Alan Emrich interview
by Mark Asher
Master of Orion is one of those
special games that occupies a space on that "top shelf"
of any strategy gamer. Some fans like the streamlined gameplay
of the first game, while others prefer the added depth of
Master of Orion 2. Few will dispute that these Simtex and
Microprose classics represent two of the finest of the 4X
space empire games that have ever been produced. So it was
exciting enough to hear that Hasbro Interactive had given
the green light to a third game in the series. Even more exciting
was the news that Quicksilver's Alan Emrich is one of the
principal designers of this upcoming third installment.
Alan has long been involved with
the gaming scene. He started off playing the old board game
classics from Avalon Hill and SPI, as probably a lot of us
did. An avid fan, he began playing computer games and worked
his way up to being an editor for Computer Gaming World magazine.
While doing that he wrote some of the best strategy guides
ever produced, mammoth tomes for Master of Orion and Master
From writing about games, Alan
made the leap to creating them, accepting a position at Interplay.
Now several years later, he’s working on Master of Orion 3.
Alan was kind enough to give us some in-depth answers about
some of the design goals of Master of Orion 3. (Note: Portions
of this material originally appeared in a Game Spin column
that ran on CNET's Gamecenter. This is a complete and much
longer version of that interview.)
How does it feel to work on
such a classic license?
Good. It’s a big responsibility,
but we sure plan to deliver the goods.
Working on a game with this big
a license has taught me what Santa Claus and The President
of the United States must feel like. Like Santa Claus, I keep
receiving nice emails with wish list, after wish list, after
wish list. Like the President, I keep getting threats of the
"if you do/don’t do this, I’ll…" variety. It reminds
me of the old Latin Proverb: "God cannot please everyone,
either by making it rain or stopping it."
So, we’ll just do what Sid Meier
would do. Make a game we enjoy and hope that there’s lots
of others like us out there.
What kind of game is MOO3?
MOO3 is a game for builders;
it’s also a game for diplomats. Politicians will also love
MOO3. Sociologists will find it fascinating, as will
Political Scientists and even Economists. It will help to
be a cunning spymaster as well as an able Fleet Admiral. Engineers
and scientists will continue to enjoy the Master of Orion
series in this game. All of those careers are important
to a civilization. MOO3 is designed to be a many-faceted
gem, and we’re trying to make sure that each gets to shine.
And at the heart of this gem is the story of the Orion star
cluster, that begins with a mystery, unleashes a renaissance,
and ends with… well, there are several possible endings…
What elements are being added
to MOO3 that weren’t in the previous 2 games?
Lots. Every system has received
a complete design overhaul. Each sports more depth, although
most are actually easier to play.
Take for example, politics. It’s
slated to be a three-ring circus. In the first ring, you have
inter-civilization politics. This works similarly to MOO2,
but with several enhanced diplomatic options and a lot more
opportunity for political "horse trading." In the
center ring, you have the Orion Senate politics. This has
been completely fleshed out. At the Orion Senate, bills can
be put forward to actually change the rules of the game that
player’s must abide by. (Well, they can violate the
rules, but the Orion Senate has teeth and can enforce the
Lex Galactica.) In the third ring, you have domestic
politics. At a glance, you can see who the empowered factions
are within your government, to what degree they support or
oppose the current regime, and so forth. Other new elements
include religions, treachery, a new approach to Events, and
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