You may be familiar with the game Kerbal Space Program. It started as a fairly simple rocket construction and flight simulator, but has recently broadened to include spaceplanes, EVAs, and a fully-featured solar system to fly around in. Gravity and spaceflight are simulated with a reasonable degree of realism, but without the terrifying complexity of Orbiter. Kerbals are, of course, the adorable little spacemen who pilot your rockets and aircraft and bounce around on planets or zip through space with their jetpacks.
0.18 is expected in the next few days, and it’s looking to be a landmark update, with a beefy changelog posted by lead developer HarvesteR. Some highlights:
Docking has been a much-requested feature since the beginning of KSP. The possibilities are numerous: proper space stations, in-flight rendezvous, even orbital assembly of ships. A few mods have allowed for the possibility in the current version, but the implementation is necessarily clunky and limited. 0.18 includes a full docking functionality, and the screenshots look very promising indeed.
The ‘Flight Planning’ and new map capabilities will be a huge step forward for KSP. As of 0.17, it’s rather difficult for a new player to visit faraway planets and moons without downloading a mod like Protractor or MechJeb. The new interface promises to replicate at least some of the functions of these mods while adding visualization tools for comprehensibility.
The list goes on to include revamped planets to visit (and two new ones), an electricity/power system incorporating solar panels and generators, some special terrain additions to Kerbin, improved controls, unmanned spacecraft, new parts, a soundtrack, and performance tweaks to boot.
With the kind of ridiculousness possible in the current version, I’m excited to see what the ingenious modders and players will get up to in 0.18.