Should I be excited about… Kerbal Space Program
Kerbal Space Program has been under development from Mexican developers Squad for over two and a half years now. The developers released their first alpha build back in June of 2011. I took a look at it back in early 2012 and was excited then, so how far have they come with it, and am I still excited after all this time?
Back in December, the KSP Dev team announced they had completed the major part of Kerbal Space Program, the Sandbox mode. The 0.18 update included a huge array of new features including Docking, Flight Planning and it’s own Soundtrack. Along with this they also released their portal from which the modding community shares their works, The Kerbal SpacePort, and an app called Kerbalizer where you can design your own Kerbal
Jump forward to March and we saw the 0.19 update, just days before it would be announced on Steam. This update provided Linux support along with a bunch of new parts to use. With the jump onto Steam, the game suddenly rocketed in popularity. So much so that the games forums and modding outlet collapsed under the added pressure.
For those of you who don’t know, Kerbal Space Program is a game about creating your own space program. Surprising as it might sound, you might miss this point to begin with. It is not a game where you just build a rocket and see how far it goes, or whether or not you can get it from Kerbin to the Mun and back. Of course, if that’s all you want to do then that’s fine. But the idea is that you run an entire space program. So you can send up several Satellites, Space Centres, Mun and other celestial body explorers and anything else you can think of putting into space.
The building phase takes place in either the Spaceplane Hanger, or the Vehicle Assembly Building, depending on what you are planning to build. It’s definitely recommended to start with rockets. The latest updates have added a vast array of parts to use and compared to a year ago, there are probably four times as many default parts available. I say default as, even though the game is still in Alpha, there is an enormous modding community. As mentioned above, head over to the Kerbal SpacePort to see an abundance of parts and fully constructed vessels to download and add to your game. You can also download their tool for designing your own components there. The modding community for Kerbal is so strong that Squad even hired one of them as a full time developer on the game.
Not only do you build these spacecraft, but you have to fly them too. Adding the right components in creation is crucial to how your craft is going to handle come launch time. A few of the components can add auto stability to help steer your craft, but you will inevitably suffer a few catastrophic flightpath miscalculations. This all really adds to the sense of achievement when you finally get something that you made into a perfect orbit around Kerbin. But Kerbin orbit is only the very minimal of achievements. With fifteen other planetary bodies in the solar system, how far will you go?
The game is still in Alpha, and purchasing it now either on Steam or through the KSP site gets you early access and free future updates until the game is released in full. There was a bit of a furore recently when Squad announced plans for paid DLC which confused those who can’t differentiate between updates and DLC. The gist of it is that on the games site it states that by buying the game pre-completion “you’ll get all future updates for free,” and the announcement of paid DLC angered those who considered DLC as an update. Squad have attempted to clear this up by stating that the DLC will be completely new features, and not just additional content, which has been added by the shovelful already.
While Kerbal Space Programs sites and materials seem to be a little “all over the place” at the moment. The main website, mod portal, wiki, forum, dev blogs and the Developers website are all in different domains, but it seems that after a long time, Squads first game is finally coming together. Right now there is only Sandbox mode, and a few scenarios, but there is at least a greyed out Career mode which we can expect in the future. Hopefully before much longer the finished article will be in many hard drives. You should be so excited by Kerbal Space Program that you buy into the Alpha now (it’s cheaper than it’ll be at completion) and if you are still not convinced, download one of the free early builds available from their website.