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How do you rate KSP's learning curve?


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KSP seems to come up on occasion in articles and videos of games that have steep learning curves, like this somewhat-cliché top 10 video:

 

 

 

As someone who only got into modern gaming recently through KSP (I grew up at the time Pacman was invented and once out of college, pretty much never touched a game again other than online solitaire and the like until two years ago) I had not point of comparison.  I started on Kerbal.

How do you all rate it? What would you say are the most difficult, or perhaps a better word, complex games out there?  For example, Chess and especially Go are pretty simple to learn the mechanics of, but they take a lifetime to master.  I don't mean that, I mean complex in that it takes a long time to just get your head around the mechanics of the game.  From what I read about, it, EVE Online fits the bill of being nearly overwhelming. Others cite Dwarf Fortress.

For me, KSP feels a bit like Photoshop, Adobe Premiere or Logic Pro X. Quite complex, but not insurmountable with time and interest and dedication.  Once you reach a certain comfort level you can start to create, and then the creativity and skills play off each other and you being a steady climb of skill improvement through your creations.

It is a stark contrast to something like Portal, or The Swapper that I just completed the other day. Took no time to learn at all, and took only a few hours to finish, but wow, what a brilliant game!

 

So....What do you all reckon? Where does KSP fall on that continuum?  

What games would you rate as having an equal or greater learning curve?

 

 

Edited by Klapaucius
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Playing the normal career without the ominous cheat menu is quite a challenge, finishing the techtree by doing all the needed contracts and diving into the implemented loopholes (...) gave me real headaches. 

I`d call KSP normal career as a headcrack. 8/10

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The game as a whole could be considered steep learning curve. Having to learn Delta V, transfer times, and the likes. Those things take time to learn, and can be difficult to calculate imo. 

Building a rocket, I would say is moderately low on the learning curve. God knows I spent hours learning how to not make my rockets do front flips or to pitch over and start heading back to the KSC

Building a plane, is moderately high. Have to learn COM and COL and COT to make a craft stable enough to fly. 

Getting to the mun? Low

Getting to Mimmus? Medium

Getting to anywhere else beside the two moons? High. 

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Depends of what you mean. It's very easy to start playing. Just put some parts together and launch. But to actually go somewhere and make stuff that works... that's hard. 

When I started playing, I didn't want to watch any tutorials or how tos. I didn't want to "cheat", like using a solution for RPG game. For me KSP was a puzzle. Took me 5 hours before I made my first orbit. Another 10 hours to get to the Mun. 20 hours to figure out how to randezvous and dock. 

So, after about 100 hours I finally could more or less do anything I wanted :) In that time most of the games are already over and forgotten, but for KSP that's the time needed to just learn how to play... I'd say it has very steep learning curve. 

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17 minutes ago, _stilgar_ said:

When I started playing, I didn't want to watch any tutorials or how tos. I didn't want to "cheat", like using a solution for RPG game. For me KSP was a puzzle. Took me 5 hours before I made my first orbit. Another 10 hours to get to the Mun. 20 hours to figure out how to randezvous and dock. 

Interesting viewpoint. I have no issue with tutorials because to me it is like math class.  I don't need to invent geometry to learn the skills, the puzzle is in then applying that knowledge. That is not to denigrate your way at all; I just find it interesting.

21 minutes ago, GoldForest said:

The game as a whole could be considered steep learning curve. Having to learn Delta V, transfer times, and the likes. Those things take time to learn, and can be difficult to calculate imo. 

Building a rocket, I would say is moderately low on the learning curve. God knows I spent hours learning how to not make my rockets do front flips or to pitch over and start heading back to the KSC

Building a plane, is moderately high. Have to learn COM and COL and COT to make a craft stable enough to fly. 

Getting to the mun? Low

Getting to Mimmus? Medium

Getting to anywhere else beside the two moons? High. 

Funny, this makes total sense, and yet I have spent so much time building planes now that I find them very easy, whereas my rockets still suck and my ability to maneuver efficiently is pretty low.  But yeah, at the beginning, planes were an intimidating mystery.

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Just now, Klapaucius said:

Interesting viewpoint. I have no issue with tutorials because to me it is like math class.  I don't need to invent geometry to learn the skills, the puzzle is in then applying that knowledge. That is not to denigrate your way at all; I just find it interesting.

I didn't mean to imply that people watching tutorials play the game wrong :) I just thought that learning by trial and error was part of the fun. And the first time I actually managed to dock to my spacestation that I accidentally put in retrograde mun orbit... That was awesome. 

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Just now, _stilgar_ said:

I didn't mean to imply that people watching tutorials play the game wrong :) I just thought that learning by trial and error was part of the fun. And the first time I actually managed to dock to my spacestation that I accidentally put in retrograde mun orbit... That was awesome. 

I did not take it that way at all. I was just intrigued by differing play styles.

 

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6 minutes ago, Klapaucius said:

Interesting viewpoint. I have no issue with tutorials because to me it is like math class.  I don't need to invent geometry to learn the skills, the puzzle is in then applying that knowledge. That is not to denigrate your way at all; I just find it interesting.

Funny, this makes total sense, and yet I have spent so much time building planes now that I find them very easy, whereas my rockets still suck and my ability to maneuver efficiently is pretty low.  But yeah, at the beginning, planes were an intimidating mystery.

Same here. I can get a lot of my planes off the ground thanks to tricks I learned, like hiding wings INSIDE  the fuselage.

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1 minute ago, 5thHorseman said:

Are graphs with discontinuities even considered curves?

Perhaps is not something that can be rendered in a graph, but is more conceptual. Like how space-time is curved, thus creating lots of weirdness.

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I would have to go with about a 6-7/10.  I feel the creators did a really good job getting the game playable.  Imagine trying to play without SAS, manover nodes, nav ball, prograde vector, op reaction wheels or center snap nodes.  The last couple updates have been amazing for stock play ability but they may have actually increased the learning curve slightly.  I have not played the tutorials in forever but I dont remember a tutorial for reading the nav ball or a tutorial for working the manover nodes.  They could even add a separate tutorial for advance manover node techniques for getting past the limitations of the current system.

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I'd say its hard to learn, very hard to master.

When I first played a demo of it years ago, I had no concept of how rockets work or how orbiting works. I slapped some parts together and couldn't make orbit (I did the classic newbie "launch straight up to 100km, then try to burn horizontal" thing), so I thought "ok, well let me just add more fuel and more engines" without staging, and the rocket didn't go much further. It took some trial and error to figure out that a tiny rocket with a little fuel tank and a little engine can go as far as a heavy rocket with a lot of fuel and big engines, and that the concept behind that was a little something called delta-v.

A couple hours later I made it to Mun orbit, told the friend who recommended KSP "ok, I beat the demo. I'm in Mun orbit" and he laughed and asked, "have you landed on it yet?"

LAND on it? :o

A few hours later I landed on it, and promptly tipped over.

 

Even when you get the basics down, there are TONS of things to learn in the game. The learning curve doesn't stop for a long long time.

Edited by Xavven
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This is why they made Kerbals so stupid. When you have failed to do what you intended for the 9001st time, you can look at the stupid little green Kerbals and feel like you're at least smarter than them!

Eve Online used to be insanely difficult to get started in, but last time I played the tutorial had been revamped entirely and all the noobs got grouped together in one system for some community spirit. KSP is still difficult for beginners, but you are only fighting against game mechanics and yourself rather than other players that delight in spoiling your day. There are a ton of resources online for both games which lessen any learning-pain considerably (if you get too fed up trying on your own).

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22 minutes ago, Xavven said:

Even when you get the basics down, there are TONS of things to learn in the game. The learning curve doesn't stop for a long long time.

I have a BS in aerospace engineering and I am still learning after playing 4-5ish years.  Still have not recovered rocks from eve or even been to the Joul system.  I really have to stop optimizing and restarting every time a new version comes out. Oh and then there is realism overhaul/RP-1

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I'd say it's about as steep a learning curve as you choose. What I mean by that is that the game has no specific stated goal (e.g. reach the end, collect all the things etc. etc.) that's normal for most games.

A lot of players never go further than Minmus, some never leave Kerbin, while other (me included) revel in doing the ridiculous out in deepest, darkest space. Out there somewhere is someone who has only ever made rovers to drive around in, or just blows up "ships" on the pad for fun... and they're all winners :)

Edited by purpleivan
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3 minutes ago, Nich said:

I have a BS in aerospace engineering and I am still learning after playing 4-5ish years.  Still have not recovered rocks from eve or even been to the Joul system.  I really have to stop optimizing and restarting every time a new version comes out. Oh and then there is realism overhaul/RP-1

My RO/RP-1 game has been going for a while and I've not made it out of LEO. That said, I did restart recently when the big RO for 1.6.1 update rolled along. 1.3.1 is pretty janky by comparison. ;)

Learning curve for stock, 7/10. Learning curve for RO 10/10, especially the way I play it. It's the first game where I've downloaded NASA technical papers to help me.

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Assuming that “learning curve” means how mastery of the game develops over time, I’d say very flat, not steep at all.

Meaning, it takes a looooong time to master the finer finesses of the game, like docking, soft landings, interplanetary transfers, etc.

On a side note, steep learning curves are good, it means you learn a lot in a short time.

Of course, most mean with “steep learning curve” that it’s hard. Just like literally usually means “figuratively,” and not literally literally, literally.

Funnily enough, my struggles with the game were not related to rocket engineering but to the interface:

  • Building rockets top-down makes sense... once you’re used to it. If you’re trying to assemble a rocket as in real life (bottom up) it will take a while before you figure out how it works. Especially since the stage numbers are “backwards” as well.
  • Rockets are throttled, and if you don’t throttle up, nothing will happens when you stage at launch. That took me a Scott Manley video to figure out. But I think that the newer versions have throttle up by default, or at least half way, so it’s a lot easier to figure out what’s going on.
Edited by Kerbart
Fixed a tupo
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12 minutes ago, Kerbart said:

Assuming that “learning curve” means how mastery of the game develops over time, I’d say very flat, not steep at all.

I have a different image of learning curve.

The x axis is mastery or competence and the y axis is study/practice time or effort put into learning.

Thus, KSP has a very steep learning curve.


Happy landings!

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KSP IS Rocket Science which is hard. KSP has a steep learning curve because it requires the player to at least have a basic understanding of real life concepts like orbital mechanics, gravity turns, TWR, DV...etc...etc. KSP itself is actually a fairly straightforward game with a solid UI. It's the Rocket Science that makes it hard, but there are plenty of online resources to help you learn that. I read a lot of material explaining how real world orbital mechanics work and most of that is applicable to the game.

Compare that with, say a Paradox strategy game. In that the learning curve is understanding a set of mechanics without direct real world counterparts. You're also contending with the complex UIs needed to manage the various game systems. In those games you only have information published by Paradox and the plentiful, but spotty support of youtubers and bloggers to help.

Edited by Tyko
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Well, it really depends on how the player decides to play the game:

The casual, 'KSP on the side' kind of player

The player who doesn't want to get into orbital mechanics and astrophysics. You can't blame them, really, it takes a lot of time to fully understand KSP in terms of optimal rocket design and the science behind flying a capsule propelled by controlled explosions. They just want to play a game, not study for a PhD, and frankly it can be simply not worth the effort to look up the hours of tutorials necessary to even become 'efficient' at playing KSP. 

The dedicated, slightly nerdy KSP player

I think most of us fall under this category, since you've viewed the official forum, which is more than what most KSP players do. If you look up tutorials and learn from designs of youtubers to optimise efficiency, or sub to Scott Manley, etc, then although it takes a long time, you will eventually end up 'mastering' KSP, maybe not to the extent of crazy people like Bradley Whistance, but enough to understand all the concepts in KSP, including how to save dV, etc. 

 

That said, its perfectly possible to play KSP casually, not looking up any tutorials, however, its unlikely to get anyone very far in the long run, perhaps into orbit with a literal hundreds of tons of spaceship just to give Jeb a view of Kerbin. And thats fine, getting into orbit is quite hard to get your head around, its just that some people would rather spend their time on other games, and some of us geek out on KSP

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3 hours ago, Kerbart said:

 

  • Building rockets top-down makes sense... once you’re used to it. If you’re trying to assemble a rocket as in real life (bottom up) it will take a while before you figure out how it works. Especially since the stage numbers are “backwards” as well.

In real life you assemble the rocket top down (at least big rockets), but you don't necessarily design it that way.  In KSP you are designing while building. 

I agree, the top down method is KSP makes a lot of sense.

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7 hours ago, _stilgar_ said:

I didn't mean to imply that people watching tutorials play the game wrong :) I just thought that learning by trial and error was part of the fun. And the first time I actually managed to dock to my spacestation that I accidentally put in retrograde mun orbit... That was awesome. 

true still interesting as most RPG has tutorials in the start and yes it tend to be very basic. 

Say the hardest skill to learn in KSP is docking. Yes some tasks are harder like landing on Tylo 

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I'd give it an 8/10. It was quite steep but really rewarding at the same time. Not impossible but sometimes it requires a lot of trial and error, rethinking and reinventing yourself. I can see why some people might not like that.

 

I mean I once went to my moms birthday and I sat there cranky staring at the floor. My mom asked me what was wrong and I told her about me trying to dock for the first time and trying ot for 7 hours straight and failing miserably. It was all I could think about. But its inspiring too. And gave me some insight in where my strengths and weaknesses are in general.

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40 minutes ago, Vakarian said:

I'd give it an 8/10. It was quite steep but really rewarding at the same time. Not impossible but sometimes it requires a lot of trial and error, rethinking and reinventing yourself. I can see why some people might not like that.

 

I mean I once went to my moms birthday and I sat there cranky staring at the floor. My mom asked me what was wrong and I told her about me trying to dock for the first time and trying ot for 7 hours straight and failing miserably. It was all I could think about. But its inspiring too. And gave me some insight in where my strengths and weaknesses are in general.

Yes remember starting out, was in orbit with the demo managed to get into Mun orbit the first day. 
Had some basic understanding or orbits. 
Weirdest stuff sent an probe to Minmus, was on colision trajectory for som reason I did not think of doing an burn sideways to raise Pe, I did an braking burn and ended in orbit clockwise :)

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I cam from Orbiter, so KSP was rather easy. :-p But I did stage my parachute with my engine on my first ship. Docking took me a while to master. I finally put my two ships into almost the exact same orbit so that at the farthest they would only be 10 meters apart. When that moment came when both ships raced away from me, I throw my hands up and went 'Now what did I do wrong!' Then it dawned on me that, oh, I had docked. My first asteroid encounter was tricky and bringing one back took me several refueling missions. I was trying to push it and of course had terrible steering problems.

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