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Official CommentsQSI Posts on the Discussion Boards — Part One

Updated March 12, 2001:

Alan Emrich, Lead Designer

Space monsters: They ARE included in the Race Bible.

Status of the long-awaited Race Bible: Guys, the Race Bible remains a huge work-in-progress. However, work DOES continue.

Can genetic manipulation be used to enhance slaves? [No.] That's what robots are for.

Ending wars: Guys, I've been working intensely on the political engine and there will be, by my count, five different ways to end a war, including surrendering and "terms."

The MOO3 paradigm: Again, everyone. The Paradigm is that all decisions get made each turn. Nothing goes undone (well, SOME things do, but even THAT is a "real decision" to do nothing and not just some fluke).

But these decisions are made by your FUNCTIONARIES. They simply do not have YOUR perspective of The Big Picture. (I.e., they're not playing "to win.") Without your input, they'll slouch along aimlessly (think of the Clinton administration). YOUR job is to provide the "vision thing" and adjust matters, through the use of Imperial Focus Points each turn, so that YOUR civilization is the first to reach a victory condition and (hence) win the game.

Now, you'll probably define a lot of intermediary steps along the way (War with the Psilons, join Orion Senate, lobby the Sakkra to vote for my Heir to the Orion Throne, focus research on highly "tradable" technologies to "buy peace" with them, and so forth). But those are all the kinds of Big Picture things that YOU need to make sure get done the way YOU envision them.

Leaders' length in office: Leaders don't "die of old age." We don't worry about their "life span," per se. All that matters to the game is their (and pay attention now) "career span." When you lose a leader, it could be for any numbers of reasons: reaching retirement age, switching jobs, falls in a fire while playing Survivor... the list of possibilities is endless.

So, don't think LIFEspan. Think CAREERspan. That's the time that a leader is on our stage. Beyond that, we really don't care about him.

Rebellion: A couple general notes about rebellion in MOO3.

Planets rebel in PARTS. That is, you can own a planet that is partially in rebellion. This is a HUGE red flag. Upon seeing this, one must consider you options for dealing with it (from a laundry list of possibilities between lessez-faire to the locals and crushing Imperial military intervention). If your solutions don't work and the entirety of that planet goes in rebellion -- they're out. (Out of your empire, that is.)

Now, what that planet does when it splits off is kind of interesting. First, the rebellion there stops. (Hey, they "won.") Second, they look to seek another civilization to join. If no one looks right, they'll start their own civilization. If you've previously lost planets to rebellion and one formed its own civilization, newly lost ones are very likely to join with them (the "growing rebel alliance" effect).

Naturally, it's something of a PR nightmare to have planets in rebellion. After all, unchecked, rebellions can and do spread.

Well, that's the high overview. Obviously, there's a lot of details.

Warning signs before rebellion: Usually, rebellion will be preceded by unrest. When you see unrest, you worry about rebellion that follows. When you see rebellion, you worry about it spreading (big time).

The Senate: The Senate is NOT about fairness. It's not about equality, justice, rights, or any other high and lofty ideal.

It's about the New Orions keeping themselves in control of this piece of space. And, considering their origin, one would think that PROMOTING wars, not ending them, would be to their advantage.

So, keep that in mind, people. Like the Chicago police back in '68, the Senate is not there to create chaos, they're there to preserve it.

Retreat: All things being equal, retreat will be a viable (and occasionally necessary) option.

Random events: We have a brand new random events system in MOO3 and haven't presented as a Data Dump yet, so it's a little premature to be discussing this in a lot of detail right now.

By the way, Random Events is one of the LAST things we're scheduled to put in the game.

Ship class: I'm not sure of the nomenclature, but I believe the way we use "class" for MOO3 ships designs is to distinguish between star ships, system ships, and orbital ships. (I'm on drugs right now fighting the flu, so I'm kinda fuzzy on this one.)

Stormhound clarifying: Nah, Alan. Class is the player's name for a given ship design. "Rating" is the word in the design doc which designates star/system/orbital.

MOO3 is not MOO2.5: >>You've made a lot of major changes to MOO, and you haven't done a very good job of selling these changes, at least in my opinion.

Your opinion sounds like you want MOO2 with some art and UI upgrades. In other words, MOO2.5

The publisher made it very clear to us at the outset that MOO2.5 is NOT what they wanted. They perceive that MOO3, as we've described it, a novel design rethinking and complete graphics/interface face-lift, is what they're betting their money will sell.

Me? All I want to do is to make the best game possible under whatever circumstances I'm dealt. Personally, I like the paradigm for MOO3 and believe that we're really putting together a package that will make enthusiasts of this genre take notice. We're daring a LOT of things with MOO3, including all the ones that you complain about. But its a WHOLE PACKAGE. As designed, all of the components are INTEGRATED -- systems, AI, UI, victory conditions, backstory -- all integrated. There's a Big Picture to this design, and the threads that make it up are woven together in a very intricate and complex manner.

That you're not buying into it, what can I say? I'm sorry. I never expected everyone to. I've designed and developed enough games to know that you can't bat 1.000. But the money is this project being a at least a bit revolutionary and a successful release. We think we're on track for both of those.

MOO3 is not about staid, incremental design advances. Look to other sequel products that take a more timid design approach for that. With MOO3 we're going for a fresh approach. Maybe you're right. Maybe we're full of stuff and nonsense and this project is doomed. If that's the case, then two years from now you'll be vindicated and will have my job instead of me. (I wouldn't be upset, that's just publishing Darwinism in action.) But I've survived for 25 years in this "what have you done for me LATELY" business, and my instincts tell me that we're on to something with MOO3.

I guess we'll find out which one of us is right. And like every project I've ever been on, I'm betting my job that I'm right. :-)

Deficit spending: I'll go Hound one further and say "yes," we're planning on allowing you to go into deficit spending. It should work for a civilization for a while... but eventually the chickens will come home to roost so one must MANAGE their deficits.

Pointing out a post that argues star lanes are a good addition: EVERYBODY STOP!!!

Re-read that last post.

Strifeguard is 3 for 3 with it.

Strifeguard's post: When I first heard about star lanes, I was also distraught. I felt they would be constricting, and limit strategy, but then I realized that they actually *added* to strategy, then I grew very quickly to like the whole star lane idea.

For example, in Moo1, races were supposed to get angry if you built up military along their borders. However, this was just silly, since borders were not easily defined on the star map, and sometimes races would get angry for really no good reason. But, with star lanes, there will be clearly defined borders, allowing borders to become an issue again.

Also, one complaint about Moo2 was that star systems could not be "improved" in that many ways. Yes planets could be made and terraformed, but not much else could be done. This was verses the improvements such as roads and irrigation available in Master of Magic and Alpha Centauri. In a small way, the improvements of star lanes could be seen as building "roads" or otherwise making system improvements. Also, just like in Alpha Centauri where there was something to be said for attacking terrain improvements, in Moo3, there can be something said for attacking (downgrading) system improvements.

Finally, since "deep space travel" is possible with system drive, only at ultra-slow speeds, think of the surprise when a task-force attacks from deep space. The defence fleets will likely be placed along star lanes, and then a cloaked fleet hits a relatively undefended, critical system.

How are space lanes discovered? Few space lanes are known at the beginning of the game. (Basically, those leading from Orion -- playtesting may alter this.)

To "discover" a Space Lane, you first have to travel that piece of space "off road" and "chart it." (I.e., you find out that there is actually one there and its quality.) Charted space lanes become known by other players when they make it to the star on either end or trade map information.

Pathing through space lanes: Right. That's the intention; to make it as easy as possible on the player. The pathfinding AI should show you the fastest route. If you want to chart a different route, you should be able to.

Space lane exit points: That planets move and Space Lane entry/exit points don't? Yes. That's how it will work. and the positions of the planets WILL matter during the approach to battle segment (prior to the commencement of RTCombat).

"Off-road" technology: Off-road technologies center around the basic system drive engine (the same one that moves your ship around in combat). Details about that are not ready for release yet. (Sorry.)

"Specials" to enhance them and/or off-road movement are still to be determined, but my guess is that they may tend to be "specials" that you have to build into your ship designs rather than a global achievement. (Depends on the special, natch.)

A.I. development: Actually, you guys don't know this, but our Fearless Leader, Bill Fisher, is a total AI evangelist. He's always going on about how it will be "the next revolution in strategy games -- decent AI" and so on. (I've heard the speech a million times; we all have around here.)

Frankly, I believe him. But more important, the MOO3 team believes it. AI issues are not "something we'll get to later." They're something we kill ourselves over every day and, somehow, AI seems to make it into every MOO3 discussion you hear in the hallways (and there are a lot of 'em). AI is totally first and foremost in our minds on this project (particularly at this stage where the design directions are clearly pointed out and most of the design work is "filling in" all the stuff for the AI to use).

Now, I'm more of a writer/designer type myself. I trust Bill, whose more of a programmer guy, to put together a top-notch team of AI gurus for this project -- and he has. We've got some awful bright bulbs hammering the keyboards around here working on the AI for MOO3. I know, because they're always asking me questions. Questions, questions, questions... all day long. (Hmmm... they're a lot like you guys, in that regard.)

But, I know they're great AI guys (from where I sit) because they ask the RIGHT questions. They always want to know what the RELATIONSHIPS are between divergent aspects in the game and if they factor into the bit of AI they're doing. In other words, they're keeping the Big Picture in mind even as they work on the most minute details. They stop me and tell me how the AI is analysing a situation, and I give 'em my designer's take on it -- lots of good back and forth. The same goes for the other designers on the team. We learn how they're structuring the thinking, then the design team tries to structure the design to be as compatible with it as possible. It's a GREAT working relationship. Best I've ever seen (and I've been around the block a few times).

So, yeah. AI will be the do or die for MOO3. We know it, and we're all over it.

Troops: Without going into a lot of detail, think of each ground units as roughly "brigade" size (at least in terms of firepower, numbers of bodies vary by race). So, they're already bigger than regiments.

Also, experience for individual units waxes and wanes.

Plot: Here's my only comment on "plot" in MOO3.

It's purpose is exactly THREEFOLD:

1. To explain WHY players begin in the "universe" they do in their initial state. (Everything from Space Lanes, to the New Orions and their Senate, to your "zoo colony" Home World -- the works; it's all explained by the background story.)

2. To reveal cool nuggets throughout the game about what REALLY happened to the Ancient Orions, the recent Antaran Mystery, et al. Some will be FYI stuff, some might steer future Events in the game or even...

3. To explain the two new "victory conditions" in MOO3. Specifically, discovery of the "Fifth X" (comes with resolution of the recent Antaran Mystery) and placing the recognized "legitimate heir" on the throne of Orion (as opposed to merely getting elected Senate President).

THAT'S IT. Those are the pillars that the backstory functions as to support MOO3. Hopefully, everyone can groove with that and nobody will panic now. You see, at the highest level of design, it's really all very cut-and-dried.

Pausing in multi-player combat: I think that we would do better as designers to not interrupt the pacing of combat in a multi-player with a jolting "stopwatch pause."

Instead, the flow of play in RTCombat should be continuous but as far from frenetic as possible so that everyone feels comfortable playing that way even though they can't pause the action. That, to me, is a far more sensible goal (though far more difficult to achieve).

 

David "Stormhound" Craft, Assistant Designer

Masking human players among computer players in multi-player: Actually, the diplomacy was originally designed to be just that...you send a message, the other guy gets it the next turn and does what he does. It would've taken a minimum of two turns to reach an agreement, and possibly more if there were delays or counteroffers. It also would've made disguise of whether players were human or computer nearly perfect.

It got morphed into "instant contact" by someone higher up the food chain, who didn't like the thought of it taking several years to reach even simple agreements. Ya can't win 'em all.

Growth model: I'm not ready to give out details of the growth model, but it's definitely more complex than was MOO2's.

Trading for ships: You could make such a trade on a case-by-case basis, but not a continuing one (i.e. it wouldn't automatically trade ships for techs for you; you'd have to do each trade yourself). But yes, you'll have the flexibility to do quite a bit.

The irony of Hasbro (known for buying smaller companies) being bought by Infogrames: It'd only be ironic if it were true. It's just one division of Hasbro (Hasbro Interactive) that got bought by Infogrames, not the whole dang company. As is, it has all the irony of me selling you my old car. (g)

And pursuant to someone else's comments, remember to aim your groundswell at the company that would be picking up the tab for the project, because they're the ones you have to convince in order to get a MOM2...

Fate of the Elerians: They're gone as a playable race. You might want to check out the backstory for more info on what happened to them.

The official list of "ship" and "orbital" type names: Okay, folks...after some kicking around by the design team (and some "executive decisions"*), here are the official type names. You can like them or hate them, but you'll get to live with them.

Ship type
==================
Lancer
Cutter
Corvette
Frigate
Destroyer
Light Cruiser
Cruiser
Battle Cruiser
Battleship
Dreadnought
Titan
Behemoth
Colossus
Leviathan

Orbital type
==================
Defense Sat
Light Defense Platform
Defense Platform
Heavy Defense Platform
Light Orbital Fort
Orbital Fort
Heavy Orbital Fort
Monitor
Heavy Monitor
Battle Fortress
Heavy Battle Fortress
Star Fortress
Heavy Star Fortress
Citadel

A few quick notes:

Harel, your information on ship graphics is slightly dated. There are more than three.

"Ship" types will be used for anything with star or system drives; "Orbital" types for anything else shiplike that's built in space.

There will be 14 types (sizes). I'll spare you all a paraphrased "Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch" routine about it.

(* Anyone wishing to volunteer to be the one executed, please so designate by going into a rant over this post.(eg))

Timed turns: There will also be an option to set time limits on turns, which will be flexible enough to suit most everyone who's willing to be suited.

Ship terminology: This is how WE (QS) are using the terminology. LISTEN UP.

Rating: A means of grouping ships, based primarily on engines present. (Orbital, System, and Starship are ratings.)

Type: Hull type/size. Type names identify hull sizes. Each type name is unique to that hull size. Orbitals use a unique type name list; all other craft use a common ship type name list. There are 14 sizes in each list.

Class: A specific design implementation, with name reusable and decided by the player. Class names are intended to identify like-designed ships. The number of class names is unlimited.

There may be further terms, but that's all we've brought up to this point.

What happens when an empire on one side of a starlane wants to upgrade it, and the empire on the other side wants to downgrade it? (g) This was one of the things I discussed with Alan at the time. Both players will have an effect, it's a matter of who's shovelling money faster (and keep in mind the difference in cost for upgrading and downgrading).

It also means that both sides can COOPERATE to alter the state of the lane.

Fuel: There's a reason that the space travel data dump doesn't mention fuel, and it's that MOO3 isn't going to use that paradigm for limiting space travel. "Fuel range" is a dated concept.

Will it therefore be possible to send a colony ship to a system on the other side of the galaxy at the beginning of the game? It might work in theory, but in practice it would take so long to get there as to be a waste of time and money. You'll probably have better things to do with your resources...

Governmental Revolutions: Your government can and will change in MOO3, according to rules we're defining, and it won't often be voluntary and it certainly won't be along the MOO2/Civ model.

Renaming battleoids: To quote an email I just got from Alan:

"Battleoids" we keep. Tell them Emrich is being a Rantz about it. ;-)

AE

There you have it, sports fans.

Will large empires be too powerful for small empires to be viable? Two items that have been publicly announced as part of the design spring immediately to mind:

IFP - if a small empire and a big one get the same number of IFP, the small empire is going to be able to micromanage a lot more effectively, and should be able to make gains on that basis.

Heavy Foot of Government - larger empires get increasingly bureaucratic and wasteful, making items (ships, defenses, research, etc.) cost more. You can take steps to reduce this, but it's an uphill fight all the way.

How do these sound for balancing elements?

Alan following up: For the record, we have OTHER aspects of the design in place that also help reduce the "Juggernaught Syndrome," not just the two that Stormhound mentioned. We're not discussing all of them right now, but believe me, from the earliest part of the design, this issue has been in the forefront of my mind.

The wheels of the Senate grind slowly and grind small... is that near the mark? Pretty close. You just have to add that said wheels are controlled primarily by the Antarans...er, New Orions (looking around for the Death Squad)

So why join the Senate? Depends...if you're in the Senate, you'll probably have contact with races that you wouldn't otherwise, so there could be some distinct benefits to that contact. It's a tradeoff, and different people will have their own opinions (it should be a close enough to even trade to make it a choice worth weighing carefully).

Option to turn star lanes off: Customization settings will only go so far; they won't change the underlying code. A number of things, most especially your economy, will depend upon the existence and quality of star lanes. We don't have time to write the code and AI both ways, any more than we have time to write code and AI for both real-time and turn-based space combat.

So, even if it's possible to play the game with no star lanes, doing so will badly cripple you in a multitude of ways. It's not just a matter of starship movement taken in isolation...it's a fundamental design element that affects other aspects of the game, sometimes profoundly. The game is being designed around and balanced for star lanes.

That's why you won't see them eliminated from the design. Would you rather we lie to you, and tell you that dissenting opinions on the matter COULD have the effect the dissenters desire? We may be blunt, but at least we're being honest...

 

Kevin Dill, Programmer

Building fleets of one ship type: In MOO and MOO2, this was the winning tactic. We are trying to make it so that in MOO3 that won't be the case. :)

Giving ships more than one mission: I'm not so sure that we need ships to be able to have more than one mission. To me, the mission defines the PRIMARY PURPOSE for which the ship is being designed -- long range attack, planetary bombardment, boarding, troop transport, scout, etc etc etc. Once you have defined that, the AI will add associated systems that it thinks will help with this mission, such as defensive systems. Since ships are placed into task forces, if you need a task force to have multiple capabilities, you give it multiple ships, each of which specializes in its particular capability.

 

Floyd Grubb, Designer

Fighters: Just some notes for you guys. Fighters, Fighter/Bombers, Interceptors, etc are not fully designed yet. Our basic assumption currently, though by no means final, is that fighters are completely designable. There will be a special weapon mount called the 'Fighter Mount' that any standard weapon in the game can be put on. Yes, that means you can have Fighters with Disruptor Bolts, or Fighters with Torpedos. The Fighter Mount will place a limit on the number of shots that weapon has until it must be reloaded. Fighters can be designed with Cloaking Devices, Shields, Heavier Armor (though don't put TOO much on it...it'll never get out of the hangar if you do!), targeting computers and just about any other system you can cram into their hull space. Current thinking (on my part -- haven't discussed this with the rest of the team) is that the LARGEST fighter will be about 50% of the size of the smallest Ship.

How reloading during combat works and what supplemental systems are useful for carrier specific designs have yet to be designed.

 

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