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Designer's DiarySeptember 2000

Thursday, 7 September 2000: This has been a special week because it began with gaming in over the holiday weekend in the attic of my new house (the attic being dubbed "The Eagle's Nest") where a dozen gamers came over for the weekend. It's nice to recharge the old gaming batteries by playing all kinds of games ranging from serious to silly, solitaire to multi-player.

Image: Stock Car Championship Racing Card GameOur recommendation? A NASCAR racing card game by McGartlin Motorsport Design. We had a lot of people playing at the same time (the game can handle up to 20) so it was a real hoot. Each player has their own "driver deck" of cards. They receive a hand and play a variable number of cards per round (depending on the track, speed of the race, etc.). Each round represents a variable number of laps where certain events might happen (as determined by the track deck) including spin outs, yellow flags, etc. Basically, your cars are formed up in a "draft line" and maneuver in and out it to jockey for the lead. Gaps can open up and be closed, blocking maneuvers conducted, and wild challenges can ensue. Even though it was the last game we played at the end of a very tiring weekend, we all thought it was excellent (none of us had played it before, either, so that made it an especially nice surprise). For more information about the Stock Car Championship Racing Card Game, click here.

Image: Stormhound CraftAlso, Stormhound paid us a visit this week. After all his work in the background as a enthusiast/volunteer, David "Stormhound" Craft made the trip from Missouri to Southern California and stayed at Casa Emrich, commuting back and forth to work with me and pitching in around the office. David's an experienced programmer who has survived a lot of projects, so he brings some valuable "old hand" experience to the numerous discussions about MOO3 that spontaneously break out around the office.

While Stormhound continued to slave away on diplomacy, I shifted gears this week and slaved away on slavery. As of today, I have a cool first-pass of the game's slavery model written up. Like the religion model, I'm sure that several people will have fits of political correctness at the mere mention of interstellar slavery. After all, this is an area where even "angels" like Sid Meier and Steve Barcia have feared to tread.

Not me. I love riding the "third rail" of game design.

I think we have a killer strategic model for slavery with all its various social, economic, military, political, and most importantly of all... technological impacts. I'm stoked about how it's all shaking out and think that the way we're handling it will sit well even with the most squeamish player after they understand what it's all about. (Of course, I feel that way about the game religion model, too, so what do I know?)

Another cool thing that I really got to look at this week was the Surface Combat Simulator that Dennis Volper has been killing himself on. Basically, you set a bunch of parameters, hit done, and get this long readout of every unit shooting over multiple rounds of combat and getting some statistics at the end. Using this gizmo, we can tweak a single variable, press "refesh" a few times to quickly see the change in results (there's a ton or randomness with all the shots and die rolls and stuff), and judge if the importance of that variable is working "about right" or not. Anyway, I had a lot of fun messing with it and seeing if a Leader with an Ability Rating of 7 was sufficiently better than one with an Ability Rating of, like, 4. (It sure seems to.)

Tuesday, 12 September 2000: Check this out... I got hit with a random event!

Image: Alan with an eyepatch That's me sitting there on the right, reading an amazingly cool Powerpuff Girls magazine (they're my favorite cartoon superheroes, my 5-year old daughter and I never miss them on The Cartoon Network). The eye patch and sneer are not a fashion statement. Instead, I've developed a palsy ("Bell's Palsy," in this case), a disease that has zapped all the nerves or muscles or something on the left side of my face. It's really weird, not being able to say f's and p's like I used to, and seeing out of only one eye is like watching the world as a bad 3-D shooter. (I have to cover it because it has ceased to blink, so I have it taped shut with an eye patch to keep stuff, like wind and dirt, away from it.). I can still type (though my spelling hasn't improved any), and the doctors have been sucking up time that I would otherwise spend with you guys on the MOO3 discussion boards, so I've got some catching up to do there. Still, they say I should be mended of this scourge in a month or two, so I'm hopeful.

Interestingly, I'm still grinding out the game design apace. Hasbro has raised some qualms about having slavery modeled in the game, so we'll be having a conference call with them tomorrow about it. I'm making sure that we'll also be discussion religion, genocide, and every other thing in this game that might cause them unease in this world of leftist historical revisionism and political correctness. (I don't want them to take slavery in MOO3 out of context; that would be fatal from a design standpoint.) Internally, the slavery model looks pretty good and has been smiled at by most everyone on the team. Our Hasbro Producer (Constantine) and Designer (Jennifer) are both groovin' with it. I hope to do a data dump on religion and slavery in MOO3 if we verify that Hasbro is still on board with the entire package.

Image: Alan with an eyepatch, againOne final note on all this, I got an email from our Product Manager at Hasbro, Peter Matiss. He's sort of a PR and Marketing Guru all rolled into one and a big support of MOO3 among the high muckety-mucks at Hasbro. He wrote me a very concerned email about not jeopardizing my health over work. It was quite thoughtful, sincere, and touching. (Thanks, Peter.) My replay, however, was irreverent, flip, and very in character for me. I think I should share it with you:

"Thanks, Peter. Some people would kill for a good game. I'm willing to die for one, so no biggie. :-)


"In theory, this 'Bell's Palsy' thing should scat in a couple of months. If not, I'll cope. The game must go on. I don't want poor health to be my legacy, but a great game, and you'll have that, don't worry. And a great strategy guide, too."
    — Alan Emrich


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