POST UPDATED ON 27 JULY 2018. SCROLL TO BOTTOM FOR NEW DATA.
The latest iteration of No Man’s Sky, v1.5 “NEXT”, marks the second extinction-level event in the game’s two-year history. The first happened on August 11, 2017, with the deployment of v1.3 “Atlas Rises”, which reset the universe sometimes to catastrophic effect especially where the original NMS player collective, the Galactic Hub, was concerned. The bases these players created and publicly shared in the Pathfinder Era (pre-Atlas Rises) were either often buried, suspended in mid-air, or left in a state of ruins after the update. Players also left communication stations to bid farewell to their homeworlds (but also to commend the bases’ architects for jobs well done, or to greet fellow travelers). I spent the past three months visiting 35 of these “heritage” sites, bases abandoned by a migrating community of human players. I took hundreds of videos and thousands of pictures of these sites of abandonment, and recorded the planetary data and also every message left behind. My concern, which was shared by the player community, was that NEXT would reset the universe again on July 24, 2018, perhaps with irreparable damage to the evidence of earlier human occupation and material culture in the game.
We were right to have worried. The images above are of the planet Pepper Dusk, settled by Syn1334, founder of the Galactic Hub, in the Pathfinder Era. The pink image was taken by me on July 23, 2018, showing a base unit above the dozens of communication stations in the Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which I wrote about extensively here. The cave and Peaceful Pepperbase have since disappeared without a trace as seen in the second and third images (Online Services were active). What was once called “Pepper Dusk” in the HUB-G-214 Einhander system, a pink-and-green, craggy world, has been renamed Roadsto Roshi in the system Eafora-Elnoi. On the galactic map, it is listed as uncharted, although Pepper Dusk’s discovery is stilled flagged as being discovered by Syn1134. No space station is present. Roadsto Roshi is a ringed, icy, watery planet dotted with very occasional, tiny, barren islands. No sign of any comm stations or of Peaceful Pepper Dusk appear with Online Services Active. The heritage has been wiped from the world.
In a July 25, 2018, tweet, Sean Murray, Hello Games’ founder and team leader for NMS reminded players that their “legacy” bases could be retrieved on the worlds of their choosing, but it would appear that this will work only for a player’s most recent base-build. The strings of bases created by players as they worked their way across the universe are gone, only the most current construction buffered in memory. The original archaeological contexts of the remaining legacy bases were also lost. This is not a criticism, but an observation.
I was able to check on another major heritage site and source of Galactic Hub lore on July 24, 2018: Lennon (aka Drogradur NO425), the capital planet of what was the Galactic Hub during the Pathfinder Era. The results were eerily similar to those discovered on old Pepper Dusk: a watery, ringed world dotted with tiny islands and no sign of what came before. The dozens of comm stations are gone, and I need to find a portal in order to see if Lennon’s portal is still active, although if it is it has likely moved from its earlier position.
In the images above, which I shot on July 24, 2018, one sees that the system retained its name from Atlas Rises: Sahara-Miq, but the planet’s name has changed from Drogradur NO425 to Ervincas N20 (still showing as being discovered by Syn1134). The lines emanating from the system show the paths I took to visit the other Legacy Hub sites pre-NEXT. Most—if not all—of the systems have been renamed in NEXT, so old HUB names are absent from the Galactic Map, at least in the Legacy regions. I did find it curious that Lennon’s name appeared when I was in upper orbit, but that changed once I was below the cloud deck. I reported on what Lennon used to look like in Atlas Rises, along with mapping the planet and cataloguing its player-messages here.
The story of losing sites of cultural importance to progress, time, or environmental changes is not new, and seeing NEXT wipe out Pathfinder-Era settlements and material culture did not come as a complete surprise. But players new to the game will not be able to revisit these old sites to see what had been built by the first generation of players, and unless they search online, they will miss the history of NMS‘s first player civilization. The records kept by Syn1334, Zaz Ariins, and the Hub’s player-builders, along with the data I collected from April 4 until July 23, 2018, remain the only evidence of what came before that helped create a rich human lore in a digital universe.
I will continue to visit the remaining 33 Legacy Hub sites I recorded to see if the above trend is true of Pathfinder-Era settlements, while also documenting the archaeological features new to NEXT.
UPDATE (27 JULY 2018)
I was kind of wrong, or Online Services were wonky, or Hello Games pushed out a hot-fix, but my return to Lennon on 26 July 2018 showed the massive communication station cluster that used to surround the portal. The portal itself is gone, and most of the comm balls are inaccessible, buried deep under water and then rock. But a few comm stations can be excavated, and at least one hangs in the sky. Lennon’s history is largely intact it would seem, and new guests are building new bases, a new Cairo atop the old.
—Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming