A space freighter crashed on a snow covered planet
Image: Hello Games
Games

No Man's Sky's Interstellar NIMBYs Clash With a Would-Be Railroad Tycoon

The game's largest community doesn't want a space highway going through their backyard, and with good reason.
February 11, 2020, 4:39pm

The Galactic Hub is one of the largest and longest running in-game civilizations in No Man's Sky. The players who participate in the Hub—which has sequestered off a portion of space for scientific discovery, having parties, and building cool bases—try to run the place as communally as possible. This is the home of the No Man's Sky diehards, and also the access point for much of the game's thriving community. That's why the creator of an intergalactic highway, called the Warpway, thought the Hub would be a natural destination for his own burgeoning community: a Galactic Hub not just in terms of socializing, but for infrastructure as well. But what began as a cordial proposal for a win-win scenario turned into an increasingly personal public spat between one of the No Man's Sky community's most respected leaders and a prodigal fan-turned-innovator. At stake were questions about who benefits from development and how it impacts a community. It ended with accusations of ulterior motives and a ban on the Warpway in the Galactic Hub.

If you were extremely hype for No Man's Sky after their 2014 E3 presentation, picked it up when it launched in 2016 and bounced off it, you are far from alone. It was not a perfect launch. While the game promised an endless galaxy of exploration and procedurally generated animals, some players felt that there just wasn't enough to keep them occupied. More notoriously, while players were expecting to be able to run into other explorers in the galaxy, they soon discovered that they could not. That might have been the story of the No Man's Sky if not for the Galactic Hub.

"You had already so many beautiful communities out there, along with these excellent creators that we have. But they were so scattered around the whole entire No Man's Sky game, and online."

The Galactic Hub began as a humble project to catalogue everything—every planet, moon, plant, and animal—in a small sector of space. Created by a player known as 7101334 (or 710 for short) in 2016, it soon grew to define how No Man's Sky would be played. The Galactic Hub became a civilization inside of the galaxy of No Man's Sky, with players creating communal farms to share wealth, creating their own holidays and symbols. As the Hub grew in popularity, more civilizations followed in its wake, eventually leading to the creation of the United Federation Of Travelers, a kind of Space UN meant to resolve differences between civilizations.

The No Man's Sky of 2020 is not the No Man's Sky of 2016. Development studio Hello Games have been continuing to provide free updates that have radically changed the way that the game is played, and also have made it easier for players engaging in in-world civilizations to do their thing. At this point in time, you can build bases and various vehicles, use a submarine to explore underwater caves, and steal eggs from hostile aliens for cash. Most importantly, the game now has real multiplayer, allowing players to explore the galaxy together. For Chris May, a player who couldn't get into the game when it launched four years ago, it also represented an opportunity.

"I started playing when the game first came out and then had to stop 'cause in all honesty, the game wasn't up to par yet," May said over the phone. But by last November, when the game's Synthesis update came out, May had heard the game had improved and found himself diving back into it.

"You had already so many beautiful communities out there, along with these excellent creators that we have. But they were so scattered around the whole entire No Man's Sky game, and online," May said. "I mean, basically there were only maybe five or six that were getting an internal viewing, but it wasn't enough for the world actually see some of these creations."

Image: Hello Games

What May has proposed is a mapped chain of systems that serves as a pathway from the center of the galaxy to the Galactic Hub. Making your way to the Galactic Hub isn't difficult, but it is tedious. Often players will have to make hundreds of jumps through hundreds of star systems, plotting out their own route along the way. May's Warpway uses systems with black holes in them allows players to easily follow this linked chain without having to use an outside reference.

Once players have completed the "Atlas Path" storyline, all black holes are visible on the map. The path to the center of the galaxy is also always visible to players. The Warpway is a chain of systems with black holes in them, meaning that in order to find the next link in the chain, all you'll have to do is look for the next black hole system that's part of the Warpway—May has already named these systems so that they're easy for players to find. May thinks that the Warpway will take away part of that tedium while also showing off what civilized space is like in No Man's Sky. Players can also feel free to build their elaborate bases along the Warpway, allowing players to have some fun while making their journey to the Hub. What May hadn't bet on was that the Hub wouldn't exactly be grateful for what May sees as free publicity.

Over the last month, May and the leader of the Galactic Hub, founder 710 have been debating whether or not the Hub and the larger United Federation of Travelers will support May's project. A week ago, the hammer came down hard on May: Not only will the Federation not support the Warpway, May has been banned from the Hub.

By encouraging players to explore, settle and build along the Warpway, the Warpway becomes a civilization in its own right, and the promotion of it in the Galactic Hub is an attempt to poach players.

What's most fascinating about the Hub and its related organizations as an observer is watching them re-invent civilizations inside of No Man's Sky. They have wars, police forces, debates over urbanization, they spy on each other, and even have car shows. What the Warpway is bringing to The Galactic Hub are the politics of the railroad, with May as a railroad baron bringing change to a community that doesn't necessarily want it.

In the late 1880s, robber barons like James J. Hill not only built railroads throughout the United States, they encouraged settlements and development along those lines. The wave of immigrants making their homes in the towns alongside these railroads would then ensure their survival. In the world of No Man's Sky, it's less money that ensures growth or survival than player participation. From 7101334's perspective, by encouraging players to explore, settle and build along the Warpway, the Warpway becomes a civilization in its own right. May's promotion of it in the Galactic Hub is an attempt to poach players away from the Hub to ensure his civilization's survival. Beyond that, 7101334 is just doubtful that the Warpway is a viable concept for a civilization inside No Man's Sky.

"[May] presented the Warpway to Galactic Hub staff as a simple interstellar highway, then used that facade to poach members for a 660,000 light-year-long civilization," 7101334 said over Twitter direct messages. 7101334 said that when he and May first spoke, May requested to advertise the Warpway within the Galactic Hub's subreddit, which has over twenty thousand members. He would not have allowed that if he had known that the Warpway might entice players away from the Hub's highly specialized, localized civilization to an anarchic, decentralized one.

Hello Games

"The Galactic Hub is maybe 1,500 light-years at its widest point. We have the greatest concentration of players in the game, the most publicity, etc. Despite this, we're still mostly empty space outside of colonies and the capital," 7101334 continued. "In short, civilizations ARE localization, and a 660,000 light-year stretch of space is... not localized. Their plan for a colony every 2,100 light-years in a black hole system would be 300+ colonies. The Galactic Hub has 10 or so."

May insists that his intergalactic highway will bring to the Galactic Hub more players and more activity.

"The Warpway was designed as a Galactic Highway—it has not changed," May said. "The NMS Community has added to it, which has created civilizations within and made it much larger, but it's by no means a civilization by itself."

7101334 insists that while a May's highway might bring players to the Hub, it's really just a ploy for May to enrich himself—and not just within the game. While in the process of deliberating about whether or not to support the Warpway, the United Federation of Travelers discovered that Chris May had started a Patreon where players can pay real money to sponsor the Warpway and its development.

"The Warpway is not a Hub project, so we're not required to follow their guidelines—much less inform them of our future projects."

"I don't often swing my weight around or even like to put much emphasis on my position in the community, but I've directed the largest civilization in this game without seeing a penny in three years," 7101334 wrote on the Federation subreddit. "All Hub merchandise is done on a no-profit basis, and any profit we do get is put into creating additional merchandise, not our wallets. I will not allow him to not only poach my members, but attempt to financially profit in the process."

May said that the Patreon will eventually sponsor events that aren't related to in-game content, and that it isn't currently active or charging people. Besides that, the Warpway doesn't need to play by the same rules that the Hub has dedicated itself to.

"The Warpway is not a Hub project, so we're not required to follow their guidelines—much less inform them of our future projects," May said.

Image: Hello Games

Growth isn't the end all be all measure of success for the Galactic Hub in its founders eyes. The Hub was built with a specific purpose: Cataloguing all the flora and fauna in their corner of space, what 710 calls "scientific discovery." There's a lot of curiosity about the Hub, but 710 wants players who are willing and able to contribute to its goals. The culture of the Hub and its society are just as important as its size.

"I've always developed the Hub with the specific vision of a quasi-scientific documentation community first and foremost, with out-of-simulation social aspects," 7101334 said. "But the Hub has been the galaxy's de-facto social hotspot for many update cycles, and while it was an honor and a ton of fun, it was never what we were about. We're space-scientists, farmers, and architects, and if growing specifically in that direction dampens 'gross growth,' I'm perfectly happy with that."

The galaxy of No Man's Sky is an enormous place—so large that there's plenty of room for the Warpway and The Galactic Hub to live in harmony. When it comes to a space railroad encroaching on the Hub's corner of space, though, 7101334 doesn't want it in his backyard.