Science!: A Look at Moonbase Alpha

Lauren Admire

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Aug 8, 2008
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Science!: A Look at Moonbase Alpha

What happens when NASA joins forces with game developers? You get Moonbase Alpha, an intriguing and intelligent game that teaches while you play.

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crimson5pheonix

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"The majority of the complex equipment developed by NASA requires specific tools in order to repair and demands a significant amount of time, manual dexterity, and technological knowledge. This level of realism would not only create an unrealistic learning curve to the game, but would also lead to player frustration and confusion."

Oh god, the frustration that would come from that kind of realism. It would make the game pretty much impossible.
 

TimbukTurnip

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Jan 3, 2009
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I've been playing this quite a bit lately, and while I would say it's not for everybody, it's a lot of fun if you get a good group of people who you can talk to and coordinate with. It's just a shame you get people who do nothing or even slow your progress. It's also annoying that I seem to be the only person who played it single player first to get a feel for the game, whereas everyone else who hasn't played it before joins a game and stands around saying "I'm new".
 

Jared

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Jul 14, 2009
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I do enjoy it...I play it a little on and off, ut, the team work aspect is good fun...and, in generall trying to run a small base! Its as close as I will likely get to it ; ;
 

Proverbial Jon

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Nov 10, 2009
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Was I the only one thinking of this:



When I read Moonbase Alpha? I have to admit I was dissapointed when it wasn't!
 

Nincompoop

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Interesting. I sort of passed it off too quickly. I have to round up a few guys and try this out.

__
Great article. I liked how it was written.
 

The Random One

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Proverbial Jon said:
Was I the only one thinking of this:

When I read Moonbase Alpha? I have to admit I was dissapointed when it wasn't!
I kept thinking about Loading Ready Run (especially because their videos also come out on Mondays). They call their base of operations the Moonbase.

OT: It sounds interesting, and I don't think serious games can't be fun. In fact, this is part of what the gaming community has forgotten from 80's IF. But if it's only on steam I ain't gonna get it.
 

008Zulu_v1legacy

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I never understood why in old TV series and movies why they put such vital equipment out in the open where any stray meteor or drunk rover driver can plow in to it and cause the deaths of hundreds of people. Who wouldn't build subteranian in such a harsh environment?

Lauren Admire said:
What happens when NASA joins forces with game developers? You get Moonbase Alpha, an intriguing and intelligent game that teaches while you play.
There was a game back in the 90s or 80s where you were the commander of a space shuttle, and when it came time to enter the "Word from page 5, paragraph 3, word 7" (very old school DRM), if you got it wrong, you had to wait 3 very real days while the game automatically went through the pre-flight launch checklist.
 

crimson5pheonix

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008Zulu said:
I never understood why in old TV series and movies why they put such vital equipment out in the open where any stray meteor or drunk rover driver can plow in to it and cause the deaths of hundreds of people. Who wouldn't build subteranian in such a harsh environment?

Lauren Admire said:
What happens when NASA joins forces with game developers? You get Moonbase Alpha, an intriguing and intelligent game that teaches while you play.
There was a game back in the 90s or 80s where you were the commander of a space shuttle, and when it came time to enter the "Word from page 5, paragraph 3, word 7" (very old school DRM), if you got it wrong, you had to wait 3 very real days while the game automatically went through the pre-flight launch checklist.
Building subterranean is more costly, time consuming, harder to do (keeping in ming that space suits lower your dexterity immensely), and makes it harder to expand.
 

008Zulu_v1legacy

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crimson5pheonix said:
Building subterranean is more costly, time consuming, harder to do (keeping in ming that space suits lower your dexterity immensely), and makes it harder to expand.
I would think that safety would be the primary concern besides, in the above example, loosing the entire expedition to a rogue meteor causing critical damage to your infrastructure would be far more costly.
 

crimson5pheonix

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008Zulu said:
crimson5pheonix said:
Building subterranean is more costly, time consuming, harder to do (keeping in ming that space suits lower your dexterity immensely), and makes it harder to expand.
I would think that safety would be the primary concern besides, in the above example, loosing the entire expedition to a rogue meteor causing critical damage to your infrastructure would be far more costly.
It might be, but it would cause a whole lot of problems that might not be able to be overcome.
 

nmaster64

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*waves to everyone I know over in Virtual Heroes QA*

I work across the street from these guys. I even helped a wee bit with testing. I admit I groaned at the thought but was impressed at how much fun I had with the title. Coordinating with friends to try to get a top time can be really cool.
 

Typecast

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I've had a lot of fun with Moonbase Alpha, a co-op problem resolving game omg!? It was just what a jaded gamer needed :) something refreshing that didn't involve alien blasting and had fun mechanics, despite everything. Once you figure out what's going on, and realise the pressure that the timer is actually going to put on you, you really do start to have fun.
 

Therumancer

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Nov 28, 2007
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Well, I have mixed opinions about all of this.

The whole issue with less and less people wanting to go into careers featuring the skills they are referring to as "STEM" related is a debatable one. I've oftentimes criticized a lot of the studies that have talked about Americans and our poor academic performance, especially competitively. Most such studies are usually slanted on a number of levels.

I think one of the big "problems" here is not so much that we don't produce high acheivers with that kind of skill set, but that there is no motivation for most of them to go into this kind of service. The dream of becoming an Astronaut or working for NASA as a kid aside, the problem is that when someone becomes an adult reality hits. If you find yourself excelling academically you can get further ahead and achieve more personal success by becoming a doctor, lawyer, or simply going corperate. Basically if your good enough for NASA, you can probably make millions more by not working for them. NASA is more or less public service with very sketchy funding that is always contreversial when it comes time to assign budgets and figure out how much people are going to be paid. The goverment just doesn't put out the money from a lot of what I've been reading to attract the "best and brightest" though the nature of the work means that is who they need. NASA doesn't need a propaganda machine to get people interested in becoming Astronauts, heck I loved the idea and probably watched the movie "Space Camp" ten times as a kid. What they need is the funding to get people to
choose them over pursueing other career tracks.

I'll also be honest in saying that while "big", NASA is not big enough. To put it bluntly it's extremely competitive by all accounts despite how this might read. Very few people are going to throw away the chance at a great career to prepare themselves for a shot at the program, spend 10 years doing a crunch, and then winding up with a lot of interesting qualifications, but being older than the hump allows, and drinking sterno in a cheap apartment dreaming about what might have been if you were just a little faster, quicker, or whatever else. In the end I think part of it is that NASA wants a large pool of applicants so it can be picky, and as an extension of the above, this is also why they don't get it.

As far as the game itself goes, I downloaded it from STEAM but due to the lack of a decent mic (which is required for most multiplayer stuff) I haven't tried it yet.
 

Eclectic Dreck

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Therumancer said:
The whole issue with less and less people wanting to go into careers featuring the skills they are referring to as "STEM" related is a debatable one. I've oftentimes criticized a lot of the studies that have talked about Americans and our poor academic performance, especially competitively. Most such studies are usually slanted on a number of levels.
While hardly a case study, at my current university (The University of Texas), the college of Natural Sciences (which includes biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science and...fashion design) is the largest on the campus, beating out even the College of Business. The College of Engineering on the other hand is one of the smallest.

As a result, I know plenty of people who pursue science with a fervor that only a passion could inspire and yet not one of them aspires to work for NASA. And, as you pointed out later in this post, why would they? One may not become rich by being an engineer, but one will command a far more impressive salary in the private sector than the public. Just as important, it's not as though these people will be behind the curve in any sense as the private sector drives technology forward at least as regularly as any space program of late.

While at one point I certainly wanted to work for NASA, the dream eventually died when I realized the odds of being one of the lucky few to ever be shot into space was so remote as to be effectively non-existent. More people win the lottery jackpot in my state than have been into space. Eventually, after a particular sour experience, I swore off the public sector for good and resolved to never again try to do anything important and took up Computer Science instead.
 

sosolidshoe

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Eclectic Dreck said:
Therumancer said:
The whole issue with less and less people wanting to go into careers featuring the skills they are referring to as "STEM" related is a debatable one. I've oftentimes criticized a lot of the studies that have talked about Americans and our poor academic performance, especially competitively. Most such studies are usually slanted on a number of levels.
While hardly a case study, at my current university (The University of Texas), the college of Natural Sciences (which includes biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science and...fashion design) is the largest on the campus, beating out even the College of Business. The College of Engineering on the other hand is one of the smallest.

As a result, I know plenty of people who pursue science with a fervor that only a passion could inspire and yet not one of them aspires to work for NASA. And, as you pointed out later in this post, why would they? One may not become rich by being an engineer, but one will command a far more impressive salary in the private sector than the public. Just as important, it's not as though these people will be behind the curve in any sense as the private sector drives technology forward at least as regularly as any space program of late.

While at one point I certainly wanted to work for NASA, the dream eventually died when I realized the odds of being one of the lucky few to ever be shot into space was so remote as to be effectively non-existent. More people win the lottery jackpot in my state than have been into space. Eventually, after a particular sour experience, I swore off the public sector for good and resolved to never again try to do anything important and took up Computer Science instead.
Frankly I think the issue here is the attitude you display, rather than any failing on the part of NASA. You said it yourself, as soon as you realised that YOU would be unlikely to be an Astronaut, you weren't fussed anymore. The reason NASA are struggling to find qualified candidates isn't funding, it's the selfishness of the pool of potential applicants.

If you think NASA is all about the Astronauts, you seriously need to watch the Apollo 13 movie. It may have been a pretty obvious attempt by America to give it's Patriotism a handy, but it illustrates perfectly(and even flat out states at one point) that the Astronauts are nothing more than members of the team.

Science in general, and space exploration in particular, are not supposed to be about personal glory. It's about a search for knowledge. Whether you're the guy walking on the surface of the moon, or just the bloke who designed the belt clips on their space suits; everyone is contributing to that ultimate goal. Maybe if more American graduates were interested in using their qualifications for the good of humanity instead of lining their own pockets or getting an opportunity to prance about in front of a TV camera, your space program wouldn't be in such a state.
 

OrdinaryGuy

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I tried this game out with my friends yesterday and it was a lot better than I was expecting. It takes coordination to get things done and it's fairly realistic despite some bugs. I got bored of it in a couple hours though because we ran out of stuff to do. I'm not complaining though, since it's free and all.

For the record, I'd really like to see them expand on the idea and add more content. Different mission objectives and unexpected circumstances would make it much more interesting.