After having been years in development, Master of Orion III was recently released. While some have shunned the game as too complicated, others can't seem to get enough of it. IMG recently spoke with Rantz Hoseley and Bill Fisher of QuickSilver about Master of Orion III.
IMG: Was it daunting writing a sequel to one of the most loved turn-based games of all time? MoOII left some pretty big shoes to fill.
Rantz Hoseley - Creative Director, QS: I wouldn't say daunting... in any sequel you have to be aware that there are going to be preconceived notions about the game, that people will have their personal parts of the previous games that they cherish and consider to be THE most important thing in defining the game and its sequels, while others just KNOW that __fill in the blank__ should be done differently, because if THAT thing is fixed, then the game will be great. Some sequels as a slow case of remodeling... re-wallpapering the house and a new paint job, whereas other folks want it to be noticibly, radically different. Trying to keep all of those things in mind, while still understanding that no matter what you do, someone is going to be unhappy... that gets challenging at times. You can't have a very fragile ego, that's for sure.
Bill Fisher - Executive Producer and President, QS: As a company, our goal is to develop breakthrough products. We don't want to be making "also-ran" games. That's why we specifically decided not to do RTS games when everyone else did, and why we felt that doing a turn-based strategy game like MOO3 was a good idea despite the fact that many people were saying that turn-based games were dead and that everything was going to be a shooter from now on. When you've been around for 19 years, you start to see the ebb and flow of game styles.
But I digress. We had been looking forward to making a MOO sequel for years before we actually got the project. So had our original producer, Michael Mancuso. So it was more a matter of "it's about time" than anything else. We had a long list of things we wanted to achieve, and we relished the opportunity to break some new ground in strategy game design. We couldn't wait to get started, and we dove into the project with a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm. We had a blast.
IMG: How does MoOIII differ from previous games in the series?
Rantz Hoseley: Primarily in two ways. First the sense of scale and control is really shifted from a micromanagement game to a macro management game. If you try to approach it in the same micromanagement paradigm that the previous two games held, you'll be very frustrated very quickly. Secondly, the real-time combat. This was tricky, mixing real time in with a turn based system, but it works well, and certainly makes Multiplayer much more enjoyable to participate in.
Bill Fisher: My goal in this game was to create an elegant system that allowed you to micromanage where and when you wanted, and let the AI do the rest. We explored a number of ways to do that, and ended up with a system that I'm really happy with. In essence, you've got leaders on each planet who can do as much or as little as you want them to. All you have to do is change a slider and they'll respect your guidance for a while; you need to revisit once in a while to fine-tune, but there are lots of ways to modify their behavior (and we've added a couple of cool new twists in the upcoming code patch). We literally spent years of AI time on this and related areas of the code. AI is one of my biggest interests, and this game provided a chance to really push the limits of what could be done and how well it could be integrated into the user experience.
IMG: Was having Alan Emrich on the team, who also worked on the previous two games, a big help?
Rantz Hoseley: Alan and Tom Hughes definitely brought a large amount of series history with them to the project. In keeping with the idea that you want to balance out the new with the old, their insights and history were very important.
Bill Fisher: I've worked with both Alan and Tom on a number of previous projects. They wrote the Strategy Guide for the first game and were quite familiar with the second one, although they weren't as closely involved in its creation. They had lots of ideas about shaping the game experience and breaking new ground in the genre based on what had been done before. They knew the series far better than anyone here, and that was a key element of the design process.