All of you who are familiar with ‘Microsoft Sam’ will appreciate the hilarity that ensues after typing in a few rude words. For those who have passed through life without this joy, it is a robotic voice that reads whatever you type in. It has been featured on many machinimas including the very popular Halo-based series “Arby 'n' The Chief”. Giggling to yourself at home whilst entering expletives is extremely amusing and we have all at some point asked ourselves whether someone could create a way that it could be experienced with friends. Thankfully, NASA have risen to the occasion.
The developers of the FPS ‘America’s Army’ also made a moon simulator. Moonbase Alpha was released on Steam about a year ago and like America’s Army, it was released for free. NASA themselves say that it is a “Realistic simulation of life on a natural satellite”. The press releases at the time discussed how the player must take control of an outpost on the moon and save research during a meteor strike. Now I’m not sure about you but that sounds incredible. That is until you load it up. On not one occasion have I seen a meteor hit the moon as we rush around in moon buggies trying to save valuable data! The tasks the game asks you to do: ‘mend a canister’ or ‘weld an oxygen tube’ aren’t exactly riveting. (See what I did there? I’ll stop…) But what saves this game from the scrapheap are two features every single game should have.
1) Multiplayer. Yes a pretty common sight in modern games but Moonbase Alpha wouldn’t be half as good if you couldn’t share the crazy experiences and witticisms that the game brings, with your friends.
2) Text-to-Speech. This needs to be in EVERY game. Imagine watching a Starcraft II game between some top end MLG players and seeing ‘SOISOISOISOISOI’ read out on the chat by a robot. Ruin the immersion? Spoil the seriousness? Balls to that, this would add hilarity to a slow fight. Although how a Starcraft II player could type that out whilst performing several hundred APM I have no idea.
We all have those great moments in gaming. Realising you can buy a room for the night, sit down and read a book in Oblivion; firing a gnome into space in HL2 or hearing ‘Still Alive’ for the first time in Portal. Well, finding a small glitch on the moon enabling us to jump off into the unrendered world falling indefinitely with several friends whilst hearing Microsoft Sam saying rude words which you can hardly hear over friend’s laughter. That is a moment in gaming not to be forgotten.
Fun? Unbelievable.(Video of this moment - captured for prosperity)