DonAithnen (donaithnen) wrote,
DonAithnen
donaithnen

Kerbal Space Program

When the Steam sale was going on a couple weeks ago, one of the interesting games on sale was "Kerbal Space Program".

However it was only a moderate sale, 25% or so. So after buying a dozen (or two, or three *cough*) other games, i decided i really didn't need to pick Kerbal Space Program up until it was on a better sale, so i added it to my wishlist and then forgot about it for awhile.

Then _something_ caused me to stumble across it again, which caused me to look it up on tvtropes

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/VideoGame/KerbalSpaceProgram


That led me to this youtube video series:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9ah7rjx_8g
(which i later went back and started watching from episode 1)

and then this one:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3lgK2lMrUE

And then i just gave up and bought the game. For the full $23 price =P

After spending 9ish hours on it i've managed to make a number of rockets that work (and a larger number that don't) and two or three "space" planes that work (and an even larger number that don't work. Space planes are hard.)

I've made it to the moon (or rather, "Mun") three times now. And when i say "made it to the moon" i mean "impacted violently on the surface"

My current big rocket has a successful launch about one times in three. The other two times either while decoupling between stages the pieces of the old stage bang into the new stage, damaging it and throwing everything off-kilter, which sends the ship into a spin before everything self-destructs. Or sometimes the ship just goes out of control for absolutely no reason just after decoupling, and spins itself to pieces. (Sometimes it goes out of control, does one or two spins, and i manage to get it back under control, making it one of the one in three successful launches, albeit with some panic in the middle.)

Once you're in orbit, it turns out to be surprisingly easy to rendezvous with the moon. At least after going through the orbital mechanics tutorial and read some tips on the web. The hard part is sticking the landing.

When you're landing on earth you have an altimeter that tells you how far you are above see level, you can kinda eyeball how far you are above the terrain, and you can always deploy your parachute early and just drift down.

When trying to land on the moon, parachutes obviously don't work. The moon is all shades of grey and black, making it really hard to visually tell how close you are to the ground, and although the altimeter resets when you get close to the moon for some reason it doesn't quite align with actual ground level. Every time when attempting to land i crashed into the surface when the altimeter read something around 4000-5000 meters.

The second time i at least saw the ground coming, but in addition to trying to keep your vertical velocity steady, it is not at all easy to kill all your horizontal momentum and then return to a perfectly upright state so you don't add more horizontal momentum while breaking. Especially now when you're going it in 3D and trying to align yourself exactly with your horizontal momentum so you can kill it is no easy task. Especially since you have to be reasonably close to the ground in order to get a sense of which way and how fast you're moving, at which point you also need to be constantly worried about hitting the ground itself. So in the second run i was descending approximately okay, but when i got close to the surface, far sooner than i expected, i realized i was going at least 60 mph sideways, and while trying to juggle staying aloft while killing my sideways momentum, i slammed into the side of a crater or hill or something =P

Short version: playing Lunar Lander in 3D is hard, especially with a funky altimeter and no range finder =P
Tags: video games
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