The creator of the Kerbal Space Program, the space sandbox and the high-end missile design toolkit has a new project. It’s called Balsa Model Flight Simulator and it allows you to build and fly your own remote controlled airplane on PC and in virtual reality. The ambitious project started after a life as a fan of motorized human flying and an embarrassingly expensive misfortune.
“Not long ago I got my first drone,” Felipe Falanghe said to Polygon in a phone interview last week. “I took it out and it was a pretty perfect day and place to fly it. I had a good time and played with it when I heard a small battery warning light come on. “
You can probably guess where this anecdote is going. Just when Felanghe brought down his expensive little toy for a landing, it detached itself from the control unit, drifted into an obstacle and drowned itself.
“It only drifts away with the wind and falls on the only obstacle within a radius of 200 meters and falls into the only water within a radius of 5 kilometers,” said Felanghe. He refused to say how much money he had lost through the little disaster.
“I love flight simulators,” he said, “but it turns out I’m a bad pilot.”
This experience has contributed in part to the inspiration for Balsa, with which players can design and build a flying model airplane from scratch in virtual reality. You can choose from a set of parts that is not comparable to the ones offered in the Kerbal Space Program, but has extensive tools with which each component can be modified in detail. For example, you can adjust the size and shape of each wing and then experience the aerodynamic changes your aircraft makes in flight.
Image: Floating Origin Studios / The Irregular Society
Felanghe says that his two-man team has been working on the game for several years and that it will be included in Steam’s Early Access program. Of course, the Kerbal Space Program had early access long before early access was even possible. It was unfinished for almost four years – with a very healthy player base, mind you, but still unfinished. Felanghe hopes that he can move to a final version 1.0 a bit faster than last time.
“It’s kind of a difficult question to even think about right now,” he said. “Early access is now much more established and therefore a much higher barrier to entry. I think that the threshold (for consumers) for an acceptable early release is very different nowadays, as was the case with KSP, for example. “
Unlike next year’s Microsoft Flight Simulator, Balsa will be equipped with light combat elements. For example, you can shoot at other planes with a paintball gun in multiplayer mode. When you crash, the screen doesn’t go black, as in Microsoft’s upcoming flight simulation. Instead, a complete physics system will take control and inject pieces of wood into the landscape.
More information about balsa can be found on the game’s official website.