No Man’s Sky Players Have Built the Largest Car Show in the Universe

Reddit user JCHysteria, one of the moderators of r/NMSCoordinateExchange, helps people find things across the infinite vastness of space. He’s one small part of a massive effort to catalogue the procedurally generated content in No Man’s Sky, Hello Game’s interstellar romp. Users post images of starships they discover while zipping to and from in-game space stations, reveling in striking color combinations and unusual designs. Others seek ultra-rare Exotic Class vessels, expensive and elusive. But this isn’t just a screenshot trophy case. 

Every post includes a chain of twelve pictographic glyphs, a local address Travellers can use to instantly warp to the associated solar system via portals found in planetside ruins. From there, finding rare starships is a much easier task: players know their target will eventually land on a station or trading post. But the actual collection doesn’t interest most hunters. Locating and cataloguing discoveries to share in the subreddit is all they need. They’re in it for the hunt. 

When No Man’s Sky first launched in 2016, players used the Coordinate Exchange like a far-future Yellow Pages. Sick of your home planet? Search the subreddit for fresh horizons. Want to see that humongous diplo (the player term for diplodocus-like creatures) in the wiki for yourself? Punch in those digits and prepare for dinosaur bliss. The current spotlight may shine on player-operated spacecrafts, but the Coordinate Exchange existed from the beginning to aid players in finding most anything procedurally generated among No Man’s Sky’s countless stars.

Home Among Fellow Hunters

Reddit user Azulur had grown accustomed to playing No Man’s Sky alone. Her friends didn’t share her love for the endless possibilities of the game and moved on after the initial buzz. She kept exploring, enamored by starship designs rich with inspiration from popular science fiction. Afterr she shared a screenshot of one such ship to the game’s general subreddit, a user directed Azulur towards the Coordinate Exchange, where she was surprised to find thousands of players just like her.

“What really made me want to be an active member in NMS Coordinate Exchange was just the joy and camaraderie I felt with others who liked finding ships, sharing discoveries, and congratulating each other on awesome finds,” she says. “It really just makes you feel connected to other players, even in such a massive game.”

Azulur and other hunters view their work like endgame content, an interesting distinction given No Man’s Sky open-ended playstyle. The base game and subsequent content updates provide questlines for players to enjoy, but much of the community continues to make their own fun, whether that’s base building, resource collection, roleplay, or sophisticated spycraft. Ship hunting makes just as much sense to the Exchange’s roster of hunters.

“The game captures the natural curiosity in my nature,” Azulur says. “I happen to love finding hidden secrets, being the first to see a neat ship/color combo, and what always keeps me coming back and pushing on is never knowing what the next planet will bring.”

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The Process

To find a ship, hunters follow a simple but time-intensive formula. First, they use one of two spawn points: the space station present in every system and planet-based trading posts. Stopping at the station gives hunters a chance to peek inside the multitool cabinet, which could house ultra-rare variations on the gun/mining tool all players carry with them. Just like the ships, S-Class multitools sport unique looks and colors — even spacefarers know the importance of matching accessories with your outfit. After that, it’s time to enter the reload phase of the hunt.

Parked at either location, players can watch as NPC pilots shuttle their own vessels onto landing pads and open up shop, so to speak. They offer to buy and sell resources, but hunters are only interested in the sleek metal constructions they pilot. For the right amount of money, any NPC will gladly relinquish ownership of their vessel to the player. Seasoned hunters begin scanning the ships as soon as they jet through the entrance, checking carrying capacity, rank and type. Some even claim they can tell you everything about a starship from the barest glance, using particular wing shape and body modifications as tell-tale hints.

Both locations share a pool of possibilities, the exact number of which nobody can say with certainty, so where a hunter prowls comes down to personal preference. Some swear by the space station, while others claim the trading posts always treat them better. Hunters will reload the game several times to entice an exotic or unique look from the limited crop the game generates each time. This can be repetitive work, and every hunter knows their own limit. 

“Sometimes it’s just not worth waiting around and reloading another five or six times,” Azulur tells me. “I’ve got a whole infinite galaxy to explore and whatever is hiding here I’ll find it again in six or seven months. Maybe even a bigger, better version.”

Those following the coordinates to a ship posted in the subreddit have a much easier time: once the game generates a ship, that information is etched in stone. They simply show up and wait for the dice roll to land in their favor.. That could still take hours (Exotics are reputed to have as low as a two percent spawn rate) or longer if you’re particular about color combinations. Still, the process is so involved that Coordinate Exchange celebrity and hunter extraordinaire, KurganSPK, has provided multiple infographics to acolytes hungry for tips. 

Lonely Work With a Purpose

The only comforts for those roughing it across the galactic unknown are their own thoughts and whatever entertainment helps the hours pass by. Reddit user MusicianTT takes advantage of stormy days but otherwise likes to hit the treadmill or watch a movie while waiting for her perfect bird to roost. Azulur keeps a dedicated YouTube playlist for hunting excursions. Donzo29, who plays on console, likes to stay focused by only playing background music. He once waited out a single starship across three days of dedicated play sessions.

“It’s like fishing: a lot of people like to do it whether you catch something or not,” he says. “Maybe you don’t catch anything or maybe you catch the state record. But you keep going because the process is enjoyable. I don’t even need to bait my hook; I’ll just go sit by the river.”

Azulur and Donzo29 both say it’s rare that they will add a ship to their personal collection. For one, they’ve worked the galaxy long enough to accumulate garages full of starships — in some cases spanning multiple saves. MusicianTT casually lists eight saves across four profiles that she uses to house her own ships. So when these hunters discover something interesting, they snap a few screenshots, translate the coordinates into a glyph string, and file it away before moving on. Other players can use that glyph address and a bit of waiting to find the exact same ship. Most hunters try to accrue enough material to post something to the subreddit every day, though dry spells and unlucky patches are just part of the job. 

Mainly, these hunters are in it for the benefit of other players, whether they’re fresh-faced Travellers puttering around in their beginner starship or veterans who have dedicated their talents to other parts of the game, until now.

 “I know a lot of people don’t have the luxury of grinding out endless hours to find a ship that is emotionally or personally important to them,” Azulur says. “That’s where people like me and the other ship hunters can help out.”

Players are encouraged to post suggestions to the Exchange, which hunters will use to create a sort of grocery list. If they spot something that matches a description, they make an effort to catalogue and post it within the same day. They want these ships to “find a good home,” but the hunters are also carrying on a legacy of kindness and support that welcomed them on their first day on the Coordinate Exchange. MusicianTT still treasures the starship a seasoned hunter helped her find when she first joined the subreddit. That small kindness has become core to her faith in the community.

The Next Generation

That gregarious attitude has been helpful since the release of Beyond, No Man’s Sky’s latest content update. An influx of new and returning players spilled over into the Coordinate Exchange, boosting the number of tourists-turned-users in need of onboarding. The hunters rose to the challenge. KurganSPK and JCHysteria, who manages the subreddit’s YouTube accounts, busied themselves creating tutorials and PSAs on everything from posting etiquette to best practices to debunked hunting theories. Established members like Azulur and Donzo29 did their best to answer questions without spoiling the recent additions to the game.

“It’s all just anxious people wanting to make their dreams come true,” Azulur says. “It’s hard to be upset with the growth of the sub when I’ve been there myself, wanting to have all the nice things. But oftentimes that instant gratification from people’s hard work can seem unappreciative.”

The Coordinate Exchange may have grown past its days as a small but tight-knit community — it just recently broke into the top three most popular No Man’s Sky related subreddits — but the hunters scouring endless star systems haven’t lost the spark of joy in their work. Most of them schedule play time around children, day job, and classes, fitting in a few hours before bed or on the weekend. Themed hunts and community-driven events, on a short hiatus since Beyond dropped, give both amateur and veteran hunters a chance to compete in a friendly environment.

The hunters are quick to qualify their own altruism, though. They enjoy playing the game this way, and the Coordinate Exchange simply offers an excuse for all of them to gather in a convenient location. Some might even admit to leavening their hunts with a dash of selfish hope, channeling Captain Ahab among the sea of stars.

“There are two ship configurations and colors I’ve been hunting for over a year now,” says JCHysteria. “It’s all perspective I guess. I may never find my dream ship, but I’ll find plenty of other peoples’ white whales along the way.”