I have spent days and days, scouring two systems for ships that I’ve seen in the space station, attempting to find them crashed. While I didn’t find White Lightning at all and haven’t found Blueberry Dream 2 yet (EDIT: I found her after five days of searching with 48 slots at the second to last Transmission Tower/Crash site I was going to visit before breaking down and buying her at 46 slots), I think I’ve figured out some of the peculiarities of how you can search for that particular ship you saw crashed somewhere in No Man’s Sky. Mind you, this is all based on my experience, and there’s definitely the possibility that your experiences may differ.
A little background on how No Man’s Sky works and what that has to do with ships:
Everything (well, almost) is procedurally generated. This means that from where planets exist to where a tree resides on that planet (if they’re going to exist at all), there’s a set of rules that start with a number (1 to somewhere in the range of 18 quintillion) that determine exactly what’s where, at least when you first approach a point where something might exist. Things outside of this area, or in other systems, technically don’t exist at all. Things only exist when they need to, and there’s very specific rules that determine what exists where.
This includes what ships look like in the system. Near as I can tell, there’s three or four types of ships, and then (a guess from what I’ve seen) three of each model of ship that’s generated by the game as existing in that system. Hang out on a Trading Post or in the Space Station and you should see a good number of these ships come in … but you’ll also notice a lot of repetition (indeed, even the pilot names for a given ship appearance will be the same).
This also means that, if you see it in the Space Station or at a Trading Post, you should be able to see it crashed.
Note: This does not apply to pirate ships. While those too are procedurally generated, they are markedly different than ships you will see in other scenarios.
So … how do you go about searching for a crashed ship? Well, I have a few guidelines:
The Planet Has To Have Buildings On It
If it’s a “dead”, “forsaken”, or “desolate” world, it won’t have any buildings, much less the Transmission Towers you need to find crashed ships. Leave immediately. These planets are not worth the time, unless you have a good Exosuit and need certain resources that are available there.
Building Density Can Vary From Planet To Planet
If there doesn’t seem to be a lot of buildings on the planet, or you’re flying a long time before seeing any “points of interest”, it could mean that you’re just in a dry patch on the planet. Or, it could mean that the whole planet is just fairly uninhabited.
Moons Have Less Surface Area, So They Will Have Fewer Buildings
They are worth flying to and taking a look around since they may have a few Transmission Towers on them, but you’ll find fairly quickly that you will want to move on before spending too much time there. You can usually scour a good portion of a Moon in a couple of hours, even when the building density is high.
So … what if you find a fairly good candidate planet?
Try Not To Cover The Same Ground Twice
You’ll want to come up with a method of searching that avoids running into places you’ve already been. Using markers (even ones that change position, like planets) can be useful (as long as you keep in mind how the position might change relative to your movement). One thing I recommend is:
Land At Every Trading Post
While not 100% useful to your search, you can use Trading Posts to get rid of excess inventory (and make a little cash). Also, if you “scan” the Post, it will always show up on your HUD if you’re facing it (it may be faint, but it will be there). On moons, the “Question Marks” for Trading Posts show up much farther away than anything else. Admittedly, too many of these on your HUD may make it hard to keep track of exactly which way you want to head. Worst case, you can face the icon for a Post and then loop up and away (do an aileron roll) to head in the other direction. But –
Don’t Be Afraid To Head Towards Something
If you make it half-way around the planet, the icons will appear in front of you at some point. You still have half of that slice of the planet to check. Also, your best bet is, as much as you can, to
Search A Given Planet Within One Session
If you quit the game, the icons for any Trading Posts you’ve visited get cleared. In addition, I have experienced that it also resets the “first crash” you’ll end up visiting, and you’ll end up visiting that crash again (most likely). That crash may be a bit of a distance away from the Transmission Tower that showed it to you. So, you need to
Handle “Extra” Transmission Towers Appropriately
If you’re flying towards a crash and you see a Transmission Tower you haven’t visited, stop, but don’t enter the Transmission Tower there. Put down a Beacon to mark the site for a return visit. My post Foundation Update experience has been that, with a crash on your HUD, a Transmission Tower will not show you a second crash, but may make that Transmission Tower no longer operate for you if you attempt to trigger it (NOTE: this differs from pre-Foundation Update behavior, where it was actually best to hit several Transmission Towers in a row and “stack up” the crashes you would look for).
Be aware, though, that you can place no more than five Beacons on a planet. How do I know this? Because: I like to put Beacons near the Portal Ruins when I come across them. I stumbled across three while searching “Wonforo II” for my desired ship. I had placed Beacons near two of them when I started a new session and was sent to the “first wreck.” While making my flight from the Transmission Tower to “first wreck”, I came across many an additional Transmission Tower, and put markers down on the first three intending to revisit them later. At the fourth, I got the message that I was only allowed five Beacons per planet.
So, you may want to put a Beacon down at, say, the first “extra” Transmission Tower you come across, and then “space jump” (fly out of the atmosphere where you can fly faster or even Pulse Jump towards a destination and greatly reduce your travel time) towards the far away crash site. Process it (usually, just visit the site and clear the icon for it), and then make your way back to the Beacon you placed at the extra Transmission Tower, stopping at every Transmission Tower (and crash site) and Trading Post you come across on your way back.
Transmission Towers (normally) appear to provide you the path towards the “nearest” crash. However
Transmission Towers Can Send You Back To A Crash You’ve Already Been To
Particularly if they’re close to another Transmission Tower. Be ready for that possibility if you’ve flown less than 20 seconds at boost away from a crash towards a new tower. And while having this happen quite a few times might be a sign that it’s time to move on, it could just be that you need to shift your travel direction a tad.
Know What To Look For – The Terrain Can Help
Flying and scanning is good, but more often, scanning will not provide “Question Marks” for sites with Transmission Towers. They will, however, give you an idea that you might want to slow down, do some circles around the area in question, and look for other hints that there might be relevant buildings nearby. Buildings, particularly collections of the larger ones, need a flat section of land (that’s usually circular) to exist on. Because of this, “flat” planets aren’t as helpful, actually, as mountainous ones, for me anyway. Often you will see flat plateaus on the sides of mountains that indicate the presence of a building before the building has had a chance to “res in”.
Look Left And Right; Don’t Just Fly Straight Ahead
Will often provide you with hints that a Transmission Tower might not be all that far away.
Finally, you need to keep a keen eye out because
It’s Possible To Come Across A Crash Without A Transmission Tower
Yes, you can just stumble across them. It’s not impossible – though it’s not common or easy. So, while looking for Transmission Towers to provide you the coordinates, keep your eye peeled for the wrecks themselves … you might just find what you’re looking for without having to stop anywhere else!