Kerbal Space Program Beta Brings Bases, Skills, Lots

Kerbal Space Program has been floating through the inky black of game development for years now, edging closer towards the ultimate goal of being a structured space program management sim. It’s now in orbit above that target, having moved from alpha to beta and added new features like base building, refined features like ship construction, and a lot more. There’s a trailer introducing the changes below.

As explained in the developer blog post on the subject, the beta extends functionality first touched upon in the last big update back in October, when bases were first made destructible should you accidentally crash into them. Now you can construct those bases from scratch, placing buildings and leveling them by completing contracts – which themselves have been expanded with the adoption of the Small Print mod into the core game, which adds new activities for budding space engineers.

It’s exciting that you can now also level your kerbals and specialise them in pilot skills or science or repair abilities, but it’s the revisions to the ship builder that may prove most significant. Connecting ship parts and constructing absurd rockets has always been a little fiddlier than desired, and given how much of your time is spent experimenting with craft designs no matter what mode you’re playing, refining that process is a big deal.

31 Comments

  1. LionsPhil says:

    This has been my Game of the Decade since 0.23.

    Improving the part selector should be a godsend for those using a heap of mods. One of my main reasons to stay away from fun like B9 Aerospace and Kerbal Attachment System is it just made it far, far too cluttered.

    I wish they’d put the thermal tiles back on the bottom of the Mk2 plane parts, though.

    (Obligatory Scott Manley video.)

    • DrManhatten says:

      Totally agree especially with the vibrant MOD scene this game is outstanding even in its alpha and beta stage. The potential is just mind blowing.

  2. Heliocentric says:

    As soon as you can drill for fuel and refine on stellar bodies I’m setting up refueling bases. Maybe I should just look for mods?

    • Lanfranc says:

      I don’t think it’s likely that’ll be in the main game – it was originally planned, but the devs reconsidered it. Take a look at the ‘Kethane’ or ‘Karbonite’ mods.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Interstellar mod also provides off-world refuelling possibilities…along with a terrifying range of other things.

    • Synesthesia says:

      I think the kethane mod does it fairly well. Anyone knows if they will fine tune the reentry effects and aerodynamics, or should i install FAR and Deadly Reentry?

      • Matt_W says:

        HarvesteR has mentioned aerodynamics as one of the major things they want to work on post-beta. Currently, though, you’ll need FAR (or NEAR) + KIDS and DRE for a more accurate aerodynamic experience. I personally play just with DRE; I think FAR is too hard to balance against the stock parts.

      • LionsPhil says:

        They have talked of doing aerodynamics before now, but AFAIK not re-entry heating.

        Go with DRE and FAR. Prepare for death. Tumbling, burning death.

        (I have found it *incredibly* difficult to get Mk2-parts spaceplanes to slow down even from LKO without just burning up, no matter how gentle my descent. FAR’s drag is shaving off mere centimetres/second/second while DRE is igniting everything with superheated plasma.)

        • P.Funk says:

          I believe Scott Manley said that he reduced the DRE effects for his Interstellar Quest video series because he found it rather extreme.

          It seems a fair assessment to make that DRE is not necessarily balanced against the significantly altered physics of FAR.

    • Matt_W says:

      If you want a full featured mine/drill/colonize/etc/etc/etc experience, user RoverDude has been working like an overtime gopher putting together a large collection of mods that all interlink and play will with each other. Check them out here:

      link to bobpalmer.github.io

      And he’s just added a new one that isn’t showing up there:

      link to forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com

      • aleander says:

        Regolith is infrastructure, it had parts while in testing, but now is partless. It’s included in the Asteroid thingie, MKS, Karbonite and pretty much everything.

    • 0positivo says:

      Look up Karbonite (open source and actually already updated to 0.90) or Kerthane, they do exactly that :P

  3. Sam says:

    I had a try at a fresh start with this patch, and I’ve got to say I think the need to unlock so much stuff messes up the difficulty curve. I’ve done all kinds of interplanetary stuff previously but using the highly restricted starting parts and with the new weight limit on the launch pad I’m struggling to get anything to the Mun. Upgrading the pad for bigger ships costs a fortune and when I can only just limp in to orbit there’s few missions I can do to get the money.

    The early part of the game has always been difficult because you’re needing to learn orbital mechanics. But even with that knowledge in place the restrictions placed by the unlock system make it really trying. There are plenty of sliders I can fiddle with in the difficulty settings, but I worry about the experience of new players.

    The new mission types are excellent, although again don’t work great in the early game. For instance an “easy” mission to visit a spot on Kerbal becomes really tricky when you don’t yet have aircraft parts (or wheels!)

    That all said I’ve got far more than my money’s worth from KSP over the years. My concern is for how it’ll play for fresh blood. The good news is this can almost entirely be fixed by tweaking numbers and changing the order parts unlock, so it getting fixed is entirely possible.

    • mashkeyboardgetusername says:

      Have they taken out the sandbox mode then? (Haven’t currently got it installed on this machine so can’t check.) I don’t mind the career/unlock stuff as a variation, but the basics of getting stuff into orbit of landing on other planets was challenging enough for me without extra gameifying of the, er, game.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I hope not; in 0.25 at least, it was still there, along with a science-unlock-but-not-money-unlock mode for when you want visiting SPACE to have some rewards beyond, y’know, visiting SPACE, but didn’t want to be penny-pinching your interplanetary motherships.

        My main concern for new players is the talk Squad have made of redoing the atmospheric model. Yes, Ferram is way, way better for experienced players, but when starting off there’s enough to think about, learning basics like “orbit is SIDEWAYS?” and being a victim of the rocket equation, without also having to worry about aerodynamics and gravity turns more sophisticated than “go up until X then fall over”.

      • All is Well says:

        I just checked and all three modes are still available.

      • Sam says:

        Oh yes, Sandbox and science-but-not-money modes are still there.

        The experience I’d like to have is doing really cost-efficient flights (single-stage-to-orbit shuttle flights) to put satellites up in orbit, then using that money to fund my interplanetary endeavours. It’s an appealing loop, but currently I’d need huge amounts of money and science to get the parts unlocked to get started doing that.

        Oh and one really poor decision: You now need to unlock the ability to plan manoeuvres on the map. That was a really good way to teach the player about orbital mechanics, but now it’s locked away until (probably) after you need that knowledge.

        • Zenicetus says:

          Wow, that does sound like a bad decision. Figuring out how to set up maneuvers on the map wasn’t just an aid to efficiency, but a great learning experience when I first saw it in the game. That shouldn’t be locked out for new players using the career mode.

          I’ve been away from KSP for a year, and I need to get back in and see the new stuff. Probably in sandbox mode until I get my space legs back.

      • Lagran says:

        I checked a couple of days before 0.90, but the three modes (career, science, sandbox) are still there. There’s also four(?) difficulty levels in career which adjust various settings including how much money you start with, plus a custom difficulty where you could probably make it reasonably difficult, but still start with a ton of money to get you off the ground (pun not intended).

    • 0positivo says:

      I recommend looking into the contracts a lot more. The ones that require you to fly over a specified location are incredibly easy and will earn you a lot of money, especially if you focus on airplane research (really, all you need is a wing and a control surface to make them work)

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      phuzz says:

      I think the plan now that they’re basically feature complete is to start polishing everything, and fortunately the tech tree is really easy to modify (you just need a text editor), so I assume that the v1.0 release will have a more sensible tech tree.
      If you look there’s already mods which rebalance it, or you can do it yourself with a bit of time and tinkering.

    • disorder says:

      I also started a new career mode on 0.90 (under duress, as some mods weren’t updated). I have to agree very closely; it’s got to be so hard to get started as a new player, compared to 0.25 – which I did myself only a couple weeks ago. If I’d had to figure it out while also having no money, I’m not sure what I’d have thought, but most likely something similar to “rescuing a kerbal from orbit is literally not possible”.

      Meanwhile, the low item limits force (until you can pay) you into a corner even more. There’s already enough to be getting on with, if you’re learning what and how to do, and if you can’t afford to leave the atmosphere much, (there’s not that much science from low/high orbit, and you have to pay to even unlock the surface sample and space EVA) the contracts that are added there, are still not much.

      I’d been avoiding planes on 0.25 and really, until today; once you have one that files (which is not anything like as easy as the rockets), they are good for the kerbin contracts, and landing is easy – just launch a parachute or two, and crash. It’s efficient.

      So I do think the newly integrated contracts mod and facilities upgrading is good, adding flavo(u)r to the career mode, it needs work. It’s the later game stages that need heavily ratcheting in difficulty. With all the tools available, I don’t see late-game challenge and that is always what kills it for me in open world (or open solar system) games. But I’m so pleased at what this update did bring (all object biomes), and I’m going to explore this solar system so hard; I just might not do it on the 0.90 career..

  4. Synesthesia says:

    Between this and elite my belly is full of space butterflies. Ohhhh yes.

  5. derbefrier says:

    Nice time to jump back in this. Maybe finally land something on the mun without crashing, destroying or otherwise figuring out new and fun ways to kill poor jebidiah.

  6. Schledorn says:

    I think I’ll finally pick this up in the Winter Sale (which starts tomorrow, right?). These changes sound incredible.

  7. J-Force says:

    KSP continues to be one of my favorite games of all time. Great community, great game, great developers. And it teaches you some newtonian physics on top!

  8. stoner says:

    “…the adoption of the Small Print mod into the core game…”

    The mod’s name is Fine Print, not Small Print.

    //yeah, I know…thanks for the correction, bro….

  9. Rich says:

    So, do you actually need a degree in astrophysics to successfully get something into a stable orbit or land on the moon? Or, to put it another way, do you actually have to do the maths and pilot your ship your self, or do you get an autopilot?

    • LionsPhil says:

      Everything is fuzzed and scaled so you can get to the Mun steering there with WASD. It’s actually pretty hard to hyper-optimize with maths; eyeballing it with a good gut feel for orbital mechanics is more practical.

      But if you really want, MechJeb will fly for you, and Kerbal Engineer will give you numbers to slide your rule to.

      • hotmaildidntwork says:

        If you are just starting out you might want to avoid career mode for a bit. Some of the more advanced features double as learning tools, but in career they must be unlocked before they can be used.

    • P.Funk says:

      You only need a degree in astrophysics if you want to ensure that you do all that and more without using the maneuver nodes and get it right on your first try.