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Why Is "Kerbal Space Program" So Hard?

Edward is a gamer who enjoys "Kerbal Space Program" and "Rimworld," among many other games.

"Kerbal Space Program" is a hard game, and things often go a little bit sideways . . . like in this screenshot.

"Kerbal Space Program" is a hard game, and things often go a little bit sideways . . . like in this screenshot.

Crashes, Explosions, Out-of-Control Spinning, Rapid Unplanned Disassembly, Stuck in Orbit and Out of Fuel!

Most people who have tried their hand at Kerbal Space Program have probably experienced some, if not all, of the situations mentioned above. I certainly have. And I still do. Yet I have spent over 400 hours playing this game, and I still spontaneously explode.

"Why is this game so hard?" is likely a question many of us have thought.

Why This Game Is Difficult

First of all, Kerbal Space Program is a simulation. It attempts to simulate real-life rocket science on a reasonably realistic level. Of course, NASA doesn't randomly throw parts together and hope that they'll fly—at least I hope they don't. That's one of the fun things that we can do because it is a game and we don't have to deal with the consequences of a 500-ton rocket smashing into our neighbor's house.

But since Kerbal Space Program is rooted in real physics, things get hard. The game calculates a LOT of stuff all the time when you play. It takes the aerodynamics and air resistance into play when you try to fly. It simulates your rocket's center of mass, and if that is offset it might tilt. It even simulates friction from the air against your cockpit, so if you're coming in too hot it might melt and explode.

You Must Consider All Factors to Win

This is why the game is hard. You can't just pick some gear like you do in other games and still win. It's not like League of Legends where you can cast your ultimate attack in a general direction and hope to hit the enemy. No, in Kerbal Space Program you must try to count with all factors if you want your rocket to succeed on its first try:

  • Does it have enough fuel?
  • Is the engine capable of lifting this rocket?
  • Can I safely detach the boosters without exploding?
  • Did I forget the solar panels?
  • Will the sunlight even reach my vessel behind that planet?
  • I didn't forget the parachute now, did I?

If you forget even one of those little things, the whole journey might be doomed to fail. It's like forgetting your ammunition before you spawn in Battlefield!

A spectacular explosion—you might see this a lot!

A spectacular explosion—you might see this a lot!

The Challenge Is What Makes the Game Good

But this is also what makes the game so enjoyable to me and thousands of other players, because when you finally manage to land on that moon or planet, you know that you didn't just throw a grenade and hope that it killed your enemy. You know that you carefully planned exactly that event, maybe even years in advance, and that you traveled millions and millions of kilometers where anything could happen, anything could go wrong. But you succeeded!

My First Successful Mun Landing

I have played Kerbal Space Program for many years. And I still remember the very first time I successfully landed on the Mun. I had been trying for days. At first I had to struggle to get into orbit around Kerbin. Then I missed the Mun and shot straight out into the solar system. The next time I didn't plan my trajectory properly and smashed into the Mun at multiple kilometers per second. I didn't even leave a crater.

But that one moment when I "safely" managed to land (crash) a rocket onto the Mun and could take my very first Mun-walk, I knew I had accomplished something huge. I had landed on the moon, something which took NASA years of research and training to do. Something that truly put a mark in our history books. And I had accomplished that. It wasn't easy, and it's just a game, but no other game I've ever played has given me the same sense of accomplishment.

That is why Kerbal Space Program is so hard. It's not supposed to be easy. If it was easy, why didn't Christopher Columbus land on the moon? Because it is hard!

Landed safely!

Landed safely!


Litterally No One on August 25, 2016:

Kerbal Space Program is easy compared to real life rocketry. Very few things about Kerbal Space Program are hard, most of all the joints between parts. I've you are having trouble landing on the mun or even getting into orbit, thats because you havent thought hard enough yet. There are plenty of mods to make the game hard, like RSS/RO, TestFlight, RealFuels, FAR, 64k, KCT, TAC, USI-LS, etc.