Procedural generation coupled with an evolution engine will inevitably generate almost infinite FORMS of whatever it is applied to: we know there are over 18 quintillion planets in the game for instance and an unknown number of evolved animal forms (just the named ones, let alone the unnamed ones). But the same will be true for space ships, plants, animals, possibly even for weapons. Administrators have already agreed that this site is not the best place to list details of every planet anyone ever discovers (no-one else may ever go there anyway). This principle has been suspended in advance of the games release, to allow enjoyment of the 'teaser' effect and help us all learn a little about the game from the very sketchy information released in advance:
- There were a couple of conversations about this and the Solar Systems, and most of us have decided to only list a planet if it is a new type of biome, and not to try to make a page for each individual planet or Solar System. We currently have pages for the planets that were shown as part of the pre-release trailers and demos, but that is mainly to peak interest in the game, and to show the different biomes that have been shown, as well. We do have a page for Biomes, and Solar Systems, but these are more for the characteristics that will help a player distinguish the elements, plants and creatures that might be available.
Also, as the game production team have pointed out, the actual final generation number given to the universe's algorithm for public release will be different from the one(s) used during the game's testing - hence even the worlds listed here will not exist in the public release game. The same is true for plants and animals.
What we do know though, is that there are certain TYPES of star and planetary system, biome (including weather and fluid base - if any), plant, animal, NPC, weapon menu, space ship, etc. Because these types could be encountered in other worlds, it would be worth writing about them on this site. For example, it would help to understand the general characteristics of dry planets, or whether the different kinds of fluid offer different survival options, or what different NPC races are like, or what colouring is associated with what animal behaviour (not least aggression!), etc.
We also know that smaller scale COMPONENTS are infinitely recombined to produce new forms of spaceship, planet, animal, etc, but these components tend to be much fewer in number and have predictable properties. It would be worth aggregating knowledge about these components on this site, for example: the resource types, or weaponisable elements, or flying animal wing variants, etc.
Lastly, and perhaps most exciting, are the EMERGENT properties that occur when a complex system begins to intra-act. For example, on the personal level, you will begin to develop a personality in the eyes of the various NPC races, which, who knows, may begin to extend to the people you know - certainly we know that if you assist one group of NPC raiders, they may help you later. At the wider game level, players may begin to interact and form alliances with emergent properties that the rest of us may like to know about (e.g. a band of human raiders may need a write-up to aid others in joining, avoiding, or hunting them). But there will also be non-sentient emergent properties of the system which are unmediated by the roles of players. For example, I recall one of the game designers noting an unexpected example of scavenging (a 'shark' on a recently shot flying animal over water) because scavenging had not been pre-designed as an animal behaviour. It would also be interesting from a biological perspective to understand how predation and reproduction work and what impacts they have on ecology - or is everything reset by an unyielding algorithm the moment you leave a planet? I suspect though, that there will be emergent properties which we can't begin to predict, particularly if there are legacy effects of any of the non-sentient life forms, since theirs is the most extensive behaviour set in the whole system; but even if there are no legacy effects, it will be interesting (for example) to see how a herd interacts with a predator, or whether there is any competition in mate selection, and whether there is more emergent behaviour to whatever we are looking at than mere behavioural algorithms might suggest.
(Incidentally, whilst this ontology hints at a structure for the wiki, I am not proposing it. Rather, I am simply trying to codify some principles to guide some editing decisions.)
Consequentially, I began the Biology page because it seemed a more comfortable overall structure for understanding NMS biology, but I did not delete the pre-existing life-related pages. Instead, I have recently modified them to list-type stubs, because I am loathe to delete them without general agreement. I never plan to fill them myself - I will rely on my own in-game encyclopaedia. But if the underlying principles are agreed, it suggests these extra pages (Flora, Flying Animals, Land Animals, Marine Animals) should all be removed. And of course, individual life forms can be described in as much detail as needed, but only as examples of more general NMS biology within relevant parts of the Biology section (it may eventually need to be more than just a long page).