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Master of Orion (filfre.net)
250 points by doppp 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 159 comments



I used to love Masters of Orion II; I would play as the Psilons, get a ridiculous technological advantage, and produce massive death-star like Dreadnought ships that could vaporize any target or planet in one mega-beam.

The game had a flaw, though. The AI opponents would mass up hundreds of zergling-like very weak ships, and they would EACH get a turn in combat. So my 4 dreadnoughts would wipe 4 of their ships, then 296 enemies would fire individually and miss onto my mega-shields...then they'd be down to 292 after my turn...then 292 misses...and I'd leave the game for 3 hours until the battle finished.


I enjoy taking the opposite approach. Advanced start, impossible, Elerians, or any race with full negative picks plus telepathy. Rush out some cheap ships with no shields and piles of MIRVing nukes. Straight to the silicoid or sakkra (anyone with a good species and weak government), blast their starbase and mind control the colony. Immediately start shipping the population around using freighters, and the impossible difficulty works in your advantage, since you know have a super-species under your control. Properly managed you can outgrow anyone now. Keep the momentum up and steamroll anyone else who you can't be friends with and keep harmless.


That's a great hack of impossible difficulty, love it.


Telepathy is such a broken trait. Mind control is way too powerful, and assimilation way too difficult to have it any other way.


Don't forget the advantage in negotiations, too. It's basically charismatic without the leader recruitment bonus. It also lets you control ships (including star bases) after you capture them, making a battleship full of assault shuttles often enough to take a whole planet. Just the mind control of the planets alone would be worth at least 6 picks, and it's buffed on top of that.

Yet still, many players happily spend 8 picks so they don't have to choose between planetary missile base and automated factories.


That's why you equip your ships with large numbers of missile batteries with the Dauntless Guidance System. Makes it so if 20 missiles fire, but it only 1 is necessary to blow up a ship, the other 19 will find new targets.


I also enjoyed playing as the Psilons. It's probably nostalgia, but there is still stuff I miss from more modern games like Stellaris, that I think MOO2 did right. It was really only the late game that became tedious.

There were tons of way to get cheap wins in the game. I vaguely recall there being tech (possibly from the Orions), that allowed you to cloak your ship. Enemies could not even target you while cloaked. There was another tech that allowed you to get two turns (for each the enemy had). With a single ship, you could attack, then cloak, and avoid all damage.


another cheap trick: in late game after unlocking terraforming & Gaia transformation tech, you could turn any colony into a Gaia world apart from a colony on a toxic planet. But if you had a second colony in the system, you could gift your toxic colony to an opponent, then attack it with a stellar converter equipped fleet, fire the stellar converter to destroy the planet and convert it into an asteroid belt, then get your second colony in the system to start an artificial planet construction project to turn the fresh belt into a terraformable barren world.

It's a bit more Douglas Adams than George Lucas: apologies former citizens, you and your corrosive world needs to be vaporised to work around zoning regulations as part of the empire's galactic terraforming project.

Another fun way to play the early/mid game was to try to advance up the tech tree by scrapping captured higher tech ships. You needed large fleets of disposable ships with lots of room for boarding parties, tractor beams to pin enemies, and if possible weapons with radiation damage to kill the enemy crew before boarding. It was particularly fun and frustrating trying to capture ancient-tech antaran ships in the early/mid game (the game designers were wise enough to equip antaran ships with the quantum detonator tech giving them a very high chance to self destruct nuke their ship's drive when you tried to board them)


I used to do a variation of that in Armada 2525. Neutron stars always had very bad planets. I would put a colony there, drop enough work units to build a self destruct, then blow the planet. Artificial planet, now I had a good planet around the neutron star--and every ship built around a neutron star had double defenses. Once I had one such world I used it for as much of my shipbuilding as possible as the ships would almost never be destroyed. I would then go for the other neutron stars, both to increase my building ability and to keep the AI from building such ships. Once I had them all the game was won.


Hmm, I'd only consider that if the planet at the neutron star was either Tiny or mineral-poor; with full tech, even an IRR Small is better than the TER Tiny created by an artificial planet...


But you could increase the size (admittedly, only one point per turn) of the TER up to maximum, you couldn't an IRR.


IRR Small planets could be extended the same two points per turn as other Small planets.


But the max you could extend them to was much less. So long as you were doing it for the long term blowing it and replacing it was your better approach.


> There was another tech that allowed you to get two turns (for each the enemy had).

Time Warp Facilitator. I installed it on each of my Doom Stars, along with a Stellar Converter that could vaporize pretty much any ship with one shot.

One of my favorite games of all time.


I blame multiplayer: now even games that don't have it are expected to be "balanced". Nothing you can do in a modern game is allowed to be really clever, or else it will be utterly trashed by opinion leaders.


If you pressed "Z" it would autoplay extra fast, making those battles progress at a reasonable speed.


I think I have more than 10,000 hours on MOII. It took me literally years to understand the spy system (without googling it out).

I've won in every possible combination: fully industrial feudals military, super rich charismatic weakling diplo win, techno-antares, custom ship building.

The game has an amazing amount of design flaws for today's standard, but what a game. I think the only rival in complexity and replayability is Heroes of Might & Magic 3, one where I've put in 3x the time and each time I play it I discover something new.


HOMM3 is still a game I'll play from time to time, it's half the reason I made a GOG account (Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games being the second).

I was actually thinking of HOMM as I was reading this thread, although I was thinking about it because of the subthread on AI. The AI in HOMM3 was surprisingly good for it's time, with very few times where I would ever see it 'stuck' or otherwise play in a way that was unfair or overly 'brain dead'.


> The game had a flaw, though.

Yeah, the game (and the original) has a number of flaws that can make winning pretty easy. I've adjusted my play to intentionally avoid them. You can also mitigate the problem by playing on the hardest levels, which lets the enemies cheat shamelessly.

But when I want an easy win in MOO2, what I tend to do is to amass a large enough force that I can start just destroying planets. Because the number of ships you can have depends on the number of planets you have, and the AI is stupid, you can bring even the most overpowered enemy to its knees by avoiding direct fights with their forces and destroying their planets. Each planet that gets destroyed results in multiple enemy ships that go away because they can no longer be supported.

The best way to play either of the MOOs, though, is against real life human players. They aren't stupid.


> You can also mitigate the problem by playing on the hardest levels, which lets the enemies cheat shamelessly.

I honestly despise games that do this. I understand why they do though: writing a difficult AI can be quite hard to do.


Age of Empires 2 is an interesting case where the original versions had cheater AI, and the subsequent re-releases have taken the time to examine competitive meta and create new difficult AI that plays fair based on actually competitive tactics.


Especially in the days when these games came out -- the machines they were built to run on were absurdly under-powered by today's standards. When MOO1 came out in 1993, a high-end desktop PC would have had a single-core 80386 CPU running at a blazing 25MHz, and a whopping 4 megabytes of RAM. DOS was a single-tasking operating system, so at least your program didn't have to share those limited resources[1], but still your entire program had to fit within those constraints. That didn't leave a lot of room for AI.

[1] Well, technically it was a single-tasking operating system, but there were hacks like TSR programs (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminate_and_stay_resident_pr...) that people used to run multiple programs at once. So that was an additional wrinkle you had to deal with.


Despite all our AI advances recently, with AlphaGo and AlphaStar, nobody has yet created an AI that can defeat the best humans in 4X games without cheating, right?

One game I respect is AI War, which fully embraced that AI must cheat and didn't even pretend that the AI played by the same rules. Instead, they gave insight into the rules the AI did play by, and made manipulation of the AI's constraints part of the game.


I actually agree with you, and tend not to play on the hardest levels because it irritates me so. But it is a legitimate option.

My love for MOO and MOO2 is great, but doesn't blind me to the fact that the AI is dismal.


the problem I think is that the cheater AI is unstoppable cheating -- his cheating becomes almost independent of his state within the game (true independence is the behavior of actual cheating), such that your path to victory really ends up being complete and total domination. You can't really apply normal strategies like crippling the opponent by poking the edges, or baiting a fight here and having a small force go around to there, or focusing down the infrastructure over the army itself; there is only the main body, and that's all that matters..

I think cheater AI is probably a perfectly good strategy; its just the implementation is never done that well, and it ends up cheating in a fashion that isn't actually interesting.

Alternatively, the cheater AI could simply be given an aesthetic reason to validate cheating, instead of trying to pretend its a normal player -- eg AI war simply defines the AI as an overwhelming force; so overwhelming that it doesn't actually pay much attention to your activity, and that's the only reason you're not dead (your goal is to continue growing without letting the AI noticing).

Total War and other 4X games generally have you playing where the AI is also generally unintelligent, but feels more fair, because everyone is in various starting states of strength. The cheating AI gets a set of arbitrarily strong units, justified because its simply a strong country 10x the size of yours. And then the amount of blatant, uninteresting, cheating that has to occur is much more limited -- if the AI is not sufficiently challenging, then it's generally simpler to increase his relative size, or resources, or production facilities, or whatever. What the AI does after that, after the game has started, becomes less important, so what cheating occurs becomes negligible from the perspective of the player. A 50% cheating bonus to production time doesn't mean much when he already started with a 500% bonus in resources and production.

Games like MoO and Civ make the mistake of having everyone start at the same state, even when its just you vs the AI(s), because they don't treat the two differently -- there is only one setup, one goal, one victory condition, regardless of the number of human players. That is, they don't admit to the weakness of their AI, and try instead to make up for it "under the hood"; and when you as the player catch this cheating, and it's never that hard to, you feel inexplicably stupid to have ever thought you were playing a fair match, and losing/winning to fair rules. The same as when you catch a human cheating.

Most other 4X games are defined as you vs the AI, and there's little to no multiplayer in the first place, so the idea doesn't trivially translate, but you vs the AI should probably be treated differently than a legitimate multiplayer map anyways -- as a campaign setup or a skirmish map.


I have played a tactical strategy game called tanks of freedom where the enemy was blatantly cheating. Even though the enemy has the same amount of capture points as you do he seemingly has an endless army. What happens is that the fog of war is filled with pre-spawned units which means you are stuck at a choke point feeling helpless but if you play long enough the AI will run out of his starting advantage and suddenly you overwhelm him. The game became more and more grindy the closer you were to the end.


FWIW the point-cost of the "Creative" ability was bumped at least once (maybe twice?) over the course of the patches for MOO 2, so any race with creative is overpowered in the original release (which is what most people played because who downloaded patches in the 90s?)


Yeah, the zerglings were a problem. However (hopefully I'm getting it right, it's been a long time), at max tech with the psilons: Stellar converter x8. Top computer (you need initiative), the tech to increase damage once you burned through their shields, increased hull space, the double shot tech. Note that to fit all this in you have to weaken the defenses, but it doesn't matter. This ship gets 16 shots that hit with full power all the way across the battle map--the zerglings almost never can do meaningful damage from their starting position. If they don't have Antares tech dreadnaughts die with two shots, anything else dies with one. A full Antares-tech design can take 5 hits before dying--but note that you have 16.

In practice a fleet of 8 of these can take on anything the AI will ever field, losses will be extremely rare. Be careful with planets if you want to capture them, it's very easy to kill them by accident.

Once I can build those I didn't even worry about the council.


100% agree. Always loved playing the Darlok and stealing everything (especially you tech researching races).

I always dreamed of recreating this in the browser with an online multiplayer component, but the battle system was always flawed in my opinion.


Agreed re: Darlok. I have the most fun playing with them.


Maybe someone here can help with this. Back in the late 80s in the days of BBSing games of Trade Wars and Tele-Arena... I have a faint recollection of playing an entirely text-based space adventure game with my brother.

The first computer my brother and I ever had access to was a Wang, I have no idea what operating system it ran. I was 6 or 7 at the time. I'm pretty sure that's the machine we used to play this game, as well as our own instance of Trade Wars, when we weren't logged into Argus BBS over the 1200 baud.

OK, so this game we played. It was like a explore and conquer game, there was a list of worlds I think they were named Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc. You could choose to send different types of ships to try to capture and control the various worlds, in which case it would contribute to your overall production. I recall there was a way to send spies as well, that would relay information about what kind of units were present on an enemy territory. I recall it being similar in some ways to Galactic Empire, except it was purely turn based, there was no real time component.

I can't for the life of me remember the name of the game. I'm half convinced I dreamed the whole thing up. Any chance this rings a bell for anyone?


Solar Realms Elite sounds similar, but Amit Patel wrote it in 1990. It was inspired by Space Empire Elite in 1987 (the programmer was 13 years old at the time).

This article has some screenshots: https://breakintochat.com/blog/2016/02/02/jon-radoff-creator...


Thank you! I think it was Space Empire Elite! Or possibly one of the later derivatives.

Man.... now I just have to track down a binary!


https://utopia-game.com/ is in some sense the great great grandchild of SRE. Mehul Patel created it a few years after the BBS scene died.

I'm not exactly advocating it as a game, I played the first six or seven "ages" and was shocked to see that the game still exists, 84 ages and 20 years later.


It doesn't ring a bell, but when I hear about TW2002 I can't help but think back to SRE/BRE, what fun.


Hmm. Maybe VGA Planets? But that game was created only in the early 90s...


This game, along with Master of Magic, Civ 1, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and Dune 2, were the beginnings of strategy gaming for me. It's amazing to see that most of these games have been remade or copied (Stellaris, Age of Wonder, Civ 6, XCOM 2, Star Craft, respectively), and that the genre lives on.


Despite the similar setting, Stellaris is a very very different game, almost a different genre. MOO focuses on almost Risk-style gameplay and combat and does an excellent job at it. Stellaris focuses on roleplay and economy management (and some mid-late game issues prevent it from being great IMHO).

It's telling that Stellaris's combat system offers less control than MOO's and that it has no spying. Another good example is the approach for diplomacy - the latest DLC won't have a UN victory condition like MOO but it will have the ability to issue Resolutions.


See my sibling comment about Stellaris. Please elaborate!

These days I would enjoy a 4X empire building game that focused on the absolutely highest level issues I imagine a ruler of a galactic empire would focus on. That is, managing the empire and maybe space fleets at the highest level, not issuing orders to individual ships or planets. Maybe dropping down to a particular theater of conflict or diplomatic crisis if the situation calls for it. And at the same time, making it enjoyable, of course!

Nothing kills my enjoyment faster than old-school micromanagement. R&D, ship building and handling, resource gathering -- my serfs should be doing that, not me, the emperor. I'm no longer a teenager with lots of spare time :)


Stellaris doesn't have much tech or fleet micro. However, there is a _massive_ amount of planet (or more specifically, population) micro. You have to manually build up each planet and move the extra pops that grow to wherever they are most needed. Once you get to the late game and you have 20-30+ planets the game really becomes a slog to micro and game performance drops a ton. I still love Stellaris despite these flaws, but they are pretty big flaws.


Thanks! Pretty big flaws indeed. Not the game for me then.


Civ 5 (or was it Civ 4?) attempted this by giving you city governors that you could give "general directions" for what to focus on, and then ignore. The workers were also automatable in this way. It works pretty well for casual play, but playing higher difficulties still requires micromanagement. Since you can micromanage, you can zoom in on the nitty gritty as desired.

For a certain kind of self-actualized casual gaming, it might actually work. You have to trust / live with the bad choices of your automatons, yet also remember to tell them when you want to change direction.


The main limitation to the AI governor model, which has been tried in many games to varying success, is that the solver necessary to make them play like an optimal player tends to start encompassing more and more parts of the game mechanics as you add in tricks like "use a worker to rush production" or "plan improvements to coincide with tech advances". The player, likely to be of a controlling or anxious mindset, will reject the idea that these details can be left up to an unaware AI, and given the option to do so they will micro-manage the fun out of the game.

When the game has relatively few options that can be played to a high depth, like Chess, of course, it's easy to write such a competent AI with a brute-force approach. But that's usually not how 4X games are structured: there are a ton of decisions involving overlapping timers and resource bonuses and force committments, and so the top-end strategy revolves around leveraging everything in a just-so way to accelerate growth and minimize losses.

The move towards lower micro and symmetric balancing in newer games has the upside of downplaying much of this; your advantage, where you get one, is much less likely to come from careful micro employed to replicate a 50% advantage in a single scenario hundreds of times, and AI benefits as well. But it also loses some of the charm of weirdly unbalanced 90's strategy.


You summed up more perfectly than I could why the AI governors are really only suitable for a certain kind of casual (relaxed) style of play.


>See my sibling comment about Stellaris. Please elaborate!

Basically, it's a game emphasizing and focusing on roleplay. The early game is absolutely brilliant. But it has way too strict rules and there aren't many meaningful (combat or diplomatic) interactions with the AI past mid-game once you've exhausted most events * .

The war AI is a joke once you've grown enough, and diplomacy offers very few options - maybe the latest DLC will help with that.

So you are left with either slowly conquering the galaxy (because the wargoal system is stupid, I'll get to that), or basically doing very little - diplo is only slightly more fleshed out than MoO, Federations only make sense for some Empires and don't do much yet - and waiting until the Crisis, which is bugged enough that it's no longer that much of a threat.

There are also the drastic performance issues some players have mid-late game, or how the economy revamp (a good idea in theory, tiles needed to go) didn't reduce micromanagement, but arguably increased it. Again, early game Stellaris is awesome, but later... not so much.

---

As for the wargoal system, unless you're playing a genocidal (FP/DE) race which almost removes diplomacy, you're limited to wars with very limited goals with 10-year ceasefires * . There's no way to break those ceasefires, despite it not making any roleplay sense.

By comparison, in MoO sometimes an AI race will attack one of your planets without declaring war, and sometimes I just have to take in the chin, because I'm nowhere near strong enough to fight. At which point I might begin methodically planning revenge while being nice-nice diplomatically.

This is actually something that can also happen the other way around, with the player being the aggressor. AFAIK, there are no fixed rules in the MoO code for that - this is just an emergent property.

Stellaris, despite the large number of fixed events and mechanics can't support that kind of interaction, because the mechanics are implemented way too strictly, and you can't just send out ships without formally declaring war with fixed pre-set goals limited by Influence and if you did have a war, you'd always have the large diplomatic malus with the faction and no good way to try to appease the AI.

* Events are basically fixed storylines choices written by Paradox, where every choice makes a small difference. Compare GalCiv which also had that mechanic, but GalCiv's choices are far less detailed and GalCiv had a moral scale mechanic which wouldn't have been a good fit for Stellaris

* Well, there's the Vasselize-Annex method, which is almost as slow because it costs a lot of Influence.


The 10 year ceasefires are because Paradox likes to make it impossible to take out an enemy in a single war. Each war can only take a bite of a certain size, then you have to wait a while (during which they can rebuild their military) before you take another bite.

In theory it means a loss isn't catastrophic, but in practice if they can beat you once they can beat you again, your only real hope is to find allies--and when you're weak it's unlikely you'll find allies.


This is a great summary of Stellaris, but I have one tiny nit. If you get the Apocalypse DLC you can build a Colossus which gives you a total war war goal that lets you immediately annex conquered systems without spending influence or having to wait for the war to end to gain control of the systems.


I didn't know that. I knew that Cololsi gave wargoals but didn't connect the dots that they are total war goals. Never bothered buying Apocalypse, because it didn't seem to offer that much I cared about. Perhaps that was a mistake on my part.

I should have also mentioned that Stellaris has some DLCs which are de facto mandatory, which is just the way Paradox does things. Utopia is all but officially required. Apoc I guess I should have bought. Leviathans is IMHO very useful too. Not sure if anything else can be called mandatory?


I actually think that Apocalypse is the weakest of the main DLCs. Other than the Cololsi there aren't really any big features in it. Synthetic Dawn is mandatory if you want to play as a machine empire (which are THE meta right now.)

TBH other than Utopia all the "big" Stellaris DLCs have felt rather lackluster to me. I'd much rather have Distant Stars or Ancient Relics or even the Lithoids species pack than Apocalypse or Megacorp. Of course I've bought them all except for the Humaniods pack anyway on sale because I absolutely love Stellaris and have put a massive amount of time into it. Even with all of its flaws and quirks it and KSP are still my favorite PC games.


I love it. To me, the biggest limitation of physical games is that at a certain point (much like real state/warcraft), it becomes impossible to manage the sheer volume of properties and game pieces.

Computers solve this issue and let us expand these grand entertainment fantasies into massive endeavors. I think about this for Civ a lot in particular: There's nothing stopping you from implementing the whole game on paper. But... imagine calculating resource yields for each of your 10 cities on every turn, and then applying them to game pieces, building, etc. Not to mention tracking 6 different victory conditions, and dealing with the geo-politics? It would be really hard and time-consuming.

It further excites me that as computers continue to grow and technologies advance to predictions, quantum, etc., there's a lot of room for games to grow in complexity and increase the amount of 'throughput' a player can push out. When humans have control over things beyond their physical limits, we tend to do some pretty cool stuff!


Agreed.

XCOM (the original) to this day remains one of my favorite turn-based games. How you grew attached to your troopers! The remake is pretty good, too.

How do you find Stellaris, by the way? I'm tempted by it but at the same time these days I simply don't have time for time-consuming, micro-managed 4X games that feel more like work than fun.


> time-consuming, micro-managed 4X games that feel more like work than fun

pretty much covers Stellaris. It might have been salvageable if the world were interesting, but despite all the ways they let you customize your faction I never feel any attachment to them, to say nothing about the AI-controlled factions. Other games may have only a few factions but they all feel genuinely unique and different.


I didn't enjoy Stellaris as much as I remember enjoying MOO. However, the latest version of MOO is just okay. MOO 2 and Ascendancy were by far my favorite. I say this, but that was decades ago. How about yourself?


Haven't tried the new MOO. I remember enjoying MOO and MOO2 back in the day. And of course, Ascendancy! But would I have the patience to play them nowadays? I don't know...


Aside from some simple BASIC, I can attribute the beginning of my development career to being a kid playing with the text-based config files of Civ 1.


I used to use a hex editor to modify my XCom save files to max the stats of my soldiers and my money :)


I've been playing this since 1993 and can't think of any 4X game that is as tight as this in terms of structure and playability. For those that don't know, there is an SDL re-creation that reimplements the underlying engine (you still need the original assets to play of course). https://gitlab.com/KilgoreTroutMaskReplicant/1oom

I've beaten it on impossible with nearly all races although I generally prefer to play with 4 races, medium galaxy on the hard setting.


This is the more active fork of Kilgore's work:

https://gitlab.com/Tapani_/1oom


Hmmm, maybe I'm being dense, but I don't see any exe to run and there are no instructions for compiling it. Am I missing something?

edit: Okay, it's in https://gitlab.com/KilgoreTroutMaskReplicant/1oom/blob/maste... Don't know why that'd be in a separate file, but okay. And they're Linux-only.

At least it seems that the original Kilgore version provides Windows binaries.

https://gitlab.com/KilgoreTroutMaskReplicant/1oom/-/releases


Section 3 of your linked file has instructions for Windows.


Which is cross-compiling from Linux.


Ha, beat me to it!


I should also mention that the developer stopped developing as s/he felt it was feature complete but there is at least one other fork that is still actively being developed (don't have the link handy as I'm traveling).


Space Empires IV is fantastic, easily worth the 10 bucks on GOG or whatever

edit: $2 right now


Playable free at https://archive.org/details/msdos_Master_of_Orion_1993 if, like me, you got halfway through the article before the urge presented itself.


I just bought both MOO I and II as a bundle on GOG for $2.09. Well worth it! (it's on sale from $5.99 at the moment)

https://www.gog.com/game/master_of_orion_1_2


Wow, thanks I think? You probably cost me quite a few hours of time.


you can also get all of them through Steam if you need an easy means to deal with this, they are around two dollars each. Sadly 1 & 2 are not listed compatible with Catalina (Mac OS)


GOG has them, too -- with Linux packaging for us Linux people.


I bought MoO Classic and MoO 2 on GOG.com a while ago. I just tried installing and playing them on macOS Catalina, and I can verify that they work. But the stand-alone installers aren't notarized, so you'll have to approve them manually, or use the GOG Galaxy app.


No 64-bit OS X DOSbox?


Bought the 1+2 package on gog, works on catalina


I loved playing Civ 1. I hear a lot of times people say, oh kids should be taught money management in school. To me, playing a strategy game where you have to manage your own money supply was the best education in this sort of concept. If you save up your resources, you'll be able to do more powerful things in the future, which requires the tough emotional work of foregoing something you want now. But, sometimes that thing you want right now really is important, and you need to think hard about the difference.


But... money doesn't mean much in Civ 1. The first thing you do is cut the tax rate to the bare minimum, often zero, so that you can route all your trade into science instead.

You need to cover the maintenance costs of your buildings, but any surplus that goes into your treasury becomes nearly worthless -- the things you can spend gold on are garbage compared to science / happiness.


Master of Orion was notable in that it was the first game I remember with "meaningful" NPC interactions. Even though interactions were quite limited (make/break alliances, espionage, trade, etc), early alliances could determine the final outcome of the game. But more importantly, it felt emotionally compelling. I found myself getting angry at certain factions when they spied/voted/etc against me. They also took the time to illustrate dispositions IIRC, so you could see when a race was happy or angry with you.


Some twenty years ago, while playing Master of Orion, I asked the Humans to ally with me and go to war against the most powerful race. They replied something like: "Yes, we will be your allies. We fondly remember when you gave us +10 Terraforming."... which had happened scores of turns earlier, when in desperation I bribed them with tech so they wouldn't attack me!


A neat little experiment in meaningful NPC interactions was Siboot[1]. The DOS version is probably available somewhere. It's rock-paper-scissors with a social element. Well worth at least an evening's play. The author has released the mac source-code, but good luck building it. The DOS version is available at various abandonware sites and that's probably the easiest way to play it.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trust_%26_Betrayal:_The_Legacy...


This is just an amazing game.

I still play it quite regularly. I have an old Mac mini in a back room that I keep explicitly for that purpose. When the original machine gave up the ghost, I shelled out a couple of hundred bucks for a "new" obsolete mac mini just to be able to keep playing.

And I will do it again when this one dies. Such a great game. I also play Civ II on this machine occasionally.

Part of the magic is how simple the game play is relative to more modern games.


Don't know if it helps - but it's on Steam, and even behaves on Linux. Hell the emulation is painful enough that even the real waits are part of the game.


If you have the original DOS .EXE, it runs without problems in DOSBox on Linux.


I've played it recently and the waiting times between actions made it put it down. It's incredibly slow to do anything substantial. It could probably be fixed through a speed up button in an emulator, but I didn't go the trouble. As much as it seems like a solid strategy game, there are better modern alternatives. It was nice for the historical perspective though.


MoO was a masterpiece.

MoO II was even better, IMO, with more depth. The ability to create your own race alone is huge.

We don't talk about MoO III.

Then the MoO reboot happened...terrible at release, but it got overhauled at some point and it actually made the game enjoyable.


I appreciate that you acknowledge both as being masterpieces. I've found that the community is bifurcated w.r.t MOO1 vs MOO2 and it's great to see more people that appreciate both.

I haven't managed to get into MOO2 yet but it's on my bucket list for 202x. If it can yield any semblance of the awe I've had for MOO1 then I'm in for a real treat!


I think the best thing about MOO2 by far was the rather memorable audio/music. Especially the unique music they had each time you interacted with another race.


I seriously love them both, but for very different reasons. They're very different games and each requires a totally different approach.


MoO2 has some dramatic improvements (races, leaders, better AI) but also some dramatic drawbacks (planet micromanagement). An MoO1.5 - with the MoO2 improvements but more MoO-style gameplay would have been awesome.


I always found that the planet micromanagement is fun in the early game, but tedious late game when you control 20+ planets and are expanding quickly as you take over enemy planets.


Always dreamt of a mod of the game that'd allow scripting planet and battle micro-management actions in background. Well maybe someone will Frida this thing :-D


I agree with you on MoO II, but was wondering what your thoughts on MoM were?

I actually liked MoM better than MoO II except for the interface, which was intermediate betwen MoO and MoO II. It's also unfortunate it had so many bugs at release, though MoO II has gone through many patches, so it's not immune from that either.


I love Master of Magic. One of my favourite games by far. I loved taking 11 death books and starting with wraiths! Damn, once you summon your first unit of wraiths you could nearly conquer an entire plane! The free undead garrisons they left behind were just the cherry on top!

Then later on you get death knights and it’s all over. They are ridiculously powerful!

Another one I love is to pick Myrran and fill the rest with death books. Start with trolls and work your way up to war trolls. Cast death channel on elite war trolls and you have some truly formidable units!

Or go with halflings and life magic. Cast heroism on slingers and just laugh at the enemy as you pelt the heck out of them!

MoM has millions of different strategies to try and they’re all very interesting!


My favorite is runemaster plus artificer.


Oh yes, with a bunch of life books. Summon Torin and give him a set of overpowered bespoke artifacts to watch him conquer everything, singlehandedly!


Well, can't count on getting Incarnation in a reasonable timeframe when you start with Runemaster + Artificer. But with 5 sorcery books, any mage will do, and some other heroes are also good enough.


Just take out any Nature-heavy opponents quickly; web+cracks-call is a high chance of instant death for any hero.


oh hell yes.. loved MoM.

Flying ships with catapults and invisibility = game winner.


> MoM

I'm assuming this is Master of Magic? Never played it.


Yes, Master of Magic; it's another Simtex 4x game, but with a fantasy setting. Biggest problem is late-game micro; there's less of it that MoO II, but there's also no build-queue (though building combat units will auto-repeat).


Civilization I with spells


This game is extremely great, still influencing game design and space strategy games. Strangely, despite so many years and advances in technology, no other game could quite capture the charm of the great original Master of the Orion.

Ironically, the closest was Master of the Orion 2, which had nice features - I most liked that I could capture enemy population instead of extermination, converting them to be my citizens and creating a diverse empire (long before it was cool!!) - but it kinda lacked the sense of surrounding mystery, great black dread, where the snarks lurk to prey on my tiny empire of three sols....


I totally forgot you'd have the conquered people as citizens...you could also replace your people with robots. I don't think it made sense with every playable race, but certain races that were bad on food or the planet had bad food, you could use robots to improve your bottom line. Eerily familiar...


We once had a three-player hotseat game. I made an industrial-focused race based on humans, second player made a psylon-based race of super scientists... And the third player wiped the floor with us on first contact. He made a race of silicoids who could eat rocks and breeded like crazy. He took all the maluses for strength gravity etc and easily destroyed us through sheer numbers.

So I guess rocks as food and breeding is THE strategy in moo2


Glad the blog goes into the board game antecedents.

Having played a lot of board and computer games, what I'm hoping for these days might be called "Dynamicland, but for games." At present we have to choose between real-world sociality and the power of computing for simulation; why not both? If I can play multiplayer MOO with my grandkids while looking at each other, rather than screens, I'll be happy.


I have seen tabletop gamers do various things with projectors and/or tokens with QR codes to keep track of things on a computer while interacting with things physically. I haven't seen anything that wasn't a one-off to scratch a single-person's itch though.


I played MOO1 for the first time a few years ago, and it's by far my favorite 4x game. The sliders cut down on a lot of busywork present in MOO2 and Civ, the random tech tree is spicy, and the AI is much more interesting than the usual friend-foe modifiers system (major differences are ignoring friend-foe if someone is an easy target, dogpiling the leader, and undeclared early game border disputes).

Highly recommend if you like strategy games and haven't played it. I like it so much that I've tried writing a clone a few times (but the latest attempt got sidetracked and turned into a game about interplanetary rail networks.)


I also like MOO the best because of the lack of busywork. In a way, it feels a lot like a Euro board game, with sliders instead of meeples working the planets. Well, like a Euro except for the glassing your opponents' planets part; genocide is kind of rare in cardboard. But it is possible to play and win without doing that, in most games anyway. And then you're playing a game where if you collect enough "points" from your economic engine -- population from terraforming -- you win the game.

Now can you offer further explanation of this "interplanetary rail" thing? Is it Galaxy Express 999 style?


You decide what resource a planet produces, then hook it up to nearby planets that provide the resources it wants, which expands how far it can send its resource along the network. The network itself is composed of rail lines directly between planets.

Screenshots on my twitter: https://twitter.com/LiterallyOwls/status/1218418806520979456


I always loved Ascendancy (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascendancy, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDeXKf6e46I), which I still play sometimes and still find interesting. It gets a bit boring towards the middle / end of the game though as the AI is not very advanced and easy to beat. Still I found it to be more polished than "Master of Orion".


I loved ascendancy but that game is unfinished. Combat made no sense, the AI was super dumb. But it had potential!


There's an AI patch that makes it somewhat better though. For me most of the joy of the games was in building up a galactic network, so I still enjoyed it very much even with the "dumb" AI.


Master of Orion and Master of Orion II (they are very, very different games) are two of my all-time favorites to this day. I started playing them when they were first released, and they've never left my game rotation.

As it happens, I've been playing the original MOO again for the last couple of weeks!


It was difficult to play MOO for a while due to driver/emulation shenanigans but it got easier again thanks to the emulation community's improvements. Now you can play it in the browser or get it on Steam. Such an amazing game. For the past 20 years I have been using this endgame quote [1] as a quip in casual conversation. My favorite way to play is to build a nuke fleet and wipe out enemy colonies that cross me.

[1] https://www.filfre.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/orion_019....


I loved Moo2 as a child and I played a lot of hours with a friend of mine back in the DOS days - was one of the only hotseat playable games back in the day (and Worms of course).

Later when I became a programmer I was also fascinated by the fact that there were several "community patches" - patches that enhanced gameplay (larger galaxy sizes etc.), added new artwork and such without the availability of the source code - people reverse engineered the game and wrote binary patches that would contribute a lot to overall gameplay. To this day I can't fully understand how they did it - i get the theory, but not what tools they used, and how they got the motivation to do machine level changes to the game. Overall, good memories.


I love this blog, even if it is a little weird at times. Some of the best and most well documented history of video games I've come across.


Define "a little weird" – I've been following Jimmy's other blog, The Analog Antiquarian [1] (and also read a few of the non-gaming focused posts on this blog), and so far nothing "a little weird" has stood out to me. Not refuting you – just curious to know what you mean.

[1]: https://analog-antiquarian.net


Not to put words in OP's mouth, but I'd guess the weirdness is in a couple of things:

1) Jimmy can go deep on some extremely obscure corners of the industry (e.g. interactive fiction movements that maybe only a few dozen academic acolytes are even aware of).

2) The occasional deep tangent. For example, I don't think a month-long mini-biography of Edward Mannock was really necessary to appreciate the Amiga game _Wings_. But then again, I loved that tangent, so it's the kind of weirdness that I can personally embrace. I'm guessing the Analog Antiquarian is going to end up ultimately absorbing that energy anyway.


You've explained it better than I could, although in retrospect I should have included an explanation originally. Esoteric would have been a better word than weird, but I guess my coffee hadn't kicked in yet.


There is a really well-done, faithful-to-the-original but still slightly expanded-upon open source Java clone of MOO1 called Remnants of the Precursors: https://www.reddit.com/r/rotp/comments/eew3hs/guide_to_the_r...

It compiles in IntelliJ and is very fun to play and mod.


https://kilgoretroutmaskreplicant.gitlab.io/plain-html/ is an exact replica of the original Master of Orion engine, and requires original game data to be played.


Space Empires I. II and III should be mentioned, IMO. Great games. Edit: and especially Space Empires IV


III was the first 4X that I got way way too into. Really great "arcadey" experience that lets you focus on blowing shit up and not resource management as much.

IV is probably the apex of the series, much deeper and more complex. That's when you shift from 1 resource to 3. Ship combat has more depth as well.

I think V got a little too into the graphics and missed the mark on the mechanics, although the weapon mount system is pretty interesting.

edit: SE4 is currently $2 on GOG


It's too bad that SE3 isn't sold anywhere. It still works fine on Win10, provided that you can get past installing it (which can be tricky, because the installer is a 16-bit Windows app!).


Maybe it's on the Internet Archive somewhere?

I'll set up an XP VM and extract it and upload it. It's shareware, so I don't see the problem with repackaging it and distributing it unaltered. I thought I might have a copy where I'd done that but I guess not. edit: from https://archive.org/details/SpaceEmpire to https://www.dropbox.com/s/rac1gouedkjqxve/se3.7z?dl=0

To be honest - I think the shareware game actually has better play than the full version. Having a fairly shallow tech tree, limited to light cruiser sized ships and no super OP weapons, without any of the stellar manipulation or planetbase/battlecruiser tier endgame ships is actually a pretty fun ruleset for casual play. It's a more arcadey game than SE4 (with just one "construction point" instead of 3 materials) and cruising around with big fleets having pew pew battles of massive task groups and crushing each other's planets really suits it well.

I dunno if the guy who wrote it is still attached to it at all. Apparently Strategy First bought Malfador in 2006?

Erm, confession time. This was one of the first games I ever ""cracked"", in a stunning triumph of sysadminery for 8 year old me or whatever. Malfador originally used the "send me a check in the mail" business model. then it suddenly popped up on a publisher's site - called Crystal Interactive or similar. They offered a "30 day free trial" that (in hindsight, surprisingly) actually worked and installed a legit key, then presumably was going to pull it when the trial expired. I pinned down where it was writing the key with registry editor and exported the key, then just used it with the normal game. I actually found that og .reg file a few months ago, it is probably the single earliest file that I've got saved.

(I also learned to use the "Executor by ARDI" macos 7 emulator so I could play escape velocity by Ambrosia Software on my windows PC. Executor had a 30 day trial... but you could delete the registry key and reinstall and use it forever. hackerman! )

(Executor is actually a very interesting "hybrid emulator" that attempted to replace the MacOS rom/mac toolkit with a windows native reimplmentation in native C and is now open source if you'd like to take a look - https://github.com/ctm/executor )

To this day I don't know if Crystal Interactive was legit or not - was that a legit indie publisher providing a framework for licensing and CC services (a not-trivial burden in the years before Steam) or did they pirate these games themselves and resell them? The registration had the legitimate username "REGISTERED USER", and they disappeared into the ether very rapidly, like within 6 months every trace of them on the internet was gone.

I'd gladly buy a copy, but I don't think there's a way to get it anymore either. I thiiiink you might be able to track down a copy of the Space Empires Collection disc? That one was registered out of the box.

Malfador eventually ended up with Strategy First, who was a legit indie publisher and sold their stuff for a lot of years. Again, it looks like Strategy First bought them in 2006, but he continued developing more stuff after that.

Space Empires Starfury is actually an interesting Escape Velocity/Starfleet Command kind of crossover. It is the tactical mode for SE V turned into an open world game. From what I remember it plays better than the actual SE V. Again, weapon mounts are cool, the actual gameplay sucks and is way too slow. Even SE 4 really needs a "move ships faster" mode. https://archive.org/details/SpaceEmpiresStarfury

FYI if anyone else ever played Warlords 3: Darklords Rising, that game is now available on GOG too.

Also while I was looking on Archive I found this Turkish clone (lol) of SE3 from 2003 with an Apple II aesthetic? Crazy. https://archive.org/details/MiniSpaceEmpires


oops got my numbers wrong. Like you, I actually started on III, but played IV extensively, for maybe hundreds of hours...and loved all the modding, AI improvements, etc. I still play it on occasion. I couldn't get into V though.


It took me forever to read this article. Because I got distracted when the article mentioned VGA Planets still existed and was actively maintained. That game was incredible back in the BBS days. Delightful to find a memory like that lives on.


One thing I find odd about the Space 4x genre is that it remains popular and new games or expansions for existing ones come out fairly regularly but there hasn't been a genuine hit in it, seemingly since MOO II or so.


I would agree with you that there hasn't been a genuine hit since MOO 2. I would say, however, that one game, Distant Worlds: Universe, was a huge leap forward in redefining what's possible in the 4x genre (i.e. deep and immersive gameplay in a real-time context). Most of the other 4x games since 1996 have been a variation on the gameplay mechanics of MOO 2.

DW:U is the only 4x game that I would unequivocally say is as good as the original MOO2.


Real time sucks, but I'll have to at least check it out.


Oh that's one I haven't tried, which I should, if for no other reason than to improve my 'complaining about space 4x games' meta-game.


Stellaris? Endless Space? Galactic Civilizations?

It's a bit niche next to Civilization, or Battle-Royale-FPS-of-the-week, but it's not quite at the level of flight simulators.


None of these have been genuine hits, really. They are not terrible (well, maybe some of the GalCivs have been near-terrible). I don't see anybody ever writing the sort of retrospective on any of them as the one on MOO in this article.


The space opera setting hit a sweet spot in terms of complexity/depth at that time: strategy game world models had to be quite simple back then and space aliens were an ideal setting for allowing the player to fill the gaps with imagination. While historical setting always have a sore spot were the necessary simplifications cause a mismatch with reality, in a sci fi setting whatever the game rules are saying is canonical world building. If a garrisoned spaceship equivalent of a phalanx unit can occasionally kill the spaceship equivalent of a bombarding stealth bomber, then that's the unquestioned reality of that world.

But today we can have much deeper, more detailed world models. CK2 is awesome because it populates a simple civ-world of obtainable and upgradeable cities with thousands of simulated courtiers to meaningfully interact with, EU4 because it so carefully maps out all the socioeconomic forces that shaped the world when political interactions first started to become truly global.

If you add similar details to a sci-fi setting it just feels arbitrarily burdensome. There's no way you could connect with, say of a dozen of fungoid admirals in the way you connect with a Hanoverian Capet general who learned to respect eastern religions on an aborted crusade and is now wed to a close relative of a recently ousted Czar. A similar amount of details added to a generic space alien would have zero upside, you could just as well name the stats A through Z.

The rare exception was Alpha Centauri whose designer apparently understood that problem and focused on world building content instead of trying to out-4X all earlier 4Xs.

What I could imagine to also work in a generic 4X space setting is a game that makes ship designs the main characters in the spotlight: don't just have that customary complex ship editor, give the individual designs an identity by accumulating RPG-like bonuses over time so that an outdated but properly "leveled-up" design can remain a viable option over more modern contenders. You might want to keep those space-B52s flying when generations of experience make the damage control teams so much more effective, production lines run at 10x efficiency and all your modern gun batteries have been tailored to the confines of its surprisingly versatile weapons bay anyways. SMAC already had prototype cost, but that was seriously lacking flavor. Stellaris has the occasional event driven per ship bonus (iirc?) but that's too micro to be engaging. Blueprints for a series of ships could be just the right level of granularity.


> There's no way you could connect with, say of a dozen of fungoid admirals in the way you connect with a Hanoverian Capet general who learned to respect eastern religions on an aborted crusade and is now wed to a close relative of a recently ousted Czar.

Which is where the licenses tie-in, less as officially sanctioned and more as popular user mods! Set your 4X in the world of Dune! Or of Warhammer 40,000! Star Wars, Trek, Battlestar Galactica! Babylon Five! And so forth.

> give the individual designs an identity by accumulating RPG-like bonuses over time so that an outdated but properly "leveled-up" design can remain a viable option over more modern contenders

I'm pretty sure everything from the recent Civs back to the original Starcraft tracked unit advancement. But usually it doesn't translate to RPG levels of immersion. I think Starships Unlimited, an early 2000s indie space 4X, did this fairly well.


> Set your 4X in the world of Dune! Or of Warhammer 40,000! Star Wars, Trek, Battlestar Galactica! Babylon Five! And so forth.

Most of those depict a single conflict, hardly a match for the 4X playbook.

> I'm pretty sure everything from the recent Civs back to the original Starcraft tracked unit advancement.

And in some of the Civs (4 or 5) it was so powerful that some of the modern units were comparatively worthless unless they had "skills" that they could only get by inheritance on the individual unit upgrade path. You'd have a clear separation between core units nurtured through the ages all the way from antiquity and gunfodder whose job was to keep the core units alive. That was all rule-gamey and zero flavor. Also too micro in my opinion and single units are still not important enough to be considered protagonists of the story.

Space 4X already come with a ship designer ever since the original MOO. But it's often just busywork to illustrate the tech progress a little. I think that this is a place that could be extended without feeling pointlessly micro or suffer from faceless genericity, if done right: so research has discovered positron phaser torpedo projectors (aka random generic technobabble). The technology apparently has an efficiency sweet spot at 50m bore length. Should the development branch design a new hull around those dimensions or do we create a less efficient module that fits our venerable, cheap Bounty-class frigate that gives crews +10 morale because of that popular holovid show set aboard the lead ship of the class? (aka random flavor event hull class bonus). And all the specialty role ships that have been derived from that hull? It would be an interesting game mechanic because you can't fall into a default pattern like "always go for the biggest, longest range weapons and avoid battles where the enemy might come into close range": even the most module-conservative player would occasionally have to cut compatibility introduce a fully new generation. An echo chamber, where the player is mostly interacting with consequences of her own decisions. Decisions that are not necessarily better or worse in terms of running but that are meaningful because they shape your future options. That's what I expect from all games that aren't just about eye candy or reaction time. I like the idea better the more I think about it.

This could actually be a very nice Stellaris DLC, a boatload of chance event microcontent and a total overhaul of a game mechanic that can be rewritten in total isolation of the others. If only Paradox were into making DLC! (just kidding there of course)


Among the list I've mentioned, only Star Wars and BSG have only two major sides fighting. All of the other ones have a plethora of factions.


"user-controlled unit design is too damn hard" is an interesting critique of 4x games that mostly applies to space ones. It seems more plausible than 'space is just not relatable' (Starcraft was way more popular than Age of Empires) and the other comment downthread that tries to make the case that the topologies of spacey-games are somehow different from other ones.


> "user-controlled unit design is too damn hard"

Hasn't really hurt Battletech over 35 years of endless game releases over various media. But that's not a 4x setting, and neither is Starcraft. In my happy Moo2 treats, the duo of unit design and turn based tactical battles was the one thing that made anything relatable, the tech tree in this case.


It was your idea! Plus, give that there's never been a hit Battletech game it seems to hold up quite nicely.


Master of Orion is also nearly 30 years old. Stellaris, at least, I expect will be a going concern for another ten years, just because that is how Paradox does things, and they have their die-hard fans.

Master of Orion, if I am being honest, feels like it has had much greater legs as a piece of abandonware and through re-release than it ever did in the initial run. I never even heard of it until many years later, when I found homeoftheunderdogs and abandonia because my computer was too old for what was then available in the bargain bin at Walmart.


I don't think that's really true for MOO, the article mentions how it was responsible for popularizing the term '4x' itself. Either way, I think the question remains as to why this seemingly still-popular genre hasn't really had a big hit. XCOM has had a fairly recent revival, Civ games are still a big deal, etc. 4x in space, though, somehow defies the rule that adding 'in space' to anything makes it better.


> 4x in space, though, somehow defies the rule that adding 'in space' to anything makes it better.

A 4x game on land automatically has to represent terrain. That immediately brings our intuitive associations to the fore: mountains are impassable, hills are good for mining and defense, and you need ships to cross water.

A 4x game "in space" has to do without native terrain, and certainly without terrain that is automatically intuitive. The Plasma Storm Nebula is a creation (or not) out of whole cloth, with no natural rules beyond what the game designers impart.

That's a more complicated design space, and at the same time it's not immediately, emotionally engaging for the player in the same way that playing on Earth is.


Stellaris is truly excellent, I think. It's not turn-based, but otherwise it's the closest thing to a MOO2 successor I've ever played.

It does a lot to capture the magic of exploring space as a growing empire, especially through the special encounters and branching scenarios which go to some pretty wild places. I also love the huge variety of gameplay experiences offered depending on the attributes of the species you choose to play as.


Stellaris is a decent enough game but I don't think the comparison to MOO2 is particularly apt. Right in this thread you can read people talking about MOO2's quirks and deficiencies or the fact that they still play it - this, to me, says something about the strength of its design. Stellaris, conversely, doesn't even have a static core design - the game changes drastically with every expansion. It's more of a sequence of related games, some better than others, using the same engine.


You can argue specific strengths and weaknesses, but Stellaris is, by any financial or sales metric, an A-list hit.


I'm not really seeing it, by the metric of sales. From its wikipedia page:

"Less than 24 hours after release [...] Stellaris had sold over 200,000 units On 21 June 2016, it was announced that the game had sold over 500,000 units"

Compare this to, say, Divinity 2, a popular-but-not-A-list-hit game which sold a million copies in a similar time period.

XCOM-2 sold half a million copies on Steam alone in its first week.


Stellaris is a game with long term appeal, its sales didn't drop off that quick.

https://www.paradoxinteractive.com/en/stellaris-celebrates-o...


Does everyone agree with me here that the modern remake missed the mark?

http://masteroforion.com/news/legend-reborn


You should take a look at Dominus Galaxia—it hews much closer to the original Master of Orion philosophy while having some nice bits of modernization.

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1173590/Dominus_Galaxia_K...


It was a remake of MOO2, not MOO 1. And yes it was terrible.

Remakes (or games very similar to MOO 1) are Dominus Galaxia and Remnants of the Precursors.


> It was a remake of MOO2, not MOO 1. And yes it was terrible.

Have you played it recently, or just at launch? At some point, they did a pretty big overhaul and made a lot of improvements.

I still prefer Stellaris because it has more depth, but MOO is certainly playable.


I remember being SO excited for MOO reboot, then it ended up being terribly disappointing.

I went back to Stellaris after about 2 hours with new MOO.


I don't get Stellaris. I played it 10 hours waiting for the game to start.


+1, played when I was a kid, picked it up again a few months ago for nostalgia, I must say it holds up really well. It’s feels well-constructed, put together from simple concepts/components, in a way that makes it quite replayable. Many decisions have big-ish consequences, and there is not too much micro managing, unless you play really big galaxy and want to exterminate everyone. Very tight UI as well for the era. I like it much better than Moo2. I only wonder what would have to be different if there was multiplayer.


Anyone else later transition to the heavily moddable 4X Space Empire IV?


I played SEIV for years, and it was a wonderful game. I even built a "Play by Web" system that allowed remote turn based multiplayer for it via e-mail and web that lived for years, even after I handed it off to others to continue. What a great game.


Some UIs from back in that era hold up really well, in my opinion. From the article, check out this UI: https://www.filfre.net/2020/01/master-of-orion/orion_013/

It also reminds me of the original X-COM UFO Defense UI, which I think also holds up incredibly well decades later.


Ah, Master of Orion!

I had a ritual when I was 13 or so: when I got home on the last day of school before vacation, I would play Master of Orion nonstop until 3 or 4 am.

I still enjoy this game and play it a few times every couple of years.


The first MoO is superior compared to the second. You can terraform your planets from useless 25M population to 200M gaia planets. The fleet limit in MoO II was so annoying.


What is the best semi-modern moo type game for someone who hasn't played the orginal but would probably enjoy it.


Btw, in the late 1990s, Russian sci-fi writer Sergey Lukianenko had written two novels ("Line of dreams", "Emperors of illusions" [1]) set in MOO universe, which are quite entertaining.

Too bad he had turned a fascist and Putin's fanboy who viciously supports Crimea annexation and war with the Ukraine...

[1]: https://ru.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9B%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%...




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