The development of Kerbal Space Program is taking large step forward with the yet-to-be released version 1.1. Unlike previous updates, the change to 1.1 is seeing a complete rework of the game thanks to the switch from Unity IV to Unity V. Performance gains, console optimization, and a reworked UI are all worked into what Squad has claimed to be the biggest update to Kerbal Space Program. The official release of 1.1 was reported by Squad to be roughly two weeks after the release of the pre-release; the latter was released on March 27. Interested players that own KSP on Steam are able to test the pre-release version by opting into the beta under the game’s properties.
Kerbal Space Program 1.1 has brought a much-needed performance boost, due in no small part to the native 64-bit support courtesy of Unity V. If you’ve ever built a sizable space station, or tried to dock two large vessels, the limits of the 32-bit design of KSP has likely shown up with the game slowing from frames per second to seconds per frame not unusual. Much like loading, mods only exacerbated this problem. Speaking of loading speeds, the update has also improved these. Last on the list of game engine performance improvements, a switch to PhysX 3.3 built into Unity V has yielded improvements to collision physics. Warping through objects should be a thing of the past, as well as unpredictable part destruction.
FIXING WHAT BROKE
The switch to Unity V has not been an easy one for Squad and the console developer Flying Tiger Entertainment. The switch broke the User Interface, wheel physics, and saves. The breaking of the user interface has allowed for some much needed improvements like pinning part context menus. No longer will players have to struggle to click the right part mid-flight to adjust their craft. There are also a variety of small changes to the UI like adding pointer lines between the context menu and parts, staging, and other smaller details.
The wheel system of previous versions was incompatible with Unity V, requiring a rework. Rather than just redoing what was working well enough, Squad has redone every wheel, landing gear, and landing leg with a modular system. As friend of TMC Scott Manley displays in his review of 1.1, the new system allows for greater control of vehicles thanks to the new physics and traction control, or some good old fashioned hoonery if desired.
Lastly, the saves from previous versions are incompatible with this update. Such behavior is not unusual for KSP, but was something that Squad was not OK with given the game’s “launched” status. Time has been dedicated to creating auto-updating scripts for previous saved games to bring them up to 1.1 standards. This should be an invisible fix for the end user, but makes for a more robust and future proof system. Squad now has a procedure in place if future updates break saves in similar ways.
NEW PLAYER EXPERIENCE
Making the game more approachable is another key part of this update. New players will have an updated tutorial to work through. The new tutorials start with basic construction, and continue on Munar orbits, docking, and asteroid retrieval. There are also scenarios that quickly get players into situations they may struggle to encounter in the campaign mode, like landing space planes.
Sometimes finding the right part can be a very frustrating experience. An intelligent search bar has been added to the vehicle designer to lessen this. Not only will you be able to search by name, but even using a description such as “orange fuel tank” was given as a possibility to find the part you’re looking for. If you do not know the part you’re looking for, or are confused as to what a particular item does, good news! There is a new resource named the KSPedia built into the update that functions as the written repository for the game, much like the KSP Wiki outside the game or the Civilopedia within the Civilization games.
JOINING THE PRE-RELEASE
A common question about the pre-release hasn’t been about the pre-release itself, but how to join in on it. The pre-release is only available to players that have either purchased it through Steam or transferred their purchase from the KSP website to Steam. Once a player has KSP in their Steam library, right click on the game listing in the Library tab on Steam and select Properties at the bottom. Then, select the Betas tab and opt-in to the Pre-Release. Steam will then download the approximately one gigabyte update.
The update as a whole does not add much in the way of new gameplay, nor do any of the changes come across as revolutionary. What they do is make the game more approachable, playable, and enjoyable, as well as allow greater changes in the future. NPE updates specifically are designed with imminent release of the console versions, but will benefit the PC crowd greatly. At the time of writing, there are many changes listed on the official Changelog, which spans six posts and as many builds. The most important thing to note is that, even with the biggest update so far, Squad hasn’t broken tradition: a new part has been added for this update by way of an inflatable heat shield.