NASA has made a multiplayer moon base simulation game available for free via the Steam digital distribution platform.
The game features single and cooperative multiplayer support with up to six players discussing their life and death lunar mission via voice communications either via a LAN or via the Internet.
The setting of the game assumes that NASA has again landed on the lunar surface but this time with the goal of colonization, research, and further exploration. True to the title the objective is to establish an outpost on the south pole of the moon called Moonbase Alpha.
Players must utilise solar energy and regolith processing in order to allow the moonbase to become self-sufficient with the ultimate aim of further expansion and colonisation.
"In Moonbase Alpha, you assume the exciting role of an astronaut working to further human expansion and research. Returning from a research expedition, you witness a meteorite impact that cripples the life support capability of the settlement. With precious minutes ticking away, you and your team must repair and replace equipment in order to restore the oxygen production to the settlement."
Faced with relentless budget cuts in the aftermath of the financial crisis, it could be that Moonbase Alpha is thought of as a grass roots marketing campaign designed to rekindle interest in NASA's hugely expensive manned space program. If this is what it takes, good on them.
Take note, however, the game recommends 4GB of RAM, 2.4GHz dual-core CPU and an Nvidia 9000+ or ATI 3600+ graphics card although it will run on as little as 2GB of RAM and a single core 2GHz CPU. Windows XP or higher is required.
Picture credit: NASA & Valve