Master of Orion was a 4X strategy game before the term even existed. Created by Microprose in 1993, it gained great reviews and a large following, prompting two sequels and framework for the future of the strategy genre.
So when Wargaming.net acquired the rights to the game in an auction of Atari assets in 2013, fans of the series were a bit confused, given the nature of the World of Tanks developer's current stable of games.
"There was fierce competition," said Wargaming CEO Victor Kislyi, "It was expensive, but we got it. And we wouldn't have made the bid if we didn't have clear goals for it. We wanted a nostalgic feel to it. We wanted to bring back the legend."
NGD Studios in Argentina will be developing the game, but Kislyi said that many members from the original team, including the art director and music composer, are back to bring the game's vision to the present. "We are asking them that knowing what they know now, would they have done things any differently."
Along those lines, though, Wargaming is going against it's traditional business model to keep MoO accessible. "This will not be a free-to-play game and there will be no microtransactions," he said. "We want to preserve the legend and spirit as much as possible."
That doesn't mean there won't be changes, though. Kislyi said that a lot has been learned about 4X gameplay over the years. "We want to take the best pieces of the original game and make it look and play better. We are also addressing issues with all 4X games, as well as combining elements from Master of Orion 1, 2 and 3. It's about common sense and creating things that the predecessors might not have been able to do because of technology."
In the demo we saw of the game, the graphics are indeed beautiful. There are hints of Civilization: Beyond Earth and Galactic Civilizations III in there, but as Kislyi said, positive innovations are good for the game. Among some of the other improvements and changes:
- Changes to a planet can be seen on a closeup of the world when you enter orbit;
- Two new victory condition have been added: Technology and Excellence;
- Each of the 10 race leaders will have more than 100 lines of professionally voice acted dialogue;
- Colonizations will have their own cutscenes based on the type of the ship and the world settled;
- Each race will have it's own introductory video and ship types.
Kislyi, who used Civilization as his MBA, fully believes that a good 4x strategy game can be educational. "I want my kids to play Master of Orion to make them smarter. Learning economy and how to manage a civilization will do that for you."
No release date has been set for the game, mainly because the game is not one of Wargaming's tentpole franchises that needs to have a deadline. "We can afford to make this perfect," Kislyi said. "Everyone working on the project is a fan of the original, and we aren't going to live or die with this project. It needs to be polished and fantastic."