How to Not Explode and Die in 'Kerbal Space Program’

Do not feed the Kerbals.

So you’ve plunked down some cash for the PlayStation 4 port of Kerbal Space Program, a PC builder and simulator that charges players with taking control of a fledgling space program run by a Minion-like species called Kerbals. The port is loads of fun, and Kerbal Space Program is satisfying on a level that few other games can match – if you can ever get over the learning curve and stop dying horrible space deaths.

Kerbal Space Program includes a series of tutorials out of the box that are designed to get you off the ground and into space. Unfortunately, they’re also poorly adapted from their PC cousin, which means they’re clunky, long-winded, and kind of frustrating. Figuring out how to navigate can be done largely on your own, but you’re likely going to need a few specifics to truly get moving.

Thankfully, we’ve got your covered. Here’s what we’ll be shooting for:

The Basics

1. The L3 Button Toggles Between Mouse Mode and Doing Shit Since KSP is a PC port, part of the game involves using your left joystick as a mouse cursor, which is the difference between screwing around with settings and actually impacting the movement on the screen.

2. The Circle Button Is for Info and Specifics When you’re in mouse mode, you can hover over pretty much anything and hit circle to see the specifics of the object, ways to upgrade it, and the different settings you can toggle.

3. Love Failure You will fail. A lot. Get used to it and enjoy the ride.

4. Take Baby Steps NASA didn’t launch a perfectly manned mission to the Moon on day one. It moved in small steps. Take that lesson to heart.

5. Research and Development To get into (and out of) orbit, you’re only going to need access to two buildings: the Vehicle Assembly Building and Research and Development. Upon completing successful missions, you’re awarded “Science” — which is the unit you can redeem in the R&D building for new technology.

Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)

To get into orbit and home again safely, you’re going to have to run two missions. The first is simple.

6. Don’t Forget the Chute Obviously, you’re going to figure you need a pod to hold a Kerbal, but it’s easy to overlook the fact that, eventually, you’re going to want some brakes.

7. Balance is Everything At the lower left corner of the build screen is the Balance button (it’s the big circle with a yellow dot in the center). Any time you add something potentially asymmetrical like a fin, you’re going to want to hit that button to make sure you’re balancing your placement. Otherwise, your rocket is going to take a sharp left turn at launch, whether you want it to or not.

8. Add Balanced Goo The first science-y thing you’re given is a pod of goo (it’s under the Science tab in the VAB). Add at least two — for balance — to the pod you’ll be returning home.

9. A Quick Note About Stages As you add engines, chutes, and the like, you’re going to see some icons appear on the left side of the screen. These are stages, and they indicate which order your ship will carry out its actions. If you click your L3 button and navigate over to that area, you can actually control the order in which your various bits and bobs fire off. The stages count down, so your first stage should be the highest number and your chute — the last stage — should always be Stage 0.

Using those four steps, you should be able to launch a simple rocket straight upwards. Be sure to conduct some science experiments on your goo pods (just hit L3, move your cursor over them and hit Circle). If you set up your stages and your chute correctly, you should be good to go.

10. Hey, Did You Fuck Up? It’s okay, it happens. Just hit Options and then choose “Revert Flight” to jump back in time to either the launchpad or the VAB. It’s a good way to maintain resources and cash.

Okay, mission two. Remember to spend any science you’ve accrued in R&D and then head back to the VAB to build your orbital rocket.

The lower half should be a big, balanced assortment of solid fuel rockets. Use your imagination. The top half should be pretty close to what you built in your previous run. The only difference is that you should add a heat shield and then a decoupler just below your pod.


Okay, so you’ve built your second rocket and you’re ready to get into orbit.

11. The SAS Before you launch that bad boy, hit the Circle button to turn on the Sickness Avoidance System. This is essentially a device that tells your Kerbal pilot to help you keep the vehicle from going crazy.

12. Go Easy on the Stick Once you launch your rocket (X button), don’t make a lot of sudden movements with your joystick. If you do, you’ll end up spiraling off into nowhere.

13. Know When to Run Keep your throttle on the lower half go the gauge (D-pad down) until you hit the upper atmosphere, then hit the gas.

Orbit and Splashdown

14. Fly in a Parabola Up might seem like the most logical direction when you’re trying to hit space, but things will be much easier if you fly in a light parabola once you hit the upper atmosphere.

15. Seriously, Throttle Down If your ship starts overheating or you start to see orange drag on your craft, throttle down.

16. Don’t Worry About Reserving Fuel Once you hit Orbit your forward momentum will be preserved (a la physics), so when you want to return, all you need to do is flip a 180 and wait.

17. Hit the Atmosphere Like a Brick, Not A Bullet If you go in nose first, you’ll hit the atmosphere going too quickly and you’ll burn up your parachute.

And there it is. You can officially pick up Career mode and get through the first major hurdles. As to getting to the Mun, you’re on your own.
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