April 20, 2010

Good old MOO

Pixy sez that MOO is finally available from GOG. So I just bought it. Not surprisingly, it runs in DOSBOX.

Rather surprisingly, it doesn't run very fast. During the opening movie, it skips a few times. It's possible that DOSBOX is currently configured to throttle things a bit too much; I'll have to check into that. It only represents about 13% CPU load when busy, so it isn't even saturating a single processor on this guy.

What I don't know is how to regain control of the mouse once DOSBOX is going. When I'm playing the game, I cannot point to anything outside the DOSBOX.

Which is a problem when MOO wants me to look up a spaceship in the manual, which is a PDF file stored elsewhere on my computer. Is there some magic ALT-command which does it?

Documentation says you can lock the mouse with CTL-F10. I wonder if that also toggles it off? (Have to try that.) It better not be necessary for me to put the manual on the other computer.

UPDATE: "If you want more speed, try ctrl-F8 and ctrl-F12". OK, I'm game.

ctrl-F8 makes it do frame skipping. No-sirree! ctrl-F12 seems to make the emulated CPU faster. (Izzatright?)

Actually, in the configuration file you can set the "cycles" config item to "max" and then it'll saturate a core. Let's give that a try.

UPDATE: Yes, CTL-F10 toggles mouse lock.

I'm not sure it's a good idea to set the CPU loading to "max".


UPDATE: Heh! The "look up the ship" copy protection is a problem, because the manual PDF doesn't have the ships in it!

UPDATE: Well, the first game I played didn't go very well. Didn't help that I had a reekingly bad starting position, in one corner, while my opponent was right smacko in the center of the screen.

And also, the game is beginning to come back to me.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 08:21 PM | Comments (22) | Add Comment
Post contains 321 words, total size 2 kb.

1 Apparently it's selling so well that their web site is having trouble keeping up.  I noticed it was pretty slow when I went there after getting the announcement email.

I hope that will lead to more of the good old games being released this way, rather than a knee-jerk reaction of raising the price.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at April 20, 2010 09:57 PM (PiXy!)


I didn't have any trouble when I bought it.

But I can't figure out the deal with the "look up the ship" copy protection. It doesn't seem to matter what I answer; the game keeps playing. Which is a good thing, because none of the accompanying documentation includes the ship names.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 20, 2010 10:55 PM (+rSRq)

3 Ah, good ol MOO.  Love, love, LOVE that game.  I still putter around with SEV (Space Empires V) from time to time- it's the truest successor I've been able to find...  great fun.
I've been sucked into 'Frozen Synapse' this week- it's another successor, of X-COM in this case.  Things are certainly looking up roses for turn-based gaming of late!

Posted by: Gothmog at April 20, 2010 11:35 PM (BqhE+)

4 I bought it too, but haven't installed the GOG version yet. If I recall correctly, yes, Ctrl-F12 increases the number of CPU cycles that DOSBox will use, which lets the emulated game run faster/better. I think I generally cranked it up to 12000 or so for MoM and MoO. Regarding the copy protection, it sounds like maybe they left in the ship ID screen (probably too much work to take out completely) but disabled the bad consequences of failing (I hope!).

Posted by: Griffin at April 21, 2010 05:31 AM (3WecZ)

5 Alt-Tab is the command for switching between windows, it works with most windowed games if you want to use the mouse outside it.

Posted by: Jordi Vermeulen at April 21, 2010 06:31 AM (5EMw1)

6 As if Steam's Christmas sales haven't already loaded me with games I don't have time to play... but, dangit, I finally closeted my Win98SE2 box last fall, and with it, my MOO2/MOM CDs that won't run on modern PCs.

I can already feel my willpower sapping... MOM will probably break it when they roll it out.  Why doesn't anybody make anything like SimTex did anymore?  I always wanted to see a MOM2, or at least a MOO3...

Posted by: BigD at April 21, 2010 09:19 AM (LjWr8)


Some games don't need sequels. Sometimes the original game, while not necessarily being perfect, is good enough so that any sequel will turn out to be worse.

That was the case with the X-COM series. The first game was the best. None of the others really matched up. They may have had better graphics, but the magic was gone.

I am glad there was never a sequel to Master of Magic. It was such a mature game already that a sequel would have sucked. If they had taken exactly that game and just improved the graphics, then maybe.

But there's no way they would have done that. They'd have felt the need to tinker with it, and that would ruin it. Barcia knocked it out of the park the first time. How do you improve on a grand slam home run?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 21, 2010 10:23 AM (+rSRq)


BigD: There was a MOO3.  Unfortunately, it was utter dreck.  And you can not blame it completely on executive meddling - if anything, the executive meddling was needed to get a playable game and released on time.

I would like to see a MOM2, though Atari seemed to have played hardball with Stardock when they tried to get the rights to make it.  But since Stardock is making Elemental, which is as close to MOM as any game has come, and they specifically said the modding aspect will allow you recreate MOM if you want...Yeah.

And as to Barcia hitting out of the ball park - only after you applied the patch.  Not before (The swordsman being the most powerful unit in the game, anyone?).


Posted by: cxt217 at April 21, 2010 12:11 PM (BUHwO)

9 Adding to C.T.'s point - there's a reason you didn't hear about MOO3; it sucked, big time.  I bought it when it first came out, and well, there's a reason I'll be picking up GoG's release instead of digging out my MOO3 CDs.

They decided to add both a lot of micromanagement and a decent AI to handle it for you, just allowing you to go in and tweak settings once in a while.  Guess which one they failed at?  More, because the AI was supposed to handle it for you, they hid most of the controls, making it hard to do the now necessary micromanagement.  The idea was that emperors don't decide what each factory will make, just set grand policy and let the peons figure out the details.

A more detailed review is found here: http://www.quartertothree.com/reviews/moo3/moo3-1.shtml

Posted by: David W at April 21, 2010 12:15 PM (tXqDz)

10 A good example of "proper" micro-management reduction would be Civ4 (and to some extent, Civ3). The original Civ games needed a lot of tinkering in order to keep your cities running, happy, and productive. You constantly had to examine cities and make sure they had enough specialists (entertainers, basically) to keep their population happy, otherwise the entire city would break out in production-stopping riots.

Civ4's city management runs itself. It generally picks out tiles with a good mix of food and resource production, and keeps the city running without interruption. You get a warning when a city's starting to experience a lot of unrest (time to build a happiness structure, or close that trade deal to import a new luxury good). The pollution micromanagement was replaced by a "health" system, so that instead of pollution squares that had to be tidied up, you got less population growth in general. Essentially, this means that cities are self-managing and will grow up to the point where they're unhealthy enough that they have no more population growth, or they're unhappy enough that production is impacted until they have no excess food supply.

This really changes how you play a game of Civ. In Civ I and II, I was in and out of city screens constantly, tweaking how many little Elvises were there and reminding the mayor that my irrigated grassland produced more food than the god-forsaken desert square. But in Civ4, I can go the whole game without really messing around in the city screen at all...

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at April 21, 2010 01:03 PM (pWQz4)

11 Also, MOO2 was awesome. That is all.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at April 21, 2010 01:04 PM (pWQz4)

12 I do agree that it is impossible to stack up to MOM- I *have* found that Dominions 3 made by a two man team of swedes scratches the same itch.  It's different in too many ways to call it a successor- but it's brilliantly fun nonetheless.

Posted by: Gothmog at April 21, 2010 01:33 PM (ANvHH)


I would only add to the David's link, that even Quicksilver realized they had a problem in developing MOO3 just before the suits came in and took control of the game.  IIRC, the college son of MOO3's lead developer came home one weekend and played the game, at a point when the developers thought they were almost ready to release it.  After playing it, the son told his father that MOO3 was a great empire simulator - but not a good game.  A classic case of losing sight of the forest for the trees.

I do know that every other fantasy turned-based 4X strategy game since MOM has lack all the qualities that made MOM a favorite of mine, like research, creating new cities, sophisticated building tree that you can construct in the cities, different races and types of units, wide variety of magic spells, tactical combat, heroes you can customize, and the player avatar you can customize - I have yet to see any game have all of them.


Posted by: cxt217 at April 21, 2010 02:07 PM (BUHwO)


The single most brilliant thing about MOM is the spell book system. First, spell books were the prize of all prizes as far as treasures go, and were the biggest incentive to go out hunting lairs (or whatever they were called).

But the serious limit on how many you could have was even better. You could not have it all. You couldn't have top level spells in more than one or two colors per game.

And your play strategy was entirely different depending on which color(s) you chose to specialize in, or if you chose to not specialize at all. That was legitimate too: you could go for a small amount of knowledge of all the colors, and that was a different strategy again.

I always thought the Armageddon spell was the coolest. If you could keep it running long enough, you'd eventually end up with the entire planet covered with volcanoes except for your own territory. That was just too awesome.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 21, 2010 02:27 PM (+rSRq)

15 Guys, stop making stuff up.  MOO3 never existed.

I love the spellbooks in MOM, but the thing that amazes me is how they crammed so many different features into the game, and then made them all roughly balance each other out.  The only real game-breaking move I've found is the summon champion/item creation combo--there are 4-6 overpowered magic champions (e.g., Mystic X, Xarax(sp), Morgana, etc.), and if you give them something like +20 magic ranged attack from items, and back them with a strong ranged stack, they just clear out entire armies (and are very useful in finishing up a game that's long since been decided without wasting 200 turns).  That said, there are few things more rageworthy than having your uber-champion hit with a successful insta-kill spell (Earthquake, IIRC?).

X-Com is sort of similar--it combines a number of different features, different decisions that have to be made, plus tactical combat.  The closest I've found in terms of pure enjoyment is probably JA2, which lacks most of X-Com's strategic management, but makes up for it somewhat with its humor.

Posted by: BigD at April 21, 2010 06:33 PM (LjWr8)

16 Here's what GOG said about the ship recognition thing:
Thank you for reporting this. We will look into it tomorrow at work.

For now please use reference card that you can find in
menu start -> GOG.com -> Master of orion 1 + 2 -> Master of Orion 1 -> docs

There you should find ships recognition card

Posted by: Pixy Misa at April 21, 2010 07:37 PM (PiXy!)

17 I didn't notice that one; they hid it in the executable directory. I looked through all the other PDF files they provided, though, and there was nothing.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 21, 2010 07:58 PM (+rSRq)


Actually, I believe you are thinking of the spell 'Cracks Call'.  Very nasty one, indeed, as many a paladins and other powerful units have found out.


Posted by: cxt217 at April 22, 2010 12:10 PM (BUHwO)

19 You're talking about a tactical spell. I'm talking about a strategic one.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 22, 2010 01:20 PM (+rSRq)


That is what I get for not using Earthquake too often - I forgotten it does have a base percentage of taking out units too in a city.


Posted by: cxt217 at April 22, 2010 08:35 PM (BUHwO)

21 Does anyone know how FreeOrion compares with the real MOO?

Posted by: DavidVS at April 22, 2010 09:35 PM (+nsU1)

22 When the genuine MOO is only $6, why would anyone bother with an alternative?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 22, 2010 09:54 PM (+rSRq)

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