Kerbal Space Program
|Kerbal Space Program|
|Release date(s)||June 24, 2011 (alpha 0.7.3)
October 16, 2013 (latest, alpha 0.22.0)
|Genre(s)||Space flight simulator|
|Mode(s)||Single-player sandbox, single-player career mode|
Kerbal Space Program (commonly abbreviated to KSP) is a sandbox-style space flight simulator with gameplay elements currently in development for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. The first public alpha was released on June 24, 2011 and updates have been continually released since. KSP has support for mods, which are hosted on an official modding website. It is currently sold on the official KSP Store or, since March 20, 2013, through Steam.
The game places the player in control of a nascent space program operated by Kerbals, a race of small green humanoids, who have constructed a fully furnished and functional spaceport (Kerbal Space Center, or KSC) on their homeworld Kerbin. What they lack in engineering expertise and common sense they more than make up for in enthusiasm and willingness to furnish any materials needed to become a spacefaring civilization, up to and including a seemingly endless stream of volunteers for manned space missions.
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 respectively. Many intricate designs can be constructed out of a wide selection of different engines, fuel tanks, wings, and so on. Vehicles can also be equipped with solar panels, RCS thrusters, wheels, or other components. Possible designs range from massive multi-stage rockets to aerodynamic SSTO craft. Once launched, spacecraft can be docked in orbit, or navigated to other celestial bodies and landed for surface operations, including collecting scientific data.
Players can construct Kerbal versions of their favorite aircraft or construct fanciful aircraft that have no real-world equivalent. The use of physics makes designing a regular jet aircraft just as difficult as designing a space plane. The game currently includes a variety of motorized wheels that allow players to create rovers. Because the physics of water are also implemented (complete with splashes and the craft sinking a bit), building ships is also possible to an extent.
Players can also manage the spaceport's roster of astronauts, choosing personnel to assign to seats and having them exit the vehicle post-launch for extra-vehicular activity. These astronauts are ranked (as of version .22.0) by two factors: courage and stupidity.
Sandbox and a limited version of career mode have been implemented. In career mode, you start with a limited number of parts, and unlock more by doing science in different environments. In sandbox mode, players are free to attempt any mission they can construct a vehicle capable of performing. Typical self-assigned tasks include landing robotic vehicles on other planets in the system, or sending a Kerbal to the closest natural satellite and then returning him safely to his homeworld. Another popular activity is constructing large permanent space stations out of individually launched components. 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 implement destinations and goals for the game, such as mining for resources or incrementally deploying an interplanetary communication network.
Development of the game remains ongoing and the studio, Squad, have promised that in the future new features will be added, such as damage from atmospheric friction, and a system for creating reusable spacecraft, but multiplayer has been pushed off and may or may not be added after the complete version is released (possibly as a DLC).
The game has been praised for its realistic 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 and aerodynamic forces are 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 thrust. Planets in the system 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. The game simulates trajectories and orbits using patched conic approximation instead of a full n-body simulation, and thus does not support Lagrange points and halo orbits.
Notable inaccuracies include the perfect reliability of equipment and the lack of life-support consumables. Kerbals can survive indefinitely in space either in a capsule or a space suit. This simplifies orbital rendezvous by making it practical to wait multiple orbits until a desirable alignment is reached. Also, Kerbals have extremely capable EVA suits with 600 m/s of Δv. This is 25 times the capability of NASA's manned maneuvering unit, sufficient to reach orbit from small moons and allows EVA transfer between markedly different orbits. Additionally, the celestial bodies in the Kerbal solar system are about 1/10 the radius of their real-universe equivalents yet have comparable surface gravity, implying that they have unrealistically high densities (or that the gravitational constant has a different value in the Kerbal universe). This change to scale makes many tasks considerably easier. For example, a surface to low-Kerbin-orbit launch requires a delta-v of about 4.5 km/s, compared to 9.5 km/s for a low-Earth-orbit launch.
The game is currently in the alpha stage of development and is considered by the developers to be only a small approximation of the final product. New features are added regularly in updates to the game. No dates or requirements for a transition into beta or a final release have been announced. KSP is written in C# and uses the Unity engine.
Alpha 0.7.3 was released on June 24, 2011 – this was the game's first public release. The game has been moddable from the very early versions and has steadily become more robust. 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 can not receive updates. The latest version of the game, 0.22.0, was released on October 16, 2013.
KSP allows support for extensive modding, allowing anything from craft parts to whole autopilot systems and changes to the game's physics to be created. All mods can be hosted on the game's official mod site, Kerbal SpacePort, which can be accessed via a link in the main menu.
There are a wide variety of available mods; autopilot tools, geodetic mapping systems, resource scanning and harvesting, various methods of life support for crew members, data graphing systems, communications network systems, and extensive collections of new parts (including recreations of real and historic spacecraft, including Apollo and the Space Shuttle). Many mods have attempted to cover aspects of the game that have not yet been developed by Squad, and some modders have even been hired by Squad in order to do in-house work due to their comparatively high quality.
Although the game is still in alpha, KSP is already considered a success, having over 74,000 members registered on their forums with over 5,000 active users. In the hours after its Steam release on March 20, 2013 it reached the top 5 of best sold games, as well as the best seller on Steam for Linux.
The public alpha releases have been well-received so far. Many publications 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, and The Torch. It has also received a substantial following on Reddit with over 50,000 subscribers.
- List of space flight simulator games
- Buzz Aldrin's Race Into Space
- Microsoft Space Simulator
- Space Shuttle Mission 2007
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- Escaping the Mun Using A Broken Ship & EVA Suit
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