I'm giving her all I got, Cap'n!

Better Stately Than Never: How many Kerbals must die to appease my bloodlust? All the Kerbals.

One of my most endearing traits [right above obnoxious, yet not entirely unwarranted, levels of self-loathing and below crippling social anxiety. Just in case you’re keeping score -ed.] is the ability to instantly give up when the going gets tough. This goes for everything, but let’s put it into a gaming perspective. Factorio, Europa Universalis, RimWorld, and Kerbal Space Program. What do all these titles have in common? Steep learning curves. How do I adjust? I simply stop playing them.

I’ll get back to them, eventually. Usually. Factorio, for instance, has become, quite possibly, my favorite video game of all time. I’m slowly, but surely, getting my head around the interpersonal hooha in RimWorld. EU still eludes me, but I have started to get my Paradox feet wet with some Hearts of Iron IV. Oh, and I’ve really started digging into Kerbal Space Program the past couple weeks. Why did I wait so long?

For those who don’t know about KSP, it’s a space program simulation that feels about as realistic as any sim out there. You build rockets and space planes, launch them, perform SCIENCE! and, hopefully, return your Kerbalnauts safely to the surface of their homeworld.

[Kerbals, if you don’t know, are tiny green-skinned creatures that are way too eager to place themselves atop a stack of solid rocket fuel boosters]

The game has a sandbox mode in which everything is unlocked, letting you get your Wehrner von Braun dreams up in the air ASAP. The more fun mode, however, is Career. Here you begin with little more than a capsule and some rocket fuel with the goal of researching more goodies and building your space program into a science-gathering juggernaut.

He’s so cute. I’ll wait to tell him that I have no idea how to get him back into the ship.

There are contracts you can sign to bring in much needed cash as well as direct your research in certain directions. You can hire and train new Kerbalnauts. You can upgrade all your buildings, opening up new options for space exploration. There’s not a lot in KSP that you can’t do, actually.

You’ll begin by launching simple rockets to see if you can keep your pilot alive, but will quickly advance to putting a ship in orbit, landing on the moon, building space stations, and exploring the rest of the solar system. Truly, there’s very little your Kerbals aren’t willing to try.

I have yet to land on the Mun. Thank goodness for developer screenshots.

All of this wouldn’t work if the science behind it all wasn’t incredibly tight. If you’re mod-free, plan on grabbing a pencil and doing some figurin’ to work out Thrust-to-Weight ratios and Delta-V numbers. Anything is off a bit, and you’ll have the pleasure of watching your rocket tumble through the atmosphere instead of rising majestically through the clouds. Get ready to immerse yourself in terminology like “prograde”, “retrograde”, “anti-radial”, and “roll angle”.

It’s like Gravity if I had seen Gravity.

I know that KSP has been out for a long time (it came out of beta in 2015), but I’m just finally getting up the nerve to actually work through it and get somewhere and, as usually happens, I’m kicking myself for not sticking to it way back then. I’m having a blast with it, building and testing until the wee hours of the morning, only to do one more launch to correct the failures of the last.

If you haven’t given KSP a try and don’t mind having to wrap your brain around some real world concepts to make things work, I can’t recommend it enough. If, however, you don’t like scads of minutiae, math, or the screams of Kerbals just realizing their capsule lacks a heat shield, you may want to look elsewhere.

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Notable Replies

  1. And here I thought it was just me that bought it and didn’t play it much. like you, not because I didn’t like it but because it would a HHUUGGGEEE timesink. “I already got Stardew Valley…I don’t need another sink game” and haven’t gotten back to that.

  2. KSP is what you play when you can’t get a game of High Frontier together, Leaving Earth has become too transparent, and, well, you just want to play KSP. Superb game, and I think it says an awful lot for our on-balance terrible species that we make game out of such wonderful serious subjects.

  3. We should do a top 10 list of games that we want to play again but too much of a (re)learning curve/timesink. CK2, Total War, Icewind Dale… I’ve kept Gettysburg on my iPad for about 4 years without reopening it, because surely I’m going to come back and finish that campaign someday…

  4. Kolbex says:

    God, I was so, so into KSP for a few months like 5 years ago or so, I think. I’ve tried to get back into it a couple times, but no luck so far…

  5. As somebody who has (cough, cough) over 6000 hours in KSP on Steam, if I have one piece of of advice (just one? Hahaha), it’s this: once you’ve gotten a bit of the way in and you’re thinking about doing rendezvous in orbit (i.e., beginning the midgame, I guess) – if you haven’t yet, do the tutorials. Especially the docking tutorial. Watch videos on docking. Do whatever you have to do to really understand orbital mechanics so that rendezvous don’t seem difficult and Hohmann transfer orbits just seem kind of obvious. If you do that, the whole game will open up for you. (Bonus: at that point you can consider yourself a bona-fide rocket scientist. :wink:)

    Then get MechJeb because life is too short for all that BS.

    (But seriously, afterward, because to really use it properly you need to understand what it’s doing for you.)

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