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Kerbal Space Program


ContraBardus
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I choose to go to the Mun and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

 

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I put this here and not in TOT because this isn't really a video game despite it's somewhat entertaining trappings. It's an educational science toy.

 

Are you a huge nerd? [Considering where we are, this is rhetorical.] Well, I have a 'game' for you then.

The Kerbals are little green Frankenstein's Monster looking aliens that are like slightly more intelligent Rabbids from the Rayman series. They are a good for a few chuckles, but their antics are rather subdued and more a reward for accomplishing things in a cutscene or two. Comedy is not the focus here.

Your job is to help them achieve space flight and travel by building rockets and space ships for them. You can also launch satellites, probes, and various unmanned contraptions to help you on your way. There are of course various parts you can toss together to do this, but there's a catch. Gravity, aerodynamics, velocity, weight, atmospheric friction, and all sorts of other physics elements are present, meaning if what you built would not fly in real life, it's not going to fly here. Just getting out of the atmosphere is a challenge, getting into orbit for the first time is another benchmark achievement, and getting to the Mun is yet another. Eventually you'll be building craft to voyage across their entire star system, as well as land on and put their little flags on the surfaces of the celestial bodies that orbit their sun. They aren't exactly tiny little worlds either, the Kerbal Planet is 500km alone. There's not really anything on it, but it's not a game about exploring that world, but rather to reach and explore it's celestial neighbors. It's quite a bit of fun if you're a patient gamer who doesn't mind doing a bit of math and planning.

 

It is also not easy to do.

 

It's actually a rather complex program, you've got to consider the effects of gravity, movement of celestial bodies, and orbiting is not as simple as shooting yourself high enough into the air, you've got to position yourself for it and consider where the highest and lowest point of orbit are. You've got to manage thrusting at the right moments to position yourself, pilot your craft, and take into account all sorts of variables. You can't simply point your ship at an astral body and hit the thrusters until you arrive. This is about as close as you can come to an actual space program simulator. Movement in the void acts as it should, you have to counter any movement as there's no resistance and you'll keep moving until you do or another force, such as a nearby planet's gravity, takes over. It's all kinds of awesome, but be warned it's not a casual experience. You need to be into micro managing things, building stuff, and experimenting. You're likely going to blow up quite a few rockets.

 

As it's realistic it's also very slow in a lot of ways. There is minor relief in the form of a fast forward feature that you can use if you're not thrusting. There's a catch to it though, when you fast forward, you're subject to relativity. Meaning that when you are in speed up mode time slows down for your craft and you've got to take that into account when you're moving towards a distant point in space. It can also damage your ship if you're not careful, especially larger craft.

 

I learned more about space travel and what's involved with running a space program with this than I did by visiting the Space Center here in Florida, and numerous hours watching the NASA channel when something interesting was going on.

 

If you're into simulations, like to build things, and/or are interested in the Space Program, this is probably your thing. Check it out.

 

If you've got a kid that's really into Space, or Science, they might enjoy this. It's a little complex and slow, so they might find it a bit boring. It's probably a bit too complex for the very young set unless they are the type that can spend hours staring through a telescope or has the patience build a complex and intricate model. In other words, Nerd kids will like it, others are likely to get bored and overwhelmed. Though, if they get into it, they'll likely -really- get into it.

 

Thankfully, I am a giant nerd kid, so I think it's awesome.

 

Here's an example of Kerbal in motion. It's a tutorial about orbiting, so you can see what I mean about it being rather complex.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpK8e89WYvI&hd=1

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I've been playing this 'game' for a while now and I love it.  If you do decide to try it out, I suggest you also download and install a mod called MechJeb.  It is a flight computer/auto-pilot you can equipe your ship.  If you get to the point where you are doing orbital rendevious, interplanetary transfers; it is invaluable. 

 

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So far I've been able to land a manned ship on there version of Mars (called Duna) and returned it to Earth (called Kerbin).  If you're into science/engineering and building things, this is something you should check out.

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