Jordan Murphy likely wouldn’t strike you as the kind of person who heads an intricate online intelligence program. The 29-year-old British actor is soft spoken with a dry wit, sharing figures and personal anecdotes with the same pleasant tenor. Casually, as if giving directions, Murphy tells me he is the Head Security officer for the Galactic Hub, the largest player-run civilization in No Man’s Sky. He controls the Galactic Hub Defense Force, a paramilitary organization dedicated to the safety of Hub space. Furthermore, he is the locus of a spy network comprising more operatives than he can remember.
“I have a lot of — it sounds worse than it is — spies that watch out for hostile groups and hostile action,” Murphy told me.
He treats this role seriously and uses the gathered information update the Galactic Hub on what he deems significant threats to the safety and enjoyment of its members. Those range from gleeful griefers bent on destroying player bases, to shadowy cabals plotting to infiltrate Hub leadership. It really depends on the day of the week.
Many Hub citizens laud the work of Murphy and the GHDF, but those on the receiving end of his justice believe the Galactic Hub simply refuses to accept how they want to play the game. They freely admit that Murphy is the best at what he does. Whether or not his self-made “position” should exist at all is another matter entirely.
Murphy has never been big on gaming communities. However, Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky gripped him from launch. He was enamored with the promise of endless space — of exploring vast planets lush with alien landscapes and lifeforms. Like many who rode the rocky wave of the game’s 2016 launch, Murphy sought out advice on how best to enjoy the game online. He eventually discovered the Galactic Hub on Reddit.
As No Man’s Sky progressed, incorporating new features and updates, Murphy realized the Hub would need to develop strategies to protect itself from the worst actors. To that end, he submitted “quite a wordy document” to the Galactic Hub founder: 7101334. The treatise detailed all the ways someone might possibly attack or harass their civilization, along with appropriate countermeasures Murphy could take. The unofficial position of Head Security Officer was created and offered to him the very next day.
“I was a one-man operation at first,” Murphy said. “I had a roadmap in my head as to the position’s development and acted without anyone in the Hub knowing who I was.”
His first operative began as a volunteer with information regarding one of Murphy’s ongoing investigations. The individual was interested in performing more “gathering,” and the practice evolved naturally from there. At present, Murphy manages around eight major current investigations, monitors several more developing situations, and keeps constant tabs on notorious No Man’s Sky players who have caused trouble in the past. It isn’t Euclid’s Most Wanted, but it isn’t far off.
His agents don’t necessarily belong to any civilization or group and operate with full anonymity, besides Murphy. Many maintain several alternate accounts with different personalities and affiliations among notable No Man’s Sky player factions.
“I’d love to talk to my friends about it some time, but I don’t,” says EH. “Ever.” That’s not their real name, of course. All the operatives I interviewed were allowed pseudonyms to protect their anonymity.
“It’s simply part of the job,” EH continued. “Not even my closest friends know. My activities are completely classified.”
According to EH, Murphy is the only known member of the Galactic Hub intelligence network, but targeting him is of little use. Murphy has nothing to hide and communicates privately with his operatives. None of the Hub’s leadership, including 7101334, are privy to information not shared expressly by Murphy. They like it that way.
“Us admirals are on a need-to-know basis, and that’s probably for our own good,” says Kibbles, a GHDF admiral. “He keeps those investigations and everything ‘black magic’ partitioned from us.”
The process spying isn’t nearly as arcane as Kibbles believes. Agents prepare for assignments through a combination of monitoring social media and targeting key leadership roles. Another operative, AM, leans on No Man’s Sky players’ tendency to document everything in wikis. This leaves paper trails and detailed accounts of power dynamics. Exploiting those to earn a place near the top of a potentially “hostile group” is every operative’s main goal.
“It’s very similar to the process of making friends,” says LG, another operative. “My tactics tend to come down to spending some time in a community before mentioning some sort of skill or connection that makes me an asset to whoever I want to get close to. If they don’t approach me, then I spend time around the people they spend time with to get an ‘in.’”
Once embedded in the group’s discord or social channel, the operatives submit daily reports to Murphy. These detail plans, recruitment, affiliations, and other pertinent statistics. The group is waiting for something incriminating — like screenshots of officer chat, or someone admitting to threats against the Hub. They might wait weeks, only to confirm the threats were nothing but chest thumping from would-be digital warlords.
But if they confirm Murphy’s suspicion? He doesn’t actually mobilize the Defense Force. Not at first. His initial approach is often direct and personal: an invitation to chat and talk through the issue before it escalates. Once, his reputation preceded him and led to a record-setting deescalation in just three minutes
“I had the invitation link,” Murphy explained. “So, I popped into the Discord to say hello and they immediately deleted the server and abandoned it.”
Plenty of disruptive activities might land you on Murphy’s radar. One of the most common problems involves an in-game tool called the Terrain Manipulator. It operates exactly as advertised — empowering players to destroy, create, and deform landscapes at will. Aggressors will join someone’s game and begin manipulating the ground around their base, cutting off access and preventing further placement of buildings or decorations. More artistic vandals will visit the Galactic Hub home world of New Lennon and festoon the horizon with… “certain appendages,” as AM put it.
These low-effort disruptors normally merit a personal response from Murphy. More extensive groups might earn a detailed and itemized public post that exposes their plans and in-game names to the community at large. He believes sunlight is the best disinfectant and lets other members of the affiliated civilizations cast judgment on their duplicitous peers. In the past, Murphy’s intelligence gathering has unearthed doxxing hoaxes, overzealous role-players, and other perceived threats to Galactic Hub safety.
“I make it as uncomfortable and difficult as possible to do what they do within Galactic Hub space,” he told me.
“Some see them as their protectors; some are frankly indifferent to them; others despise their very existence in the Universe,” says Papa Palpi. They’re a No Man’s Sky role-player and the current leader of the Galactic Empire: a civilization consciously modeled after the Sith dictatorship from Star Wars lore. Palpi went so far as to punctuate their messages to me with emotionally appropriate images of Ian McDiarmid, the actor who portrays Emperor Palpatine in the films. He described the Hub’s actions as “like that of a Law Enforcement Agency.”
Papa Palpi isn’t alone in this sentiment. The Galactic Hub conciously parallels police and institutional surveillance. That sours some goodwill, even as the Hub’s officers and members embrace the fantasy. Admiral Ardyalligan compares the GHDF to “the old, friendly neighborhood bobby [rather] than the militarized SWAT guys.” Or at least the idealized image of them. They patrol New Lennon in ships to protect Galactic Hub infrastructure and routinely answer calls for aid from citizens within their “jurisdiction.” During the unveiling of new colonies, or the hosting of new events, the GHDF will mobilize more personnel in preparation for higher than normal levels of griefing and general tomfoolery from the bold or the careless.
“Under normal conditions, we’ll act more like friendly beat cops, but we train and conduct ourselves as a standing navy,” says Admiral Rusyn. “I’d say it’s more of a reserve paramilitary force. Cops by day, a SWAT team by night, so to speak.”
Some players feel the role of the GHDF and Murphy’s pervasive presence leads the Hub to overstep its boundaries regarding evil role-players and heels. One found themselves at odds with Murphy over their character, General Lokar. He was created as an avenue for players wanting something beyond the “let’s hold hands and explore” playstyle. To them, the existence of large, centralized governments that enforce rules and behavioral guidelines begs for an antagonist.
He promoted and led attacks on Galactic Hub colonies despite No Man’s Sky’s stilted and wonky multiplayer. In fact, players believe the lack of multiplayer support from developer Hello Games constitutes a de facto condemnation of the whole practice. (This was before the Beyond update beefed up player interactions.) Lokar wasn’t moved by the argument, and soon rallied others to his cause.
“I genuinely feel that the GH and the GHDF are the bad guys, kinda like the Empire from Star Wars, and I wanted to start the rebellion to fight against them,” he said.
His efforts were met with GHDF force and personal appeals from Murphy, who published a report on the Galactic Hub subreddit declaring General Lokar would “no longer be an issue.” Lokar kept the name, but retired his persona and the revolution built around it. He respects Murphy a great deal as a person and admires his work, but can’t help but feel like he was lumped in with the pedestrian trolls sculpting dirt penises on the back lawn.
Lokar and others rankle against repeated assertions from the Galactic Hub that they aren’t a role-play community — not when they staff and train a standing military, hold court, and pass written laws governing their civilization. The power to define the difference between role-play and disruption seems to rest with those in power. And those, surprise surprise, happen to be the cops.
“For how aggressive the GH and the GHDF would like to be, they need to understand that they can’t tell people how to play the game they paid for,” Lokar explained. “The truth is that NMS is a huge game. And they can’t be everywhere at once.”
Despite ill will towards the Hub as an institution, nobody spoke a word against Murphy as a person. Lokar himself extolled his loyalty and has attempted to recruit him to “the other side” multiple times. Lillihop, founder of the role-play collectivist community Cafe 42, counted Murphy among her close friends. She recognized the same commitment to protecting individuals and preserving community that she edified in her small part of the universe.
Murphy learned early to doff his cap as much as possible, especially when dealing with individuals. None of his operatives are allowed to even think about collecting personal information, or to dox players in the real world in an effort to uncover plots. For him, the game has clear boundaries. Murphy also keeps up with many of his former enemies — Lokar included. He never fails to ask about his infant son when the two happen to meet as their in-game personae. It’s left the spymaster with a peculiar reputation as an honorable thief and loyal inquisitor.
Murphy personally just wants to keep people from having their sandcastles kicked in by the spiteful and petty. He’s motivated by the talented members of the Galactic Hub who fill the community channels with discoveries, stories, and more every day.
“My purpose is to allow much smarter and more creative people than myself to do what they do without being constantly harassed,” he said. But what constitutes harassment, and what constitutes other kinds of creativity? Well… That’s become his decision to make. And not everyone likes a “neighborhood bobby” when they don’t get any say in what deserves the truncheon.