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Kerbal Space Agency twitter fiction - 14 Month Update


Drew Kerman
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I've had a lot of fun using twitter as a fictive writing platform for my Sims gaming experience and wanted to do it for my career bid in KSP as well. I can read my Sim's story almost like a book from when he first moved into town to learning new skills to buying his new house to chasing after females to settling down in a relationship to travels abroad... I can pick up playing right where I left off after months of spending time with other games because I can easily get back into the head of my character - what he was doing and working for when I last left off. I wanted to be able to do the same for my time spent with (and away from) KSP and look back at some of my more memorable launches and missions and have them play out on a timeline. Plus, it's a lot easier for other people to follow along when the story is delivered to them bite-sized via a twitter feed rather than having to read a whole blog entry.

If I were to tweet while I played, however, not only would it get in the way of me playing but also spam follower's feeds over the course of a play session and have a very sporadic continuity. To get around this I use tweet schedulers - Hootsuite lets me schedule an unlimited amount of tweets but only at 5-minute intervals. Gremln lets me schedule tweets for any minute of the day but only 5 per hour (for the free account). Still, these two services combined allow me to build a realistic tweet timeline so even though I might execute a mission time-warped so that it lasts 30 minutes instead of 4 hours, I can schedule the mission tweets to actually span 4 hours when posted to twitter (or days, weeks ahead for longer missions). Although I may build and launch two missions in a day's worth of playing, I can schedule those missions to occur over the period of a week on twitter (launch day, a few days for recovery and analysis, second launch day). Building up a large lead time allows me to keep up a continuous stream of events without having to play every day. Which is good cause... you know... life.

Furthermore, this isn't just some basic log of what I'm doing. As I said, this is fictive writing so the KSA account will be tweeting as if the KSA were an actual agency. There will be updates on astronaut candidate programs, educational outreach, notes on astronomical events happening in the Kerbol system, some background operations of mission control - generally 2-5 tweets per day that are "filler" between the launching of missions but all of which are aimed to further build the fictive universe in which the KSA resides. For example, the agency is located on the shores of the Kerblantic Ocean at Cape Kernaveral and the world is unified under The Presider who lives in Kerbalopolis and is newly elected every 6 years. Since the game runs in 24 hour day cycles but a Kerbin rotation is 6 hours, there will be references to things like "second sunrise" (9am) or "fourth sunset" (12am). Kerbin is occupied by kerbals - kerbs (men) kerbettes (women) and kerblings (children). And so on.

The @KSA_MissionCtrl account is already in full-swing. Inaugural launch has been a success to test the rocket engine design expertise of the KSA engineering team, some astronaut antics have been reported, engine issues have compounded the second launch attempt and we are about to try again to launch late this morning and test our recovery system ahead of the first kerbed mission. Why not get caught up and follow along? Launch is at 10:30 EST!

Edited by Gaiiden
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  • 1 month later...

I'm happy to report the project is off to a good start. I've managed to accrue over 100 followers already, largely thanks to the support of the official KSP twitter - they obliged me with a retweet request and that brought in like 80 followers. A few more joined on their own and then I got to meet Scott Manley at the community meetup during GDC and he retweeted one of my tweets to him to help push me over 100. But the followers of @KSA_MissionCtrl have also been busy promoting the account with retweets and favorites - in fact there is one guy who favorites practically every single tweet I make. I don't know why really but I'll just assume he's a die-hard fan!

Then of course there is the interaction with other twitter accounts. Here are a few of my favorites:

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It's great to see other fictive accounts playing along, as well as real people trying to get into or break the fiction.

If you'd like to get a general recap on the missions the KSA has been performing so far, check out the Mission Report Dispatches. While good reading in relation to individual missions, they fail to fully convey the entire story that is happening day to day within the KSA universe. Bill, Jeb and Bob will all quickly evolve into their own characters over the next month (new non-astronaut characters will be introduced as well), the KSA as an agency will grow to handle larger missions, and things will be happening on Kerbin, like a new 10m ground-based telescope that will provide for some entertaining filler tweets and research for future missions.

As explained in my original post, missions are carried out over twitter in real time, with suitable delays between missions for various things like building new rockets, studying new data, dealing with the good/bad/tragic consequences of a previous mission, etc. This means that currently the story of the KSA already extends into the beginning of May - and I plan to put in a few months more of lead time before backing off my playing time so I can return attention to other things in my life while the story rambles on. I was at GDC this past week while the KSA launched two orbital missions. It was very cool to be off doing other things and "watching" things unfold on their own.

I'd like to quickly explain how the story is being written. First off, and most importantly, there is no preordained plot. I don't say to myself - "this probe will develop a computer virus that sends it off course and threatens the lives of kerbals with an unplanned re-entry over populated areas". What I do is design a mission, execute the mission, and then create a story around the events that ended up transpiring in that mission. A quick example would be the last mission the KSA flew (dispatch not yet available, but you can read it in the tweet stream), which was their third attempt to get an orbital science craft back to the ground in one piece. I had installed VOID and enabled the data-logging feature. To make the use of data-logging seem realistic, I also enabled the option that VOID consumes electrical power. However I forgot to really check how that would affect the amount of battery capacity I had on the rocket. Turns out - not enough. My mission was to launch, orbit, perform experiments and return. What happened was I launched, orbited, and the spacecraft ran out of power. If you read the tweet stream, you can see how I turned that into a story. I didn't outright say power was drained, but mission control instead seemed puzzled, had to ensure the craft was dead, and then take time to look into the problem to find the solution. In a future mission Bill will assume manual control of an unkerbed craft and send it way off course - that's me using the poor guy to cover for my own mistakes, but it makes for a good read.

So, this has been very enjoyable so far and I plan to continue as long as it remains so. Please follow along if you're on twitter and help spread the word to any friends that like space stories. I'd also love to hear some feedback from anyone who has any.

Edited by Gaiiden
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Thanks! Interestingly, a new account started up on twitter and followed me (and I followed them in return) called @M22_MissionCtrl - not sure if they got the idea from this thread or just stumbling across my twitter account but cool nonetheless. Hasn't really been updating much so far - they may be trying to play and update at the same time and will no doubt soon learn that's not a great thing to do :P

Edited by Gaiiden
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  • 3 weeks later...

The KSA is chugging right along. I've been at this for two months and the story has already grown out past 4 months, nearing the end of June at the time of this writing. There are two main reasons for the lead time. The most important of course is the fact that life can always get in the way at unwanted times, and having to put aside KSP when needed and still have events rolling on is a good thing. Second, this is very much a game still under development. When things break, sometimes you need a lot of time to fix them. If I decided to upgrade to a new release, I might need some time to get everything working again to continue the story. So yea, I'm trying to maintain at least a two-month lead time.

More Thoughts on the Story Embellishments

So in my first monthly update I mentioned how nothing was pre-ordained. Everything that happened happened and I needed to write about it. Well, fact is that's not really the best way to build a story. If you're failing mission after mission after mission - people are going to get bored and annoyed. So I've started making some very high-level plot decisions in advance and tweaking events as necessary to make sure they happen. For example, I specifically know how I want a character to die. Don't freak out that's not really much of a spoiler - you don't know who, how, when or why. But the fact that I can specifically answer those questions later on and do so in a way that adds to the story is the goal of such a decision. It won't just be some random "oops I forgot to check my staging and launched him backwards into the ground."

Overall though the story mainly continues to be guided based on how I perform in the missions I plan and execute. I said before how continued failures could lead to problems keeping the story interesting - fortunately I actually have not ran into that problem as of yet. I've been through about 15 missions so far and I've never had to fly any of them more than once. Okay, there have been a few game crashes and bugs that have caused me to reload the last quicksave every now and then, but never because I mistakenly pointed prograde for a burn instead of retrograde (that was an embarrassing event I pawned off on a computer glitch in the story :P). I own up to all my mistakes - except in the case where it results in the failure to reach one of the few high-level plot points I've set so far. So if "pre-ordained death character" were to die for some reason because I accidentally hit the stage button early, I would quickload but then purposefully trigger the stage button and work out how to prevent his death. So I'll never completely deny the fact that a mistake was made - it just can't be a mistake that leads somehow to his death.

Other twitter Accounts

Two more twitter accounts have popped up since my last update, @M22_MissionCtrl and @KerbalRSC. There might be one more soon. Overall the activity from these other accounts has been sporadic and minimal, most likely due to tweeting things as they go and not having as much time as me to really build up a large lead time. Still, it's been encouraging to see others pick up on or return to the idea and I've had a few nice conversations with them. You can read some new ones in the previous post gallery.

Fully Leveraging imgur and gremln

I'm a paid subscriber to both these services now. My imgur account image limit would have been exceeded eventually, and I wanted to be able to upload full-res game pics. My gremln account upgrade gave me the ability to squeeze in more scheduled tweet updates per hour, which has been a requirement as missions have grown more complex. I've also put some effort into my imgur account to make it more useful overall. It now hosts albums for all the mission reports I post here on the site - the tumblr-blog gallery style option is just perfect for them. It also hosts any images made public thus far in case the link server for my images goes down, and just because having them all in one spot is nicer than picking them out of mission reports or a twitter stream:

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Learning to Use reddit

I've never really used or even visited reddit before, but I've seen other stuff pop up from it elsewhere around the webs and knew it would be a nice place for some more exposure. In fact it was the common practice of linking to imgur albums that really drove me to get my account over there organized and useful. I then linked to my Mission 10 report where Jeb Kerman meets his untimely end. It's up to 124 with an 88% rating so that's pretty awesome. It hovered as high up as #3 on the Top and Hot pages for almost the entire day. I did take note of the 19 downvotes and the fact that reddit generally doesn't like you linking only to your own stuff. I've been helping out with question threads and upvoting other people's submission I like to hopefully stave off any warnings abotu being a spammer. I also won't be linking to every mission report. My favorite comment was "Awwwwh no ;~; You did not just make me tear up at Kerbal Space Program. You ******* Q^Q" :)

Where is the Website?

So this was a dilemma I wasn't expecting to face, and it came about when more and more twitter followers starting asking the KSA about the website it kept referring to for stuff. of course the KSA would have a website and of course it would post stuff on it but it turns out that if people are reading about it they also want to see it. I spent an entire weekend thinking about this. Do I really want to build a website for the KSA? I'm running 4 Wordpress sites on my server - building a new site isn't a problem. What is a problem is that I'm pretty sure the gain will be minimal - to the audience, to the story and most of all to me. I'm scrabbling to find enough time to play as it is - maintaining a website just for the sake of having an actual website for people to visit is not worth the extra effort. It was a tough decision - I actually had the register.com page open ready to buy a domain - but ultimately I'm happy to keep things focused on twitter. Website references will continue, and followers will just have to learn it's all part of the fiction.

Moving Right Along

So that's been this past month. Scott Manley graced me with a retweet for Jeb's fateful mission and that brought around a bunch of new followers. Couldn't get another retweet from the official KSP account unfortunately but I will keep trying every now and again when I feel events in the story warrant it. The reddit posting helped as well and overall the follower count has been climbing steadily and most followers are sticking around, so that's a good sign. I always get worried during mission days that people will just look at their feed flooded with KSA tweets and say "yea **** this" - but seems so far people are happy following along. I really enjoy the times I get to interact with followers as well.

We'll see how things are going come May... by then there will be a lot more character-driven story action going on between missions. I'm really excited for that.

Edited by Gaiiden
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  • 4 weeks later...

Things are still rolling. I continue to have a blast playing KSP and thus the story goes on. Currently things are scheduled as far out as the second full week of August, which is awesome because now I can really take my time to craft up some cool things for the story. For instance, later developments have led me to go back and re-rewrite some earlier tweets to make an event in late May better tie in to an event in early July. I can also put lots of time into various composite picture experiments, some of which you can see here (note these are not images that are in any way related to the KSA story, just experiments). The follower count for @KSA_MissionCtrl continues to slowly rise and is almost past 200. I've lost a few but the overall trend is upwards. I haven't managed to have the same success on Reddit as my initial post featuring the loss of Cmdr Jeb, but posting mission reports there via Imgur does trickle in a few followers and one redditor said he follows me exclusively on there.

So, what do I want to talk about this month....

Asteroids

I've finally upgraded to 0.23.5 this month and with it came the asteroids. Lots and lots of asteroids. But the mechanics are lacking - for example you can track asteroids but there's no way to get hit by an asteroid you're not tracking. You can have up to 7 unknown objects that you can choose to track at any time, but until you take action on them they just sit there and how do you decide which ones to "find" by tracking them? So I did a lot of thinking and came up with this:

asteroids_t.JPG

So here is the process to explain the picture:

  1. There are 5 sheets, each representing a single week of days. Each day is drawn as a box and every sheet has days in different boxes of different sizes in different locations
  2. There are 50 coins - 7 for each day and 1 extra (for good luck? I dunno, I liked an even 50). Coins are just randomly grabbed out of my coin bank. The amount of 7 per day isn't because there are 7 days in a week but because 7 is the max number of unknown objects you can see in the Tracking Station
  3. I get a random order in which to use these sheets
  4. For each sheet, I toss coins into the box 7 at a time (8 for the last toss) from various angles and spreads
  5. I then note what days have a coin inside them or over the line of their box - the number of coins in/overlapping a box is the number of asteroids that will be "found" and tracked that day of the week
  6. I then repeat step 4 - these re for all the asteroids that are not found each day of the week. I'll come back to that later

I almost went too far down the rabbit hole and attempted to attribute the type of coin to the class of asteroid, and the proximity to the center of the box to the signal strength of the asteroid... but I decided to just leave that up to the game.

All asteroids that are "found" are tracked in the Tracking Center and added to a spreadsheet I keep that lets me keep better tabs on all the space rocks floating around out there. What asteroid is set to come within 1Mm of Kerbin? I can sort the fields and find out in a jiffy. What asteroid is set to enter Kerbin's SOI this week? Again, easy to know.

All asteroids that are "not found" are also tracked in the Tracking Center so that they have persistence in the game, but they go in a separate page on my spreadsheet. These are rocks that can have an impact on the story but are never mentioned until they are "found" or end up impacting the planet. Each "unfound" asteroid gets assigned a random number from 1-100 (if I get more than 100, it'll be 1-200 and so on). Every day I can find a new asteroid, instead of just going into the Tracking Center and tracking a new unknown object, first I have some random numbers spit out by the generator I linked to earlier. So if 5 new asteroids are found today, I get 5 random numbers. If any of those numbers match an "unfound" asteroid already being tracked, that asteroid goes into the "found" page and counts towards the 5 I'm supposed to find today. Any remaining are then tracked in the Tracking Station.

If all of that was hard to understand (probably) just have a look at my spreadsheet (slightly spoilerish I guess?). The whole idea is now I have a means of slowly building up my catalog of asteroids as the game progresses and also gives me a good source of "unknown" objects that can impact Kerbin and cause some sort of upset in the story people won't see coming. Now, that being said I'm still sticking to what I wrote last month in regards to high-level plot points. There is a 4th page in the spreadsheet for asteroids on impact trajectories with Kerbin I wish to ignore. So when I see them in the game I know they don't mean anything, I just let them impact and be removed from the save file. So no, there won't be a random Class D impact event.

Now here's the kicker - I just followed and was followed back and retweeted by the @B612Foundation, which is our real-world program for detecting NEOs (Near-Earth Objects). In my story, the Asteroid Tracking Network will be launched in late July to track NKOs (Near-Kerbin Objects). I had also planned to eventually do a mission similar to B612's Sentinel Space Telescope (sorta like

) - at which point I would put a multiplier into effect for asteroids found.

I've also got a great mini-story arc that will start at the end of this month and eventually explain why, after untold mellenia of calm skies, Kerbin is suddenly under attack by what appears to be a huge cloud of rocky debris. The explanation has ties to the old Planet X theory, and is also based on the vacuum-cleaner effect of Jupiter - but in reverse obviously!

Post-Production Process

How do I turn a mission into a series of tweets? Well, first as I mentioned before there is Gremln, which lets me schedule tweets. So I begin with pre-launch tweets up to the point of lift off. I may decide, while writing the tweets, that I want to throw in a delay or cancellation - something I can't really do if I've already flown the mission and locked in the timeline. Once the tweets are in place and I have the launch time decided, then I load up the game and warp ahead as needed to launch at that time. I use Fraps to record the entire launch sequence because things are too busy during that time to take any sort of notes. Because Fraps can produce a pretty huge uncompressed video file I stop recording either shortly after I reach main-engine cut off if there are several minutes to apoapsis or after establishing orbit if the time between MECO and apoapsis is under 2-3 minutes. From this point on I use the wonderful Notepad mod to make notes on things that happen during the mission. The new ship log feature is amazing, before that I was manually putting MET into my notes. Since the release of 0.23.5 I have also been using the Alt+F5 feature for custom quicksaves at each major leg in the mission.

Once the mission is over, I use the video, flight logs and quicksaves (mainly to go back for photos as needed) to construct the tweet timeline that follows the mission progress. Deciding what to tweet and when is a process all in itself - the only thing I can say is that less is always more and people can generally do a good job of "filling in the blanks" with their own imaginations. Also, pictures are worth a thousand words but just dumping images into the stream doesn't always work - the images should be more than just random eye candy.

Speaking of images, I use my own server to host them so I can schedule a tweet with links to them but not have that link be accessible anywhere until the tweet goes live. Even if I created a private album on Imgur, I would still need to remember to set pictures public as needed. With my own server I can just upload them, link them and they'll pop up when they need to - of course I then have to copy them over to Imgur but that is not something that is time-critical

New Twitter Profile

So twitter did their facebook-alike profile upgrade this past month and I hopped on the new wagon with the KSA account. It does look good and I do like the ability to pin a tweet, which is something I do for when launch details are announced. However I didn't realize until I went to compile my next mission report that I could no longer view the tweets in the nice concise format anymore. They were all huge text boxes and it just made me cringe to have to post a stream of tweets that large. Thankfully I realized that you could still get the old tweet format when you're viewing tweets of people you follow, so I used my old @dsimkora account, unfollowed everyone but KSA and had the nice concise timeline format back to edit into my mission reports. Phew!

Adventures in Persistence.sfs Editing

As missions have grown more complex and I've begun doing more atmospheric aircraft missions, I've gotten pretty intimate with my save file. The best example is using an aircraft to drop science pods around Kerbin to perform ground experiments without having to land a whole craft there. Problem is, when you drop a probe off an aircraft the probe unloads after you fly 5km away. So I would have to fly and drop the pods and take a screenshot when I did so. Then, afterwards I would take the VESSEL structure of the probe, and insert it into my save file with the Lat/Lon and height data provided by VOID from the screenshot. Then I could perform the science.

Note that before doing this I actually flew a mission in a test version of my game, dropped the pod and then switched to it so the aircraft unloaded but I could watch and see that the pod would actually land okay on the ground. After doing this once, I could safely assume all pods dropped would make it to the ground okay. If I modified the pod in anyway I would do another test drop.

Editing Editing Editing...

I can't stress enough the importance of editing. Always. All my scheduled tweets are listed in chronological order (Date/time then tweet) in a simple text file so I can read them and make sure that something I tweet about in July doesn't go against something I tweet in June. Or that a character I said was on leave for two weeks comes back in a week. I'm always making little tweaks here and there in the timeline to make things flow better or tie-in better. Some events have been rewritten entirely when I stumble across some cool real-life space fact or event on the web I can reference somehow in the story. At least once a week I read through the entire timeline to make sure everything is consistent - currently there are 858 tweets yet to be published!

I should probably stop now, although there's more I'd like to cover. Maybe next month. Right now I need to finish the timeline for my last mission, which was actually 3 missions overlapping each other on the same day! Things are getting complicated and thus the challenge is greater. I like that.

Edited by Gaiiden
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  • 5 weeks later...

A couple of notes from this past month:

Charging for science missions w/aircraft re-using parts

I don't want to park a craft out in front of the hangar to re-launch when I need it, that just means more parts I'm required to load when running the game. So I've been paying close attention to the cost-breakdown window that you can get from Mission Controller Extended to calculate how much of the cost of each launch is the craft and how much are the resources used on each flight. The craft is paid for once, the resources are paid for multiple times. These include fuel, monoprop, electric charge, etc. If my aircraft has solar panels on it, then I don't charge myself for the EC at launch, as I would have recharged the batteries off solar since the last time it was flown, even if it landed with a depleted charge. When it comes to charging for fuel, I only calculate the cost after flying a mission and seeing how much I use, since the rest would theoretically be recycled back into "storage" anyways. Any new parts added to the craft since the initial purchase are of course additional one-time expenses. Unless I break a part and need to replace it.

Better mission planning for tweet times

Ever since the ComSat I mission that lasted throughout the entire night (real-time, EST) I've been careful to plan out missions so that the important stuff occurs during the day (again, EST which is the timezone KSC is based on). It's bad enough to blow up follower's twitter streams with a ton of updates, worse to do it when no one else is really tweeting to help drown you out a little bit. It hasn't been as hard as I feared.

Some attention from actual space agencies on twitter

I had a little bit of epic win on twitter this past month. It just happened that a long-exposure launch photo I made was scheduled to appear shortly after the latest Soyuz launch to the ISS. Well, I saw one of my followers retweet an image from the Canadian Space Agency of a long-exposure photo of the Soyuz launch and jumped at the opportunity. I didn't actually think it would get noticed but when I replied to that tweet with my own long-exposure image the CSA actually retweeted me. Then one of their astronauts responded, and the B612 Foundation got in on it too. Here is the full twitter conversation. I picked up a couple more followers from that exchange.

I've also found the B612 Foundation account to be a good sport in regards to the KSA, they are following my account and interacting with the Agency a little bit. I look forward to leveraging this more once asteroids start to become a real issue for the KSA in the months to come.

Then too is the fact that my cousin's sister (so not a direct relation) is an actual NASA astronaut who's been up to the ISS and is pretty active on twitter. I've not had the opportunity to meet her in person yet so I've asked my cousin to have her check out the account. We'll see if that amounts to anything.

Posting images directly to twitter

Speaking of twitter, I realized my tweet scheduling service could post pictures directly along with the scheduled tweet, which is awesome because the images won't show up until they are ready to be seen and now my twitter gallery is filling up with cool photos. I can't tell you how annoyed I was to have just that one very first photo in the gallery showing up on the front page of the little engine attached to a probe body. How lame!

Asteroid following via quicksave

I discovered how to follow asteroids you don't control, since you can't do it from the tracking station. It just involves some simple quicksave editing and I detailed how to do it over on reddit.

Speaking of reddit, still haven't managed to recapture the success of the first mission report I posted there but I do have a small following based on votes for the subsequent ones I've posted since.

Permanent Mission Reports thread

Check it out, finally set up a single thread for all future KSA mission reports and other related material. I've noticed that's how most others roll in that forum, so decided to conform. Plus I really did want to start adding a little bit of extra material in the form of written stories covering multiple missions to go into more detail about some things. I'll be working on the first Plot Summary after I'm done with this entry.

Science photos

I can get science points when taking photos with a VDSHullCam part, and the decline in point value is very slow so you can get a lot of science from this part if you really want to sit there and spam it home. That wouldn't fit well with the whole RPG play style I have going though so what I've done instead is I can only transmit home data from a photo I'm going to be posting online. This serves also to help keep me from spamming images as well. I think it's created a nice balance for me in deciding when to take screenshots.

Moar editing!!

It's amazing all the stupid mistakes I've made - continuity errors, spelling, grammar... I've managed to let one mistake slip out where I called the Aerospace Group the Aeronautical Group (what the what?) but that's it so far. Re read all the things, people! Again and again! Especially for me since you can't edit tweets. D'oh!

Well, another month past... I still have a 3 month lead time in place so the KSA is currently operating in mid-September...

Edited by Gaiiden
ironically, to talk about editing
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  • 1 month later...

Another month! With amazing progress as well. The KSA is currently operating on Oct 26th, so I have almost 3.5 months of lead time built up, and increasing slowly. The twitter account is up past 250 followers - it's 261 at the time of this writing but the number does fluctuate but +/- 5 follower every week or so. I think I'm solidly past 250 now however. I'm still working on ways to boost follower count but it's a secondary goal so I'm not really dedicating too much attention to it, after all I want to play the game!

kOS Rover Driver

It's getting to the point where KSA is almost ready to ship a rover off to Mun. Rovers in general in the game are a pain because they require a lot of maintenence. If you want to get somewhere, you have to drive there. That means sitting in front of your computer with the W key mashed (maybe held down by some object)... maybe for hours if you need to go far enough. Booooooorrring! So to solve this problem I have written my own software in the kOS scripting language to handle the driving for me. I just lay out a course of waypoints and tell the rover to get going. Then I can walk away or sleep or do other stuff while the drive is happening. It's pretty sweet and still undergoing testing but has been very successful so far. I've had my rover drive itself from the runway on KSC all the way out to the desert on the opposite shore, more than 150km away. No crashes. I'm currently working on some more advanced routing code so the rover can try and find a new route to a waypoint if it encounters a slope it can't climb. Here's a peek at the real-time output window:

y3KOLDG.jpg

When it's complete in the next day or two I'll do a release of the script on the mods forum showcase.

Asteroid Roleplay Update

Made a few additions to how I'm handling asteroids (discussed initially in the May update). First is I added a multiplier to apply to each day's amount of asteroids to be discovered/missed. I've started small with 1.5x and via the twitter announced that additional land-based scopes were added to the tracking network. I'll probably add more land scopes early next year for a 2.5x multiplier and eventually a space telescope will bump that up further, especially if I say it's dedicated to asteroid hunting (like the sentinel mission). Secondly, for every rock I need to pick from the numerous untracked objects in the system, when I select Kerbol to center my view on it I now generate random clock positions to place Kerbin. So at 6 o' clock Kerbin will be straight down. This changes up the order in which I pick through the unknown objects since it changes the orientation of the whole Kerbol system.

Hunting for future asteroid encounters

I've been using Kerbal Alarm Clock now instead of the save file hack to jump easily to asteroids and it's let me go through all the ones I'm currently tracking and find out if they will ever re-encounter Kerbin within 50 years. I do this by placing a maneuver node on the orbit, right-clicking and using the +1 orbit button to iterate through future orbits looking for an encounter. Some I've found are coming back around in less than 5 years. One I found will actually hit Kerbin on its next encounter 9 years from now. Even if I don't play things out that far into the future, the fact that it will hit in 9 years means next year I could send out a mission to nudge it. However, despite doing all this I've recently discovered that all these future encounters may not be accurate :/ So we'll see what happens.

Other twitter space agencies failing

There have been a couple more accounts looking to tweet their space adventures, but none of them so far have been able to keep it up. I'm hoping that the silence from some of them is because they are building up a lead-time to re-launch the account. To anyone interested in doing what I'm doing - you need a lead-time. Despite the fact that my income-generating work takes up a minority of my time and I'm single with no real obligations to anything but myself, I still have trouble maintaining my lead time. If you're working a lot to pay the bills, have a family or a girlfriend or any other responsibilities that will keep you from playing the game every single day, then take this into account and build up a sustainable lead time before you actually start tweeting.

Public imgur gallery submissions

I just started posting my KSA images to the public imgur gallery. The method for doing so isn't really upfront and obvious so I never bothered figuring it out until recently. That will be my work for the month on figuring out a way to possibly get more followers :P Regardless, I like seeing the comments people leave.

Edits, edits, edits!

Yea so despite the fact that I re-read everything to come at least once a week, I still managed to miss a tweet in July where I said something would happen on 6/7. One follower was like "man it's going to take a year??" haha, and I was like "d'oh!". That's the second mistake I've let slip through, thankfully none of them have been plot-breaking so far. But to make sure that doesn't happen I need to sit and read through the entire transcript of tweets yet to come (I keep em all in a simple text document). Moar editing!!!!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Half a year?!? Holy crap.

A couple hours early for this monthly update but tomorrow is going to be busy so might as well get this done now. My parents are selling the house we've lived in for the last 30 years, so I'm spending a lot of time getting ready to move to my own place while they head down south to retire. This means my lead time has dropped a tad from almost 3.5 months down to just over 3 - but I'm holding pretty steady there. It doesn't help that as operations for the KSA grow more complex, I spend more time planning than I do playing. But the more experienced I become at planning the faster I will be able to do it, so things will balance out again eventually.

0.24.2 Upgraded

I waited until the beginning of August to upgrade straight from 0.23.5 to 0.24.2 and the process was relatively painless. I did have to go through the save file and craft files to change some part names, however. Additionally there was the problem of the game throwing masses of exceptions when I tried to select a craft in the Tracking Station and essentially locking up the game. I got that all cleared up in short order though after a bit of sleuthing to discover what mod was causing the issue. Since then I've been running the normal 32-bit version without any major issues. I've been using the 64-bit version to load up all my mods at once for building new craft, but due to that version being so buggy still (and the fact that having almost 7GB of RAM being used creates a few performance issues of its own) I don't use it for regular gameplay.

No More Budgets (for now)

It was fun playing with money, for a time. Mission Controller Extended had things pretty well balanced to where I could apply for a custom contract and make enough money to pay off the cost of my mission and save some for spending on new parts and testing. Hell, I even had a spreadsheet going in Excel and learned a lot about the program getting it to work with equations so I could just enter in monetary values and get my total expenditures and income and such. If you're interested, you can view it online here.

With 0.24 and the introduction of contracts and funds, things just got too complicated with part packs having to re-balance and the contracts system as a whole being largely focused towards people who don't really have their own goals. Or, if you do have your own goals you then have to hunt around for a contract that will fulfill them, at least partly enough to get you the funds required to launch the rocket. I could have learned to create my own custom contracts, but then I would need to get an idea of how all the parts were cost-balanced so I could pay myself appropriately.

In the end, I just decided to go for the "Science Sandbox" mode - at least for now. I have my eye on funds and contracts to see if they will once again become a useful mechanic for me.

Science Intake Reduced by 75% Overall

Speaking of science, I decided that I was getting too much of it, too fast. The fact that

even in 0.24 was also a heads up to me that science gains needed to be seriously nerfed. The only alternative was to go through the tech tree and increase the amount of science required for each node I hadn't unlocked yet. I'm using the Interstellar tree and once again I was faced with balance issues, especially since the time this tree was created so many more mods have come into being that offer new ways to earn science. So to keep things simple I decided to reduce the amount of science gains globally using the Celestial Body Science Multiplier Editor mod. We'll see if 75% is too extreme, but I doubt it considering I'll be using Custom Biomes to reap tons of science from every body in the Kerbol system, not just Mun, Minmus and Kerbin.

Asteroid Discovery - Realistic? No. Do I Care? No.

I've realized that my method for having the kerbals discover new asteroids is letting them be found practically anywhere within the Kerbol system, regardless of where Kerbin happens to be at the time. This isn't really possible since the sun would make it pretty hard to discover any orbiting opposite Kerbin, for one example. Really I should only be discovering ones in a cone extending out from Kerbin's night side. But the game lets them pop up all over the place. Really though, I don't really care. There's realism and there's gameplay and they aren't always both the same thing. With what the game gives me to work with, my method so far is the best I can do.

That being said, who knows - I'll have to ask the author of the Custom Asteroids mod whether it would be possible to allow untracked asteroids to only appear within a specific cone of visibility.

Still Nothing but Tweets and Images

KSA just flew an aircraft alongside a rocket launch and took aerial video footage, but I didn't actually release any. Thankfully no one has asked for any either, so that's good. But eventually people might start clamoring for videos of launches instead of just images. When that happens, I'll just have to say sorry, all "footage" is for private review. I do wish I could make videos of launches and stuff, but right now it's just too much extra work.

However, I have been spending time on craft/mission blueprints that are turning out quite spectacularly, if I do say so myself. I'm really disappointed the first one won't see the light of day until the end of October but hopefully when it does hit it will be big - think this blueprint but in color. Seriously, they look awesome. I'll definitely be doing one for each major mission from here-on out.

Rover Driver Pre-releases

The people on Reddit loved the concept of Rover Driver and I've gotten the code to the point where it's ready for a full v1.0 release - but I'm still waiting on the next kOS update which will hopefully resolve a bug that causes the rover to fail to drive to the next waypoint - which means there's a chance you could leave the game running and the rover won't make it to where you would like it to be when you come back a while later.

Until then though, Rover Driver is available to try out via the dev thread and I'm still looking for any feedback.

More Editing - No Surprise There

In addition to the changes I make while re-reading through the scheduled tweets, today I actually went back and added a tweet based on a twitter follower conversation. A follower asked about Kirk's condition (he recently had a bad ejection incident that damaged his back and broke his leg) and whether Kirk's past injuries plus this one would compound issues. I hadn't really considered that. So I scheduled another tweet after the one that cleared him fit for duty again, saying that doctors felt the multiple injuries were not a factor, but were watching him closely all the same.

All in all another good month. Seeeee youuuuuuu in Septemmmber...

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  • 1 month later...

I didn't leave myself a lot of notes for this month's update, but plenty of cool stuff went down to talk about. First off, I'm happy to say the KSA is already operating through to the new year - current operational date is 1/4/15. I had hoped to extend my lead out to a full 4 months but still getting to 3.5 is pretty good. I'm wary of the fact that at some point as things become more complicated I could drop close to a 1:1 ratio in terms of real days versus in-game days as the amount of tasks I need to perform per in-game day increases. Thankfully when needed I can introduce plots to momentarily slow things down to make it easier for me to catch up on in-game time. I have also slowed down operations in general - meaning that now after launching a new satellite into space while in the game it takes me a few minutes to deploy everything and stuff, I make it take a day or two. The time it takes to build rockets has also been gradually increased, which I feel is realistic given the increasingly complex tech being employed.

Some new image techniques, giffys

Last month I mentioned how I'm still sticking to still images mostly for my media, and that continues to hold true so far. But lately I've also experimented with creating videos with GfyCat that have turned out to be relatively quick and easy to produce, so I have a liftoff from the water tower camera, some booster separations, etc. I've also started using floaty to overlay images on my screen and make it much easier to create VAB scenes with multiple craft under construction. And I've also gotten better at laying out and producing rocket blueprints. I'm dying to show off the first one at the end of October. THE END OF OCTOBER!! God dammit that's too far away :( Well, it'll get here eventually.

Twitter analytics

I enabled analytics for the twitter account, a relatively recent feature, and while I haven't really been leveraging it yet for anything it's interested to look through. Every now and then I have a good reason to reach out to try and interact with an actual space agency. The B612 Foundation and the Canadian Space Agency have so far been real great in playing along with the account. Just this past weekend, the KSA put out two of these outreach tweets. And both were successful. The B612 Foundation retweeted this tweet, and the CSA retweeted this one. Even Scott Manley got in on the RT action, although sadly he's still not a follower :P All told, these two tweets netted me 14,614 impressions and over 50 new followers. Here's a look at how that compares to normal daily operations:

XC3sFOG.png

What's more amazing is how high my daily impressions have remained over the weekend, although they are now slowly dropping back to normal. Still, my 28-day average impressions is still 1.7k, which is pretty cool. Here's a look at my total follower count progression since the account opened and I've marked significant upticks and why:

tRDEByX.png

A couple of the smaller bumps are also from /r/ksp posts over on reddit. My largest was of course from the main KSP twitter, but they haven't deigned to repeat this act, although I've tried several times since. I've gone quiet for a while with that and will try asking them again further on down the road.

Mission Architect is amazing

I've been taking the time to fully grok the complex but powerful Mission Architect software from Arrowstar, and boy has it been worth it. At first it was just a means to plan my interplanetary missions, but now I realize it can be used for so much more - even for missions I have already launched! There was an atmospheric asteroid impact on Kerbin recently, and I was able to load the asteroid's orbit into MA and see where it would hit kerbin, how fast, and when, without having to time warp ahead, note the data and then revert back. Planning my first interplanetary mission, I can not only see the trajectory my craft will travel along, I can get data like how far away it is from Kerbin, exactly when it will be closer to the target planet than Kerbin - I can even import the orbits of other craft so I can check to ensure that line of sight to my communications satellites will remain unbroken during the craft's travel between planets.

Mission Architect is pretty complex and has a steep learning curve, but was developed by someone who does this stuff in real life and so he's very helpful with support and learning the ins-and-outs of the software can be very rewarding. Check it out.

Crew rosters on the mission reports thread

If you haven't been by the mission reports thread lately check out the new crew roster feature. I'm really happy with how that turned out, and look forward to updating it with new info as missions progress.

Another kOS program for RCS maneuver control

Because I'm playing with signal delay, and because one of my interplanetary craft is using just RCS, and because the RemoteTech2 Flight Computer can't be programmed for RCS thrust, I've programmed yet another kOS script that puts this functionality in place. It's been tested around LKO but I'm looking forward to the real test around my target planet soon. I won't reveal where I'm going, but know that I'm nearly there.

Okay, enough updates, I need to get back to playing!

Edited by Gaiiden
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  • 5 weeks later...

This has been another busy month. I was playing hard for a while and managed to almost build up a 4-month lead time. Then I ended up burning myself out and had to take a break from the game, which was okay because I had a related project to work on anyways. The current game date is 1/17/15 so I'm almost back to a 3-month lead and need to pick up playing again this week. Although the mod updates have been really fast this time around I'm still going to wait at least another week before porting my entire game over to 0.25. So what were the highlights from this past month?

Tweet scheduler dropping

This was annoying. Gremln, the service I'm using to schedule my tweets, had two service outages this past month that caused some tweets to come out late or not at all. Thankfully it wasn't during any missions so the tweets that did come late could have really been posted any time. I also managed to delete some of the more time-sensitive general tweets and reschedule them for appropriate times later on. I'm not happy having to keep a close on on things to make sure they get out, but looks like I need to just to be safe.

Some more twitter recognition

Another good month of cooperation from the B912 Foundation and Canadian Space Agency. Those accounts are just great, I'm so thankful they are willing to play along and retweet some of my tweets every now and then when I mention them. The first tweet to kick up a storm was my radio astronomy photo of a passing asteroid. I made this by imaging the rock at several angles in the game (since they don't rotate themselves), then using Paint.NET to apply some noise filters. It wasn't really that hard, and it looked good enough to momentarily fool a real radio astronomer, who I actually tried to have a dialog with but quickly found myself out of my league. I later emailed her to say thanks for playing along and explain what was going on :) It should be noted that my second asteroid radio photo produced no fanfare at all by itself. Ah well.

So that was a scheduled tweet I was looking forwards to seeing go public. The other one that got some attention however was an opportunistic tweet I sent out when I saw a photo tweeted by ISS astronaut Reid Wiseman that looked almost exactly like one I had taken on a recent mission. Although Reid himself never responded (shucks) the CSA again was kind enough to acknowledge it. There was actually another tweet from ISS astronaut Alexander Gerst of a photo showing the thin blanket of atmosphere and remarking on its fragility - I actually have a photo like that too, with the same type of remark, but unfortunately it won't be published until later this month. Still, I keep my eyes open for opportunities like these.

I'm now solidly past 400 followers on twitter. There's been a lot of up/down around 410 lately but overall the trend continues to climb upwards.

Kerbol system simulated in Universe Sandbox

So this was the big project I was working on during my break from KSP. It turned out better than I had hoped. You can get the ubox file here in this thread. This gives me a ton of options for creating videos of planetary motion, asteroids, and interplanetary ship travel. In fact, I already created a test video of my Duna I mission using trajectory data from Mission Architect, and on the system-wide scale everything matches up perfectly. Obviously if you zoom way in you see the probe is nowhere near as close to Duna as it should be when it arrives, but zoomed out you can't tell.

Because it's a simulation program, when it came to putting asteroids into the system things became quite tedious. I first did a few tests with about 5-7 asteroids to make sure I could get them into the sim and their orbits would remain approximate. That proven, it was time to put them all in. All 460 of them. Thankfully the orbital parameters from the SFS file are in the same order as they are presented in UBox, but the SFS file gives its LAN in degrees of 0-360 whereas UBox takes a normalized value between -180 and 180, and MNA is in radians in the SFS so I had to convert to degrees and then once again normalize to -180-180 for UBox. Since an asteroid's orbit data is only good at the exact time specified in the SFS (the EPH parameter) I had to walk the sim up to that point, input the asteroid orbit data, save, then walk up the sim to the next asteroid's EPH, and repeat. Then, once all the asteroids where in I had to simulate each one up to the same point in time. Then I had to manually copy each asteroid into the same UBox file. Once I got the hang of things, I could input an asteroid ~2.5 minutes on average. It took about 1.5 minutes to simulate an asteroid up to a specific point in time, and ~10 seconds to copy over each asteroid into the same file. Doesn't sound like a lot until you remember I'm doing all three of these steps for 460 asteroids!

Moving forward from here though will be much easier now that the existing ones are all in the simulation. And yes, it was worth it:

xZAhViW.jpg HGoZ3Gz.jpg

It looks amazing in motion too.

New KSP tweeters

Recently there have been some mission tweets coming from @KerbCosmos_Mc, @KasaSpaceOps and @KerbalSC. However as with previous accounts that have come along, none of them have been very consistent. Two haven't tweeted since earlier this month. The one that's tweeting most often I'm finding hard to follow because I'm not quite sure what is going on in their universe. There's no back story or archives I can read up on, although when I asked about this they said it was something to work on. A lot of times after I get new followers I will start getting notifications of tweets from months past getting favorited as people go back and read through things. It will be nice if one or more of these accounts gets their affairs in order - one is still an egg even.

YouTube channel

Yea, it's here, and it's empty. For now. My first plans for it are to showcase videos recorded in Universe Sandbox. I currently (still) have no plans for anything like launch footage from the game. But stuff like that is becoming more and more of a possibility.

Ok, tired of typing. Onwards to November! (and OMG OMG my first blueprint is dropping at the end of the month finally)

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  • 1 month later...

Day late, so no preamble, straight to the update. Busy busy busy...

0.25

So I said I was going to wait to update to 0.25 but quickly realized I wasn't going to be back to playing seriously for a while so said eff it and took the plunge. I've been making sure to keep all my mods and stuff as up-to-date as possible, since I haven't really been playing to discover any issues I'm just assuming it'll all work together pretty well. Probably not :P I did have some troubles with my batch files since Squad changed some folder names and a few mods did so as well, so I had to browse through and check all my batch files to fix paths. Everything else I've encountered so far (like the rescaling fix causing some models to size weird) has been a common community-found occurrence I was able patch up. As far as I can tell without serious playtime, my save file from 0.23 still loads just fine after a few minor tweaks. Things have mostly settled down again awaiting the next update, which will probably be a challenge to maintain compatibility with since it's the Beta release. But we'll see.

The Flight Tracker!!!

K85yZz4m.png

So my major time sink this past month has been the Flight Tracker concept. It started out as a static ASP page. Then I wanted to show different states in the craft's mission so I created an ASP script to load a certain static ASP page depending on the UT elapsed since the start of the KSA. Finally I said screw it, threw myself all in and re-learned how to code in ASP/ADO with MS Access (stuff I did a lot back in like... 2001 :P) to create a single dynamic craft page that could load and display data from any craft via a database for that craft. That final task actually only took me 2 days earlier this month. All the time before that it was hand-coding (mostly copy/paste) a ton of ASP files for various craft states. The DB method will make things sooo much easier moving forward. For more details of code and functionality for the flight tracker, see this post.

One of the main things that has made the process take mostly all last month getting the flight tracker operational was hunting down the data. Every craft that required data to display now was actually created 2-3 months ago when I was playing it in the game. Luckily, I had recently enough gotten into the habit of saving SFS files from key points in missions, but even still for some data I had to recover a ton of files off my CrashPlan backup to find the one save file that contained the orbital information or craft resources, etc, that I needed to fill in for a certain state. CrashPlan doesn't just back up files, it backs up file revisions - which means every time I save a new game, that version is backed up. Well, almost. I had the backups set for 15-minute revision intervals and only recently shortened it down to 1 minute. So I do have gaps, but luckily managed to uncover practically every mission state going back as far as July.

If you have $5 a month to spare, CrashPlan is the best way to spend that money. Period.

Anywhoo, the Flight Tracker has, IMO, added a ton of depth to what I'm doing. You can actually see the state of the craft now, down to things like resource amounts, signal delay, orbital data, etc. It's not and never will be a completely real-time thing, but I do plan to use the current architecture to allow something like 15s auto-refreshes during launch ascent so people can "watch" the rocket fly into space. I'm still looking into my options from both VOID CSV logging, KSPTOT real-time interface and straight up video recording info on the screen to getting the data I need for a semi-real-time ascent plot. Oh, did I also stumble across this? Yes I did. (rover path plotting, ascent over ground trajectory plotting... *drool*)

Blueprint Fail

qxP8Jtnm.jpg

Man, reddit is a tough crowd sometimes. I don't know if people glossed over it because it was a link to a tweet, and the tweet link itself was mistakenly linked to the imgur image stats display not the full-res image itself, but seriously - 10 votes no comments?!? Maybe the community just got tired of seeing the Kronal Vessel View tool being used. I dunno, but I was expecting a much bigger reaction. I mean, look at it. Look especially at the Mission Partners section, that's my favorite bit. Ah well, that's the danger of expectations for you.

My Mun I blueprint drops later this week though, so we'll see how that does when I post it as a direct link to the image file and then include a comment pointing towards the twitter account instead. I'll also re-post the Duna I blueprint at the end of the month to hype up the launch.

reddit's loved my twitter interactions lately though...

That Comet Landing Thing...

I'm not much of a marketing person, so it didn't really occur to me to prepare anything special for the landing of ESA's Philae probe on the comet. I mean, I should have known that - either way - it would be a big deal. Still, I managed to be at my computer for the event itself on the fateful day and got some good interactions in. Nothing as epic as what XKCD did of course, or the several Philae missions re created in KSP. But thinking back I'm not really sure what else I could have done anyways. But then again, I haven't spent much thought on it. Will have to try to see about New Horizons next year. Hrm, maybe that's a foreshadowing...

Tweeters Be Tweeting

Good to see some continuous activity on several tweet accounts, like the three I mentioned last month (@KerbCosmos_Mc, @KasaSpaceOps and @KerbalSC). There was even a recent revival of @IAI_Space as well. Then there's been some new accounts too: @ElonKerman and @KSP_CCCP. Both of these are interesting in their own way. The first is a take on Elon Musk and SpaceX, although they say the goal is to stay away from recreated SpaceX mods and go with their own builds, which I think is a worthy objective. Then there's this second one that came out of the blue one day sort of declaring a campaign against my agency for (I assume) eventual space domination. In fact, things kinda worked out pretty well right from the get-go:

06NTP8Gb.png

Again, all my stuff is pre-scheduled and there was no prior communication so when the account wished for my launch to fail, and of course I knew it was going to fail, I was like "oh, this is going to be interesting". Although I've spoken to the account owner since, I'm still not sure where the person is going with all this and to be honest I don't want to. I liked the initial interaction the two accounts had and for now am interested in just following what he's doing and reacting where/when possible. There's actually some future events already written for completely different reasons that could tie in to all this. I want my story to remain largely dynamic as it has from the beginning.

Oh, and there's also this. If you want in, contact @KasaSpaceOps

Pushing Out the Launch Schedule

So with the Flight Tracker project, while awesome, I've gone and fully eaten into 1 of my 3 months lead time. As of this Tuesday I'll be down to a 2-month lead. Not too big of a deal but with all this extra work to be done between missions (flight tracker, mission reports, plot summaries, orbital plotting, mission planning, etc, etc). I'll be making sure to place more time between launches so I don't get overwhelmed. The in-story explanation for this was actually quite simple to write thanks to the events that will unfold over the next two months. Towards the end of January you'll see Simon talking about why building rockets will be taking longer. It also fits well with a maturing space agency, I think.

Returning to Active Playing

So yea, while I've run KSP off and on a lot over the past month for data/models needed for the Flight Tracker and to test some 0.25 integration here and there, I actually haven't sat down and spent even a single in-game day to advance any of the story. It's still stuck at 1/17/15 like last month. That'll change this week as I finally wrap up the current iteration of the Flight Tracker project. However, this year was pretty lucky too in that I didn't have many gaming distractions other than Last of Us multiplayer. This Tues, when my lead time cuts down to 2 months, Dragon Age 3 drops (already have it preloaded). Then around Xmas comes Homeworld Remastered, and 2015 will see Just Cause 3. Two of these are massive open-world time sinks. Hopefully I can at least maintain a 1-2 months lead time while spending some quality time with these games as well. And still Last of Us multiplayer. Because that's just so good (even though I've raged and broken at least 3 PS3 controllers while playing online matches where I get killed more than 3-4 times).

Last Bits

Wrapping up, let's all have a look at another grammatical error that managed to slip past me in multiple readthroughs of my tweet script. Third one that managed to sneak through so far. Out of 3k+ tweets that's not too bad though, if I do say so myself.

Also, minor addition to the home page you may not have noticed is my entire twitter archive (under the Chronicles section). I hate it, however. For some stupid reason there are no time stamps on any of the tweets. Arrghh! Why twitter?? WHY? I searched for like half an hour to see if someone made a script or plugin that added them back. Nope. Tried looking at the JS code to see if I could add them back. What an over-engineered mess. Unless anyone out there has a solution, I'm eventually going to just take the CSV that includes the timestamps, import into an MDB and just write my own damn ASP script to display the tweets. Not as pretty as the default archive probably but more conducive to reading them like a story.

Alright enough rambling. I have just two more vessels to complete for the Flight Tracker and then I can finally start advancing the story again...

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  • 3 weeks later...

Monthly update will still come in a few days, but given recent events I wanted to release this now.

Recently the account @KSP_CCCP and I have begun to work together, as in actually partially share the same "universe" as you will. The decision to do this, for me, was largely due to the fact that I had already written in some generic conflict happening on Kerbin simply as a prop to use as some filler material on slow days and also make things a bit more challenging for myself by declaring certain areas of Kerbin "off limits" to my aircraft and capsule returns. The @KSP_CCCP account came on the scene (without any prior contact with me - not a bad thing just making a note of that) opposing the KSA and the "Presider" I had set up as leader of a united Kerbin so since it fit the bill nicely I decided to take advantage of it - with someone else having their own fun with the whole conflict storyline I don't have to dedicate so much thought to it.

At the same time, I'm in no way basing the actions and events in my story on everything @KSP_CCCP chooses to do. Nor should they in regards to me (we've set up some major plot points, but that's as far as I'm willing to go). First, let's keep in mind that while everyone else seems to be tweeting as they go, my current day of operations is 2/5/15 and the account is simply playing catch up. So I have events plotted well ahead and I'm not going to be able to change a lot of it based on what other accounts are doing now. Second, I'm not about to tie anything in my story to another account that could vanish at any time. In the case of the @KSP_CCCP well, it's not the first time a koviet union has collapsed ;) It wouldn't be a problem to continue on the conflict storyline without them. It *would* be a problem if we were building a space station together and now I have to design the missing pieces on my own. So don't anyone get their hopes up for stuff like DarkMP interaction - at least not with me. Thirdly, and most importantly, it can be potentially detrimental to readers if they need to spend a lot of time following the actions of various accounts to get an entire story, worse when those accounts fail to plan properly and step on each other. And that planning also takes effort on the account authors. I have enough on my plate already.

Bottom line is that @KSA_MissionCtrl will always be its own storyline and things happening in it will not directly depend on or be influenced by the actions of other twitter accounts. As with @KSP_CCCP there may be opportunities in which a little bit of crossover can be beneficial to both accounts, and I'm always open to such things. But please don't move out of the default KSC just because I'm using it. And don't be offended if I don't directly engage in events that your putting on in your storyline. If you do want to try and tie certain events together (events, not your whole story), please contact me first either here on the forums or on twitter.

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Just getting into 0.25...

... and of course 0.90 drops today. On the plus side though, this really clears up the dilemma I was afraid I would have when I used Custom Biomes for after my Duna I arrival and then had to switch over to the "official" Squad biomes. But as with 0.25, which I literally started getting into at the start of this month, it'll be a while before 0.90 is in any shape for me to upgrade and still retain everything currently in my game in some form or another. I've had the same persistence file since 0.23 and I'm not gonna break the streak if I can help it.

I did a couple of things to help with my RAM usage since I would be more consistently loading up additional planet textures once I'm around Duna and Minmus, also more parts as my ship count increased despite relying as much as possible on core parts. First obvious thing was to try the -force-opengl flag, which would only crash the game before it even showed a window. A Google search however brought me to a reddit post talking about --force-opengl with and additional hyphen at the start. Sonofagun but it worked, and not only did it decrease RAM usage as advertised I was still able to use SweetFX, which seems to rely on a DX DLL. Regardless, I'm only saving this flag for emergencies.

Second thing I did was to copy my persistence file and replace every orbiting vessel with communication analogs - in other words a probe core and however many dishes/antenna the real craft sports. So basically 3-5 different parts across all vessels, removing a ton of unique and even core parts from my install. This is mainly for atmospheric aircraft missions that only need to rely on orbiting satellites for communication purposes while flying around.

I've also copied out all my ground debris I want to keep persistent into a separate file so they don't even exist in my main game anymore until I want them there, and for orbital debris I did the same thing, copying them out, but so that I can still see what's where in orbit I replaced them with flags.

Finally, the 4-0 version of Active Texture Management (Basic) accidentally included a flag that compressed everything in addition to converting to DDS and I have yet to notice a single graphical issue and saved around 400MB of RAM. So despite the release of 4-2 I'm sticking with 4-0 for now.

End result is that a normal game with only ATM in 0.25 loads around 2.8-3GB on the VRAM side of things, which leaves me roughly 1GB of overhead. Sweet. If I need more I can use the comm analogs and/or the OGL flag.

So I guess twitter KSP accounts are a thing now

Things have really taken off this past month in regards to twitter accounts broadcasting KSP activities. It all really started with @KSP_CCCP and yea I always seem to be picking on the guy for doing this but ultimately it was inevitable and someone was bound to do it so it's not like I'm annoyed about it or anything! Anyways it quickly escalated into accounts, both new and existing, trying to carve their way into the fiction I started, and that was something I immediately saw as a problem (see the notice above this post). Although I was also rather surprised, as new accounts I expected to mostly want to do their own thing not really collaborate in any real way. Tl;dr we now have a private Google groups mailing list so anyone that wants to cooperate on storylines can do so without tripping over one another, and just for general support on doing the twitter thang.

I'm keeping a tally on existing KSP twitter accounts via this list.

On a personal note, KSP community lead KasperVld took me to new heights in follower count and tweet impressions when he mentioned me in one of the KSP dev notes. Continuous campaigning via other twitter accounts and reddit have helped accrue new followers, as well as finally starting to get some real content up on the YouTube page. Here are some updated analytics views:

JuDfEQq.png

GCLY1GF.png

As you can see it was a mere fraction of viewers that actually stuck around after the dev notes dropped, but that was to be expected and it was still the most significant follower boost ever for the account, which is now actually over 800 followers, more than the 760 my own personal 6yr-old twitter account has accrued.

Although, despite the recognition from KasperVld the official Squad twitter account seems to be largely ignoring the whole KSP twitter scene despite some attempts by me to catch their attention since that one RT they gifted me back in March (first bump on the follower graph). They seem to be mainly focused on their twitchTV streamers. *shrug* That's where the money is I guess.

Tricky Ubox videos not so tricky

I need a better way to control visualization of orbits in Ubox as seen by viewers of a video, and thankfully it took me literally all of 3 minutes to figure out how to composite separate videos of orbital visualizations together in Sony Vegas (set track as composite child with Screen mode). This will allow me to do something like animate the orbits of all the planets with their trails showing, and then in a separate video show a bunch of asteroids moving without trails (for performance and visual clutter reasons). I can't run both at the same time in Universe Sandbox because you can't selectively enable trails, but I can composite the two videos together to achieve the same effect. More cool stuff is possible too, but I will let that be seen at the end of February 2015.

Crew rosters DB'fied

While awaiting the first launch of the Orion capsule, there wasn't much for me to do as I didn't want to have to split my focus between the game and the launch commentary, but coding is something I can do better with a little distraction so I took the time to set up a generic ASP page for reading databases containing astronaut information such as ribbons, mission time, rank, past missions, etc - everything already displayed in their static roster windows on the KSA homepage. Not only do I no longer have to worry about manually updating them now at certain times (except to add mission reports I've compiled, but that's not time-dependent) but I can also inter-link them between Flight Tracker windows, as exemplified in the Mun I tracker (click the crew icons).

The next big thing for the Flight Tracker is using the auto-update refresh functionality to "live stream" a launch by having new ascent data every 15-seconds. Everything to do this is mostly in place (KSP maps integration is on the list to help with this as well), it just takes more time to input all the data. And that's not something I have a lot of right now.

Intro/outro YouTube segments

You can set a short intro video to play before all your YouTube videos, but you can't do the same for an outro. Which is annoying because 1) I didn't think to bother with an outro until recently so a bunch of videos don't have one and it's too time consuming to re-make them with one and 2) I have to re-annotate each video's outro scene. But yea whatever whine, whine, whine...

Mission Patches?

Again. Time. Don't have it. They're really cool and all that but ultimately not having them won't be any huge loss. I'm too artistically challenged overall to bother spending the time designing them. I will keep dropping hints on twitter though for anyone interested in doing some, not expecting a regular person to do all but fans here and there might submit something. I was very pleased by this gilded logo rendition one fan did.

Asteroid save game split

More save game editing was done with my asteroids save, which is separate from my main save to... save my framerate. I won't say how many I'm tracking right now but I decided 500 was enough per save and I currently now have two. Logistically, once the initial tedious manual split was taken care of, not much extra in the way of upkeep and it does keep the framerate sane. I actually had more than 600 in the single save with no issues as long as the asteroid orbits themselves were not all rendered together on the screen, but with 0.25 something else was causing issues so that even with the asteroids all hidden by right-clicking another element icon like Ships, frames were still stuttering a lot. Anyways moving forwards once I hit 500 asteroids in save 2 it'll be easy to just copy over a blank slate to start save 3, all the heavy lifting is done.

Time.... it ain't on my side

So the current operation date of the KSA is 2/9/15 and it's been stuck there for the past two days as I work through a Minmus mission. Although I got some real cool booster cam footage edited up into a nice video and have exposed some more Mission Architect uses and spent a lot of time planning with MA... it's taken me almost 3 days to complete one in-game day. This is not good. To fight against this I've already begun working to put in lots more time between missions, giving me in-game days with lighter activity so I can breeze through 2-3 in one real world day.

Still, even doing that takes a lot of time - to the point that it's like a part time job. That isn't making me any money. I've even only put 23 hours into Dragon Age 3 since the game came out last month, and that's a game I've been looking forward to playing a long time.

But I'm still having a lot of fun. Planning things and executing them is a big, big win in my mental playbook and KSP is right up that alley, especially with tools like Mission Architect. Okay this doesn't give away much so here:

1yO8UDd.png

This took me two days, although a lot of it was just getting the hang of MA again and learning some new things, like dealing with life support resource usage affecting craft weight and little stuff like that.

Point is I put a lot of effort into things and that ultimately means keeping up my lead time can be really hard sometimes.

Also I still wanna find time to do the Java orbital tracker. SO MUCH TO DO SO LITTLE TIME!

Speaking of time I've spent too much of it here already. See you next month, and until then on twitter.

Edit: holy moley forget next month, see you next year

Edited by Gaiiden
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  • 4 weeks later...
Hey, I'm @bien_vincent_g.b or the owner of the Kerbal Air Force 872nd SOLC.

I just want to ask, what thing do you use to insert future posts? I use http://twuffer.com/ and sees it has no thing to upload pictures.

Cheers, flamerboy67664/SpaceEagle

Gremln, see month two update

How do you have multiple crafts in the VAB and SPH in your assembly pictures?

composite images, see month seven update

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