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Docking has killed my Kerbal fun


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I love this game and have logged a couple hundred delightful hours exploring it so far.

I suck at docking though. It takes me hours, generally ends in failure and, being something I need to do in order to accomplish the rest of the stuff I'd like to do in the game, has absolutely destroyed the fun of the game for me.

There's Mechjeb and ORDA, but they take forever and seem to fail ten times for every success. I'm not 13, I have a life to live outside of the game and can't spend tens of hours failing to dock two ships.

It truly saddens me to say that I'll have to hang up KSP now because of this one shortcoming. I absolutely love every other aspect of the game.

I know some do just fine with it (yes, I've watched Scott Manley dock sooo many times on YouTube), but not me for some reason. I'd really like the ability to select two ports and hit "dock" when I'm within 100m.

Lacking that, I'm afraid I'm done.

:(

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Personally, two things forced me to learn to dock well (I was absolute crap at it before).

1. The requirement for my latest project to dock supremely massive objects (the largest piece thus far was just upwards of 700 tons, docked to an object which weighed about 5 times that), which means you HAVE TO HAVE pinpoint accuracy along all axes and really fine control on the RCS.

2. Using Sr. docking ports, so that the connections I was making between these massive objects would be at least somewhat stable.

RCS Build Aid is your friend. Lets you place your RCS ports so that you can translate perfectly straight (the #1 easiest way to dock, hands down), no questions asked. Ho hum, another docking, indeed.

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It's entirely possible to go anywhere in the system and land on any planet (and return as well) without docking (although Eve is quite hard to do unless you're a pro who can make a <30 tonne lander and do a pinpoint landing on top of the highest mountain there).

Also, what part of docking do you have trouble with? The docking itself and lining up two ships to where they can touch, or rendezvous where you're just trying to get to the other craft you want to dock to? For most people it's the latter, but it seems like you're having trouble with the docking aspect which surprises me. Switch to one ship, point it at the ship you want to dock to and leave SAS on, switch to the other ship, point it at the first, and thrust gently toward it, then use RCS to translate and keep your prograde marker pointed at your target marker. Rinse and repeat as necessary to keep them pointed at each other.

Edited by Ekku Zakku
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as someone who is still learning docking with the help of MechJeb 2.0 <it does work, you just kinda have to baby sit it as you close into the target> I have learned something valuable: on what ever you are trying to dock, make absolutely certain you have it balanced and have your RCS placed as close to said objects center of gravity as you can, it will make a HUGE difference. Also, with out knowing what exactly the issue is, are you failing to at least rendezvous with your intended docking target or are you getting to the rendezvous and then cant dock? It honestly does take a supreme effort to learn to do. Also, make sure you launch into the right window, say for example you have a ship on orbit at 200km up and its on the Equator and you are prepping a launch. You have 2 choices here. 1 is easy, the other, is not.

1. wait for the target to be about 20-30 degrees to your west and then launch, at which point, take your AP HIGHER than your target so your sub-orbital path crosses twice, at some point in that arc, if you timed it right and held the same inclination and so forth, you should cross into your object and can go for rendezvous then <this can be the hard way if you fail to time it right, or can be easy depending on luck>

2. Do the same as above, with a bit of a change, instead of going for a direct intercept while sub orbital, you take it to a full orbit either above your target, which makes you SLOWER than it, or below, which makes you quicker, and then, set up a node to either raise up into or descend down into the targets path.

either way, once you have an intercept set up, get to about 1.5 to 2km from the target and 0 your relative speed and move in for the docking at 1 m/s closing rate until you are say 10-20 meters out then slow to .5 m/s to take it to about 2 meters then drop to .2 m/s and dock. BUT, above all: practice!!

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Docking is all about getting your head around the core ideas of celestial mechanics... in real life. In the game, you have a plethora of useful tools that can effectively reduce it to an afterthought.

1. Getting an intercept - The maneuver node and targeting systems are tailor-made for this. Target the ship you want to dock with, then set up a maneuver node and adjust it so that you get an intercept with it. It helps when the two vessels have at least somewhat similar orbits, of course... Anything within 1KM is plenty close.

2. Closing the gap - Once you're about a minute from intercept, set the navball to Target (it's usually set to Orbit or Surface; just click that text to change it), pull up the map screen and start thrusting towards the retrograde (yellow X) marker. Adjust your thrust so that the time to intercept is somewhere between 20 and 50 seconds by the time you're down to 1m/s. Advanced tip: if you fire equidistantly from the pink dot in the direction that the yellow X is but on the far side of the yellow X and pink dot, you'll push the yellow X closer to the pink dot, making your intercept even closer!

3. Final intercept - By the time you get down to 1m/s, you've usually got a pretty close lock on your target. Flip your ship around and use RCS to accelerate as needed to get to it faster, keeping the prograde (yellow circle) marker over the pink circular marker. Time acceleration really helps speed this along. Try to keep your speed no faster than 1m/s per 50 meters of distance left to cover, and slow to 0.2 to 0.3m/s by the time you get within 50 meters. This is also the time to select your target docking port on the ship you want to dock with and select Set Target, as well as choosing Control from Here on the docking port on the incoming ship which you want to dock with.

4. Docking adjustment - If the port's not straight ahead, switch camera to Chase mode (hit V to switch modes), and adjust your heading so you can get closer. The translation controls (IJKLNH) are very helpful for this. Your ultimate goal is to get it so that the pink circle is right in front of you, and then get the yellow circle right in the center of that going between 0.1 and 0.3m/s. The game takes it from there, assuming your craft are not unbalanced and don't drift.

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Alright, I'm gonna give you a new tool to work with.

HydroTech RCS is a docking Autopilot, combined with other useful tools. Really, this autopilot is far better than MechJeb's docking autopilot and balances the RCS to not waste it too much. It also comes with docking cameras and targets to help align you properly. MechJeb learned me how to launch, land, do basic maneuvers, etc. This mod learned me how to dock. I recommend you to install it and try it. Watch it dock small crafts together, you'll learn a lot. Then when you think you're ready, try docking by using the tools this mod gives, like the alignment holder and the cameras, then try docking without it. It won't be long until you can do it yourself. Docking will feel like a breeze once you have some practice, and this sure can get you started without making you waste too much time on it.

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Aaaaargh. Threads like this rustle my jimmies so much. Obviously it isn't the game that's the problem, as many, many others are able to dock things just fine. Docking is challenging if you don't know what's going on mechanically, but you can't go and blame the game for your personal shortcoming.

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I see you are trying to give up Dave - and that is something I cannot allow. I have the greatest enthusiasm for the mission you know.

Seriously - someone with a forum handle like ae35unit needs to be in space! Don't give up - it is possible and it does get easier. Speaking as someone who's approximately 3x13 :) Quick question though - is it the docking that's the problem or the rendez-vous? Sorry if this comes across as condescending (tis not meant to be) but they are very different maneuvers, require different skills and can be fixed/simplified with different mods.

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As previously mentioned-- lazor docking camera (or docking alignment indicator) can be a huge help, and getting your RCS ports reasonably balanced helps a ton.

The biggest thing I've figured out that I haven't seen in this thread yet-- if you've got your targets set up (control from your docking port, set the other one as target), hit the "PAR -" (Parallel, opposite direction) button under the TGT tab in mechjeb's smart A.S.S.. It'll keep you aligned in pitch and yaw, so even if your RCS ports are pretty far out of balance you can pull off a dock.

Also, caps lock is your friend once you get close. If your target starts rotating for some strange reason (glitch), a quick burst of time acceleration will stop it.

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Always getting killed by the computer in Age of Empires killed my fun in that, so I gave up on it. I admit, I sucked at it and couldn't be bothered to learn strategies to beat the computer. Meanwhile, everyone else I knew was much better at killing the computer.

Point is, some games take work to be good at. It's entirely your choice whether you want to put in that work.

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Always getting killed by the computer in Age of Empires killed my fun in that, so I gave up on it. I admit, I sucked at it and couldn't be bothered to learn strategies to beat the computer. Meanwhile, everyone else I knew was much better at killing the computer.

Point is, some games take work to be good at. It's entirely your choice whether you want to put in that work.

well... i suck hard in AoE and Starcraft

but i am semi-decent in Warcraft3 (tho' i am only good at hero-rushing)

and

there is also a point that

even the games are in the same genre doesnt mean you can be good in all of them.

you may suck in some but you may be good in some other.

so... perhaps you want to try another space sim if KSP cant bring you fun anymore.

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I usually point the other ship towards ground, and the other one to the opposite direction. That helps me to keep them aligned correctly.

RCS balancer and docking cam are great tools to make docking easier.

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As previously mentioned-- lazor docking camera (or docking alignment indicator) can be a huge help, and getting your RCS ports reasonably balanced helps a ton.

The biggest thing I've figured out that I haven't seen in this thread yet-- if you've got your targets set up (control from your docking port, set the other one as target), hit the "PAR -" (Parallel, opposite direction) button under the TGT tab in mechjeb's smart A.S.S.. It'll keep you aligned in pitch and yaw, so even if your RCS ports are pretty far out of balance you can pull off a dock.

Also, caps lock is your friend once you get close. If your target starts rotating for some strange reason (glitch), a quick burst of time acceleration will stop it.

Rarely does one see a 'first post' as useful and correct as this. (Welcome to the forums by the way to both you and the OP)

I'd like to add only one minor detail: Switch to 'Chase' view (cycle through views with [v]) in order to align the camera with your control node. Now they key to translate up will always be up and down will always be down. Nothing is more frustrating to realize too late you've been adding sideways velocity instead of reducing simply because you had your camera view upside down.

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