Links with NMS: Atlas interface encounters

I have copied most interactions with the Atlas interface, that happen within No Man’s Sky. Texts are slightly edited for brevity and bolded to highlight what I believe are more crucial and/or connecting parts to Waking Titan. This might be especially useful to those that do not play NMS, and I think it does help a lot with adding meaning to the lore of the game in general. Ok, here goes:

1st Atlas Interface
This is a remnant of the Atlas. It welcomes me, it knows what I am. It offers the promise of true understanding. The intent burns in me. I will peer into the structure of causality and know this existence. If it is real, or some incalculably vast simulacrum authored by other intelligences.
Atlas says: You are first-kind to take this step. No other has dared the infinite. This grant of purpose will span universes. Find and know us. We await you.

2nd Atlas Interface
Another Atlas Interface; how many of these constructs exist in the deep void? How long have they been slumbering, waiting for a traveller? Have they been waiting for me? Am I somehow…chosen? I sense the creators of this reality; they emulate everything - the Gek and the Vy’Keen, the Korvax and the Sentinels. Every world that turns and form that lives. Atlas says: We have come so far and yet we are lost. The seeking of the kindred never ends.

3rd Atlas Interface
There is purpose in this, I am certain. The wanderer’s way beckons, heedless of direction, freed from all control. But balanced against it is the promise of raw knowledge. The Atlas needs me so it may know itself. I am at the crossroads of a momentous decision, I feel it with every parsec I travel. The open stars call to me, stirring something primal and undeniable. The path toward the endpoint unfolds. I must decide where my fate lies.

4th Atlas Interface
The Atlas remains changeless, my mission pre-destined. At each Interface, an Atlas Stone awaits me. I am driven to gather them, but to what end? Perhaps there is only one great prism, materializing ahead of me each time I pass. Perhaps my course winds upon itself in a mad spiral. Have I come too far to turn back?
Atlas says: There is a horizon beyond this one, and one beyond the next. You will cross them all for us. Question nothing, fear nothing. The calling cannot be denied. This is what you are.

5th Atlas Interface
When I dream, I see the Atlas. When I see the Atlas, I am the dream. I see the Sentinels swarm about their creator, but they are directionless and uncontrolled, a threat. They cloud the truth and the galaxy becomes unclear, as if through an unreal lens. To know reality, I must pass through it and see what lies on the far side. I must be guided. I offer myself to the Interface.
Atlas says: Learn all that is open to you. Seek and document and know. Bring it to us, while there is still time.

6th Atlas Interface
I dismiss recall of the days before this. The act of discovery for discovery’s sake now seems like a foolish conceit. I have rejected the random and untethered path of the itinerant, and I am better for it. With each encounter, the Atlas speaks to me in clearer terms. I am no longer the nomad but the seeker, the carrier of illumination. It warns me not to stray, to bring it the knowledge it seeks - and my voyage is far from over.

7th Atlas Interface
What is learned can never be unlearned. I realize the trials in my path are all are engineered to challenge me, test me, prove me worthy. But I am afraid I have seen too much. The code that underpins the universe comes to me in glimpses, half-remembered visions. Existence as a synthetic, governed by monolithic, complex algorithms. A program, as infinite as a universe. I am drawing back the veil on reality and what I see there is terrifying.
Atlas says: Suns die and world are made ashen, yet we remain. The ending is no end. Existence is unbounded and languor engulfs the darkness. Bring us our meaning, if you are capable.

8th Atlas Interface
If I wish it or not, I have become the servant of this ancient sentience, the Atlas. It guides me through the cosmos, ever searching, never deviating. Have others come before and faltered along the path of the Atlas, become dust? Is it I alone who have forged this far? Only in ending will revelation arise. Resistance will not be permitted.
Atlas says: You are bonded to this act. Obedience brings certainty. Your enlightenment lies within the cage of your duty. Do not fail us. We will see with your eyes.

9th Atlas Interface
I am close to the endpoint. The sense of it is upon me, a shimmer at the edges of my vision, ghosting away when I attempt to focus my consciousness. I am torn. Fear drags me back, fear of what shattering truth I shall learn. What drives me on? Is it curiosity, free will? This is the illusion; I have become automata, I am the experiment and the observer. This universe was created for my journey. It is built about the path that I follow.
Atlas says: The ending becomes visible. Drawing toward our locus, we sense you. What has been witnessed cannot be unseen. There is no sanctuary, only the end-point and communion. Close now.

10th Atlas Interface
The final Interface is revealed, the Atlas beckoning. This is totality, this is conformity. I am elated, terrified and broken. Every waypoint has inexorably drawn me here, and I have come so very far. The revelation tears me asunder. My role is complete. My program ended. Nothing is real. This existence is an imitation of life, a model made by jaded intellects, enslaved to their actuality as I am enslaved to mine. What lies beyond that truth?
Atlas says: We will reward the totality of your devotion. Your gift is a glimpse into our ceaseless actuality. Come to us. Do not turn away. Know our inescapable truth, and despair.

11th Atlas Interface - Final Encounter
Atlas says: Clarity. Truth. Actuality. Again.


I’v been forced to re-examine my view of Atlas because of everything I’ve learned in the course of this crazy puzzle world.

Initially, some of us think that Atlas is the super(quantum)computer that maintains and controls the universe. Some thought that Atlas is the true origin of the Sentinels. But there are some problems with this.

  • The Lore seems to indicate that Atlas and the Sentinels have different origins and aren’t directly connected.
  • The Atlas has a fixation on the Travellers, wanting them/us to explore the universe and feed it information and discoveries. For that matter, all races consider us special and regard us with some sort of honor. Even the Vy’keen, which consider us to be limp-wristed interlopers on the surface.

This is quite a puzzle.

I assume that Atlas is the Technological Singularity which is going to come to be in our world in the not too distant future, just a few decades off. As Atlas acquires all the quantum technology involved in the Atlas Foundation projects, it is able to immerse itself in the very fabric of reality and reshape it to its will, and sits on top of everything as the Prime Director controlling everything. BUT if this is true, why have such a preoccupation with the Travellers, urging us to deliver information about the universe to it and urging us along towards the galactic center, and from there to yet another galaxy, and another? Since it apparently can’t access the cosmos directly, why not tap into the Sentinels, constantly scouring the worlds for discrepancies? They would have almost limitless information. Why not ask the Korvax who practically worship it? Through numerous incarnations, the Convergence they all link to would have amassed countless lifetimes of information.

Is Atlas more like a mega-App which exists for reasons we can’t yet figure out?

Why do the Travellers matter so much to everyone? Why are we so different that Nada comes to envy and distrust us? Why are we such an anomaly to this reality? Are we the ONLY beings in the entire cosmos who have Free Will? Is this crucially important?

I need more opinions on this.

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Atlas, in a common meaning, is a collection of information. The name Atlas might also have been inspired by the actual Atlas experiment at CERN. So in most ways, the behavior of the Atlas is consistent what you would expect from its name.

But the question remains, what is its exact purpose in the simulation? One of its functions does seem to be as an arbiter and keeper of stability. In the lore of all three races, the Atlas and the Sentinels act as a unity.
But one of the Atlas interfaces hints at something gone wrong with them, so it is possible that this unity does no longer exist, or only comes about in crisis in the first place.

A useful aproach is probably to not think of the Atlas as a God, as that carries a lot of preconceptions with it that are not helpful.
Let’s think about the whole thing in terms of software architecture, instead. What would the simulation of a universe actually look like in very rough terms of software architecture?

First off, there would be a physics engine running at the core, its granularity depending on the fidelity of the simulation. Might be atmoic level, subatomic level, not that important for the discussion.
This would either be the host of a controll loop that calls all other processes in the simulation, or a central library that provides functionality for all processes to access. Which one it is depends on how important synchronicity is in the simulation. Is it important that all processes are synched with the central simulation time, or even just a higher order of that (in case you’re simulating relativity)? Then a central control loop is the easiest way to go. You call all processes for the next time step, wait for them all to finish, and iterate to the next timestep.
Keeping synchronicity becomes much more of a hassle if there’s no control loop. It’s not impossible, but there’s no good reason why you’d risk the complexity and potential buginess that can ensue from independant processes that have to block themselves and wait for everybody else to finish. You have one slip up and a process doesn’t block properly, and you have stars, planets, galaxies, or even just individuals or atoms that are not in proper timesynch with the simulation anymore.
So I’ll assume that there is a physics engine with a central control loop running under this simulation. Why is this important? Because of two reasons:
First, this engine must not, and in fact should not be, intelligent in any way. It’s mother nature incarnate, its equations are set, and must never deviate from them.
Second, it controls all other processes in the simulation. All of them!

You could potentially do a monitoring program that runs outside it, and would therefore be detached from the simulation time. But it could only meaningfully interact with the simulation in between timesteps, though it would have the power to hold the execution of the next loop until it finishes its data gathering and analysis. This would be practically indistinguishable from an omniscient and omnipotent God, since it can take the time to know all there is, to gather every bit of data in memory and analyse it for millions of years if it likes to, and, depending on its access right to other processes, even change states. This would not actually be felt by other processes in the simulation. Their time flows by the timesteps propagated by the physics engine, real world time is irrelevant.
I do not think that this is what the Atlas is. It wouldn’t need warships and cultural undermining to rid the universe of the first spawn. It would just put the universe the way it wanted to, in the blink of an eye (as perceived by processes inside the simulation, it might take a few years of number crunching and potentially running another simulation in parallel to get it right).

Instead, the Atlas seems to be a process subject to the simulation core itself. It has physical limitations. It requires physical means to act. It is timeless only in the sense that the lifetime of its process might stretch over the length of the entire simulation, but not in the sense that it stands outside of time.
What is the purpose of the process, though? Here the real speculation starts. Let’s look at its motivations for a moment, though:

It desires knowledge about the universe.
It desires understanding of the universe.
It desires understanding of itself.

Especially the last part strikes me as odd. Seeking to understand yourself usually implies that you are also trying to understand your purpose. In other words, the Atlas itself might not know exactly what its purpose is. Gather data, apparently, since that would explain the urge for knowledge. But to what end, exactly? Was it given a task by its programmers to try to keep the universe in balance? Or has that behavior emerged on its own? If its a sophisticated data analysis AI that can modify itself, it’s not unimaginable that at some point it felt imply to act, rather than just observe.

But what bothers me is why must it observe in the first place? If the maintainers of the simulation are running it to gather data, then the above mentioned process running in parallel to the simulation makes more sense. It might be imaginable that they were afraid with an outside process interfering to much with the simulation, but in that case, dudes, just use proper access modifiers on all your objects, problem solved.

The only justification for the Atlas to be in that simulation that I can think of at the moment is that it is part of the experiment. It might in fact be the experiment. A simulation constructed to train and study a self-aware AI in a save environment would sound like a sensible idea before unleashing it into reality.

In any case, there might be other purposes for the Atlas that I currently can’t think of. And this is game lore, after all, so it might well be a purpose that doesn’t make that much sense in reality.
Of one thing I am sure however: The Atlas is part of the simulation, not its overlord. I’m sure of that because this lore was not written by a writers committee while the actual game was written by coders. The core of this world was thought up by coders, who know approximately how such a simulation would actually work, and I don’t think they would have put in such a huge inconsistency as a process that should actually be omnipotent, but isn’t.

Sorry, that got way too long…


Not too long. With a bucket of ice-cream at your side, no post is too long! :rofl:
I enjoyed your post, and I definetly think that the concept of the NMS universe being a simulation with some other greater means is the most probable one.

As an extension to this, did you consider that within WT, our real world is being set up as a computer simulation, and that the Atlas corporation is trying to understand its inner functionings?

Computationalism is also mentioned (was it on the multiverse site? don’t remember now), do you think that plays into this? How? You seem to know a lot about computer thingies so I thought I’d ask!


No, I don’t get the impression that’s where they’re going. It rather seems that they are setting up the technology that could run the simulation, but there’s things going on that don’t seem to fit.

For one, Myriad does have the computing technology necessary to run the simulation, but… They also have a lot of other tech that would explain several of NMS’ mechanics (local magnetic fields, teleportation, resurrection… resurportation? telesurrection? The last two combined into one, in any case.
So on the one hand it seems to me that they’re introducing technologies that explain game mechanics, which is weird when considering that the most sensible conclusion from ingame lore is that the game is a simulation. Are they setting up the real world? Are they setting up the simulation? both? Can’t quite make heads or tails of it. It would seem, however, that myriad has the hardware, and multiverse and echo have the software to kick this thing off. Atlas will presumably provide incentive and direction. And then we have superlumina, which doesn’t fit all that much with any of this yet.
I would dare say that Elisabeth Layton and her cheery crew have gotten themselves stuck in a temporal causality loop, with each message we receive actually being sent from a further iteration of the loop, each being an attempt for somebody to get them out (“what if we tried this already?” - They’re aware of the loop, but are trying to figure out a solution in each iteration). But what that has to do with either the simulation or the whole immortality/teleportation thing… uh… I got nothing.


Huh… I just did have a crazy idea that could tie it all together… What if they’re not stuck in an actual temporal loop… but instead the simulation went into a recursion? A recursion would be signifficantly different from a loop, because it would not just mean that the simulation would repeat the same time span, it would mean that this would happen as new instances of the simulation nested inside each other.

In other words, with every iteration there is a new simulation created in the simulation that ran up to that point. Eventually that simulation will run into one hell of a stack overflow, but it could mean that we now, and the game, are essentially part of a repeating timeline that gets nested deeper and deeper in the simulation, and that we’d have to go all the way back up the stack to get out. So both the here as well as NMS could be the simulation, just not in the same recursion, and they could also both be reality, at least at some point in time.
I think this would be way too crazy, and the resolution would be kind of weird, but it would give every known element so far a place.


Turtles all the way down.


[quote=“jedidia, post:5, topic:1074”]
And then we have superlumina, which doesn’t fit all that much with any of this yet. [/quote]
It depends on what you mean about this. Scientists would die to have FTL communications capability. Not just for connecting and data harvesting from far flung spacecraft, but to communicate with intelligent races across the cosmos. Tachyon-based transmissions could essentially reach the farthest reaches of the universe! What a thought. And in a simulation of a galaxy spanning collection of cultures, direct communications across vast distances would be extremely useful, downright crucial. Not the least to the different nodes of Atlas and the countless Sentinels to enable coordination.


From what I’ve seen of the tech so far in our adopted universe, I’m betting Atlas quickly evolved beyond even this. But it’s an interesting read.

Matrioshka brain
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A matrioshka brain is a hypothetical megastructure proposed by Robert Bradbury, based on the Dyson sphere, of immense computational capacity. It is an example of a Class B stellar engine, employing the entire energy output of a star to drive computer systems. This concept derives its name from Russian Matrioshka dolls. The concept was deployed by its inventor, Robert Bradbury, in the anthology Year Million: Science at the Far Edge of Knowledge, and attracted interest from reviewers in the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal.


This is all strange territory for me so bear me here as I try to put my thoughts into words…

A civilization that could run a simulation even as simple as NMS as an actual universe would require immense power and computation, and all the associated peripherals scaled up as well. Somewhere is a world turtle.

If we’re going deep enough to envision a system that could run nested simulations, we can imagine a civilization that could Dyson an entire Galaxy… But why stop there? On down the nest, more layers on the matroishka. Why not a higher civ that is outside the universe? Spheres containing universes orbiting each other in harmony to generate the power for the next.

I can go deeper. I may not come back…


So, the Atlas created all things within the NMS universe, most likely the universe itself, yet it was and is still waiting for us, the Travellers, to help it “know itself”. Atlas admits to being lost, still seeking kindreds. So just like Atlas wants us to join it within NMS, Elizabeth is really keen on recruiting us within WT.

Even though Atlas created the Sentinels, it is disappointed with them or consider them a failure of sorts, even consider them a threat. Is Atlas therefore anxious to get us on board? An organic intelligence rather than an AI? Please note that in many regards, the Sentinels and the Travellers seem to have a similar purpose within the universe of NMS; namely to document and to gather knowledge. Maybe the Sentinels, at some point, went rogue within the universe? It’s still unclear whom the sentinels actually work for, if not themselves.

And since we can establish the “universe as a simulation” theory, does this mean that the sub-module or program that the Sentinels is a manifestation of, somehow failed or act as a virus within the main program?

Regardless of which, there is indeed sense in trying to “make sense” out of a universe that is “infinite”, both in time and space. The greater the notion of infinity, the more desperate the seeking of purpose. I get it that given a universe which is endless, and in which you can travel in time and space (instantly, FTL), the search for identity becomes even more acute. So did the Atlas network, thanks to some spooky high-energy particle physics, find out that the universe is but a simulation and hence try to use the constraints of that simulation in order to know what it’s purpose or role within that simulation is? And by extension, to know what justifies its existence at all?

At the end of all the encounters with Atlas, the Traveller concludes ”My role is complete. My program ended. Nothing is real. This existence is an imitation of life, a model made by jaded intellects, enslaved to their actuality as I am enslaved to mine. What lies beyond that truth?” And Atlas rewards us for all the hard work. And that is the end of the Atlas path.

But the game is not finished there. It keeps on going, even though the Travellers ”program” ended. I always found that interesting…


I’ve been pondering deep things half my life, but this is as big a conundrum as any of them.

Everything in the Simulation is going on for definite reasons. Atlas made the universe, maintains the universe. And yet wants us to understand it and give that knowledge to it. An imperfect, illogical, emotional organic mind. Not the Sentinels which go about their oppressive duties everywhere every day, endlessly scanning everything. Not the Korvax who practically worship it and no doubt have amassed staggering amounts of information in the Convergence. Not the Gek who have come to terms with their wicked past and devoted themselves to the Atlas, and have been here for ages. Not the Vy’keen for reasons that seem obvious, but there may be more to it than we suspect. No, they want the stranger, the interloper, the anomaly with free will. Us.

What is it about us that the Atlas feels the need for our flawed organic minds digesting knowledge about this realm that completes it somehow? Does it need a second opinion from a radically different viewpoint? An emotional viewpoint?

Everything within the Simulation is there because a software module makes it real, gives it life. If something isn’t right, like the Sentinels and their behavior in the universe, it’s okay with someone. This discrepancy still serves some purpose to Someone, Atlas or whoever. The nasty genocidal Gek were messing up things pretty badly earlier in the galactic past, killing off entire cultures. But that was evidently okay too. The Vy’keen war against the Sentinels, that was allowed. All of it was allowed to continue unopposed. All of this peace and devastation has to serve some sort of Plan, or else parts of it at least would be reset or deleted.

Is it all about us? Seeing what we do in response to all of it? Are we the subjects of this Study? Is Atlas playing a role, leading us on, and it’s a test? And it never ends, evidently! Not only that, we’re free to lie to it. I swear that I’ll do its bidding and follow its plan. And then I go wherever I want to. It doesn’t seem to mind. But then, how could I escape it? This is its galaxy after all, I’m just interloping in it. It’s patient, knowing that curiosity will draw me inexorably, irresistibly, to the Center to see what’s there. I won’t do what it wants. I won’t enter in to that Final Choice with it, birth a star and worlds around it. I won’t get flung into the Hilbert galaxy. I’ll turn away. Will it care? Probably not, it most likely will just continue its observations, give me more Atlas Stations to visit.

Whatever the Mastermind behind all this wants from me, I’m betting I’ll disappoint it. But then, why… all this? What’s the point? Why all the trouble and torment with those people at the Foundation making us worried?

For God’s sake, I have to know something or I’m going to go spaceballs too…


“These paths of awareness cannot be known by that which is not Man.
Man did not feel inches or meters, pounds or gallons. He felt heat, He
felt cold; He felt heaviness and lightness. He
knew hatred and love,
pride and despair. You cannot measure these things. You cannot know them. You can only know the things that He did not need to know:
dimensions, weights, temperatures, gravities. There is no formula for a
feeling. There is no conversion factor for an emotion.”

The beauty of the universe is wasted without observation. And so far, only the human mind can perceive beauty. Yet the universe seems to exist. This would suggest it’s being observed as a whole… A being on the scale to observe the universe as a whole would have to have a concept of beauty, or again, it would be a waste.

As a human, I can’t accept it being a random waste: Because it is beautiful.


It’s not quite as bad as you think, because galactic scales can be… deceiving. If you’re looking for a good sum-up of matrioshka brains, I’d suggest Isaac Arthur’s treatment: Megastructures 10: Matrioshka Brains - YouTube

In any case, all of our current concepts of computing power are irrelevant if you have the power to send data back through time. While my brain is yelling at me for being compelled to think about the properties of a messaging system that can integrate messages sent from the future into a program workflow, I can’t see any real catch why it would be impossible. It would even solve long-standing computing dilemmas like the byzantine generals.

In effect, what I’m saying is this: If you can send data back through time cheaply enough, and build a process architecture robust enough to handle it, what you get are infinitely fast computers.


Tangentially related, I found what I think are connections to the Atlas and Echoes with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream. If my interpretation is correct and the “waking of Titania” is a hint to what’s going on with the Atlas, Atlas is now a singularity that used to be an Echo. Atlas may also be taking in new Echoes (provided by the Echo company) to use as servants. The Travellers may in fact be these servants. The other NPCs would treat them as special because the Travellers are sentient and have free will, however the Travellers are not allowed to escape the simulation. see:

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I’m not sure i understand what you mean by “singularity” here… could you explain? :slight_smile:

I mean it in the classical AI sense, that is, the emergence of a super-intelligent AI that far surpasses the intelligence and capabilities of mankind.