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.
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Monday, May 19, 2014

Internet spaceships

I've been playing Kerbal Space Program pretty steadily for about six months now and I thought it would be fun to write a post about it from a completely different perspective. Can KSP players learn anything from EVE Online? Can EVE Online players learn anything from KSP?

I think the answer is yes. In both directions. Let's play with the idea a little. Read only the section that applies to you. ;-)

What KSP players can learn from EVE

How you fit a ship matters. An experienced EVE player soon realizes that the number of fitting slots on a ship is very limited, and each item fit to the ship should contribute. In particular, an experienced EVE player wouldn't dream of fitting a bunch of different weapons, or combine an active armor tank with an active shield tank without thinking about why he was doing that. EVE players learn quickly that some mods have no use on ships at all, or are only useful on specific types of ships. These are lessons that are quickly applicable to KSP. When fitting engines, fit engines all of the same type. When fitting for a science mission, be sure to bring the science parts that will contribute to the ship's success.

How you fly a ship matters. Experienced EVE players learn about optimal range, fall-off, and transversal. They quickly learn that in a combat situation, how you fly the ship will go a long way toward making whatever mission you're involved in successful... or not. They learn when a good time to activate MWDs are, and learn when a good time to shut them down is. All of these lessons are again directly applicable to KSP, and a good EVE player will quickly learn that timing is often very important when flying a KSP ship -- most maneuvers are planned to the second! And managing resources is literally everything in a successful KSP mission. So experienced EVE players bring an advantage to the table there as well.

Managing resources matters. EVE players soon learn about managing resources such as capacitor, ammunition, nanite repair paste, and module heat. Each one is finite and there's often no restocking once the mission -- whether PvE or PvP -- begins. While an EVE pilot can dock in the middle of a mission, it's usually considered a failure to do so! So each resources has to be carefully managed while the ship is undocked and the player is working out in space. This is clearly a lesson that transfers well to KSP, where resource management -- particularly fuel management -- is so critical! KSP players also have to manage the number of science modules brought on a mission and what they will be used for and sometimes even have to manage heat as well.

Refitting an existing ship design is advantageous. Once an EVE player has a ship fitting that he likes, it's usually to his benefit to modify that fitting to handle different mission specs. Often, the only difference between an active and passive-tanked ship are the replacement of high-powered armor plates for active repair modules (or the equivalent for shield fits). No matter the mission, a Hurricane is going to be fit pretty much the same way, with only minor variations here and there... but it's quite possible to fit a Hurricane six different ways to handle different priorities! Yet, the ship will still be a relatively fast, hard-hitting gunship no matter what is intended. This is a lesson that applies very quickly to KSP: once the player finds a successful rocket design, that rocket should be modified for each follow-on mission rather than a new design searched for. Only when the rocket design proves itself completely inadequate should a new design be started.

Remember your mission!
Undocking from EVE is all about the mission, whatever it is. Few players undock from a station in EVE "just because." There's always a purpose to being out in space and that purpose has to be kept foremost in the player's mind. Whether PvE or PvP, a player that forgets his mission will soon lose his ship. And remembering one's mission is important all the way back to the first moment the player constructs his spaceship.

What EVE players can learn from KSP

How you fit a ship matters. A KSP player wouldn't dream of fitting a lot of useless junk to their internet spaceship. Unnecessary parts add mass, burn extra fuel, and don't contribute to the mission. Placed badly, they add drag. Placed very badly, they throw the ship's center of gravity off and make a successful launch difficult or impossible. A KSP player learns right away that everything fit to the ship should contribute to the mission and nothing should be fit to the ship that doesn't contribute to the mission. This is a lesson that is directly applicable to a KSP player taking up EVE Online: if the module you're putting on a ship doesn't directly contribute to how you're going to fly the ship, don't fit it!

How you fly a ship matters. Maneuvers in KSP are timed down to the second. From the moment a ship launches, the player has to manage speed, fuel, staging, and the all-important gravity turn. The ship's speed needs to be managed through the boost phase so the rocket doesn't go too fast and burn too much fuel. Precise flying is needed to get into orbit, handle transfer orbits, and handle reentry procedures. All of these lessons transfer quite well to EVE Online! EVE players, particularly in combat, have to learn the necessity for well-timed maneuvers while in flight. Good flying will be the difference between the ship surviving the mission and being a wreck...

Managing resources matters. From the moment they leave the Vehicle Assembly Buildings, KSP players quickly learn about managing resources! Fuel management through each stage is critical and again these maneuvers need to be timed to the second. The player has to remember that what he takes into space is all he has: there will be no refueling! It's incredibly rare for a KSP player to think that they have brought too much fuel on a mission. Whatever fuel has been brought up will probably be used! Likewise, often KSP players have to manage heat and the science modules they've brought for the mission. EVE players have to learn these lessons as well! Ammunition, capacitor, nanite repair paste, and other resources brought out of the undock likely cannot be replenished.

Refitting an existing ship design is advantageous. KSP players will tinker and tinker until they find their first successful booster design. And after that, it's generally a good policy to reuse that same booster over and over again with the only difference being the top-most stage which is modified for each successive mission profile. In this way, a solid KSP player will probably only have three or four or five boosters that will serve him well throughout his career. But while the boosters are essentially the same, each one represents a refit of a proven design. Once the KSP player takes up EVE Online, this lesson is easily applicable to ship fittings. Once the new player finds a basic fit for a ship he likes, that fit can and should be modified to meet different mission specs.

Remember your mission! From the first moment a KSP player starts assembling a spacecraft in the VAB, the player has to keep the mission in mind. How many crew will be needed, how many engines, how much fuel, how many science modules. If landers will be brought, where will they be used? Will they be brought back? If the rocket has multiple stages, when will they be separated? When will each science module be used, and what will it be used for? If the KSP player forgets his mission, there is little chance of successfully bringing home the Science!

Whew! That was kind of a fun little mental exercise, I think. Thoughts from other people who play both games?


  1. I posted this previously in another article, want to bring it forward to a more appropriate post ;)

    KSP devs ran into a problem similar to Incarna, but they caught themselves before shipping v.24.

    They had a highly anticipated feature in testing, the contracts system (Incarna analogy: walking in stations) but some of the gameplay one might expect - budgeting your space program and spending the contract income, was scheduled for later.(Incarna analogy: places to walk to, and stuff to do there.)

    Fortunately, KSP's problem is nowhere near the amount of work that would have been required to flesh out Avatar Gameplay in EVE, and so I have high hopes that this will be a ~relatively~ short delay, for the planned feature work to be brought forward. Its awesome that they have leveled with the player base about the situation.

    (Forums will be offline for a few days, for a site upgrade starting May 22)

  2. Apparently what Eve teaches KSP players is to play the game in the most boring and least exploratory manner possible.

    The most fun in KSP (especially sandbox) is to take something that should not be able to fly and make it fly.

    For anyone wanting to try KSP from Eve, for the love of god don't get sucked into the idea of a "mission" or force the game into a series of "science" progression. Your mission is to have fun in the sandbox, don't let the quest for the perfectly engineered spaceship or the ultimately powerful spaceship kill your desire.

    1. That's a fair criticism. As I've said in my own KSP posts, I tend to take the game a lot more seriously than it really calls for sometimes. This post reflects that.

  3. Was it intentional that the lessons a KSP player can learn from EVE and the lessons an EVE player can learn from KSP are exactly the same? They're dressed up in different language, but even that feels like it's mostly rearranging the words within the paragraphs.

    1. Yes, entirely intentional. That was the bit that struck me as funny.

      But it's still an important lesson because so many EVE players DON'T think about how they fit their ships, how they fly them, managing resources, or learning from past ship fits to inform future ones. The same person that would be very meticulous about step-by-step designing a KSP rocket will make very dumb decisions in the other game, or vice versa.

  4. "When fitting engines, fit engines all of the same type."


    I mean, maybe? Can you explain that a bit? Because there's plenty of merit to putting different types of engine on a KSP rocket. Unless you by "types" you mean liquid-fuelled, solid-fuelled, ion and jet engines in which case...yeah, there's still merit to putting different types on one spacecraft.

    1. I probably should have phrased that "fit balanced engines" or the like. You can't put a Skipper on one side of the rocket and a Mainsail on the other and expect success.


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