Kerbal Space Program
|Kerbal Space Program|
Juan Carlos Demeneghi
|Release date(s)||April 27, 2015|
|Genre(s)||Space flight simulator, sandbox|
Kerbal Space Program (commonly abbreviated to KSP) is a space flight simulator developed by Squad for Linux, OS X, and Windows. In the game, players control a space program, build and fly spacecraft under physics simulation, and explore celestial bodies. The first publicly available version was released on the official Kerbal Space Program store on June 24, 2011. The game also became available on Steam's early access program on March 20, 2013. The game was officially released out of beta on April 27, 2015. The game has large support for game mods and a large community to create them, which developed shortly after the game's initial release. Notable members of the space industry have taken an interest in the game, such as NASA and Elon Musk of SpaceX.
The player controls a nascent space program operated by Kerbals, a race of small green humanoids, who have constructed a fully furnished and functional spaceport (known as the Kerbal Space Center, or KSC) on their homeworld Kerbin, similar to Earth. Despite being shown as funny cartoon-like little green men, sometimes lacking common sense, they have shown themselves to be able to construct very well-made spacecraft parts and perform experiments.
Gameplay consists of constructing rockets and spaceplanes out of a provided set of components and launching them from the in-game space center's launch pad or runway, then going on to complete their desired mission while averting catastrophic failure, such as running out of fuel or electricity, or the spacecraft breaking apart due to structural problems, otherwise being unable to succeed.
Due to the complexity of orbital physics and the development of spacecraft, the game can be difficult for new users. However, it has been praised for making difficult concepts of spaceflight accessible.
Missions (either player-set or proposed in the form of "contracts" with set parameters to achieve) generally involve, from simplest to most complex, achieving orbit, landing on the Mun or Minmus (Kerbin's two moons), landing on any of the other 13 stock planets and moons, such as Duna or Eve, capturing asteroids, and creating space stations and bases.
Once a spacecraft is built, it is placed on the launchpad or the runway and is ready for launch. Players control a spacecraft in all three dimensions with little assistance other than a stability system to keep a rocket pointed at a certain direction. If the rocket has enough thrust and fuel, it is possible to reach orbit or even travel to other celestial bodies. In flight, to visualize the player's trajectory, the player must switch into map mode, which shows the orbit or trajectory of the current craft, and the current position of other spacecraft and planetary bodies. While in map mode, players can also access 'maneuver nodes' which can be used to plan out trajectory changes in advance.
Historical spacecraft can be recreated and their accomplishments mimicked, such as the Apollo program, the Mars Science Laboratory rover, or the International Space Station. Players may also install mods which can implement destinations, rocket parts, and goals for the game, such as mining for resources (though this has been implemented in the first official release of the game) or incrementally deploying an interplanetary communication network.
The game can be played in three different gamemodes that are selected when the player starts a new game: sandbox mode, science mode, and career mode. In sandbox mode, players are free to attempt any mission for which they can construct a suitable vehicle, with no punishments for failure (except the temporary death of Kerbals who died during a mission) and using entirely user-assigned missions. Many players have constructed unrealistic spacecrafts in this gamemode, such as huge rockets, authentic replicas of real-life rockets and aircraft, automobiles, trains and boats.
In Science mode, the initial selection of parts is limited, with the more advanced parts unlocked via "Science", in the Research and Development building, gained by performing various scientific experiments on Kerbin and throughout the solar system. Science mode was partially designed to ease new players into the game and prevent them getting overwhelmed. Science gained on a mission needs to be received by the space port. This can be done by transmissions via antennas in the game, or recovery by a craft landing back on Kerbin.
Career mode is an extension upon science mode, adding funds, reputation, and contracts. In order to build and launch new rockets, the players must complete contracts to earn funds to pay for the new parts. Reputation will affect how many contracts are given to the player in a future update (less reputation leads to fewer and lower-quality contracts).
While the game is not a perfect simulation of reality, it has been praised for its representation of orbital mechanics. Every object in the game except the celestial bodies themselves are under the control of a Newtonian dynamics simulation. Rocket thrust is applied accurately to a vehicle's frame based on the positions in which the force-generating elements are mounted. The strength of the joints connecting parts together is finite and vehicles can be torn apart by excessive or inappropriately directed forces.
The game simulates trajectories and orbits using patched conic approximation instead of a full n-body simulation, and thus does not support Lagrange points, perturbations, Lissajous orbits, halo orbits and tidal forces. According to the developers, full n-body physics would require the entire physics engine to be rewritten.
The in-game astronauts, known as "Kerbals", have some physics calculations applied to them when they are on extra vehicular activities. For example, hitting an object with only the Kerbal's feet will send them into a tumble, which is a potential hazard in real-life spaceflight as well. While on EVA, Kerbals may use their very capable space suit to maneuver around.
Some celestial bodies have atmospheres of varying heights and densities, affecting the efficiency of wings and parachutes and causing drag during flight. The simulations are accurate enough that real-world techniques such as Hohmann transfers and aerobraking are viable methods of navigating the solar system. Aerobraking, however, has become a much more difficult method of velocity reduction since the full 1.0 release due to the addition of a better aerodynamics model and optional atmospheric entry/reentry heating. Atmospheres thin out into space, but have finite, set heights unlike real atmospheres.
Kerbal Space Program takes some liberties with the scaling of its solar system for gameplay purposes; for example, Kerbin (the analog of Earth) is 600km in diameter while Earth is 12,742, while the gravitational pull of Kerbin is the same as that of Earth, thus implying a planet that is about six times as dense. The planets themselves are also significantly closer together than the planets in our solar system.
New features have been added regularly in updates to the game, although Squad makes a point of not announcing release dates in advance. Squad publishes a developer blog, where upcoming features are discussed. Squad has said they are committed to continually update the released game with further content.
The majority of the game's music was provided by royalty-free composer Kevin MacLeod, with the rest of the soundtrack having been written in-house by Victor Machado. The game's main theme was composed by lead designer Felipe Falanghe, and arranged by Machado.
The public alpha and beta releases were well received. Many publications and individual people have referred fondly to Kerbal Space Program and praised the game's replayability and creative aspects, including Kotaku, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, IGN, PC Gamer, Gamespy, Eurogamer, Polygon, Destructoid, and The Torch.
In May 2015, PC Gamer awarded Kerbal Space Program 1.0 a score of 96 out of 100.
The game has notably crossed over into the scientific community with scientists and members of the space industry having an interest in the game – including NASA, SpaceX's Elon Musk, and ESA.
- List of space flight simulator games
- Buzz Aldrin's Race Into Space
- Microsoft Space Simulator
- Frontier: Elite II
- Frontier: First Encounters (Elite III)
- Elite: Dangerous
- Space Shuttle Mission 2007
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