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Developer Insights #6 – Kerbals, The First New Look

Intercept Games

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As a licensed Kerbothropologist, it is my distinct honor, pleasure, and purpose to study and report upon the dominant, sentient, bipedal species living on Kerbin, their home planet.



Yes, Kerbals. A spacefaring species, brimming with optimism, ingenuity, and a dangerous abundance of “Can Do!” attitude (with almost no regard for “Should Do?”) You may already be familiar with this inspiring species, but I have the distinct honor of diving deeper than most into the societal, cultural, and psychological aspects of our little green friends (even in their space suits they’re not as tall as the average adult human.)

For example, despite sharing the same surname, Kerbal astronauts and employees of the Kerbal Space Center do have ways of exhibiting their individual personalities. While regulation uniforms are required for all space center personnel, hairstyles and garment colors are not so strictly enforced, seen here in these candid shots I took during my visit to Kerbin.



One observation of note was a bit of harmless drama discovered among the staff at the Vehicle Assembly Building. It appears that the experts responsible for the actual rocket science have a friendly rivalry with the staff responsible for building and engineering said rockets, as illustrated here in a few more candid photos.



As flight training happens daily at the KSC, I had the opportunity to witness the paces they put themselves through. Here, I noticed distinct differences in the performance and attitudes of each Kerbal astronaut, which I will try to describe and illustrate below:


  • I first noticed that the demeanor of each test subject, while waiting for their tests to begin, differed to such a degree that I labeled the observation “Optimism.” Some astronauts sat uneasily as they waited, while others seemed very amused with themselves.
  • As testing began, I noticed almost every Kerbal appeared to relish the strenuous challenges, but each only enjoyed them for so long before their mood soured. It shows a distinct cultural enjoyment of thrill seeking, not too different from our own delights with carnival rides. Their words for these phenomena were puzzling (and wholly unpronounceable as their language has a literal backwards sounding quality to my human ears.) They seemed to have two interchangeable terms for what I would have called “thrill seeking” and “fear.” While both of which indicate some level of bravery, one refers to their enjoyment of thrills and can be used to tease one another, whereas the other term is used to refer to the limits of their bravery in a more serious tone. I have casually labeled them “Stupidity” and “Bravery” in the chart, for improved context.
  • On the subject of “Bravery” and its limits, I witnessed a range of responses in the breakdown of their resolve. I have attempted to organize these responses into 3 stages as illustrated below from clips of their test footage.

Stage 1 Panic


— The Kerbal shows clear concern, shaking with energy, or anticipation, but otherwise in control of themselves.

Stage 2 Panic


— As the situation worsens, each astronaut seems to kick in to an “I Can Fix This!” state of mind, and instinctively attempts to address the danger by any means within their reach.

Stage 3 Panic


— Beyond some point, many Kerbals seem to lose confidence in their ability to fix the situation and begin to flail indiscriminately in what can only be described as pure panic. Of note: Not all Kerbals seemed to reach Stage 3; at least, not in the tests I observed. Others even fell unconscious before exhibiting some of the later stages.

  • As for unconsciousness, I observed a limit to the amount of pressure and jostling each test subject could withstand before they appeared to grow sick, or perhaps drowsy, followed ultimately with unconsciousness. I labeled their capacity to stay conscious as “Constitution.”

I have much left to learn about our spacefaring friends, but they inspire me every day to stay curious, and be brave in the face of uncertainty. As for now, I must leave you to continue my obligated studies, as the grants I’ve accumulated require it! Luckily, I love my job, and lucky for you, there should be a new video coming out that will further sate your curiosity.


-Paul Zimmer (Kerbothropologist, 3D Animator, & Content Engineer)


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Oh wow! Tons of information on kerbals! To start, gotta ask, are the lab coats, hard hats, overalls, etc. a choice to wear? Or aesthetic additions for VAB or videos only?:heart_eyes:

So depending on their facial expressions we can really begin to gauge a kerbals reaction to a situation it seems. Even down to if they can handle excessive g-force. Good info on launches and risky maneuvers to see if they are blacking out before it happens. Seems like when I start my test builds, I'm gonna need stupid kerbals for the flights LoL:grin:

BTW, glad you attached your license to the post, very nice touch!:joy:

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On 7/3/2021 at 7:30 AM, softweir said:

Hum. Are their eyes now symmetrical? Classic Kerbals had smaller left eyes! I liked it:- it rather nicely added to the goofy effect.

In one of the other videos they commented that it's now a character trait.  Some kerbals do, some don't!

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3 hours ago, Jimbodiah said:

The new ones look like fan-art renders or something. There is a disconnect in me with what I see for 2.0 kerbals.

I think the 1.0 Kerbals look ugly. A low poly head with a hair texture haphazardly pasted over the texture-space coordinate singularity on top of their head. The KSP 2 Kerbals just look better, more fleshed out. They might only look like fan renders because you're not used to them.

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