Tutorial:Playing Tips for Novices
Work in Progress
Which game mode should a novice choose?
- Sandbox mode gives you unlimited funds and access to all available KSP parts. KSP has a lot of parts, which may make playing in this mode more confusing. If you enjoy just making crazy rockets or other machines, sandbox mode is an excellent choice, but if you find the number of parts overwhelming, consider science mode instead.
- Science mode gives you unlimited funds, but parts can only be unlocked with research. If you want to learn about rocketry, the parts are unlocked in roughly the order they'll be useful. This helps provide a structured way to learn how the game works, and the rockets you can make will tend to be more realistic. The limited number of parts makes the game simpler to understand, and you can add more parts as you progress, so some users may find science mode to be the better choice.
- Career mode unlocks all aspects of the game, and in this mode, it's possible to run out of money and be unable to do anything. If you choose career mode, to begin with, you're strongly advised to choose an easier difficulty setting, because if you try and fail the same mission several times in a row, or if an expensive rocket is destroyed, you may find you can no longer continue.
X, not space, is the better panic key
It's very easy to press the space bar at the wrong time, and then have to watch while your valuable spaceship begins tearing itself apart. When you make this particular mistake, you may be able to mitigate the damage by pressing X. This cuts the thrust to all engines. Then when you press space to stage the rest of the craft, the engines in subsequent stages won't make matters worse by lighting off.
This trick does not work for solid-fuel boosters because they cannot be shut down. This is a common practical reason why solid-fuel rockets are usually used for just the first stage of a craft. When landing on worlds without atmosphere, cutting all thrust may not help much, but it's probably still better than having all your engines firing at once.
In career mode, don't try to perform more than two 'Test in-flight' contracts on the same launch
New contracts appear for about 48 hours before disappearing. Once accepted, you usually have at least a year to fulfill them. So, by all means, accept every last contract that's offered. But do not try to perform too many tests on a single flight, especially the 'Test in-flight' contracts. This is because you get one try to fulfill it as your rocket launches, and perhaps a second chance when you land. Some tests may only have a 'window' of a few seconds during which they can be completed, and some may require you to build a special mission with the right flight profile to satisfy the criteria at all. You will often have to watch very carefully to activate the part when all the test criteria are satisfied, and the more items you are trying to test at once the harder this is. You can make matters slightly easier by giving each test component its own stage, and arranging those stages in ascending order of height and speed.
In career mode, 'Test while landed' are the easiest contracts
Other contracts 'In orbit' or 'On escape' are also a bit easier to fulfill because the criteria are more open-ended; if you miss the required altitude on one orbit, you can try again on the next, and the next, and so on. Some 'Test in-flight' contracts may be easier to fulfill using an aircraft rather than a rocket. 'Test while landed' are the easiest of all; you can build a custom test-bed and test the part without leaving the runway or the launch pad, which means you gain 100% salvage value for the parts used.
Use the 'Add Manoeuvre' tool to fine-tune orbital adjustments
If you are quick, you even use this tool shortly after launch to choose an orbit with the right height values. On a typical launch, you have a window of a few tens of seconds between about 50 and 80km which allows you to drag the orbit nodes to the shape of your desired orbit. You then know how much thrust you will need and what direction to apply it in.
When in orbit, the same tool should be used constantly to plan the burns you want to make rather than guessing them. You can also check extreme burns to see how much fuel would be needed to perform them.
Add solar panels and an emergency battery to all craft
It's easy to accidentally leave the lights running on a craft and drain it of power. Without power, it may not be able to reorient it to gain more power, leaving you with a lifeless hulk. A small number of solar panels will provide a trickle of charge, and an emergency battery, which should normally be left shut off, will provide a protected emergency energy supply that won't be drained along with everything else. In an emergency, 100 units of power should be sufficient to bootstrap the ship into operational status again.
EVAs can be made safer by the suitable orientation of the parent capsule
Kerbals on EVA have a tendency to drift away from their parent vessels. You can reduce the risk of this happening by orienting the craft so that they tend to drift towards it. This can be done in various ways, but a simple approach is to point the parent craft prograde, then roll it so that the hatch faces towards the body it is orbiting. Having done this you may also want to pitch the craft nose-downwards. By this method, the forces on an exiting Kerbal tend to push them back into the hatch they have just come out of, and they are less likely to float off. On large orbits, the orbital forces are small, and drifting away is less of major concern, but in close, high-speed orbits your Kerbals may have difficulty holding on.
Use probe controllers as back-up pilots on one-Kerbal craft
Another way to rescue Kerbals lost on EVA is to put a Stayputnik or PROBODOBODYNE module on the parent craft. That means the craft remains operational even though its main pilot has floated off. Also, docking and rendezvous maneuvers are considerably easier when you can control both of the vessels involved rather than just one of them.
Use down-facing lights as visual altimeters on landing craft
A down-facing lamp - or, even better, two - gives a good visual indicator of the height above ground, which is very helpful in the last 100 m or so of a landing.
Use parts assemblies to save good launcher designs and regularly-reused payloads
This makes it quick and convenient to use a standard set of launchers depending on what size payloads you want to launch. You can even add notes about the design's delta-V or any design quirks in the assembly description.