The extent of the No Man’s Sky universe is well covered; the procedural algorithms are capable of generating over 18 quintillion possible planets. If you’d visited one a second since the Universe came into being, you’d be under halfway done by now. With so much variety in the planets, flora, and fauna of the game – and the possibility of being able to name all of it in whatever manner you deem fit – it’s no wonder one would seek a No Man’s Sky naming convention.
The temptation is real. You, the Traveller, come about in some until-now unexplored corner of the galaxy. It’s likely that less than 1% of the No Man’s Sky galaxy will be collectively explored, so the opportunity to leave a real mark on it is enticing.
In this post is a personal No Man’s Sky naming convention – which I’ll call “Odin’s Convention”, for the sake of simplicity – for various objects in the game. I’ll also be considering some of the procedurally generated characteristics of these objects and reveal a little about how it’s all organised within the game itself. Unsurprisingly, Odin’s Convention is tightly coupled with the game’s internal representation of objects.
If you read through this and have some suggestions to improve, please get in touch or leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you.
Mutisz did just this and has created a web app to generate names using this convention! How cool!
Things to Name
Things that one can name in No Man’s Sky fall under the following categories (click through for Odin’s Convention):
There are things in the game which have names that can’t be changed, including galaxies and regions (above the “systems” level at which players can begin having an influence).
What I’m going to describe in this post is the way I go about naming these things myself. Feel free to do something similar yourself, but I’m by no means suggesting everyone do it this way. Indeed, that would make the galaxy a little less interesting! That said, I’d love to hear your thoughts-and-feelings on the topic, so leave a comment if you feel so inclined.
No Man’s Sky Naming Convention
I have a number of personal requirements when it comes to naming things in No Man’s Sky:
- the names are derived from characteristics of the thing I’m naming;
- the names aren’t too dry – they have a theme, of some sort, and are interesting to unpick;
- I can produce a name quickly from readily-available information;
- the names are unique;
- the names are consistent within my personal universe of discovery, all linked and sensible within their collective context;
- I’d be able to recognise one of the discoveries as belonging to me from the name alone.
My optimal No Man’s Sky naming convention would pull all of these requirements together, though it’s likely to be a balancing act between them.
Odin’s Convention has a number of hierarchical rules, like any good naming convention, which we’ll follow from top to bottom.
There are 256 unique galaxies in No Man’s Sky. More exist beyond this limit but are visual copies of the final (256th) galaxy with a different name. The original voyage to all 256 galaxies was undertaken by /u/sHuRuLuNi; see the record of this journey on Reddit, which utilised a game bug to quickly hop from galaxy to galaxy.
Players can’t name galaxies. The starting galaxy, which contains by far the greatest proportion of player discoveries and structures, is called Euclid.
If Euclid is representative of galaxies in No Man’s Sky, then galaxies here are colossal. The Milky Way, in which we humans reside, is a large galaxy at 100,000 light years in diameter and 3000 light years thick. Most galaxies in the universe are smaller than the Milky Way. Euclid, by comparison, is, at its greatest extent, some 2.3 million light years in diameter and 51,000 light years thick, which puts it in competition with some of the largest galaxies in our own universe.
Each galaxy is comprised of many regions, with each region containing somewhere in the region of 540 systems and occupying a volume of about 64 million cubic light years (400 ly a side). The Forgotten Colonies roleplay group – now known as the Outer Rim – pioneered a method for estimating region size by searching for the highest possible system ID in a portal sequence.
Regions can’t be named by players but take a random name along with a region suffix or prefix, such as “Adjunct”, “Expanse”, or “Shallows”.
Systems are the first tier of the hierarchy that can be named by players.
The first requirement of Odin’s Convention is that names are derived from characteristics of the thing being named. Preferably this refers to objective characteristics that don’t require a judgement call on the part of the player – this can lead to inconsistency, violating the fifth requirement.
Let’s first consider the visual characteristics of systems in No Man’s Sky:
- the number of stars;
- the colour of the stars;
- the sizes of the stars;
- the number of planets.
More objective, though, is the information that’s readily presented on the galaxy map (satisfying requirement 3 of Odin’s Convention):
- spectral class;
- distance from the galactic core;
- dominant lifeform;
- conflict level.
I chose to focus on the spectral class for Odin’s Convention.
Astronomers use something called the stellar classification to categorise stars based on their spectral characteristics which, in turn, are largely determined by their temperature and, correspondingly, colour. (Stars of different temperatures are different colours.)
Most stars are currently classified under what’s known as the Morgan-Keenan system; this originally used the letters O, B, A, F, G, K, and M for hottest (O type) to coolest (M type). Within each letter class are 10 further subdivisions, from 0 (hottest) to 9 (coolest). So O0 would be the hottest type and M9 would be the coolest.
The real-world classification system has been extended and goes on, but occasionally diverges from the spectral class in No Man’s Sky. The spectral class in No Man’s Sky is presented as follows:
- An upper-case letter corresponding to the “class”: O, B, A, F, G, K, M, L, T, Y, E.
- A number corresponding to the relative temperature within the class, between 0 and 9.
- A lower-case letter indicating any oddities in the star’s (or stars’) spectrum (or spectra): e, f, h, k, m, n, p, q, s, v, w.
- (Potentially more lower-case letters.)
For example, my starting system had the spectral class F3pf.
Deities and Colours
As a Norse deity themed blog, it seemed appropriate to use deities as the inspiration for the system naming convention. Use of mythologies – particularly Norse mythology – is a consistent theme of this No Man’s Sky naming convention.
For anyone interested in Norse mythology, by the by, the Sunday Times and New York Times number 1 bestseller Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman is a great primer.
As I mentioned earlier, each stellar class comprises a particular temperature range and has a particular colour. Deities are often associated with particular colours in tradition. Odin’s Convention proceeds as follows to select the system name root:
- Choose from one of five pantheons (Norse, Celtic, Greek, Hindu, and Egyptian) depending on the relative temperature within the stellar class.
- Choose a particular deity dependent on the stellar class, where the deity is associated with the colour of stars of that class. (In some cases, no deity was associated with that colour in that pantheon, so I was a little creative with assignments.)
What we have is a selection table like this:
|Stellar Class||Colour||0-1 (Egyptian)||2-3 (Hindu)||4-5 (Greek)||6-7 (Celtic)||8-9 (Norse)|
Now that I have a name root, I’ll create a portmanteau with the randomly-generated region name to get us most of the way to a fully-fledged system name.
Using the F3pf spectral class, we have an associated deity of Krishna. This exists in the Toswati Instability. I create a portmanteau of Krishna and Toswati to get Krishnawati, the system name root. Now I just need to take into account the oddities.
Prefixes and Suffixes
In the case of one oddity, I’ll simply append some two-letter, monosyllabic suffix. In the case of two, I’ll prepend one and append another. I use the following affixes:
In the case of F3pf, this yields two affixes: op and ef. I combine this with the root Krishnawati to get the final system name: Op-Krishnawati-Ef.
I toyed with the idea of adjusting the portmanteau with the affixes, but decided I liked the hyphenated naming style which, across a large number of systems, starts to resemble what is almost a language, with each name representing a mini-sentence to describe the system.
The idea of introducing the portmanteaus allows me to maintain requirement 4 of Odin’s Convention where, in the event that I identify a system with exactly the same spectral class (or simply similar, as F2pf would have yielded the same root) as a previously-named system in the same region, I can construct a different portmanteau. (The online tool Portmanteaur gives me 58 examples for Krishna and Toswati, for example.)
If I had the predilection, I might introduce five additional pantheons!
Planets in No Man’s Sky present the following data – amongst other info, such as resources present – to the player:
Odin’s Convention brings these data, as well as the system name root, into the planet name. Data is brought into the planet name by using Icelandic translations for associated descriptors for the planet data (Icelandic being the closest modern language to Old Norse). Somewhat arbitrarily, Odin’s Convention produces a portmanteau of the system name root (Krishnawati in the example above) and an Icelandic word associated with the weather type. An example would be the “refreshing breeze” weather type; the Icelandic word for breeze is gola.
A planet in the Op-Krishnawati-Ef system whose weather type is “refreshing breeze” would thus have a planet name root of e.g. Golahna. (There are a lot of ways one might combine these words, which allows room to continue giving unique names to things.)
Odin’s Convention then uses the final three data types – sentinels, flora, and fauna – by taking the first syllable of an Icelandic word associated with the data descriptor. For example, for the same planet being described above, the data are:
|Data Type||Descriptor||English Word||Icelandic Word||First Syllable|
The full planet name is thus Golahna-Slafjarhof, though there could be many variations around this. On first sight, such a name is relatively meaningless, but to someone who has access to the information presented in this post – or perhaps to some xenolinguist/xenoarchaeologist – the planet characteristics could be determined from the name alone.
The heart of naming, arguably, is in the fauna of No Man’s Sky.
In the real world, species are named according to a formal system called binomial nomenclature. A species name is formed of two parts, both using Latin grammatical forms, with the first part corresponding to the species’ genus, and the second part the species’ specific name. These both fall within a more extensive biological classification with eight major taxonomic ranks. For example, humans have the binomial name Homo sapiens i.e. we as a species belong to the Homo genus with a specific name of sapiens. Strictly binomial nomenclature was invented by Carl Linnaeus and described in his 1753 Species Plantarum.
No Man’s Sky gives species default names that mimic binomial nomenclature, but don’t match exactly. It, too, uses a two part name, but it doesn’t align in the same manner as the real-world binomial name. As far as I can tell, the names are random and, if you were to collect them, you wouldn’t be able to construct a tree of life as one can for Earth-based species.
However, there is a concept of genus in No Man’s Sky, which is hidden in the game code. There are 23 genera in No Man’s Sky, which correspond to the morphological features of the species. For example, the common “antelope-like” creatures belong to the Tetraceris genus; the rare “diplos” belong to the genus Rangifae. These genera are documented online, but they are expressed only through a species’ morphological features in-game i.e. there’s no data that indicates what genus a species belongs to.
It’s unfortunate that the genus doesn’t appear in-game, but it seems to be a good candidate for Odin’s Convention. The different genera are pretty easy to distinguish.
Next, Odin’s Convention needs a way to produce specific names so that the name, as a whole, uniquely identifies the species.
It makes sense to me to incorporate the planet name into the species name. There is already a great deal of “uniqueness” in the planet name. Still, there could be multiple species of the same genus on a planet, so more is required.
When you look at species data in No Man’s Sky, you’re given the following information:
One could build all of these characteristics into the species name but, as for the system name and spectral class, one of these will likely be sufficient. I chose to use temperament.
To satisfy requirement number 6, I produced a simple one-to-one correspondence of Norse deities to temperaments:
Pulling it Together
Take this species, for example:
So we have: <genus>-<temperament deity>-<planet name>. In other words, this is a trinomial naming system, rather than the binominal naming system we’ve been using as an example.
The species names are honestly a bit longer than I’d really like. I toyed with the idea of using only the planet name root – Rakishna, in this example – but decided that this didn’t do enough to guarantee uniqueness.
I haven’t actually performed significant analysis on any of the rules in Odin’s Convention to see what level of “uniqueness” is guaranteed, instead relying on the fuzziness of the portmanteaus to provide some flexibility. In the case of fauna, these rules occasionally aren’t enough to produce unique species names, in which case I adjust the temperament deity section with a simple suffix, such as a or y.
I hope I can be forgiven for saying that I don’t have much incentive for naming flora in No Man’s Sky. While some can be quite distinctive and really add to the air of “alienness”, I think that discussion of lifeforms in No Man’s Sky revolves around the fauna.
There are, additionally, so many types of flora that one would be left forever naming them. While it’s interesting to peruse a recent backlog of fauna, I rarely stop on a type of flora to take a second, closer look.
What really clinches this for me is the fact that none of the data associated with flora actually impacts the appearance or behaviour of the species in the game. One can’t see the root structure, the nutrient source has no connection to the environment, and the notes (such as “Combustible Fruits” and “Luminous Bulbs”) don’t actually affect the plant morphology.
The only way I can think to name flora is according to their membership of one of six broad categories:
- coral fan,
Flora don’t always obviously belong to one of these categories in the same way that fauna do to the identified genera. This is a huge violation of rule 3.
I hope that, in a future update, flora are given a little attention on this front. At the moment, there’s no easy way to name them, so I’d rather just keep the randomly-generated names. If anyone reading this has a suggestion for a floral addition to Odin’s Convention, please let me know!
Waypoints are best named, in my opinion, according to the facilities available or objects located at the waypoint. Given that no information is actually available to this effect in the Discoveries log, the waypoint name is potentially the only reliable way to retrieve information about the location (depending on the quality and extent of the thumbnail stored in the log).
Some waypoints are mostly empty, save for a few resource caches, in which case I tend to name them according to a nearby object of interest that is otherwise without a waypoint, such as an alien plaque.
The convention I use is as follows:
- Keep the auto-generated waypoint suffix (e.g. “Badlands”, “Flats”, or “Valley”).
- The name is composed of two parts, with a hyphen between the parts. The first part uses an Icelandic-based descriptor (as for the planet portion of this No Man’s Sky naming convention) depending on the waypoint type (see table below).
- The second part uses a randomly-generated name, with a different theme for each waypoint category (e.g. “Alien Antiquities”, “Transmissions”, or “Shelters”). I use Fantasy Name Generators to do this.
|Waypoint Type||English Descriptor||Icelandic Descriptor||Type Prefix||Waypoint Category||Naming Convention|
|Trading Post||trade post||verslun||Vers||Colonial Outposts||Troll|
|Manufacturing Facility||factory||verksmiðju||Verks||Colonial Outposts||Troll|
|Operations Center||operation||rekstur||Reks||Colonial Outposts||Troll|
|Holographic Comms Tower||hologram||heilmyndinni||Heil||Transmissions||Lich|
|Galactic Trade Terminal||trade||verslun||Vers||Sector Beacon||Nephilim|
Examples of the randomly-generated second part:
- jotunn: Byng, Mygno, Vaezoti;
- troll: Razi, Jabir, Kazko;
- lich: Mhox’ricaidh, Omduk, Vrythos;
- Valkyrie: Sveginleif, Thodul, Adjold;
- nephilim: Dezen, Qosimris, Eqazi.
I might therefore find a Holographic Comms Tower in some Plains, and call it the Heil-Oczugno Plains.
Starships and Habitable Bases
I don’t believe there’s the same draw to name starships and habitable bases in the same consistent “scientific” manner because the name is much more personal – it is an item that belongs to you, rather than to the universe as a collective. I still enjoy making links, though, so some looser convention still exists.
There are six types of starship:
Within each of these six categories, ships are further given one of four letter-grade classes: C, B, A, and S (from worst to best).
In Odin’s Convention, ships are primarily named after mythological artefacts or creatures of some description. These might be weapons, armour, clothing, or something else. Each starship type is associated with a different mythology:
|Shuttle||Hindu (Other Artefacts)||Prana; Stambha; Amrita|
|Fighter||Norse (Weapons)||Dainsleif; Mjoelnir; Gungnir|
|Hauler||Norse (Other Artefacts)||Draupnir; Helskoor; Svalinn|
|Explorer||Greek (Creatures)||Athos; Chiron; Mimas|
|Exotic||Hindu (Weapons)||Vel; Girish; Gada|
|Freighters||Chinese (Creatures)||Zhulong; Jingwei; Chi|
I name my bases after places in Norse Mythology, drawing primarily from Norse Cosmology and the Nine Worlds.
Let’s Improve It
I know there’s a lot that can be done to improve this No Man’s Sky naming convention. I’ve already identified a couple of holes or places with room for expansion:
- more pantheons for system naming;
- a theme for flora.
There are some things that I’m not 100% happy with:
- inclusion of oddities in the system name – perhaps something better than prefixes/suffixes could be incorporated;
- some stellar classes are more likely to arise than others, which the system naming convention doesn’t properly take into account – it might make more sense to give more variety to regions of the Hertzsprung-Russel diagram that are more frequently represented in the galaxies of No Man’s Sky;
- possibility of repeated genera and temperaments of fauna on particular worlds, leading to ad-hoc single letter suffixes on the temperament-deity portion of the species’ trinomial name.
If anyone reading this has any ideas, please get in touch or leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from the No Man’s Sky community.