Kerbal Space Program

How about the counterintuitive fact that when you go faster in orbit, you actually wind up with a slower speed once you reach your new orbit.

Going from 100,000m to 300,000m and to get there you need to speed up, but once there your speed is maybe 1/3 of its previous. But even though you have lower velocity, you are actually having a higher orbital energy. Its just that most of your velocity got converted to potential energy.

Don’t believe me? Cancel out the tangential velocity of your orbit. See how fast you are going by the time you hit atmosphere :)

It intuitively feels wrong to speed up but wind up slower in the end. But when you realize the ISS orbital period is 90 minutes while the moon is 28 days, then it starts to make sense. That moon may be slower, but it has a lot more orbital energy locked up as potential energy.

I played this in beta when it was free, managing to get orbit in a range of vehicles and played it a fair bit. It was pre-Mun.

I got the full version earlier this year and just cant get into it. 24 mins played. A bit overwhelmed by how much there is now i think.

What did you try when you played? Sandbox/science/career game? Or a scenario?

The scenarios can be good, as you’re given specific equipment and you have a specific mission.

I don’t think their “career” mode helps, really. I would recommend starting in “science” mode and going from there. It basically gates parts behind unlocks based on how much science you’ve gotten, so at the start you only have a few parts to play with.

However in the base game the science unlocks are poorly designed and balanced, e.g. you can unlock most of the initial tiers just by walking Jeb around the complex and picking up samples, and at the end you’re unlocking entire trees at a time. There are a bunch of mods that correct this, but I still think it’s worth trying science at least once.

Sandbox is probably too overwhelming at the start, these days, and career is just tedious.

On the other hand, Kerbin Environmental Institute was the first mod I grabbed when I switched from a science to a career game :-D

I’m super-wary of mods that modify the base systems much or add new parts due to my experience with how easy it is with Unity to break the entire thing even with what should be minor updates.

The best advice I can give to new players with KSP is definitely don’t tryhard it. It’s like folks playing Minecraft for the first time (rare as unicorns these days). Don’t sweat the gazillon mods. Fire it up, strap on some boosters, and kill some Jebs.

Take things as far as you want and leave it at that. My personal limit was getting a bunch of comm sats orbiting the Mun. At that point I was all “yeah, that’s good enough”.

The problem is, with respect, that it is a terrible game. Despite a decade-long development, it’s still totally unclear how to play; for example how to collect science, where there is science, what systems should be used to do it efficiently. Everything is hidden behind obscure UI / gameplay mechanics, unexplained systems and parts, unclear goals. Statements by @Pod that “you can collect enough science by walking Jeb around the base” are confusing and frustrating. What does that even mean? Why would they do that?

The game was ruined by early access, which allowed the developers to spend years adding features without examining or improving the basics. Eventually there was enough third party information, such as Scott Manley’s youtube guides, that it was forgiven due to the premise and due to the large player base of beta testers.

Now, before replying “man, who peed in your cereal?” I will add that this game is truly something special if you can find the time and motivation to learn the systems. That first Mun mission and the desperate wondering if you have enough fuel to make it back… is very very rare in gaming.

It’s effectively a hobby, and the prime entry point is well in the past. But, it is special if you can take a couple of days off and learn it. Give it a try, and once you get past the initial hurdle (my guess is 10 hours of play mixed with youtube guides) there’s a good run in there before getting to the next hurdle. Like @scharmers above when I reached the second or third wall, I gave up, but found it a great experience overall.

I enjoy the actual “flying rockets” part of the game but dislike the “managing your space program” part. I guess there are gameplay modes that support this, but they’re very much all-or-nothing when it comes to features.

I’m sort of neutral on the “building rockets” part because I enjoy the construction aspect but wish there were better built-in indicators of how much fuel I actually need.

My brain just stopped working.

I’ve never understood why. I remember seeing things from Squad saying that it was to help people “catch up” if they keep failing near the centre, but I think it just dilutes it. The game should have had a clear and easy progression that matches real life: Start by making something go upwards. Then ask them to make it go upwards and sideways. Then make something big enough that it goes upwards and sideways so much than it never comes back down.

THEN you can start letting them use science equipment etc.

I used to like the BTSM mod as it had a fantastic sense of progression, and worked in the way I dsecribed above. At the very start you have like 3 parts, and you need to use them to unlock the next one by going upwards, and then upwards and sideways etc. The first 12 tech-levels are a very cleverly balanced puzzle that is elegant and rewarding.

Unlike the basegame where a player can be practising how to control a Kerbal and accidentally pick up 3 tech levels and suddenly have 5x as many parts.

I was thinking of playing the a BTSM-spirtiual-like-successor Probes Before Crew, but I’ve not played it so I can’t vouch for how well the unlock progression is implemented.

It’s better than the stock career, but not as finely crafted as BTSM was. BTSM was the game that KSP should always have been. I still have an late-version installation stored on my PC with that-gen recommended mods that I carefully maintain and break out every now and then to get my fix. PBC is mostly just a tech-tree rearrangement and contract pack. It’s a good one, but doesn’t have all the other features that BTSM offered.

I’ve been following this for much longer than I reasonably should, because I really think I should like KSP even though I’ve bounced off it 3 times and can’t seem to “love” it like I really really really think I should. Weird. Please keep the chat going, though. I hope to one day “get” it.

After the discussion here I thought about playing KSP + Probes Before Crew this weekend, so downloaded it all. But somewhere around downloading the third “recommended” mod (via a third, different scheme to the previous two) I decided it was far too much faff to go to just to try and make a real game out of Kerbal Sandbox Program.

I don’t think I’ll ever play this game again, even though I loved it to pieces. As I’ve already done all of the classic milestones in the game I feel my time:reward ratio is already far too high :( (but don’t let that dissuade new players!)

Is this game intuitive? I mean, can you build a rocket, watch it fail and figure out why, tweak your design and basically make sense of it’s performance?

In some cases, yes. If you are of an engineer type that is.

There is a lot of things going on, but a basic understanding of physics and there is enough feedback to indicate the issue. Not enough thrust, unbalanced weight, thrust too far from center of gravity, staging done wrong all are apparent immediately. Achieving basic goals, like reaching space, are doable.

Things like efficient orbital injections, hohman transfers, reaching the Mun? They rely on a far higher degree of understanding. Like you may not understand, and it isn’t immediately obvious, that to reach orbit you want to burn east, not up, once you reach 20-30,000m. That it isn’t getting ‘up’ that is the issue, it is going fast enough forward once you do.

Now you can certainly just putter around and feel your way out. But some research or study on how to reach orbit/ other bodies would go a long way. It isn’t required, but some concepts are not automatically intuitive.

Did you know that if you are in orbit, and accelerate forward (prograde) that your final speed will be lower? It isn’t obvious, but it is true. Accelerating places you in a higher orbit. Which has greater energy, but lower speed. So you have more energy, but most of it is potential energy. So the physics work out.

And to catch up to something in orbit, often the best way to do so is to slow down, and drop into a lower, and therefore faster, orbit. So it’ll break your brain a bit. But thats literal astrophysics.

A Solid reply. I would add that when you start to play, play career, or science career. Don’t start in sandbox mode. There are waaaay too many parts and you will get instantly overwhelmed. Start in Career mode, and go to the mission building and pick up some easy missions. The first two you want are I think Launch your first vessel, and reach space. And they give you just enough pieces and parts to do that with. You will learn the controls, and the very very basics.

You will have more than enough info to launch, figure out how to get to space, and eventually reach orbit. From there you will have killed a few Kerbals, blown up a few things and got in a few laughs. This game enforces learn through failure behaviors which I just love =)

Once you get to that point one of two things will happen. Either your brain will say “meh, space… OK” and you will have had your fill of KSP, or you will go “I see the Mun there… can I actually fly to that?” and that’s when things get more complicated. If you’re brain does the second option, then your next step will be to become acquainted with a man named Scott Manley on Youtube. He will instruct you further as he has the last several generations(gamer generations of course) of KSP players =)

Can I suggest that starting KSP players should start with the tutorial missions included with the game? I think after they complete those, they’ll have enough context to actually play Sandbox if they want. The Career mode progression is kind of terrible once you get past the initial stages, and might give them impression that the game is worse than it actually is. It’s nice that you have a limited selection of parts to begin with in Career mode, but large parts of the the (unmodded) science and contracts systems in the game are pretty awful.

(Note: New players should not, under any circumstances, try the mission packs that come with the game. They are waaaayyyyy too hard for novice KSPers. Even the so-called easy ones are quite challenging.)

I’d actually go so far as to that a new player should:

  1. Play through the guided tutorials. This will take some time.
  2. Start a sandbox career and try to do the following:
    a. get into space
    b. get into orbit around Kerbin
    c. travel to the Mun
    d. land on the Mun
    e. return to Kerbin

If you are having trouble with the vessel construction part of the game, you can complete all of these missions with the pre-built Kerbal X spacecraft. I occasionally fire up the game specifically to do a Mun return mission with the Kerbal X just for fun.

At that point, you’ll know what to focus on next (orbital rendezvous? space station construction? planetary base construction? career mode? interplanetary voyaging? precision landings? spaceplanes? etc etc etc) and how to get the skills to do them.

Also the early game somewhat becomes Kerbal Science Planes where you create a jet with as many science experiments as possible, then fly the planet spamming them.

Yeah, I usually play with the Contract Configurator mod and use it to turn off parts, test, survey, and tourism contracts because I’m not a fan of that. I will say that it can be interesting to fly around looking for stuff (and the old–I think defunct–Anomaly Surveyor contract pack was perfect for that kind of thing), but flying around to spam science is lame.

@Matt_W You are right, and I always forget that the tutorial missions are now worthwhile. That was not always the case =) But at that point I would still choose the career option over sandbox. I did not think the starter missions too bad at all. I also don’t usually do the survey missions because the plane portions to me are fairly weak. I guess this speaks well of the game in that there are many paths to having fun for different players.

Just driving a little buggy around the space center gets you a significant amount of science. It’s quite tedious, though.

(There’s a mod to turn it into a single-button click to collect whatever science you’ve got unlocked though!)