Master of Orion: A Hands-Off Peek

Vroom vroom!

Remake or reboot? That’s the question I asked Jacob Beucler, director of global operations at Wargaming during an E3 demonstration of Master of Orion [official site].

“Definitely a reboot,” he says. “We’re taking things very seriously in terms of what made this franchise great.” By this he means Master of Orion and its first sequel, not the curious but problematic Master of Orion 3 (which our Adam likes to pretend never even happened).

“If you look at the reviews and read about Master of Orion 3 nobody loved it. We don’t talk about it. So we’re taking the strengths from 1 and 2 and we’re taking the races from 1 and we’re re-envisioning it. We’re bringing this experience to people who were born after 1993 which is a lot of gamers – that’s a big market! So it’s a reboot while taking into consideration that we’re being very true to the 4 Xs.”

From what we talk about in the session and from chatting with Adam who has played all three of the previous MoOs, I’d say this new Master of Orion is on the remake spectrum, then, wanting to stay true to the original as far as possible (and to an extent its sequel), but with fancier graphics and tweaks to the systems where necessary. It appears to be shrugging off the interesting but deeply flawed excesses of MoO 3 entirely.

This seems to be borne out when I ask about the key differences between this game and the original. I’m told:

“It’s going to play better, run better, look better and I’ll say it will be more fun. I don’t know if the original guys on it will agree. We’ve employed them, so the original lead designers and the original musicians work for us and are involved. We bought the IP, we brought them into the family and they’re helping us make this game so that’s part of the way we’re able to stay true to the vision of the original.”

The reboot tag strikes me as probably more about feeling able to make changes if absolutely necessary and perhaps freeing up the franchise when it comes to potential sequels.

Anyway, that’s enough about semantics. What of the game?

Star spotting in MoO

We are shown snippets from a hundreds-of-turns game. If you’re familiar with 4X games you’ll probably be able to take an educated guess at what these involved; the earliest had you picking one race from a selection of ten, then starting to colonise planets, produce units, research tech and take a gander at your little corner of space.

The races on offer were Alkari, Mrrshan, Human, Psilon, Sakkra, Bulrathi, Klackon, Meklar, Darlok and Silicoid. We are the Alkari, a bunch of humanoid birds. I think this is probably because at a later point in the hands-off demo they launch an attack on the cat people and the devs chuckle. It’s like that old saying goes: If a cat bites a bird that’s not news. If a bird drops a bunch of miniaturised nukes on a planet that a cat is occupying that’s probably news.

The interface reminds me of Endless Space but seems a little more comfortable if you’re a newcomer trying to get to grips with a 4X game. I’m not a newcomer, but I tend to bounce off 4X games because of the sheer amount of information and systems I’m supposed to deal with at all times. Usually I’ll get about a hundred turns in and then a game system suddenly clicks – great! Except for the part where I realise I’ve effectively doomed myself and my civilisation from about the second turn by previously not understanding it. After that point it’s walk away or stick it out until the bitter end.

I’m more attracted to the apparent simplicity of Master of Orion. You can drag and drop little meeple to redistribute your production resources or set a preference from the dropdown menu, each of the screens seems manageable and the actual information feels legible. It’s hard to know how this holds up across a game given we’re skipping through at intervals of about two hundred turns and with the producer playing turns rather than us, but NGD Studios have piqued my interest with what they’ve shown.

“Master of Orion is really complex,” says Jacob. “We’re not watering that down. We’re making it more accessible. It really matters to us that we’re using the technology of today for the high fidelity graphics and also the user experience we’ve developed through the last 20 years of game development to make this accessible.”

We start to look at the tech trees. There are 75 technologies to research, starting with basic options and building towards stuff like Doom Stars which let you blow planets up. Early on in the game the producer researches Advanced Fusion which gives access to a fusion drive, fusion bombs and a miniaturisation module. What this means is ships will go faster, they’ll have more effective nukes and the nukes will be smaller so you get to carry more. This comes in useful when, about 190 turns later, we obliterate the cat people (“to send a message”) and still have 10 nukes to spare.

Periodically random events crop up. One comes via the Galactic News Network and informs us that a supernova will cause a planet to explode. There’s uncertainty over which one this will actually be so there’s a chance we might lose some people or resources if we fall victim to RNG. Or a chance that the hated cat people will lose something they love. Hurrah!

I feel pretty, oh so pretty

I ask Jacob about the balance between accessibility and complexity. He says that after playing about a dozen 500 turn games he’s still finding things to tune and tweak or min and max.

“I’m not really that interested in the 4x genre. It hasn’t been my go-to. I love MMOs, I love tanks, I love ships – those are the games I play normally and for this game to engage me this strongly makes me really passionate that we’re doing a good job of managing that balance.”

Finally, I ask about multiplayer. This is a) because Endless Space was a decent over-the-Christmas-holidays timesink and b) because maybe I can win against my jerk friends if MoO proves to be as accessible as the developers are saying. There will indeed be multiplayer, but the specifics are yet to be announced.

I have taken the bold step of challenging all of RPS to a game when it’s out. NGD Studios, this better be bloody accessible or I’m doomed to space ignominy…

76 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    There have been so many 4X space games now that I’m not sure what anyone expects to bring to the table with a new Master of Orion.

    I think the only thing that could really set them apart would be to bring back the interface simplicity and lack of micromanagement from the first game. IMO, almost everything MOO2 added either unbalanced it or added needless detail and tedium.

    However, seeing as how everyone I know seems to prefer MOO2 to MOO1, I think I’m in the minority there.

    • Zenicetus says:

      What could set it apart is hands-on tactical combat, if it’s done well enough. There is a sizeable contingent of 4X players that wish games like Endless Space and GalCiv3 had a tactical combat mode. I’m not one of them; I can take it or leave it, and care more about whether the game is solid and fun overall. But the demand is definitely there.

      As far as this reboot goes… I’m not a fan of the cartoon alien approach in games like this. C’mon, enough with the cat people and lizard people and mechs. Do something creative!

      Still, we could use another good space 4X, even if it seems the field is getting a little crowded now. Endless space looked great but was too bland to stick with me, and GalCiv3 seems very much a work in progress,that might more enjoyable a year or two from now. So I hope this brings something new and fun the to the genre.

      • LexW1 says:

        Re: the cartoonish races, you’re completely right, but given that they’re actively avoiding taking pointers from MoO3 and focusing entirely on MoO1 & 2 for inspiration, it’s to be expected. The cartoonish races are a big part of those games.

        MoO3 had an amazing art director called Rantz Hoseley (an award-winning comic-book artist/writer now I understand), who had really strong and clear ideas about the alien races in MoO3. He wanted to move away from the cartoonish, almost childish races of MoO1/2, and create truly alien races which were also awesome. He massively succeeded – easily the best thing about MoO3 is the races. They killed or re-worked all the “Animal-man” races in the setup for MoO3, and introduced really interesting races which inhabited a wider variety of planets (including gas-giant aliens),

        It’s a real pity these guys are lazily ignoring MoO3, because it actually did have some really good ideas in it. Just not systems one would want to copy.

        (I followed the development of MoO3 very closely – it was in the earlier days of the internet and they had development far more open and engaged with the fans than most Kickstarters do today! You could chat with the devs on the forums, ask questions, and they constantly tried out ideas and so on. Unfortunately the whole thing went to shit for a variety of factors and ended up with the lead dev getting fired or quitting – I don’t recall which, and then the publisher just shoved the game out the door, effectively unfinished – it’d have taken another year or so to get right, I’d say. But that’s a long story.)

        • LintMan says:

          I followed MOO3’s development also (and was bitterly disappointed in the end product). It’s worth sharing some of the its torrid details for the younger crowd…

          The lead designer on MOO3 was Alan Emrich, the former PC game magazine editor who coined the term 4X and author of the MOO strategy guide. Seems like he’d be an ideal choice.

          His vision for the game was to reduce the burden of heavy micromanagement that comes with late game 4X play, especially on large maps. The idea was that as a galactic leader, you would be busy with the “big picture” control of your empire and would thus leave most control of your planets to AI planetary governors. As your empire grew, you would only have limited control over planet management.

          It seems like a workable and interesting idea, but unfortunately development did not go well, and Emrich was likely pushed out. Development continued, but with the Emrich’s AI management aspects severely curtailed. Money ran out, though, and the publisher pushed the game out the door in very bad shape.

          How bad shape? The main things I recall:
          – You could actually start a new game of MOO3 and just keep pressing “End Turn” and eventually win.
          – Horrendous UI that forced you yo navigate up and down multiple layers of screens just to get basic info or make small planetary changes. Without a smart AI governors to handle those details for you, it was UI hell.
          – The game save feature was borked. Only the beginning of turn auto-save worked. The game would let you save at any time, but it only made a copy of the beginning of turn save. It never told you that, so you were left to discover that for yourself when you lost your changes when you saved at the end of a long turn and quit for the night.

          • crinkles esq. says:

            That may be so, but Lex is right on about the races. I really enjoyed the “feel” of MOO3’s universe. It was a fairly flawed game, but it had its charms.

          • Arglebargle says:

            The Evil of Infogrammes…..

            As busted up as MoO3 was on release, and with limited patch passes, it was still pretty interesting after the dedicated modders revamped it. Some parts never worked well, others were fairly innovative. I’d have to agree with the part about the races being far more than cardboard cutouts. But the micromanagement that was really poorly presented. Of course, they’d originally intended it for the AI to handle, so it sorta follows.

          • PhilBowles says:

            To this day I still remember a line from PC Gamer’s review of MOO 3 that summed it up perfectly: “Oh look! A game that plays itself!”

            As to the original post, even for its time – with few 4xes on the market – MOO was basically a generic 4x with tactical combat as its novelty; it was contemporary with the first Space Empires game. What it had was elegance, ship customisation, and tactical combat. Tim Ward notes “Let’s be honest here, [MOO 2’s] not a very good strategy game”. Let’s be honest here: fundamentally, MOO 1 isn’t either. All there really is to do is build an industrial base, spam warships with your favoured design, and win – it’s got slightly less depth to it than the strategic layer of an average Total War game, and that only really exists to link the battles together.

    • LexW1 says:

      Sure, there are a lot of space 4Xes now.

      Are any of them, any of them at all, worthy successors to MoO2?

      No.

      Every single one of them has either dumped significant elements that made MoO2 great (too many to list here), or has made the game so horrifically complicated that it’s barely playable, and as others have noted, one of them have really done an even okay job with tactical combat (where it’s even been attempted).

      That’s not to say that many of them haven’t been good games – they have – Endless Space for example. But they’re missing what made MoO2 great, which was a complex blend of features that still resulted in a simple, accessible, and ultimately often surprising game.

      To be completely honest, I’m not sure this is going to be the one either – but they need to keep trying.

      • Kempston Wiggler says:

        I find the love for MOO2 interesting. Also unfathomable, but I’ll come back to that in a moment.

        It seems like every time a developer steps up with a new space 4X proposition they inevitably name-check MOO2. “We LOOOVE MOO2, and wanted to try and bring that feeling back for new audiences….blahblahblawaffle”. However, history is littered with the corpses of those who tried and died, ultimately failing to reach the yardstick of fans around the world. Sometimes the issues are technical, but most often it’s because of focus. They concentrate on some aspects at the expense of others or ‘innovate’, sometimes needlessly. Only Distant Worlds (and now Stardrive 2 and Star Ruler 2, possibly) seems to have reached a position of elevation high enough to be directly comparable, but with highly different approaches.

        So the question I have is: after all these attempts to take the crown, who REALLY does understand what made MOO2 so great?

        And that links to my other issue with MOO2. I’ve played it multiple times, 4X being one of my favourite genres…and I just don’t get it. I think it’s crap. Old, clumsy, tedious….and this is from someone who still thinks The Sentinel on the ZX Spectrum is still an All-Time Classic, holding up well even today. What is it about MOO2 that is so beloved that it has become the yardstick by which all subsequent attempts are judged? WHAT???? No-one seems able to explain it. They wax lyrical about certain elements – “Oh, the aliens!” – but I’ve yet to read a complete analysis on the subject. Looking at the history of failed successors I’m tempted to think there’s actually nothing there but nostalgia; that’s why no-one seems able to implement what made the game so apparently strong, and why fewer still can explain it.

        • LexW1 says:

          You’ve never tried to look that up on the internet but are happy to dismiss it as nostalgia, eh? Hmm.

          There are plenty of complete analyses:

          link to scientificgamer.com

          link to uk.ign.com

          link to reddit.com

          Personally I’d put the following as important:

          1) Forced-choice tech-tree + random techs being found sometimes very early (promotes trading, spying, unusual strategies, diversity and replay value – huge deal).

          2) Race choices actually matter and races have personality AND the race-designer worked really well and had good options (unlike, say, Endless Space, which had neither the second or third points and even the first was questionable).

          3) Ship design worked really well, was really fun, wasn’t easily exploited early on (again huge fails from other space 4Xes). Diversity of design due to tech choice meant even “winning” designs were missing stuff.

          4) Antarans and random events were really well-done and entertaining, not either ultra-bland or just “U LOSE” like most 4Xes since.

          I could go on.

          • LexW1 says:

            Oh also massive amounts of atmosphere to the universe and personality to the races! Something stuff like Endless Space (utterly unlike Endless Legend, oddly) is totally missing, and there’s little of in GalCiv.

        • Kempston Wiggler says:

          You’ve never tried to look that up on the internet but are happy to dismiss it as nostalgia, eh? Hmm.

          Wow.

          Really? You honestly think I haven’t once looked on the internet? That’s possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I’ve been looking at reviews online for years trying to answer these questions, mate. Then I spent years asking questions in threads like these. Happy now?

    • mgardner says:

      “However, seeing as how everyone I know seems to prefer MOO2 to MOO1, I think I’m in the minority there.”

      MOO1 had such an elegant design. I have never enjoyed a space 4x nearly as much.

    • TheOx129 says:

      I’m with you re: MoO1 > MoO2. Not that the latter was a bad game by any means, but I felt it introduced needless micromanagement and made it too close to Civ, whereas the original felt distinct.

      It’s a shame that they’re completely ignoring MoO3, though. The game was certainly a mess in terms of execution, but conceptually had a lot of interesting stuff going on that merits a revisit. Excluding Distant Worlds, I don’t know of any other 4X game that had a similar macro-scale focus.

      • Osi says:

        I’m in agreement on the Moo1 > Moo2.
        Never liked Moo2- it was way too much.
        Moo1 I played endlessly- where as Moo2 felt like tedium instead of fun.

    • OneTwoWho says:

      I still play MOO1 from time to time (a month ago was the last game). It is amazing that after all those years, I still haven’t played a better space 4X.
      (MOO2 was great, but imho not better than the first one)

    • vlonk says:

      MoO1 is the star. MoO2 not only puts the burden of micromanagement on the player. The “build buildings” system is a downgrade from the free-flow sliders which let you balance your growth much finer. Not nostalgia speaking here. I left MoO2 behind much much earlier then MoO1 and that only for EU IV.

    • Tony M says:

      Agree MOO1 > MOO2. The secret ingredient: MOO1 kept the focus on the Galactic Map and on Empire Wide governance. MOO2 moved a big part of your attention onto individual planets.

    • Neutrino says:

      Agreed, Moo1 > Moo2 for all the reasons everyone else has already given.

    • Cinek says:

      I disagree. MOO2 > MOO1. I seen more involving 4X games on iOS than MMO1.

  2. Hnefi says:

    So many words, yet no mention of the elephant in the room. Tell us about that which not a single space 4x has gotten right since MoO2. Tell us about the tactical combat!

    • Xerophyte says:

      Eh. I’ll cheerfully fault Sword of the Stars for a lot of things — questionable AI, minimal diplomacy, rubbish sequel, trade was a bit tedious — but it’s a goddamn sublime game when it comes to building space rockets with big guns on them and then using them to cut other people’s (and the occasional genocidal dolphin’s) space rockets to little scorchmarked metal ribbons.

      • Zenicetus says:

        That seems to be the problem though — small dev studios can’t seem to do both a great strategic layer and a great tactical layer in games like this. It was always Stardock’s argument that GalCiv2 managed to be a good game (eventually) because they only had to focus on the strategic layer and strategic AI.

        Not even big studios can do it, apparently. The Total War series manages to achieve decent battle AI after enough patches in each game, and the strategic layer is always the weak point unless it’s on a tightly constrained map like Shogun.

    • Phier says:

      I think Distant Worlds is the only real 4X game that was a true step up from MOO1-2. Its not quite tactical combat, but your tactics do matter. Its a brilliant game.

    • Archonsod says:

      Quite a few got it right. Largely by copying MoO 2. It’s somewhat easy to spot since they’ve never fixed the ‘90% of weapon modifications are irrelevant because the next tier is simply better in every way’ problem.

      • Premium User Badge

        FhnuZoag says:

        Well, MoO2 made that work because of how its tech system worked. Which is that for most races, picking up a weapon tech means forgoing semi-permanently some other tech of that tier, like a propulsion tech, or an essential economy tech. Whereas most games let you research ALL the techs eventually.

        • Apocalypse says:

          Yeah the tech tree was clearly a strength of the game and ironically the game was far too easy with a creative species :D

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      Enh, i’m not sure MOO2’s (dunno about MOO) tactical combat was all that great. There were kinda clearly optimal strategies battles devolve into.

    • Apocalypse says:

      Actually I did like the combat in Rebelling more than in MMO2. I always found the tactical combat in mmo2 very basic and bland. Ironically you still needed to use it, because the AI was so bad to abuse your ship designs properly, so you needed to manage that manually.

      But it was nothing that was entertaining to do or relevant in multiplayer.

  3. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Is that a Krogan?

    • Premium User Badge

      heretic says:

      That’s what I thought as well, something uncanny about the face – probably taken from something else for Krogans as well

    • Detocroix says:

      Google “Thorny devil”, it’s a special kind of a lizard. Has quite similar feel / look to it as Krogans do.

    • Tuhalu says:

      Sakkra. Space Lizards. Since the Krogan are sort of space lizardy looking, it’s only natural there are some similarities.

  4. ScubaMonster says:

    “I’m not really that interested in the 4x genre. It hasn’t been my go-to. I love MMOs, I love tanks, I love ships – those are the games I play normally and for this game to engage me this strongly makes me really passionate that we’re doing a good job of managing that balance.”

    I get what he’s trying to say, but when you say you don’t really care for the genre of the game that doesn’t exactly boost confidence in them to get the game right. But his title is “Director of Global Operations” so I guess that means he probably has nothing to do with the game design itself.

    • amcathlan says:

      Hah, you beat me to it ScubaMonster. “I don’t like 4X games. I, however, like this one. That must mean it’s a great 4X.”
      To that I say: Your logic is flawed sir!

      Doesn’t mean the game will be bad, but like Scuba said, hardly inspires faith. I loved the Orions, so I’ll hope, but they have to show real meat before I’ll bite and become excited.

    • Shadow says:

      It is frankly a discouraging thing to say…

      Let’s just hope enough people of the original teams are in place to keep the ship on course despite the misguided captain.

    • Apocalypse says:

      He is the guy writing the pay checks for the studio developing the game. He is not even part of the studio developing the game.

  5. Premium User Badge

    FhnuZoag says:

    Tech….. tree?

    Are they ditching the ‘pick one of three, the other two are locked away’ system and going for a conventional tech tree? Because ugh.

    • LexW1 says:

      I really hope not. The tech systems in MoO1 and MoO2, whilst different, were both vastly more interesting than the usual dull-as-ditchwater tech-trees we seen in 99% of 4X games (Sword of the Stars is a bit more interesting – but it’s far too complicated/fiddly).

      • Ejia says:

        Ohh dear. I can understand having a randomized tech tree keeps things interesting, but I want to be able to research ALL the techs. SotS’ had me tearing out my hair when my psychic space dolphins, who are supposed to specialize in technology and energy weapons, couldn’t even get basic lighning guns.

        If they’re planning on locking away portions of the tech tree in NuMoO, there should be a race where this doesn’t happen for them, but they get deficiencies on other areas.

        • Zenicetus says:

          It can be designed so you have it both ways. GalCiv3 has some branching techs where you have to commit to one of three choices. However, if you have tech trading between factions turned on, you can always just trade for the adjacent tech you want. Or you can choose to have tech trading turned off in the game setup options, to keep the choices locked.

        • Askis says:

          In MoO2, races with the creative trait can research everything.
          Only the science-heavy Psilons have it as standard and when building your own race, it costs 8 picks of a total of 10.
          So you can have all techs eventually, but you’ll probably want to take some negative traits, so your race isn’t just creative and nothing else.

          That said, when playing non-creative races, after a while you just know what techs to get, as there are often choices that are a bit better than others, with any techs you’re missing a “nice to have” if you can steal it via spying, but not crucial to doing well.

    • Shadow says:

      An MoO2-like tech tree is still a tech tree. You might be jumping at shadows (no pun intended!).

      I think they’re taking Battle at Antares into account as much as the original game, so I want to believe we’ll see some of the sequel’s innovations in this new reboot. I liked MoO2 a lot more and consider it a decisive improvement over the original, which admittedly I played a lot less.

      And since I played MoO1 less, it’s harder to elaborate on the enhancements MoO2 brought to the table. But to name a few: ship leaders, better tactical combat with no annoying ship stacking (I hated that, bundling ships by size class), space monsters and the Antaran invaders, who added a nice twist to the game if enabled.

      • HidingCat says:

        Ah, ship stacking. Nothing like having the Klackons launch an invasion with a full six stacks of 32000 tiny ships.

  6. Laurentius says:

    Give me “broken” but awsome single player game, not these flat but balanced 4X games adjusted for MP. And although MoO2 is one of my favourite games of all time, that I still play I wouldn’t mind some take from simplicity of planet management of MoO1, as I already stated when talking EUIV I’m strangely keen on sliders in strategy games.

    • orionite says:

      Since Civ, MoO and MoM, I have never played a TBS game in online multi-player mode. Frankly, the only thing I can imagine being more tedious is playing it by email.
      I really want to know how many of these games DO get played in anything other than single player. I may be way off, but it always seems to me, that hardly anyone cares about MP, and it’s just something you gots to have these days, if you want to release a AAA game.

  7. RedViv says:

    The original music people too?
    [flashes back to spending long times staring at the night sky while listening to the Trilarian and Alkari music]

  8. hungrycookpot says:

    I think one concept that I’d like to see in a space 4x is relaxing the focus on “winning”. Of course you want a game to be sessionable, and have multiplayer value, but I’d like to see a 4x where you don’t worry so much about “winning” the galaxy as just surviving and thriving as a species. Even when you choose not to annihilate your neighbors, the point is to dominate them by either making them your cultural or economic slaves instead of working together in any way, other than military alliances and tech sharing. Of course it should still be an option for those who choose to play this way, I guess I’d just like more options and meat for those who choose not to be a military dictatorship.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I’ve been thinking about your post, and my first reaction was that you *can* turtle to an extent, in many of these games. Just grab enough initial colonies, build up enough military so the AI factions don’t see you as the next obvious target, and then you go for a tech win.

      But there’s another aspect to this, and I think it’s related to the (still) limited CPU horsepower of our computers. The reason you can’t just focus on thriving and surviving, is that all these 4X games place you in what is basically arena combat. You’re fenced in, and forced to deal with whoever you meet. There is always an artificial back wall for everyone, where you can’t expand. That’s not how space travel should work.

      All our space 4X games to date have been designed like we’re playing a tabletop board game, with fixed outer borders.

      Imagine a 4X game with a Galaxy built like the one in Elite:Dangerous. Not quite a 1:1 model, but it’s huge, and there are no fences to hem you in, until you reach the outer disk (up, down, or out). A 4X game set in a Galaxy like that would allow the option of saying… “Fine, you guys want to have a war over this area? No problem, we’re heading out into the unexplored Black, where we can build up a civilization in peace.”

      I don’t know if this would make for a fun 4X game, but at least it would be DIFFERENT. Even more so, if it added a travel penalty that would give migratory civs some breathing room to get the hell away from other civs.

      • datom says:

        Play Distant Worlds. You can absolutely win/thrive/survive by having a big galaxy of 1400 colonisible worlds and not engaging. In fact, set all races to peaceful and slow expansion, start in the pre-hyperdrive era. Even the pre-set victory conditions allow you to win with (for example) the largest population, a lot of colonies and free-trade agreements with a bunch of your neighbours should be enough to cross a pretty wide population threshold).

        Star Ruler 2 can have galaxies of 10,000 systems or more (depending on your system’s power, I wouldn’t recommend 10k+), 50k+ ships doing battle, but currently you can only win by annexing all other races, either diplomatically or militarily. However, it doesn’t sound like winning is the aim so again slow tech and pre-hyperdrive (not all races uses hyperdrive, and you can disable it so everyone can only ‘slow travel’) and you’ll never be in danger of reaching this threshold.

  9. Talisker says:

    “We’ve employed them, so the original lead designers and the original musicians work for us and are involved.”

    …does Steve Barcia work for them now?

  10. EhexT says:

    Yeah this article mentions nothing that actually matters. Nobody cares what races they’ve got – they’re just stat sticks with pretty pictures anyway.

    What matters is which combat system they’re using – the abstracted MoO1 system, the great turn based MoO 2 system or the great real time MoO 3 system or no combat at all, which would instantly disqualify the game from being worthy of the name Master of Orion.

    How does the research work? Is it a straight tree? Is it a pseudorandom straight tree? Is it the pick-one-of-three that made Master of Orion 2 such a replayable game (the massive misstep of having Creative in the game not withstanding)

    And yeah that quote from the lead dude at the end is a massive warning signal. “I don’t like games like this, so we made a game that I like” doesn’t mean the game is a good 4X, it might very well mean the game is a terrible 4X game and that’s why he likes it.

    • Nouser says:

      Being Creative in MoO is frankly broken.

      • Premium User Badge

        FhnuZoag says:

        I think creative was useful for beginners who don’t know all the techs and the diplomacy system, though yeah, kinda unbalanced.

        • Bone says:

          I do wonder however, how the meta of the tactical battles change if you have a house rule that you cannot build/spam missile boats.

          That was the most broken thing about the tactical combat – 1. Get high initiative so you get to do your turn first. 2. Throw a wall of rockets at your enemy and wait until they explode. 3. Of course the battle stops as soon as your missiles reach their ships, so GG and move on.

          • Apocalypse says:

            You could always just nuke the missiles out of space before they hit their targets … or evade them.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      To be fair, Master of Orion was very much a 4X game that people who don’t like 4X games liked, so it’s traditional for the series.

      And as a non-4X-liker who liked Master of Orion, the races are definitely more important to me than the combat. The theming and the straightforwardness of empire management were what tickled me, and I think I usually had the combat set to ‘auto’.

      • Bone says:

        It’s interesting to note that so many people have different things they liked about it. I could have never imagine just auto-resolving the battles, but the OPTION was there.
        That might be a common theme. It was enjoyable, fairly complex for it’s time (I also think the UI still holds up) and the tech tree and race design made for multiple, actual unique playthroughs but the options were there to change many aspects to whatever you felt like.
        It was Civilization in space, but you could design your own units and research tech for them.

  11. vahnn says:

    Ah, a 4x game that a guy who doesn’t like 4x games can like.

    That probably means it’s a game 4x fans won’t like.

    • Zenicetus says:

      That pitch line — “a 4x game that a guy who doesn’t like 4x games can like” — was probably mentioned somewhere in the development of Civilization: Beyond Earth.

      • Jeroen D Stout says:

        Probably the exact phrase was “a SMAC-alike that a guy who doesn’t like SMAC-alikes can like”. Not that I am still bitter.

    • Apocalypse says:

      But it does sound like mmo2 to me :p

  12. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    As a huge 4X fan who has played them all, I ended up significantly less optimistic about this game after reading the article than I was before. Hope I’m wrong.

  13. oueddy says:

    but the big question, is going to be in this one?

    • oueddy says:

      (Shame this thing doesnt have a preview)

      Meant to say, is Richard O’Brien going to be in this one?

  14. Gilly says:

    Adding another voice to the MoO3 crowd: MoO3 was the only MoO game to have interesting, innovative ideas. The rest is just standard 4X fare. MoO3 deserves a re-boot/make/try more than any other 4x. MoO1/2 will just be redone as the same thing with snazzier graphics. Give us a new and fixed MoO3!

  15. datom says:

    It’s absolutely right that there hasn’t been a standard 4X as good at being MOO2 since MOO2, but a) that’s a truism, folks and b) do we really need one? If you want streamlined (and a bit soulless, IMO) but pretty you have the GalCivs, if you want complexity but ugly you have Space Empires IV with AI mods. If you want exactly the same, well, you have MOO2.

    The best ‘4X’ or ‘4Xlike’ games that exist are, in my opinion, Distant Worlds and Star Ruler 2 (and I might throw SotS in their two), and they are so completely different to MOO2 with completely different aims and philosophies that they hardly make the comparison worthwhile. But I enjoy them tons, and they have the scale and size that a space game should have in the 201xs. However, apart from being set in space, races and tech trees, these games couldn’t be more different in their approach to strategy and how they play. They’re not MOO2, but isn’t that a good thing?

    • Ejia says:

      And if you want maximum complexity, you have Aurora. Which to this day I find completely incomprehensible.

      • HyenaGrin says:

        Aurora was fantastic until I reached a point where I needed to figure out combat, and then I hit a brick wall. The game seems to give you an infinite number of possible incorrect ways to arm a ship, and the correct way turns out to be quite complex. Which I think, actually, is a game design flaw, but I haven’t been able to claw my way deep enough into the combat system to figure out if that’s even true.

        The rest of the game is surprisingly engaging for something that is presented with minimalist graphics in a VBASIC UI. It is by far the best simulation of colonization and exploitation in 4X games, the level of detail is astounding, and the exploration has a lot more depth than almost any space 4X game simply due to the sheer amount of detail any given system can have.

        But yes, it is very much the unashamed pet project of a guy who just wants to create a game for himself. So you can expect it to not play easily.

  16. Tuhalu says:

    One of the best things about the MoO and MoO2 was no “space lanes” restricting your movement, just a few wormholes to let you move around faster. Shame that this one appears to have decides that this is one of the cool modern features that it absolutely must have.

    • Apocalypse says:

      Both galatic civ and endless space have tech to ignore the space lanes. I bet the new mmo will have too. Just like mmo2 had tech to change course mid-travel.

  17. Tim Ward says:

    I am heartened to see so many commentators recognise that despite being completely broken and more or less unplayable without mods MoO3 actually did have a lot of worthwhile ideas which would have benefited the space 4x genre had other developers taken inspiration for them – instead what we get is various iterations of Civ in Space or Moo2 reworks, both of which utterly fail to capture what makes space unique as a medium for grand strategy.

    Was quite disheartened to see them using the utterly ridiculous GalCiv style map where planets are visible on the galatic scale-view.

    I am less heartened to see the praise for Moo2, though. Let’s be honest here, it’s not a very good strategy game.

  18. HyenaGrin says:

    I am pretty torn on this.

    I feel like there has been a lot of progress in the space 4X genre since MoO2 came out, in terms of ideas if not necessarily execution (I’m actually including MoO3 in that ‘good ideas, poor execution’ bucket, and honestly I’ve had a couple of space 4Xs dethrone Master of Orion as the definitive game in the genre. (Gonna throw Distant Worlds out there as the main contender)

    I actually find myself, for once, kind of hoping that they will take Master of Orion further than a remake. I am not sure this a franchise that I actually want to remain utterly faithful to its predecessors. Take the IP, the races, the backstory, the world, and put together a game that doesn’t take us back but pushes us forward. 4X games is one of those genres where I think looking backwards and emulating past successes is maybe not so productive. It’s all about systems, and simulation, and concepts that stir the imagination. I feel like if you aren’t doing something new and innovative with systems, simulation, and concepts, it’s going to come across like ‘well this is nice, I remember this, but it feels a bit bare bones compared to X or Y game.’

    • Apocalypse says:

      Imho mmo2 was never the best of the genre at all as the older ascendancy was imho simply the better game with its system-wide tactical combat and strategic expansions on planets.

      And the aliens were a lot cooler too. Moo2 had one main advantage: No space lanes and I guess more polish. Overall I still love Ascendancy more.

  19. bill says:

    I don’t know how to fix it, but I’ve always found the problem with these space 4x games is the massive amount of choice available from the start, and the only way to have any idea what the best strategy is is to try, fail, try, fail, try, fail until you work out what you’re doing wrong.
    Or have AI advisors or follow a walkthrough, but then you’re basically just following someone’s instructions which isn’t much fun and doesn’t give you much idea of why you’re doing them.

    I find space games to be even worse for this than land based games. At least with a land based game I can have some vague idea about where is a good place to build a city, and distance, etc.. But in a space 4x I have no idea if I should be colonising every planet in my starting system, or branching out to a new system, or whatever.

    Are there any games which have a bit of the Sim City / Theme Park idea of trying to keep your citizens happy?
    So, for example, you’d have some freedom in terms of actions, but local conditions/politics might mean that there was a lot of pressure to expand due to overcrowding, or that there was pressure to start a war, or not to start a war, or to create jobs, etc..
    Maybe my citizens are demanding a particular amenity, but I don’t have that tech.. so I have to decide whether to research towards is, try and trade for it, or try and play politics and persuade them they don’t need it or distract them with a convenient war.

    Isn’t there a saying “all politics is local”? It certainly seems like international politics on Earth is driven much more by local elections and local media/politics than by some kind of grand goal on behalf of that nation. (Excepting Bhutan and their goal of increasing national happiness).

    • Apocalypse says:

      Sounds like an interesting pitch for a game.

      It completely changes the focus of competing with your neighbour species into a game to envolve your own species and potentially completely ignore the noisy neighbours.