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Moon NASA Robotics Space Games

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 jewishbaconzombies (1861376) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @05:46AM (#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 @05:46AM (#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.

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

    by Aladrin (926209) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @06:03AM (#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.

  • Regarding TFS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @06:08AM (#33135872)

    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 Warcraft.

    Even if it was possible to build an astronaut game that's both exciting and realistic, why bother?

    Because the gaming scene is getting painfully played out for some of us. When people try to make different games... Sure you get your occasional Daikatana... But you also get your Flower, Cave Story, Katamari Damacys, et cetra.

  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @06:34AM (#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 couchslug (175151) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @06:44AM (#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_.

  • Re:Focus on robots (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @06:53AM (#33136094)

    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.

  • by foniksonik (573572) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @07:14AM (#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.

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