaceful Pepperbase.

This involved video recording the excavation of the pods as well as taking screen captures of them in situ (pre-excavation) and when they were activated to reveal their authors and messages. I recorded the location of each pod in relation to the fixed point of the base unit on the nearby mesa, as well as by walking-time, which displays when an icon is viewed at a distance. In NMS, walking speed is a constant for all players.

IMG-1478

My notebook containing a rudimentary map of comm station placements

While more than half of the comm stations were sited within a large cave nearby (I later learned from Syn1334 that Hub residents referred to the place as the “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”) many units were buried underground courtesy of the realignment of the planet’s topography by version 1.3. To excavate the pods, I used the “Terrain Modifier” feature on the multi-tool, which allows one to dig through most surfaces (excluding bedrock). After locating a buried pod, I would return to the surface and use the same tool’s “creation” feature to create a thin pylon of rock to serve as a flag, not unlike how one flags artifacts as part of a survey. Unfortunately the game glitched and crashed, wiping out many of these “flags;” I was, however, able to map the drop pod locations.

No Man's Sky_20180426093219

“Flags” at excavation pits.

Elevation was difficult to judge, but most terminals are in a relatively level area approximately 10 m below the base unit, which makes sense when one considers that these would have been placed near the base itself on the flat plateau as seen in the original image from May 2017. One can read the original topography based on comm station placement. In fact, one drop pod remains suspended in the air, accessible only by ship, which means that it was on a mountain slope no longer present in April 2018.

35% of the drop pods contained their dates of placement, and some even indicated features of the base or of the landscape that are no longer visible post-patch. These help establish a date of when the base was abandoned, when players stopped visiting, and what the world was like pre-“Atlas Rises.”

Dates

CommStnTimeline

23 of 65 drop pods (35%) contain dates). Atlas Rises (v1.3) was released on August 11, 2017. The dates range from five in April 2017, seven in May, four in June, four in July, and two in August. The first comm station, which established a Terminus Post Quem, is dated April 14, 2017 (corresponding to the “Pathfinder” update released in March 2017 with its final update v1.24 released on March 27, 2017). “Pathfinder” enabled base-sharing, where players could allow their bases to be seen and visited by other players. The Terminus Ante Quem dates to August 9, 2017, two days before “Atlas Rises” reset the universe. No dated comm stations appear until April 2018 with the NMS-Archaeology one placed by me, and one placed by GalacticHeritage declaring the Cave of Forgotten Dreams and original base site to be an official heritage location.

No Man's Sky_20180428074756

Galactic Heritage Communication Station, April 2018

Places

Five comm stations reference specific places, three in the game, and two on Earth (Germany and Uruguay). The three game locations indicate the presence of player bases in three nearby Legacy Hub systems, which I will need to investigate after filing this report. Note that Hub-D-007 is the system containing the Hub’s capital planet, Drogradur.

Hints of Past Base/Environment

19 comm stations refer to Syn1334’s base and surroundings ranging from “nice base” to noting the presence of the race track. The base’s indoor farm is noted, as is the presence of cultivated Nip Nip Buds, which bring excellent prices at the online marketplace accessed through trade terminals. One player notes “Truffula trees” referring to those in Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, but these trees are now extinct on Pepper Dusk thanks to v1.3. Not only did “Atlas Rises” change the climate and topography, it also was an extinction event.

Other Groups

A few comm stations were placed by visitors of various Galactic Hub groups, the most represented of which is The Spacing Guild (8 comm stations). One comm station conveys greetings from the Arcadian Ambassador. Another is a pre-War relic, a comm station placed by BlackRaptor2396: “This base is under Hovan protection.”

Conclusions

Syn1334-CaveEntrancePodIcons.jpg

Comm station icons in the Cave, April 2018

The purpose of conducting an archaeological investigation of Pepper Dusk was to demonstrate a proof-of-concept that traditional archaeology could be done on a synthetic world, and that investigation could include survey work as well as actual excavation with varying levels of precision. In exploring Pepper Dusk, I was able to identify and record an abandoned player base, and was able to document inscriptions placed around the original location of the base, using the inscriptions to extrapolate additional information pertinent to the settlement and ultimate abandonment of this planet specifically, and of the old Galactic Hub generally. I was able to observe formation processes for the site, as well as evidence of abandonment, documenting everything with text, photos, and video on the very real chance that the universe will be wiped clean with the arrival of the next major update, “NEXT,” which might be deployed as early as June 2018. My work (and the work of other Hub residents tasked with recording this digital heritage) now becomes more of a salvage operation to get as much data from as many Galactic Heritage sites as possible, which will be shared with the No Man’s Sky player community via various wikis.

 

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Elevation showing position of new base and the comm stations that would have been level with the original Peaceful Pepperbase.

 

Readers should feel free to email me, or can leave questions in the Comments section. It is my hope to lead a couple of tours via Twitch in the next couple of weeks.

Appendix 1: Comm Station Data

Below is a table containing the comm station number (corresponds to the map, photos, and videos), gamertag, and message text. Pods with an asterisk ( * ) indicate those found elsewhere on Pepper Dusk far away from the base.

No. Placed By Text
1 NMS-Archaeology NMS Archaeology 23 April 2018
2 GalacticHeritage This is an official Galactic Heritage site
3 acesMelancholy Urban dictionary Challs. Its so challs.
4 kingvithe1st TSG says hello. Great job.
5 damon8r351 Visited by the Spacing Guild 23JUL2017
6 Syn1334 I’m moving to [HUB3-G-D4]!
7 AlbertGraham2778 Great Base. Nice Farm.
8 outlawcus956 Hello neighbor! I’m on [HUB-D-007]
9 nieoceniony Nice one! 09.08.17 charlie360x reddit
10 DOMSPECIES Nice area to chill.
11 WAAM86 Gr8 Base [HUB-G-G2] Zillah (Pihmidgerra)
12 marcovhv Great crib you have here! -TheMarco
13 BlackRaptor2396 This base is under Hovan protection.
14 FatherMac TSG-FM was here! 6/2/17
15 subtraktshun Arrived June 21st 2017
16 Merimacdwarf-orc The Spacing Guild is your ally.
17 BoomstickJoe Awesome base and race 5/28/2017
18 Fullman_Katz Fullman Katz was here too – 5\28\17
19 mr7er123456 Nice base
20 CalamityMaim I travelled worlds to find you (Sguild)
21 JacksonVurt [HUB-K] Orson (Thlockeri Fringe) 1,598 ly
22 neutrons1234 Pilgrimage Done. Neutrons Saga continues.
23 Shanlear Shan was here 7/17/17
24 CaptPausert You’re out of beer & Wheat Thins again.
25 Numunu44 Thank You Syn 7-30-17
26 mako235 Thank you, Syn!
27 termy66 Impressive base. Greetings from Termy66
28 ZeroRayn Oh those trees, those Truffula trees.
29 bbgianking 14/05/17 Peace&Happiness Interloper CIAO
30 cyberspacemonkey Your winter embassy needs a base 🙂
31 Axiom1380 Greetings from the Arcadian Ambasador
32 mclizard420 Greetings from TSG 6.27.17 thanks for tour
33 imperialforce8 Loved the race 🙂 – TSG
34 OldMcReaper88 Beautiful place you have here. 5.29.17 🙂
35 semiosus Hi
36 Gnat_Churly Gnat was here Aug 6/17
37 xPatrick305x Nice base!
38 Blimblem We meet again! Nice setup
39 Parasite159 Looks like I’m late for the party 21/4/17
40 Normi1701 29.5.17 greetings from Germansky
41 Squeegi01 Gorgeous Base 7/22/2017 -Squeegi
42 SilfenPaths Stunning base!Yummy food. 14/04/17 SP.
43 Ryder_E-E 490u for cacrussala?? I’ll take 10! 4/22
44 WumpWilliam 27/4/17 Love It! -Wump
45 Coffeewrite Needs more cowbell.
46 BobbaVett I doubt anyone will ever read this!
47 Bo0nd0ck_Sa1nt_7 Awesome Race/Base Syn: Bo0n
48 jen1892 Love your base (BL_NDIE )
49 singularity_now A café and buds for a weary traveller 8.17
50 Fr3nky_one Greetings to all travellers
51 AltumateAssassin Everybodys in it for the nip nip lol
52 Stinkeebutt73 From the Spacing Guild. Cheers!
53 Maroc-22- Maroc says hi to you all! 23rd April ’17
54 Djuanez Beautiful base & thanks for the NipNip!
55 CreamStar_123 Creamstar pitstopped here
56 boardsofandros Thanks for the buds 5/25/17
57 soutoyobes Greetings from Uruguay III
58 xbigchrisx88 Lovely travlere’s lounge! -MickMomster
59 wesolly1 //Chunky Beard Was Here 6/8/2017 \(>_<)/
60 sherrlon Lost Tribble. If found return to Sherrlon!
61 Matthew71NSW Greetings from the AGT.
62 [pod in the air] Nice little slice of paradise.
63* [bedrock pod] Amazing planet, fearless leader of the hub
64* UrickHunt101 Drop Pod 5/21/17
65* [remote pod in the air] Greetings from Ambassador Gek code: 4vZB

Appendix 2: Comm Station Photos

—Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming

One thought on “The Cave of Forgotten Comm Stations: Excavating an Abandoned Base in No Man’s Sky

  1. Pingback: Player Agency and Understanding the Base/No-Base Paradox in No Man’s Sky | Archaeogaming

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