Master of Orion Consultants - part I


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Master of Orion Consultants - part I

Alex: Hello, first of all, it's great to have you all on board with us as the consultants for the project. We, of course, know who you are. But to start off could you tell all the Archon fans who you are and whether you have a connection to Master of Orion?

Jason: Hi my name is Jason Matthews, and I am a board game designer from the United States. My most famous game design is Twilight Struggle which topped the Board Game Geek ratings for many years. My only connection to Masters of Orion is as a fan. I’ve played the game since its first iteration in the 1990s. 

Lee: My name is Lee Stephen, and I'm the author of a science-fiction series called Destiny's Edge [formerly called Epic]. I partnered with Wargaming during the development of MOO: Conquer the Stars to write fiction set in the MOO universe—some in novel format and some that appeared in the game itself.

Michael: I am Michael Buonagurio and am a former senior manager for based out of the Austin, Texas studio. My team was responsible for expanding on the background history of MOO to help with development, writing short stories and game mechanic articles for the player base, and in writing the player's guide. I personally play-tested every race to game end multiple times for bugs, continuity, and a general "feel" of the game. All told by last count I had over 4000 hours in MOO from pre-Alpha to post-release. 

And what is your experience with games in general? Are you all avid board gamers, or do you prefer different types of games in your free time?

Lee: I'm an avid gamer, primarily for video games but I do enjoy delving into board games as much as my schedule allows. I particularly enjoy cooperative games, though I like any kind of game that sucks me into the universe it takes place in.

Michael: I played, as most did, a lot of video games over the years starting with Pong in the mid-70s. Board games have always been my main love. I grew up with Avalon Hill, SPI, Steve Jackson Games and similar. I currently have over 500 board games, play some games every weekend, and go to three or four board game only conventions a year. My wife sighs heavily when another 25 pound box with a Kickstarter game arrives every few weeks! LOL

I can imagine that. And you, Jason?

Jason: I am a very avid board gamer. I have over 900 games. Most of my game designs are historical simulations but I play all sorts of games from party and family games to heavy Euros to wargames.

Speaking of history, there are quite a lot of interesting facts when we talk about Master of Orion, apart from it belonging to the 4X genre of strategy games. How in your opinion does Master of Orion fit into this category, and is there something special about it that sets it apart from others?

Jason: Master of Orion really is one of the founding experiences for most people in this genre. The gameplay was elegant, and most importantly, it is very asymmetrical. As you develop the advantages of your species, and you make important choices on the tech tree, you end up comparing your values and decisions against other players' very different values and decisions. And in that way, you get fully immersed in another world.

Michael: MOO has a lineage that can be traced back to early board games such as Stellar Conquest and video games such as Sid Meier's Civilization. MOO 1 was the culmination of the 4X experience in the 1990s with its depth while maintaining relatively simple gameplay. I believe what sets it apart is the theme (who does not want to claim the universe?), an actual underlying storyline, races with different strengths and weaknesses, but most off all the innate puzzle of how to win using what is available even if one were dealt a bad hand. 

Lee:  For me, the thing that has always set MOO apart is its charm. No other 4X space game has been able to replicate that, and they've been trying for decades. The different races are just so cool and different. Any kind of player can find one that works for their playstyle.

True, this game has its own charm hard to find in anything else. Now that people know who you are and your perspectives on Master of Orion, let’s get to the juicy questions the fans are waiting for. Let’s start with an easy one. I hope. What is your favorite faction and why?

Lee: There are definitely a handful that I favor, such as the Humans, Darlok, and Klackon. If I had to pick an overall favorite, though, I'd have to go with the Elerians. Their telepathic abilities are so hard to pass up. Being able to start the game seeing everything that's out there is just such an advantage. Their mind-control ability might be my favorite in the game! As someone who hates building troop transports, I really appreciate it.

Jason: I have a soft spot for the Meklar. They remind me of the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica, and who doesn't want to crush illogical organic life forms?

Agreed, I also love this race in both the board game and computer game versions.

Michael: I have two—I love reptiles so Sakkra is a no brainer! I used to have a collection of venomous snakes and in particular raised cobras. An inside fact is that when the races were being reimagined the Sakkra emperor went through a lot of designs. The one in the game eventually was based off my bearded dragon, Corky.

Silicoids are the other. For me, it is one of the most challenging races to play. The low population growth makes everything harder to accomplish. They do have advantages of course but a win with the Silicoids is usually in doubt until the last few turns.

Interesting. None of you mentioned the same race. Seems like everyone can find something they like within MOO. Continuing on the same topic, is there any faction that you dislike playing as… or maybe playing against?

Jason: I really dislike encountering the Bulrathi early in the game. It meant whatever strategy I WAS pursuing, its time to get the weapons ready.

Michael: The Alkari and Darlok I hate playing against. The Alkari are just brutes in space combat with their racial abilities combined with flooding the field with a lot of cheap ships. I have been steamrolled by the Alkari early game more times than I can remember. 

The Darloks—I usually know they are around when my leaders start getting assassinated, my planets revolt, and my research is sabotaged. I then have to do a crash program of security tech and counter-intelligence spies to blunt them. I prefer straight up battles and not daggers in the dark. 

I dislike the Trilarians. Not sure why but they just rub me wrong. In playtesting, I remained neutral yet always had an underlying annoyance for this race.

Lee: I've never been a huge fan of the Gnolam—their play style just doesn't do anything for me. So far as a species I hate playing against, probably the Psilon. I always feel compelled to jump into a war with them as quickly as possible just to avoid their technology steamrolling me later on...and the result of that war is usually me getting steamrolled! So yeah, I know they're supposed to be pacifists and all, but I want them all dead!

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