Feature Article

Master of Orion Returns to Expand the 4X Genre

Watch the stars.

A visit with Wargaming founder Victor Kislyi is always a delight. At E3 2015, I sat down at a conference table at which Kislyi presided, and he was as animated and excited as he was the first time I spoke with him about World of Tanks half a decade ago.

"So the story goes like this," Kislyi begins, and I prepare myself for a tale of the ages--and you know, perhaps it is such a tale. He is going to tell me the story of how long-dormant space strategy series Master of Orion is getting a new lease on life. The intellectual property was up for auction, and, as Kislyi says, "the competition was fierce." The battle for MOO may not have been won by tanks, but to hear Kislyi share his tale, you might think it was bloody all the same. He was fighting for his company to own a piece of PC gaming's history, and of PC gaming's future.

Kislyi is quick to dismiss fears that the upcoming, Wargaming-published Master of Orion reboot will be a victim of the company's free-to-play tendencies, as represented by World of Tanks, World of Warships, and World of Warplanes. MOO will be a standard retail game without any freemium elements, and is being made not by an internal Wargaming studio, but by Argentinian developer NGD Studios. "They're like me and Wargaming six years ago," says Kislyi, who sees the same kind of passion in NGD that existed in his own. As a result, Wargaming has devoted all sorts of resources--financial and human both--to make the game as good as it can possibly be. Why is Wargaming taking the project on in the first place? It's a reasonable question to ask; Kislyi himself says that the game is clearly not a "financial live or die thing." Says Kislyi, "We're doing this purely from the standpoint of demonstrating our passion, giving back to the community, bringing back the legend."

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Master of Orion has been in development for over a year and a half, and I watched Wargaming Director of Vision Chris Keeling play the game as he crammed in as much description as he could in the 30 minutes that we had. (Aside: We should all be so lucky as to earn the title Director of Vision.) Before we could get started, however, Kislyi gave me a quick rundown of what to expect: "21st-century graphics, professional triple-A voiceover, interface, and of course lots of additions that will make Master of Orion suitable for today's world. Life is moving a little bit faster these days, so the things we tolerated in the early '90s, the younger generation may not."

Kislyi's statement may make you worry that NGD is planning to abandon important features of the original MOO for being too old-fashioned, but to get things right, the developers are involving a number of talents that helped design the original game, including composer David Govett. Also returning: all the races from the original game, including the Alkari, a race of space birds that squawk with gusto at every possible opportunity. Each race has a fully-voiced introduction, and your advisor is a chatty sort; I may have tired of hearing the Alkari consultant screech his lines if he didn't manage to be so charming while he did so.

The Sakkra have never heard of this
The Sakkra have never heard of this "Wrex" you speak of, so stop asking already!

From here, Master of Orion plays out much like many other 4X strategy games, it would seem, albeit with a huge dose of humor and personality, along with character animations captured directly from the actors portraying them. As the game begins, you select a line of research to follow, begin producing supplies on your homeworld, and assign populations to the tasks you most need them for. Doing so is simple: you click and drag the silhouette representing a portion of your populace from one job to another, making scientists out of workers at no resource cost to you, and thus altering how quickly you produce the associated resources. You reap diminishing returns by assigning more and more population to a particular activity, such as farming, however. Kislyi impressed upon me that keeping this interface clean was an important task.

"We deliberately eliminated decimals," Kislyi says. "Like in Civilization, 16.5 production produced, 16.7, multiply this by seven turns left...you have to get a calculator! Here, we want people to be able to calculate quickly, you don't have to pull up Excel. We want you to concentrate on strategic, philosophical, aspirational, diplomatic goals, but math should be easy. Accessibility. We deliberately separated resources into one type. Usually in these kind of games, you have kind of like hexes. You know, one hammer, two food, like that." He points out how those usual hexagonal abstractions are represented differently here, and Keeling adds that if you want to crunch the numbers, you can hover the mouse over the associated icons to reveal detailed information.

The game looks very pretty. Not shown: layered planetary atmospheres, which look terrific.
The game looks very pretty. Not shown: layered planetary atmospheres, which look terrific.

There wasn't time to talk about elements such as taxation, pollution, and morale, but you will have to consider them in Master of Orion. And of course, this is a space strategy game, so while you spend time managing individual planets, you must also expand across the galaxy, meeting new races as you go. "AI races have a long memory, and they're very smart," says Keeling. On cue, the Mrrshon empress appears, welcoming you to the galactic community with a purr, and suggesting that if you scratch her back, she'll scratch yours. (Meow!) In time, you'll run into the Klackon (bug people), Darlok (evil wraiths wearing cloaks), Psilons (big-headed humanoids), and a number of other races, putting too much energy into dominating the competition to wonder why a race of space dwellers looks and behaves so much like earth cats.

As the various races gain control over different regions of the galaxy, you'll have to negotiate your way past other races' starbases, or simply blast your way through. Diplomacy allows you to open up exploration routes, as well as to create different types of pacts, set up trade deals for specific materials, establish treaties, and so forth, though be warned: the AI often has its own interests at heart. (The Darlok is known for espionage, so allowing you through may assist in their current plans, for instance.) In any case, controlling the routes between stars is vital; fortunately, your space factories are ready to produce bases when you need them, in addition to asteroid mines, outposts, and so on. Whether you need to produce materials or establish and defend your borders, space factories manufacture what you need.

The Bulrathi love peace, harmony, and long walks along the beach. Just kidding. They love war.
The Bulrathi love peace, harmony, and long walks along the beach. Just kidding. They love war.

All the while, GNN (that is, the Galactic News Network) is there to report on the drama as it progresses. "Time is running out for the colonies endangered by an imminent supernova," drones the robotic anchor, with just enough mockery in her voice to make you wonder if this network is as unbiased as you'd want it to be. Supernovas may be dangerous, but so are are your fellow emperors--and so are you. Eventually, it might come time to crush the race of kitty-cats that once offered to scratch your back. The only example of combat I saw was the visualization of a planetary bombardment, so I can't say yet exactly how battles will play out--and Wargaming isn't yet ready to share the details. I can confirm, however, that the Mrrshon leader will call you a filthy mongrel for declaring war.

You don't have to focus on war; you can seek a diplomatic victory, an economic one, or a technological one as well. I'm hoping that each path to triumph is as satisfying as the last, and Keeling's promises of an intelligent AI makes me look forward to engaging in diplomacy with these weird and wonderful leaders. I've heard some people wonder aloud if now is the time to resurrect a 4X space strategy series, but recent games like Endless Space, Galactic Civilizations III, StarDrive 2, and many others have proven that the genre never died. It's comforting to know that one of the genre's grand masters still has a place at the table.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Kevin-V

Kevin VanOrd

Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play bass in Rock Band.

E3 2015

The Electronic Entertainment Expo returns on June 14. Watch all the press conferences live, tune in for the GameSpot and
Back To Top
33 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for nroha
nroha

26

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Edited By nroha

The early access is amazing, best 4x times game next to Sins.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for DarckArchon
DarckArchon

247

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 13

User Lists: 0

SO THERE IS A GOD AND JESUS AFTER ALL THANK YOUUUUUUU !!!!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for sethfrost
sethfrost

708

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Edited By sethfrost

Everytime someone mentions MOO I need to play MOO... and MOO2.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for unikat
unikat

117

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Edited By unikat

This has to be the worst trailer I've ever seen, it dehyped me completely...

Upvote • 
Avatar image for omanojyaku
omanojyaku

168

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I am happy they are reviving this even though I never played the series.

I just want everything and anything to help continue the Total Annihilation franchise.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Stonedwolfed
Stonedwolfed

217

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By Stonedwolfed

Master of Orion, Endless Space, Gal Civ III, StarDrive 2. All on the PC, none on consoles.

Yes, it's more difficult to create controller input for these games, rather than mouse, but it IS possible. For example, one way is to divide the screen into segments (as most of these games have with the various panels) use the right stick to quickly select the various panels. EG:

http://static3.gamespot.com/uploads/ignore_jpg_scale_super/416/4161502/2864914-2015-04-26_00022.jpg

Once in a panel you actually have a lot more control over that panel and the items in it can use tand the left stick to select items with that panel. For example, the RB and LB button to select tabs within that panel, so in that example tapping the Right Stick left a few times to go to the leftmost panel, then LB/RB to cycle between Weapons/Defence/Systems.

You can then use the Left Stick to navigate to items within that panel, if there is a large list of items use Left and Right Triggers to fast scroll, and use the various buttons for various actions, e.g. Y sort order, X inspect element, A select element, B to de-select panel.

Those are just examples. It might not be as convenient as a mouse but it IS POSSIBLE if you put some design effort in.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for GrahamZ
GrahamZ

126

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 5

User Lists: 0

@Stonedwolfed:

That's the type of thing that PC-owners hate, because quite often the devs will cripple the PC UI for the sake of having the same UI as on the console. I can't tell you how many games I had to give up on simply because I hated the interface (I have a low tolerance for bad interfaces). I get that Console-owners have no choice but to live without a keyboard and mouse. I don't think that console owners get that that's one of the main complaints that PC owners have about cross-platform games.

In any case, with the price of gaming PCs being as low as they are, there's less reason to buy a console than there ever was.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Stonedwolfed
Stonedwolfed

217

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@GrahamZ: because quite often the devs will cripple the PC UI for the sake of having the same UI as on the console

There is no need for a developer to "cripple" a PC UI for consoles. PC devs should permit a range of *PC* UIs if for no other reason gamepads are widely used on PCs too.

The UI I talked about is for the gamepad alone, it would (and should) in no way stop a Mouse/KB UI.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Squrl_1980
Squrl_1980

26

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Since I read the title for the first time, 7 words came to mind, 3 of which keep repeating.

HOLY POOP(cleaned for public use), NO WAY!

OMG(repeating)!

I love moo, still play occasionally. Unfortunately, I doubt my computer will handle an updated version. But still REALLY cool! While their at it, they should put MoO 2 out for Android phones.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for vadagar1
vadagar1

546

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 37

User Lists: 0

pfff the birth of the federation was much better

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Zloth2
Zloth2

1780

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

"Life is moving a little bit faster these days, so the things we tolerated in the early '90s, the younger generation may not."

Oh hell.

"...and Keeling adds that if you want to crunch the numbers, you can hover the mouse over the associated icons to reveal detailed information."

OK, I can live with that. If you want to hide the decimal points from the math-o-phobes that's just fine, as long as it's still there, waiting under the covers to strike at the bare toes of those <ahem> as long as it's still in the game.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for streamline
streamline

2258

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@Zloth2: they shoul d go with commas like some Europeans use instead.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for hystavito
hystavito

4755

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@Zloth2: I was also going to quote that moving faster bit, and yes it raises concerns of course :).

Upvote • 
Avatar image for xantufrog
xantufrog

14091

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 5

xantufrog  Moderator  Online

Nice!

Upvote • 
Avatar image for dr_jashugan
dr_jashugan

2665

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 0

Edited By dr_jashugan

Hope the diplomacy will be great. :-)

Upvote • 
Avatar image for T-ESI
T-ESI

89

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 0

If you want to play this, go play Stardrive 2. Its out now and the strategic aspect is based very much on MOO2. The combat system is real time with the best ship customization in a 4x.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Zloth2
Zloth2

1780

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

@T-ESI: If the combat is real time then it's not that much like MoO2. Have you tried Horizon? The research is done differently than other games but it does have turn based combat.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for T-ESI
T-ESI

89

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 0

@Zloth2: Again. The strategic aspect of Stardrive 2 is based very much on MOO2. Wormholes, colony & freighter management etc. The tactical aspect of Stardrive 2 however is real time combat where weapons loadout and tactical flanking do make a difference.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Megawizard
Megawizard

584

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Guess they can't do any worse than what happened with 3's release. Here's to being hopeful.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Suikogaiden
Suikogaiden

1472

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

Haven't bothered to look at another 4x space strategy since GC2 Ultimate edition. If it gets rid of all the redundant micromanaging of MOO 3 though will be interested in this one.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Zloth2
Zloth2

1780

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

@Suikogaiden: OMG! So many missed games! (Though GC2 was mighty fine.)

Upvote • 
Avatar image for SweatySasquatch
SweatySasquatch

136

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By SweatySasquatch

@Suikogaiden: wtf is 4x?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Suikogaiden
Suikogaiden

1472

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

@SweatySasquatch:

https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=what+is+4x+strategy

Upvote • 
Avatar image for oflow
oflow

5185

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 40

User Lists: 0

Bring it to console

Upvote • 
Avatar image for GarGx1
GarGx1

10934

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

This is good news :)

Upvote • 
Avatar image for deactivated-5ae060efb3bf6
deactivated-5ae060efb3bf6

2147

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 0

Very interesting and something to watch for.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for drwaldy
drwaldy

47

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I play MOO2 to this day, at least once a month... this news makes me incredibly happy.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Boddicker
Boddicker

4458

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

Ugh. The only thing I hated about the MOO franchise were all the anthropomorpic animals. We got space cats, bears, lizards, and birds. The only truly alien species were the Silicoids.

I miss this great game. I guess this doesn't have a chance of ending up on consoles, but you never know.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for derceto
derceto

773

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 60

User Lists: 0

Was fairly cautious of these guys reviving this series. However, so far anyways, it looks like they're taking some care in it at least. Presentation looks pretty good. Will keep my fingers crossed on this one. One of my absolute favourites from the old DOS days.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for KerenskyTheRed
KerenskyTheRed

100

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

The original 2 were some of the best DOS games ever. I'm really hoping they do this one right since the series is the 22 year old granddaddy of the 4X genre.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Zloth2
Zloth2

1780

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

@KerenskyTheRed: Uhhh... well, it's A granddaddy. Don't forget Spaceward Ho! and the ascii-graphics Empire. GalCiv actually came out pretty close to Master of Orion, too, but it was only on OS/2. Call it a cousin.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for hystavito
hystavito

4755

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@Zloth2: I didn't know Galactic Civ was that old. OS/2, heh, memories :)

Upvote •