by William Thompson
previewed on PC
Remaking a classic
The Original Master of Orion was probably the first game to be referred to as a 4X game (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate), and was the forerunner to games such as the Civilization and Galactic Civilization series. It was a game that I'd only played for a short time, and one that I was probably slightly too young to enjoy fully. So when Wargaming (the team behind World of Tanks) secured the rights to the game and subsequently announced that they would be developing a remake, I was somewhat interested to find out all about their plans. During PAX AUS, we were lucky enough to sit down with Randy King, the Executive Producer at Wargaming, and discuss the development of the Master of Orion remake. We discussed the game as he ran through a number of the features of the upcoming title.
For those unfamiliar with the original game, Master of Orion is a galactic turn based strategy along the lines of the Civilization series. And much like Civilization, gamers start with a single small spaceship (well, in Civilization, it is a bunch of settlers) and from there have to work their way to ruling the galaxy through a number of victory conditions. Gamers can destroy all other factions, they can be the first to gain all 75 technologies (through a very user friendly tech tree) or they can win through diplomacy by being elected as the ruler of the galaxy. If all the turns are complete, the race with the highest score will then be granted victory.
King mentioned that the team at Wargaming had searched for some of the original developers in order to help with development of the remake. Much of the game will retain the feel of the original, including retaining the ten factions from the classic game. Each will have positives and negatives to playing them, with bonuses in certain fields such as technology or growth. But although the races are the same as the original, they have each been given additional features which has resulted in increased complexity where balancing is concerned. But it isn't just the other ten factions that will be part of the game. Independent colonies will also play a significant part. These independent colonies will be able to grant quests which, if completed, will allow the faction to gain bonuses from that colony.
Diplomacy may well be more important than in previous Master of Orion games. Empire Walls will surround each race's empire (similar to borders in earthbound 4X titles), and these can only be crossed via diplomacy or war. When meeting with other races, if you are on good terms with them, they will display friendly mannerisms, whilst there will be anger or contempt in their faces should they dislike your motives. The voice acting complements the anger or pleasantness perfectly.
Micromanagement - Why the Emperor needed Darth Vader
As with other 4X games, micromanagement will become an issue once your empire starts to grow. The team at Wargaming have introduced three ways in which worlds can be managed, allowing gamers to have as little or as much say in micromanagement as they want. Gamers can simply click on the planet and select what they would like to build, or they can set the world to build with a specific goal in mind - such as growth, or they can allocate a focus from the list of worlds they currently inhabit. This list works somewhat like a spreadsheet that gamers relied on in Master of Orion 3. A handy Advisor will also feature in the game, giving beginners tips all through their journey towards galactic domination.
King was quick to mention that no two games will be alike unless gamers take note of an interesting feature called the Big Bang Seed. This number when given to a friend will allow them to play from the same starting point effectively letting gamers compete against each other offline. Master of Orion will feature both single player and multiplayer modes though, so if you prefer to play against a human rather than AI controlled opponents then that is definitely an option.
The fact that Wargaming CEO was a huge fan of the original makes this remake seem somewhat like a fan made game, albeit one with the backing of a large developer. Every attempt is being made to keep the remake true to the original whilst adding features that bring the game into the modern era. Visually, the game looks great, and the inclusion of dynamic colonisation videos as your faction lands upon new worlds is testament to how much effort the team is putting into the detail. The enthusiasm Randy King brought to the meeting was infectious, and the little sales pitch at the end of our meeting in which he outlined the Collector's Edition - which includes all three original Master of Orion titles along with a number of other items and early access to the remake - had me hoping that release was tomorrow so that I could explore the stars myself.