Practical question for Kerbal Space Program users

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Jun 5, 2010
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Indianapolis Metro Area
Hi everyone,
My 12 year old has asked me if he can have KSP. I consider it educational and will buy him the software. I understand it is about $40 for the PC.

Of course his younger brother age 9 Will want to play too. Ok.

A brief review of the website didn't make it clear the licensing situation. If I buy it, does that give me a license for one player, on one computer? Or multiple players on that computer? Or one player on multiple computers? Or multiple players on multiple computers?

The boys both have access to two computers... Neither computer is exclusive to each boy. I'd like to set it up on both computers, and ideally the settings and progress syncs so they can use either computer but I'm not clear of it works that way.

Also it looks like there is a Steam option. Is that in any way better? One of the two computers has Steam installed.

Appreciate any guidance from users. Thanks!

I have installed the game on more than one computer in the house, no problem.

That was by downloading it from KSP as a zipped file.

I would never do Steam with this game. Takes control of the updates, and saving older versions out of your hands. I kept most of the old versions, so could go back and play some of them. For example the rover below, won't work in the newer games, the creator of that add-on stopped updating it.

I recommend the KSP forums:

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You can turn off the updates in Steam. But if you want the game to sync with Steam, it will have to update. I used to absolutely hate Steam (having to register my store bought game online just to be able to play!) but it is good for certain things. I don't really see how it would sync across different computers even if you are on steam. Steam saves achievements and trophies or what not, but I don't think it stores game saves. Most End User License Agreements (EULA) usually say one copy - one computer. That being said, so long as you can download to both computers, you can always download the game with the same key or whatever you get confirming your purchase. This is where Steam shines. Your account keeps a record of all the games you have purchased. You can just log in on a different computer and download the game. No sure how it will work with both puters playing Kerbal being logged into the same Steam account though. Once you get it downloaded, go into Steam and set it to offline mode. That way it will not connect every time you play.

As for syncing across two computers. It may be best to have your save files easily accessible, have a shortcut on your desktop and have them shared over your home network so your kiddos can copy them to whatever computer they happen to be using. :confused2: That may work.

Fun game. May be a bit tough for youngsters. Download the free version and see how they like it.

My question to George: How did you do the custom flag?
I never tried synching. Indeed didn't want it that way, I had "my" games on one computer, other had their games on another computer.

So, I sure do not know about synching. That is definitely one to ask on the KSP forum.

Fun game. May be a bit tough for youngsters. Download the free version and see how they like it.

Well, some youngsters may have trouble reaching orbit. Heck, I had trouble making orbit for awhile. But the goal isn't to make orbit, the goal is to have fun and HOPEFULLY learn some rocket science (and if they do make orbit eventually, thne then they'll get have one of the most practical hands-on learning experiences about orbital mechanics that there can be, without the intricate math and physics they would not have any clue knowing for many years.

And some may only want to make the rockets blow up. But unless they only want to 100% make things blow u they will learn SOMETHING, and even the ones that like blowing things up may find more fun, certainly more challenge, making the rockets WORK properly. And some may get hooked well enough to learn more, to get something to fly into orbit, and perhaps go a lot beyond that like the Mun and other planets. There are stock rockets like Kerbal-X, which do neat things (Asparagus Staging), and can get into orbit, if flown decently enough, doing the gradual turns at about the right altitudes (flown poorly it'll run out of fuel. Some very lazy early fliers would boost straight up out of the atmosphere, then turn 90 degrees horizontal, which is so wasteful on fuel that a rocket like Kerbal-X could never make it).

I know a 3-year old who played the game. He called it "Space Aliens". But he didn't really want to do the rockets, he wanted to drive a Rover around the space center. So, that's mostly what he did. He's 6 now, maybe time to re-introduce him to the game and see if he's interested in doing rockets yet.

Of course a lot of the fun of the game is building a custom rocket. I made my own custom ones at first, but needed to learn better. So I tried the stock ones, and learned. And tried modifications (add more boosters to Kerbal-X. Finding out that simply adding an extra fuel tank may not help much if it makes the liftoff thrust to weight ratio too poor). And that helped me with doing my own 100% scratch builts. Of course there are many ways to go.

A good way to go early for scratch-builds is just fly something low, to make the simplest rocket, one long tank with an engine of sufficient thrust, and something for a payload mass on top. Try it, if it crashes, make changes. If it goes unstable add fins (BTW a lot of the smaller solids and a few liquids do not gimbal). Add a parachute on top, maybe more than one, to come back down like a model rocket. So, a virtual REALY big model rocket. If that rocket works out, remove the payload, add a decoupler ring, a 1-Kerbal capsule (the mercury type), and a chute. Arrange the "staging" sequence so after it burns out and reaches apogee, it can be decoupled to let the capsule separate, and later deploy the chute. And try other things from there. Maybe add another tank. Maybe staging, vertically. Thing is with 2-stages the first stage engine might not have enough thrust to lift he whole hing very well, depending in the mass with fuel tanks and such. Side boosters like a Titan-III and IV (or upcoming Falcon Heavy) are a great performance enhancer and a lot of fun , when arranged to separate. Somewhere along there, either 2-staged or liquid side boosters, the rocket may become capable of orbital flight, even if that wasn't the intent.

Also I will admit that I have only really played "Sandbox mode", long before it was called that, years before there was a Career mode. I just didn't care to do the career mode thing, though I tried it a bit. But that's just me. Career mode could be too frustrating for kids, although the limited choices to unlock further parts does require learning the basics almost one step at a time. Still, for max fun kids ought to be allowed to do almost any way they want to, other than just blowing things up all the time and not caring how many virtual Kerbals they kill.

My question to George: How did you do the custom flag?

Wow, been awhile since I did it. Dig thru the KSP files to find the directory that all the stock flag files are located in. Make a copy of one of the flags and open it in your favorite image editing software. What I did was open it up in Photoshop, and add a blue layer to replace the original background. Then added in an NAR logo, and my NAR #, and the tagline "Designing and Crashing Rockets since 1970". Renamed and saved it, and moved the copy into the original KSP flag directory. Next time I opened the game, it was one of the flag choices available.

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Interesting discussion, thanks.

I went to the forum last night and did some chat with folks there.

For the straight PC install version (non-steam), I learned there is no sync function but it is easy to keep settings/progress on a USB drive or network share, so "syncing" in my home network scenario isn't a problem. I'll just define a storage space on the LAN and the kids can save their progress there and access it from whichever computer.

As to the licenses, it was recommended to me to get one license to start and see if the kids actually play it enough to justify a second installation. Apparently, nothing would prevent a second install on a second computer, though if I had two computers using it at the same time on any regular basis honor would compel me to buy the second license. The second computer may actually not have sufficient graphic hardware anyway.

As far as steam goes, if KSP supports could saving it will work, i believe they do. If you want their save games to sync to their and to be able to play at the same time on steam you will need two copies of the game and two steam accounts.
Right. Everything you say is right. Lol
I have a drill and two rovers on Mun. One has a broken wheel and I haven't been able to land an Engineer yet to get the star he needs to fix it, while landing close enough to fix it. And a few satellites in orbit.
I have a rover on Minmus too.
And a satellite orbiting...the purple one, can't remember the name, it's the next one out.
Can't do orbital rendezvous or land on target on Mun
And I'm not very efficient at getting to orbit.
Sounds like you guys got this worked out! Marc_G what is your handle on the KSP forum? Because I am there too.
If you're not in a hurry, add KSP to your wishlist on and on steam and you'll get an email if it goes on sale.
And I'm not very efficient at getting to orbit.

I use MechJeb. I think that when learning early, a person should not use MechJeb until they can successfully fly manually into orbit. So the can really learn the rocket science and orbital mechanics of what it takes to get into orbit. And how to try to get into an orbit that's more circular than egg-shaped.

And for the first landing attempt on the Mun, also try those manually (SAVE before it's too late!), to eventually learn what it takes to be able to retroburn and land slow enough, without running out of fuel or (most likely) mistiming the ignition too late and hitting the Mun at high velocity. Been there, smashed that, reopened save, till I learned enough to land safely.

But once a person has learned that, I think it's not only fair game, but totally realistic to use MechJeb to automate launches and landings. Because that's what real launch vehicles do.

Yes, the original Mercury Astronauts wanted to manually fly the Mercury-Redstone into space, and manually fly the Mercury-Atlas into orbit. But they could not possibly fly the vehicle as accurately as the automated system, some Merc-Atlas flights would have run out of fuel early (Chuck Yeager's NF-104 rocket assisted jet accident to zoom past 100,000 feet was due mostly to him not flying the flight path he was supposed to fly). And even for the lunar landings, those were 100% automated for most of the descent from orbit, and then for final landing when the astronauts went to "manual", it actually turned out that the computers were still doing the hardest work, the astronauts simply had the ability to "steer" it in a different direction , and command the computers to adjust the descent rate. Even the throttle was not throttle. It was two buttons, effectively increase velocity or decrease velocity (IIRC, "+" and "-" for the throttle but it was controlling vertical velocity via computer, not thrust) , with the ability to hover and even go up if desired. If coming down at 10 ft/sec,if they wanted to slow to 5 ft/sec descent, they nudged the "+" button a few times (IIRC 1 press = 1 ft/sec change). When they stopped making changes, the LM maintained the last commanded descent rate. Even though it was getting lighter and lighter by the second, so the computer reduced the throttle a tiny bit by the second, as needed to maintain the currently commanded descent rate. My R/C Lunar Module Quadcopter uses that kind of "throttle", I'm commanding rate of ascent or descent (or hover at 50% stick), and the flight computer adjusts throttle for the desired vertical velocity rate. I'm not really controlling throttle directly (I had a bad crash using manual throttle before I changed to that mode. Smooth landings ever since).

I say that since some on the KSP forum (often teenagers or younger) make fun of Mechjeb because they want to fly "manually, like Neil Armstrong". Yeah, we'd be talking about the disastrous Apollo missions if they had ever really flown the landings 100% manually. They don't know how much the computers were really doing the flying for the LM, and 100% for everything launched into orbit.

But of course some can get a lot of satisfaction out of flying to orbit and landings 100% manually in KSP. So if they enjoy that, they ought to.

I find it tedious. I want to build, plan for, and fly successful missions. To me, using automation for the launch and landing phases is realistic. And there's plenty enough to do a during a mission. When I really want to fly manually.... I do a spaceplane. It's harder to do now, in earlier versions it was no hard to do SSTO spaceplanes using mostly jet thrust to achieve most of the velocity (often more than 80%) to reach orbit, then use rocket power for the rest of the way. The flight profile for climb and high altitude speed run was critical and needed to be hand-flown. Using jet power in the way the game allowed at the time was unrealistic, but a lot of fun to achieve.

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So, I just bought a license and my son is playing now (PC version, not Steam). I haven't quite figured out how to set the "save" location, so that it saves to a specific folder on our local network. I'm sure I'll figure it out but if anyone has an easy answer please let me know.

Mostly I'm posting to answer the first question I asked. In a FAQ page here:
there is a question about:

"Can I install the game on more than one computer?" The answer is documented as follows:

"Certainly, you can download and play the game on all of your personal computers with the same license. Even if some are Windows and some are mac computers."
You will not be able to make it save then to another location, the save files have to remain in the original location because that is the only location that KSP looks for them. I suggest that you copy (Don't move, just copy) the save file(s) or .craft files to a folder that can be shared over the network. Then all you have to do is copy and paste from your "Library" of shared files into the local file structure to use the saves or crafts.
OK so if I have two kids on one computer, in order to separate their progress, I think I could just have two installs of the software. The installation for me consisted of unzipping the KSP archive and moving the resulting program folder to the location of my choice, currently kid #1's desktop. If I make another copy of this in kid #2's desktop, presumably this will be a separate instance.

I'm a little surprised it's not clearer how all this works.
I haven't used a computer with multiple users for years. But you shouldn't have to do two separate installs. Just make it available to "anyone who uses this computer"... I think. Each user has a "Saved Games" folder and should save to that folder. Mine is the steam version and it saves somewhere else. If the kids have two different desktops then they should have their own game and saves. Otherwise it would be a waste to have two desktops. The OS should keep them separate. Even if the saved games get lumped together. Just have the kids make individual save games. Name their companies something different and use different flags. But with two separate desktops or user accounts it shouldn't be a problem.