Kerbal Space Program
||This article may contain an excessive amount of intricate detail that may only interest a specific audience. (December 2014)|
|Kerbal Space Program (space simulator)|
|Programmer(s)||Felipe Falanghe, Mike Geelan, Jim-Kirre Benjaminsen, Marco Salcedo, Jesus Montaño|
|Release date(s)||June 24, 2011 (alpha 0.7.3)
December 15, 2014 (latest, beta 0.90: Beta Than Ever)
|Genre(s)||Space flight simulator|
|Mode(s)||Single-player sandbox, single-player science mode, single-player career mode|
|Distribution||Digital download: website or Steam|
Kerbal Space Program (commonly abbreviated to KSP) is a space flight simulator developed by Squad currently in public beta development for release on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. The first public version was released on June 24, 2011, and is currently sold on the online official KSP Store, and since March 20, 2013, through Steam's early access program, where it reached the top 3 best sold games. Updates have been continuously released. KSP 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.
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 in the lab.
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.
Due to the complexity of orbital physics and the development of spacecraft, the game can be difficult for new users.
Missions (although entirely player-set) generally involve, from simplest to most complex, achieving orbit, landing on the Mün or Minmus (Kerbin's two moons), landing on other planets, 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 delta-v, it is possible to reach orbit. 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.
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.
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 contracts).
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 or incrementally deploying an interplanetary communication network.
The game continues to be actively developed, with new updates being released regularly, although Squad makes a point of not announcing release dates in advance. Squad publishes a developer blog where upcoming features are discussed.
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 similarly to a small probe.
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. Atmospheres thin out into space, but have finite height unlike real atmospheres.
Kerbal Space Program takes some liberties with the scaling of its solar system for gameplay purposes.
The game is currently in the beta stage of development and is considered by the developers to only be an approximation of the final product. New features are added regularly in updates to the game. A date for the final release has not yet been announced, but is expected to come with the next update. KSP is written in C# and uses the Unity engine.
The game's first public release was Alpha 0.7.3 on June 24, 2011. Versions 0.13.3 (March 3, 2012) and 0.18.3 (February 12, 2013) are available, in limited form, as demos; they are available at no cost, but have limited content and cannot receive updates. The latest version of the game, 0.90, was released on December 15, 2014.
Squad has also made an Asteroid Mission Pack (update 0.23.5) with full support from NASA, that was released on April 1, 2014. It is based on a real-life initiative to send humans out to study asteroids.
The public alpha and beta releases have been well-received so far. 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. It has also received a substantial following on Reddit with over 90,000 readers.
- 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
- Squad's Meet the Team Page Retrieved April 25th, 2014
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- "Kerbal Space Program: Beta Than Ever is Now Available". Retrieved 23 December 2014.