RALEIGH, NC — In collaboration with NASA, Virtual Heroes — a North Carolina based serious video game developer — built a full-featured, space-exploration game called Moonbase Alpha and chose Unreal Engine 3 for the project. The game focuses on a fictional lunar outpost in the year 2025, following a meteor strike. Players must work together in an immersive 3D setting to repair damage to the base.
The game was released on STEAM in July 2010 and had more than 300,000 downloads in the first three months.
The compelling graphics and interactive play are credited with attracting so many players. The development team used assets from NASA to develop many of the game's features. Virtual Heroes' founder Jerry Heneghan said, "The advanced features in Unreal Engine 3 enabled us to model many of the complex features that you will find in the game. We show tanks leaking oxygen using particle effects, and also have robots with remote control displays. What do kids love more than space and remote-controlled robots? This game is fun and also allows kids to hone and practice their problem-solving and teaming skills."
With STEM education a hot topic in recent years, NASA wanted an application that encouraged public interest in space technology, inspired students to investigate STEM careers, and ultimately attracted young talent to their workforce. Additionally, this game was meant as a proof of concept for a larger space-themed MMO that is on the horizon. Heneghan adds "We pioneered a new game genre and proved that it can be both fun and educational."
_Moonbase Alpha_ was recognized at the 2010 Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), the world's largest such conference, as the Best Government Game.