The first ever build of Kerbal Space Program
was released by Squad Games in June 2011 -- I still take pride in the fact that I was one of the first to cover it
Since then, the popularity of the rocket-building simulation game has -- quite fittingly -- taken off. Kerbal Space Program
, which is currently sold as an alpha via Steam Early Access, is now floating around the Solar System, picking up players left, right and center.
It doesn't show many signs of slowing down either. Three years later, and the Squad team is gearing up to release version 0.24, complete with a new contracts mechanic, a new mission control system, new tutorials, and -- the big one -- the first steps towards multiplayer for the game.
"To clarify, we're not suggesting we have to go through another 76 iterations before we reach 1.0," Kerbal Space Program
creator Felipe Falanghe laughs. "Our plan is to reach 1.0 as soon as we feel we’re ready for it."
"We're really not as far off from that day as it would seem," he adds, "but it would be reckless (not to mention wholly inaccurate) for me to try and guess at a date for it. If there's one thing I can say with certainty about project planning, it's that plans will most certainly change."
"It's still so early in the development of multiplayer, we can't even guess at how it will eventually turn out."
Let's talk multiplayer then. Adding online multiplayer features to the game has been something that Falanghe and his team have wanted to put into action since the very beginning, but knowing how much work it would involve, it seemed like a far more sensible solution to get the single-player together first.
"It's still so early in the development of multiplayer, we can't even guess at how it will eventually turn out," he notes, "but it's something our players have always debated. We never actually surveyed our community formally, yet we could see for a lot of people, multiplayer was the top request on their wish-list for KSP
For a long time, Squad was worried about even taking a stab at multiplayer for the game, as it seems like such a wide-scale feature would simply be too ambitious to undertake.
"It is still quite an ambitious undertaking, most certainly," adds the dev, "but we’ve grown a lot as a team throughout the project, and we feel we're up to the challenge now."
What makes this overly ambitious task even more tricky is that the Squad team is still very much focused on completing the single-player portion of the package.
"Multiplayer would have been far beyond our development scope during the early days of the project," reasons Falanghe, "so we're very happy we got to this point, where multiplayer is really going to be a feature to work on. We just want to make sure everybody understands we're still a ways out from it being done."
"Multiplayer enables our core audience the ability and reason to go out and teach their friends how to play KSP
," says Falanghe. "Not everybody can pick up KSP
and make their way to the Mun, and while single-player tutorials and teaching videos are certainly educational, having a system through which our experienced players can teach their friends how to play, by guiding them through the game as they play, is invaluable. That might be the most important thing multiplayer does for our community."
"We've grown a lot as a team throughout the project, and we feel we're up to the challenge now."
Games like Day-Z
have really shown what Steam Early Access can accomplish, he reasons, both for the alpha business model, and for developer opportunities on Steam as a whole.
"We don't disclose sales numbers as a private company," he adds, "but we can say already that the Asteroid Redirect Mission update
[a collaboration with NASA] was a successful launch. That was pretty meaningful for us as a team because the developers were really working around the clock, plus spent time at SXSW and GDC promoting the update."
Next on the Kerbal Space Program
agenda, then: focusing on update 0.24, working on 0.25, and wrapping up Career Mode. Multiplayer currently only exists as a set of charts and some early backend server code, so you can expect that to come afterward in small increments.
As per everything else with Kerbal Space Program
, good things comes to those who wait.
For more in-depth accounts of doing online multiplayer as an indie studio, check out our story, The ups and downs of doing online multiplayer as an indie