Hi, my name is Shana Markham and I’m the lead designer on KSP2. I’m the “why” and “how” to Creative Director Nate Simpson’s “what.” I work with him to ensure what we’re building meets our vision for the game, and that it results in the most enjoyable and worthy successor we can build. I’m more of a scripting-and-spreadsheets sort of designer, so you’re going to get some “interesting” art here.
Sequels are a balancing act. If we only added more content, that would be better done as DLC. If we revise gameplay wholesale, then we run the risk of not making a sequel anymore.
How do we make sure we don’t fall to either extreme? By understanding where we came from and where we are going, and then framing our design around this context. We start by defining the key features and experiences of KSP — what we call our “pillars.” Ideally, anything we add or change enhances at least one of these pillars.
For KSP, the pillars are:
Sequels are an opportunity to do things that would be difficult to do through patches or DLC. We can take advantage of new technology that’s become more common for our players, apply the lessons learned from other games that have come out, and rework systems and content that would be too involved to do otherwise. If we did it right, then we’ve enhanced the game for our veteran players while enticing new and lapsed players to join in the fun.
Our goals for KSP2 are:
- Make it easier for players to understand what is happening in the game, so they can confidently plan and execute missions
- Educate players on rocket design and space travel, then show them how to apply that knowledge to the game
- Explore next-generation space-program concepts, including new rocket technology, colonies, and interstellar travel
- Explore the possibilities of solar systems beyond our own
How does this apply to our day to day? Let’s look at colonies. There are entire games dedicated to the creation and management of colonies. When we players see the word “colonies,” we have expectations for what that experience should look and play like. We also have reality to draw upon: Just think about what it takes to keep the International Space Station running. It’s easy for us to use that wealth of knowledge and propose new features to make colonies engaging and strategic by layering on resource systems and complex interrelationships between structures, colonists, and different types of colonies.
Even with infinite time and money, KSP2 would not make a colony system as complex as a game that is dedicated to them. Why? KSP2 is a game about building and flying cool rockets, so our colonies serve rocket gameplay. We’ve minimized colony micromanagement to make sure that our players are free to build their next great idea and are not babysitting an interstellar empire’s worth of needy Kerbal colonists. We all know that Kerbals just need cool suits, snacks, and something fun to crash.
When we talk about colonies, we frame the experience in terms of rocketry. The player builds a rocket with inflatable colony modules and flies it to a location to establish a colony. The colony synthesizes fuel to refuel rockets. Players fly missions to provide colonies the resources they need to become self-sufficient. The colony grows to allow players to build and fly rockets from these new locations, opening a host of new possibilities for missions.
While colonies are subservient to rockets, that does not mean that colonies are a dry, minimal experience. We’re researching the mechanics of space colonization with the same attention to detail that we apply to vehicle parts and planets. We want players to build crazy orbital drydocks and mining colonies on stalactites. Colonies need to be fun to create and build up, and they need a wealth of possibilities.
Nate describes this as a “toyetic” experience. If someone happily spends their play session rearranging the modules on their Ultimate Mun Spaceport, then we’re doing the right thing. Much like a toy, the experience is in how these modules fit together and give the player new things to do.
Finally, while we’re responsible for the core experience, we know we won’t be the only experience. KSP has a fantastic modding community, and while our visions for colonies may differ, we need to make sure our systems are designed to be open for new interpretations. Each proposal we reject internally shows us the wealth of opportunities colonies have.
Hopefully this gives a little insight into what we’re thinking about when it comes to design. We’re excited to develop this game, and we’re just as excited to see what you’ll make of it. Thank you!