I don’t play many PC games, in fact, I only play one: Kerbal Space Program (KSP). KSP is a spaceflight game in which you personally design and build every craft you launch, with the goal (such as it is) to explore the solar system. If you can dream it up, you can build it. Not to say it will fly, of course, as KSP strives to be as accurate to Newtonian physics as possible. If your design works, it can take your crew to one of the game’s many moons or planets and back, if it doesn’t…
For the last year or so, this game has been the only thing keeping a Windows install active in my home. But as of today, that changes. For the 0.19 release, developer Squad has finally made KSP available for Linux.
Kerbal Space Program
Currently, KSP in the fairly early stages of development. In the long term, players will be tasked with managing their own space program; having to deal with budgetary constraints, research and development, etc. But the difference between KSP and other “Sim” games is that you’ll not only have to manage your space program, but actually build and fly the craft you create. If you build and fly a successful mission, the public will love you and more money will come in. Crash and burn…and it will get harder to fund that next flight.
It’s a bit like if “SimCity” actually required you to play as the construction workers once you decided you wanted to build a new house. You’ll need skills in management and the the ability to practically implement the decisions you make.
But the team at Squad is relatively small, and they are taking one thing at a time. For now, the developers are focused on getting the construction and flight mechanics of the game working, and just let players have at it in a sandbox environment without any actual goals or monetary limitations.
It turns out, this is extremely fun.
You have nearly as much fun watching a rocket realistically rip itself to shreds as you do actually touching down on a distant planet. Which is good, since you’ll be blowing up plenty of vehicles. Just making it into orbit is a serious accomplishment for a first time player, something which will likely require a few hours of tinkering and watching videos online before you can fully figure out (it actually helps if you have a bit of interest in space vehicles and engineering when you start playing, as the game is realistic enough to make that information useful), to say nothing of attempting a return mission to even a very close celestial neighbor.
Linux support is obviously the biggest addition to this release of KSP, but it isn’t the only one. Version 0.19 boasts the following additional changes and enhancements:
* Atmospheric Effects:
Watch your spacecraft flare up as they re-enter the atmosphere, and produce vapor trails during high-speed flight.
* New Kerbal Animations:
The Kerbals got a massive overhaul on their facial expressions! The new Expressions system uses the new Mecanim animation engine from Unity, giving Kerbals a lot more expressiveness. Watch their faces distort in total panic or gleeful joy, now also when you’re out on EVA.
* Rover Wheels:
Drive across the surface of other worlds with the new rover wheel parts, which are steerable and self-powered. Construct anything from tiny unmanned rovers, to exploration buggies, to huge mobile contraptions.
* Graphical and Scenery Improvements
We’ve got a New Launchpad model at KSC, with 100% less launch tower, a new Runway, and much improved night-time lighting, making for greatly improved visuals, especially at night.
* More New Parts
We’ve added several new parts for general construction. Featuring panels, girders, and a lot more!
Kerbal Space Program can be purchased directly from the KSP Store for $23. For the purchase price, you get a DRM-free download of the game for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux; as well as free updates forever. When the game is finished it’s expected the price will be higher (in fact, the game already costs more now than when I purchased it originally), so don’t wait too long.
That being said, the KSP servers are currently under very high load from the mad rush to get this new version, so you might need to wait a day or so before things settle down to the point you can actually download your copy.