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Game OverviewMaster of Orion: The History of a Game Series —
One Man's Telling of a Cosmic Tale

Master of Orion II: The Battle at Antares

Image: Master of Orion II BoxIt wasn't long before a sequel was planned for Master of Orion (with Master of Magic appearing in between). In 1996, Master or Orion II: Battle at Antares came out. Those where the days when the minimum platform was a 486/66 and 16MB of RAM.

Originally, the working title for the game was Master of Antares. Steve Barcia, the central figure behind the original MOO game, served in more of a hands-off capacity on this title (having been promoted to VP of Product Development at Spectrum). Steve oversaw the project and design but left the coding in the hands of Ken Burd and his team at SimTex.

Philosophically, MOO2's design was a response to numerous requests from MOO players for more automation and more detail. Steve envisioned a "layered" design approach so that people could focus on what they wanted to play. (Unfortunately, that goal wasn't reached in MOO2, but MOO3 continues to strive in this direction.)

As I recall, the art was a real problem in the creation of MOO2. Steve Barcia rejected more artwork on this project than I care to remember. It was also while this game was simmering at SimTex that publishers were putting feelers out to acquire it and add the SimTex team to their stable. (Eventually, Spectrum Holobyte/MicroProse won out but, unfortunately for the gang from SimTex, they were paid primarily in Spectrum Holobyte stock that quickly plummeted in value.)

In addition to the above problems, the Post Mortum on MOO2 indicated a regret in the lack of proper game pacing; MOO2 didn't always deliver excitement during the early and late stages of the game. SimTex was hoping to better architect the player experience so that even within the nature of random campaign games, the players always had fun and faced an interesting situation.

Little was done on the diplomacy engine (except that a few bugs were inadvertently added). Steve Barcia also remarked, "If you're going to do multiplayer, it has to be built in at the start and not added at the end." This multiplayer problem turned out to be very costly and hurt the production quality of MOO2.

I also remember that, during the design, SimTex didn't envision that huge (MOO-size) ship battles would be a part of the game anymore (due to the high maintenance costs associated with fleet in MOO2). After they saw that players were still amassing vast armadas, they hoped to achieve better automation and faster tactical combat resolution in the patches, but that never came off.

If he had it to do over again, what Steve Barcia recommend for MOO3? "Racial 'personality' that would be reflected in all of the systems of the game; races that react 'properly' to your actions. That, and better pacing."

For a nice retrospective of MOO2, read this article from PCIGN.

Master of Orion III: The Fifth 'X'

Fate rekindled the flames on this long dormant franchise when Michael Mancuso, then a Producer for Hasbro's west coast offices at the old Spectrum Holobyte digs in the San Francisco Bay Area, ran into Quicksilver Software's El Presidente, Bill Fisher at E3 in 1999. The two of them had a long discussion about all things gaming and really hit it off. They agreed, philosophically, on what makes a game great, how to make them, and so forth. Bill Fisher explained how Starfleet Command was created as a real-time game using the StarFleet Battles turn-based boardgame as its foundation.

Michael Mancuso saw the magic in the way that Starfleet Command came together and coupled that with the list he had of game titles that they were shopping for developers for. On that list was Master of Orion III, and both groups perceived a good match in MOO3 and Quicksilver. The deal was made and design work began in August 1999.

The rest you can read about elsewhere on this website as that bit of history is written.

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