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NASA working with three game studios to help develop its MMORPG

After announcing its intentions early last year to create a new MMO video game, both the gaming world and space community became interested to hear more about what kind of game is in the works from NASA.

NASA is in a position to develop an online game that functions as a “persistent, synthetic environment supporting education as a laboratory, a massive visualization tools and collaborative workspace while simultaneously drawing users into a challenging, game-play immersion," the U.S. space agency said in a statement.

NASA's Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond will be developed by Information In Place, Virtual Heroes, and Project Whitecard, NASA recently announced -- there were rumors swirling for more than a month regarding the studios that would be selected for the project.

The subscription-based video game will run on Unreal Engine 3 engine and will offer gamers the opportunity to head into space serving as several roles related to space exploration.  For example, gamers can play as a roboticist, space geologist, astrobiologist or mechanical engineer while helping create space outposts or travel around the solar system.

Both individual challenges and team-based objectives will be available in the game, with vehicles, spacesuits and other items able to be unlocked when gamers solve real science, math or engineering problems along the way.  Similar to hit the game Spore, gamers will have the opportunity to explore space in user-created space ships, but NASA remains rather tight-lipped about other features of the new game.

"We want to create a fun, compelling gaming experience that will give players the chance to learn about science and engineering careers while they play the game," NASA Learning Technologies research scientist Daniel Laughlin said.

A beta for Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond is expected sometime in late 2009, and the full version is expected to ship in 2010.



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RE: what about the fun?
By grath on 2/23/2009 10:46:41 AM , Rating: 2
It will definetly be a challenge for them to design something worth playing. They are working without some of the fundamental tools used to develop these games, those being the existence of an antagonist to combat against, and the various plot devices and deus ex machina inherent to the fantasy/scifi genre that these games are typically set in.

Most MMOGs have a variety of non-combat activities such as crafting, entertaining, or economics, but these usually serve to ultimately support the combat activity of yourself or other players. Sometimes, the economic and crafting systems of a game are so complex and interdependent that they can be even more diverting and engaging to a player than combat, although this tends to apply to the already more technically and mathematically inclined players. This has led to a trend of the more complex non-combat systems being "dumbed down" by popular demand of the players who just want to shoot things and not be bothered with crafting or economics.

So this NASA MMO sounds like the extreme opposite of the dumbing down of non-combat trend, presumably eliminating combat entirely. Assuming they build the rest of the game properly, it would certainly appeal to those of us predisposed toward such things, but the general shoot-em-up public will be very difficult to appeal to. If they intend to target a wider player base, I worry that even this will be unacceptably dumbed down.


RE: what about the fun?
By Bremen7000 on 2/23/2009 8:30:55 PM , Rating: 2
Crafting and non-combat skills were invented to lower the average CPU load. Thanks for being easy to please. :)


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