Playing Normal Mode Normally on Steam

Update 2019.07.23: The “Kicked back to Game Select” bug is still happening, so I am forced to either play the GoG version or play the Steam version in offline to avoid literally wasting my life playing the game. As a result, I am just going to continue playing the GoG version offline, because playing online is not worth the aggravation. I’ll reevaluate when the Beyond update has released.

When I started playing No Man’s Sky earlier this year, my first play through was in Normal Mode on Steam. I put in 62 hours noob’n it up until I reached a point where I thought perhaps I was selling my self short by playing in normal rather than survival mode, so I made a new game. After playing quite some time in Survival Mode on Steam, I encountered a bug that kicked me unexpectedly to the main menu, causing me to lose all progress since my last save point. That wasn’t very fun and it didn’t happen if I played with Steam in off-line mode, so I picked up the GoG version of the game, as it was on sale and it could be played without connecting to the Internet at all. I went on to play a while in Normal Mode on GoG only to find everything was too easy, which lead me to restarting on Survival Mode and going so far as to make a whack of game balance adjustments to make the game more what I was expecting. Here, have a graphic of my progress…

Anyway, after all the time I put into my off-line game, I find myself missing the opportunity to, at the very least, discover things out in the galaxy that other people have created. Sure the game itself has a crazy amount of stuff to discover, but I know from my time playing Star Wars Galaxies that there’s a special magic to coming across other player’s creations and I don’t want to miss out on that. As such, I have decided to put my game time into playing Normal Mode on Steam, where I may encounter other folks.

Why Normal Mode?
As far as multi-player on PC, Normal Mode on Steam in the Eulcid galaxy is where most of the action is. There’s even a cool map of the galaxy that is maintained by Hello Games, which makes it easier to know what’s going on and allows me to set some goals for what I’d like to see and do.

Why Normally, Without Mods?
Unwinding the mess of memories from playing four different save games is hard enough for this here old man, so I figured I would keep my Steam client as the default game, while my GoG version can be the one I mod. That way I can still enjoy the game the way it was intended to be played. As far as playing normally goes, I now have enough experience with the game to know how to keep Normal Mode feeling fun without having to adhere to any strict rules; “I’ma do what’s fun, yo!”, as the kids would say. 🙂

Where Am I?
That’s a good question! Despite playing over 60 hours on my first game, I have yet to finish all the quests and unlock all the base parts, vehicles, etc. so it might not shock you to learn that I also haven’t found any portals either. Noobs, eh? 🙂 I did make small bases on each of the planets of the system I started in, with my main base being on my starting planet, which I named Hondo Florrum. I’ll post again when I figure out where I am what I’m doing!

Edit: Here I am!

And after that monstrosity of a graphic, please take a moment to enjoy this beautiful vista taken on Hondo Florrum.

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I Built A Castle! (in No Man’s Sky)

Earlier in the week I finished the Artemis Path on my shiny new GOG single player Survival Mode game and chose to go to the happy rainbows galaxy, Eissentam. I repaired my ship and set out into the void once more, but after an hour or two I realized that really, it just plumb doesn’t matter what galaxy one chooses to play in and I didn’t actually want to start over again in a new galaxy. I had bases in the starting galaxy that I liked, on planets I had barely explored, and I was in a decent region of space, with plenty more to do and see. So, I loaded up my last manual save, rewinding time back to before I completed the Atlas Path quest line. And then, I set out to build this castle on my main planet, because why not! 🙂

Ultimately, the game itself tells you that shit happens and there’s nothing you can do about it, so you may as well just forget about the state of the universe and enjoy the ride. It’s a pretty terrible story to be honest, full of tired tropes and incoherence, but the worst part is that it forces a narrative upon your character that may well be entirely the opposite of what you want for your character. Sigh, that’s video games for ya! The game itself is excellent at “facilitating the enjoyment of the experience” though and that just so happens to be how I define the purpose of games in general, so I am happy with it. Anyway… So, I figured I may as well just keep myself busy by taking the time to thoroughly explore the planets and to build whatever happens to tickle my fancy at the time.

The castle walls are made using the concrete wall parts, because I found them both easy to work with and affordable. I wasn’t really paying attention to the cost, but I started with 30 point something million and I still have more than 28 million left after buying a few inventories full of Ferrite Dust. I considered using the cuboid rooms, but they require significantly more Ferrite per block and I didn’t think they looked the part as well as the basic walls and wooden floors. The whole structure is put together using the standard snap-to-fit method. I made a “gallery of oddities” in the lower front section and placed a room for my Korvax scientist to live while he studies them. I made a manual landing pad area to avoid having the sky filled with NPC ships circling endlessly if I land on my normal pad (I discovered an issue where even if you have 6 base landing pads, the NPC ships will only ever use the last one your ship was parked at, so there’s no point in having more than one). I even added a few secret passageways, because what’s a castle without secret passageways! Oh, and I also have a garage for my two favorite vehicles, the Roamer and the Colossus.

You won’t be able to visit this base, as it’s offline. If the upcoming Beyond update is any good, I might build something similar on my Steam profile and open it to the public. We’ll see. None the less, here is the planet address:

Update: I replaced the landing pad with a garage for the bike, because even with the empty landing pad I had at least five ships circling loudly over the castle at all times and the only the solution I have found is to simply not use the base landing pad (which is a bummer).

Creating Challenge in No Man’s Sky

Also, Steam still sucks and I regret having signed up for it to purchase the game there at a discount. I am now happily playing No Man’s Sky using the GOG version of the game! (Completely off-line, because multi-player doesn’t interest me and neither does bloated, privacy invading software). Yeah I bought it on sale twice, so it’s like I paid full price for it, but that’s OK, because it’s awesome and worth it! Anyway…

No Man’s Sky is an amazing game, but it’s so easy even on Survival Mode. I just started playing the game in 2019 and from what I have read it used to be much harder than it is now. They’ve added so much convenience that they’ve undermined the challenge of the game beyond the first 20 minutes. Initially I figured that adhering to a personal challenge would be enough to satisfy my desires for how the game should feel, but it was still too easy. Next, I came up with the ill conceived idea of using the NMS Save File Editor to basically nerf every ship and Multi-Tool I found, but that was both a huge pain in the rear and it kinda sucked the fun out of finding new things. So I decided to just go ahead and “mod the game”, because it wouldn’t require any regular fiddling around, allowing me to “just play the game”.

As a result, I did some reading and learned how 99% of the “mods” to NMS are made: by editing existing values in the text files that ship with the game. It’s a bit more involved than that, but honestly that’s an apt description of the process. As a person who has done a “total conversion mod” on SuperTux 0.3.3 to create Rescue Girlies, which required loads of custom C++ and Squirrel programming, it does piss me off when I read bitchy comments from “modders” about how others are “using their mods” to No Man’s Sky when their mod was literally achieved by them opening a file, changing a “false” to “true”, and then saving the file. I’m sorry, but that’s not modding and you’ve got no right to complain about others making the same adjustments. Fucking people, man… Sigh…

Anyway (again), I made a GitHub repository to track the adjustments I make to the game play and to potentially host any real mods I may make for the game down the road. The No Man’s Sky blog page in the Game Mods menu has all the details of the changes I have made and why I made them.

Here, have a screenshot!

No Man’s Sky: My Personal Challenge Mode

No Man’s Sky is a really fun game, but as I played through the main quest lines on Normal Mode, I discovered there are some aspects of the game that trivialize its challenges. The most notable of these issues are the teleporters on space stations and in player created bases – the first time I used one and I saw that my ship had magically followed me though the teleporter too, I literally said out loud, “awe, that’s a little cheaty, isn’t it?”. What follows is thus a few self imposed limitations that help make the game feel more like what I had hoped it would be.

1. Play in Survival Mode
I’ve never liked the concept of perma-death in computer games, but the death penalties in Survival Mode strike a good balance between punishment and a fun challenge. Starting out is definitely harder and one’s you’re over that hump, things like extreme weather are still a major concern (where as on normal, I was jaunting around in a radioactive super storm collecting crystals like it was a beautiful summer’s day). The biggest difference I have found is that the terrain manipulator chews through its charge much more quickly than on normal mode, meaning it takes more resources to mine the same amount (thereby increasing the usefulness of automated harvesters!).

2. No Cheating Death
One can cheat the death penalty by frequently dropping a save-game machine and creating a manual save point that they can go back to should they die. It’s totally fine to do this if the death was caused by a bug, a power outage, if your arm fell off and you had to be rushed to the hospital, etc. but to do it as a way to avoid the consequences of foolishness is just plain old cheating.

3. No Cheating the Randomness
Rather than just playing the game, some folks cheat by constantly reloading their saved game to force new ships or multi-tools to spawn until the one they want finally spawns for them. I don’t see the fun in that type of behavior. For me, the mystery of what’s next and making due with what I have are large parts of what I find so compelling about the game play experience. As my daughter’s friend said on cupcake day, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset”. 🙂

4. No Base/Station Teleporter Use
Update: I hadn’t considered the problem of doing the quest to go to the center of the galaxy while still enjoying the fun base building aspect of the game. With that in mind, it makes sense to have a single portal at my “cool awesome base” that I can go back to whenever I’d like, so that’s the only use I will make of the teleporter system.

Being able to teleport to and from any space station you have visited, as well as any base you made and bothered to create a portal at, completely trivializes space travel and makes the game waaaay too easy. Add to that the fact that your ship (and it’s cargo contents) magically travel with you too, and you’ve got a game play system that takes convenience a tad too far. I’m just going to go ahead and pretend it’s not there, because I definitely didn’t expect it to exist anyway (and using it on my first play in Normal Mode quickly made me realize it’s ridiculously over powered).

5. Inventory and Technology Limitations
I was straight up shocked when I read on the wiki that one can unlock 48 high capacity cargo slots. That’s insane! Sure, some people groan and whine about inventory management in games, but the truth is that inventory limitations encourage the player to make decisions and compromises that can later put the player into situations where they are forced to overcome adversity and it’s rising to those challenges that makes games (and life!) so rewarding. If you’re able to tote around the solution to everything, then you’re robbing yourself of the chance to find joy in creative success. With that in mind, here are my personal limitations on inventory and technology:

  • 36 General Inventory slots (48 max)
  • 16 High Capacity Cargo slots (48 max)
  • 12 Technology slots (14 max)

I considered limiting myself to only using pistol type multi-tools, due to their 10 technology slots (compared to the 24 of rifles), but that would be pretty boring. I already have a 10 slot A class pistol that I have fully loaded to my liking, so yeah, it would be pretty boring to leave it like that forever. Who knows when I will find something else I like better!

Similarly to multi-tools, I am not placing any limitations on myself for ships, freighters, frigates, and upgrades, as that would just limit my ability to have fun; Adhering to the intended randomness of the game is both a good throttle on “power creep” and an excellent incentive to keep exploring. Indeed, I was super excited when the crashed ship I found as part of the story was an S class shuttle! How cool is that, eh? I had just upgraded from the starter ship to an A class shuttle that I also really liked, so I will just keep using the A class model while I poke away at fixing the S class.

Apart from the above points, I’m just going to take it easy in general, enjoying the experience at a casual pace without trying to “min/max” or otherwise subvert the challenges and rob myself of the experience.

No Man’s Sky is Everything I Wanted from a Game

With the exception of pets and pet crafting, I suppose, but hot-damn does this game deliver in all other respects! Seriously, having played No Man’s Sky over the past couple of weeks, I have absolutely no desire to ever play Star Wars Galaxies or work on SWGEmu mods ever again! I mean, why bother when NMS has everything in it that I like about science fiction, crafting, creating, collecting, treasure hunting, and it looks amazing, and it plays great…

No Man's Sky

No Man’s Sky


Without any exaggeration, I spent thousands of hours of research and development on the four iterations of my solo SWGEmu based Star Wars Galaxies server, Legend of Hondo, only to find that it’s not really fun to play. Here’s why…

Being “the man behind the curtain” of Legend of Hondo, creating all the mods and molding the game into exactly what I thought a solo version of SWG should be, also meant that there wasn’t any mystery; In order to make it, I had to know exactly how everything worked! Worse yet, I also knew where to find all the loot, all the creatures, all the quests, and so on, which didn’t feel very fun. Short of reprogramming everything to be completely random (and I doubt that would even be fun anyway), I’m not sure how one can avoid that problem when programming an RPG.

And then the real kicker is the enormously massive, gargantuan amount of effort that almost all mods to Core3 and the SWG client require. Why? Well, neither have a proper programming reference guide, Core3 is a convoluted nightmare of a program, and the whole damned thing is based on the reverse engineering of Sony Online Entertainment’s buggy mess of a game client. I recently helped out with some programming for the Tarkin’s Revenge server, but I decided to throw in the towel when I took a step back and saw how working with the SWGEmu code base and SWG client utterly consumes my life. Things that would take 15 minutes to do in other projects can take literal days of head-desk stumbling over syntax in custom libraries and multiple languages, waiting for compilations, waiting for the server to boot, testing every possible permutation of the thing to catch the inevitable “gotcha” that some end user will uncover, and so on. In the end, it’s really not that fun to work on SWGEmu mods and given that programming is my hobby, what the hell is the point of doing it at all if it’s not fun? I mean, I love helping friends, but I literally giggled like a schoolgirl when I uninstalled Microsoft Visual Studio 2017, having used it only to help my friends when they were desperate to have their launcher updated. I hate to say it, but I get the same sort of joy when I think about not working on anything related to SWGEmu ever again.

I’d rather work on stuff like RocketTux and play No Man’s Sky!

Hard to believe that I am a year and half behind on finishing RocketTux. Apparently shit doesn’t get done when you don’t do it. Who knew?! 🙂 I ended up boring myself by rigidly sticking to the goal of finishing the art and levels rather than just doing what I felt like doing (which really is what one should do with their personal hobby projects). But I digress…

What’s so great about No Man’s Sky?

1. No Division of Labor? No Problem!
It was basically designed from the ground up to be the polar opposite of Star War Galaxies, in terms of what can be achieved by a single player. Fundamental changes to the combat system aside, much of my time modding SWGEmu was spent attempting to make a game that was explicitly designed to make it difficult for a single person to play alone, into a game that, at the very least, functioned properly for only one person. That’s totally not an issue with NMS, because even though it has multiplayer aspects, it is most definitely a game that can be enjoyed from start to “finish” by a single player.

2. A Strong Variety of Gameplay Systems
You know, No Man’s Sky is kind of a more complete version of Elite Dangerous, only it’s actually fun and it strikes a nice balance between simulation and arcade game… Huh. Anyway, from building your fleet of capital ships and sending them on missions, to cataloging the flora and fauna of millions of planets, there is a lot to do in No Man’s Sky and for the most part you are free to do it at your own pace and in your own way. Here’s a randomly organized point form list of different activities I have discovered:

  • Finding a cool ship to buy. There are two ways to go about this, one being standing in space stations and talking to the NPC pilots who fly in, the other being tracking down crashed ships to repair them.
  • Upgrading your suit and multi-tool, which can be done by traveling to new places in the galaxy to find merchants and treasure.
  • Shooting rocks. You can shoot holes right through’em!
  • Shooting rocks…. in space!
  • Seriously, shooting rocks is the basic manner in which one gathers resources. You can also punch trees when you upgrade to a Nintendo Power Glove.
  • Spelunking, aided by the terrain manipulator which can blast holes in the ground (or fill them in, if that’s how you roll).
  • Building bases, with the only limit being 20,000 items per base. You can have up to 5 bases per planet and there’s something like 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 planets, so hop to it, eh.
  • Building and upgrading a freighter fleet.
  • Sending your fleet on (imaginary) missions.
  • Building a base inside your capital ship. This impressed me when I whipped out curved hallway parts, but I literally exclaimed, “shut up! No way!” when I found that I can even add stairs and rooms! Imagine having your own custom Tantive IV and you’ll have a good grasp on feel of the interior.
  • Trading goods in a manner similar to other space truckin’ games. It’s less detailed than Elite Dangerous’s commodities system, yet one misses nothing in the process…
  • Fighting pirates in your ship. This includes attacking capital ships and looting the stuff that you shoot out of their holds.
  • Missions from various individual NPCs and the space station based guilds.
  • Learning languages and exploring the lore of the galaxy by chatting with NPCs and finding interesting places on the many worlds.
  • Building machines to harvest and process resources.
  • Collecting, upgrading, and using the different ground and water vehicles. Yup, there’s a frickin’ submarine even! I just got the basic car today and the handling of ground vehicles is similar to Unreal Engine or Crytek based games, with simplified controls. It’s definitely not like using a ground vehicle in Elite Dangerous, at all (though I actually liked that aspect of ED, for the most part).
  • Collecting stuff and using it to craft the items you need while doing the above things.

There are likely other things to do in the game that I forgot to mention (like following the main story line!), but I think that will give you a good idea of the breadth of the game. One thing that I really appreciate is how all of these things come together in a way that makes the game feel a lot more purposeful than Elite Dangerous. In ED there is basically only one game loop, which amounts to “earn money to get a bigger ship so you can earn money to get a bigger ship…”, and that’s very, very boring. Are there other aspects of ED? Sure, but they’re boring too. No Man’s Sky manages to offer a wide variety of things to do in a way that isn’t boring. Yay!

3. It’s Like I Stepped Into A Classic Science Fiction Novel
As a young man, I loved Issac Asimov’s Foundation series and robot books, and I also very much enjoyed Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama, as well as other novels of the early scifi era. The art style of No Man’s Sky appears to be designed such that it’s as though the player has stepped into the cover art of a dusty book from store shelves past and begun an adventure almost as wild as their own imagination. While I suspect the post processing effects may be lost on the younger folks, I get what Hello Games was going for and I like it.

A few books I’ve kept though the years…


Now the game and its universe pales in comparison to those which are described by the great sages whose works defined the Science Fiction genre, but all things considered, given the gameplay systems and artwork, what they’ve created is phenomenal.

Picking Some Nits
From the perspective of a boy who grew up in the 80s and 90s on Star Trek reruns, TNG, Star Wars, and a plethora dusty old books, Hello Games has not let me down with No Man’s Sky. From the perspective of a man who went from playing a detailed online Star Wars game to later spending years modding that game into a single player experience, I can say with the utmost sincerity that Hello Games has not let me down with No Man’s Sky. It makes me wonder why I waited nearly three years to play it! That said, I do have a few thoughts on where I think it could improve a bit.

Let’s be real here, for all intents and purposes Earth is the Human universe. It’s literally the only place in the entirety of everything where we know we can exist. This tiny ball of dirt hurtling though the cosmos, slathered in water and a slight dusting of breathable air, is home to countless organisms which are as varied as the biomes in which they evolved. Alas, in No Man’s Sky, as far as I can tell, all celestial bodies have a single biome that covers their entire surface, meaning there are “snow planets”, “desert planets”, etc. (with the exception of planets that have both land and water biomes, I suppose). While it might be interesting to explore temperate transition zones, I can’t fault Hello Games for creating the planets without them, because it’s damned hard to do what they’ve done as it is!

Humans have been building paths, roads, towns, villages, and cities since the dawn of time and ya know what, other critters here on Earth build these types of structures too. In No Man’s Sky the entire galaxy appears to be inhabited by creatures who never considered these concept. Nope, they either roam aimlessly or they travel exclusively by space ship. Again, in a game as vast as this one, something’s gotta give – I can imagine the headaches it would cause to create procedurally generated cities, complete with buildings, people, shops, homes, and NPC activity, on a global scale. That could be a game in and of itself…

W = Forward
S = Backward
A = Turn Left
D = Turn Right
SHIFT = Turbo
L CTL = Brake
Mouse Movement = Camera Panning

That’s how ground vehicles are done on PC the man, come on! 🙂 Seriously though, I can live with the mouse moving left/right for steering, as it’s light years better than vehicles in SWG. Space movement in No Man’s Sky also feels better than the Jump to Lightspeed space flight in SWG.

And finally, one space station interior? Really? Just one, for the whole galaxy? Where the NPCs all stand in the same locations? OK, but only because you wow’d the absolute crap out of me with the rest of the game!

So, No Man’s Sky…
It’s a good game. I like it a lot. I like it, because it’s chalked full of awesome; I like it, because I can shut it off and miss a damned thing!

Using the portal at base Psychedelic Hondo

Base Snow Hondo

Base Hondo Under No Man’s Sky

Ps. It play’s alright on my old as dirt computer (AMD FX-8320 CPU / AMD R9 270 2GB graphics / 24GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM) at 1080p using the default settings. I drop to 15 FPS when looking at my largest base (even from far away), but most other times I am in the 30 – 60 FPS range (with some hitching though). By comparison, I can run 3 instances of Star Wars Galaxies, at max settings with 4x AA and 16x AF forced in the driver, while also running the server in a virtual machine and using several tabs in Chrome without the computer breaking a sweat – these 8 core FX CPUs weren’t terrible at everything, eh. 🙂