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Video Game / Buzz Aldrin Race Into Space

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Buzz Aldrin's Race Into Space, frequently abbreviated BARIS, is a 1993 space simulation and strategy game for MS-DOS. The player takes the role of Administrator of NASA or head of the Soviet space program with the ultimate goal of being the first nation to conduct a successful manned moon landing. A creator-approved open version (titled simply Race Into Space) has since been released, adding support for Macintosh and Linux.

It is Nintendo Hard. If that doesn't discourage you, you can download the free version at its SourceForge page. There's also a commercial Updated Re-release, Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager, currently in development by Slitherine Ltd.


Tropes for This Game Include:

  • Alternate History: The game attempts to explore not only the historical route to the moon (capsule and lander launched on a single rocket) but also several other methods that had been proposed, along with some programs that either were never used or weren't used during the time period.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Moon footage is a mixture of Apollo 11 and 15, even if relating to the landings of Soviets, single person landers, direct ascent capsules or robotic probes.
  • Anyone Can Die: Don't get too attached to your astronauts (including Aldrin himself, or for that matter, future administrator of NASA Richard H Truly). A small fault in the rocket can send them on a one-way trip to Arlington Cemetery (or the Kremlin Wall, if you're Russian).
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Minishuttles. They're a leapfrog into next-generation technology with three-man teams and reusable craft! They also do absolutely nothing that the more practical two-man capsule can't do, and they lack the equipment (kicker and docking module) built into the three-man craft (e.g. the Apollo capsule). In the SourceForge version, they are reusable (even when they blow up, you still have the same number in stock), but take more turns to research, add to this that they need a Saturn V or joint launch to lift off with any additional equipment.
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    • Direct Ascent. Bang, zoom, straight to the moon! But the required vehicle and rocket are horribly expensive, especially if you're not using an intermediate capsule (which has its own problems). It's potentially the quickest and easiest path to the moon due to the lack of moving parts, but it's not a viable strategy unless you get an early lead that lets you fund it.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The game designers tried to follow historical patterns and extrapolations wherever possible, but sometimes fudged things to make a better game, or to encourage trade-offs between programs that were, in real life, not comparable; in particular, the BARIS version of the Voskhod (an altered Vostok craft created mainly so the Soviets can beat the Americans to having EVAs and multi-man crews) is made a parallel to the Gemini capsule (a strictly 2-person capsule designed to allow dockings, EVAs, space missions longer than 1 week and could theoretically be used for Moon landings), which is actually an apples-and-oranges comparison.
    • For playability reasons, the Soviet space program actually has its act together and is no more politically-challenged than the American program. There's one leader and one design bureau, instead of the Interservice Rivalry-laden mess that the Soviets actually had, and Korolov doesn't die in midgame.
  • Boring, but Practical: For the Americans, Gemini. It's a workhorse capsule that can do just about anything short of a moon shot on its own - and even a moon shot, if you want to fiddle with some expensive additional equipment. It's also much cheaper than doing everything with Apollo. (Voskhod is really not reliable enough to say the same.)
  • Copy Protection: If you fail to input the correct answer (from the Feelies, or downloaded from some site), the game will let you keep playing...but any manned mission will suffer a catastrophic rocket failure. The free version thankfully drops this entirely.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: Can be played straight if you use the basic model. Otherwise, both sides have slightly different technology that leads to subtle differences in strategy. In fact, pages 29-31 of the manual treat various pieces of US and Soviet space equipment as equivalents.
  • High Turnover Rate: Expect to need to recruit new astronauts:
  • Historical In-Joke:
    • If you are unlucky, your research would be hampered by a top rocket designer dying in surgery. This is one of the many factors that screwed up the Soviets' real-life attempt at a moon mission as this was the fate of the aforementioned rocket designer Sergey Korolov.
    • Neil Armstrong will always have 4 for Capsule Piloting, as well as being a Jack-of-All-Stats, unlike some other astronauts who are either shop fodder or suffering from crippling overspecialization. This is partly based on Armstrong's fame but mostly on Aldrin's real life views that Armstrong was "a true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew".
  • Just Plane Wrong: Extended to spacecraft and zigzagged:
  • Luck-Based Mission: Missions are fire-and-forget, though you can up the odds by doing all of your research before launching the mission. Then there's the chance that a small fault in a certain piece of technology causes a fatal disaster, meaning that you have to re-research it from square one.
    • You also get points for having women go to space and survive. Regardless of who you play as, there is the chance that The Government will never legalize women in space.
    • Getting a half-off sale just when you need to prototype something is a sign that this game, you might end up going Direct Ascent.
    • Depending on the level you play as, a safety factor of 80%, for example, suggests that this certain piece of equipment works 4 out of every 5 times, but higher levels tend to give de facto reliability far below the safety factor.
    • That safety factor is rolled for each stage of the mission that uses that piece of equipment. The simplest sub-orbital mission has, this troper thinks, 3 stages. You need all three to succeed to get credit for the mission (and not kill anyone, if crewed) - with an 80% safety factor, you have just above even odds of pulling it off. Later, more complex, missions get worse.
    • Spy agencies play a big, but luck based role in game. On one hand, your country's spies can steal your opponents blueprints and thus improve equipment reliability and save on research spending. On the other hand, your opponent's spy agencies may be caught working in your space programs and falsifying results, leading to a need to spend money on re-researching equipment, lest you suffer the consequences of unreliable equipment.
  • The Many Deaths of You: There are a lot of ways to kill the crew members. One of the more obscure ways is having an astronaut on the moon trip and break his visor.
  • Nintendo Hard: Because of the mechanics of the mission failure system, there is a fairly high chance of failing a mission, especially the more complex missions like the Moon landing, even under ideal circumstances. Since mission failure is harshly punished, especially if it involves crew death, this means that it is not unlikely to have significant setbacks even very late in the game. Additionally, higher difficulty levels avoids punishing the AI's failures.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The news announcer for the Americans is a certain Carter Walkrite.
  • Offered the Crown: Achieving victory as the Soviet space program before 1969 means that you get a spot on the Politburo. Achieving it by 1966 (as the AI sometimes does) makes you a "potential successor to Brezhnev" and the victory screen tells you straight up: "Beware of your enemies!"
  • Officially Shortened Title: The open source version of the game drops the "Buzz Aldrin" bit, probably for licensing reasons.
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: Capsule piloting is the most important stat by far, especially in the early game, since it provides the largest bonus to mission success. Conversely, Endurance is the most useless, with even some of the programmers not sure if it actually does anything!
  • Retirony: Astronauts may announce their retirement 2 turns early to give you warning time. This gives players time to put them on one last mission, and this trope applies if the mission gets the retiring astronauts killed. This can also happen without the player's actions if the astronaut announces retirement and gets killed in one of several potential accidents shortly afterwards.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Rockets are THE ultimate incendiary exponent. Go Figure:
  • Unstable Equilibrium: You get prestige from mission success - particularly getting to a milestone ahead of the enemy. Prestige means a bigger budget, which means you can afford to run safer missions faster, which means you're likely to hit more milestones and get more prestige. To rub salt into the wound, the Direct Ascent route to the moon is something you do if you get a commanding lead in the early game - it's the simple way, and in some ways the easiest way, but it's Awesome, but Impractical if you don't start with a lot of banked prestige and preferably half-off prototypes.
  • Updated Re-release: Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager, which is both clearly inspired by the original BARIS and also being developed with Aldrin himself as a consultant. It also introduces several new features, such as the removal of the "race" aspect by allowing you to play as the "Global Space Agency" with access to US and Soviet technology and short- and long-term goals to meet. The initial release only focuses on the race to the moon, but the developers have stated that the goal is to add, through content updates, programs all the way up to the present day and beyond, included manned missions to Mars.
  • What Could Have Been: In-Universe, Several plausible scenarios are possible:

Alternative Title(s): Race Into Space