Kerbal Space Program 2 was a surprise announcement at Gamescom 2019 - but it came as an even bigger surprise to the game's original creator. After leaving the first Kerbal Space Program team three years ago, Felipe "HarvesteR" Falanghe had no idea a sequel was even in development.
Before Kerbal Space Program, the developer Squad was a marketing company. But then Falanghe pitched an idea for a game about space flight simulation - and the rest is history. A few years later, Falanghe's brainchild was released to the world, and Kerbal Space Program became one of the most popular indies out there, even managing to catch the attention of NASA.
Falanghe left Squad in 2016, leaving upkeep of KSP to the rest of his team as he made a fresh start with a new game. In 2017, the Kerbal Space Program IP was acquired by Take-Two Interactive, and until this year, that was all the clues we had that something bigger was in the works.
Developed by Take-Two's Private Division and Star Theory, KSP 2 has been redesigned from the ground up with all new animations and tech, the addition of multiplayer, plus improved mod support.
Falanghe found out about all of this after he was tagged in a Reddit post shortly after that very first trailer went live. We caught up with him to find out how he felt when it all got revealed.
How did you feel seeing the trailer for the first time? What was going through your head?
Falanghe: It was a bit of a roller coaster ride of feelings [laughs]. At first I was, like, a bit surprised and my first reaction was 'oh, Squad is making KSP 2', and then I saw that it wasn't, they had actually handed it off to another developer. So that was doubly surprising.
So you didn't know at the time they'd sold the IP?
Falanghe: I knew that they had sold the IP to Take-Two, and I knew that they were still working updates and expansion packs so I thought that was the status more or less of the entire thing. I didn't imagine that when I saw this video, it's clear that they've been working on it for a while now, so what I think surprised me most was that it looks like they've been working on it for a couple of years at least and I had no idea. It made me wonder even if the people at Squad themselves knew, I really don't know. It was a mix of feelings and I went over multiple opinions of it I think, in a very short space of time.
What was it like watching the trailer?
Falanghe: Well it looks very interesting, it looks beautiful, but the one thing I noticed was that the trailer has a little disclaimer at the start it's not game play footage, so from the trailer we don't really know what it's gonna look like. If it looks like that then it's gonna be really cool.
If you've read anything about what they're doing with the sequel, is it the direction that you thought the franchise might go in?
Falanghe: Yeah, they're taking it to the next logical steps, at least they're adding a lot of the things everyone's always wanted, and we never got a chance to implement, or would've required going for a sequel to implement. I'm not sure but it looks like they've mentioned multiplayer? Maybe not directly in the video but I think maybe on the steam product page or something they mention that there might be multiplayer, but I'm kind of intrigued to see where that goes and how they handle that.
So what sort of direction do you think you'd have taken it in if it had been up to you?
Falanghe: It wouldn't have been all that different to be honest. Multiplayer would have been my main focus, so it would've required pretty much rebuilding the game with multiplayer in mind. I don't know if that's how they're doing it over there, I can only speculate from here. I would think implementing multiplayer in a game like KSP would require designing the game from the ground up with multiplayer in mind.
In fact, with my own project I'm working on right now we've got multiplayer and there is a very cool construction system that isn't too far from how it was in KSP and there's been a number of challenges to support multiplayer with that in the unity engine. I'm curious to see how they're gonna handle that, like what their plan is, and more interestingly, how are they going to handle the issue of time-warping in the game with multiplayer? I remember I had my own ideas about that for my own like imaginary sequel, but it's going to be interesting to see what solutions they come up with.
Was a sequel something you'd thought about back when you were with Squad?
Falanghe: Oh yeah, it's definitely something I had considered, in fact I even had a logo for it I'd drawn, it was essentially the same logo but instead of one rocket to the left there were two. But it seems like they changed the logo a lot, I don't know how I feel about that, the important things, you know [laughs]. It's strange seeing other people, like strangers essentially, taking on the project that you started, I don't know if there's a word for it, it's a weird feeling.
If they had come and spoken to you about it, would you have been up for getting involved?
Falanghe: It's something I thought about when I first saw it that day, if they had come to me maybe two years ago I would probably have been very interested. Right now I've got my own project going, and my own company so things are heading in a new direction on my end. What struck me was it looked like something that had been started a couple years ago, so it seemed like it would've been possible back then - but it's very theoretical at this point.
Are you still in contact with any of the old members from Squad?
Falanghe: A couple of them, but none of them still working at Squad. I still keep in touch with our old community manager, but for the most part we've pretty much lost touch which is a bit sad actually, I had a lot of fun with them. The only one I remember from the KSP team [in the Star Theory doc vid] was Marco, the rest are all from after I had left. To be honest I don't really know much of what happened after me and other developers left back in 2016. Those were the original KSP team, then when I heard all of them had left, about six months after I did, I really didn't know what to expect after that from Squad, because pretty much there wasn't anybody working from the original team anymore.
You mentioned in a Reddit post that had you been involved, your life would've been different, what did you mean by that?
Falanghe: Well most likely I remember that just after I left and all through 2017, I was working hard on trying to start a new project and pitching to investors and it was very frustrating it didn't actually go anywhere. During that period, the project I was pitching was evolving to be a sort of spiritual successor to KSP. That was around the time it seems they were getting started doing this, so if they had reached out to me back then, I was essentially trying to start that same project.
In the end I decided to not try to do that because I was feeling this whole idea of making a spiritual successor was setting myself up for failure, because from the start I would have to compete with a game that involved like 15 people over five years and was this massive undertaking. I was very much feeling the theoretical pressure you could say, when I was trying to get that project started, and when I decided to stop viewing that and focus on a new project completely that I could do on my own, it felt like this huge weight off my shoulders. But yeah, if they had reached out back then I think it probably would've been very different. It was pretty much what I was trying to start, it looks like they were doing the same.
Is there anything you'd want to ask Star Theory or Private Division about the KSP sequel?
Falanghe: I don't know really, I guess first off I would just want to wish them the best of luck with it. I know it's not going to be an easy thing to do, but I'm hoping for the best for them, I hope it lives up to the expectations it already seems to be building. And I dunno, I really am just curious to see how they're going to take on multiplayer and all the new things that they've been teasing.
Will you play it when it comes out?
Falanghe: Probably. It is a bit weird, it's very hard to actually sit and play your own game, so maybe I will actually be able to enjoy this one. With the original I've always said I was making the game I really wanted to play, but the irony of that is I never actually got to play it, cause when you're the developer, playing your own game is kinda like tickling yourself [laughs]. You just don't get to enjoy it in the same way that players do. So, hopefully this time I actually will get to.