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 of Magic.

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 more.

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