Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Munbase One

I'm in the midst of writing a lot of contentious EVE Online stuff right now and there's more coming, so let's start the day with something a little more low-key: my latest KSP update.

As I mentioned in last week's update, my latest (and second-to-last) science purchase was the top-end rover wheels. I've not been all that impressed with the concept of rovers in KSP. I've played with them, sure. I even did something semi-ridiculous with them back in January. But I eventually reluctantly concluded that "there isn't much there there." There aren't enough biomes on distant locations to make rovers worthwhile. On the places where there are enough biomes like the Mun and Minmus, the distances between the biomes is too long to make rovers practical.

Driving rovers is also very quirky: a rover with multiple axles tends to want to flip or roll over. This happens due to the rear drive wheels tending to push the forward drive wheels into the air rather than into the surface. This problem is exacerbated by low gravity. Turning is also an issue for the same reason: there isn't enough mass pressing down on a rover's contact patches at moderate speed in low gravity to ensure a safe turn.

Still, a few things conspired together to encourage me to take one more swing at a mobile vehicle.
  • Action groups which I learned from working with space planes could be used to address the wheel balance problems.
  • A heavy lifter could put even a particularly heavy wheeled vehicle on the Mun without too much difficulty.
  • The experience I've picked up landing oddly-sized and shaped vehicles could be turned toward a horizontal lander.
  • I confirmed the landing wheels of such a vehicle could be repaired on site if needed.
  • I know for a fact that I could perform a precision landing within a few hundred meters of a set target, having done that before.
  • And finally, a science lab on the Mun could be used as the basis for a permanent base.
Putting all of these facts together encouraged me to try the rover concept again. And a close review of the Mun biome map showed me that there were three places where I could land in close proximity to four biomes. I eventually settled on a landing site in the Midlands between the Northwest Crater and the Northern Basin, giving me access to those three biomes plus several nearby Midland Craters.

What I ended up with was a goofy little train-like vehicle. My plan was to put the thing into orbit and land it conventionally like my very first tall skinny Mun probe... except this time I'd count on the thing tipping over in the direction of its highest mass, the wheels. I was pretty sure that I could deliberately jinx the landing a little bit to encourage the vehicle to fall over in this direction. Just in case this didn't work, I also equipped the thing with a pair of the smallest solid rocket boosters deliberately aimed in such a way as to push the vehicle onto its "side"... onto the wheels.

The "base" itself was the game's Mobile Science Lab with a Cupola on one side and a docking port, large size probe core, and large size battery on the other. Across the top, two of the largest solar arrays and a communications array, plus all of the science instruments. The landing stage would be a small fuel tank, a Poodle engine, and six landing legs at the end of a docking port facing the opposite direction. I loaded the vehicles with my three stupidest kerbals and off it went. Once the thing was down, I'd cut the landing stage loose, repair the wheels, and there I'd be on the Mun with a mobile science lab rover hybrid.

And amazingly, the thing worked on the first go, landing within a kilometer of my eyeballed target point! I broke four of the six wheels tipping it over but the pilot hopped out with a hammer and a screwdriver and soon all four were fixed. I didn't even need to use my two little SRBs. The hardest part was not to damage the solar arrays while climbing back aboard. The discarded landing stage even made for a fun photo opportunity.

Once I was down and the science mods had sampled my Midlands landing point as well as the nearby Northwest Crater, I turned my vehicle northwest heading toward the Northern Basin. The plan was to sample a Midlands Crater on the way. And off in the distance I spotted something that didn't quite fit with the rest of the terrain (it's in the middle right side of the horizon)...

I'd read here and there about easter eggs on the Mun but this was the first one I'd seen. I headed off in that direction which gave me the opportunity to try out action groups again. This time I set one action group to disable to rear drive wheels. This was intended for flat terrain and climbing hills; without the rear driving wheels engaged, the vehicle wouldn't tend to throw its front tires in the air. For going downhill, I had a second action group to do the opposite: shutting down the forward drive wheels would prevent them from causing the vehicle to face-plant when braking. I also set up a third action group to disable steering of all but the front wheels. At speeds greater than 8m/s, steering with all six wheels threatened a flip-over. With one set of turning wheels instead, turning at higher speeds became safer.

Once these groups were working, I had no problem with the 23km drive to the feature that I'd spotted, which turned out to be an arch rock formation. I guess there are people that like to fly through it. ;-) I planted a flag and noted its location for future reference...

From there, it was about a 5km drive to a Midlands Crater and another 15 or so into the Northern Basin. Not too bad, but still not an experience I'm in a hurry to repeat. Unlike Ben Affleck's ride in Armageddon, mine didn't come equipped with rocket boosters. Every gully and crater was an obstacle that had to be driven around and though my mobile lab negotiated 30 degree slopes with ease, anything greater was a serious danger to the crew.

Once in the basin, I parked the vehicle. The rear docking port, by the way, was just for fun. Over the weekend, I used the same design to land a "Hitchhiker" on the same design chassis with more solar arrays and a couple of off-axis docking ports. I eventually got the two modules docked together, though I had to slam them together a couple of times to get the ports to connect... ;-)

EDIT (18/Mar/2014): For those interested, here's the final version of the Munbase. I doubt very much I'll dock anything to those off-axis ports, but they're there.

The resulting science allowed me to purchase the very last item in the tech tree that I hadn't picked up yet, Nuclear Propulsion.

I'm still gonna do a Jool mission, but this futzing about with easier objectives is sometimes fun, too...


  1. For heaven's sake, keep your other games to yourself. If we wanted to read a blog about KSP then we would find such a blogger. We play EVE and read EVE blogs.
    Next time you pass the tin cup around you can forget me.

    1. Shush, Gevlon Goober. The adults are talking.

    2. Right, I forgot that the world was for your entertainment.

      Jester's spending time playing KSP and this is his blog, so he can really do what he wants.

    3. What you mean 'we,' white man?

      It's Jester's blog. He can post what you want. If you want nothing but EVE, blogger accounts are free. Knock yourself out.

    4. I point out again that this blog featured dozens of posts about Global Agenda, Perpetuum Online, Black Prophecy, and other games while I was playing them. It will continue to do so. If you don't want to see these posts, bookmark the "EVE Online" tag and go straight there.

    5. I don't play KSP but I just might based on Jester's posts...

    6. Louis: It's absurdly fun.

    7. I'm afraid it will take away from my eve time! :-o

  2. I've found that SAS torque upsets my rovers quite a bit, as throttle and steering action will also cause the reaction wheels to try and pitch the rover body around as well as drive the wheels. I've had much stabler results by driving around in docking mode. Then as long as you have RCS disabled your steering inputs will only drive the wheels, and you can let SAS alone maintain stability. You can also still quickly toggle into rotation mode if you want to make a quick in-air attitude adjustment. Making jumps became much much easier once I figured this out.

  3. I'm just going to post this here for you.................http://imgur.com/gallery/aQVYB

    1. LOL Yeah, I'm probably gonna start doing goofy shit soon.

  4. I just have an action group that toggles the torque on my reaction wheel, and I put one of the big ones on. Then I keep SAS enabled, so if I do flip I can quickly hit 1 and toggle the wheel back on, which stabilizes me in midair and makes it easy to spin in midair to land back on my wheels.

  5. Also, kind of a shame you unlocked Nuclear Propulsion last. The LV-N engine is significantly overpowered compared to the other boosters. Once you get into orbit it will get you anywhere in the solar system for less than half the fuel of the other engines. My standard orbital stage in stock is a Rockomax 32, two radially-attached LV-Ns (either with little winglets or the engine nacelles), and an advanced SAS. Simple, stable, easy to fly, looks great, and it'll push 10-20 tons to the nearby planets with no fuss. Use a heavier lifter and take a -64 and you'll get to Jool and back.

    1. I played with the LV-N on a Pathfinder probe to the sun after I unlocked it. It worked quite well, I have to admit.


    2. Nice! The engine itself just sips fuel but doesn't have too much thrust, so you might need more than one to push a big ship. Or you'll be doing 30 minute burns, which are both boring and less efficient.

  6. Such a it is very nice games and it point out again that this blog featured dozens of posts about Global Agenda, Perpetuum Online, Black Prophecy, and other games while I was playing them.

    Buy Eve


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