So, NASA's making an MMO. It's gonna suck.
Hey now, I'm not just being a jerk. I'm not just reveling in making asinine and obvious predictions. I want to talk about why, because that's where lessons can be learned.
The problem with these sorts of games are that they are "checklist games". It's not just NASA: most of these sorts of games are built this way, no matter who sponsors them. They're made by making a big list of all the stuff the group considers cool, and then sticking that stuff in the game. In this case, NASA's list will include "doing experiments on the space station", "launching in a rocket", "driving a buggy", and "space walks", along with a few dozen others. Not ALL of these things will make it into the game, probably, but the game is driven by this list.
The problem is that this kind of design doesn't lend itself to having an actual GAME anywhere.
This can sometimes work out if the things described are part of a complex, interactive system. For example, the military can make a military training sim that's somewhat fun to play because we know how to simulate and interact with the idea of people running around trying to kill other people.
But being an astronaut is not part of a complex, interactive system. Astronauts live remarkably uninteresting lives. The reason it's enticing is because it's on a frontier, not because of the amazingly exciting lifestyle of exercising three hours a day and spending ten more hours tweaking experiments.
There is no easy way to make the life of an astronaut an interesting thing to a gamer. This is why most such games focus on the things around the astronaut, like the space stations or crafts. You can create a fun, interactive system based around piloting a craft or building a station. Not so easy to make a fun, interactive system based entirely around fetch quests.
You can argue that the Sims made an interesting game out of this idea, but I would argue that (A) the gameplay was actually mediocre, (B) it was still more interactive than the life of an astronaut, and (C) you controlled a fair number of Sims simultaneously.
Now, it's possible to have mediocre, shallow gameplay and still have a fun game. The Sims is one example of this, and every MMO on the market is another. However, these games make up for their gameplay with their metagame aspects - they give the player a huge amount of freedom.
Being an astronaut in the realistic world of NASA is absolutely the opposite of freedom. Not only does mission control script out your life by the minute, but it's actually scripted out weeks in advance. Talk about freedom of choice!
Now, it's possible to make a near-future space-themed MMO that is interesting. However, it would require abandoning the NASA theme. NASA won't do that. It would also require some pretty fancy footwork in terms of game design, and NASA is nimble like a brick. Glued to a table.
Unless NASA is making a very new kind of MMO or abandoning their NASA theme entirely, it is simply impossible for their MMO to be any good. It HAS to suck.