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Developer Insights #15 - Writing for Kerbal Space Program


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On 8/30/2022 at 2:18 PM, Bej Kerman said:

Rather, what you said is very much reminiscent of what someone would say when they are used to frauds such as Elon Musk trying to reinvent public transport in a privatised matter. 

Controversial opinion, but this is why, as much as I love space travel, I'm not a fan of the privatized efforts.  

The beauty and glory of space exploration, for me, is not just the cool technology.  A large part of it is the unity it can build in a country, in the world, and even down to among the group of astro- and cosmonauts that venture forth for it.  You don't get that same sense of unity, of an entire, collective people throwing their resource, pride, and effort behind it, in the private sector endeavors.  While they may be pioneering technology that could revolutionize many different industries, it's silo'd in to a private group of individuals, in particular, one man, for all it's glory, and shared sense of accomplishment.  

The reason that the 1960s space race was such a unifying force, is that every countryman was paying taxes into their government, and got to see the fruits of their investment build something they could all be proud of.   Every person could say they were a part of it (I acknowledge that racial tensions did not actually allow every person to be a part of it, and still are barriers today). 

I'm excited for the upcoming Artemis missions, and I hope that it sparks a new era of pride in a unified, country-led effort.  But for those that say private is doing what public cannot - that is only due to the country deciding that it did not want to fund a public effort, nor properly scale taxes to invest in public works, including a space program.  

When you have large, corporate interests that can throw their influence around, the easiest way to clear a path for your own company's success, is to get senators to defund the public institutions that would undermine your product or service, or compete with it.   /rant

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On 8/30/2022 at 7:43 PM, Bej Kerman said:

Also appears we can still pin infoboxes. That looks like a 'click to drag part' cursor I can see over the Putt-Putt engine.

Agree, now its just list weight of engine not trust, tolerances. This might be because it can use different charges or simply that its hidden from us

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@Just Jimhey thats a good post! I like how you and the team is keeping the feel and spirit of the original ksp alive. Playing ksp 2 should feel like a continuation of a more advanced version of ksp and not a whole new game (which it is) but it will give it a more familiar feel. What you ate doing is very important to that “feel” thanks man i know trying to do that just for 600+ parts cant be easy trying to keep everything from becoming redundant and boring. Trying to keep it fresh and original. You got your work cut of for ya thats for sure. Thanks for all you do. You guys should do a thing here on forums and get some audience participation on the more known parts from ksp 1. Just a thought. Throw out a list and pick the best quirky and funny user made ones. But dont tell which were picked they will know when the game comes out

Edited by Redneck
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 8/30/2022 at 11:24 AM, Intercept Games said:

Hello, my name is Jim Peck, a.k.a Just Jim here on the forum, and today I am excited to talk to you a little bit about writing for KSP2!

First I should mention how this all happened. A lot of newer members probably don’t know the story, but it really all started here on the forum.

I first discovered KSP (and this forum) about 8 years ago and was instantly hooked. Something I really liked was all the fan-fiction stories being written. I have been fascinated with space and science fiction all my life. I have also been writing all my life. I still have piles of notebooks lying around filled with all sorts of fun stuff I may revisit someday. So I decided to start my own fan-fiction story “The Saga of Emiko Station”. And it was really popular.

A couple years later I was still writing Emiko when I heard about a QA position that was available for KSP, and I applied, and to my delight I was hired! I spent the next 3 years working on KSP and learning a lot about how the game really works. And having way too much fun.

As far as KSP2, I was honored to be one of the very first in Squad to be given access to the game, and it gave me a lot of insight for what was to come later on. Last year I moved over full time to help on KSP2, and a few months ago I was super excited to become a full-time KSP2 writer!

So enough about me, let’s talk about the game.

To be clear, when I say I’m a writer, I do not mean writing/designing the game on a large scale. Those are design decisions that fall mostly on Nate Simpson, Shana Markham, and the rest of the senior staff. My job is writing out all the text that is used in the game, and it is a little more involved than you might think.

One of the most important aspects of my job is maintaining the spirit and flavor of the original KSP as closely as humanly (Kerbally?) possible. I can safely say everyone on the team feels the same. KSP is incredibly unique and continues to be so. Not just for the game physics, but also because of the Kerbals. Kerbals are a vital element in adding some fun and humor to what is otherwise a very challenging subject. But the game is not about the Kerbals directly, it is about building and flying rockets. It's up to me to help bring life to our little green friends with the writing; help the players know who they are, how they think, what is driving them to the stars.

OK, so one of my largest and most involved tasks is writing up the text for all the parts. There are somewhere around 600 parts currently planned for KSP2. I do not have the exact number off-hand, but somewhere around there. And this is a very big chunk of what I’ve been working on these past few months.

 

For each part in the game there are 4 items I need to focus on:

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Title

Part titles can be a model or designator number or a name, and often both, which can get a little confusing, especially to newer players. KSP parts will keep their existing titles, such as the FL-T400 fuel tank or LV-909 "Terrier." To make things a little more understandable, we added subtitles.

Subtitle

Subtitles are more descriptive than our colorful titles, and they help players identify a part without having to dig around the tooltip. This is especially handy in cases where we got a little crazy with the titles:

Title: Advanced Photonic Generation System
Subtitle: Lightbulb

Manufacturer

All of the existing KSP manufacturers will be in KSP2, along with some new ones! We are giving them a little more of a voice and influence, some of which is reflected in how they name or describe the parts they make. All of this is to add some variety and humor while also maintaining a sort of consistency between parts and manufacturers. 

For instance, despite being fierce competitors, Kerbodyne & Rockomax have very similar writing and naming styles (but would never admit it). C7 Aerospace considers themselves a little “better” than the rest of the manufacturers and would never, ever admit to a mistake, whereas Jebediah’s Junkyard would pride themselves in inventing a new engine by accidently exploding a bar-b-q grill. 

Description

Part descriptions are where things get really fun, but also a little more challenging. In KSP, part descriptions were funny, but sometimes not very descriptive. There is a real opportunity for them to tell you about the use case or the science behind a part, so we are making these more descriptive while also including the Kerbal style of humor whenever possible.

The biggest challenge is I have to do all of this with 300 or less characters, including spacing and punctuation. This is to ensure they fit into the pop-up window properly, but means I have to choose each and every word very carefully to make these as beneficial and funny as possible for the players.

 

For new KSP2 parts the process is very similar. I will give a new part a title and subtitle that matches up with other parts of that type, and assign it to the most appropriate manufacturer, including several new KSP2 manufacturers. One of my favorite new manufacturers is:

Shakeproof Atomic Fusion Engines (SAFE)

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Shakeproof Atomic Fusion Engines are the designers and builders of some of the newer tech engines, such as the Orion-style fission engines shown in our previous videos, and guarantee all their products to be completely safe. I mean, it’s right there in their name, so they must be safe… right, right???

NPR Putt Putt Engine Pre Alpha.png

While I’m on the subject of the newer technologies, one of the really fun things I get to do is researching the new techs. Everything we’re doing is grounded in real science, even if some of it is theoretical, and all of us on the team spend a great amount of time making sure everything is as accurate as possible for you, the player.

Now once I’m done writing these, they are all checked over (and often tweaked) and approved by our senior design manager: Shana Markham. And let’s not forget our legal team. They also have to approve everything I write, and are another reason why finding the exact wording is so important.

Once everything has been approved it must be implemented into the game. There are tags in the game everywhere, each with its own text string attached. Usually the person(s) working on the feature will do the set-up, I just provide the text. It is a huge process, and I am grateful for all the work that my teammates put into it.

Another very important part of the writing process is we are localizing KSP2 into several different languages. This means we have to be extra careful about the writing process in general, as well as finishing far enough ahead for our localization teams to have enough time to translate everything. Sometimes there might be an issue with a particular translation, such as how a joke is perceived in a certain language, and we need to work out the proper wording. I helped the KSP localization teams quite a bit and I had a lot of fun. It can be a really unique and interesting challenge playing the game in the different languages, and I got quite good at it after a while.

OK, so this does not just apply to parts. It is an example of everything that must be written for the game: experiments, the tech tree, celestial body descriptions, etc, etc... Every written bit of text in the game goes through the same process. Literally thousands of text strings that must be translated into all our different languages, and then implemented into the game in order to inform, teach, and make our players laugh and have fun.

And that’s it, that’s what I do. Best job ever!!!

One more thing. I would like to point out that we all work on this together. There have been a few times where I was stuck on a word or phrase and posted it on our slack channel and the next thing I knew I had 5 or 6 terrible jokes or puns from the rest of the team to choose from…  And what would KSP be without the occasional horrible joke or pun? Seriously, we are a very tight-knit team, and we have a lot of fun, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m going to end this with one last note. To those of you that want to be writers, or whatever your dream may be… Please don’t ever give up on it. If you like to write, then write, and write a lot. Not for money or attention or hits on the internet. Do it because you want to. The rest will come later. Trust me, I’m living proof.

-Cheers

Jim

Just Jim has spoken

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@Just Jim:

My apologies for arriving so late to the article, but I wanted to express my appreciation:  you've largely become the epitome of 'local boy makes good' for the forum, and to see how much you've been able to chase the dream is very gratifying for someone who's been a fan since Chapter 1 of Emiko Station (considering that it's been nearly seven years, now,--wow!).

I have two thoughts:  first, considering how unique KSP is, I'll say that if, after you've finished, KSP is only half as unique, then you've done the best job possible.  It looks like that's what you're trying to do, and it also looks like you're succeeding.  Not to diminish the contributions of your teammates (far from it--they sound like great colleagues), but I know that there has been concern in the past about whether KSP2 was going to be a, for lack of a better term, 'spiritual successor' to KSP instead of merely a sequential one.  It is beyond satisfying to see someone whom we already know 'gets' KSP doing so much to curate the tone of the sequel.

Second, are you certain that you want to go with Advanced Photonic Generation System?  Electromagnetic Radiation Generator System abbreviates to a much better pun. :sticktongue:

On a side note (and much more seriously), I hope you've managed to dodge the storms without too much trouble.

Stay safe, good luck, and thank you.

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12 hours ago, Zhetaan said:

@Just Jim:

My apologies for arriving so late to the article, but I wanted to express my appreciation:  you've largely become the epitome of 'local boy makes good' for the forum, and to see how much you've been able to chase the dream is very gratifying for someone who's been a fan since Chapter 1 of Emiko Station (considering that it's been nearly seven years, now,--wow!).

Thank you!  And yeah... It's going on 4 years now that I've been with Squad and Intercept, and there are days I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around it.  I hope I can inspire others to start writing and putting yourself out there and going for it. You never know what might happen!    
 

12 hours ago, Zhetaan said:

I have two thoughts:  first, considering how unique KSP is, I'll say that if, after you've finished, KSP is only half as unique, then you've done the best job possible.  It looks like that's what you're trying to do, and it also looks like you're succeeding.  Not to diminish the contributions of your teammates (far from it--they sound like great colleagues), but I know that there has been concern in the past about whether KSP2 was going to be a, for lack of a better term, 'spiritual successor' to KSP instead of merely a sequential one.  It is beyond satisfying to see someone whom we already know 'gets' KSP doing so much to curate the tone of the sequel.

One thing I can safely say about the team... wait... back that up. Two things. First, they are all brilliant!  I work with some of the smartest and most talented people ever.  
But to your point... we all feel the same about the Kerbals. Right up to the highest levels. We are making some really cool improvements and additions to the game.  But the one thing everyone agrees on is the Kerbals cannot and will not change.  Well, maybe physically a bit (they look so cool!!!). But the personality and spirit of the Kerbals and the game has to remain consistent. They are super important to the game, and I am doing everything I can... we all are... to make sure they stay... well, Kerbal.  :valhappy:  :happy:

12 hours ago, Zhetaan said:

Second, are you certain that you want to go with Advanced Photonic Generation System?  Electromagnetic Radiation Generator System abbreviates to a much better pun. :sticktongue:

I love it... but might be a bit late to change things.
 

12 hours ago, Zhetaan said:

On a side note (and much more seriously), I hope you've managed to dodge the storms without too much trouble.

Yes, it turned and hit south of us. We got really, really lucky.  Like the Matrix bullet dodging kind of lucky.  
 

Edited by Just Jim
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58 minutes ago, Strawberry said:

Its easy to change a line of code in one version of a game, its a lot harder to do so in 10 different lines each in different languages with there own wordplay involved. 

That's not how it works. The code doesn't change, rather the thing that changes is an index which contains text that gets rendered after the code establishes things like UI layout.

Edited by Bej Kerman
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1 hour ago, Strawberry said:

Does this mean that translations have already begun ?

1 hour ago, Rutabaga22 said:

I was thinking this meant that parts were done.

Nice try... Y'all know I can't comment on any of that... sorry.   

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On 8/30/2022 at 4:38 PM, Just Jim said:

"The readings are zero, almost as if it was in a vacuum."

It would be great if once in awhile it would read significant pressure in a vacuum and the option to "Smack instrument firmly" would appear in the part access menu.  After clicked, you'd  get the same familiar response

Edited by darthgently
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2 hours ago, darthgently said:

It would be great if once in awhile it would read significant pressure in a vacuum and the option to "Smack instrument firmly" would appear in the part access menu.  After clicked, you'd  get the same familiar response

Why not consolidate it into one readout?

Quote

The readings are through the roof, as if the craft were sitting on a seabed -- the crew is skeptical. A firm smack to the instrument shows the craft is, indeed, still in space as the pilot had suspected.

Edited by Bej Kerman
Made the sentence flow better
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2 hours ago, Bej Kerman said:

Why not consolidate it into one readout?

Only because I want a dev to have to create a "smacking" animation because Jim needs it to make the text make sense.  And would really like to see that animation 

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On 9/1/2022 at 7:01 PM, Pthigrivi said:

Useful information: This is much more obvious with things like resource scanning than it is with most of the experiments we're used to, but some mods like SCANsat have managed to tap into some experiments for biome mapping, altimetry, and anomaly detection that are way, way more compelling than anything stock. You could imagine a scenario where barometer scans unlock the ability to predict reentry factoring drag, and thermometers let you see heat bars and manage radiator usage, and EM booms let you know about dangerous radiation environments. As much as possible players should see these experiments as legit engineering and navigation tools even if they had completed the tech tree. 

I really like this suggestion.  There's another reason why this could be helpful: motivation to send smaller missions.

I really like the idea of building small, lightweight craft that only perform flybys or suicide dives into an atmosphere.  Unfortunately, KSP1 doesn't motivate me to send smaller missions and instead I tend to build large general-purpose SSTO hoppers with ISRU.  There's nothing wrong with ISRU hoppers, but I wish there was a compelling reason to send a wider variety of missions.  Exploring planets in increments over multiple missions is also a bit closer to reality and makes role play easier.

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2 hours ago, poopslayer78 said:

I really like this suggestion.  There's another reason why this could be helpful: motivation to send smaller missions.

I really like the idea of building small, lightweight craft that only perform flybys or suicide dives into an atmosphere.  Unfortunately, KSP1 doesn't motivate me to send smaller missions and instead I tend to build large general-purpose SSTO hoppers with ISRU.  There's nothing wrong with ISRU hoppers, but I wish there was a compelling reason to send a wider variety of missions.  Exploring planets in increments over multiple missions is also a bit closer to reality and makes role play easier.

We'll have to see what the smart folks at intercept have cooked up of course, but to me one of the most important factors in good games is clever problem solving. It's kind of the reason many of the more repetitive contract types ended up not being very fun. Taking a tourist to the mun isn't really a different problem than taking any other Kerbal to the Mun. Rescuing a Kerbal from orbit is just like intercepting anything else. It's fine the first time, but after the 5th? or the 12th? It's not requiring players to design a new type of mission in order to solve a unique problem. That should really be one of the underlying goals of whatever replaces current career mode--encouraging players to diversify their designs and come up with creative mission styles to solve unique problems--even on the same planet. If you create an incentive like unlocking trajectory prediction factoring drag or make uniquely valuable micro-biomes around anomalies a player might be inclined to send a small scanning orbiter and a drop probe to gather surface and atmosphere information before they send a rover or a crewed mission that can precisely land where they want to. Now instead of designing one vessel that can land pretty much anywhere for the same result you're designing 3 or 4 different vehicles that tackle specific goals. And none of those designs would be dictated to the player. It's up to them to figure out the best way to go about it. 

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On 10/5/2022 at 5:15 PM, Just Jim said:

Nice try... Y'all know I can't comment on any of that... sorry.   

Grin! 

Can you comment on what level of interaction players will have with the writing beyond a 'tool tip' pop up or 'product information page'? 

I.e... Will we have the ability to search for something like an 'ion drive' and be able to read about it - and perhaps follow links to related topics or parts? 

(like a Civpedia, but instead a Kerbilopedia?) 

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On 10/10/2022 at 12:06 PM, JoeSchmuckatelli said:

Grin! 

Can you comment on what level of interaction players will have with the writing beyond a 'tool tip' pop up or 'product information page'? 

I.e... Will we have the ability to search for something like an 'ion drive' and be able to read about it - and perhaps follow links to related topics or parts? 

(like a Civpedia, but instead a Kerbilopedia?) 

I am not allowed to comment on anything that hasn't already been said. Sorry.  

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