April 22, 2010

Master of Orion -- the Guardian

I played through and won a game of MOO last night, in a large galaxy, at simple setting, with just one opponent. I played the brainy guys (man, they're fun!) and my opponent turned out to be the Alkari.

I'll move up in difficulty later, but I'm still learning the game. After all this time I hardly remember it. For instance, I got caught by surprise when I found the Orion system and fought the Guardian the first time. I honestly had completely forgotten about that!

My scout had a scanner, so I took a look at the specs, and got a bit intimidated. I put off trying to attack it until I could build a battlewagon I thought was able to compete. Ended up with 20 of those, and tried it.

And the Guardian went down in my first shot. It was 20 ships, each of which carried 11 proton torpedoes (and a 11 heavy ion cannons), and they vaporized it with their first salvo of torpedoes. I didn't lose a single ship. I really overestimated how dangerous it was. I now suspect that just one of my battlewagons could have handled it. (I think I kept a saved game just before that attack; maybe I'll try it and see.)

Maybe I was mixed up with the amoeba or the star crystal. I think those guys are a lot stronger than the Guardian.

MOO locked up on me twice. Fortunately, the game auto-saves every few turns, so I was able to restart the game and "continue" without having lost very much.

There was one advanced ship feature I remember really liking a lot which permitted a ship to teleport to any empty square on the tactical map, but I don't remember what it was called. It wasn't in my research tree this time. I did get the Mauler Device, which I vaguely remember was a lot of fun, but by that point the game was such a mismatch that it wasn't worth going on. I ended up sending just one of those battle wagons I designed for the Guardian into each of the two Alkari worlds, and they won easily.

Remember when I bought Civ 4? I installed it and played with it for an evening, and never ran it again. It's gorgeous. It's also too damned intricate. It's too complicated. If you learned the Civ series over a period of years, upgrading each time to the newer, more complicated version, maybe it wouldn't be such a challenge. But for me, coming into it cold after more than ten years, well it seemed more like work than play.

MOO hits a different point in the curve. The research tree and the kinds of things you get from research aren't so elaborate. They're easier to understand and easier to keep track of. I was hooked on this game back in the day, and I'm pretty sure I'll be hooked again.

The Good Old Games package I bought also included MOO2, but I'm not even going to look at it until I'm back up to speed on MOO, and becoming bored with it. That may take months.

It may never happen at all. Master of Orion is a masterpiece, one of the best PC games ever. It is an example of why I love 4X games.

All together now: Explore! Expand! Exploit! Exterminate!

UPDATE: I remembered wrong:


UPDATE: No, I guess I didn't underestimate the Guardian after all. One of those battlewagons got creamed. 4 of them got creamed. 11 of them won, but lost 4 in doing so.

When I originally played the game, I took 20 in, and they won without losses.

UPDATE: I have a vague memory that when you were in the main screen, there was something you could click, or some key combination you could hit, which would allow you to cycle through all your planets in order. Am I remembering wrong? What was it?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 10:10 AM | Comments (14) | Add Comment
Post contains 665 words, total size 4 kb.

1 I can't remember if it was MOO, but I remember reading somewhere that one of the early 4X games heavily favored numbers over power, such that you could break the game by defeating certain enemies way early.

Posted by: metaphysician at April 22, 2010 10:30 AM (/YIPx)

2 *looks up*  Yep, I think it was MOO.

I've encountered similar situations in other games ( including P&P RPGs! ), where the name of the game is "prevent any return fire."  If you can throw enough weak shots at a strong enemy to kill them quick ( or at least force them to abort to dodging ), you can beat them.  If you can't, they use their vastly higher firepower to one-shot your guys.

Posted by: metaphysician at April 22, 2010 10:34 AM (/YIPx)

3 No, it wasn't this one. For one thing, it takes a long time before you even encounter any of your enemies, because you have to research extended range for your ships.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 22, 2010 10:36 AM (+rSRq)

4 Congratulations on the first win.  I hope you keep having fun with it.

If memory serves (it's been a couple of years since I played), the Guardian gets significantly stronger at higher difficulty settings.  In particular, I'm pretty sure it gets one of the anti-missile specials.  So if you were on Simple, then it probably actually was weaker than you remembered.

I think the hotkeys you want are F2 and F3.

Yeah, I don't think MoO is imbalanced in favor of huge stacks of weak ships.  It's certainly a viable option, as it should be, but there are lots of countermeasures -- good battle computers, repulsor beams, certain weapons.  Most critically, the computer opponents are smart enough to deploy those countermeasures if you start using fighter swarms.  And that's one of the most impressive things about MoO.  Has there ever been a strategy game with a better AI?

Posted by: Griffin at April 22, 2010 12:53 PM (3WecZ)


I've heard lots of people who say that the AI in Stardock's "Galactic Civilizations" is supposed to be extremely good.

And there was a turn-based game about railroads which got converted into a computer game (I don't recall the name, but I know that one aspect of it was that there wasn't any chance to it) and I heard that the computer players in that one were excellent.

I always thought that the MOO AI's were pretty good, but I never thought of them as being remotely as good as a human player.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 22, 2010 01:23 PM (+rSRq)

6 Yes, F2 and F3 are exactly what I was remembering! Thanks!

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 22, 2010 01:25 PM (+rSRq)

7 Yeah, GCII has extremely good AI.  It used to have an option where the AI would use all the free CPU power available.  Stardock actually took that feature out in a later patch, because as computers advanced over just a few years, it became pointlessly excessive.

Posted by: metaphysician at April 22, 2010 07:32 PM (/YIPx)

8 >And there was a turn-based game about railroads

Ticket to Ride?


Posted by: cuc at April 22, 2010 09:51 PM (T3aZT)

9 I'm posting this even as it violates the "unsolicited suggestion" rule, because a Civ player is morally obliged to do it...

The crowning achievements of Civ-type games are Alpha Centauri (by Brian Reynolds, the designer behind Civ2) and Master of Magic (by Steve Barcia, the designer behind MOO).

Phew, I've said it.

Posted by: cuc at April 22, 2010 09:57 PM (T3aZT)


I figured it out: it was 1830.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 22, 2010 10:04 PM (+rSRq)

11 cuc, MOM will be out on GOG next week.

Expect Steven to disappear entirely once that happens.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at April 23, 2010 12:08 AM (PiXy!)


Personally, I am still waiting for Darklands to come out from the Microprose back catalog.


Posted by: cxt217 at April 23, 2010 06:13 AM (BUHwO)

13 I don't think I ever played the original MOO, but I can't even begin to tally the number of hours I blew on MOO2.  I suspect I'll be getting that combo and throwing any chance of sleep or productivity out the window this weekend.  I never played MOM for some reason, but from what people are saying here I plan to get that one when it comes out.  I've considered getting CIV4 as well, but I need to dig through my old CD binders first and see which is the last version I have, I remember I didn't like it much at all in that version, but I suspect that was one of the variants of Civ III.

The AI in 1830 probably seemed pretty impressive to a casual player, and the fact that it could be made to do well in a game with that kind of depth is an impressive, but to say 'excellent' would be quite a stretch, I was in the middle levels of the west coast tournament set back when and I could beat it in my sleep, and what some of the better players I knew could do to the poor AI was just ridiculous.

Posted by: David at April 23, 2010 07:36 AM (H5/LU)


Actually, one title I do not imagine will come out from the Microprose back catalog (Due to copyright issues.), but would be excited if it did, is Red Storm Rising.  Arguably the best blend of realism and playability in a modern submarine simulation.


Posted by: cxt217 at April 23, 2010 05:18 PM (BUHwO)

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