Now for Something Mostly Different

EVE Online isn’t the only game I play. I know that comes as a shock to some of you, but it’s true. There are two types of games I play. There are the stressful ones like EVE Online, and there are the relaxing ones. Okay, EVE Online is relaxing at times. But it can go insanely stressful in an instant. That’s why we all love it. Right?

Well, some days I don’t need any more stress; the past six months especially. (For those who need to know, mom’s treatments are going well but the complications are a BITCH.) In the realm of stressful games, besides EVE Online I play Starcraft II and League of Legends. I suck at Starcraft II but play it anyway. I recently started League of Legends and evidently show some promise. Who knew?

In the non-stressful realm, I have my old favorite Civilization V and this year’s sorely disappointing Simcity 2013. It’s still fun to play, but damn they need to patch some terribly awful bugs in their simulation code. Until they do, I’ve set Simcity 2013 aside. That left me needing another non-stress game to play. My nephew recommended I try Kerbal Space Program.

I’d never heard of it before – but it was a space game so couldn’t be too bad. I went out on Steam and found it. It’s an alpha release game. Whoa, my nephew didn’t say it was alpha release. What’s more, for the full game – alpha release mind you – it’s on sale for a smidgen over $18. My first reaction to that was, “Where’s the free demo?”

I installed the free demo and gave it a try. The tutorials are about as good as EVE Online’s. The graphics are still rough though they do work. There are obviously big pieces to the overall game missing. But you know what? The physics in that game is incredibly realistic – as in they use real physics. The whole point of the game is to build a space program to get the Kerbals to their “Mun” (moon) and then explore the rest of their solar system. This project starts in the vehicle assembly building… with parts… some of dubious origins… and you have to get a Kerbal astronaut not only into space, but into orbit and beyond.

And when I say you have to do it, I mean just that. You are the flight director, engineer, mission control and if necessary the automatic pilot. You send the rocket up, and with luck you bring the capsule down slow and easy. But believe me, there is nothing easy about it.

But it is non-stressful to a nerd like me. The computer does all the math in the background. You just need to understand when to burn and how to burn. It is unbelievably engaging. And it’s stress free, even when the rocket crashes and burns. It’s just what the doctor ordered!

Just for fun, I made a video of the first Kerbal I got into orbit. It took me 7 hours of game play. The rocket you’ll see I had to “engineer” myself. Then I had to do the apogee burn correctly to “grow” the orbit. The video is less than 10 minutes so give it a watch.


It was very satisfying to finally get a capsule into orbit. It’s not enough to just build a big rocket. It’s got to fly true and it’s got to work synergistically. This rocket did that but it’ll never get beyond a simple orbit. Even at that, I made a mistake – a bad one. Did you catch it? Let me know what you think it is in the comments. The first person to name it (by the comment time stamp) will get an Asteros hull from Mabrick as a Christmas present. [EDIT 12/15/2013 03:25 – Darvid Austrene nails it! Merry Christmas, you get the Asteros!] !Don’t forget to give me your EVE character name or you’ll miss out! How’s that for an incentive? And you thought this wasn’t going to be about EVE at all. Tsk, tsk and Merry Christmas!

Fly Careful

21 comments on “Now for Something Mostly Different

  1. I haven't watched the video, but from playing KSP I can offer you some advice – Kerbals in EVA can push spacecraft.

    So if you're out of normal fuel, and then out of RCS (which can be surprisingly useful at affecting orbits at apogee and perigee), then just getting the Kerbal out and pushing can save your mission.

    Also, as above, I heartily recommend Scott Manley. He also plays EvE, but doesn't do many videos about it.

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  2. Very close! You are in the right neighborhood. I needed to save fuel for a de-orbit burn. Nothing happens in space without fuel. Thanks for participating!

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  3. You got it with the no fuel after the burn, but unfortunately Darvid Austrene beat you to it. Oddly enough, I discovered the maneuver planner my very next launch. It certainly makes the burn easier with that countdown! Thanks!

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  4. Well, you did a great job of listing the amateur nature of my insertion. I'd still have made orbit even wit all those things done imprecisely – just as I did. However, you hit the nail on the head with that last paragraph. Even after I had a perigee high enough to avoid the atmosphere (> 60,000 m,) I still wasted all my fuel raising perigee to > 270,000 m. My poor Kerbal astronaut is still up there, out of electricity, air and luck as he's not a capsuleer with a clone. So Merry Christmas! I'll contract the Asteros over to Darvid Austrene from Dodixie tonight. Congratulations!

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  5. You burned up all your fuel in your ineffective straight up launch. (start a gravity turn about 10000m is a good thing) and now have a problem to de-orbit? You might have enough RCS fuel to deorbit

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  6. Hi Mabrick,

    I'm going to throw out a couple of guesses here, only one of which is based on observation. In looking at the trajectory of your initial launch there isn't much of a “down range” trajectory. From what I know of actual orbital launches, most of the delta V goes into achieving orbital speed, not actual altitude. So my first guess is that you didn't adjust trajectory to take advantage of the planet's rotational velocity.

    You did jettison your aero shell once in orbit, so my other guess is that your initial orbital burn used too much fuel for additional orbital changes (or a deorbit burn).

    If I'm close at all, I can be found under the Eve player name Guumba

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  7. Ed was right mab u lost all ur fuel not starting a gravity turn at 10000m u will find turning her over about 45 degrees at 10km will save u alot of delta V on your orbit burn. well done with without using the maneuver planner tho nice orbit. lol id say ur other mistake is that u have no rocket to slow u down so u can bring that kerby home(i assume thats what the parachute is for) . if u made that grav turn u would have still had fuel ;p Fire Bush is my in game name btw

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  8. Pricey orbit…

    Firstly, you do need to roll to about 30 degrees towards horizon east to make the most of rotation assist. This creates better equatorial orbits.

    Secondly, your first stage is too expensive. You spend as much energy fighting air friction as gravity. Take off some thrust and weight if you can.

    Thirdly your orbital burn was too late, but only by a bit. It should complete by apogee not after it. Bit nit picky, but there.

    Fourthly, due to the sledgehamer nature of your orbital insertion, you ran out of fuel. The poor Kerbal will be orbitting forever. Go mount a rescue!

    Darvid Austrene

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  9. Unfortunately for you my friend, roll overs are only necessary with the space shuttle. Remember back to the Apollo days. They never did roll overs. No, that is not it, though I had plenty of flights like you described before I got the hang of orbital insertion.

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  10. The burns were not expert but they were proper. The orbit was established just fine with a perigee at 247,092 meters – well out of the atmosphere. Sorry, that's not it.

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  11. Oops…tired and tl:dr the whole post and tl:dw the whole video… hey it's xmass morining and thekids are going crazy… Boo is playing her new DS3D and Aidy is Mass Effecting his brains out… the wife has a new 1000 piece puzzle and I'm reading EvE blogs… LOL

    Murray Krissmass EvEeryone!!!

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  12. The simple mistake was you never did the Roll Over and go into an “orbit”… you went straight up… and like the proverbial arrow shot into the sky,you will be buried where you land when gravity does it's thing… LOL

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