By Alan Emrich
Oh, goodness. How long ago was it that I first laid eyes on Star Lords? You see, Star Lords was the title of the game submitted to MicroProse in early 1993 that was soon to be published as Master of Orion. From an unknown group in simulation game designers in Texas (whose company name was, appropriately, "SimTex"), this obscure compilation of code and karma was about to write its name in the pantheon of Great Computer Strategy Games.
Honestly, my first impressions were not that great. I mean, Star Lords looked okay for the late 1980s at first blush. It was not until I got to spend some "quality time" with it that I discovered its addictive qualities. I was working for Computer Gaming World magazine at the time and smelled a good article, but I thought I'd share it with my friend and gaming buddy since 1973, Tom Hughes, and get a second opinion. After all, Tom and I like most of the same games; games that are clean and deep. Tom seized upon the Star Lords immediately and instantly starting to dissect the game's design and implementation. The stage was set.
After intense, repeated playing of the game, Tom and I were soon making numerous suggestions to the game's MicroProse Producer who, in turn, got tired of passing them on to the designer and lead programmer, Steve Barcia. Soon, we were talking to Steve directly. The telephone lines were burning regularly and a lot of ideas went back and forth. All the while, Steve was cooking up a better and better game. It was during this time that the title changed to Master of Orion and the game's theme and focus crystallized.
I wrote a sneak preview for Computer Gaming World magazine where I indicated that Master of Orion was shaping up to be a good game. It had a lot of promise, but I didn't think it was up there with Sid Meier's Civilization, the hobby's hallmark of strategy gaming at that time. But by the time that story hit the newsstands, I had changed my mind. I found myself still playing the game constantly and was reflecting on that fact when Tom called me. We talked about Master of Orion, of course, and Tom said, "You know, I think this game might become more addicting even than Civilization." I replied, "You know, I think it already is."
Making The Book
That's when I knew that there had to be a killer strategy guide written for this game. Within minutes of setting the phone down with Tom, the preliminary arrangements were made to have Prima publish our Master of Orion: The Official Strategy Guide. Having done a few strategy guides previously, I really want to go deep with the Master of Orion guide and set a new standard in strategy guide writing. (And to this day, I still get email saying that's exactly what I did; God bless you all!)
Approximately 4,400 man-hours of writing later (pulling 40 hour weeks scribing this tome on top of the 40 hours a week working at Computer Gaming World), the book emerged. The fact that it's ugly, white-on-purple cover featuring the equally ugly Master of Orion cover art, did not discourage sales is a miracle. In those days, strategy guides were published after a game was released so that they could be accurate, even to the point of including information changes from late game "patch" releases. The Master of Orion official strategy guide that Tom Hughes and I wrote is just that kind of book. Chock full of analysis, tables and formulae that would later tie our fate back to the Master of Orion series after a long hiatus.
NEXT IN THE HISTORY: "Master of Orion II: The Battle at Antares"