After the announcement of the NASA Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG), whose first demo Moonbase Alpha is scheduled for public release in early 2010, also the European Space Agency is adopting virtual reality MMOG technology for space education and outreach. The first demo of a future ESA MMOG has been produced by Mindark with its Entropia Platform powered by Crytek's Cry Engine, possibly the most advanced game engine available at the moment. See the project video on Youtube. I recommend using Miro to download and watch it at full resolution. Another emerging MMOG platform based on Crytek's technology, Avatar Reality's Blue Mars, has recently raised additional capital.
As a person who has always been interested in space, and a former employee of the European Space Agency, I have been frustrated by the lack of rapid and radical progress in space. Where are the cities on the Moon and Mars that we were promised in the 60s? I believe space-themed MMOGs can contribute to radically improve space education, outreach and marketing, and make space "sexy" again, especially for younger people. This may re-ignite public support for space, which is a necessary condition for ambitious space projects.
European Space Agency - ESA Highlights Online Games as Key Future Technology: "Might ESA have something to learn from gaming? A new Agency study says the answer is yes. It comes from ESA's Technology Observatory, which is tasked with scanning non-space sectors to look for developments with potential for spin-in or joint research. The study, Online Game Technology for Space Education and System Analysis, looks at potential applications of different online game-playing technologies from the simplest content-oriented games through to Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) virtual worlds. The study highlights a number of ways in which these technologies could benefit ESA aims: immersive environments based on these technologies could enhance collaborative working of project scientists and engineers. It was also recognised that exciting online games could prove an excellent tool for promoting space and supporting the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths...". Also on SpaceRef and Space Daily.
Digital Producer Magazine - MMORPG and Virtual World Platform Provider MindArk Completes Online Games Study Contract for European Space Agency: "MindArk PE AB, developer and publisher of Entropia Universe and Entropia Platform, announced today that a study on the use of online game technology for space-related purposes has been completed. The contract for the study was awarded to MindArk by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2009 and a film presenting the main findings is published on YouTube... The study ("Online Game Technology for Space Education and System Analysis") was performed to assess options for the European Space Agency with regards to using online game technology, specifically in the areas of outreach/promotion, education and collaborative engineering...". Also on Mindark.
ITEspresso.fr - : "Le développeur de plate-forme de mondes virtuels et de MMORPG MindArk termine un contrat pour une étude sur les jeux en ligne pour l’Agence Spatiale Européenne: "L’étude, intitulée « Online Game Technology for Space Education and System Analysis » a été effectuée pour évaluer les options dont dispose l’Agence Spatiale Européenne en ce qui concerne l’utilisation de la technologie de jeu en ligne, en particulier dans les domaines de la diffusion/promotion, l’éducation et l’ingénierie collaborative. Pour illustrer la faisabilité des conclusions de l’étude, MindArk a produit un factice visuel basé sur un environnement de jeu en ligne dans Entropia Universe. Il est disponible sous forme de vidéo sur la chaîne de MindArk sur YouTube..."