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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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I can see some opportunities here...
By Hawkido on 2/23/2009 1:47:41 PM , Rating: 2
But I can't see people paying for them.

If they made it free and allowed people to design and test space stations, vechicles, and the like, then let NASA use the designs, but give the "Players" credit (and maybe job opportunities), I could see the benefit. I just don't feel that the fun factor would be there for a fee. Granted I am such a geek I would probably pay for a while to mess around with it.

I always thought an educational MMO would be neat as a learning tool to show people why science and math are useful. Plus make more complex (read Epic) developments require a better mastery of scientific or math skills.

But, as stated, without the Bang Bang Boom! factor 99.95% of the population wouldn't bother with such a square game.

I always thought calculating Volume, Mass distribution, Total mass, Inertia, Structural integrety, Trajectory, and the like would be interesting for a challenge to overcome in order to outfit the "Epic" ship in Eve Online or the like. That way the true geeks and not the button mashers of the world would be the MVPs in the guild. Plus it would make real world skills desired and therefor far more socially acceptable.

If they would make a version for high scool math and science students, and a more advanced "area" for undergrad or grad level courses.

If you design a component it can either be named by you or something. Wouldn't it be cool if you could say you designed a component or the whole vehicle of the next mars rover?

By Starcub on 2/23/2009 7:21:53 PM , Rating: 2
The Sims online got pretty popular and it's not exactly a shoot-em up game. In fact, I remember playing quite a lot of flight sim and air traffic control sim games when I was younger. Those games gave me hours of fun and a huge appreciation for the challenges those jobs can present.

Seems like every time I turn around I see NASA doing something interesting -- really a great organization.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation
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