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No Man’s Sky: Origins update adds millions of new planets, more diversity, and sandworms

Hello Games gives players a new universe to discover (again)

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

No Man’s Sky’s latest update, Origins, drops today, and it gives players millions of new planets to discover. Those strange new worlds will look markedly different from the millions players have already seen over the past four years during their journey through the massive, procedurally generated spacefaring game.

Hello Games’ new additions to No Man’s Sky include moving weather systems, with extreme events like tornados and lightning storms; never-before-seen flora and fauna that exhibit new behaviors, like burrowing and improved flocking; bigger mountains, deeper oceans, steeper cliffs, and enormous buildings housing new discoveries. There are active volcanoes and meteor showers, additions that not only look cool, but have a real gameplay impact, Hello Games says.

And there are sandworms. Massive, Dune-inspired invertebrates that burrow underground and present the kind of threat only a giant sandworm can.

A giant sandworm chases an alien astronaut in a screenshot from No Man’s Sky: Origins Image: Hello Games

The point of Hello Games’ Origins free update for No Man’s Sky is to increase diversity, both to wow new players who will discover a more varied universe and for veteran players who have invested hundreds of hours in the game.

“For people who have played a thousand hours, we want them to feel the game is fresh and new,” No Man’s Sky game director Sean Murray said in an interview with Polygon. But adding that feeling of freshness has presented a challenge for the (still relatively small) No Man’s Sky team — in part due to the game’s popularity.

“We’ve been planning something like this for quite a while,” Murray explained. “We built this procedural universe and we put it out there. We’ve updated the game a lot, but [the game] itself hasn’t changed that much, in terms of the fundamental planets that you go around and explore. People have had hundreds of millions hours in that universe we’ve made [and] ... to an extent, it’s a little bit embarrassing. We should really make that better.”

Updating the core of No Man’s Sky — fixing the game’s foundation while millions of people are living in its house — included building “so many things we wanted to do, would have loved to do day one,” but are hard because the game is a living thing. “The more popular the game has become, the more people who’ve played it, the more difficult it is for us to go change some of the fundamentals,” Murray said.

“That’s why we’re calling [the update] Origins,” he explained. “It’s not just about this update, it’s given us a whole bunch of powers and a bit of a rewrite of the underlying technology for us to do this.”

An astronaut raises its arms in a field of glowing fungus in a screenshot from No Man’s Sky: Origins. Image: Hello Games

It’s also why, while some of Origins’ new additions to No Man’s Sky will come to existing planets, Hello Games had to birth millions of new planets to be home to the volcanos, more extreme landscapes, and firestorms. The developer didn’t want Origins’ changes to destroy or otherwise interfere with players existing bases and community hubs.

“People have made their homes, they’ve lived in this universe,” Murray said. “I would be working on things like making mountains taller, and you’d see online that somebody has dedicated a planet to a lost loved one and built a base for them. And I’ve got my head in my hands thinking, ‘I’m going to destroy that planet if we do this.’”

Murray said that “some of the biome diversity,” will change universe-wide, but that “the fundamental shape of the terrain will stay the same on existing planets.”

While I haven’t played No Man’s Sky’s big new update myself — it launches Wednesday, Sept. 23 — the changes sound potentially awe-inspiring, even for veteran players. Origins adds new cloud rendering technology for more dramatic skies. Planets will have more color variety. Giant beetles and massive butterflies will fly overhead. Players will be visited by black market traders on planet surfaces, and meet robotic lifeforms on new worlds. It’s a staggering amount of new additions, paired with less sexy updates, like UI improvements and streamlined crafting.

But all of it sounds like a good reason to revisit No Man’s Sky again, just to see what’s out there.

A group of astronauts look out upon a blue sky in a screenshot from No Man’s Sky: Origins Image: Hello Games

For a rundown of everything that’s changing in No Man’s Sky’s Origins update, read Hello Games’ full patch notes. No Man’s Sky is available now on PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One.