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We wrote yesterday that Valve had hired on an undisclosed number of developers from the Kerbal Space Program team, a noteworthy occurrence because when Valve hires indie dev teams, games like Counter-Strike and Portal are sometimes the result. Valve confirmed the hire but revealed nothing about the details, saying only that a proper announcement would be coming soon.
In a statement issued shortly after the hiring came to light, however, Kerbal studio Squad clarified that these were employees that had left Squad, then later joined Valve. This isn't a Portal-like situation, in other words, where Valve has absorbed up a full, existing dev team. Further eliminating any confusion, Squad added that it's still operating, and maintaining KSP, as an independent outfit.
"There was news today that former KSP developers have joined Valve. We want to clarify that Squad is not joining Valve, and we continue to be an independent studio with the core KSP team remaining at Squad, hard at work on the improved KSP for consoles port, Update 1.3 and the Making History Expansion. The KSP community shouldn't be concerned about this news having any impact on the game," the studio said.
"Regarding the developers joining Valve, it is important to note that we have had several people working on our team over the years, and it is common among development studios for team members to come and go. If some of them joined Valve, it is on their own behalf and we wish them good luck and success in their current and future endeavors. So do not worry, everything continues normally with KSP."
In an email, Squad clarified that no current KSP developers had left the studio to move to Valve. "These people departed Squad prior to joining Valve," a rep said. "We do not know who they are exactly or how many there are, either."
Valve's pickup of former KSP developers remains interesting because whatever they're working on is apparently big enough to warrant its own announcement, and any new Valve project (if that's what it turns out to be) is worth keeping an eye on. But I'm actually glad to hear that Squad is remaining independent, too. Kerbal Space Program, in design and execution, is about as indie as it gets, and you can call me sentimental if you like but it's nice to know it's going to stay that way.
Kerbal Space Program has been around in one form or another since 2011, and went into full release in 2015. But even with all that water under the bridge, the past year has quite possibly been the most tumultuous for developer Squad. Last May, creator and lead developer Felipe Falanghe announced that he was leaving the studio and the game; and this May, it came to light that Valve has hired the development team, or some portion of it.
The news came by way of a Game Dev Unchained interview with former Valve developer Roger Lundeen, now with Turtle Rock, whose credits include CS:GO and Portal 2. "[Valve] is still buying up mod teams. There's the group of... the modders who made—is it Kerbal Space Station? ... I think it just happened about four or five months ago, six months ago," he said. "They just gave that entire team jobs."
"Those guys are out of Mexico, I believe. I don't know how many have gone up to Valve, but I just heard that the crew that made Kerbal Space Station [got hired]," he added.
Lundeen is obviously a bit off the mark with the title—it's a Program, not a Station, and it's not a mod—but his information, as it turns out, is accurate. It's not known how many members of the studio have been picked up, but a Valve rep confirmed that at least some of the Kerbal team had been hired and added, "We'll be announcing more soon."
We'll let you know when they do.
Update: The headline has been changed to reflect that the new hires were not current members of KSP studio Squad when they joined Valve.
Kerbal Space Program has been around for a long time in one form or another. It was first playable in mid-2011, and spent two years on Steam Early Access before launching in 2015. It was clearly time well spent—you don't get a 96/100 review score for half-assing it—but despite the brilliantly strong launch, we really haven't heard much about it since.
Today, however, Squad delivered some pretty big news with the announcement of the first KSP expansion, Making History. It includes two distinct components: The Mission Builder, a set of "intuitive drag-and-drop" tools that will let players design and share their own missions, and the History Pack, a series of pre-made missions that will recreate historical, real-life missions into space.
The expansion will also add new parts to the game, including fuel tanks, adapters, decouplers, fairings, and command pods inspired by the American and Soviet space programs, and also Kerbal Personal Parachutes, which can save a Kerbal's life as long as they don't try to use it in the cold void of space. It will also bring scoring to the game, giving players a way to compare their performances at the end of missions.
Pricing and a release date will be announced later, but Squad confirmed in a separate post that it is standing by its April 2013 promise that all updates and expansions—including this one—will be free for people who bought the game prior to the end of that month.
Update 1.2 of Kerbal Space Program is here, and if you've spent the last few years shouting at your Kerbals through a couple of tin cans and a really long bit of string, you'll be very excited by its headline feature: the ability to establish communication networks. You can remote control vehicles, use satellites to scan terrain, and build relay networks so you can science faster and harder; the update also chucks in better vehicle controls and a redesigned fuel system. It's pretty big, basically.
The full patch notes are here, but the gist is that the Loud and Clear update includes the "introduction of CommNet and KerbNet, a rewrite of the Stability Assist System (SAS) that makes your launches more accurate and fuel efficient, an engine change from Unity 5.2 to 5.4, more tweakable options for many parts, a complete fuel system redesign, and much more!"
The patch is live now on Steam and the Kerbal Space Program store (not coincidentally, the game is also currently discounted at both places), and will be coming "soon" to GOG and other sellers. Here's a trailer: