Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Master of Orion
Master of Orion (MOO) is an intergalatic turn-based computer strategy game that was released in 1993. It was published by Microprose and developed by Steve Barcia (Simtex). Its sequels are Master of Orion II and Master of Orion III.
Master of Orion I
Master of Orion was one of the first 4X games in space (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate), coming hot on the heels of the groundbreaking Civilization or the more adventure-like Iron Seed. Originally titled Star Lords, it is still considered by many to be among the best the genre has to offer. The goal of the game is to take over the galaxy through space battles by races who have various special abilities. Economic, diplomatic and martial interests have to be managed and customized in steady competition with up to five computer players (who can show uncanny brains at times). Players get to design their own space fleet from the ground up, which accounts for most of the fun. There are many random events like rebellion, piracy, humonguous space amoeba and diplomatic blunders. The conquest of the most powerful system "Orion" usually means victory.
- In the storyline, the Orions were an ancient race of Progenitors that are rumored to have tampered with the genetic development of younger races, in order to study their own development. They mysteriously disappeared long ago, and none have ever seen an Orion. These races are:
1. Humans, skilled in trade and diplomacy
2. Sakkras, lizardmen skilled in populating planets
3. Mrrshans, catwomen skilled in space combat
4. Alkaris, birdmen skilled in flight maneuverability and speed
5. Bulrathis, Dogmen skilled in hand to hand combat and ground assault
6. Psilons, aliens skilled in technological developments
7. Klackons, Ant-creatures skilled in manual labor
8. Darlocks, mysterious shades skilled in sabotage and espionage
9. Meklars, Robotic creatures skilled in factory and manufacturing advancements
10. Silicoids, crystallized creatures capable of colonizing uninhabitable planets without the aid of technology.
Millennia after the fall of the Orion, the 10 races within the Orion Sector (the region of the galaxy named after Orion) achieve spaceflight and the game follows the various races as they vie for power. The ruins on Orion contain technology that would leave whoever controls it centuries ahead of any other race; however, an automatic Guardian ship defends Orion from any attack. Once this "guardian" is destroyed, the attackers can control the planet of Orion for their own and recover lost technologies such as the death ray and black hole generator.
The player of the game selects one of the ten races and controls their struggle to compete with the other races in a fight for the galaxy.
Master of Orion II
Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares was the first sequel to the original game. Like the original, it was developed by SimTex and published by Microprose in 1996. Among other changes, it added multiplayer gameplay and updated the graphics. One of the most genius concepts of MOO II was the introduction of leaders. Leaders had special abilities that allowed, among other things, better efficiency in production on planets and better ship management such as better attack, defense etc. The sequel also added three races, as well as the ability to make custom races. Each race's proclivities towards certain fields of research were removed, making research more homogeneous. The degree to which the player controlled a planet's agriculture, industry, and research was greatly expanded, allowing the player to construct specific buildings to increase production or to assign individual units of population to other sectors. In 1997, Master of Orion II won the Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1996.
- In Master of Orion II, it is learned that the Orions were not the only ancient Progenitor species to traverse our region of space. The Antarans are the mortal enemies of the Orions. Long ago, a war between the Orions and the evil Antarans raged across space. The Orions won by sealing the Antaran homeworld Antares into a "pocket-dimension". Unfortunately, this act left Hyperspace lanes crippled for hundreds of years, and during this time the Orions mysteriously disappeared. Meanwhile, Master of Orion II assumes that the Human Federation conquered all other races in Master of Orion I, and led a "Pax Humanica" of many thousands of years. However, this empire fell through apathy and decay. As Master of Orion II begins, a new age of rediscovery and exploration begins as the old races, including the humans, reach out to the stars once again to reclaim their glory. At the same time, the Antarans have made breakthroughs in Dimensional Physics which allow them travel to nearly any point in the Orion Sector directly from Antares in the pocket dimension.
The game ends with one race either conquering all others or being elected President of the New Galactic Republic, or by destroying Antares in the legendary Battle of Antares. In Master of Orion II, defeating the Guardian and colonizing Orion will grant the player a new ally: Admiral Loknar, the Last Orion, who had been in suspended animation, joins your fleet. Loknar brings with him his ultra-advanced Orion Battleship, the Avenger. Strangely, Admiral Loknar, the only Orion ever seen, very closely resembles a Human.
Master of Orion III
The long anticipated sequel to MOO2, Master of Orion III further expands the background story and adds some new features. MOO3 was developed by Quicksilver Software and published by Infogrames in 2003.
It is notable for its remarkably open development, whereby fans could vote on certain features and offer suggestions to designers, themselves mostly fans of the first two games. Unfortunately, this was not enough to create a game that lived up to its predecessors. Although highly anticipated and much lauded by some gaming publications, it was only a moderate seller and not the breakout hit that the other games had been. This is generally attributed to an unwieldy interface, poor ship combat, and lack of micromangement or charm. It could be most aptly described as not managing a galactic empire, but managing the bureaucracy of a galactic empire.
In Master of Orion III, the player discovers that what was thought to be Antares in Master of Orion II was really a foward base, "ConJenn". The Antarans "played dead" for 25 years, then returned and after a vicious 25-year war, defeated the races of the Orion Sector and enslaved them.
- However, a thousand years later, the Antarans mysteriously disappear. Only two groups remain: those on Antares itself and those that rule the Orion Sector from Orion. The Antaran overseers on Orion see the writing on the wall and break off contact with Antares. In a fit of arrogance, they declare themselves the "New Orions" (as opposed to the true "Ancient Orions"). Realizing the conquered races might try to rebel, they grant them a new Orion Senate and pretend to be "Enlightened Dicators". Half a dozen races from the previous games challenge them anyway, and these races are beaten into extinction. On Antares, the Antarans try to engineer a living weapon that will defeat the wayward New Orions; the virus-like parasites known as Harvestors. But they escape control and form their own malevolent race: a groups of Harvestors conquered human bodies and became sentient, forming their own spacefaring subrace: the Ithkul.
False rumors also abound about a Legitimate Heir to the Orion Throne, and Five Antaran "X's"—pieces of lost Antaran knowledge that hold the secrets of life, can be found by the player.
- Master of Orion III - Official website
- Star Lords - Download a pre-release version of Master of Orion
- www.moo3.at - Fan site with a lot of modifications for Master of Orion III
- The Orion Sector - Fan site with reviews and links to other sites about Master of Orion III
- FreeOrion - An open-source, platform independent galactic conquest game in the tradition of the Master of Orion games.
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