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Why NASA's New Video Game Misses the Point 205

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-only-astronauts-could-rocket-jump dept.
longacre writes "Erik Sofge trudges through NASA's latest free video game, which he finds tedious, uninspiring and misguided. Quoting: 'Moonbase Alpha is a demo, of sorts, for NASA's more ambitious upcoming game, Astronaut: Moon, Mars & Beyond, which will feature more destinations, and hopefully less welding. The European Space Agency is developing a similar game, set on the Jovian Moon, Europa. But Moonbase Alpha proves that as a recruiting campaign, or even as an educational tool, the astronaut simulation game is a lost cause. Unless NASA plans to veer into science fiction and populate its virtual moons, asteroids and planets with hostile species, it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to suffer through another minute of pretending to weld power cables back into place, while thousands of miles away, the most advanced explorers ever built are hurtling toward asteroids and dwarf planets and into the heart of the sun. Even if it was possible to build an astronaut game that's both exciting and realistic, why bother? It will be more than a decade before humans even attempt another trip outside of Earth's orbit. If NASA wants to inspire the next generation of astronauts and engineers, its games should focus on the real winners of the space race — the robots.'"
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Why NASA's New Video Game Misses the Point

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  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @06:35AM (#33135734) Homepage Journal

    Us nerds think the rovers on Mars are awesome.. your kids don't care. The simple fact is: robots don't explore space, people do, and when they do it through a robot they're doing it from boring desk. Ever taken your kids to work? That was exciting for about 15 minutes wasn't it?

    There's one thing robots in space can never do that humans can: be humans in space.

    And hopefully one day everything we do in space won't have to fly under the banner "exploration".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Vahokif (1292866)
      I think a sufficiently detailed Mars explorer "game" that uses procedural generation to fill in the gaps in the DEM data in a spectacular manner would be amazing for any age group.
    • by Pharmboy (216950)

      Work is supposed to be boring. If if was that much fun, they wouldn't pay you and there would be a cover charge to show up.

      And we do explore with robots. They are just an extension of ourselves, our eyes, our hands. We still decide what they do, where they do it, and see through their eyes. You lose some of the human experience with it, granted, but the robots can work as long as they have sun/power so they end up getting more tasks done. Would you rather have only one trip with a human in one location

      • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:34AM (#33136000) Homepage Journal

        Again, completely missing the point. You don't put humans into space to do "science", or to do "exploration". It's not a cost-benefit analysis. You can't say "oh, let's just cancel the human program, nerds sitting at desks operating robots can do it instead". Why not? Because we've been doing that for hundreds of years, it's called astronomy, and its never attracted as much capital investment as the robotic spaceflight program which gets all its funding by riding on the coattails of the human spaceflight program. Cut the human spaceflight program and you won't even have enough money to pay for the launches, then you'll be "exploring" the Nevada desert.

        Human spaceflight is the last bastion of pure Progress. Technological, secular ideological, grand society style progress. It's the same reason why the British and the French set out to colonize the world. There was no economic justification for it, it's just what great nations do.

        • by dave420 (699308)
          With all due respect, you're the one who's missed the point. Your parting blow regarding European empire-building shows just how far from the truth you are. It seems you just want good flash-in-the-pan TV, not actual sustainable scientific endeavour.
          • by QuantumG (50515) *

            I think I made myself clear, "scientific endeavour" is not the goal. It's a nice side effect, nothing more.

            As for good TV, if you could point to any recent good TV coming out of the space program, I'd appreciate it.

            • Well, being a great nation isn't the goal either (unless you mean proving the US has a larger dick than the URSS in 1969). The primary goal is the military and communications progress enabled by spaceflight. For instance, those needs determined the specs for the Shuttle.
        • by Pharmboy (216950)

          I get the point, but if you have one billion dollars to spend to go into space, how do you spend it? THAT is the question. I am all for humans in space, just as we climb the mountain "because it is there", and I am simply arguing that sending robots to do the dirty work, the first work is still progress. We are still sending humans into lower orbit now, although I don't see that much utility to it, other than fixing Hubble from time to time. If not for the rovers and robots, we would know much, much les

          • >Work is supposed to be boring. If if was that much fun, they wouldn't pay you and there would be a cover charge to show up.

            Erm - nobody thought the earth was flat. They knew it was round even BEFORE the Ancient Greeks showed up and those Greeks already managed to work out it's size.
            Columbus disagreed on only one point. He believed the circumference of the earth to be substantially less than it actually is. If he was right then going to India by traveling West would have been a MUCH shorter trip than the

            • by Calinous (985536)

              Cortez with 600 men, a couple dozen of horses and a few cannons conquered the Mayans and sent home galleon after galleon of gold.
              The British East India Company was one of the richest companies in the Britain during its heyday, Jamaica (Westward Islands I think) sent to the British riches as sugar and molasses and this and that.
                    Colonizing other places was as much profit-driven as politics-driven.

          • Space exploration has to be a prequel to colonization. Otherwise we're all just sitting at the bottom of our gravity well, waiting for the asteroid. We should instead be on the asteroids... preferably not one that's going to hit a planet.
        • by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @08:20AM (#33136240)

          Go and see any interview of any astronaut no matter what they did in space they get the usual, "what did you do up there" as a matter of form but most of the time is spent asking "what did it feel like to be in space", "how did you feel when that happened" or similar

          The astronauts do not go to do science or explore, robots can do that better more reliably, cheaper, and we don't need to get them back, astronauts go to experience it ...

        • Human spaceflight is the last bastion of pure Progress. Technological, secular ideological, grand society style progress. It's the same reason why the British and the French set out to colonize the world. There was no economic justification for it, it's just what great nations do.

          Do you have a flag?

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by KeensMustard (655606)

          Why not? Because we've been doing that for hundreds of years, it's called astronomy, and its never attracted as much capital investment as the robotic spaceflight program which gets all its funding by riding on the coattails of the human spaceflight program.

          The reason that the human space program attracts the funding is because it is a boondoggle, a pork barrel. I don't know whether the money for actual exploration gets siphoned off this pork or not - I'm guessing it's directed funding, that projects like the Mars Rovers get funded because they are exciting and prestigious - whereas the conjoined twins of human rated launcher and space station get funded because it helps to elect some old fart. talk about your grand society, your last bastion of Pure Progress.

          • by Dishevel (1105119)
            I love you guys. Correct you are. No need to learn how to get and keep humans in space. We can wait to learn that shit and get good at it when we absolutely have to do it.

            I am also sure that whatever it is that drives that need will have the decency to call ahead and let us know so that we have the time.

            We send humans to space because in the end it is where we need to be. The sooner the better.

            • by phlinn (819946)
              Although I very much think that the false dichotomy of robots vs humans is foolish, and think we should be trying to get people into space as a goal in and of itself while still using robots for some purposes, it remains true that NASA is mostly a pork-barrel boondogle. I have much higher hopes for the various x-prize seekers than for anything decent to come from nasa.
    • "robots don't explore space, people do." In what sense can the OP mean this? If robots are taken as tools, then, sure, people are doing the exploring, as they obtain data from and direct these robots. If it's meant in the sense that it takes human presence to count as exploration, I'd have to disagree. Most of the knowledge we have about our solar system is derived from various "robots." Manned space flight has made significant contributions, but most of those contributions are about manned space flight, ab
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      We had the kids unloading a semi truck and stacking boxes in the warehouse. It was exciting to see 6, 12 year olds try to carry a 62" plasma TV.. Little timmy is all right after it fell flat on him. They got all the glass out of his chest.

      It was soo cute to see Little Steve try and carry a 72" rack on his back.. and how they all cried when the dock manager screamed at them to stop screwing around and suck it up...

      I love bring your kids to work day.

    • by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:44AM (#33136050)

      "Us nerds think the rovers on Mars are awesome.. your kids don't care. "

      Good.
      Trying to curry popular favor by sending manned missions before robot technology (required to make manned missions effective) matures is just pissing away money.

      We need robots now on Earth, robots are the most effective way to explore space (humans will always interact with space through a material barrier or by operating...robots!), so do that first. This isn't the 1960s. Technology inspires enough people who will joyfully work on robot projects.

      Let the masses fap to what Hollywood feeds them. Get the human DRAMA out of space exploration so we can do _research_.

      • by Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:49AM (#33136078) Homepage

        Let the masses fap to what Hollywood feeds them. Get the human DRAMA out of space exploration so we can do _research_.
        Since you expect the masses to pay for your research, you best give them some motherfucking drama else you can research space on a shoe string budget.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          Unfortunately, NASA would never be allowed to release a game based on the real drama of human space colonization....

          Stuff is expensive to boost out of earth's gravity well. Solution: Midgets. Lighter, lower metabolic needs, work well in small spaces, standard human capabilities in all respects except brute strength, which doesn't matter much in low or zero gravity.

          Long term survival of human colony populations will require reproduction; but Newton's 3rd poses difficulties in microgravity. Solution: Bo
        • by couchslug (175151)

          "Since you expect the masses to pay for your research, you best give them some motherfucking drama else you can research space on a shoe string budget."

          That fear has locked NASA into becoming a sideshow. A reduced budget focused on robots and technology development, coupled with production of Technologically Sexy robots could be a winner.

      • by QuantumG (50515) *

        And watch as the funding levels go down to the level of astronomy and other scientific research. The Human Genome Project, possibly the most important scientific research ever had to fight and scrape for $3 billion. The upcoming Mars Science Laboratory will have a comparable total cost of about $2.3 billion. Without the human spaceflight program to boost NASA funding the robotic exploration program would have to actually justify why space research should be funded over terrestrial research, and frankly,

        • by couchslug (175151)

          "You don't learn to live on other planets with robots - Jeff Greason [bit.ly]"

          There is no need to attempt to learn to live on other planets when the machines required to pave the way aren't ready.

      • by Shikaku (1129753)

        Let the masses fap to what Hollywood feeds them. Get the human DRAMA out of space exploration so we can do _research_.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv6RbEOlqRo

        I want to research why this is so funny.

        aeiou.

    • There's one thing robots in space can never do that humans can: be humans in space.

      Yup.

      http://www.oldeenglish.org/podcast/astronauts [oldeenglish.org]

    • What I don't understand is this: is NASA really trying to recruit astronauts through a game? Why the hell is that even necessary? Doesn't everybody want to become an astronaut? If they have a shortage, I'll gladly switch careers. I went into this programming business because I thought I wouldn't have a chance in hell of becoming an astronaut.

      I guess I first need to learn to weld, though.

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

      The simple fact is: robots don't explore space, people do, and when they do it through a robot they're doing it from boring desk.

      Not if they use a Wii controller!

      And hopefully one day everything we do in space won't have to fly under the banner "exploration".

      Hopefully one day rockets will be powered by hope, and you can hope yourself right to the stars!

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)

      There's one thing robots in space can never do that humans can: be humans in space.

      That again... Right now real work gets done from orbit. We already have a map of the underground water reserves of Mars [nasa.gov], we even have a clear picture of water snow [futurehi.net] (we know it is not CO2 snow). All of these results brought from ESA orbiters. Sadly, ESA lacks the public relation office that NASA has... "Exploration" can be done from orbit. PR stunts require a silly overpriced flag-holder that lands somewhere. Humans are required for colonization, not for exploration.

    • I'd be happy if humans could be humans right here. And I mean that on many levels.

    • Bingo, nothing will ever replace the in-person experience, even if it's vicariously (i.e. through an astronaut).

      A few weeks ago I saw Saturn and its rings for the first time with my own eyes (through a telescope, obviously). It was still barely more than a speck of light, with tiny bulges on its sides. None of the colours or grandeur that we see in pictures taken by various space probes, and yet it was a far more profound experience because it was *my* experience, not that of a dispassionate machine.

  • by gravos (912628) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @06:46AM (#33135766) Homepage

    The problem with making a realistic or educational game about anything is that real life generally isn't fun. Space, like everything else, is boring. It's mostly empty with a few rocks here or there, all moving in a very predictable patterns. Even the life of an astronaut is pretty boring, they mostly carefully follow checklists that other people have written.

    Humans are programmed to enjoy a few kinds of very specific things. People are different, but in order to be fun games have to exploit some subset of the quirky things we enjoy. There have to be stories, characters we can relate to, frequently-changing visuals, interesting soundscapes, or worlds we feel like we have more influence over than the drudgery of our daily lives.

    Welding? Not so much.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      They could at least make an unrealistic game that's inspirational in a relevant way. A game that's neither realistic nor interesting is a waste of time. Hand people a copy of Frontier and place them in a flying bus in Earth orbit, and they'll at least get a kick out of how huge the solar system is.

      • by QuantumG (50515) *

        Frontier? Really? Try Orbiter [ucl.ac.uk].

        • Orbiter? They'll realize all the fun trips require spaceships which don't exist and shoot themselves.
      • by Culture20 (968837)

        They could at least make an unrealistic game that's inspirational in a relevant way.

        Yes. Explore for mineral deposits on the moon with robots. Launch to the moon (make entire travel into a cutscene, "days later"). Land on the moon (Lunar lander style game), aim for mineral deposits and good building sites. Build on the moon (mineral collection and building similar to Warcraft2 easiness or maybe Settlers of Catan [other countries land at the same time, mineral trade is required]). Use Moon base to launch to Mars. Repeat Moon sequence on Mars, then Terraform Mars. Mars changes from a

    • by Eraesr (1629799)
      I dunno, but if they set up this NASA game like Animal Crossing [wikipedia.org] then people might enjoy it. I'm baffled by the fact that people find Animal Crossing interesting and challenging to play, but apparently people do, so NASA games still have a chance.
    • by Ecuador (740021)

      Even the life of an astronaut is pretty boring, they mostly carefully follow checklists that other people have written.

      Yeah, you mean like the checklist designed by ground engineers that the Apollo 13 crew followed to fit the air filter canisters from the command module... Oh, wait...

    • You want to make the game fun, at least a little bit fun if nothing else. Allow the astronauts to die (at the very least). Allow the players to make simple mistakes, whether intentionally or accidentally, and kill off everyone -- including themselves. This is the real litmus test of a game/simulation. What happens when you give a kid the simulation of a nuclear power plant? What happens when you give a kid a car racing game? What happens when you give a kid an interactive flash animation of a hamster in a c

    • by Hatta (162192)

      The problem with making a realistic or educational game about anything is that real life generally isn't fun. Space, like everything else, is boring. It's mostly empty with a few rocks here or there, all moving in a very predictable patterns.

      There's not even any buffalo to shoot or rivers to ford. Also, you really don't want to get space dysentery.

  • by jewishbaconzombies (1861376) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @06:46AM (#33135772)
    You mean - fucking never.

    Space Shuttle - designed 40 years ago - flew 30 years ago.

    Replacement, designed 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago .... uh .... hmm - nothing flying yet. Gee.

    Hey NASA - go fuck yourselves. You're done and you put the ass in Astronauts but here's a video game to pretend you're in a space program that won't admit it's dead yet. Or you can play an equally probable game involving aliens and space marines. I'll take the space marines.
  • +1 insightful (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @06:46AM (#33135774) Homepage

    Let's be clear: I'm a Space Nerd, and proud of it. I grew up on Astounding/Analog [wikipedia.org] - still have a loft full of back issues from the '30s. My son and I read space books every other night - I can't get Footprints on the Moon [fantasticfiction.co.uk] without weeping like a baby, just as I do every time I watch Kennedy's Rice speech [youtube.com]. Just got me again.

    But, NASA, NASA, what were you thinking here? I 'played' this mess for all of 10 minutes, then it was "delete local content" time. It's neither fun, nor educational, it's just a tedious frustrating mess. The only thing it inspired me to do was to bust out my copy of Space Colony [ign.com] and play through it again with Son #1.

    Hopefully next time NASA will make up their minds whether they're making a game or a simulation, and stick to it.

  • Because pretending to put a robot together in a virtual dust-free lab is more fun then pretending to weld a powercable into place on a virtual moon?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No. Make a web game where you get to send commands to a rover or space probe once per day (to simulate latency) and receive funds to build another, cooler rover or probe later. They could put programming into the game by using a simple scripting language to give the rover/probe more autonomy so it can get more done per day. It could be excellent. I'd play that.

      • Your idea reminds of those old turn-based strategy web MMO-TBS games i used to play 8 years ago, starsphere, planetarion, that sort of stuff :P

        Could be fun actually

  • and we wonder (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @06:53AM (#33135800)
    And we wonder why the US is falling behind in science. We have people complaining that a simulation isn't exciting or entertaining enough, when that isn't even the fucking point of it. Maybe if it hadn't been distributed via Steam, we wouldn't have the types of people going through it who are wondering where the guns and aliens are...
    • Except that the entire point of the game is NOT to be a simulation. Tell me, what in the hell is this supposed to be simulating? We don't even have any preliminary designs for a moonbase in the works. I'm sure that a few engineers have probably scribbled something on a cocktail napkin with their vision of a moonbase, but it's not exactly a high priority on NASA's list. How do you develop a simulator for something that doesn't exist on any real level CONCEPTUALLY?

      This was built to be a GAME, and has fail
    • by LingNoi (1066278)

      The point of the game was to inspire kids about space. If it fails the test of being fun then no ones going to play it. The point was that kids would play this game and realise that space is worthwhile funding rather then the fucktards we have today who think we should cut every scientific endeavour to feed people in Africa.

      The point wasn't to educate. It was to change people's perceptions of space funding.

  • It always crashes everytime I start it up, all drivers are up-to-date on my PC, etc.
    • by VShael (62735) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:27AM (#33135964) Journal

      Have you tried renaming the shuttle to something other than Challenger?
      I think that solves the crash problem.

    • by blixel (158224)

      You're not missing much. I played around with it 1 evening just long enough to figure out what there was to do, and how to do it. After about an hour, I had pretty much done all there was to do. The only way to get "good" at the demo is to do things in the most time efficient manner possible. In one game, some kid (well, I assume it was a kid) was going around undoing everything I was doing.

      At any rate, if you go to youtube and watch some game play videos, I think it will show you what you're not missing.

      He [youtube.com]

  • But I feel the same way about any number of extremely popular games on Facebook, or realistic commercial airline flight simulators - where's the action?

    People still seem to like them though.

  • Misses the point? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:03AM (#33135860)

    Maybe Erik Sofge misses the point. This was a tech demo to show they are progressing and drum up some initial interest. It did that. Yes, it's a bit boring... But that's part of the purpose of releasing it... Making the real game less boring.

    I only played it once through, but if that's an accurate depiction of how an astronaut would handle that situation, it's AWESOME. When they make the whole game and have a lot more stuff to do and fix, I'm going to enjoy playing it.

  • Worst Part (Score:5, Funny)

    by qpawn (1507885) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:04AM (#33135862)

    The game doesn't let you skip through the budget hearings. And, when they're finally over, your mission gets cancelled.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      Just hit "X X B A" on your gamepad and a Florida Senator will come in and restore your mission by screaming that it supplies vital jobs to his state.
  • Regarding TFS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Unless NASA plans to veer into science fiction and populate its virtual moons, asteroids and planets with hostile species

    Boy, oh boy. Where should I start? Why would you want NASA to make a stereotypical space game? If you want to go blow up aliens, go download Alien Swarm or Alien Breed: Impact from Steam.

    , it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to suffer through another minute of pretending to weld power cables back into place, while thousands of miles away, the most advanced explorers ever built are hurtling toward asteroids and dwarf planets and into the heart of the sun.

    Quite right. Another example to prove your point: It's hard to imagine why anyone would want to play a fantasy game for 5 hours a day, several months in a row, clicking on some random blob of pixels thousands of times just to get a set of matching pants, shoes, shirt, and rings.

    But people do. And we call that game World of

  • by master_p (608214) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:09AM (#33135886)

    Science Fiction is great entertainment but the televised version of it has certainly spoiled current generations. People on forums ask how much does it cost to build USS Enterprise and if stargates are real. It's no surprise then that an educational game from NASA that is close to reality seems boring. I guess we should praise the people that produced these shows and movies that made them believable, but in the long run they hurt real science.

    • by Beale (676138)
      I think in this case it's poor science education that's hurt real science. Honestly, if people can't tell the difference between space opera tech and real tech, there's some problem with those people, not with the space opera.
      • by master_p (608214)

        In the 60s, people never asked if the USS Enterprise can be built for real, and the science education level was the same or worse than today.

    • by Legion303 (97901)

      If the current generation is asking seriously how to build stargates etc., it's not because of science fiction, which has been around in various forms since at least a couple of centuries (and televised for at least 5 decades). It's because the current generation is fucking stupid.

      • by Legion303 (97901)

        s/since/for

        That will teach me to change "the 1800s" to "a couple of centuries" without proofing the rest of the sentence afterward.

    • by BobMcD (601576)

      Science Fiction is great entertainment but the televised version of it has certainly spoiled current generations. People on forums ask how much does it cost to build USS Enterprise and if stargates are real. It's no surprise then that an educational game from NASA that is close to reality seems boring. I guess we should praise the people that produced these shows and movies that made them believable, but in the long run they hurt real science.

      First of all, stargates should be real, and the fact that we don't yet understand how to do something similar to them is a deficit. Imagining a world where we'll never ever attain such technology is shortsighted to the point of being just plain stupid. Do remember that there was a time that the scientists told us the world was flat, the earth follows a tetrahedral pattern, that you can map a person's brain by their skull shape, and that we descended from Neanderthals. Simply because it isn't yet supporte

  • FTFA, it's no question they aren't going to put space trolls and giant moon worms out there for you to battle in a sim-slash-educational game for lunar exploration and habitat; this isn't 'Pitch Black', people, and Vin Diesel isn't the astronaut.

    Now, I don't claim to know a single anything about space exploration, but I can imagine the engineering and thought behind everything that an astronaut has or brings with them has a superior purpose, is highly scrutinized and is, as far as our tax dollars are concer

    • by Legion303 (97901)

      "We have small tear and/or breech in the cabin... you have access to a Cape Canaveral space pen, a shaving mirror, duct tape and toothpaste. GO!"

      That's 1960s thinking. More recently it goes something like this:

      "You have a brittle O-ring and access to a full set of tools. Whoops, I guess you're fucked anyway GAME OVER"

  • Dumb idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lalena (1221394) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:14AM (#33135900) Homepage

    it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to suffer through another minute of pretending to weld power cables back into place

    Yeah, no one will go for that idea. It's as silly as creating a game where people pay money so they can water virtual flowers in their virtual garden.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by VShael (62735)

      It's as silly as creating a game where people pay money so they can water virtual flowers in their virtual garden.

      Yeah, but normally, idiots aren't interested in Nasa.
      They do, however, like bright primary colours.

  • Sounds as exciting (Score:3, Informative)

    by LinuxIsGarbage (1658307) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:32AM (#33135990)
    Sounds as exciting as Forklift Simulator! http://www.forkliftsimulator.com/ [forkliftsimulator.com]
  • by tapo (855172) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:37AM (#33136014) Homepage
    The mundane tasks combined with teamwork with random individuals, and a text-to-speech synthesizer? You end up with brilliant videos like this, exploring what life would be like on the moon if modern gamers were sent into space: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv6RbEOlqRo [youtube.com]
  • by jfruhlinger (470035) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:42AM (#33136040) Homepage

    ...they'll play anything. I look forward to incomprehensible complaints about welding supplies popping up in my Facebook feed.

  • The game has a solid gameplay base: "survival game". One of these games where people has different skills, and must use these skill cooperativelly to survive. Thats probably the right choice for a NASA game. Re: today problems on the space station.
    The implementation? It feel like WIP,a early beta of the game. But surprise!, shock!, Is a early beta. The "other" problem with the game is that on the core, the way you solve the problems is boring lame minigames. But what else a game this type can do? non-minig

    • by grumbel (592662)

      My biggest problems with the game so far where lack of narrative and lack of scale. You start right on the moon base right when stuff goes wrong and then have to do the clean up on a time limit. It would be much more interesting if you would start on earth, create your character and then work your way up through training, flight and then finally the landing before the moon base gameplay starts.

      That the game limits itself to the base, instead of making more use of the scale of the moon is also a little disap

  • I lasted 15 mins max in this game. Woke up when my head hit the keyboard.

  • by foniksonik (573572) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @08:14AM (#33136204) Homepage Journal

    There has got to be drama.

    First you've got to qualify. Training on earth. Then near orbit. Then a space station. Then the moon and beyond.

    There need to be accidents and malfunctions and politics, alll the usual causes for potential disaster on a mission.

    There need to be puzzles. So building things when you don't have all the right parts and have to make due.

    There needs to be competition. Objectives. Scarcity of resources with multiple teams after the same stuff.

    There needs to be relationships. So alliances, teams and rank.

    All of these things add up to a challenging game environment. Less simulation, more game.

  • Yes, you're right that the current iteration is a snoozer.
    I would point the blame directly at the weaksauce administration of NASA, and the several presidential administrations that have been obsessed with politics than real achievement. NASA has for decades been an entrenched bureaucracy, ossified and fearful of human risk.

    1) the Space Shuttle - what should have been a testbed for cutting-edge low-orbit lift technologies ended up being a camel-designed-by-committee, grossly non-modular, reusable (the one

    • by Legion303 (97901)

      "Finally, you can pilot a rescue mission to the Mars Lander team (shades of Oregon Trail!)"

      Buzz has died of dysentery.

  • There is no shortage of scientists and engineers willing to work for NASA. What they need is more political power. Perhaps a game where you build relationships with politicians, staffers and contractors, convincing them over several years that exploration is a worthy cause. I think they'll find enough welders.

  • I have not played this game/simulation.

    Performing missions in space or for a space vehicle is all about training. Astronauts spends enormous amounts of time training. They train for casualty situations. They train for normal situations. They train for abnormal situation. They don't train simply for just fires on aboard; they have to know which low temp alarms are going to impact other interfacing systems on-board, etc....

    Being an astronaut is not very much unlike being a submariner (IAAFS - I am a former s

  • by Whatsmynickname (557867) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @09:59AM (#33137208)
    This game is an example of when you give a government institution (with no reason to stay in business) loads of cash. The manager of this project probably was some government drone who probably had no clue what made a game great, but the government put that person in charge anyways. Both my kids and I are real space fanatics, and we openly mock this sad game. This game drains all the potential wonder and adventure of landing on the moon...
  • I found the game to be ok. In single player mode you can go and optimize your hardware fixing strategy. I mean this is some low key intellectual challenge if you are looking for it.

    I can't really think of anything that doesn't have some realism and gets fiendishly difficult to play/implement real quick. Just look at the ill fated "Outpost 1" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outpost_(video_game) [wikipedia.org] ), I have never seen the Management Ai in it, just to mention one issue.

    Personally I would like to see some free for

  • where everything, including going to the bathroom, is done by committee.

    I tried Moonbase Alpha, but found the performance to be terrible even with the graphics settings set to the lowest level. If I'm going to be playing a game on the moon, I don't want it to be so realistic that there is a seven second delay between me pressing a key and something happening.

    That's unfortunate as it looked like a neat toy. Somehow I doubt that it would have ever let me blow up the nuclear fuel dump though.

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