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Moonshot: How Kerbal Space Program’s creator launched an indie darling from out of nowhere

So, when is KSP done?

Squad is about to update KSP to version 0.23. That number doesn’t mean a whole lot.

“The version number is really just a counter of how many releases we’ve done so far,” said Falanghe. “In the first year, we did 13. In the second year, we closed it off with version 0.18, so you can see how much we’ve had to devote to testing and making sure the game was stable and how much more ambitious our updates became. We’re now working on 0.22, and it’s just the 22nd release. It’s not a countdown or anything.”

A space station in KSP.

Above: A space station in KSP.

Image Credit: Squad

That doesn’t mean that Squad doesn’t have a final vision, but that final vision is a sort of nebulous concept for Falanghe.

“What we’re working for now is this longer-term goal that we call ‘scope complete,’ which is basically saying that everything we want the game to let you do, it’ll let you do, even if it’s in some restricted form,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been working toward all this year.”

Even after Squad reaches “scope complete,” that isn’t the end of things. They will then begin focusing on the details. That includes dozens and dozens of minor tweaks and little features.

Is Kerbal Space Program successful enough to last?

From the outside, KSP looks pretty successful for an indie title from a studio that never before released a game. Squad confirmed that it is doing well. The company wouldn’t provide concrete numbers, but it pointed specifically to the latest Steam Summer sale as a “turning point.”

The bosses at Squad see the title as a clear success thanks to its performance on Steam, and it looks like they are going to support it for the long haul. Falanghe, on the other hand, is less willing to call the game a success.

“I’m not a big fan of saying: ‘We’ve succeeded,'” he said. “That implies that we’re done.”

But the developer said that something clicked for him at the most recent Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, which is a huge gathering of everyday gamers. Penny Arcade invited Squad to participate as one of the official tournaments of the show, and gamers spent the entire weekend competing to build the best ships.

A space shuttle in KSP.

Above: A space shuttle in KSP.

Image Credit: Squad

“I had a bit of a moment where I looked back to see how far the whole thing had come. It was this surreal moment, almost,” said Falanghe. “It was unbelievable to see the game being played like that, and people getting so into it. It’s not something you see just sitting and watching on the internet. We got to see this large group of people all playing the game and checking out each other’s creations. Even the players who were competing against each other, they would get up and see what everyone else was doing and help each other out. That was a lot of fun. It was incredible to see.”

So Falanghe won’t admit that he’s succeeded, he is still getting to enjoy the cheering crowds who are witnessing his personal moonshot, and he does understand why people love his game.

“From my perspective — from a game-design point of view — KSP does something that I think is special,” he said. “It lets you create. It touches on that very fundamental human need to create and then go show it off to your friends. It’s something that you don’t see a lot in games.”

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