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Feature: First look at NASA's Unreal Engine 3 based MMO Two

Khal Shariff, CEO of Project Whitecard, used the following example as a challenge gamers might face on the moon.

"What do you do when someone is injured in space out on the surface of the moon?" asked Shariff. "One answer is a rover that can be used as an ambulance. Players will have all of these different components, like a LEGO or Erector set, to build an ambulance that would work on the moon. The idea is you don't want the patient if they are injured bouncing all over the back of this thing as you tumble across the moon. You have to create as smooth of a ride as possible."

"I played America's Army the month it was released and I've been following their development story ever since," said Laughlin. "Institutionally speaking, I believe the existence of America's Army has made it easier for NASA as a government agency, to consider and accept the idea of a NASA-based game."

Sonny Kirkley, Ph.D., CEO of Information in Place and adjunct assistant professor, School of Informatics, Indiana University, said there will be a very strong community element to the game. Players will be able to colonize planets and even run for mayor of Mars.

"We're giving players the ability to create and populate their own outposts and bases, fabricate and manufacture their own equipment, get vehicle spacecraft and robotic accreditation," said Kirkley. "As players progress on their career paths and accrue more skills, they'll earn the ability to use advanced personal gear like exoskeleton suits."

The multiplayer aspect of the gameplay will facilitate clusters of 30 to 50 players at a time to work together on various activities, all connected to the same back end database which will track player state, statistics and zones. Special gameplay areas will be set up to facilitate much larger numbers of concurrent players ( outpost common areas, L-5 space colonies). Heneghan said players will have the freedom to do what they want within this game. There will be full voice-over IP support for real-time communication in the game.

"Players will be driven by the opportunity to earn skill and experience points, level up their characters and unlock new things to see and do... We'll have challenging individual and team missions integrated into the gameplay said Heneghan. We intend to encourage exploration through gorgeous immersive, highly interactive environments that will portray the many challenges awaiting us in the future robotic and human exploration of space...

Heneghan reinforced the notion that Unreal Engine 3 is perfect for this game because it easily allows players to build their own creations, including robots, spacecraft and space habitats. This game will also offer gamers a look back at the history of NASA. The team is working on historical missions that will allow gamers to relive things like the Apollo missions from a first-person perspective – something no Hollywood film or Discovery Channel documentary can compete with.

Heneghan added that the ultimate goal of his team is to inspire generations of future space explorers...and encourage game players to pursue careers on science, math and engineering careers. "Whether players are youngsters, college students or adults, people who play this game are going to actually learn about space exploration science and have a lot of fun while doing it."

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