The No Man’s Sky community is a vast frontier of unexplored space, with pockets of densely populated player-created communities. When you first load into the game, you might end up right on top of one of those communities or fending for yourself galaxies away. Up until three months ago, the least resource-intensive way to get around, black hole travel, was a crapshoot—you’d enter a black hole and get popped out in a random place in the universe. But since one player realized that warp locations are no longer random, he’s been determined to make this “Black Hole Roulette” less of a gamble.
Jeff D., who goes by Husker on the Black Hole Suns subreddit, started gaming when he played the original Quake in the ’90s. Now 51, he has always been fascinated by space. “I just love science in general. I don’t know about you, but I get saturated in people’s opinions on a daily basis, so science is a welcome break from that nonsense. I like physics and astrophysics the most,” Jeff told Kotaku over email. “I would love to go to Mars when it’s not a one-way trip. As a result I also have a deep appreciation for science-fiction as well. I’m old enough to remember the live-action black hole movie that Disney made back in 1979, and I was young enough to think it was good (haha).”
Jeff has been playing No Man’s Sky since day one, after seeing Sean Murray, the co-founder of No Man’s Sky developer Hello Games, on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Although he didn’t have a lot of time to play at launch, he’s dived into the game more recently with full force. He first started noticing something new about black holes around three months ago, when he was searching for a planet to build a base on. He was able to visit the planet he wanted to build on by using portals, but in order to actually build there, he would have to go there by traditional, spaceship-based means.
“I had also discovered the Pilgrim Star Path web application (written by [redditor] u/Pahefu) that allows you to calculate the warping effort needed to get to a location. It also told you if using black holes would speed up the trip. Back when the PSP app was developed, there was a strategy known as ‘Black Hole Roulette,’ where you traversed a black hole and would pop out at a random location,” Jeff said. “I was all set to use this strategy to get to my paradise planet when something really strange happened. Whenever I entered the black hole that was near my home base, I exited at the same location. At first I was like ‘aw, crap.’ The second time I was like ‘aw, shit.’ The third time I was officially in ‘aw, FUCK’ territory.”
At first, Jeff thought his game was bugged, but he soon realized something important: Black holes no longer shuttle you to a random location, but rather a location that is the same every time. Realizing the implications of such a huge change to the game, he called for other players to help him find, log, and explore the black holes of No Man’s Sky, and dubbed their community Black Hole Suns. At this point they’ve logged over 3,000 black holes. Although their progress is impressive, it’s all under jeopardy because of the game’s impending update this summer.
In the past, large updates to No Man’s Sky have changed the game irrevocably. One update caused one of the game’s more populous communities, The Galactic Hub, to uproot and find a new area of space to colonize. It’s possible that there will be changes to black holes in No Man’s Sky’s upcoming update, making all their research obsolete. But Jeff doesn’t see it that way and is encouraging players to continue logging information.
“If Hello Games doesn’t change the way that black holes behave, or their coordinates or exit points, we’ll be in fantastic shape and that much more ahead of the game when the community expands again with new players that come in due to the release of the Beyond update,” Jeff said. “The second reason I encourage everyone to continue unabated is that while we wait for the update to come this summer, there is still the window of time between now and then to get to a desired civilization, planet, or freighter location and accomplish their short or mid-term goals anyway. There’s no pragmatic reason to delay and put that goal off. Leverage the data and let us help you get that base, that ship, or wherever or whatever you were planning to do.”
As the Black Hole Suns continue to fly into black holes in No Man’s Sky, the real world has finally had its first glimpse of one. Jeff said that it looked about what he expected a real black hole to look like, though he didn’t know the image would be in color. He said that he’s so proud of the team of scientists who made the achievement.
“There’s something uniquely special about scientific collaboration and discovery,” Jeff said. “It reverberates seemingly forever, almost like a gravitational wave, and society is better off for it!”
CORRECTION - 6:17pm: An earlier version of this post mistook Jeff’s name and also misidentified the number of logged black holes in the project.