Cheap PC Gaming: Kerbal Space Program

Have you ever wanted to build a rocket? I thought so and, thanks to Kerbal Space Program, now you can. Then you can fly it into space or, more than likely on your first few tries, directly into the ground. KSP is a physics-based ‘game’ in which you build a rocket from some parts, then fly it into space. That’s it but, when you think about it, do you need anything else?

[drop]There are two sections to the game, the building section and the flying section. Obviously, the building section is where you put your rocket together. You do this by selecting the parts and attaching them to the parts you already have at the correct points – it’s that simple, really. You’ll need to take special care, however, as there are a few things that can go wrong (usually culminating in explosions). At one point, I missed a part out and ended up connecting an engine directly to the bottom of another engine. Launch was like setting off a very large, very expensive bomb; I hadn’t even taken my finger off the space bar when my rocket exploded.

Rocket launches occur in stages, as you no doubt already know. There’s the initial booster to get the thing in the air, which then falls away and some more rockets start up keeping it climbing, etc. This holds true in KSP. To set this up you need to seperate your stages with a decoupler, which will set off a small, controlled explosion to separate the used rockets from your shuttle so you can use your next stage. As you might expect, forgetting the decoupler will more than likely lead to a rocket activating directly onto another rocket which, being full of fuel, will result in the aforementioned instant explosion.

After you’ve built something you hope might get you up into space, you’ll need to fly yourself there. Space will start your first stage of rockets, W/S control your pitch, A/D control your yaw, Q/E control rotation and Shift/Ctrl control your thrust. You’ll need a well balanced ship and good control over it if you want to make it to the stars, or to at least avoid turning into a fireball. The physics are very realistic, as you might expect, so you can consider it an accurate representation of whether or not you could design real life rockets. Perhaps.

[drop2]Graphically, the game doesn’t exactly look spectacular, but everything is sufficiently sharp and well textured. There have definitely been worse looking games recently and they were full releases. The Earth is procedurally generated (in the game, that is) with the game’s website saying the world is 600km in radius, though if you see that much of it you’re probably not headed for space. It’s impressive that you’re flying off of a planet, through the atmosphere and the game manages to look pretty good the whole time. As you might imagine, that kind of scope does have quite a hefty hardware requirement to go along with it which you can see below.

Currently KSP is little more than an alpha, with the game still being under heavy development. This translates to there being little content (more specifically, few parts to play around with) and it being free to try out. The game is moddable already, which is a blessing considering the currently meagre offering as far as components go, and there have been some substantial additions to the point where people have made satellites to fly into orbit and rocket planes to fly around the planet (which was a pretty impressive display of control).

You can download Kerbal Space Program from the official website, where you can also pre-order the game (you’ll get all future versions) for a discounted price and donate if you’re feeling charitable.

Recommended System Requirements

  • 2.0Ghz Dual Core CPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 512MB Video Card, Shader Model 3.0
  • 300MB Free HD space
  • Windows XP, Vista, 7
An OSx version of the game will release with the next update.
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4 Comments

  1. Downloaded this after seeing it mentioned in the TSA Forum. It’s still early alpha, but the basics are in and it’s good, clean, explosive fun. Admittedly the explosive part is unintentional, but it’s good for a laugh when your carefully assembled rocket doesn’t quite function how you planned.

    I’m pretty sure that the “forgetting the decoupler” issue is a right of passage, as is forgetting the whole “what goes up…” thing – after a successful “straight up” launch, while floating back to Earth under it’s parachute, the capsule was taken out by one the jettisoned boosters in quite spectacular fashion. Tragic for the Kerbals, hilarious for me.

    The in-game tutorials could still yet be fleshed out a bit, though it’s understandable that they only cover the basics so far with the rest of the detail covered by the KSP forums and wiki. Could have done with knowing about the “T” key, though – it turns on all of the fitted stabilizer computer components, and stops your rocket twisting itself into a rocket-fuelled rollercoaster of death. Yeah, that’s the sort of thing I’d like to know before take-off.

    It’s still early days for KSP, but so far, so good, what’s there works well and as stated in the article, the mod community is already quite substantial.

  2. “I’m a rocket man!”

  3. Been playing it for a while, it’s a great fun game, but it’s still got a long way to go.

  4. Looks like another great PC game I wont be able to play, not enough space. PAH. :/

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