No Man’s Sky tiptoes towards co-op play with Atlas Rises

No Man's Sky: Atlas Rises

UPDATE: Atlas Rises is out now and is 4GB – so says the download my Steam account is currently doing!

Did you know that I still play No Man’s Sky [official site]? I started a new save recently with the intention of building a base and following the storyline and possibly having a greenhouse and then ended up ignoring all of the above and instead pootling from planet to planet, chasing a sort of multi-headed cactus creature. Business as usual for Pip.

BUT I’ve been keeping an eye on the imminent update, mostly just to see what it brings and how my ongoing voyage might change. It sounds like Atlas Rises (which is what update 1.3 is called), in addition to ancient portals, terrain editing, 30 hours of new story content and so on, is also making baby steps towards synchronous co-op (i.e. a very basic form of multiplayer).

Singleplayer/multiplayer distinctions are one of the things which caused a kerfuffle when the game launched because prior to release the game lead, Sean Murray, had always maintained the game wasn’t a multiplayer experience but had spoken of the capacity to experience other players in Journey-esque terms – that perhaps that would be the only way for your character to know what they looked like. Then when two players then ended up at the same location and couldn’t experience one another’s presence in any way it added to the ill feeling towards how the game had been marketed.

To me it felt like the encounters/moments were something Hello Games had wanted to do and believed they could do for a long time but then couldn’t and stopped talking about it, perhaps assuming the situation’s sheer unlikelihood would mean the question didn’t come up after release instead of explicitly walking back specific claims. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do, but it’s more nuanced than the more headline-grabby “Hello Games deliberately lied on multiple occasions” anger would suggest because it involves omission and intention and all those other things.

ANYWAY. That part is the least interesting to me as I have no desire to interact with anyone except the weird creatures in NMS so let’s get it out of the way first! It’s in the segment marked “Joint Exploration”:

“Glitches in the simulation have begun to appear.

“Visualised by strange floating orbs, up to 16 players can see and communicate with one another, and explore the universe together.

“While interaction with others is currently very limited, this is an important first step into the world of synchronous co-op in No Man’s Sky.

“While interaction is very limited, VOIP (Voice over IP) allows proximity based voice chat with other nearby explorers.

“Use portals to quickly travel to more populated planets, or to meet up with friends.”

I like the idea that maybe you could just wander up to someone and start hearing ghost voices of chat. I could be No Man’s Sky’s Dererk Acorah! Voices from the aether telling me to tell you a message from someone called Mary who had a great fondness for Richard…

The top line summary for the rest of the update is as follows:

“In the Atlas Rises story, the fabric of existence is starting to falter. A mysterious new interdimensional race have appeared. Glitches are causing ancient portals to activate. Our story brings a new context, quest system and branching narrative to No Man’s Sky. 30 hours of new story content. Double the lore and interactions of the existing game. Discover the truth behind the Abandoned Building logs, the World of Glass, the Sentinels, the Redemption of the Gek, and the meaning of sixteen… After Waking Titan, Atlas Rises.”

Waking Titan was the ARG thingy with the cassette tapes which I was afraid might still somehow be part of the interminable Overwatch Sombra ARG. I have real ARG fatigue. ARG argh, if you will.

No Man's Sky

Digging a bit deeper into the info there are NPC guilds where you can improve your standing by completing missions (which is where terrain manipulation makes itself useful in uncovering buried bits for the salvage quests). There are more missions generally, actually, and across a variety of playstyles.

Trading and crafting now relate to variable economic factors tied to star systems – that one seems like an attempt to make that stuff more meaningful. There’s more info on your info scanner interface visor thingummy. There’s that terrain sculpting thing I’ve mentioned a few times which is via a multi-tool enhancement. The portals you find let you leap to new worlds or previously visited planets (you can do that with more efficiency by studying the glyphs, I think). Oh, and there are changes to space combat and another pass at low terrain flight improvements. It sounds like you can now crash into things which is good news for people who like that sort of thing and bad news for me who will end up landing in a tree by accident.

Here are the things I, Pip, am interested in:

1. The variety and visual quality of planetary biomes has been improved

2. Explore rare new exotic planet types as you journey toward the galactic core

3. Depth of field has been added as an option in photo mode, as well as NPC interactions

4. Increased variety in weather, planet and structure names

5. Improved grass placement and density

6. Improved generation of beaches along shorelines

7. Summon your ship from anywhere on a planet’s surface using your quick menu


No Man's Sky: Atlas Rises

The full patch notes are here. My client hasn’t updated so I’m assuming it’s the notes which are live given some elements leaked earlier and the patch is to follow shortly.

My main observation is that at various points before launch the idea was that No Man’s Sky was definitely not an MMO, or at least if it had MMO trappings it wasn’t intended as an MMO. But with all of these changes and the guilds and the missions and the bases and the fledgling acknowledgement of other people via ghost voices(??) and hubs of activity and economic variables it sounds like it might actually end up as one.

Disclosure: Once upon a time Alec did some writing for No Man’s Sky. I have no idea what he wrote but I hope it was Transformers fanfic.

Here is the hand face cactus monster:


  1. Skiv says:


  2. Kodaemon says:

    Atlas Rises, Players Shrug.

  3. Faldrath says:

    Have they improved the absolutely horrendous interface? It made me quit after 30 minutes and I never came back.

    • haldolium says:

      Not really.

      NMS has seen many improvements in small areas, but the overall feeling is the very same as it has been on day 1. There is no reason to reinstall this game ever again.

  4. Kefren says:

    I’ve heard lots of bad things about the interface, and have no interest in any other players affecting my game (naming things etc). Feature that might tempt me to play:
    – A setting that makes the game completely offline, so it never tries to connect to a server or downloads data about what other players have done.
    – A decent flight model above planets, where the ship can crash into scenery if you aren’t careful.
    I’d probably buy it then. I’d also be happy with far fewer planets, but with much more variety between them. Remove the other players from the equation and you don’t need so many. So it was like Starglider 2, but with totally different planets each time I played. I prefer replayable quality to stretched-thin quantity.

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      laiwm says:

      The online stuff is extremely light touch – I very rarely find a system that’s already been visited, and it sounds like the new quasi-multiplayer will be opt-in (or at the very least, you’ll have to deliberately travel to a populated system to participate). The interface isn’t spectacular but it’s much better than it was at launch, and they’ve changed the flight model so you can actually crash into things now – which was possible before with mods. I’ve been enjoying it before now but this is a good time to jump in if you haven’t tried it, it’s very cheap on Humble at the moment!

      • Kefren says:

        Thanks, that does sound like an improvement. I’m still surprised they don’t add a setting to keep it offline. Apparently I can faff around with my firewall to do that, but it shouldn’t be necessary. It could even be an installation option “never go online” or something. It’s like when companies don’t allow players to redefine the controls – I’m always gobsmacked that they assumed everyone liked the same things.

        • Premium User Badge

          laiwm says:

          Out of interest, what’s your aversion to online in NMS?

          • Kefren says:

            I’m generally averse to the moves to make single-player games go online even when you don’t want that. And I only play single-player. I definitely don’t want to come across any signs of other players – I’d rather imagine I’m the last human or something.

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            laiwm says:

            Fair enough! I just watched a bit of a PS4 stream of the new update, and there’s an option to toggle network features off. That may or may not include discoveries, not sure! If it doesn’t, the other option is to buy through GOG, which is separate to Steam – even if you can’t disable online, your chances of seeing anything from another player will be infinitesimally small.

      • Nucas says:

        in 132 hours i only ever encountered one solar system that had been discovered before me. without using the patched features that make it easier to find other players’ bases i honestly don’t think it would ever even happen on it’s own unless you’re doing a LOT of planet jumping. i personally tend to average one night per star system, as much as a week if there are really cool or scenic biomes.

    • Harlander says:

      WRT your second point, the patch notes talk about changes to the flight model and add something that boils down to “Be careful not to crash into things; if you break your ship you’ll have to fix it before you can leave the planet.”

      • Kefren says:

        Thanks, that’s worth knowing. I remember an old PC game where I used to hug the scenery – damn, I can’t remember the name? It was fairly famous in its day. I used to play the shareware demo around the same time as Descent. You had a ship, the first level was snowy mountains I think, looked amazing at the time, under attack from lots of things and you could go into tunnels (a la Starglider 2). Anyway, some of that flying is what I wanted to experience again, in higher res.

  5. Jalan says:

    It only took them a year after release to get the game to resemble a state that they claimed it would be in prior to going live. Good that they’re continuing to update it, though the player totals surely have diminished enough that only the “I’ll stick with it, purely out of good faith” crowd are the ones left to fully enjoy the spoils of such an update.

    • draglikepull says:

      Sean Murray gave a GDC talk this year about the procedural terrain generation, and he included some charts showing how much people had been playing No Man’s Sky, and the amount of time was huuuuge. Obviously there’s a sizable contingent that was disappointed with the game, but it sold a ton of copies and there are also lots of people who’ve put in a lot of hours and really enjoyed it (like me).

      • The Great Wayne says:

        Numbers : only believe in those you doctored yourself.

      • Jalan says:

        It’s not that I disbelieve people have put numerous hours in (even if they didn’t find the game to be everything they potentially hoped it would be), it’s the decline of sustained players overall that I’m referring to instead. Total copies sold being nice and all, it’s not a guarantee that people who bought the game are going back to it, essentially.

        It’s also my own curiosity of “do these updates really matter to the general public who have since moved on” vs. “these updates will please the players who never gave up on the game, despite its shortcomings”. Essentially who’s still around vs. who dropped it 1-2 months (at the least estimation) post-launch.

      • Josh W says:

        Awesome to hear about the procedural terrain talk, found this repost of it, although hopefully it’ll be on the vault eventually.

        I personally found the game pretty great too, in the right mindset, although over time the “filling buckets” part I had glossed over started to become a little too obvious to me.

        Stats wise though, no man’s sky has more concurrent players than dark souls 3, most times I’ve checked on steam, even though I would say that in most normal senses I would judge the latter game as more rewarding and better designed.

        People definitely like No Man’s Sky, it’s just made a lot of people hate it as well.

        • Josh W says:

          Looking at the numbers he gave, 250k people 1% getting fundamental crash bugs, gives 2.5k people playing the broken version of the game. So even those people alone clubbed together to form a hate club, their club would be the size of the total committed audience they expected for a successful small indie game. Triple that group to players being disappointed too, and you can have a group that could have a reverse of all the nice dynamics that happen with small indie fandoms, with a vocal self-sustaining crowd being able to in fact keep playing the game and posting about how terrible they are finding it.

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      Nauallis says:

      Or the other obvious player segment, people who actually enjoy playing the game for what it is (like Pip, John, myself, others), rather than some “I need to keep playing this to justify my purchase” psychosis that you seem to believe in.

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        It astounds me how many people treat a video game purchase like it’s a life-altering big ticket expense. Which it is not, unless you live in extreme poverty or Australia.

    • rochrist says:

      I’m pretty sure that most of the folks who purchased it still own it. Perhaps, like some of us, they stepped away and waited for it to be improved upon before resuming play.

  6. Zaxwerks says:

    It’s £15.99 (60% off) on at the moment.

    Glad they stuck with it over the past year to get the game in much better shape.

  7. Captain Narol says:

    That took time, but that game is slowly becoming what people were hoping beforehand that it would be.

    Probably a good time to get back in, as I really enjoyed the trip despise the flaws.

    • Ghostbird says:

      I’m ambivalent about this because, like Pip, what I really want isn’t so much what people were hoping it would be as an improved version of what it was when it came out. But I think this is what the devs wanted to do too, so I can’t complain.

  8. aircool says:

    Flight Model; is it still worse than Star Wars: Battlefront?

    Graphics; are they still rendered at 720 and upscaled?

    Graphics; is the rendering still shit, with empty triangles lacking any textures and pop up that’s worse than Bullfrogs Magic Carpet?

    Inventory; is it still a nightmare of non-stacking items and resources taking up way too many spaces?

    Graphics; are there any variations to the planets beyond colours and a few different trees/rocks?

    AI; is the AI still as dumb as a sack of rocks?

    Combat; does the combat have any depth yet? Or is it still a case of the bad guys going route one all the time?

    Gameplay; is the gameplay more interesting that playing ‘Space Invaders’ for 48 hours non stop whilst listening to ‘elevator music’ and being forced to eat Tofu?

  9. Alberto says:

    I should buy it at last, I watch LP’s of tje game just to see pretty animals and pleasant looking planets.

    For those interested, GDC youtube channel has incredible talks about proc gen from the audio engineer and one of the main programmers.

    • Captain Narol says:

      Pretty animals (or weird ones) and pretty planets are indeed the most interesting part of the game, as far as I am concerned !

      Btw, I am one of the admins of a cool NMS-focused Steam group called “The Cosmos of NMS”, send me a call if you want to join in !

  10. Premium User Badge

    Iamblichos says:

    NMS was the biggest disappointment of my adult gaming life. Unless they have fixed:
    * the horrible ship handling
    * the dreadful interface
    * the repetitive, barely-tweaked planetary models
    * the skyboxes which are so restrictive (and which they swore they weren’t using)

    I can’t really say I would be tempted to go back. Worst of these by far is the ship handling. All ships handle the same, and that same is poorly – they all wallow across the sky, with no degree of accuracy possible beyond “aim and pray”. Just let it die, already.

  11. stringerdell says:

    a million billion different planets, every single one with the same 6 types of building every few metres. at least it taught my friend a lesson about hype.

    • ColonelFlanders says:


    • waltC says:

      “Procedurally generated” is one of the biggest buzzwords in 3d–the only thing that surprises me is that it *still is*–concept has been around forever. But that’s basically what it is–different pieces of this and that get hooked onto different pieces of this or that–and it’s Psudeo-“randomized”. Psuedo, because pieces of building hooked on to pieces of creature would look rather corny, imo.

      But, I wish them luck–I’m not a customer yet–don’t know that I ever will be. It all looks very cartoonish to me, and I lost interest in Saturday-morning cartoons many decades ago…;)

  12. Deviija says:

    This sounds and looks fantastic. Another great (and, worth underlining, free) content update patch from HG. I’m super excited.

    It’ll be really interesting to see just how far we’ll go with (local) co-op/multiplayer visible experience in the next patch(es).

  13. Chromatose says:

    Why are so many people still moaning about this game? It isn’t like it’s going to disappear in a puff of logic because enough people complained on the internet about it.

  14. noodlecake says:

    I love that they persevered through the negative response and continued to add to it. It must have been very tempting to rebrand and start a completely new project. They have made pretty good games before (I remember a cartoony trials-esque game geting very good reviews), and the response to this one reeks of mob culture to me. In fact a lot of internet culture reeks of mob culture but when it comes to video games I think it’s at it’s most toxic.

  15. c-Row says:

    Proximity based voice-chat is the first thing any sane person switches off. Hasn’t the PUBG lobby taught us that?

    • Premium User Badge

      Nauallis says:

      No. Fun fact: if you shout “Don’t shoot, I’m out of ammo!” in proximity chat, people will oftentimes not shoot you. It’s quite bizarre. Gotta love reflexive empathy.

      • c-Row says:

        So you’re telling me not everybody is blasting “Cotton Eye Joe” over his microphone?

  16. PancakeWizard says:

    “Glitches in the simulation have begun to appear.”

    Yeah, I may be alone in this but of all the controversies surrounding this game, all the lurching from one game type to another, this is the thing that makes me not want to play it anymore.

    I played NMS to be immersed in a 70s sci-fi novel cover art. The whole ‘you were in the Matrix the whole time’ shtick is a) tired and b) ruins that immersive feeling I was enjoying.

    I feel like the rug has been pulled from under me. Why does any of it matter now? Who gives a shit about trading ones and zeros or scanning life forms? What’s the point?

  17. racccoon says:

    People just want to keep harping on about the oh we couldn’t meet up. They all ignored the fact that No Mans Sky ran brilliantly and did what no other space game has done before. It created the best spacey type game out there, fluid in environment destruction’s, building & had new awesome ideas. The repetitive planets of the past were to be expected, as you can not procedural generate without the same old same old in your library, its impossible, you’d have to have a untold mass bank of models held to that algorithmic procedural generation. which is dam hard maths to do. but, they have the formula to the answers of screamers & are slowly over coming this pr mistake.
    These new updates will be a joy to see just how much it has improved.

    No Man’s Sky = Independently created, completed, launched, Working, and has very good game play.

    Early Access = stupid! a waste of your time, your money and resources, Yep, your paying to work for someone you do not even know! yes paying to work. Are you really that stupid?

    No Man’s Sky old school attitude to business, no hand outs, no begging, just hard core work! work! WORK!! from a tiny dank office with minimal devs, a great game to play any day of the week.

  18. nim.was.taken says:

    I don’t think we should be Sean Murray apologists here.

    link to

    These are direct questions:

    Q: “Can you run in to other people, other players, in the game?”
    A: “Yes.”

    Q: “How much interaction is there with other people playing No Man’s Sky?”
    A: “… You could encounter other players…”

    Q: “Will you be able to play with your friends?”
    A: “Yeah.”

    He reiterates that it will be extremely unlikely that you will encounter another player because of the size of the game; but that is a lie. It is entirely impossible that you will encounter another player because the game does not support it.

    If you don’t care about co-op it’s not going to bother you as much. But as someone who does care a great deal about being able to play games with my friends, if I had purchased this game I would have been very upset to find that a key feature of the game that was promised was imaginary.


  19. wombat191 says:

    hmm its 60% off and I just bought it. Glass half full :D

    I’m sure a game that people were screaming about at launch and people still say is dull and is scored negatively wont bite me in the ass at all

  20. Josh W says:

    It amuses me to think that they have created backwards journey co-op, instead of interacting with physically present but silent players, you can interact with almost nothing but their voices.

    Considering that most players seeking benign interactions between their users have attempted to emphasise communication through anything but open text and voice chat, I can foresee some very tone breaking experiences. On the other hand, getting the synchronisation working is very interesting.