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KSP - game or simulator?

Is KSP (first and foremost) a game or a simulator/emulator?  

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  1. 1. Is KSP (first and foremost) a game or a simulator/emulator?

    • Simulator/Emulator
      45
    • Game
      151


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After the discussion about whether KSP is ready for 1.0 or not, I got the feeling that many on this forum regards KSP as a simulation of a space program. The way I see it, one can look on KSP in one of two ways. Either you think KSP is a simulator/emulator where you construct your own rockets, fly to the places you want just because you want it and explore the KSP universe simply because its fun. Or, you consider KSP to be a game and load up career mode, struggling to manage your base, upgrading the right building at the right time, choosing the right contract and try to make as much roots as possible (to get to that next upgrade.)

The reason for this poll is that I myself used to see KSP as a simulator/emulator, playing a lot in sandbox just because it was fun (for a few hundred hours since a couple of years), using mainly MechJeb as a mod. Lately though, career mode on hard has grown on me, and I have started to look at KSP as a game. Though when I start to express that I think that career mode on hard stops being fun when you start going to other planets (it works beautifully while inside Kerbin SOI) I got shot down by many who suggested for me to find a mod to fix this.

The way I see it, using a mod when you play the simulator/emulator part of the game is perfectly fine and fun, but to use a mod while playing the game... Consider for example Mass Effect. If you just play random fights and chose to install a mod which makes the weapons 500% more powerful, just to see the enemies explode in cool ways, I think that is perfectly fine. But if you load up a new campaign on hard, but then uses that same mod making the fights super-easy, I fail to see the point. To me, when playing a campaign in a game, I want to play "the way the creator intended", i.e. without mods that seriously change the way you play the game (ruining all balance.)

Now, to the poll. Before I make another try to discuss whats wrong with career mode on hard (and career mode only), I would like to know what others think about this game. If everyone see this game as a simulator/emulator, there is not really any point for me to start arguing whats wrong with the game part.

So vote and argue. Am I wrong? Are there not two ways of looking at KSP? Is there only one? Or are there more?

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I see KSP as a simulator personally, because it is realistic on a base that most people (who aren't rocket scientists) would understand.

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"something in-between a game and a simulator" - Harvester (said that, once upon a time)

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It will be more of a sim once the aerodynamics get some love in 1.0

Does anyone ever notice my hidden text?

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I disagree about the mods. Of course, if you install something that gives you imbalanced engines, you shouldn't be playing career, but TAC life support and DR, for example, don't precisely make the game easier.

With some mods, if an imbalance comes along, you can fix that with the settings. I like DMagic orbital science, for example (more experiments is better), but I reduce the science rewards so that I don't get 1000 SP from a single Mun landing (I get about 150 per landing at around 50% rewards). For TAC, on the other hand, no settings can compensate: you will need bigger rockets to get to other planets, you will have to unlock more parts. That's why I would like a life support system to be integrated into stock.

All that said, KSP is a game. The question about realism is weird to me, because no amount of realism is going to transform the game into a space program simulator, unless you want to sit in front of a control board with a lot of switches and not even see you spacecraft. On the other hand, there are various game mechanics that could be considered realistic: life support, reentry heat, greater distances, etc. I think Squad really has a handle on which ones they want to integrate and which ones wouldn't be fun (I think they haven't expressed it very well, but never mind). RSS might be more realistic, but it makes the game much harder, it transforms it into an experience that would be impossible for the casual player, so that should not be stock (fortunately, it's moldable).

Reentry heat also makes the game harder, but I think it presents you with challenges that you can overcome and are interesting to solve.

I know that my opinion on RSS and DR is subjective, but that goes to show that some mechanics make the game more interesting and some do not, regardless of which ones you consider to be one or another. Realism for the sake of simulating would end up in an unplayable game: what about the risk of radiation for the kerbals on interplanetary journeys, what about signal delay and having to wait a couple of days before you know if your Eeloo probe is alive or not, what about having to convince the Kerbal Goverment to fund you program and dealing with burocracy, what about n-body physics, what about solar flares, what about managing the poo of the Kerbals and the Kesler syndrome... If we really wanted a simulator, we would have to wait another 20 years for development and computers that could handle that program. I would rather go into a real life space program for that.

In conclusion: KSP is supposed to be fun. Some realistic-minded game mechanics might contribute to that, some might not.

EDIT: oh, yes, what about realistic science experiments? Wanna spend an hour looking at a Mün rock?

Edited by Musil

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In conclusion: KSP is supposed to be fun. Some realistic-minded game mechanics might contribute to that, some might not.

EDIT: oh, yes, what about realistic science experiments? Wanna spend an hour looking at a Mün rock?

I agree, thats why I myself see it more as a game than a simulator. In a perfect KSP, all those game mechanics would be tied to your difficulty setting (or selectable), "hard" having them all enabled (life-support, re-entry heat, signal delay, solar flares). And some, like realistic science experiments wouldn't be interesting of course, but it could be tied to the in-game time, forcing you to time accelerate to collect surface samples. (Not saying it would be a good idea, but you could...)

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Now a couple of references to HarvesteR. But what do you yourselves think? Should be interesting to Squad as well. If they release a game and keep updating a game, when the majority of those who play it want more simulation...

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As usual for forum polls, no neutral third option.

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As usual for forum polls, no neutral third option.

Sorry. Don't know if I can change it now...

On the other hand, I kind of made it that way on purpose, adding the line "first and foremost". To force you to take a stand, I guess.

If I phrase it like this: "What would you like KSP to be?" or possibly: "In what direction would you like KSP to move?". Would that make it easier to chose?

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It's both. KSP has objectives and fail states, so it's obviously a game. It's also some sort of physics simulator, so one might label it as a simulator. Both are applicable really, depending on the play style of the player.

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We should ask Total Biscuit. He could spare us a couple hours of ranting about the topic.

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Sorry. Don't know if I can change it now...

On the other hand, I kind of made it that way on purpose, adding the line "first and foremost". To force you to take a stand, I guess.

If I phrase it like this: "What would you like KSP to be?" or possibly: "In what direction would you like KSP to move?". Would that make it easier to chose?

I prefer questions like this with a stark choice. I call them Tarantino Questions. :) Quentin Tarantino's movies seem to have this type of question a lot: "Are you a Beetles or an Elvis man?" "What do you feel more: remorse or regret?"

The question is asked knowing full well that the answer could be "both" but there's ALWAYS more weight given to one over the other. You can appreciate both the Beetles and Elvis but you're going to have some preference for one vs. the other. Getting people to pick a side on it is far more interesting than just "both."

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We should ask Total Biscuit. He could spare us a couple hours of ranting about the topic.

Nah, he doesn't talk about early acces games. Prepare yourself once 1.0 comes around though

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We should ask Total Biscuit. He could spare us a couple hours of ranting about the topic.

So you would let some else decide if it is a game or simulator for you? That is disconcerting if it is the case. To me it is a game based on playing real simulators, there are simulator-esk components but at the end of the day it is still a game. In real simulators all the crafts you fly are not constructed but rather pregenerated by the simulator maker, thus involving no need to balance parts that are found in construction/building style games. I personally enjoy being able to have the freedom to build a craft that may, or may not, work in the confines of the game, it gives me a chance to learn what or where I may have gone work in the build process. To me this has more in common to Minecraft than a simulator in terms of playstyle, but that is just my opinion though.

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It's both. The two are not mutually exclusive. Did not vote as neither option represents my opinion.

Yes. It's both. KSP started out as almost purely game, and then by necessity of HarvesteR's evolving vision required a custom simulated universe. In fact, it turned out quite a bit more realistic than he had originally intended.

A real orbital rendezvous (as per Orbiter), would require 5 different steps: Launch, Establish orbit at LEO, Plane Alignment, Orbit Sync, and finally docking. I want to simplify this to a point where the average gamer can do it, without requiring a reading of the JPL pages on orbital mechanics... So here's what I have so far:

  • Plane Alignment can be removed by restricting the game to a 2D plane. (the game is 3D, but all motion is restricted to the XY plane)
  • The game shows the space vehicle from the outside (a side-looking camera that is always oriented so that the surface of the planet is 'below').
  • Characters go into the rocket as it's 'crew', which justifies (more or less) the fact that space flight is made easy, since one might think they are doing all the heavy work.
  • The whole concept of 'Orbit' can be distilled down to simply 'altitude', where once above a given point (say, the limit of the atmosphere), the game takes on 'orbital mode' and you fly about on your RCS thrusters.
  • in 'atmospheric flight mode', the main engines default to 75% throttle. Pushing them up to 100% may be considered as 'afterburning' and will increase heat and pressure, and may lead to an explosion. In 'orbital flight', the engines default to zero thrust, and the retro-engines (if available) respond to 'negative throttle' (all throttle is controlled by the W and S keys)
  • as you gain altitude, the planet below moves around so that it's always visible to the sideways-looking camera. It moves in such a way as to be right behind the ship once it reaches orbit... in this way, one might imagine your orbital trajectory as being in the direction of the locked Z axis.
  • RCS is simplified to clicking around the command pod to produce thrust in the direction of clicking... this is calculated to take rotation into account, so orientation only matters when it's time to land or dock.

As you can see, some of these measures are quite extreme... I want to boil down orbital flight to it's bare minimum (and the most fun) parts... But, I'm not completely happy with these decisions as they are... I feel restricting the game to 2D might be too hard a limit to impose... or maybe that's just the orbiter fan in me talking...

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A game. It uses realistic simulations in some aspects to IMPROVE the game, and as a gameplay mechanic, but it's not like they're going for scientific-grade accuracy in all things. That said, it having a simulator-ish aspect is PART of the game. Simply put, it's sort of a simulator, but they removed all the un-fun bits (and added some fun). :D

You couldn't market KSP as a "Simulator for testing realistic rockets in realistic scenarios", simply because it's not accurate enough. You CAN market KSP as a "Game using realistic physics", however. I mean, you wouldn't call Asteroids or Space Invaders a "Realistic representation of space using man-made engineered rockets with Newtonian physics", could you?

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