A director faces many interesting decisions: lander type (Eagle/Duet vs. Cricket/L-3); Lunar-Orbital Rendezvous (LOR) vs. Earth-Orbital Rendezvous (EOR); and exactly how to get to the Moon: two-, three-, or four-person capsule, reusable three-person shuttle, or the science-fictional Direct Ascent? When do you research what? What hardware do you need? How much will it cost? You face the same choices the United States and the USSR faced, and in making decisions you start to understand why history played out as it did.
There has never been another computer game like BARIS. It is innovative, balanced and highly replayable, but complex and extremely hard to win. It appeared first on floppy disk, and proved so difficult, the CD-ROM version the following year reduced the chances of mission failure.
Nowadays, that's not the game's only tricky aspect. The BARIS copyright has reverted to the designers, who have made the game freely available. (Abandonware sites usually offer just the floppy version, but the CD-ROM version includes scarce archival video footage of actual launches, so get it if you can.) But BARIS is for MS-DOS only. The players who couldn't run the game back in 1993, because they lacked a CD-ROM drive, now can't run it from (so to speak) the other direction. Setting it up under a modern Windows installation requires a DOS emulator and lots of finicky attention.
Yet fans still cherish BARIS. Leon Badarat maintains a fan site with all kinds of emulator tips, background, and useful material. It's a Geocities site, so if you get bandwidth limit errors, be patient. The website, The Space Race, has an active forum discussion of BARIS. There's also a Sourceforge project to recreate the game for modern platforms, but it appears to have stalled.
Could there ever be a commercial remake or spiritual sequel? In today's market, the idea is increasingly unlikely. A small group of players passionately loves the game, but a mass audience would be only mildly interested - not unlike the way America's diehard community of space enthusiasts cannot overcome general public apathy toward the space program. NASA wants to spend 100 billion dollars and 12 years to return astronauts to the moon, but the political will for this remains unclear. Some people do get excited about private companies striving to reach low-Earth orbit, such as Armadillo Aerospace, co-founded by DOOM and Quake programmer John Carmack. But without a compelling vision and a worthy opponent, most people appear unwilling to imagine reaching for the stars, either in a game or in reality.
Buzz Aldrin's Race Into Space, like the space race itself, proved a magnificent dead end.
Allen Varney is a freelance writer and game designer based in Austin, Texas. His published work includes six books, three board games, and nearly two dozen role-playing game supplements.