It seems like forever since I have made a post here, and a quick scroll down confirms it. In fact, it has been over a year since I last pressed that terrifying Publish button, though not for a lack of things to say. My Drafts folder is bursting at the seams, with dozens of disparate thoughts stitched together like Dr Frankenstein’s Monster. So what HAVE I been up to? That is a good question that I had to ask myself in earnest the other day.
First of all, I just recorded another exciting* podcast with the venerable Evan Forman over at Necessary & Sufficient; this time on the names we give things that fall from space. You can listen to it here.
Ok, so recording that podcast took just over an hour. What have I been doing with the other 8759 hours in the year? My research has been keeping me busy, and I guess sleep has to account for somewhere between a quarter and a third of those hours as well. I bought myself a brand spanking new keyboard (the music kind, not the typing kind) earlier in the year and have been slowly getting back into writing some music, something I might talk about later, but there is one particular time sink (154 hours so far) that I am all too aware of. This is partly because Steam keeps a record, and passive-aggressively reminds me everytime I start playing it.
It is called Kerbal Space Program.
Trying to describe Kerbal Space Program to people is actually somewhat difficult, as I have found out on numerous occasions. The best I can think of is if “Lego: NASA Edition” was made by Pixar. The game essentially revolves around controlling a race of creatures called Kerbals, building up a space program and exploring their solar system. The Kerbals themselves are adorably charming, seemingly only capable of two emotions: wondrous curiosity, and crippling terror. Their space program is remarkably advanced, given their blatant disregard for safety and borderline suicidal approach to progress.
The game is still in its early stages, no where near a finished product, and yet it is already so compelling that I think about it when I am at work, I even occasionally dream about it. So the question is, apart from the Kerbals’ intrinsic charm, why is it so compelling?
The game has no objectives, no set goals, and no victory conditions. The solar system is essentially just one gigantic sandbox for you to play in. At first this notion is nearly crippling, you have no idea what to do first. It turns out that space is in fact quite big!
So lets start small. When the space race was in full swing, the early attempts were simple payloads, tiny satellites that only stayed in orbit for a matter of days. It should be simple to put a small probe into orbit, right?
Ok, so maybe rocket science is actually kind of hard. Who would have thought. After several more attempts (where: several = 13**) I finally managed to get this tiny, simple craft into a stable orbit. It is badly designed, highly redundant, and serves little to no actual purpose. I was ecstatic!
This was just the beginning, of course, and over the coming weeks I want to cover some more of my thoughts and adventures with Kerbal Space Program. There is also another big event that I am bursting at the brim to talk about, and that is PAX Australia, however for now I am going to leave you with this amazing fan-made trailer.
You can buy Kerbal Space Program from the developers, or if you prefer to keep things on Steam, it is available there as well. There are also free demos available from both sources. Once again, I warn that the game is not a finished product, and is undergoing constant and regular updates, but for the price I can not think of a better way to spend 154 hours… and counting.
*Exciting for me; I love doing these podcasts and I am genuinely honoured every time I am invited back as a guest. Whether or not you find it exciting, well, you will just have to listen and see for yourself.
**Maths is also hard.