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Why NASA's New Video Game Misses the Point

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the if-only-astronauts-could-rocket-jump dept.

Moon 205

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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Completely disconnected from reality (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135734)

Us nerds think the rovers on Mars are awesome.. your kids don't care. The simple fact is: robots don't explore space, people do, and when they do it through a robot they're doing it from boring desk. Ever taken your kids to work? That was exciting for about 15 minutes wasn't it?

There's one thing robots in space can never do that humans can: be humans in space.

And hopefully one day everything we do in space won't have to fly under the banner "exploration".

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (2, Insightful)

Vahokif (1292866) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135790)

I think a sufficiently detailed Mars explorer "game" that uses procedural generation to fill in the gaps in the DEM data in a spectacular manner would be amazing for any age group.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (4, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135930)

If they build in some 'real world' latency to simulate the approx 200 million mile distance between Earth and Mars we'll be able to run it on a 286 and still not suffer a performance hit.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136158)

Those old play-by-mail strategy games simulated that space communication latency pretty well, if you ask me!

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (4, Funny)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136160)

I am at a loss lately with Intel model numbers, so I didn't get it. Is the 286 the one without the turbo core, or the one lacking VT-x? Oh, maybe it is the one with integrated graphics?

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136660)

I am at a loss lately with Intel model numbers, so I didn't get it. Is the 286 the one without the turbo core, or the one lacking VT-x? Oh, maybe it is the one with integrated graphics?

Commonly thought to be a requirement for applications, such as Netscape navigator and web sites, such as http://geocities.com/ [geocities.com] , 286 is both the model number of the processor used to power such technologies, and triple the age of the median user.

I hope this helps.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135926)

Work is supposed to be boring. If if was that much fun, they wouldn't pay you and there would be a cover charge to show up.

And we do explore with robots. They are just an extension of ourselves, our eyes, our hands. We still decide what they do, where they do it, and see through their eyes. You lose some of the human experience with it, granted, but the robots can work as long as they have sun/power so they end up getting more tasks done. Would you rather have only one trip with a human in one location, for a limited amount of time, or dozens and dozens of trips with robots for the same money? At this stage of the game, we are getting much more bang for our buck with the robots. Eventually, humans will get there, but for how, I salute our robots, and their human overlords.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (3, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136000)

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.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136088)

With all due respect, you're the one who's missed the point. Your parting blow regarding European empire-building shows just how far from the truth you are. It seems you just want good flash-in-the-pan TV, not actual sustainable scientific endeavour.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136130)

I think I made myself clear, "scientific endeavour" is not the goal. It's a nice side effect, nothing more.

As for good TV, if you could point to any recent good TV coming out of the space program, I'd appreciate it.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136174)

Well, being a great nation isn't the goal either (unless you mean proving the US has a larger dick than the URSS in 1969). The primary goal is the military and communications progress enabled by spaceflight. For instance, those needs determined the specs for the Shuttle.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136116)

I get the point, but if you have one billion dollars to spend to go into space, how do you spend it? THAT is the question. I am all for humans in space, just as we climb the mountain "because it is there", and I am simply arguing that sending robots to do the dirty work, the first work is still progress. We are still sending humans into lower orbit now, although I don't see that much utility to it, other than fixing Hubble from time to time. If not for the rovers and robots, we would know much, much less about Mars. Keep in mind, we know more about the Moon than we do the depths of our own ocean, so perhaps a little exploration at home is overdue as well.

You compare colonialism to space exploration, ok then. Now, in Christopher Columbus's time, when everyone though the earth was flat, I'm pretty sure that if they HAD robots, they would have sent the robots instead of the humans to find out what happens at the edge of the Earth. And frankly, the whole French and British colonization didn't quite work out like they planned anyway.

If we had infinite resources, then sure, we would do more human exploration just for the hell of it. There are plenty of people willing to go. For now, I personally think that what we are learning with rovers is amazing and is hopefully setting the stage for humans to finally visit Mars. It is a more long term approach, and doesn't depend on the US or others being a "great country". It is science for the sake of science. If that isn't progress, then I don't know what is.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

silentcoder (1241496) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137266)

>Work is supposed to be boring. If if was that much fun, they wouldn't pay you and there would be a cover charge to show up.

Erm - nobody thought the earth was flat. They knew it was round even BEFORE the Ancient Greeks showed up and those Greeks already managed to work out it's size.
Columbus disagreed on only one point. He believed the circumference of the earth to be substantially less than it actually is. If he was right then going to India by traveling West would have been a MUCH shorter trip than the one by going East (especially as that one meant either going South round the Cape or through the expensive Cairo channel).

He was dead wrong about it - in fact the earth was so MUCH larger than he had anticipated that an entire two-continent chain was lying in the region he thought was the other side of the earth, with as much travel after it as before. This is also why when he bumped into said continent chain - he actually thought he had reached India - that he had proven his theory. It would take some time to learn his mistake.

And you and the GP both got it dead wrong about colonization. The motive WAS in fact ENTIRELY financial - it was greed. Spreading civilization and the gospel was a handy excuse but it had nothing to do with the real reason. The real reason was simple: massive lands with massively valuable resources and no military capability comparable to the Europe of the time meant massive opportunity for profitable conquest.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (3, Insightful)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136240)

Go and see any interview of any astronaut no matter what they did in space they get the usual, "what did you do up there" as a matter of form but most of the time is spent asking "what did it feel like to be in space", "how did you feel when that happened" or similar

The astronauts do not go to do science or explore, robots can do that better more reliably, cheaper, and we don't need to get them back, astronauts go to experience it ...

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

paeanblack (191171) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136474)

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.

Do you have a flag?

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1, Informative)

KeensMustard (655606) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136536)

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.

The reason that the human space program attracts the funding is because it is a boondoggle, a pork barrel. I don't know whether the money for actual exploration gets siphoned off this pork or not - I'm guessing it's directed funding, that projects like the Mars Rovers get funded because they are exciting and prestigious - whereas the conjoined twins of human rated launcher and space station get funded because it helps to elect some old fart. talk about your grand society, your last bastion of Pure Progress.

Anyway, aren't you basically saying we should support human spaceflight because we can cook the books to do the real stuff, we can siphon off funds to do the things that excite and inspire us? Isn't that a cost benefit analysis in itself?

Human spaceflight is the last bastion of pure Progress. Technological, secular ideological, grand society style progress.

I put it to you that the majority of people - including myself, disagree with that opinion. And it IS an opinion, and not a fact. And there is no obligation on our part to fund human spaceflight or any other other supposed last bastion of pure progress, like giant escalators that lead to nowhere, or monorails, or popsicle skyscrapers.

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.

A brief examination of history would indicate that the reason that the British and the French set out to "colonise" the world was very much for economic reasons.

NASA is the wrong man for the job (0, Flamebait)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136748)

Man may one day set foot on Mars. But when he does, he won't be wearing the patch of an agency that stopped being innovative in the 1970's. NASA is really good at doing safe, simple, repetitive missions that involve little to no risk (a nice side effect of government engineers way more interested in keeping their cushy federal jobs than actually doing anything significant). They closest they'll ever come to anything as bold as a Mars mission (or, likely, even a moon mission) is some crappy animation and big talk at a press conference. There is no way anyone at that agency is going to uncover their ass long enough to do anything more risky than yet another trip to low earth orbit or launching an unmanned probe. If you want to really send man into space, your best start is to abolish NASA and start a whole new agency with new leaders and engineers.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137252)

Human spaceflight is the last bastion of pure Progress. Technological, secular ideological, grand society style progress.

You don't sound very secular about it, actually. If you want to make manned spaceflight your religion, if you want to claim it's some sort of Manifest Destiny, fine; just be up front about it, and don't confuse it with 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.

Uh, no. Britain and France colonized the world to exploit people and resources in other nations, in order to enrich their ruling classes.

If there are exploitable resources in space, economics demands that we'll collect them with robots.

You don't learn to live on other planets with robots - Jeff Greason

We're not going to be living on other planets anytime soon. Quite likely, not at any time, beyond maybe McMurdo base style outposts on Luna and Mars.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

supercrisp (936036) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135952)

"robots don't explore space, people do." In what sense can the OP mean this? If robots are taken as tools, then, sure, people are doing the exploring, as they obtain data from and direct these robots. If it's meant in the sense that it takes human presence to count as exploration, I'd have to disagree. Most of the knowledge we have about our solar system is derived from various "robots." Manned space flight has made significant contributions, but most of those contributions are about manned space flight, about how humans will do in space. I'm not saying that's unimportant, but I'd, myself, take weather, telecom, and GPS satellites over everything Apollo did.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136036)

We had the kids unloading a semi truck and stacking boxes in the warehouse. It was exciting to see 6, 12 year olds try to carry a 62" plasma TV.. Little timmy is all right after it fell flat on him. They got all the glass out of his chest.

It was soo cute to see Little Steve try and carry a 72" rack on his back.. and how they all cried when the dock manager screamed at them to stop screwing around and suck it up...

I love bring your kids to work day.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (3, Interesting)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Completely disconnected from reality (3, Insightful)

Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136078)

Let the masses fap to what Hollywood feeds them. Get the human DRAMA out of space exploration so we can do _research_.
Since you expect the masses to pay for your research, you best give them some motherfucking drama else you can research space on a shoe string budget.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (2, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136156)

Unfortunately, NASA would never be allowed to release a game based on the real drama of human space colonization....

Stuff is expensive to boost out of earth's gravity well. Solution: Midgets. Lighter, lower metabolic needs, work well in small spaces, standard human capabilities in all respects except brute strength, which doesn't matter much in low or zero gravity.

Long term survival of human colony populations will require reproduction; but Newton's 3rd poses difficulties in microgravity. Solution: Bondage enthusiasts.

The day NASA releases this game is the day that they discover what real funding cuts look like...

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

Dreadrik (1651967) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136324)

Bondage Midgets in Space(TM)? I like your way of thinking...

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136120)

And watch as the funding levels go down to the level of astronomy and other scientific research. The Human Genome Project, possibly the most important scientific research ever had to fight and scrape for $3 billion. The upcoming Mars Science Laboratory will have a comparable total cost of about $2.3 billion. Without the human spaceflight program to boost NASA funding the robotic exploration program would have to actually justify why space research should be funded over terrestrial research, and frankly, without the funding going into some day sending humans into the cosmos that would reduce the importance of planetary science to competing with other pure science.

Recruiting astronauts through a game? Really? (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136182)

What I don't understand is this: is NASA really trying to recruit astronauts through a game? Why the hell is that even necessary? Doesn't everybody want to become an astronaut? If they have a shortage, I'll gladly switch careers. I went into this programming business because I thought I wouldn't have a chance in hell of becoming an astronaut.

I guess I first need to learn to weld, though.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136588)

There are hundreds of thousands of space enthusiasts around the world that would give their right arm to sit in front of a computer 10 hours a day looking at data from a robot. Many of these people have master's degrees or PhD:s. Some even have relevant experience. You're not going to have a hiring problem.

Then we have everyone else. They just want to know how much science you're getting per dollar and how many nurses and doctors you have to sack in order to fund the project.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136672)

The simple fact is: robots don't explore space, people do, and when they do it through a robot they're doing it from boring desk.

Not if they use a Wii controller!

And hopefully one day everything we do in space won't have to fly under the banner "exploration".

Hopefully one day rockets will be powered by hope, and you can hope yourself right to the stars!

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136970)

There's one thing robots in space can never do that humans can: be humans in space.

That again... Right now real work gets done from orbit. We already have a map of the underground water reserves of Mars [nasa.gov], we even have a clear picture of water snow [futurehi.net] (we know it is not CO2 snow). All of these results brought from ESA orbiters. Sadly, ESA lacks the public relation office that NASA has... "Exploration" can be done from orbit. PR stunts require a silly overpriced flag-holder that lands somewhere. Humans are required for colonization, not for exploration.

Re:Completely disconnected from reality (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137014)

I'd be happy if humans could be humans right here. And I mean that on many levels.

Alien abduction - never robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33135756)

I wonder why the usual stories of alien abduction have green/gray humanoids and not robots? I guess there's no point in rationalizing hallucinations or just plain made up stories, but robots would fit more with the way space exploration is evolving for our own species.

Re:Alien abduction - never robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33135780)

But then as aliens in stories are, by definition, not meant to be like our own specie why would they do things the same way???

Re:Alien abduction - never robots (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135928)

I guess there's no point in rationalizing hallucinations or just plain made up stories

What about all these people who were captured by Science Fiction in the 40s, 50s and up?

Even in the USSR they had a broad spectrum of inspiring Science Fiction.

Wherever it was an active effort to get people engaged or wherever it's been just entertainment and exploring the possible future or not-so-likely... You cannot disregard it has inspirated and driven alot of people towards a certain direction, imprented certain dreams to follow or dedicated themselves to achieve such a thing.

Without these "made up stories", nobody would've imagined going to the moon.

Re:Alien abduction - never robots (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136898)

inspirated

Either English is not your native language, or you're a bureaucrat, right?

Otherwise, you might want to use "inspired" instead.

Re:Alien abduction - never robots (1)

CyberDragon777 (1573387) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135944)

What if the green/gray aliens ARE actually robots? Organic machines created by the aliens the size of whales or something?

Re:Alien abduction - never robots (1)

plastbox (1577037) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136484)

From Wikipedia: "A robot is an automatically guided machine which is able to do tasks on its own.." How are we not robots? Ok, so we're not made from steel, silicone and plastic but we are computer controlled machines, robots, all the same (albeit a wee bit more complex than what we are building at the moment).

Re:Alien abduction - never robots (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136614)

I wonder why the usual stories of alien abduction have green/gray humanoids and not robots?

You're not keeping up. In fact, one of the more popular theories about the "grays" are that they are "biological machines", essentially robots, who were developed by a) the government, b)an advanced earth-dwelling race (aka "cryptoterrestrials") that has been here for millions of years but hides out because they believe humans are destructive, unpleasant creatures, c) are emanations from an Archetypal force known as "The Trickster" or d) from a parallel universe.

The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (or "ETH" as we professional nuts call it) has lost favor with the UFO research community. If you want to read some of the latest serious discussion of UFOs and aliens, etc, I'd recommend Stalking the Tricksters: Shapeshifters, Skinwalkers, Dark Adepts and 2012 by Greg Bishop or The Cryptoterrestrials: A Meditation on Indigenous Humanoids and the Aliens Among Us by the late, great Mac Tonnies, who died tragically last year at the age of 34. You gotta admit, these two guys, the best of the best among serious people writing about the phenomenon of UFOs, know how to title a book.

Real Life Generally Isn't Fun (4, Insightful)

gravos (912628) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135766)

The problem with making a realistic or educational game about anything is that real life generally isn't fun. Space, like everything else, is boring. It's mostly empty with a few rocks here or there, all moving in a very predictable patterns. Even the life of an astronaut is pretty boring, they mostly carefully follow checklists that other people have written.

Humans are programmed to enjoy a few kinds of very specific things. People are different, but in order to be fun games have to exploit some subset of the quirky things we enjoy. There have to be stories, characters we can relate to, frequently-changing visuals, interesting soundscapes, or worlds we feel like we have more influence over than the drudgery of our daily lives.

Welding? Not so much.

Re:Real Life Generally Isn't Fun (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135802)

They could at least make an unrealistic game that's inspirational in a relevant way. A game that's neither realistic nor interesting is a waste of time. Hand people a copy of Frontier and place them in a flying bus in Earth orbit, and they'll at least get a kick out of how huge the solar system is.

Re:Real Life Generally Isn't Fun (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135840)

Frontier? Really? Try Orbiter [ucl.ac.uk] .

Re:Real Life Generally Isn't Fun (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136196)

Orbiter? They'll realize all the fun trips require spaceships which don't exist and shoot themselves.

Re:Real Life Generally Isn't Fun (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136360)

They could at least make an unrealistic game that's inspirational in a relevant way.

Yes. Explore for mineral deposits on the moon with robots. Launch to the moon (make entire travel into a cutscene, "days later"). Land on the moon (Lunar lander style game), aim for mineral deposits and good building sites. Build on the moon (mineral collection and building similar to Warcraft2 easiness or maybe Settlers of Catan [other countries land at the same time, mineral trade is required]). Use Moon base to launch to Mars. Repeat Moon sequence on Mars, then Terraform Mars. Mars changes from a "red star" in Earth's night sky to a "blue star". Yay!

Re:Real Life Generally Isn't Fun (1)

jappleng (1805148) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135808)

While I do generally agree with your statement, anything and everything can go wrong, and in a virtual world, that is what would make this an exciting game. Except well, it's not... I understand why NASA did what they did... But... My... my god, I'm having an aneurysm.

Re:Real Life Generally Isn't Fun (1)

Eraesr (1629799) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135846)

I dunno, but if they set up this NASA game like Animal Crossing [wikipedia.org] then people might enjoy it. I'm baffled by the fact that people find Animal Crossing interesting and challenging to play, but apparently people do, so NASA games still have a chance.

Re:Real Life Generally Isn't Fun (1)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136190)

Even the life of an astronaut is pretty boring, they mostly carefully follow checklists that other people have written.

Yeah, you mean like the checklist designed by ground engineers that the Apollo 13 crew followed to fit the air filter canisters from the command module... Oh, wait...

Re:Real Life Generally Isn't Fun (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136384)

You want to make the game fun, at least a little bit fun if nothing else. Allow the astronauts to die (at the very least). Allow the players to make simple mistakes, whether intentionally or accidentally, and kill off everyone -- including themselves. This is the real litmus test of a game/simulation. What happens when you give a kid the simulation of a nuclear power plant? What happens when you give a kid a car racing game? What happens when you give a kid an interactive flash animation of a hamster in a cage?

The kid tries to see if the nuclear station can blow up. He tries to see if the car can go off the road, or crash into another car. And you can bet that he'll try to find a way to kill off that virtual hamster. At least, that's what I would try to do myself, and I'm not even a kid. Then once I find out I can be killed in several different ways, or make mistakes that will have drastic consequences in the game, that's when the game possibly becomes challenging enough for me to stay *possibly* interested in it a bit longer.

Re:Real Life Generally Isn't Fun (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136762)

The problem with making a realistic or educational game about anything is that real life generally isn't fun. Space, like everything else, is boring. It's mostly empty with a few rocks here or there, all moving in a very predictable patterns.

There's not even any buffalo to shoot or rivers to ford. Also, you really don't want to get space dysentery.

if by "more than a decade" (4, Interesting)

jewishbaconzombies (1861376) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:if by "more than a decade" (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135884)

Maybe everyone is just waiting for NASA to do it, so no-one is doing it.

Re:if by "more than a decade" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33137172)

Actually that does hit a real issue with space flight. People look up to NASA. They praise the scientists and assume that the way NASA does it, is the way it should be done. In reality NASA is a large beaurocracy. Lots of smart people sure, but smart people at the whim of managerial and political overseers who dictate the constraints they're allowed to work within.

As a result when NASA fails after spending many millions of billions on a project people assume it's not worth while persuing.

Then there's the cost. People assume building a man rated capsule will take billions because NASA spent billions trying to achieve it. It would no doubt cost many millions to develop such a capsule, but the NASA quoted billions immediately puts off potential investors. Even investors who might be willing to invest 100's of millions of dollars into a company.

The cost of space travel has ingrained itself to such a deep degree, that it's far outside the comfort zone of many people, let alone venture capitalists. Hopefully that's changing now.

Re:if by "more than a decade" (1)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136988)

The space shuttle was never designed to leave the earths gravity well

+1 insightful (3, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135774)

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.

Re:+1 insightful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136290)

Not to mention it looks like shit.

Re:+1 insightful (1)

plastbox (1577037) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136534)

Son #1

Chronologically or by worth? =P

Focus on robots (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135784)

Because pretending to put a robot together in a virtual dust-free lab is more fun then pretending to weld a powercable into place on a virtual moon?

Re:Focus on robots (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Focus on robots (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136656)

Your idea reminds of those old turn-based strategy web MMO-TBS games i used to play 8 years ago, starsphere, planetarion, that sort of stuff :P

Could be fun actually

and we wonder (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33135800)

And we wonder why the US is falling behind in science. We have people complaining that a simulation isn't exciting or entertaining enough, when that isn't even the fucking point of it. Maybe if it hadn't been distributed via Steam, we wouldn't have the types of people going through it who are wondering where the guns and aliens are...

Re:and we wonder (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136118)

Except that the entire point of the game is NOT to be a simulation. Tell me, what in the hell is this supposed to be simulating? We don't even have any preliminary designs for a moonbase in the works. I'm sure that a few engineers have probably scribbled something on a cocktail napkin with their vision of a moonbase, but it's not exactly a high priority on NASA's list. How do you develop a simulator for something that doesn't exist on any real level CONCEPTUALLY?

This was built to be a GAME, and has failed as a GAME.

I completely agree with you about people disregarding science and the sad state of affairs in the USA regarding education, but it doesn't really have anything to do with the discussion at hand.

I'd Love To Try It, But.... (2, Informative)

mlauzon (818714) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135804)

It always crashes everytime I start it up, all drivers are up-to-date on my PC, etc.

Re:I'd Love To Try It, But.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33135814)

Yeah that's basically why they don't send people to the moon anymore :)

Re:I'd Love To Try It, But.... (1)

jappleng (1805148) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135826)

It always crashes everytime I start it up, all drivers are up-to-date on my PC, etc.

You should try the new Press Release and Shuttle Reschedule Simulation Game available for free on Steam. It educates you on the procedures used in events similar to yours. By my guess, you may need an additional $500mil plus 6-months before relaunching the program again.

Re:I'd Love To Try It, But.... (5, Funny)

VShael (62735) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135964)

Have you tried renaming the shuttle to something other than Challenger?
I think that solves the crash problem.

Re:I'd Love To Try It, But.... (2, Funny)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136146)

Naming it Columbia didn't help either. I can't think what might be the problem.

Re:I'd Love To Try It, But.... (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136798)

Oh, burn!

Maybe it's me (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135852)

But I feel the same way about any number of extremely popular games on Facebook, or realistic commercial airline flight simulators - where's the action?

People still seem to like them though.

Misses the point? (3, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Worst Part (5, Funny)

qpawn (1507885) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135862)

The game doesn't let you skip through the budget hearings. And, when they're finally over, your mission gets cancelled.

Re:Worst Part (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137220)

Just hit "X X B A" on your gamepad and a Florida Senator will come in and restore your mission by screaming that it supplies vital jobs to his state.

mo3 0p (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33135870)

Regarding TFS (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

We've been spoiled by Televised Science Fiction. (2, Insightful)

master_p (608214) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135886)

Science Fiction is great entertainment but the televised version of it has certainly spoiled current generations. People on forums ask how much does it cost to build USS Enterprise and if stargates are real. It's no surprise then that an educational game from NASA that is close to reality seems boring. I guess we should praise the people that produced these shows and movies that made them believable, but in the long run they hurt real science.

Re:We've been spoiled by Televised Science Fiction (1)

Beale (676138) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135914)

I think in this case it's poor science education that's hurt real science. Honestly, if people can't tell the difference between space opera tech and real tech, there's some problem with those people, not with the space opera.

Re:We've been spoiled by Televised Science Fiction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136602)

I think in this case it's poor science education that's hurt real science. Honestly, if people can't tell the difference between space opera tech and real tech, there's some problem with those people, not with the space opera.

Absolutely correct. And you know what's really scary about the situation? I'd say a good 40-50% of Slashdot readers can't even tell the difference between sci-fi tech and real tech (remember, this is a fairly science-minded community). Just witness the number of people here talking about how easy it is to terraform another planet (never mind that we don't even have the basic tech to begin doing so), or the ones who say we need to "get off this rock" before the sun goes red giant (which is estimated to happen in another 7+ BILLION years -- the planet is currently only 4.5 billion years old -- "modern man" has been here for less than 2 million years [that's less than 1/20th of a percent of the current history of the planet]). If we want to talk about scientific illiteracy, we need to begin right here at home...

Re:We've been spoiled by Televised Science Fiction (1)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136888)

If the current generation is asking seriously how to build stargates etc., it's not because of science fiction, which has been around in various forms since at least a couple of centuries (and televised for at least 5 decades). It's because the current generation is fucking stupid.

Re:We've been spoiled by Televised Science Fiction (1)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136944)

s/since/for

That will teach me to change "the 1800s" to "a couple of centuries" without proofing the rest of the sentence afterward.

Make a Lunar McGuyver! (1)

adosch (1397357) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135892)

FTFA, it's no question they aren't going to put space trolls and giant moon worms out there for you to battle in a sim-slash-educational game for lunar exploration and habitat; this isn't 'Pitch Black', people, and Vin Diesel isn't the astronaut.

Now, I don't claim to know a single anything about space exploration, but I can imagine the engineering and thought behind everything that an astronaut has or brings with them has a superior purpose, is highly scrutinized and is, as far as our tax dollars are concerned, thought out.

If they want to make it intriguing, they should throw some puzzle-based problem solving in there: Scenario! We have small tear and/or breech in the cabin... you have access to a Cape Canaveral space pen, a shaving mirror, duct tape and toothpaste. GO!

Of course that's a pretty facetious example, but we know NASA has to deal with these types of things, why not put them in there.

Re:Make a Lunar McGuyver! (1)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136846)

"We have small tear and/or breech in the cabin... you have access to a Cape Canaveral space pen, a shaving mirror, duct tape and toothpaste. GO!"

That's 1960s thinking. More recently it goes something like this:

"You have a brittle O-ring and access to a full set of tools. Whoops, I guess you're fucked anyway GAME OVER"

Dumb idea (4, Insightful)

lalena (1221394) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135900)

it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to suffer through another minute of pretending to weld power cables back into place

Yeah, no one will go for that idea. It's as silly as creating a game where people pay money so they can water virtual flowers in their virtual garden.

Re:Dumb idea (2, Insightful)

VShael (62735) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135998)

It's as silly as creating a game where people pay money so they can water virtual flowers in their virtual garden.

Yeah, but normally, idiots aren't interested in Nasa.
They do, however, like bright primary colours.

Sounds as exciting (2, Informative)

LinuxIsGarbage (1658307) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135990)

Sounds as exciting as Forklift Simulator! http://www.forkliftsimulator.com/ [forkliftsimulator.com]

Re:Sounds as exciting (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136842)

Hey, I loved Shenmue.

Moonbase Alpha is brilliant for one reason (4, Funny)

tapo (855172) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136014)

The mundane tasks combined with teamwork with random individuals, and a text-to-speech synthesizer? You end up with brilliant videos like this, exploring what life would be like on the moon if modern gamers were sent into space: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv6RbEOlqRo [youtube.com]

Re:Moonbase Alpha is brilliant for one reason (1)

jewishbaconzombies (1861376) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136098)

Someone please mod the parent up - my sides now hurt like hell from that link.

Now we know what Persistent vegetative state boredom sounds like - Uuuuuuiiiieeeeahhhhhhuuuuuuuuu ....

(the soundtrack was the cherry on top)

Re:Moonbase Alpha is brilliant for one reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136418)

HAHA! The funniest part from that video was near the end : "Here comes another chinese",..... " youiyouiyouiyouiyouiyouiyoui....".

If people will play FarmVille... (4, Funny)

jfruhlinger (470035) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136040)

...they'll play anything. I look forward to incomprehensible complaints about welding supplies popping up in my Facebook feed.

My review of the game. (1)

Tei (520358) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136132)

The game has a solid gameplay base: "survival game". One of these games where people has different skills, and must use these skill cooperativelly to survive. Thats probably the right choice for a NASA game. Re: today problems on the space station.
The implementation? It feel like WIP,a early beta of the game. But surprise!, shock!, Is a early beta. The "other" problem with the game is that on the core, the way you solve the problems is boring lame minigames. But what else a game this type can do? non-minigame but a progress bar? will that be more fun? use real science problems? that will be like horrible edutainment software. So whiting the confines of what is feasible, the NASA game is excellent. It only needs now more "maps" and "scenarios". I would love to repair machinery over Europe (the moon), or make a landing with the shutlle. The COOL thing about space is maginificency... what you feels wen you visit the grean canyon: Space is BIG, absolutelly gigantic, it dwells everything we have here. A NASA game can have some of that grandeur, in a inmersive and realistic style. And such thing is nerd-porn.

Soo far, excellent work. Looking forward for future versions of the game :-)

Totally boring (1)

Spinlock_1977 (777598) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136194)

I lasted 15 mins max in this game. Woke up when my head hit the keyboard.

If it's a game about humans, make it human. (2, Interesting)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136204)

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.

Doesn't have to suck (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136224)

Yes, you're right that the current iteration is a snoozer.
I would point the blame directly at the weaksauce administration of NASA, and the several presidential administrations that have been obsessed with politics than real achievement. NASA has for decades been an entrenched bureaucracy, ossified and fearful of human risk.

1) the Space Shuttle - what should have been a testbed for cutting-edge low-orbit lift technologies ended up being a camel-designed-by-committee, grossly non-modular, reusable (the one success), clumsy, and frightfully impossible to upgrade.
2) the ISS - again, this is NOTHING more than a trivial expansion of Spacelab or Mir. In such low orbit it practically needs a bug shield and windshield wipers, its life is circumscribed by the requirements of maintenance flights by the shuttle.
3) Constellation - hardly even needs comment. It should terrify us that in 2010 we can't even re-create the FORTY YEAR OLD TECH that took us to the moon. Seriously.

So NASA lacks any sort of adventurousness or vision, it's unsurprising that a video game promulgated by this tepid organization is boring. They have a video game where ANYTHING is possible. Anything. And this is the extent of their imagination. Perfect.

Here's a tip: it didn't have to suck. Really, it didn't.
Postulate some advancement, and combine genres. You have a zero-gravity flight sim, and need to pilot your craft to Hypothetical Low Orbit Station X, pick up something, and take it with some time-pressure to Hypothetical L5 Station Y. (Zero grav flight sim, realistic attitude control, orbital movement, and yes, plotting much of the course by computer but terminal maneuvers by hand...moderately cool). Once you have stopped at L5, you're sent to the Moonbase, again with some time pressure. Now you're playing a first-person lunar lander because solar flares have made your automated control systems unreliable.
Finally, you can pilot a rescue mission to the Mars Lander team (shades of Oregon Trail!). Once you get there, you find that the command orbiter is perhaps empty, and you're forced to repair it manually (sure you have instructions from earth but the timelag means it's very reactive) and ultimately, have to use the limited capabilities of a suite of surface-exploration robots (like the GREAT infocom game Suspended) to figure out what happened to the Mars Away Team and (hopefully) rescue them. All based on hard-hard-hard science, no postulated Little Green Men or Ancient Artifacts.

I'm no game designer,none of the game systems I listed is LESS than 20 years old. But I think that could make for a fairly compelling game.

I'm unsurprised that NASA couldn't manage it.

I agree with Neil deGrasse Tyson that we need to push the envelope. I'm not sure NASA has anything left that can do it (the unmanned programs being the giant exception - they're daring, skilled, and extraordinarily successful).

Re:Doesn't have to suck (1)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136734)

"Finally, you can pilot a rescue mission to the Mars Lander team (shades of Oregon Trail!)"

Buzz has died of dysentery.

Doesn't have to fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136284)

I played a certain amount of Apollo 18: Mission to the Moon when I was young, and that game was modestly fun without venturing into science fiction. The fun came from a series of fairly difficult mini games requiring precise aiming and quick reaction time.

I fail to see how welding could be turned into a fun and interesting mini-game and even if it could the forced repetition would probably hurt, but I don't think that a game is doomed simply for being a simulation game like a number of other people are suggesting. Cross Country Canada tends to be fairly highly rated on a number of abandonware sites and it's a truck driver simulation of all tedious boring jobs.

a different direction (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136454)

There is no shortage of scientists and engineers willing to work for NASA. What they need is more political power. Perhaps a game where you build relationships with politicians, staffers and contractors, convincing them over several years that exploration is a worthy cause. I think they'll find enough welders.

I think our reviewer has missed the point. (1)

Like2Byte (542992) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136456)

I have not played this game/simulation.

Performing missions in space or for a space vehicle is all about training. Astronauts spends enormous amounts of time training. They train for casualty situations. They train for normal situations. They train for abnormal situation. They don't train simply for just fires on aboard; they have to know which low temp alarms are going to impact other interfacing systems on-board, etc....

Being an astronaut is not very much unlike being a submariner (IAAFS - I am a former submariner). The systems they have to control are complex. One slip-up and suddenly that $2B piece of equipment is so much scrap metal. So, here's why I think our reviewer missed the point. NASA is looking for people who are adept at performing boring repetitive procedures accurately over and over and over again. That's their mission.

People who thrive at their simulation will be the ones who are drawn to NASA's work-sphere. The kids who were wowed by 'The Last Starfighter' and thought they'd become a NASA engineer or astronaut...probably not so much. (yes, I low-balled that reference.)

Something called setting expectations comes to mind. Something along the lines of recruiting for the mind-sets you need comes to mind. Something about planting a seed comes to mind.

Another space simulator (1)

Pawnn (1708484) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136764)

They should leave the space sims to Blizzard. They seem to be doing pretty well with them...

Love to Boogie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136810)

Another fine example of government in action (2, Insightful)

Whatsmynickname (557867) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137208)

This game is an example of when you give a government institution (with no reason to stay in business) loads of cash. The manager of this project probably was some government drone who probably had no clue what made a game great, but the government put that person in charge anyways. Both my kids and I are real space fanatics, and we openly mock this sad game. This game drains all the potential wonder and adventure of landing on the moon...
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