Subnautica's time capsules connect players to each other in surprising (and touching) ways

Subnautica is a survival adventure game set on an alien planet almost entirely covered by water. So (and this is admittedly an oversimplification) think Minecraft, but more realistic graphics, and way more swimming. People have been playing since 2014, but one unique feature is suddenly earning the game a lot of well-deserved attention and praise: time capsules.

Fish are friends, not food

While Subnautica is pretty minimal in terms of story, there is an end goal: build a rocket and escape the planet. Before they leave, players can create a time capsule - a small treasure chest of sorts that can contain a custom image and message, along with a small selection of items, materials, even certain species of fish. These capsules can then be found by other players, giving them a leg up on needed materials or just providing a nice little story.

One player, who goes by the handle "Indoor Snowman" on Twitter, shared their... shall we say "regrettable" experience. "I found one full of fish and i just thought 'lame' and ate them all," they wrote. They claim they only realized the capsules came with messages after devouring the unfried fish sticks, and posted the capsule's message:

If you're having trouble reading that, it says, "If you found this time capsule, that means I must have been able to escape. However, this also means that I could not take my precious pets with me. I've left them in cryogenic stasis in hopes that whoever finds this capsule can take care of them once I'm gone." The capsule's message then goes into great detail about each fish's name, personality, diet, and preferences. For example, "Peter and Oswald are best friends. They get stressed out without each other, so please don't separate them."

The cat's face should tell you everything about how Indoor Snowman reacted once they'd read the message.

Sharing and caring

Over on the Subnautica sub-reddit, other players are sharing their own tales of discovery, or what they themselves have dropped into a time capsule. User RalphDamiani posted a beautiful piece of digital artwork showing the player character's mini-sub shining its light on a massive creature with multiple sets of amethyst eyes and long, snaking tentacles.

Another capsule creator left behind erotic fan fiction starring a schoolgirl boneshark (one of the game's many creatures) called "The Depths of My Love." It's sort of the Subnautica universe's equivalent of "The Lusty Argonian Maid" from the Elder Scrolls games, but less overt, with characters like "bone-chan" and "dum-kun" awkwardly flirting in the halls of a high school (which is underwater, I guess?). Anyway, it's actually kind of... cute? This was user sou222's first capsule found, and I can't even imagine what their reaction must have been.

Plenty of other players are loading their capsules up with powerful items or materials to give new players a helping hand. Some argue this breaks the flow of the game and are calling on the devs to moderate what can be put into a capsule. In the meantime, user Luke-HW seems to have come up with a good compromise. His capsule only contains a couple of helpful materials, but provides clues to the location of a cache full of potent items. It's well-constructed too, with others commenting that they would have never guessed it came from outside the dev team.

Making contact

Let's go back to Indoor Snowman's tale about their morally questionable sushi dinner. Remarkably, the tweet reached "Tikara" - someone who claims to be the creator of the capsule. Indoor Snowman profusely apologized for chowing down on Tikara's fishy friends, but Tikara herself wrote that she was "loving" the reactions people had to her capsule.

"I felt so guilty knowing I accidentally ate someone's beloved pets," Indoor Snowman wrote. "If I come across the capsule in another playthrough I will definitely take good care of them and redeem myself." Tikara encouraged Indoor Snowman to keep playing, and that there were still more capsules from her waiting to be found.

Games are consumable pieces of entertainment, yes. But every now and then they also go beyond that, and connect people - even over something as silly and simple as fish with names like Peter and Oswald. I can't know for sure what it was like for these two people to share that moment, but I hope it made both of them happy.

Tikara ended her conversation with Indoor Snowman with a simple message of encouragement: "You keep having fun!" It's a sentiment we could all stand to keep in mind.

Sam Prell

Sam is a former News Editor here at GamesRadar. His expert words have appeared on many of the web's well-known gaming sites, including Joystiq, Penny Arcade, Destructoid, and G4 Media, among others. Sam has a serious soft spot for MOBAs, MMOs, and emo music. Forever a farm boy, forever a '90s kid.