When you reach the No Man’s Sky endgame, you might find yourself drowning in in-game currency without much to spend it on. Players in the No Man’s Sky Galactic Hub have taken matters into their own hands by creating their own economy and cryptocurrency called Hub Coin. Unlike other cryptocurrencies, these players hope Hub Coin remains worthless.
The Galactic Hub is a pretty unique community in video games. When No Man’s Sky launched, it was immediately rejected by the gamers who had been anticipating it for not being the game they wanted. Rather than give up on the game, the Galactic Hub was a community of players who wanted to see how they could, through out-of-game strategizing and communication, make the game not just enjoyable, but a community.
Players who want to join the hub just have to navigate their way over to the coordinates where all the players have gathered, and introduce themselves on the Galactic Hub Reddit and Discord. Over the years, they’ve largely succeeded in creating a real, working civilization of players with holidays, businesses, and attractions. The Galactic Hub has since inspired other in-game civilizations and even helped to create a kind of space UN in order to coordinate with them.
The Galactic Hub was created in response to No Man’s Sky not launching with the kind of cooperative play features players wanted, and Hub Coin is similarly a reaction to what the game is still lacking despite years of updates and developments. It all comes down to the end game of No Man’s Sky, when the various in-game currencies become pretty useless to players because they can duplicate any item.
In No Man’s Sky you’re able to build a base and customize it, and many players have built complex monuments, amphitheaters, or even a giant, functional pachinko machine in the game. But these activities are all labor intensive, especially if you’re building on a massive scale. If you’re playing on console, you also don’t have access to tools that can create custom flora and fauna for your game, meaning you have to rely on PC players to help you out. The world is only limited by your imagination—and the amount of effort you’re willing to put into a video game—but players may find themselves wishing they had someone else to do the tedious part of the job for them.
“As the Galactic Hub continues to grow, the amount of players in the community reaching what we would call ‘end-game’ status has grown too,” Gizmokhan, the deputy secretary of the Galactic Hub Treasury, told Waypoint.“Basically, end-game players have no real use for the in-game currency, which makes it difficult to reward players in the community.”
In massively multiplayer online games, like Final Fantasy XIV, there are in-game systems for trading resources and collaborating. No Man’s Sky isn’t quite an MMO, though, and doesn’t have that same kind of infrastructure to allow player collaboration. As ever, the Galactic Hub took this problem into their own hands.
“There is no resource in No Man's Sky which is both transferable and unable to be duplicated or otherwise gained through exploits; this is why all previous attempts at creating a metagame economy have failed,” 7101334, Galactic Hub founder told Waypoint. “End-game players, however, still desire access to those things which can only be achieved by player activity: they want to commission ByteBeat tracks under certain parameters, they want to pay for an artistic canvas in their base, they want a PC player to save-edit a custom fauna companion for them, they want a skilled architect to help design their base or do interior decoration, or maybe they just want the simple convenience of not gathering their own resources.”
This is where Hub Coin comes in. It’s a cryptocurrency, but not one that can be used to buy goods and services in the real world. It exists on what’s known as a “testnet” for Ethereum, which is a testing environment where everything is just play money, but can still be interacted with like regular cryptocurrency. Even though there’s no reason for Hub Coin to have any value, people may still decide it’s important enough to throw money at, which is why the rules of The Galactic Hub community also prohibit it from being exchanged for real currency.
The way that Hub Coin was designed to work, and how it’s been working so far, is that it’s earned by performing useful social functions for the Galactic Hub, like filling out the wiki, and can mainly be spent for in-game items from other players. You can also redeem your coins for Galactic Hub merch, if you’d prefer to do that over spending your own money.
Implementing a cryptocurrency in the No Man’s Sky community wasn’t a simple task. 7101334 and the newly minted Galactic Hub Treasury Department attempted to look at the pitfalls of other games that have introduced cryptocurrency, and tried to avoid them. The most obvious pain point, they said, was that once you add the ability to cash out or otherwise earn money from a game, it stops being fun and starts being work.
“The prime motivation for most people playing blockchain games is ‘make money playing video games.’ For me, I'm looking to have fun playing a video game,” CasualLunatic19420, a member of the Galactic Hub Treasury told Waypoint. “A marketplace is a great feature in a blockchain game, sure, but I can't enjoy the game in any other way.”
“When players can ‘cash out’ into dollars the crypto wallet becomes the main goal and the video game becomes a means to that end,” ItalicInterloper, a marshall for the treasury, told Waypoint. “In-game economies can become trivial for end-game players, and time-consuming for developers to protect from exploits.”
“People don't play games because they want to trade currencies or NFTs, they play games to have fun and be creative,” 7101334 echoed. “If your game is ‘play-to-earn’ because no one would ever play it for free, your game is bad and will not succeed.”
Some members of the community also pushed back against the idea of crypto over environmental concerns.
“Of course our biggest concern from the beginning was the environmental impact of crypto, and we were pleased to find that many people in the community shared that concern,” Kaboom, the secretary of the treasury, told Waypoint. By reaching out to the community, the treasury was able to change some technical details of how they implemented Hub Coin to mitigate the environmental impact.
One of the main reasons for choosing the particular testnet that Hub Coin runs on—Goerli—was its minimal environmental impact.
“We started with the Ropsten Testnet, but after Gmr_Leon informed me that Ropsten is also Proof-of-Work, we switched to the Goerli Testnet before public launch, which uses Proof-of-Authority,” 7101334 told Waypoint. Proof-of-Work is the typical kind of crypto mining that most are familiar with, where computers all over the world run 24/7 to validate blocks of data and generate new coins. Proof-of-Authority uses much less energy at the cost of requiring more trust, because rather than a global energy-burning competition deciding who gets to mine a block, validators are known entities that put their reputations on the line.
The members of the treasury and 7101334 have said that since these issues were worked out, Hub Coin has been a success with players. It isn’t just the technical set up that has allowed for it though. A big part of why these community members all trust each other enough to use such a currency is because it’s opt-in, and comes from the community rather than the developers.
7101334, who also plays Grand Theft Auto: Online, said his experiences with a paid currency that was implemented by developers rather than the community has really changed his experience of that game.
“I'm the first to admit I'm a dick in Grand Theft Auto—because I can't be anything else,” he said. “Gifting vehicles cut into Rockstar's profit margins, so they removed the ability to gift vehicles. After release, you were able to send cash directly to other players, but hackers abused this to send millions to other players—Rockstar fixed this by, mostly, not allowing you to send cash to other players at all. They took away all the ways to help other players, so they can sell the help instead, and incentivized griefing so players cost each other money, thereby creating more pressure for them to spend real money.”
Hello Games has never added a paid currency to No Man’s Sky, and the players who spoke to Waypoint said that not only do they not want them to, it probably wouldn’t work as well as what they’ve created with Hub Coin.
“Hubcoin has zero in-game analogue. Its growth is fully dependent on players trusting each other on social media and chats to reciprocate a good or service for an agreeable amount,” ItalicInterloper said. “This is a very different relationship than a developer implementing and tweaking a player economy through their game code. When a new player signs up for Hub Coin we all celebrate with them. We answer their various questions about signup accounts and GHUB’s earning and spending potential.”
Gizmokhan, the deputy secretary for the Galactic Hub Treasury, told Waypoint that an important distinction here is that the Galactic Hub citizens aren’t making a game by using the blockchain, like so-called “play-to-earn” games such as Axie Infinity. Instead, they are using the blockchain to facilitate a medium of exchange so that users can trade goods and services.
Axie Infinity has become a poster child for how games based around cryptocurrencies can go wrong. The initially soaring value of its tokens and high cost of entry encouraged the organic creation of a kind of digital sharecropping system, where wealthier players who refer to themselves as “managers” employ teams of poorer players to grind the barebones battle system and split their profits. As if that wasn’t enough, the tokens themselves have now cratered in value, and North Korea hacked the game’s blockchain “bridge” and stole more than $600 million worth of tokens at the time.
“HubCoin has a set value that isn't able to be duped or otherwise glitched, can't be farmed, and won't ever be handed out on the nexus,” he said. “This is the real value of Hub Coin.”
According to ItalicInterloper, right now there are 149 Hub Coin holders, and only two people have left the community over the currency.
“Many citizens are uninterested in the new economy, preferring to keep the game closer to its original intent,” he said. “But 291 citizens are registered on the Census, meaning that roughly one-half of active citizens hold some GHUB or could engage in the economy.”
As the Galactic Hub Treasury prepares for the future, there is one major stumbling block they see on the horizon: inflation. Initially, Hub Coin was launched with a deflationary mechanism that would make the currency rarer over time. The Treasury has since axed this aspect of the currency, making it more vulnerable to being devalued through inflation.
“Any new system is gonna have problems with scaling up, and we are working hard to identify and deal with them well before they become actual issues,” Gizmokhan told Waypoint. “Managing inflation is the biggest concern for our future-proofing department, and so far we have managed to stay ahead of it.”
Unlike the real world economy—and the current economy of cryptocurrencies—the future for Hub Coin looks optimistic. Although there will be growing pains as the project scales up, both 7101334 and the Galactic Hub Treasury are confident they can handle the challenges.
“It is stable and backed by our top members, and we've all agreed to use it and back its value,” Gizmokhan said. “It's no different than real world currency in that context.”