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In my col­lec­tion of No Man’s Sky save files there’s one which is only three hours long. It is also my fa­vorite save be­cause it’s the one where I keep my ringed ocean planet. Be­fore the Abyss up­date, Low­el­woyn Beta (now re­named Pip’s Ocean Par­adise and short­ened to PIPWORLD) wasn’t ex­actly in­ter­est­ing, but it was aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing. Now, thanks to Abyss it’s be­come fas­ci­nat­ing. In an older set of screen­shots, PIPWORLD’s ocean was not a thriv­ing hub. Small plants dot­ted the ocean floor and in­fre­quent shoals of fish hung like clouds in an other­wise empty ex­panse of Pa­cific blue.

Re­vis­it­ing PIPWORLD, I splooshed into the water and found the ocean desert had van­ished. The seabed now writhes with coils of min­er­als and sin­u­ous rock for­ma­tions which seem to have fallen out a Bar­bara Hep­worth sculp­ture gar­den. Rum­bles and roars let you know when strange pods are about to spit boil­ing water, and as I was scan­ning all the new fish a lit­tle crab­like crea­ture saun­tered past.

Thing is, PIPWORLD is in a cre­ative mode save file. It’s great for sight­see­ing, but it also smooths away the el­e­ments which an­chor you in the world. Re­gard­less of whether or not you like the re­source and craft­ing loops, or the story, of No Man’s Sky, they give you rea­sons to move around and push you into new ac­tiv­i­ties. I wanted an un­der­wa­ter base that I’d worked for, dammit!

Which is how I cir­cled back to the other enor­mous up­date, NEXT. I played NEXT on a stu­dio visit when

I wanted an un­der­wa­ter base that I’d worked for, dammit!

it was still at the pre­view stage. The devs who joined me in mul­ti­player be­haved im­pec­ca­bly, shar­ing re­sources and work­ing to­gether to build a base. As such, it was barely rec­og­niz­able as a mul­ti­player videogame ex­pe­ri­ence.

Not so, my most re­cent mul­ti­player ex­pe­ri­ence. I in­vited my part­ner to join me for fun and to build to­gether. This was a lie and I fully in­tended to use him to dis­tract the sen­tinels (plan­et­side robopo­lice) which were fu­ri­ous with me.

Al­most im­me­di­ately there was hap­less shoot­ing, clumsy re­source shar­ing, photo mode doc­u­men­ta­tion of him run­ning away in cir­cles from an an­gry robot sen­tinel, sev­eral crash-land­ings and the in­evitable fail­ure of my sys­tem of nav­i­ga­tion which uses iden­ti­cal base com­put­ers as plan­e­tary bookmarks.

In memoriam

When we fi­nally found the right base com­puter we spent about 20 min­utes search­ing for a space­ship I’d been try­ing to re­pair. It would be an up­grade of eight whole stor­age slots! Then we saw the space­ship-shaped hole in the mid­dle of the quest area. The ac­tual ship, for what­ever rea­son, was nowhere to be found. I won’t tell you what I said at that mo­ment be­cause it’s prob­a­bly too rude to re­peat here. Let’s just say we used our ter­rain ma­nip­u­la­tors to ex­press our dis­plea­sure in the rocky sur­face of that gap.

A chip­per space­fish and friends.

Just add the Benny Hill mu­sic.

The uptick in ringed plan­ets makes for great im­ages.

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