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Video Game / Moonbase Alpha

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The oxygen generating machine and several solar energy panels for a lunar colony has become damaged in a meteor shower. A team of astronauts are sent to fix the damage done as fast as possible, or else the colony's air supply will run out. However, maintaining control of the situation proves difficult at first, as several of the components crucial to the operation of the colony's life support systems are heavily damaged, and some are outright broken. It will take all their training to fix this mess before the colony runs out of air and time.

Moonbase Alpha, a game developed by the makers of America's Army and published by NASA, intends to be a simulation of what the normal missions of an astronaut would be in a rather dire futuristic situation and to give people a chance to stomp about on the moon in the boots of an astronaut. Reactions were mixed, although the game does seem to provide its dual purpose of amusement and slight education (or wish fulfillment). The game is also infamous for an option to turn on a Stephen Hawking-esque voice synthesizer program, the abuse of which became wildly popular (and, unintentionally, the game's biggest attraction).

The game was released on July 6th, 2010 for PCs, and can be downloaded from Steam for free. It is notable for being one of the first free games on Steam that wasn't a Game Mod.

There was also an update to the game that added a two-team mode set for nighttime missions. Things can become... very interesting.

This game provides examples of:

  • Artistic License Space: Mostly averted. NASA wanted to provide as realistic a simulation as possible while not forsaking the fun.
    • The game also includes the option to turn off sound effects such as welding, robots or buggies (at least on the outside). The sound of player's breathing and stepping remains.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Typing "EST PST CST MST EST PST CST MST" in the chat will cause the text-to-speech to become severely glitchy until the game is restarted. At first it causes a series of loud beeping but this can actually cause the server to crash and even players' computers running the game to crash, as demonstrated. Supposedly (according to a comment on that video), this is because the TTS recognizes abbreviations and replaces them with the full version (as demonstrated in the video, "CA" is interpreted as "California"), but "Eastern Standard Time Pacific Standard Time Central Standard Time Mountain Standard Time Eastern Standard Time Pacific Standard Time Central Standard Time Mountain Standard Time" is significantly longer than what the game expects, leading to a buffer overflow.
  • Harsh Vocals: Courtesy of the speech synthesizer, which can accept specifications for duration and pitch along with things to say. Players cheerfully use this capability to serenade one another with everything from popular music to the Soviet national anthem, like Spooky Scary Skeletons to the Imperial March.
  • Hearing Voices: A symptom of Madness Dementia. For example, you might hear a woman saying that she's not crazy, no.
  • Inherently Funny Words: Aeiou.
  • No Seat Belts: Your astronaut's backpack instead clamps into the lunar buggy. This somehow allows them to control it. This is actually a proposed concept as a replacement to an airlock, the astronaut in question clamps the suit on and does indeed slide out through the back of the suit.
  • Press X to Not Die: Repairing circuitry in good time requires you to perform a small minigame to bypass unnecessary circuits when welding.
  • Race Against the Clock: If you don't restore functionality in time, the colony and the research involved with it goes down.
  • Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: Exclamation point, question mark? The chat is prone to reading symbols as-is.
  • Sanity Slippage: This happens in the two-team mode for night missions, dubbed "Madness Dementia".
  • Shout-Out: The game's title is a reference to Space: 1999.
  • Shown Their Work: It's made by NASA itself, so it's a very accurate game.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: A filter turns most swears into *** (which the text-to-speech reads out as "asterisks"). It doesn't catch phonetic soundalikes like "phuck", however.
  • Synthetic Voice Actor: Available as an option in the chat window. Griefing ensues. Or singing.