The Outward Urge: Buzz Aldrin’s Race Into Space

By Tim Stone on July 20th, 2009 at 1:37 pm.

Walking around the house very slowly with a fish bowl on your head. Listening to Nick Drake’s final album while eating roast clanger. Showing your bare buttocks to perfect strangers… there are  numerous totally valid ways of commemorating the 40th anniversary of the first human lunar trespass. Me, I’m going to honour the crew of Apollo 11 by spending my lunch hour researching Saturn V rockets and turning M. Dietrich into the best damn astronautess NASA has ever seen.

Buzz Aldrin’s Race Into Space (available in open-source Windows-friendly form) might be sixteen years old now and looking a bit mad in the interface department, but it still communicates the truths and tension of the space race amazingly well. Essentially, it’s a game about research and risk. You spend your bi-annual allotment of MegaBucks buying and developing space gadgetry. New techs are initially extremely unreliable. Investing MBs and time will make them safer, but it’s always tricky deciding when a new capsule, rocket, or lander is ready for use. Dither and the Russians may beat you to a crucial milestone, commit too early and you can find yourself watching flag-draped coffins trundle through the gates of Arlington Cemetery.

If I was reviewing the game today, I’d gripe about the lack of a tech tree and mission overview (it’s not always obvious where R&D in certain areas will take you) and lavish praise on the way random events and period detail arrive in the form of mock newscasts. I’d also grumble about just how difficult it is to keep pace with history. In my current game it’s already 1972 and the Moon still seems a bloody long way away.

__________________

« | »

, , .

34 Comments »

  1. fishmitten says:

  2. Optimaximal says:

    I remember always wanting to play this game on my dad’s work 486 SX 25Mhz back in the day, but it was prohibitively expensive for the 11 year old boy of the day – pocket money only went so far back then before all kids got bought their mobinile phoneages and iPodules!

  3. damien says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/opinion/19wolfe.html

    a somber view of this anniversary and the Space Race from tom wolfe.

    (i figure somber is OK considering how much fun i had playing this game when i was younger. balances out, no?)

  4. Rosti says:

    I adore this game, although I still maintain that as a proper simulation it’s the best evidence that the moon landings were a hoax:
    1969? All I had to show for my space program by 1969 was a photo of the Martian surface. The Soviets, on the other hand, had a cemetery full of noble cosmonauts my brother had worryingly named after friends and family…

  5. Chris H. says:

    One of my favorite games.

    You can easily get to the moon by 1969 if you play it right. I always skip straight from the Mercury 1-man program and start in with the XMS shuttle program. You’ll run behind the Soviets for 3 years or so…but then suddenly you’re launching shuttle missions which give you a huge prestige bonus, and with some luck on the docking missions you can really start making progress towards the moon.

  6. Duncan says:

    This is an exceptionally difficult game. I spent countless hours with it in the 90′s, and I was able to get to the moon by 1969 only once. Loved the embedded video clips, though.

  7. Dinger says:

    So you can cowboy-manage yourself all the way from the R-16 to the N1?

    Cool

  8. dartt says:

    Just so you know Tim, we’ll always be pleased to see your Pink Moon.

  9. Tim Stone says:

    [bravely resists Uranus joke]

  10. AndrewC says:

    “So me and my girlfriend played this to see just how far we could get.”

    “Jupiter?”

    “No, she wiped the floor with me.”

  11. Chris Remo says:

    I remember learning about this game by way of advertisements included in another Interplay games I owned (Castles, I think) and desperately wanting to play it, but never seeing it available for purchase. I haven’t thought about it in ages. Now those 15-years-gone desires can be fulfilled!

  12. JonFitt says:

    I quite like the idea of no tech tree. It makes science research more of an exploration than walking a known path.
    Of course it’s known on a second playthrough, but you can’t have everything. Unless you had procedurally generated tech; but that would diverge from history.

    Perhaps there should be hints as to what research into route X might lead to.

  13. Bjoern Roepstorff says:

    Buzz Aldrin’s Race into Space is a conversion of the 1989 board game Liftoff! by Task Force Games. The mechanism is essentially the same, only that the computer takes over the dice rolling and plays the opponent.

    http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2853

    The tech trees, the missions etc are the same, so someone who knows the board game knows how to play BARIS.

  14. JonFitt says:

    @damien
    Just read the OpEd piece, depressed now. :(

  15. TC says:

    Loved this game when it first game out, played it for hours.

    Like most people I could not get to the moon before the mid 70s (which basically got you sent to the Siberian Gulag as the Soviet player!).

    Best opening gambit is to go for the orbital flight with your first manned mission, if it doesnt work your not to far in to start again if it does work your about a year ahead of schedule.

  16. Shamanic Miner says:

    @Dartt

    Shit, I ws going to make a Pink Moon joke.

  17. Skyvik says:

    “I’d also grumble about just how difficult it is to keep pace with history.”

    We choose to play Buzz Aldrin’s Race into Space not because it is easy, but because it is hard.

  18. Satsuz says:

    Skyvik wins this comments thread, I say.

    I’ll give this game a go today I think. Been developing a bit of an itch for spacey-things that this ought to scratch.

  19. sinister agent says:

    I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing here. I wanted to throw an unmanned thing up, but couldn’t find an option to plan a mission, and the assembly bit doesn’t list half my equipment for some reason. Then the president demanded I make the mission manned, so I had to throw some numpties into training. That part I think I get, but I’ve researched the hell out of one of every type of component, and still can’t seem to launch anything. Hmph.

  20. Tim Stone says:

    If you select the admin building then ‘Future Missions’ you should be able to plan a mission. Equipment only shows up in vehicle assembly if it’s relevant.

    Hmmm. Actually I’ve just encountered exactly the same situation. Equipment purchased, but no sign of it in vehicle assembly. Confusing.

  21. Fenchurch says:

    Oh my God! My heart quickened as I saw the title, I thought no one remembered this game but me! *does a little dance* I was so rubbish at this game but I loved it. When the Russians suddenly launched something years ahead of you and you facepalmed at your R&D choices. Beautiful. :-3

  22. JPL says:

    I can’t figure out how to send a manned mission anywhere. I have two teams of astronauts ready in the Mercury Program, (who have even formed flight crews) but it constantly complains that I don’t have a primary and backup crew.

  23. ghableska says:

    If any RPS’ers are interested in a realistic space simulator, I’d suggest Orbiter:
    http://orbit.medphys.ucl.ac.uk/orbit.html
    It’s a freeware game with a highly active modding community and it wouldn’t hurt to at least give it a shot.

  24. tmp says:

    In order to be able to plan (and subsequently launch on next turn) a manned flight you need to form at least two crews for the program and then leave them sitting there idle for either 1 or 2 turns (can’t remember) so they can familiarize themselves with hardware or whatever.

  25. Kurt Lennon says:

    “I can’t figure out how to send a manned mission anywhere.”

    Neither could NASA. Hooray for Hollywood and global gullibility!

  26. megaman says:

    Great game, although it took me ages to find out how to purchase the docking module. I read the manual and knew where it should appear, but it never did .. until I was smart enough to try it in purchase mode. Darn, they should just show it in R&D mode and grey it out or something.
    Except for this small detail and the fickle astronaut’s crews I had a ton of fun.

  27. TC says:

    Was playing this again last night (thank you RPS!), 1969 is still pretty much impossible IMO unless you play the perfect game, survive lots of low safety margin launches and dont have any astronaughts throwing hissy fits and breaking flight crews.

    A couple of gameplay tips come to mind after a 1972 Direct Ascent victory:

    You have to always be thinking 2 turns ahead as crews will need to be in place for one turn in the flight crew you assign them to before they will be available for missions.

    Also buy all the hardware you need for your fall missions in the spring turn so you wont get caught short by lack of funds.

  28. T. Slothrop says:

    Oh and here I thought we were going to see some scandalous photos of Marlene Dietrich in photoshopped spacesuit of some kind… or being mounted by the lunar rover. Disappointed.

  29. Talorc says:

    I didn’t play this game, but I did highly enjoy the similarly themed “Project: Space Station” on the C64 around 1985.

    http://www.lemon64.com/?mainurl=http%3A//www.lemon64.com/games/details.php%3FID%3D2002

    It was awesome fun to design your little space station, schedule all the launches to actually get the damn thing up into space and then a little EVA mission to put it all together up in space.

    I was managed to get a monstrosity of a space station built, but then fell down on actually getting any decent research done. I suspect my little 12 year old mind was seriously overbuilding on space station requirements.

  30. VLADIMIRPUTIN says:

    For some reason gravity hates all of my satellites. And the Apollo program started failing so badly, that I was about to give up when the russians beat me to the moon.

    Must try again.

  31. tmp says:

    re: space station building and such, there seems to be similar but more modern version of it at http://www.spacestationsim.com/

  32. Serondal says:

    Am I the only one that gets a diffrent kind of outward urge whenever Buzz Aldrin is mentioned?

  33. Paul says:

    I usually played as the Soviets. :D

  34. VLADIMIRPUTIN says:

    Playing as the Soviets has been much more successful, although I still have horrible luck with flybys.