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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.





"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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