If you’re a part of the No Man’s Sky community, and you share screenshots of your world with others, you may expect a couple of visitors, maybe a compliment on your sweet base. But some fans are logging in to find that their space base has been “infested” — covered with decals and items to create the illusion of a Zerg-like creep.
The infestation is a big part of the No Man’s Sky lore, but this isn’t an event run by developer Hello Games. This is a group effort of four players who have figured out a trick to “overlap” player bases with their own item. When an explorer makes a base in No Man’s Sky, they put down a base computer, which is meant to create a zone that “belongs” to a spacefarer; this prevents outsiders from building in that spot. However, some players have figured out how to glitch their own base computer or build items into these spaces.
In role-play terms, the Infestation explains this as laying a spore and spreading patches of infection until a planet is consumed and a base is claimed.
“The purpose of the Infestation is to spread,” the Infestation said in a statement to Polygon. “Anything in their path will be devoured and consumed. It is up to the galaxy to decide on how they want to respond to what is coming.”
The Infestation have infested the Valhalla Restaurant and Recreational Center base! The land now belongs to us! We will gnaw on the Galactic Hub's malnourished bones before we continue our invasion! #Infestation #InfestationNMS #NoMansSky #WorldEaters #Invasion #GalacticHub pic.twitter.com/7wff8rqIJa— INFESTATION (@InfestationNMS) April 25, 2021
The downsides of this approach are obvious — it means that someone can log in and find that their base is difficult to access and covered with unexplained stuff. Many No Man’s Sky builders focus exclusively on their bases, and spend tons of time carefully crafting the perfect archways and towers. To log in and find your base covered and blocked off can be infuriating, like the cliched excuse of “it’s just a prank, bro!”
For its part, the Infestation claims that all bases are “still functional and accessible to all those who visit, and all structures constructed prior to the invasion of the base remain intact and are not destroyed or removed. Craters surrounding the base are a result of the battle that took place between the Infestation and the defender.” However, once the Infestation has spread to an area, it will defend it and attack other players, as if it’s protecting valuable territory of its own.
To some members of the role-play community, this is a clear case of harassment and griefing, even if it’s technically possible with the game’s mechanics. The Infestation disagrees, telling Polygon: “With respect to all others, you don’t need permission to play with others in a multiplayer game. The role-playing method of the Infestation might be considered unorthodox, but we do have our own set of role-playing rules that we abide by.”
Those rules stand in stark contrast to the greater philosophy that most of No Man’s Sky’s role-playing community shares, which is about collaboration. Most groups within the game’s fandom are pacifists or organizers — not destroyers, plagues, or warlords. Through that perspective, the Infestation comes across as a group of griefers exploiting loopholes, rather than a fun band of creative storytellers.
This conflict is exacerbated by the fact that the Infestation intentionally goes after crowded or highly built planets, like a dense urban network of towers or a community meetup spot. This is an effective military strategy, but it’s terrible for communities, especially because they have no real way to communicate with the Infestation to ask for clemency, diplomacy, or kindness.
Asked for comment on the dispute, a Hello Games representative provided the following statement to Polygon:
We take issues of griefing in the community very seriously. Each player has a range of personal network settings which are very powerful. Each networking feature such as text chat, VO, base building, PvP can be individually limited as a set of permissions to allow no one, just friends, or the global community to participate in your session. Beyond this we support and track issues through a number of moderation tools both in game and externally.
The spokesperson added, “We are tracking a number of issues, some of which have been resolved as of Hotfix 3.37 or are in progress. As a result of that players will see improvements to moderation and playing together in the coming weeks.”