Kerbal Space Program – Preview

By: Michael Dao

Recently, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) announced that as a part of President Obama’s upcoming budget, NASA would be receiving $100 million to start the process of capturing an asteroid, bringing it into a safe lunar orbit, and then finally sending astronauts to it by the year 2021, thus leading the way to mining the asteroid and setting us up for future missions to Mars. In the spirit of space exploration, it would be an excellent time to talk about Kerbal Space Program.

Kerbal Space Program is a game and a simulation. It’s another Steam Early Access title, which allows players to purchase the game now and experience how it evolves as it undergoes further development. Even though it is under an early phase, what it has is a whole lot of premise. The first thing to understand about Kerbal Space Program, is although it does appear incredibly cute at times, it is a complicated game. The game puts the player in the role of a manager of a space program and the point is to perform missions that places Kerbals, these short little green guys, into space. All of that is performed by designing spacecraft, putting it on the launch pad, and then sending it into space. It all sounds simple enough, but with Kerbal Space Program modelling physics in a good amount of detail, mastering this simulation might not make you a rocket scientist, but closer to one than many would expect.

At this point in the development of the game, the scope is rather limited, but what the simulation does allow the player to do is taken to an incredibly deep level. The process starts in the design phase of the game where the player has to build a rocket capable of carrying a command module into space and if the player so chooses, back to the surface of the planet again. There are so many choices here that it can be a bit overwhelming. The game does have a built in tutorial, but it is incredibly hard to follow. A novice rocket scientist would be best served by searching for Kerbal Space Program 101 on YouTube, for an absolutely fantastic series of tutorial videos.

To call Kerbal Space Program a game at this point would be misleading. At this stage, it’s more of a toy, a giant sandbox. Even so, this should not stop you from not purchasing and getting early access to this title. Missions will be added in the future, as well as support for user created missions. When that happens, you can bet your bottom dollar, that I’ll be creating a mission where you have to send Bruce Willis, and a rag tag team of oil miners out to stop an incoming asteroid and then bringing them back home. Space is exciting, and truly the human race’s final frontier. Seeing asteroid mining happening in our lifetimes becoming a distinct reality is something I would never have imagined possible when I was growing up.

This isn’t a rehash of Buzz Aldrin’s Race Into Space where the player can take over a space program in 1957. It’s kind of unclear why this game exists. I happened to only download the demo at first because I noticed that a friend on Steam was playing it, and I was intrigued. It’s an important title to check out. There are precious few quality games available that are nonviolent. Kerbal Space Program is a fantastic simulator that will give people the joy of being able to launch little people into space. There’s a ton to do, from trying to actually launch a craft to the moon, to building the most ridiculous functioning spacecraft physically possible. It’s a title worth sponsoring, and even in it’s early state will provide a whole LOT of entertainment for just about anyone who has even a casual interest in space exploration, or even if they’re just curious about what it takes to launch something up there.

Available now on PC, Mac and Linux on Steam.

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