June 19, 2014

Master of Orion

I got tired of endless games of Master of Magic so I switched back to Master of Orion. Odd how no modern game works for me as well as these two.

One of the frustrating things in MOO is when you get deep into your research tree and discover you are totally missing some critical technologies. I had one game where I reached the end with Robotics III as my best factory technology. Fortunately I had enough planets to compensate.

It's also frustrating when your best drive is Warp 2. It's frustrating when you don't get any of Atmospheric, Soil, or Advanced Soil. It's frustrating when you don't get any of the higher level beam weapons. And it's particularly bad when your best colony technology is Tundra, which just happened to me. I quit that game.

Which is why the Psilons are less frustrating than any other race, since they get more entries in their research tree. On the other hand, it means that most Psilon games are nearly the same. Variations in the research tree, as long as they aren't really debilitating, are part of the variety.

I'm finding that my favorite race is the Klackons. Their advantage is subtle: each worker produces twice as much as any other race. But it means that planets start fast before you have any factories, and that really makes a big difference.

It turns out that the exploration, research, and planetary development are what I enjoy most. So I've been cheating, a little. I play on a huge map, with only one opponent. And I save the game and use a hex editor to put my sun in the upper left corner and my opponent in the lower right corner, so I don't run into them for a long, long time. Usually it's because I've reached the point where I'm ready to take them on, and then I build a string of colonies down to their part of the board.

Changing the initial placement so that the enemy is as far from me as possible is the only cheating I'm doing, though.

In case you're interested: use a hex editor to find the entry for a planet, and its position is 2 16-bit numbers at offset 0x0c and 0x0e. Change them to 40 00 40 00 for the upper left corner and 40 01 20 01 for the lower right corner of the huge map. (If you use those numbers on one of the smaller maps, the enemy will be off the edge of the map. Which, oddly enough, does work; they just develop their own home world and you never run into them.)

It's really amazing to me just how good both MOO and MOM are. Steve Barcia hit it out of the park. But the era of turn-based 4X games is over, sadly. WOW made everyone switch to real-time, which I hate. (I guess the recent Civilization games are still turn-based, but they're ridiculously over-elaborate as far as I'm concerned.)

When I bought MOO from Good Old Games, the package included MOO2. I've never tried it and have no interest in doing so, even though the graphics are vastly superior. I think I'm too old and brain-addled to learn anything new which is that elaborate.

UPDATE: It's also amazing to me just how awesome the graphics for MOO and MOM are, considering they were designed for 320*200 displays. (Or 320*240? I'm not sure. It was a pitifully small number of pixels, regardless.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 06:12 PM | Comments (14) | Add Comment
Post contains 585 words, total size 3 kb.

1 There's actually been something of a resurgence of turn-based 4X games of late, both fantasy and SF.  I haven't yet run into anything that quite captures the spirit of MOM and MOO, but some of them are very pretty.  If one of them can get the mechanics right, we might have a winner.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at June 19, 2014 08:17 PM (PiXy!)

2 I know there have been a number of Kickstarter turn based strategy games, though I don't think I've backed any of them.  It looks to be funding a renaissance in "classic" games, provided the first overall generation doesn't fizzle out.

*crosses fingers for Wasteland 2 and Pillars of Eternity*

Posted by: metaphysician at June 20, 2014 07:01 AM (3GCAl)


I know there have been a number of Kickstarter turn based strategy games

Huh?  I know there has been a bunch of turn-based games on Kickstarter, but the ones I can think of have been computer role playing games.  Turn-based strategy, let alone sci-fi or fantasy - not so much.

I am currently playing through Alpha Centauri/Alien Crossfire right now, which is my favorite computer game ever, and was probably the height of Firaxis.  Sadly, it has all been down the user-hostile hill for them since those days.  I have no confidence in Beyond the Earth.  And while Age of Wonders 3 sounds pretty good, it has very demanding system requirements...

Posted by: cxt217 at June 20, 2014 10:07 AM (ICyFJ)

4 Well, some ones I can find. . .

Worlds of Magic


Rimworld, though its a borderline example ( RTWP )

I'm absolutely sure there have been others, but I can't find a good way to search Kickstarter by genre.  My own sample set is, admittedly, biased:  I got into Kickstarter for the old school PC RPGs, so most of the stuff I've backed or tagged to follow are RPGs, not strategy games.

Posted by: metaphysician at June 20, 2014 10:22 AM (3GCAl)

5 That said, to get back on topic, I'm not sure its really WoW's fault that the turn based strategy is a minor genre.  I think it was more the FPS ( Quake especially ), and the RTS ( Starcraft especially ) that stole dominance away from turn based strategy games and flight sims on PC.  I'm really not at all sure why, though; might have simply been a matter of "historical contingency" ( ie, random chance ).

Posted by: metaphysician at June 20, 2014 10:27 AM (3GCAl)

6 The lead designer of Civ5 kickstarted a turn-based 4x game (still in Alpha), At The Gates. One of his many updates on the project is a detailed breakdown of what didn't work in Civ5.


Posted by: J Greely at June 20, 2014 10:40 AM (1CisS)


 While real time strategy like Age of Empires and Command & Conquer, along with Warcraft and StarCraft, pushed turn-based strategy to the wayside, what the RTS genre had a real advantage in was their multi-player and online play capabilities.  Despite their efforts at both, Civilization could never successfully make the leap, and neither could Alpha Centauri, Master of Orion 2, and even Age of Wonders.  Given the rise of online gaming, any genre that could or would not make the leap was going to be pushed to the side.

As for the Jon Shafer's apologia....I think I dodged a bullet not pledging to his Kickstarter.  Firaxis games have become increasingly user-hostile since their first title, and Shafer's different approaches to the problems he identified fail for the same reason.  Fun fact: Firaxis has admitted that Beyond the Earth will have a tweaked version of the diplomacy system from Civ5, warts and all.

Posted by: cxt217 at June 20, 2014 01:10 PM (ICyFJ)

8 It looks like Stardock is working on GalCiv III, which I believe will still be a turn based 4x game. GalCiv II is still pretty solid in my opinion. I haven't revisited the original MOO in quite some time, but I remember it being pretty great...

Posted by: Mark at June 20, 2014 02:42 PM (sgEfF)

9 #7-

"User hostile"?  Explain.  From what I've seen, the Civ games have gotten much more user friendly as time has passed, with less tedious micromanagement and a better interface.  Civ 3 especially had problems, but those problems were more with the AI than the interface.

Posted by: metaphysician at June 20, 2014 07:57 PM (3GCAl)

10 Turn-based 4X is definitely in the minority these days, but there are a few still around. Civilization is probably the biggest, but Age of Wonders is closer in spirit to Master of Magic. The latest one (AoW 3) is pretty solid, but is certainly much more elaborate.

Master of Orion 2 is quite different from the original Master of Orion, despite the name and sharing a lot of background lore on the races, techs, etc. MoO2 is a great game, but it is great for different reasons than the original.

Nobody has managed to recapture what made MoO such a fantastic game. So many things work so well, with seemingly simple systems combining to produce a lot of depth. I especially love the randoming tech trees, even if I mutter and grumble when I find key techs missing. Finding a way to work around not having good engines, or a planetary shield, or any bombs (my most recent game...I could smash any enemy fleet but could not crack their planets, argh!) -- it just adds so much replayability.

Klackons...haven't played the bugs in a while. Time to roll a new start.

Posted by: haphazard1 at June 20, 2014 10:52 PM (Fr488)

11 One of the areas where I think many newer games fail is worrying too much about balance at the expense of fun.

MOM and MOO (at least MOO2; I haven't played the original in a very long time) had situations where you could get a hugely unbalanced army/fleet and just roll right over everyone else. But that required on a combination of luck (to get the right opportunities) and skill (to recognise and exploit those opportunities), and it didn't happen too often.

I think that shift in focus is a direct consequence of the general shift towards multi-player and online games. But sometimes I just want a single-player game, and I miss those times when things go right and I mop the floor with an old foe.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at June 21, 2014 12:12 AM (PiXy!)


 "User hostile"?  Explain.  From what I've seen, the Civ games have gotten much more user friendly as time has passed, with less tedious micromanagement and a better interface.  Civ 3 especially had problems, but those problems were more with the AI than the interface.

The Civ games (And Firaxis games in general.) have gotten more and more user hostile because they keep adding more and more constraints and limits on what the player can do.  The interface has gotten much better over the years, while micro-management has been a mixed bag (There are some things where you want to be able to micro-manage.).  But even back in Civ3, Firaxis was doing things to game play mechanics and system that took away the gamer's ability to play the game they way they wanted, all the while giving them the appearance of freedom and more options.  This was done primarily for play balance, but it led to more restrictions on player's freedom - which is user-hostile.

I do not think Firaxis truly understand that issue.  They certainly did not understand it for XCOM (Which resulted in a game that gave you the illusion of choice but actually railroaded you into a single, pre-determined route.), and from their comments, they do not understand if for Beyond the Earth. The latter is particularly sad, given what they managed to achieve with Alpha Centauri.


Posted by: cxt217 at June 21, 2014 10:14 AM (ICyFJ)

13 Yes, that's something I noticed starting with Civ 3 as well.  They seemed to have spent a considerable amount of time making sure that strategies that were highly successful in Civ 2 would no longer work - or were simply no longer possible.  

That sort of You're playing my game wrong! logic on the part of game designers has always been common.  I think a large part of the reason we remember MOM and MOO and the early Civs and SimCities so fondly is because they escaped that fate.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at June 23, 2014 07:48 PM (PiXy!)

14 "You're playing my game wrong" syndrome seems to continually strike the Civ developers, with 4's and especially 5's crippling the ability to have large, sprawling empires.
Admittedly, late-game when there's so many units running around could be tedious, but if I want to do that the game shouldn't refuse to let me.
It reminds me of Moria, where in the early years every time someone beat the game, they nerfed the ability to beat it that way in the future.

Posted by: RickC at June 24, 2014 09:14 AM (0a7VZ)

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