Moonbase Alpha Out. Also, Impressions.

By Kieron Gillen on July 6th, 2010 at 9:05 pm.

What do you do if you see a Spaceman? Admire their might visage, man.

Hurrah! The previously covered Moonbase Alpha is available to play. You can go and get your copy, for free, on Steam (So has Steamworks supports for leaderboards and similar). Those interested in digging further will see NASA’s press-release here, and have more info on the game’s site and NASA’s portal. Anyway, Jim and I had a crack at the Beta last week, and had a chat about our time on our favourite lunar body…

Kieron: Where have we been recently, Jim?
Jim: Kieron, we have been to The Moon.
Kieron: WE HAVE BEEN ON THE MOON.
Jim: We were on the moon. And there was an emergency.
Kieron: The moon is a place where we have been. And when we were there, an emergency occurred. ON THE MOON.
Jim: Emergencies on The Moon are serious business. Fortunately we had the equipment to deal with it. Equipment provided by NASA.
Kieron: And on-the-job training. None of the messing around in Flight Training or whatever. Straight there, on the moon, saving the day. And also messing around
Jim: Astronauts learn a lot as they go along, I understand. All instructions are written on the spaceship.
Kieron: Rule 1) Go up. 2) When you are in space, go to the moon. 3) Land. 4) Make Moonbase Alpha. 5) When an accident happens, get Kieron and Jim to sort it out.
Jim: 6) You are on The Moon.
Kieron: Er… I suspect we should proabably say why we’re gibbering like idiots here. But the main thing really was the whole WE ARE ON THE MOON-iness of it all.
Jim: Yes, we were meddling with Moonbase Alpha beta, which is a funny name for a thing. It’s an Unreal-engine On The Moon game, with multiplayer activities… and is now available for everyone to play, for free
Jim: Crucially, non-violent. Shattered Horizon it is not.
Kieron: Well, we tried our best to make it violent. I tried to set upon you with my soldering iron and I repeatedly ran into your legs with my little robo, but to no avail.
Jim: Astronauts are lovers, not fighters.
Kieron: Yes. It’s basically like a engineer game… but on the moon. As in, there’s a series of damaged systems which make oxygen, and you have to make them all work and the quicker that you do it, the higher you score.
Jim: We have only played the beta scenario, but I presume there are a couple more in the release? Or not….
Kieron: I dunno. We’ll have to check – but it’s free, so there may not be. The mission basically can be played with up to 6, with more stuff to fix with more people. The thing which we didn’t really try when we played is ways to make fixing stuff more efficient. As in, there’s a lot of tools we didn’t use. I imagine if we were playing it more seriously we’d have actually filled a toolbox with circuitry and replaced broken stuff rather than spending our time making too many robots and driving them in circles and just having jumping competitions.
Jim: Yes. it’s essentially a bunch of small puzzles, based on wheter replacing components or fixing them is more efficient. When you go to fix or replace, you then have a mini-game to do. The mini-games get seriously hard.
Kieron: I imagine soldering circuits together while wearing those gloves would be tricky
Jim: Astronauts have to have steady hands, which would count me right out.
Kieron: I imagine they also don’t get tired getting out of bed, so I’m out. I was also amused by how when we were finished with our tools, we just dropped them and left them lying around. We’re over 200,000 miles from our mums. You can’t make us tidy up now.
Jim: Well, I’m fine with leaving stuff lying around. It’s not as if chavs are going to come along and nick it.
Kieron: CHAVS… IN… SPACE. Er… what did you make of it, then?
Jim: I thought this was an interesting little game, anyway, partly because it’s relatively polished and high-budget, and partly because it’s basically space propaganda.
Kieron: Yes. Totally. And we’re on side with space-propaganda, being basically of futurist pro-science bent.
Jim: Yes, it’s great. There should be more games about being agents of humanity’s faltering techno-future
Kieron: That’s what excites me about it – it’s sort of a proof of concept for this kind of stuff. Something a little like Wurm or any of those construction games, but a little more focused or structured.
Jim: But it is a proof-of concept, isn’t it? Because NASA are working on a fully-fledged solar system-colonising MMO, aren’t they?
Kieron: That’s what they say. As in, crew-based solar-system travelling thing. This makes me excited to see what they do with it, as it would be a joy to, instead of accusing John of being a bad healer, say he’s a bad welder
Jim: He is a terrible welder. But yeah, I think more and more we’re going to see non-violent stuff spring up in game design. It’s not like people are getting bored of violence (who could?) but more that people are expanding their field of exploration. Game designers want to design new things. And it’s awesome that projects like this can start paying for it
Kieron: Exactly. And, to quote Robin Hunicke , developers working on something no-one else has really tried is a far more productive thing to do than trying to top something that’s a mature genre
Jim: Another random thing about this. It’s basically George Bush’s fiction, isn’t it?
Kieron: Elaborate.
Jim: Like he said “back to the moon within 20 years” and this isn’t a game of what astronauts actually do, since there is no moonbase. This is that 20 year scenario in game form.
Kieron: Yes
Jim: It’s a kind of hopeful simulation.
Kieron: I’ve interiewed the devs – should be up tomorrow – and I kinda like that it’s stating THIS IS POSSIBLE. As you say, it’s propaganda. It’s treating a moon-base as something that’ll just happen.
Jim: It must happen.
Jim: MOONBASE!
Kieron: MOONBASE!

Moonbase Alpha is available to download, for free, from Steam.

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99 Comments »

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  1. Wednesday says:

    I can’t help but hear Space 1999’s catchy 70s intro tune.

    Bow wow, bow wow wow wow…

  2. Skittles says:

    Drat, I thought there was a sequel to Moonbase Commander but then I read the article.

  3. Brumisator says:

    …I’m sold!

    Good thing it’s free, though.

  4. westyfield says:

    Imagine, if you will, Jim reading out the introduction to Star Trek – The Next Generation (‘Space: the final frontier’ etc.), then amplify it a thousand times over, and you will, for all intents and purposes, be in my mind.

  5. Daniel Rivas says:

    I’m getting bored of violence in videogames. Or at least burned out.

    :(

    • Shazbut says:

      You have outgrown the medium. Suggestions:

      -Books
      -Theatre
      -Art
      -Film
      -Music
      -Basically anything

    • Premium User Badge

      UW says:

      I suspect you may be joking, Shazbut, but just in case you aren’t – I’ll bite.

      Violence is a huge part of most of those mediums, and there are plenty of videogames which don’t involve it as well.

    • DuckSauce says:

      Racing/Sim games
      :P

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      Half Life 2 has puzzles! and a err crowbar =D

    • Clippit says:

      That’s very true, exploding heads is a core mechanic of almost every game I’ve played and I am SOOOO BOOOORED of it. That’s maybe the biggest attraction of LFS for me: it’s an online game that isn’t based on combat. I don’t play it because I’m a hardcore sim nerd or I really want to be a racing driver or really love engines, but because it’s a refreshing change. It’s competitive but non-adversarial: someone doesn’t have to “lose” so you can “win”. There’s so much in and around racing games that you just don’t (and won’t) get with shooters, it makes me wish more developers would push other genres online and see what variety they can create.

  6. origo says:

    Sounds like the plan “If we cant go to Moon, let’s make a game, and say that we could”. Oh, and use taxpayer money for it.
    On a second thought, there are far worse things to spend tax money on. But i still want humanity to build a real moon colony. and fast :(

    • MrMelons says:

      However, for those of you that don’t live in the USA enjoy our free gift to the world…your welcome (j/k).

    • Urthman says:

      Take that, BBC.

    • obo says:

      If you play the Doctor Who game right before you play this, you’ve got a shot of crossing some neurons and believing that you’re actually The Doctor welding on the Moon.

      Seriously, is “drag the mouse within these lines” the only way to simulate circuit jumping?

  7. Wolfox says:

    Have you two got enough iron? I figure Quintin will always lose if he plays this.

    • Rosti says:

      Seriously, you’ve raised my hopes. Will be getting a Space Repair-O-Team together to see how right you MOONBASE are.

  8. Sparvy says:

    Hmm, this really begs the question; why haven’t there been any “real” space sims before? Like Apollo 13 the game, a coop game with 3 people crammed into a tiny space ship going to the moon with all the buttons and knobs and gages. It wouldn’t be that hard technically either, essentially no art except the interior of a space capsule and stars in the background, no need for advanced streaming techniques for loading levels etc.

    • bob_d says:

      “..a coop game with 3 people crammed into a tiny space ship going to the moon with all the buttons and knobs and gages…”
      The people who are really into that stuff much prefer to LARP it, rather than play a computer version.

    • bananaphone says:

      There has been a few. There’s the ancient Shuttle, and I have a vague memory of a hardcore space sim being reviewed in PC Format or something many years ago. There’s also this more recent sim. No clue what it’s like though.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      Shuttle was awesome, but it ran like crap on my Atari ST.

    • Zenicetus says:

      “Like Apollo 13 the game, a coop game with 3 people crammed into a tiny space ship going to the moon with all the buttons and knobs and gauges”

      Few would play it, if it was at all realistic. Orbiter has been around for a while; try manually docking in zero G: http://orbit.medphys.ucl.ac.uk/home.php

      I fly the X-Plane flight simulator, mostly just light planes and helicopters. I avoid the big modern airliners with cockpits stuffed full of switches and glowing displays, because they’re just too complicated to be fun (others do get into this systems-level stuff). And a modern jet airliner is bupkis, compared to the systems on something like Apollo 13, or some theoretical modern Moon or Mars ship. I haven’t played this NASA game, but I’ll bet it’s massively dumbed-down on the need for training to do anything useful.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Seniath says:

    How could you repeatedly say ON THE MOON without linking to On The Moon?!

  10. Trollface says:

    *sniff* no mac version.

    • Mac says:

      They blew the budget on donuts, so could not afford a Mac to develop it on … plus the one button mouse confused them …

  11. Nyst says:

    Anyone else not getting anything when clicking the ‘INSTALL GAME’ button?

  12. Unaco says:

    It’s still in Alpha, and they’re releasing it? Is that what happened to Challenger?

    • Unaco says:

      Seriously though… Had a quick 10 minute spin. Joined a server halfway through, so was just pootling around, welding a few things here and there… So I didn’t get a chance to see how the whole scenario plays out. Was fun though, got some communication going, I was luckily by the equipment trailer when some tools where required, so I could do something useful.

  13. Chalee says:

    Walking on the mooooon (guitar jangle)

    • Paul B says:

      Extra points if the game contains this song, or The Whole of the Moon, or Pink Moon or Moonraker.

  14. Oddtwang says:

    We’re whalers on the moon
    We carry a harpoon
    But there ain’t no whales
    So we tell tall tales
    and sing our whaling tune.

    • YogSo says:

      The Spanish dub of that song says:

      Somos marineros
      Llevamos arpones
      Mas como en la Luna
      No hay ballenas
      Cantamos canciones

      It’s one of my favourites from the series :)

  15. Boldoran says:

    Whalers ON THE MOON On a more serious note, I am all for space travel but what would be gained by having a base on the moon? I mean until we can cost efficently send stuff there and back there is not much point in doing it. Maybe you could get some information about the effects of low gravity on the human body but I assume one can study that on the ISS too. And biodomes or whatever the spacehouses are called are tested probably cheaper in the antarctic or in some desert.
    So it would pretty much just be a proof of concept.
    I think the resources would be better invested in inventing a next generation propulsion system or in robots that can build a station for humans out of moonrocks.

    Well making an MMOG ON THE MOON is good too

    • Sunjumper says:

      The moon is the gateway to space.
      Especially if they found water there it would become the staging ground for missions to other planets (Mars) and the more promising moons (Europa).

    • Boldoran says:

      Yeah I can see that a base on the moon would make sense if the base is advanced enough. But for it to be a staging ground for other missions there would have to be factories there that produce fuel / water / food and spaceship parts. Because if you had to bring everything from Earth anyway then it would be cheaper to just assemble the interplanetary spaceship in earth orbit.

      So before we try to build mining and production facilities on the moon we should test them out in a desert first since there is a much bigger margin for error there. (Maybe the technology already exists and they are doing just that. I don’t really know)

    • thebigJ_A says:

      They recently discovered large deposits of ice near the moon’s pole. Water is important bacause A.) you don’t have to bring it from Earth, so the base is nearly self-sustaining, and B.) if you seperat water, you get hydrogen and oxygen, in other words ROCKET FUEL!. It’s also much easier to send expeditions to, say, Mars from the moon, because you don’t need to fight Earh’s gravity.

      More importantly, it turns out that the Moon is COVERED in helium-3. He3 is almost non-existant on Earth, but it is essentially a perfect source of clean fusion energy. If we could find a way to harvest it cheaply from Luna, we’d be set!

  16. Recomposer says:

    Button Moonbase Alpha next please

  17. Torgen says:

    Ok, who’s hosting Moonrock, Paper, Shotgun?

    • Torgen says:

      MoonbaseRPS is open for business. I am, of course, dooming them all to suffocating death, being by myself at the moment.

      Password is “noiron”

    • caesarbear says:

      password did not work :(

    • Torgen says:

      Ok, I un-passworded it, but there seems to be some problem with hosting a game. Both a friend and I tried to host a game, and it reported the IP as 192.168.1.***, and says server not responding.

      (sad moon panda) :(

    • Torgen says:

      MoonbaseRPS Is OPEN!

      I had to forward ports on the router manually. No password right now, I’ll be on for another couple rounds.

    • Premium User Badge

      JB says:

      Rock, Paper, Spaceman

    • Premium User Badge

      Jerricho says:

      I’m glad RPS is represented in the top 20 then. How on earth do you get your time down below 9 minutes though?

  18. GreatUncleBaal says:

    Just spent nearly an hour buggering about fixing things, quite immersive actually. The woman in the MOONBASE was quite calm as the oxygen leaked away – I was waiting for her to say “yes, going for a spin in the moon rover is fun, but could you come and fix our pipes BEFORE WE ALL DIE?”

    • JonFitt says:

      Astronauts are hardcore. She would just calmly inform you that the oxygen had all gone.

    • dragon_hunter21 says:

      Actually, if you don’t get the air supply fixed in time, your superior chastises you… For making them miss a day of work.

      Astronauts ARE hardcore.

    • user@example.com says:

      Dwarves, on the moon. Presumably they figured out how to really use all that uranium and built a pusher plate underneath their mountain.

  19. Cooper says:

    A non-violent, repair-puzzles, cooperation heavy space MMO?

    Anyone else getting mourning pangs for the loss of SeeD?

  20. Inigo says:

    So when do you get to meet the Toast King?

  21. Jannakar says:

    More of this sort of thing please.

    I would like to see is a game that tries to capture the vast pyramid of human activity that astronauts sit on top of as well as the actual tedium of manned spaceflight. Sorry, that should read EXCITING AND DYNAMIC CHALLENGE OF SPACE EXPLORATION.

  22. JonFitt says:

    So is it all happy 3rd person, or does it attempt to recreate the claustrophobia of being in a limited-vision, cumbersome space suit with only your breathing and the radio for sound?

    • dragon_hunter21 says:

      Yeah, it’s all 3rd person. At least, I didn’t hit a first-person key during my mad flailings. I don’t remember if there’s ambient music or not. I DO remember that there’s an option to remove non-realistic sounds- and I remember it making no difference at all.

      They did get one thing right (unintentionally, I hope)- It is absolutely impossible to pick up something right next to or in front of you. Also, the rover gets stuck whenever it damn well pleases, and it’s all but impossible to control under any sort of lag. So I guess that’s realistic too. Sucks, though.

    • JonFitt says:

      So the mouse wheel zooms in to first person, but the first person view is not anything special. There’s no visor tint or other effects.
      Also the sound is not that realistic. Even with realistic turned on I can hear other people’s footsteps!

      But, I’M ON THE MOON!

    • Urthman says:

      You’re hearing the vibrations transmitted from their feet, through the rock, to your feet.

  23. Paul B says:

    Please, please have Clangers in this game, or failing that let me visit Mr Spoon.

  24. Waltorious says:

    Chavs In Space would be an amazing game. Let’s make it happen people!

    • JonFitt says:

      Unfortunately my first experience in this game was CHAVS IN SPAAAAACE!
      Some guy unplugged all the hoses, moved them about, and then drove off in the rover.

  25. Picklesworth says:

    You are in luck!

    Try Orbiter, over here: http://orbit.medphys.ucl.ac.uk/home.php
    Just released the latest version last month.

    It doesn’t have outstanding visuals (and don’t try doing anything fancy on land, or flying into things; both will make you sad). However, the important part is the flight flight mechanics, which are beautifully sophisticated. There are also lots and lots of addons, including really faithful recreations of the Apollo missions.
    Launching something into orbit should keep you well enough occupied, and it’s amazingly satisfying to finally do it.

    What we really need is somebody to make Orbiter but with a huge team of awesome developers and artists (and a persistent world), instead of just one awesome developer. Orbiter should keep you occupied until that happens :)

  26. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    Why can’t you talk to the mechanical, mission-jeopardizing dangers?

  27. Horatius says:

    This is making me envision a moon total conversion for Minecraft… MOONCRAFT!

  28. Ricc says:

    Sounds interesting, although even after looking at the game on Steam and reading your impressions, I’m still not sure what you are actually doing in it. Good thing it’s free! Will check it out… on the moon!

    Also,

  29. Torgen says:

    “I have no time for flatulence and orgasms!!”

    -The King of the Moon

  30. Rob2984 says:

    I can’t belive it’s been 35 (!) years and only now we get to go back to the moon.

    And also, it’s a game.

    Wake up, NASA, come on! I want my future!

  31. godwin says:

    Oh yes, reinforcing the myth of American hegemony.

  32. Spectre-7 says:

    So, this is like The Last Starfighter, right? If I’m totally awesome at the game, do I get to go to the Moon?

  33. CharmingCharlie says:

    This is so fake, you are not building a moon colony in this game. If you look closely you can see the stage hand moving props in the background. I can’t believe NASA tried to pass this off as a moon building MMO. It is clearly a “fake moon colony building MMO set in a hanger at Area 51″, shame on them for trying to fool us like this.

    Now where did I put my tin foil hat ?

    • Kurt Lennon says:

      Comic genius. Bravo! And so original too!

      People who think the moon landings were hoaxed must be mentally retarded! Let’s all gather together and laugh at them!

      I love groupthink. :D

    • Harlander says:

      Don’t let Buzz Aldrin hear you say that, Kurt..

    • Muzman says:

      You’re both sorta right. There’s no need to laugh at the Moon Hoax crowd. Punching is also a great option.

    • Premium User Badge

      oceanclub says:

      “People who think the moon landings were hoaxed must be mentally retarded! ”

      It’s worse than that – at least the mentally-retarded have a genuine excuse.

      It’s also group-think that the Earth orbits the Sun.

      P.

  34. Robsoie says:

    Maybe not outstanding, but Orbiter can have very good visuals with just a few of the billions of addons available.
    While on orbit around good old Earth i had some awe inspiring view with the latest Earth level11/14 texture package.

    But anyways, if you’re interested by very good space (and atmospheric too) simulation, get Orbiter 2010 released last month.
    It’s good, it’s a simulator, it’s a sandbox the size of the solar system (and beyond with some addons).

    Don’t worry about the obvious steep learning curve, the internet is filled with very good and detailled tutorial that will get you in orbit and beyond in no time.

  35. Bassism says:

    Man, the first thing I thought when I heard about this was “I really need to play orbiter again.” Then I was saddened by the fact that there hasn’t been a release in ages. Of course, I never actually went to the site.

    *goes to see what is new and exciting in Orbiter 2010*

    • EthZee says:

      Ooh, you’re going to be pleased.

      Yes, let me add my support to the people talking about Orbiter. It really is very good. It’s technical, and a bit fiddly (a lot fiddly) but it’s just very neat.

      And it’ll run on a piddly laptop, and whilst it’s not UE3 it does have some fairly nice graphics.

      Let me recommend the mods from Dan Steph; his Sound mod, well, adds sound (it’s not there by default); he has a very in-depth spaceplane (with THREE SCREENS OF BUTTONS); and his latest mod, UCGO, adds lunar rovers and a giant space-freighter.

      SPAAAACE

  36. Moonracer says:

    I think it would be rather cool if something like this not only increased interest in real space travel but eventually made some sort of profit for NASA.

    • jonfitt says:

      Yeah, unfortunately the average profits from a game would equate to lunch money in NASA terms.
      You’re not going to be buying a lunar rover with it.

  37. Al3xand3r says:

    Way too simplistic. Not really a sim at all, very gamey instead, everything is done with simple, intuitive commands and what not. It’s cool just to see it since it’s pretty well made but after that it’s just the same thing over and over again, there’s nothing really fun about it. It would work well as some kind of new mode in Shattered Horizons that still has all the firefights while you also get support troops trying to complete objectives like these for their team, which means the others have to defend them and attack the support troops of the enemy team, but stand alone, not great.

  38. Jason Lefkowitz says:

    There was also Outpost, which was supposed to be a hard-science space colonization sim but turned out instead to just be a buggy mess.

  39. yns88 says:

    At least on the moon bunnyhopping is a realistic way of getting from one place to another.

  40. Zanchito says:

    The game is enjoyable with friends, I hope they develop more maps & situations over time. I’m certainly interested in Astronaut: Moon, Mars & Beyond, which is the hard-sci NASA MMO about space colonization we’re waiting for!

  41. spinks says:

    Aww, can’t get it to run on my PC. And I wanted to be a moon engineer in a game ;/

  42. CMaster says:

    Played it last night with a friend on voicecomms, 2 player scenario.
    Was actually pretty interesting, solved the leak with about 5 minutes to go.

  43. Xercies says:

    Giant steps are what we take…walking on the MOON.

    if you believe they put a man on the MOON

    I’ll see you on the dark side of the MOON

    etc.

  44. Cyrille Hydrogene says:

    Outpost ! I had so much expectations for that game, and it was SO disappointing. I really wanted to love it, but really couldn’t. I guess it was my first big gaming desillusion.
    Anyone interested in making Outpost 2 ?

    • Cyrille Hydrogene says:

      That was a reply to Jason, who intended his reply to be for Sparvy… Do I see a trend her?

  45. Paul Graham says:

    Then do it. Help build a real moon base! How? Go to OpenLuna.org. They are a Privately funded, open source, international return man to the moon mission. They are really going to do it, and everyone can participate.

    “Your Moon, Your Mission, Get involved.”

  46. Torgen says:

    I miss Project Space Station, which I played on my Apple II. I wonder if it counts as abandonware, and is available anywhere now?

  47. vader says:

    All your moonbase are belong to us.

  48. KillyBilly says:

    Give that man a T-shirt, he wins the thread!