Dec 16 2015

The KSA is dead, long live the KSA!!

R.I.P. the Kerbal Space Agency, 2014-2015.

At least, the KSA as you all have come to know it. Yes, it is time for me to utter the word that can send shivers down the spine of anyone who has grown attached to a fictional universe – reboot. There, I said it. Run screaming from this website if you must, berate me all you want, hate me forever – or stick around and see if I can’t convince you why I think this is a good idea.

The Grand Experiment

Last year I asked myself if it were possible to do what I’m doing now. I had tried something similar with The Sims 3, and while I recently went back and read through all my sim tweets and laughed a lot and had a great time reading them I never managed to amass any sort of real following whatsoever, despite The Sims having a huge fictional community writing stories on the forums similar to KSP – but not enough bothered with twitter it seemed. My only hope in regards to KSP was that where my Sims followers would mostly have to also be interested in The Sims, all people really needed to be attracted to my KSP account was an interest in science, space, gaming in general or KSP. In other words, I had a much broader audience I could reach out to, which is why I worked so hard to make it not just about KSP and be sure to mix in real science and astronomy.

Compared to my Sims account, this has been a huge hit. 2k+ followers, exchanging tweets with and being retweeted by actual space agencies & astronauts, and an active and responsive follow-base (this still makes me smile so hard) – not to mention the 50+ other KSP twitter accounts that have come along since I began.

Still, it was just an experiment. Can I do this? No real planning, no real expectations, no real idea how it was all going to play out.

Well, I feel I’ve done it. And then some – the Flight Tracker is something I’m immensely proud of being able to create. So the general feeling at this point is “well, that was fun, good job, time to move on” – but in this case “moving on” means going back and starting fresh based on everything I have learned and developed over the last two years.

Seeking Stability

One of my major hurdles over the course of this project has been continuity. I’ve put a lot of effort into maintaining the look and feel of things since I started with KSP v0.23. If you look at the oldest images posted you’ll see the ugly white horizon from the surface of Kerbin but that’s pretty much the only thing that visually changes over the course of the KSA. Besides the visual look, both major and minor updates have brought enough changes with it to require copious amounts of time making sure everything I have in operation is still working okay. Knowing what breaking changes are coming down the road (such as wheels) has restricted me in what I can do and hope to carry forward.

KSP is at full release now but the pace of change in the game hasn’t let up, especially in the mod community! Holy crap have you seen the new ocean shaders? What EVE is now capable of? All the new planets popping into existence thanks to Kopernicus? And this is all before Unity 5 hits and brings with it even more options I can’t even fully comprehend at this point. Really, the v1.1 Unity 5 update is what really forced me to think seriously about a reboot. A lot of long-toothed mods that don’t see much active development anymore might not even make it to v1.1. The new signal relay system could really shake up the RemoteTech community. I’m just tired of trying to keep up based on what I started with in 0.23, as proud as I am I managed to hold things together this far.

So What Happens to the “Old” KSA?

Obviously I’m not going to toss two years of work into the trash. I’ve already created the archive.kerbalspace.agency sub-domain that will host everything you see on this site right now (including all the mission logs, plot synopsis, etc I still have to add) while the www.kerbalspace.agency site is stripped to bare bones content. The archive sub-domain will also host its own Flight Tracker and Crew Roster and all the data for the old craft. Once I download my December twitter archive, all tweets will be erased and the archives will be hosted on the sub-domain. I can’t set flickr albums to private, so the albums will be deleted but the images will all remain and have an “archive” tag added to them so that when searched from the Flight Tracker or Crew Roster under the sub-domain they appear while the newer KSA images do not once they start being uploaded. I will include the old photos in a WordPress gallery on the sub-domain as well. Youtube videos will all be made private so that they don’t appear in the channel but direct links and embeds continue to work from the sub-domain. Instagram will be cleansed as well.

Basically the public and front-facing KSA appearance will be a clean slate, but everything that came before will still be accessible if you know where to look (in the sub-domain, which will be linked from the main domain).

What is the “New” KSA?

The core concept remains the same and game days will be locked to real days. The only difference is the game’s 0 epoch will remain 2/16/14 for a number of reasons. One is simply because I don’t want the planets all going through the same thing I’ve already experienced. Another is that I plan to keep all of the astrophotography photos that don’t show the KSC and those would have happened in the past. Finally and most importantly I plan to keep the Asteroid Tracking Network data intact, which relies on the game’s starting time also staying the same.

When will it begin? That’s up to Squad and when they release v1.1. I want the barn. If it’s not in v1.1 I will wait for it. When I first began, there was a lot more real story happening in regards to the KSA finding its feet. But having such a professional-looking facility that is obviously capable of so much more always bothered me, and I even eventually fell into a more “professional” mindset in how things were being handled. I really want to get back to putting more character development into events and I want the space center to be a character as well, not just a static set piece that says “NASA” to anyone who looks at it.

How will things progress? Well the main change is I plan to mostly put away the joystick and program my rockets. One of the reasons I started this whole thing right after first playing the game instead of gaining any experience was so that I would actually make all the newbie mistakes while still being a newbie space agency. Although this time around I’ll have a lot of experience flying rockets up into space, I still don’t have any real experience programming rockets to fly up into space, so all the struggle I will have doing that will be real. The Community Tech Tree is also a great thing, and will give me a much better progression now that I can also properly tune my science intake.

In addition to all this the other major change is I also plan to add Outer Planets to the mix.

Moving forward, until the new KSA begins I will continue to finish developing the Crew Roster and the launch telemetry streaming. Yea, we’ll find out how the MkIII sounding rocket flies!

Look, This is Happening OK?

Well, if I haven’t managed to convince you this needs to be done then at least you will have archive.kerbalspace.agency to wax nostalgic with every now and then. But if you’re onboard with all this then you can also help me out by completing this survey. Actually, I left some room in there for griping so even if you hate this whole idea, please go participate in the survey!

I very much look forward to getting things started again at some point in 2016. Happy holidays and New Year to all!

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