I’ve talked about KSP before. But every so often it’s finally time to get around and talk about it again, but this game keeps updating, and every update is huge.
I’ve been playing KSP on and off since 0.12. I remember when it was big when the Mun came out, a couple (2 i think) years ago.
Since then, we now have not only about another 5 planets and their own moons as well as another kerbal based moon, we’ve also gained a Spaceplane hanger, lander gear, electricity, ion engines, the ability to have multiple missions running at once, and most recently and crucially, the ability to dock with other vessels mid flight, in the recently released 0.18 .
And whatever the developers release officially is usually lagging about 2 or 3 full versions after the games massive (compared to it’s player base) modding community. Everything from tractor beams to railguns to airships has been made up by these guys, rovers, water boats. After using the more high end and larger mods such as Laser and Mechjeb, i’m also amazed by their skill.
It’s a fairly rare game that does this. Granted KSP itself is a Very niche game, and due to the genre it could keep expanding indefinitely. Over the past few years i’ve had the enormous satisfaction of watching a game grow noticeably.
But what is KSP you ask.
Well KSP is quite simply, the best and most flexible space simulator game ever released. Ever.
Space simulators are quite an old genre. They really had their heyday back in the 80s and 90s, when the vast majority of people who owned a personal computer were in all probability a fairly massive space cadet as well. That demographic has shrunk, and the last true space simulators before KSP were released in the early noughties.
Most of the other members of the genre released recently have been either particularly technical “rogue trader” like space games, but by and large the actual space simulator, where you build and fly your own rocket, was mostly extinct before KSP came along.
And KSP realised the potential of a genre long thought to be a dinosaur. KSP exploited modern computing power to generate a more faithful physics model, used modern graphics to make it a lot friendlier to use, and then exploited the power of SDKs and modders to turn it into a tool for whatever people could think of.
And boy did they think of a lot.
This game however, is a Man’s space simulator. This is the Dwarf Fortress of Simulators. This is the Eve online of Space simulators. this is the game where you most likely spend your first few hours alternating between watching your first rockets explode on the ground and reading as many “how-to’s”, manuals, and instructions you can get your hands on while installing a few dozen add-ons (or mods) from various websites (although KSP’s official site, it’s own spaceport, while added long after other mod sites had sprung up, now takes the lion share of mods).
This game gives little ground. Once you finally manage to successfully launch a rocket off the pad, there’s an even chance that either the changes in airpressure, gravity, or the fact that your rocket gets more powerful (As you ascend, you burn fuel, therefore lose weight, and you get further out of the gravity well- along with the vanishing atmostphere this means much higher acceleration) will cause some thing crucial to break off and you can only watch as your ship does it’s own Challenger impersonation as fast as you can blink.
Get past that, and you may slowly but surely develop gyrations within your ship, that cause your rocket to either spin out of control, or shake bits of itself lose to either a crippling or firery conclusion. For those of you used to controlling a spaceship via a fighter style joystick, or through an easy to control interface via mouseclicks, that’s not how KSP works.
KSP doesn’t pretend that spaceships behave like they’re in atmosphere, or even the fluid mechanics model of EVE online. here they behave like they’re in space. And that means that everything you think you know about flying is wrong. This is the game where the slightest mistake can lead you to overshoot just ever so slightly, and waste both time and fuel lining yourself back up.
That’s to get into orbit. Now if you want to do anything even mildly complicated like transfering to the moon, or even daringly, land on it, you’re in for a world of physics and brain hurt.
So thank upper management for Mechjeb, the best (in my opinion) of the many different Autopilot mods currently around. Mechjeb was one of the earliest, and remains the most extensive. Of course, that said, learning how to use Mechjeb’s 8 menus, with about an average of 8 further options per menu competently is harder than mastering most other game’s control system completely.
That’s right. the Autopliot that is designed to make your life easier. That said though for most people doing anything beyond landing on the mun or potentially Minimus manually would induce seizures- so yeah, Mechjeb. And it’s good, because outer Kerbal is even more interesting than the rest, including the Jool system, with it’s five moons and earth like moon of Laythe (with more Ocean).
That said it’s an immensely satisfying, albeit frustrating process.
The game is still technically in it’s alpha state. While it’s not a second minecraft in audience size or popularity as the head for physics it requires and the complexity tends to limit the audience, in it’s own right KSP is an amazing creation. In it’s own fashion it certainly takes the award for the most flexible and verastile game released since minecraft, and that was pretty flexible. Over the coming years no doubt we’ll actually see a career game mode released, along with more planets, more options. If Squad doesn’t do it themselves, then the modders will keep everyone sated.
I have to admit it gains this award mostly due to the lack of competition. KSP is almost completely unique in the current evirnomnent, although that might change over the coming years. While it is doubtful that any game will knock KSP from it’s throne as the most hard core simulator available, the vast casual audience who never quite manage to thrive in KSP will probably be drawn from KSP by Notch’s upcoming game (well, Mojang at least) 0x10c.
0x10c won’t be like KSP- KSP’s greatest challenge, and currently one of it’s greatest weaknesses is that everything you do, needs to be launched off Kerbin to do it- and designing a ship capable of actually getting to the Jool system after getting out of Kerbin, let alone doing stuff there is a difficult excercise. There are of course Mods to get around this, from Orbital Construction (which is mildly challenging in it’s own right) to the fairly blatant hyperedit.
However it does look like it’s going to be a major success with the casual KSP player community, as it already looks set to combine the best aspects of KSP- the infinite customisation with the “space captain” game type where you maintain your own ship, go where you want, and mine the matierals you need.All of this while maintaining a bit of KSP’s challenging of physics. Part of 0x10c’s game play centres around an fully working 16 bit virtual computing. thats right, here comes the 80s nostalgia.
If i get any more of it, i’m going to start feeling that Notch is the biggest “Ready Player One” fanboy of all time (of what is possibly the nerdiest book ever even conceived. In a good way). But anyway apparently you use this 16 bit virtual computer to act as the ship’s command point, to tell it what to do and to play tetris while bored prusamably.
It looks promising, and i can’t wait for it. I’m not hyped how it may be potentially monthly fee model of pricing, but i’m willing to give it a chance.
So KSP. And 0x10c. Maybe you’ll only end up sticking with one or the other, but both of them probably merit at least a try.