Nobody Knows How The Portals In No Man’s Sky Work

Nobody Knows How The Portals In No Man’s Sky Work

Over the last couple of weeks, No Man’s Sky players have discovered a number of monoliths scattered across the universe. The structures look important somehow, like they are meant to do something, or perhaps trigger something. Except…they don’t.

Two years ago, No Man’s Sky developer Hello Games uploaded a video titled “Portal gameplay trailer,” to YouTube, where you could see these structures in action. According to the footage, you could step through these Portals and be transported somewhere else, like so:

Fast-forward a couple of years, and players are indeed finding the Portals from the trailers in-game. Actually, the No Man’s Sky Gamepedia has been cataloguing the known locations of Portals, and many players are sharing their images online. Here’s a taste:

The question is, why don’t the Portals work? There are a lot of possibilities here, ranging from development changes, or perhaps the developers haven’t implemented the proper functionality for Portals yet. Some players believe that Portals don’t work because we haven’t actually solved the appropriate puzzle. Maybe you need a certain set of items, for example, before you can use a Portal.

Some Redditors allege that they have found in-game code referencing the Portals, as well as dialogue that may give us some clues. All of this is enough to inspire players to dig in and try to solve the mystery surrounding Portals.

No Man’s Sky player Luke Berner for instance discovered that going through the Portal hole can damage you under certain conditions:

Others are taking a close look at the dialogue hiding in the code, in the hopes that it will tell them something about how to turn a Portal on. The dialogue allegedly mentions the importance of the time of day, so some players are reporting staying near Portals in the hopes that something new will happen. Some of the ‘discoveries,’ like the Portal damage one, are likely just bugs — but the point is that players are experimenting to see what might trigger a Portal activation.

One player tried stuffing a Walker through the Portal:

Image credit: Miljeman

Image credit: Miljeman
Another tried stuffing a golden ball inside a Portal:

Image credit: Oakesy_

Image credit: Oakesy_
Others are messing around with the files and finding curious assets that seem to depict what Portals would look like once activated:

So far, none of this has turned up anything concrete, but it is inspiring a lot of Portal theories. Some players think Portals will simply do what they did in the trailers, and act as transportation devices. Others think that Portals may be the key to getting multiplayer to work, and that players will be able to use Portals to meet one another. The most out there theory I’ve seen thinks that Portals activate some sort of time-travel. (I know, I know.)

Occam’s razer would suggest that the game just doesn’t include Portal functions just yet, which is why no one has been able to turn one on. But we do know that No Man’s Sky is getting updates at some point that will add new functionality to the game, like base building. Could Portals be included in those updates? Maybe. Until then, some will continue to overanalyze the textures on Portals. You know. Just in case.


      • My guess would be that they were originally going to be the way to skip through the universe but Hello Games decided to do that with black holes instead.

  • The cynic in me says you need to discover both ends of the portal, which is infinitely unlikely, and therefore probably not implemented anyway.

    • So like the multiplayer? Unlikely to happen so they just didn’t include it in the game after saying that it was in the game?

  • I think Hello Games just realised midway through development that using these portals would get players very lost and unable to return to their ship and they reworked them to be regular monoliths.

    • It’s shame really they designed the game in such a way as to not punish the player at all. Crashing or even losing a ship could have map for sole compelling gameplay where you had to locate a new one or settle down on a planet for good.

      • Yeah, but I can see why they didn’t. It would get pretty annoying to players if they kept on crash landing everywhere and then couldn’t get off the planet. Also, I don’t think it would really detract from the whole “exploration aspect of the game.

      • If you stuff up really early on you can get stuck without the ability to jump to the next galaxy until you track down anti matter to buy (extremely rare) it was quite fun actually

  • If, like in the trailer, they are supposed to transport you to another world – then you would likely require 30 second load time at least.
    Given that this is currently masked by the flight time between planets it is clearly an issue of processing power and hence cut…

  • While it’s likely it’s either just not turned on yet or that they are just reused assets as regular monoliths, it’s nice to see this kind of article. I really like this game, and it sucks seeing every piece be about the hubbub around the game instead of the actual game itself.

    • Indeeeeeeeed. Haters really should just stop playing, and leave those who like the game to be interested.

    • Umm… that would be because NMS could have been a 9.5/10, but lack of design choices and lack of depth instead make it a 5-6/10.

      There are things I like about the game, but the fun things lose appeal fast because there is NO depth to the game. I had high hopes, but sadly it turned out to be lacking, as I expected. Sean talked about all this cool stuff while showing demo’s and videos, but none of his videos actually showed any real depth – I had hoped that they were just being careful not to give anything away as the basis of the game was about discovering things.

      To me the game was supposed to be about finding some cool things, yet every system and every planet in NMS is PACKED with drop pods, outpost, ruins, monoliths, etc. to the point that finding things has no value. There is no mystery or satisfaction in ‘finding’ an alien ruin because there are 500,000 on every planet and it literally takes 3 minutes to find another one; and that goes for basically everything else. The fact that you can land on almost any (and probably every) planet and go from zero to maxing out your suit inventory, buying the biggest ship, learning all the words to a language (not sure if you can learn them all on one planet?) and get the best multi-tool really just proves it.

      Obviously if things were so rare some players never found them it would be stupid, but flooding EVERY planet with the same things ruins the fun of ‘discovery’. Plus there should have been more of a game behind discovering things to give discovery some depth and value.

      In real life, finding a gold nugget or diamond would be amazing because they have value due to rarity. However if every person went to their garden and could find 5 nuggets or diamonds in a few minutes, gold and diamonds would be worth NOTHING.

      The universe is also packed with far to much advanced life. I mean it feels kinds stupid that you ‘discover’ a planet, yet there is a space station next to every planet group, and on the surface of each planet there is already advanced life along with 5 million labs, outposts, etc.

      ok, enough ranting for today.

      • I dunno, I think you’re just expecting the wrong things to be rare. I’ve only found one planet with Radnox, only a couple with vortex cubes and Murrine, probably only half a dozen with gravitino balls. Heck, even Chrysonite is pretty hard to find, and that’s used in plenty of upgrades.

      • 400 hyperdrive fuel required to get to the center now, because the distance is now x4 because of the guy that got it early. The game has turned into desert bus in space. Not even halfway there after two days of travelling.

      • It’s funny though, because this is a 9.5 game for me. When I play this game I don’t have goals – “upgrade my ship”, or “find 10 drop pods.” I just wander, look at some cool stuff, then get in my ship and fly around, find a new planet to wander on. I think it’s the kind of game that lends itself very well go one type of play, but not the other.

        I totally get your point, you want fun stuff to “do”. For me it’s just about wandering around, going slow and just doing whatever. It’s definitely a game that isn’t for everyone.

        All I mean by my comment is that it is a game I really like a lot for what it is, so it’s cool to read articles that are about what the game is, rather than read the 400th article about what it isn’t 🙂

        • @lawnch
          I’m glad you love it!
          No game appeals to everybody, and I’m not surprised there are people who love NMS. There are things about the game I like, it’s just that it could have been so much more – and I don’t think it would have ruined your experience for there to be more depth to the whole game. If anything, I think it could have made it more amazing for you.

          That is not what I meant though. Finding materials could be such a grind, but that is ok to a point. I however I wanted there to be the excitement of finding another rare alien ruin, because to me it was supposed to be about finding some cool amazing stuff like rare alien ruins, treasure, etc. and to make discovering a planet and it’s inhabitants satisfying. But to me none of that exploration had any weight.

          Flying between planets with the different speeds and warping felt awesome and made the universe feel massive. I liked landing on a planet and checking out what it had – but you could see most of what a planet had in 10minutes, and because nothing was really rare it lost it’s appeal for me pretty quick. And by flooding the universe with ships, space stations, alien ruins, labs, outposts etc. etc. made it feel so tiny and took away from discovering anything.

          Things like discovering a rare ruin on a planet should have been an important discovery that gets marked for other explorers. Find a rare abandoned bunker with some interesting info or tech, mark it for explorers. Find a rare big cave system with some awesome loot – mark it for explorers. The game needs things to make it feel like exploring and finding shit satisfying. Things for others to check out if they come across something you found. I mean if this game is supposed to be about things you discovered, then they really should have given your discoveries some real depth.

          Instead I see a monolith that I haven’t been to and I think “meh, I’ll just grab some on the next planet.”

          • Oh man, I totally agree! More intricate stuff could have been cool, like those bigger starship battles between warring factions for example. I am looking forward to whatever it is they end up adding. I did also avoid everything but the stuff that was show during the E3 press conferences, so my expectations were wildly different to people who followed it super closely I imagine, which probably has helped in my enjoyment.

          • @lawnch
            lol yeah I was disappointed to find out those big battles were missing, especially when you see a ‘battle’ and the entire attacking force is just two small fighters. 😐

            My expectations were mixed coming into the game. I watched the videos, but I had extremely strong suspicions that it was going to turn out the way it did. I mean if you watch some of those videos you can tell the video didn’t back up much of what was said.

            I had just hoped they wanted to be coy, so not to give anything away as the whole game premise was exploration and finding things.

            I do tend to be pretty critical about design and user experience (particularly with games). I have a background in game art and game development; in particular I’m passionate about game-play design and user experience, so I tend to analyse things a fair bit (that’s not to say my ideas are perfect, or even correct)

          • Hey I know the feeling man, while I don’t have any proper accreditations I’ve been writing about games for nearly 2 years on my own little website – that changed the way I come at games completely. It’s so hard to just play a game and not think “how can I write about this” haha. But hey, good criticism can only make the things you love better.

  • But we do know that No Man’s Sky is getting updates at some point that will add new functionality to the game, like base building.

    I haven’t actually played it yet, but my understanding is that the whole point of the game is to travel and explore the universe. Doesn’t building a base imply that you’ll be hanging around the one place for a fairly lengthy period of time? Isn’t that kind of pointless in a game about exploration?

    • The engine they have has massive potential. The actual game is about exploration, but it isnt tied to that. If you want to stay on one planet and truly find everything there is to find, its going to take a while.

      Then there is the system you are in and nearby ones. Let people build content on and around those planets and give a way for others to experience it, and the potential is massive.

      The future of this game is likely to depend on the mod community, and access to the content. Give the right tools though, and the engine has the potential to mimic a lot of other genres.

    • Essentially yes, but interest from exploration begin to diminish rather quickly (The more you see, the less unique it becomes until it’s just combinations of easily recognisable parts)

      So content of any sort is welcome at this stage.

  • its weird that all the pictures of people trying stuff look nothing like the actual portal that is walked thru in the trailer, it shows that structure on the other side but its clearly not what you travel thru

  • I suspect that a lot of the gameplay and assets shown early on were wiped out when their office flooded. Sean Murray said they didn’t back up everything (which was dumb) and that they lost way more than they initially let on. Maybe it explains why there’s so many things in the trailers that aren’t in the final product.

    • Nope flood happened in January 2014, the portal gameplay video didn’t go up until December

      People need to stop giving them leeway for a flood that happened years ago when they have continue to show all this stuff in the 2.5 years since the flood

      • Oh, I’m not giving them leeway. I just assumed it might have had a long term impact on the game. They’re still responsible for honest communication and marketing.

  • They aren’t standard monoliths, I found one the other day and it didn’t do anything. Not even trigger the “seek help with language” message.

    Also, people need to get over this multi-player thing! It’s not a multi-player game, and as far as I can tell, never will be.

  • This game.. so much disapoint.

    The only thing i enjoyed about it was the realisation that millions of people were exploring the same galaxy and I didn’t come across any named planets. But that wasn’t enough to keep me playing more than 10 hours.

  • Really, NMS is a project managers wet dream.
    – Promise loads of features.
    – Launch with none of those features.
    – Slowly implement features, hidden in ‘bug fix’ patches
    – Make it so newly implemented features only appear in unexplored parts of the game.
    – say “See! they were always there! they are just very uncommon!! Keep exploring guyz!”
    – Profit

    (except the profit part actually comes before all the work, which is why its such an awesome system!)

    • Well did anyone else launch in to a scripted battle right after the last patch?

      I lept to a new system and was facing a huge stumpy star destroyer thing.
      It was scripted because two fighters flew up either side of me.
      There was a ton of fighters, I barely managed to survive.

      It was cool, but like cpr to a corpse at that stage.

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