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NASA Space Entertainment Games

An Early Look at the NASA MMO 208

Big Download is running an article with details and screenshots from the MMO under development by NASA. The game makes use of Unreal Engine 3, and it's titled Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond. A demo is planned for later this year, and in 2010 they expect "the first episodic installment of the game" to come out. Jerry Heneghan, founder and CEO of Virtual Heroes, described it thus: "This game is going to be a fresh look at the future circa about 2035. ... The core of the gameplay is going to be people building up their characters and as you move forward, you will have more options unlock with new places to go, new equipment to use and new things to do. We are not so much focused on interstellar flight and all that entails... the gameplay is actually about being in a habitat on a planetary surface and doing things like mining Helium-3 for fuel, operating a hydroponics facility to grow plants and create oxygen and operating robots and vehicles."
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An Early Look at the NASA MMO

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  • Re:A game? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @05:26AM (#26955539) Homepage Journal
    I think it is an outreach thing, which for part of the Government amounts to advertising. Basically they are marketing themselves to future voters.

    Maybe there is a lesson in this for other advertisers. Will there be a "Coca Cola" and "Tesla" MMOs in the future?
  • Re:A game? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zxjio ( 1475207 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @05:27AM (#26955541)
    Your share of the game's development budget will be measured in cents, unless you're rich. What's wrong with inspiring a generation of kids for that little money? I'd imagine many intelligent people went into aerospace after Apollo and so made our lives better far in excess of what was spent.
  • by sahonen ( 680948 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @05:42AM (#26955591) Homepage Journal
    Will it have realistic physics? And by realistic I don't mean video game realistic, but actual rocket science physics like Orbiter [] has.
  • Re:A game? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anenome ( 1250374 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @06:12AM (#26955679)
    In Soviet Russia, government pays you!
  • Re:A game? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pecisk ( 688001 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @07:22AM (#26955925)

    Yeah, such companies are really into such sims. Wait...they are more willing to crunch out dysopian shooters than any real life sim. Where is my copter sim? Where is living city sim? Ahhh right, they are hard to do, expensive, and doesn't pay back so well as dump shooters.

    Actually SimFarmer would make huge sense for small kids to learn about how food gets to the supermarket.

  • Re:A game? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @08:05AM (#26956079)
    Dunno, there are plenty of support staff in Houston who are fired up to the core for life, and I think that part of that fervor comes from exposure to "the astronaut experience" even if they don't get to go into space themselves.
  • Circa about? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @08:12AM (#26956109)

    Does someone need to look up the term 'circa' ?

    And 2035... Unless we get a SERIOUS move on, 2035 will be very, very little different than today: No manned spacecraft to the Moon or Mars at all.

  • Crowdsourcing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by yogibaer ( 757010 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @08:37AM (#26956171)
    Could be an interesting social experiment. With all the "human factors" involved in both success and failure of a long term Mars mission,this could be an excellent playground to find the situations that provoke irrational behaviour and which are particularly hard to simulate.
  • Re:A game? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:00AM (#26957415) Homepage Journal

    Dept of Agriculture should do the same thing

    No, they shouldn't, and neither should NASA, because it will be used to push an agenda. If it was the DoA they would be championing the Green Revolution, which is responsible for a great deal of topsoil loss and in general the loss of soil diversity which is necessary to produce healthy crops. The soil on the average American farm has been all but sterilized with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, sits on top of a layer of hardpan produced by repeated tilling (you can do it with oxen, but hardpan is produced faster with heavy machinery) which inhibits drainage and leads to anaerobic conditions which produce bacteria and nematodes which are detrimental to plants.

    What bullshit causes and solutions will NASA propagandize in this game? And why do they feel justified in spending my money to do it?

  • Re:A game? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <.Satanicpuppy. .at.> on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:01AM (#26957429) Journal

    The free market doesn't pay for education, or highways, or national defense, or any of a number of things that benefit everyone. Doesn't pay for trauma centers, so even if you were willing to pay for your own medical care, there would be no guarantee that it would exist in any kind of proximity to you.

    I love the free market. But I don't use the free market as an excuse for not wanting to pay taxes.

  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday February 23, 2009 @01:19PM (#26959015) Journal

    Well, maybe, but exactly what idea or notion are they trying to get the people interested in? They can basically,

    1. Actually show what life in such a colony would be like. Which is probably going to be as boring as paint dry.

    It won't even be some kind of a wild-west lone-frontierman scenario. It won't even be a WoW-crafting-only scenario. Most likely you'll just be an employee doing a job there. Maybe an employee of NASA or maybe an employee of whichever corporation thinks they can make a fortune mining that Helium 3, but an employee nevertheless.

    You're not going to make a living swinging a pickaxe by yourself, and/or filtering nuggets in a sieve like the wild-west gold-rushers. That wouldn't even pay for the cost of the rocket trip there. It'll going to be some large scale mining operation to make any economic sense. Someone will have to pay for all the machinery and surveying there, and that will be something worth millions or even billions of dollars. It'll be either some major corporation or NASA itself, and if you want to take any part in it, you'll be their employee. You'll work 8 hours a day operating some machinery, then go to your dorm and watch TV and hope you get paid at the month's end.

    And I just don't think a work simulator will get many people interested in the MMO or the idea it sells. I know normal MMOs were called "work simulators" before, but this is the real thing, and orders of magnitude less interesting.

    2. Let's say they give it some gameplay twists, like, say, make it a sorta WoW crafting and social scenario, but without the rest of WoW. So you go there on your trusty mount (maybe a rover?) look on the minimap for He3 ore veins, then go hit them with a pickaxe and rush to the auction house with the results. You know, more immediate gratification.

    The first problem is that it's already deviating from the truth. It's selling an idealized frontierman colonist idea that just won't happen that way. As selling itself goes, selling based on false and deliberately misleading falsehoods and mis-representations has a name: fraud. Oh, they'll probably avoid liability in the court someway or another, but at the heart of it it remains fraud.

    The second problem is that one-trick MMOs tend to still be really unpopular. Even ones which let you completely avoid most of the game (e.g., mining in safe locations in EQ2 and then spending the rest of the day in the crafting "instance") essentially just let people shoot themselves in the foot and get bored faster. You get to do the same thing over and over again, it gets boring, you leave.

    The runaway success of WoW is at least partially due to there always being more than one thing to do.

    Plus the rest of the game gives a meaning and purpose to that crafting exercise. You bother with it because you can make something better for yourself, or for someone else who'll then go and beat up some NPCs with it. Or if you just mine/skin and sell, you do it because someone else wants to do that. It's an activity which isn't there for itself, but because it fits the bigger picture. Cutting one activity out of context is like taking just the fingers out of the Sistine Chapel and thinking it still should make a good painting.

    Basically the verdict is: it'll probably be as popular as The Sims Online, which unfortunately flopped. It won't get that many more people sold on the idea of colonization than version #1.

    3. Go the full monte and make it a full MMO with lots of combat (space _and_ ground combat), hunting alien spiders for epic world drops, PvP (maybe one faction gets to play the aliens), and tiered endgame grind.

    Well, I for one would welcome _that_ overlord, because there's a severe lack of good traditional (character-based as opposed to ship-based) SF-themed MMOs.

    But at that point you just give up any pretense of getting people interested in what NASA actually does and in what moon colonization will be like, and sell them just a game. And any interest "buying" NASA's space-programmes based f

  • Re:2035, huh? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2009 @01:58PM (#26959519)

    What are your marketable skills? Are you a professional athlete? How do you pay the bills?

    Do you have a wife? Kids?

    Or are you just the sick-minded, fat IT twit I have always suspected you of being?

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.