No Man’s Sky – A Game of Moments

My very first planet in No Man’s Sky was a frozen hellscape. During the day, it was too cold to venture outside my broken ship for long. The environmental protection in my exosuit ticked down at a steady rate. The night was even worse. This made the very first objective of the game–finding a specific resource five minutes away–unusually difficult. I was five minutes away from one of the resources I needed, which was a bit too long without finding some zinc along the way. There was enough, just enough, to make the run and return to my ship. Which made me feel like the section was scripted, even though that’s fundamentally impossible.

It’s impossible because the planets in No Man’s Sky are procedurally generated. No one crafted them. They are created by algorithm and seeded with outposts, life, and resources. From reading about the experiences of others, I had a particularly harsh go of it in the beginning. But everything turned out fine. I repaired my ship and departed the planet to explore new, more hospitable ones.

The next few planets I discovered were fairly dull. Very few animals, lots of plants, and a variety of harsh conditions that weren’t quite as brutal as my homeworld but still a hindrance to exploration. Then, in my second star system, I landed on a remarkable world. Every few minutes, it was battered with beautiful and toxic storms. The sky was full of long, dragon-like creatures and large insect-fish hybrids. Wherever I went, these creatures were dancing around in the clouds above me. I stayed on that planet for a long time, despite the toxic storms, finding seven separate exosuit upgrades (which were incredibly useful going forward) as well as some good deposits of Emeril that helped fund my first new ship purchase.

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Elite: Dangerous – Like 400 Billion Stars When All You Need is a Knife

When I last logged out of Elite: Dangerous, I had just finished my lengthy pilgrimage to Empire-controlled space. The trip took well over an hour, thanks to the need to re-fuel at space stations every few jumps. I’d left on this mission (foolishly) without equipping a fuel scoop and there weren’t many larger starports in the area, which meant I couldn’t modify my ship to make it better suited for long trips between uninhabited stars. If I wasn’t careful, and didn’t stop whenever I got the chance at the smaller outposts to top off the fuel tank, I knew I could end up trapped in a dead-end system with no way out. And I didn’t want to start over, even if that would let me plan the trip better in the first place.

Elite: Dangerous is a space sim, by the way. You pilot a ship, visit the stars, shoot other people visiting those same stars, and smuggle weapons parts. It’s the sort of game that should require a keyboard and crazy flight stick, but the developers managed to port it to the Xbox One. That’s where I’m playing it because of my PC gaming aversion that I’ve long chronicled on this blog.


There was one particular space station between Federation and Empire space that stands out to me.  I don’t remember the name, of course, because the places in Elite: Dangerous are all procedurally generated. Most of them don’t stick in your memory. They have generic-ass names like “Hoffman Enterprises” and “Cleve Hub.” The name of this station doesn’t matter. What matters is that it was the only populated place within jump distance as my fuel reserves dipped into the lower 1/4 of the gauge. I needed to stop somewhere–anywhere–and this place would have to do.

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