A scene from Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond

Introducing NASA’s Virtual Universe “Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond”

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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If, like me, you are a fan of first-person computer games and space exploration, you may be more than a little excited to hear about this news. A group of companies are currently working with NASA to create a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) based around the space agency’s endeavours. They will use a game engine more familiar driving first-person shooters than online roleplay adventures; the tried and tested Unreal Engine 3 technology.

The Internet has a growing number of vast space-based MMORPGs, but NASA is hoping to use one of the most advanced gaming engines to develop an engrossing first-person online adventure, where players can choose their own mission to explore space, interact with other players and build settlements on other worlds. All this will take place in a scientifically accurate vision of a near-future Universe in 2035…

ammb_feb20Players will pick a profession like a roboticist, space geologist, astrobiologist or mechanical engineer and work together as a team as they explore space and complete missions, establishing bases and outposts and traveling to the farthest reaches of the solar system,” explained Jerry Heneghan, founder and CEO of Virtual Heroes, one of the companies involved with developing the NASA MMORPG Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond. “The game will offer both individual challenges and team-based objectives to encourage players to use real-life applications of science, math and engineering to unlock new in-game vehicles, spacesuits, robotics and mining apparatus that will propel them further into space.”

MMORPGs are increasingly popular gaming platforms, where players can participate in seemingly boundless virtual universes. Popular examples of MMORPGs are World of Warcraft (which dominates with a monthly subscriber base of 11.5 million people), Second Life, EverQuest and space-based rollplayer games such as EVE Online and Star Trek Online.

Ever wanted to take a spin on the Moon?

Ever wanted to take a spin on the Moon?

Now NASA is hoping to create a very popular online gaming/educational experience that will not only entertain, but get young people interested in a career in science and engineering. What’s more, it is hoped the game will incorporate the Unreal Engine 3 Editor so that players can design their own content, from spaceships and stations to mission profiles. The developers will also include scenarios, such as the threat of near-Earth asteroid impacts and other reality-based events as the online community develops. This will provide a problem-solving/adventure element, while keeping the science grounded in science fact.

See more screenshots from the game »

There are concerns that a NASA space reality platform may not be very popular, as other in-space universes offer space fantasy, with epic spaceship battles and alien encounters. Also, the technical detail in carrying out “mundane” astronaut tasks may be a turn-off; virtual universes depend on exploration rather than educational tasks. Hopefully NASA and MMORPG developers will strike a healthy balance between education and entertainment.

Exploring Mars with NASAs MMORPG

Exploring Mars with NASAs MMORPG

However, I’m very excited to see Astronaut appear online sometime next year.

Sources: Big Download, Softpedia


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Calvin
Guest
Calvin
February 24, 2009 7:13 PM

Um like awesome, dude! ;D

RetardedFishFrog
Guest
RetardedFishFrog
February 24, 2009 7:20 PM

It would be the closest I’ll ever get to being on Mars – if only I had the time to play.

Star
Guest
Star
February 24, 2009 9:55 PM

I for one cannot wait for this game to be available for purchase. I wanna play smile

Mark (ISPreview)
Guest
February 25, 2009 2:44 AM

It looks interesting but from those screenshots the early game looks about 10 years behind the curb. They announced it last year and will release it in 2010, which is about half the development time of even a rubbish MMORPG game.

I fear this will merely end up being another of those overly educational games that misses out on the fun factor. Certainly the developers they’ve chosen aren’t exactly well known.

s0l
Guest
s0l
February 25, 2009 4:25 AM

Good idea but it does look fugly…

And the Mars screenshot looks more like a doom or quake level than actual mars…Blue/Grey sky anyone?
Why do they keep telling people the sky is red on mars this is ludicrous!! Some at Nasa are hiding/blurring/airbrushing stuff, everyone knows it and it is getting boring.

starman
Member
starman
February 25, 2009 9:53 AM

Good luck, Jerry!

Dale
Guest
Dale
February 25, 2009 3:22 PM

I’m definitely interested. Space reality is even more interesting than space fantasy in my book.

Silver Thread
Member
Silver Thread
February 25, 2009 3:33 PM

It has Potential. The problem with Educational Games is they tend to be very slow moving and uninteresting. If they want to make it fun, they’ll need to let Players develop their own modifications to it I think. For example letting folks design and build their own Colonies, Ships, Suits etc that’d be a big help. I wonder how PVP Between two Mechanical Engineers might look. Heh.

Mike606
Guest
Mike606
February 25, 2009 4:55 PM

Wow using the Unreal3 Engine and they still managed to make it look like crap. Congratulations.

cccg
Guest
cccg
February 25, 2009 5:39 PM

Thanks for the news

hehe, I remember myself in Doom 3, wasting oxygen between airlocks …
I mean: I was walking on “Mars” !

A true virtual “fact based journey through the cosmos” would really be awesome.

robbi
Guest
robbi
February 25, 2009 8:15 PM
I’m certain say in 10 years,as Moores’ laws of computer power continues-the virual reality game will be awesome, and for people who has extra money to burn, will require you get into a ‘spacesuit’ with built-in climate, sensory controls, and a special-built seat that will mimic perfectly virual movements traveling, walking, running, and can also smell,feel heat or chill, pain caused by hamrless but painful electrical charges during the game, of course, the ‘routine’ things like weapons,controls will be far more advanced than today and all will be controlled by the game inself!!!!!, This type game can be dangerous to anyone already a candidate for an inmate commited to an asylum for the criminally insane because the suit… Read more »
robbi
Guest
robbi
February 25, 2009 8:27 PM

addendum- for ‘virual movements like walking, running, you will actually have to within your special suit, this is NOT going to be a NON-physical effort game, so, it would be best to be in pretty good physical shape!!!

robbi
Guest
robbi
February 25, 2009 9:21 PM
addendum again, althought the physical effort to run, walk , jump will be about 5% of your true physical effort,, after a few minutes, you would not know the difference. There are already medical instuments that can instantly measure you oxygen to your fingers and other routine readings. Such a game by 2019 will require 50-100TB of HD space with a couple hundred more to run correctly/ This will indeed be the first generation true ‘physical effort’ virual reality ganes and will by then be capable is measuring your physical condition and should you are crazy enough to get a game about robbing the drug dealer of his stash, his thugs will be after you, although I said… Read more »
Bram
Guest
February 26, 2009 12:25 AM

unreal 3 tech or not, put some crappy artists in charge of the graphics and you get crappy graphics sad. It looks exactly like all those amateur 3d ‘artists impression’ space pics. I’m not getting a sense of wonder or will to explore this at all.

evildork
Member
evildork
February 26, 2009 3:20 AM
I would love to see an attempt at a realistic space flight simulator, but I’m not sure an MMORPG is the best format for it. If everybody is on the same game clock, how many real months am I going to have to wait to complete my virtual quest to travel to mars? A game that would let a classroom of students collaborate on a virtual Apollo program could be a powerful public relations tool. I know I’ve toyed with quiet a few little web games put out as educational tools by various space agencies, but we pay them for science not amusements. Having an interactive public simulation game as a platform for demonstrating new and future technologies… Read more »
Bonan Quao
Guest
Bonan Quao
February 26, 2009 8:02 AM
Mark my words: This game will tank the first month after release. There’s no way a game about “real-life applications of science” can compete with blasting aliens/dragons out of the skies. I’m sorry, but the average video game joe will be bored out of his mind. The bloggers on this site either study, work or are fans of the space industry. Obviously you will like this game, just as I will. But as for the rest of “gamer-kind”, no freakin’ way. This is complete waste of time. The last paragraph’s concerns are right on the money. Plus, the market for MMORPGs is beginning to get saturated. I need not mention the number of MMOs that have been crushed… Read more »
U.S. Citizen
Guest
U.S. Citizen
February 27, 2009 9:16 AM
Well, N.A.S.A., You better liston to these people here if you read anything at this web site at all. You people at N.A.S.A. got a monster by the balls here. A powerfull tool, yes, a global intelligence resource to help you tech fellas out. Better not fumble the ball here guys or N.A.S.A. will NOT be going to the superbowl. There does seem to be a slight miss understanding here though. The target audiance. To the posters here. I don’t think this project/game is intended for the general video gamer though. I think N.A.S.A. is trying to target the more higher educated and focused people. (I’m NOT saying anyone here is stupit) As to the one above whom… Read more »
U.S. Citizen
Guest
U.S. Citizen
February 27, 2009 9:35 AM
I might also add here, that when it comes to “FUN”, ….Fun will be difined by each person that partakes in this game. One’ own perpective of what is fun so to speak. To some, fun is defined as a ray gun shooting evil do’ers. Where as with other people, fun will be defined as conquering a hostal enviroment, or developing a way to get water from the martian soil or breathable air from the lunar regolith. Maybe fun will be just sight seeing of the solar system, watching a sun set on Titan or just flying a space craft like the shuttle. I suspect that only people that enjoy or does not mind mundane tasks, will enjoy… Read more »
Windw
Guest
Windw
March 3, 2009 4:23 PM

To me this could have potential, this seems to be spmething for adveture without the evil guys. basically exploring to look for ifferent things. Only problem is: What happens when everything has been discovered. I also doubt that the asteroid htting the Earth will spawn every few minutes.

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