Gaming

No Man’s Sky changes a lot with the new Social Hub update

The biggest piece of No Man’s Sky’s summer 2019 update, Beyond, is the Nexus. It’s a social/mission hub in the style of Destiny’s Tower, where players can meet up and engage in various activities.

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Beyond goes live on Aug. 14 for PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One, transforming what was originally a single-player game into a world of multiplayer possibilities. Although No Man’s Sky had a difficult launch back in 2016, the game has improved immeasurably, partly due to developer Hello Games’ hard work and partly as a result of player feedback.

In the game’s fiction, Nexus is a kind of moon that exists outside of time and space. Players can summon Nexus to wherever they are in the universe. From the outside, it has a Death Star kind of vibe. Inside, it’s a world of neon, like a sci-fi themed nightclub.

Players can organize missions with parties of up to 32 space travelers. This is a big upgrade from the game’s year-old multiplayer lobby-based system of a maximum four players. The Nexus also features walking, talking non-player characters who offer specific quests for groups and for individuals.

It’s been designed specifically as a place where players can show off their progression items, such as clothing and, most especially, their personally crafted home base. Home bases are accessible to other players via the Nexus, which will be a boon to NMS denizens who like to focus on their headquarters and to show off their sense of galactic good taste.

three players in No Man’s Sky, each sitting on an alien creature on a gentle hill of magenta grass, as three spaceships fly overhead

“It makes me really care about my progression if other people are seeing my armor, ships, weapons and base,” Hello Games’ boss Sean Murray told Polygon. Beyond also features tweaks and upgrades to base building, including the addition of electric power and computers, which allow for the creation of motorized and automatic systems. Industrial-style bases can now be built.

Certain planets are also being transformed into social spaces where players can mess around with one another. One planet will offer a Rocket League-style ball-and-vehicles game. These changes are designed to create what Murray calls “pinch points” that create a social universe within the vastness of No Man’s Sky’s universe.

The game was originally designed to create billions of procedurally created planets that simulate a lonesome space exploration experience. Players traveled from one planet to another, collecting resources, fighting hostile enemies and surviving natural hazards. However, this proved to offer limited entertainment, as planetary diversity is still limited to a small number of archetypes.

PINCH POINTS ALLOW PLAYERS TO ENJOY SOCIAL SPACE EXPLORATION

“I’ve been to a lot of planets and it’s always going to be hills and rivers and mountains and whatever,” said Murray. “It doesn’t hold the same thrill for me.” He said that the game, as it stands, offers many hours of entertainment, but that the new addition, which he also calls “No Man’s Sky 2.0,” is a full expansion of possibilities.

The size of the game’s universe currently makes human interactions a rarity. Now, players will see other explorers, most likely in places that are popular, or are being highlighted in Nexus.

“There’s been a real concerted effort from us to bring the universe a bit closer together,” said Murray. “This keeps the game fresh. People who are playing with a friend play for way longer and enjoy it more.”

He said that the game will still offer the experience of solitary space travel, with very little chance of bumping into other explorers. “You can teleport between the two [social spaces and lonesome planets] very easily. So it’s not impeding you from exploring, but it feels like a big science-fiction fantasy. There’s something very core sci-fi about being alone on a planet. There’s also something very core about going to a big, busy space station.”

Other additions coming with Beyond include the ability to ride alien creatures, and to farm them. Various “quality of life” tweaks have also been added, including cooking and recipes.

Beyond also includes a free virtual reality version of the game for PlayStation VR, Rift, and Vive. Murray said the team’s research suggested that as many as one in four No Man’s Skyplayers own a virtual reality rig. “I think it’s the science fiction crossover. VR players are into the whole sci-fi thing,” he said.


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