I attended the NASA MMO Workshop on Monday in Baltimore. I have a few comments on it that I’m going to post here, but first, I want to point you to my blog post over at killtenrats.com There is a lot of misreporting about the NASA RFI/RFP and the project in general, and I thought it would be better to comment on that over there (more traffic hah).
Anyway, my overall analysis is that more than half of the attendees simply did not pay attention to either the original RFI, the website, or even the slides shown at the workshop. I guess everyone was expecting NASA to cut a fat check to fund a whole MMORPG and get a free ride. I was surprised at how few people there still seemed excited and full of ideas by early afternoon and the sheer amount of whining and complaining people who just didn’t get it. Not really shocking I guess if you have had any experience working in the industry. I complain about the stupidity a lot, and there is good reason for it. I’m not just being bitter, I speak from experience.
So, if you can look beyond the misinformation and all of the “space cadets” out there, the NASA MMO project is actually a pretty sweet opportunity for the right company, consortium, or team of people.
I think the larger picture here is the chance to do something entirely different than the usual generic crap the game industry has been feeding us, and really make a difference. It isn’t every day that you get an opportunity to get deep access to NASA like this for one thing…and second, Space is one of those things that has a vast potential to really captivate the imagination. If done right, NASA and their partner could have a real blockbuster on their hands, as well as the chance to really make a difference and inspire kids and teenagers to aspire to greater things.
It won’t take $50M or $500M to make a solid successful MMORPG, and there are probably a dozen non-game industry companies that would be more than happy to join a consortium and provide funding…for either a percentage of the royalties, or simply the chance to contribute to a worthy educational effort (tax deductible maybe? or purely for the PR?).
The big risk here isn’t the business model, or even the graphic engine, but rather how fun and engaging it will be. There are half a dozen ways to approach this (I have my own ideas here, and yes, I have a team that is submitting a proposal…we welcome any interest in partnering from developers, publishers, or aerospace companies interested in funding)…the trick is to make it fun and engaging without *directly* teaching (no one wants homework right?). Also, scripted repetitive quests are a no-no. While there should be some guidance and direction, there has to be an equal amount of “sandbox” and freedom to experiment. And finally, the winner here will have a easy to use intuitive suite of tools that any educator or game designer wannabe can use to make their own content, missions, whatever.
Facilitate! Learning will occur on its own in the right environment with the right content. Don’t shove it down the player’s throats, and make it fun. I guarentee that the market is actually larger than just high school kids, particularly if it is designed *properly*.
Maybe we will get lucky and my team will get a shot at this. We have been building a killer platform (for augmented reality, mmorpgs, virtual worlds, and simulations) that would make this NASA project just SING. Seriously. I really want to talk more about the tech, but I can’t (at least not yet).
Ah well. Soon enough my friends, soon enough.
I’m going to be out of town for most of the next two weeks. I’ll blog more when I can.