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NASA Game Lets You Build Complex Space Networks

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the packets-in-space dept.


gregg writes "According to this article, a new game called NetworKing, developed at NASA's Ames Research Center, 'lets players build fast and efficient communication networks by first setting up command stations around the world and then linking them to orbiting satellites and space telescopes. Resources are earned throughout the game as players continue to acquire more clients.' The game is available for play through an internet browser, and also has downloadable versions for Windows and OS X."

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Not for linux... (5, Informative)

Rick Richardson (87058) | about 3 years ago | (#37718286)

Unity Web Player

The Unity Web Player enables you to view blazing 3D content created with Unity directly in your browser, and autoupdates as necessary.

Unity allows you to build rich 3D games with animated characters, sizzling graphics, immersive physics. Then you can deliver the games to the web or as standalone players.

    Mac OS X

Unity Web Player

The Unity Web Player is not currently compatible with the operating system that you appear to be using.

Not for Mac OS either (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37718470)

I just tryed it in Mac OS and its very slow, full of glitches and artifacts. 30s and uninstalled. You didn't miss anything important.

Re:Not for Mac OS either (1)

NIK282000 (737852) | about 3 years ago | (#37718588)

Ran fine on windows 7, not that it was really entertaining just functional.

Re:Not for Mac OS either (1)

Cryacin (657549) | about 3 years ago | (#37718678)

So, NASA. When's the next space shuttle rolling out the hangar door?
Do you guys even have anything to do with space anymore, or are you guys turning into a space gaming company?
Really, when I was a kid, I dreamed of going into space, and always thought it would be NASA that would pave the way forward. Instead, the US is spending their taxpayer's dollars on war, fake money on Wall Street, fake money in housing and more pork in Washington.
I really hope that the American spirit that the world admired rises up and quashes the plastique fantastique culture that is so pervasive in American culture today. And no, I'm not an American, I'm a European. Contrary to popular belief, we don't hate the American Spirit. We just hate the American perversion that's trying to kill it.

Re:Not for Mac OS either (1)

Iron (III) Chloride (922186) | about 3 years ago | (#37719120)

Look ... I'm not terribly enthusiastic about the way the US is spending its efforts either. And I think part of the reason so much is wrong with our culture (I say "our" because I'm an American) is the complacency that almost naturally follows from perceived superiority of self, in the economic and political domains. My bet is that if Europe was in a similar position, it wouldn't be in too different a situation compared to the US - I really think it's part of human nature. So, while your point is legitimate, I don't think it's endemic to the US, but rather a property of the nation's current and historical societal position.

That said, I really don't think your criticisms of NASA are fair. Sure, we're not doing manned spaceflight at the moment. But that overlooks two points: first, that manned spaceflight is more romantic than scientific (granted, the romantic aspect is not a bad thing by any means, but in terms of knowledge it doesn't exactly give us the most "bang for the buck") and second, that we are temporarily sacrificing ability to orbit around the Earth (interesting, but not exactly visionary) so that we can develop the ability to do deep-space missions. That's a perfectly long-term, visionary goal. And by relegating LEO manned spaceflight to companies, we're making exactly the right long-term decision - space must be commercialized if we are to eventually make it a very familiar part of our lives the way the computer and the automobile have been.

Complain about the details of the implementation - the politics that corrupts and entangles everything - all you want. But I don't think anyone can legitimately argue that the US's current space vision is the wrong thing to do in the long term. In my view, it is important that we continue to work within this framework to further promote space exploration in all of its aspects and to lead the way into the future.

Re:Not for Mac OS either (1)

Cryacin (657549) | about 3 years ago | (#37720290)

I do agree with what you say, but add funding. Or better said, move some funding out of the wars into the space program. But of course you can't do that, because it's making certain few rich at the cost of the country.

Re:Not for Mac OS either (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 years ago | (#37722180)

"But I don't think anyone can legitimately argue that the US's current space vision is the wrong thing to do in the long term."

I can.

Passing up the opportunity to develop a long-term, industrially-oriented moonbase is nothing short of dropping the ball. The moon gives you a weak gravity well -- but a gravity well -- in which to construct large projects and launch them. It is well enough to say that this might be done better in LEO, but that simply isn't true. We have decades of experience now showing that construction in microgravity is far, far too slow and expensive. You need appreciable gravity in order to do efficient construction. At least at our level of technology.

Being able to construct on the moon -- even if the materials are delivered as pre-assembled modules, as they now are to LEO -- would be a great deal more efficient. And there is a solid evidence that the moon might actually turn out to be feasible to mine. For example, as the Indian survey vehicle determined, there is a significant and possibly even commercially-viable concentration of fissile uranium, right on the surface of the moon.

Passing all this by, in order to launch gigantic vehicles intended for long-duration missions to deeper space, is just plain irresponsible. You are trading top-notch, long-term apples for short-term oranges that are already moldy.

Re:Not for Mac OS either (1)

Iron (III) Chloride (922186) | about 3 years ago | (#37726114)

An interesting proposal. I was not aware that the technology required to build and operate moonbases was within our reach. The ability to do large-scale construction in space is most definitely a very important goal.

However, a couple of questions:
1) What advantages (and disadvantages) would using the proposed moonbase to build large projects (mainly for deep-space exploration at this project) offer compared to building these projects on Earth?
2) You propose that this moonbase be industrially-oriented. By the time we finish building your putative moonbase, will we have the technology (and the market, for that matter) for companies to begin taking advantage of it such that activities on the moonbase become commercially viable?

It has always intuitively seemed to me that a mission to an asteroid, and then to Mars would be a more readily achievable goal at this point in time. Maybe a moonbase would have come next after that. But it would be interesting if you could show me otherwise.

Re:Not for Mac OS either (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 years ago | (#37728786)

I am not saying that we have the technology today, but if we don't at least explore the idea further (and I am not aware of any such discussions going on in NASA or the rest of government today), then I think we're dropping the ball.

As for advantages, if any of the moon's resources (or even asteroidal or comet resources, for that matter) can be exploited for either construction material or fuel (there is lots of oxygen in moon rock, for example), then that mass would not have to be lifted from Earth. That could be a very big advantage. Another big advantage is the exponential relationship between rockets and gravity: the higher the gravity, the more thrust needed to lift a payload, which requires more fuel, which requires more structure to hold it, which requires more thrust, which requires more fuel... and so on. And to add to that, there is no appreciable atmosphere on the moon to add drag that has to be overcome.

As we saw in the Apollo moon missions, it only takes a very small rocket to escape the moon's gravity well, while it takes a huge rocket to escape Earth's, because of those very factors. And again the last factor is that you have gravity in which to construct things.

If there are any exploitable resources in space, whether that be water ice from comets or asteroids, or frozen oxygen, or free hydrogen, or whatever, it would probably be most efficient to take it to the moon to process, rather than trying to do it in microgravity, or -- far worse -- down at the bottom of Earth's gravity well. And solar energy is plentiful on the moon. Ice can be separated to hydrogen and oxygen for fuel. And -- I had almost forgotten -- it now appears that there is actually a great deal of water ice on the moon [] . Couple that with abundant solar energy and you have your rocket fuel!

By the time we are finished building a (small) moonbase, will it be commercially feasible to exploit resources? Probably not. I expect some research would have to be done to find efficient ways to exploit the available resources.

I don't have a problem with a mission to Mars, but a mission to an asteroid seems particularly pointless to me. We have done some pretty close fly-bys and we have a pretty good handle on their composition and behavior. Frankly I don't see any real purpose to it. But maybe I've missed something.

Same with Mars. Because of the distances involved even if not anything else, we will have the technology to have a permanent moonbase long before we have the technology to even be going to Mars very often.

Re:Not for linux... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37718484)

was about to post the same thing... i hate flash but at least thats cross platform... or would it have killed them to use java? or HTML5+WebGL?

Re:Not for linux... (1)

julesh (229690) | about 3 years ago | (#37718600)

Probably, yes. Unity is a fully-functional 3d engine. Implementing the features of such an engine in any of the above environments is at least hundreds of hours of work, and the result is unlikely to be as good. It would likely have tripled the required budget for this project, which was probably done on a shoestring.

Re:Not for linux... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37718784)

You can include the openGL binding in a Java applet if you want 3D. Unity is however, designed to make games, whereas Java is more for scientific applications or backend servers.

Re:Not for linux... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37719078)

There are plenty of fully functional 3D engines for Java [] . And many of them are open source, which would have saved NASA tons of cash in licensing costs alone.

Re:Not for linux... (1)

julesh (229690) | about 3 years ago | (#37725284)

And many of them are open source, which would have saved NASA tons of cash in licensing costs alone.

Unity is free-as-in-beer, as long as you don't need certain advanced features (e.g. mobile clients).

Re:Not for linux... (1)

julesh (229690) | about 3 years ago | (#37725318)

There are plenty of fully functional 3D engines for Java [].

You know what I don't see in that list: one of those engines that has been used for commercially successful games. With one notable exception: minecraft. A game renowned for the low quality of its graphics.

There may be a reason for this omission: they may not be good enough. (I don't know, I haven't actually tried using any of these, although I look at the descriptions of some of them and see that they are Java ports of C++ systems that I knew were second-rate systems five years ago).

No problem. (1)

jd (1658) | about 3 years ago | (#37720018)

Just download NS-3 (which does work under Linux), install NASA's Delay-Tolerant Protocol and use that to simulate networks of satellites and ground stations. For added fun, install the module that lets you use Network Simulator as a NIC under Linux and tunnel actual traffic across your simulated network to see how it would perform in practice.

Not only will this be more reliable than this Unity game, it'll be more accurate, more customizable and more productive (since you get network stats rather than a score). Further, since you can design your own protocols and circuits under NS-3, you can also factor in the effects of Turbo codes, various Reed-Solomon options, alternative communications protocols, etc.

Best of all, that kind of experience might actually give you some credibility amongst network engineers and protocol engineers. "Some" meaning "more than a high score on the game will ever do".

Re:No problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37722456)

Well, you need to manually copy satellite link parameters for non-standard orbits into NS3 from somewhere, and NASA game probebly calculates them for you, no?

Re:No problem. (1)

jd (1658) | about 3 years ago | (#37727812)

It actually comes with standard satellite link parameters. For non-standard orbits, you'd need to write a scriptlet, sure. But if you're designing the network, wouldn't you want to write your OWN scriptlet and not use an assumed set of values?

Nice game for nerds... (-1, Troll)

dev833 (2485112) | about 3 years ago | (#37718304)

If you lazy to play, here a video [] of gameplay.

Re:Nice game for nerds... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37718392)

If you lazy to play, here a video [] of gameplay.

Not cool.

Re:Nice game for nerds... (4, Informative)

amazon10x (737466) | about 3 years ago | (#37718398)

Don't click, that link is goatse.

Re:Nice game for nerds... (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about 3 years ago | (#37719230)

Is it a Goatse video, or just the standard picture. If it's a video I'm morbidly curious.

Re:Nice game for nerds... (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about 3 years ago | (#37718418)

Why am I out of mod points now?

Re:Nice game for nerds... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37718494)

They probably all got sucked up into that distended asshole.

Send in the rookies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37718326)

That looks exactly like the x-com FOSS remake...

While Total Information Awareness +20, Informative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37718454)

in conjunction with the DARPA-FIND-THE-RED-BALLOONS-PROGRAM [] , monitors your communication lattice.

Yours In Krasnoyarsk,
K Trout

not playable in a web browser (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37718622)

it's the lame unity3d proprietary plugin

Damn it, NASA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37718676)

Open source your games! New maps for Moonbase Alpha would be tight.

Re:Damn it, NASA... (0)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | about 3 years ago | (#37720228)

New maps for Moonbase Alpha would be tight.

As well as a button that automatically makes you say "question mark exclamation point question mark exclamation point question mark exclamation point question mark exclamation point question mark exclamation point question mark exclamation point question mark exclamation point question mark exclamation point question mark exclamation point question mark exclamation point".

No linux love? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37718846)


Kinda short.. (1)

floppypond (925229) | about 3 years ago | (#37718876)

I just beat the game with minimal (read: no) effort in about 5 minutes. Yay!

Re:Kinda short.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37718980)

lmao ya I just beat it in about 5/10 mins without even paying attention or reading anything.

Re:Kinda short.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37719208)

Yeah... not fun at all... no strategy involved.

Fill network... expand network... fill network... expand network... do some research when you cant do the main 2. And you're done.

Re:Kinda short.. (1)

Loveless62 (1368353) | about 3 years ago | (#37723966)

It's true that you can't lose and eventually you will get enough resources to purchase everything you need with very little thought invested in your decisions.

However, if you play the game to minimize the number of rounds you need to beat the game, then it becomes a lot more interesting, and your decisions carry more weight. Maybe you should hold off on purchasing a certain research item so that you can build another NEN node so you can accept another client offer. Then again, maybe the client offer isn't worth it, and buying the research item would benefit you more overall...

I wonder (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | about 3 years ago | (#37718884)

Maybe I am a cynic, but do you think maybe they are looking for us to figure out effective deep space communications for them?

Re:I wonder (2)

markana (152984) | about 3 years ago | (#37719116)

Budget cuts.

Next thing you know, the USDA will be studying Farmville to develop agricultural subsidy policies...

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37719526)

You're on the right track.

The USDA plans to launch a competing FarmUSA game. Profits from in-game purchases will be used to continue farm subsidies.

Re:I wonder (1)

insnprsn (1202137) | about 3 years ago | (#37719972)

Play the game, you dont get that level of control

Re:I wonder (1)

jd (1658) | about 3 years ago | (#37720038)

Probably. Which is why, as I mentioned above, I'd regard Network Simulator and the Click module that lets you route actual traffic to/from it to be a far more productive use of time.

Re:I wonder (1)

Yaur (1069446) | about 3 years ago | (#37721784)

If you play it the agenda seems pretty clear. since you need everything to win except for Guam and its associated satellites.

Finished in 47 rounds (1)

insnprsn (1202137) | about 3 years ago | (#37719926)

Well it was sufficient for about 10 minutes of distraction

Re:Finished in 47 rounds (1)

MatthiasF (1853064) | about 3 years ago | (#37720470)

Finished in 40 rounds.

The game seems to be hinting that Guam might not be necessary?

Finished in 33 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37722718)

Guam wasn't.. I skipped it and maintained a "dollar" oriented model of growth. There was no incentive to build Guam. Skipped for early win.

Re:Finished in 33 (1)

Loveless62 (1368353) | about 3 years ago | (#37723884)

My personal best is 26 rounds with the mathematician. I think the mathematician has an advantage since credits seems to be more of a bottleneck. I agree that building at Guam is unnecessary.

Hardly play in browser (1)

Snaller (147050) | about 3 years ago | (#37723674)

When you have to install a lot of shit on the computer

Hardly a game - NASA should open source it (1)

SoopahMan (706062) | about 3 years ago | (#37727050)

A lot of info in the "game," lots of text, very little gameplay. Felt too Super Paper Mario. It would be nice to see NASA open source this so it could play more like Civ 1, trickling out the education as you focus on the gameplay, rather than blasting you with endless text and doing a very poor job of clarifying why you need a Space Network and how much of it to get a given Research item. The win condition is pretty weak as well... you just research one more thing.

NASA game on! (1)

onezeta (2484494) | about 3 years ago | (#37737500)

NASA tries its hands on gaming. They should have done this, years ago. When they could have dominated the space-related and alien-related games.
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