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Starbase Orion: Master of Orion 2 with Better Multiplayer for iOS

By on April 19th, 2011 7:38 pm

I will never forget a sentence said by a 4x sci-fi strategy gamer one day (in the Galactic Civilizations forums, zigzag was his name) that described what he wanted to see next (and play next) in terms of 4x sci-fi gaming. He said something like this “Really, I just want Master of Orion 2 with better AI, graphics and LAN support“.

I knew what he meant by then, but I found it a bit retro to always mention MOO2, especially in terms of future games. The more time passes the more I see the truth of his sentence.

I’m running a poll this month to assess if this is how people feel in general. I’m interested to know what do you guys think. I’m a MOO2 fan(natic), I would love to see a new sequel come to life. But this is a topic for another time, now it’s time to present Starbase Orion. You’ll see why I brought MOO2 up.

Starbase Orion

Two days ago (17th April 2011) Chimera Software, an independent publishing software company headquartered in Atlanta GA, announced Starbase Orion, a 4X Turn-Based Space Strategy game for the iOS device family (iPad, IPhone, iPod Touch).

I knew about Starbase Orion because Chimera announced their press release on the Space Sector’s forums (if you have your sci-fi strategy game project this is a good place to spread the word).

Master of Orion 2 … With Better Multiplayer

According to Chimera’s Vision statement, Starbase Orion will “retain the classic turn-based gameplay of Master of Orion 2 while embracing the simplicity and multiplayer experience of Warcraft III”. They explain in detail what they mean by that in their vision statement.

Chimera’s Software says that “(their) biggest disappointment with Master of Orion II is the multiplayer support (…) the hassle and time commitment you need to share the game experience with others is substantial“.

Chimera wants to improve the multiplayer experience of 4x Sci-fi TBS games by “make it dead simple to find other people to play with, matches lasting 30-60 minutes. Long enough to have some great battles, yet short enough to get one or two in before bedtime“.

This sounds pretty good to me, let’s see how they pull it of.

Starbase Orion Main Features

Taken from Chimera’s Software Press Release.

  • Customizable Races: Choose from one of five existing races to play, or make you own by picking and choosing from a variety of race attributes.
  • Customizable Ships: Starbase Orion includes a complete ship designer which allows you to design your ship weapons and systems.
  • Premiere PvP Experience: Most space strategy games take hours, days, even months to play to completion. Starbase Orion is designed to provide a complete and engaging multiplayer strategy experience in a single sitting. Finding a worthy opponent is quick and easy with automated game matching.
  • Battle-hardened AI: We battle tested the fleet management AI for Starbase Orion in the Google AI Challenge 2010. Our AI ranked of 698 among thousands of competing bots; it has played hundreds of matches and is ready to give Starbase Orion players a challenge.
  • Built for iOS: Universal Binary, Retina Display, Multitasking, GameCenter, OpenFeint.
    To learn more about Starbase Orion, please visit:

Customizable races is there, so is customizable ships. These are two very important features. Good job guys!

The Races

Starbase Orion will feature 5 races. Here is a short introduction. For the details check the SO official races page.

The Isather have the love for battle, they are aggressive and expansionists.

The Vass are an ethereal race,  a collective. They gain bonuses if they have greater population numbers.

The Cyban are great researchers but are not that charismatic.

The Drask have a natural affinity for aeronautics, they are great fighter pilots.

The Humans are crafty, charismatic, and highly trained smugglers.

Some Screenshots

(click to enlarge)

Final Notes

It’s good to see new games coming out for iOS (Apple iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch family of devices). It’s a sign of vitality of the genre, that individuals and companies are willing to invest also in new paths (technological and markets).

It’s also good to see that the community is interested in taking the MOO2 concept and evolve it. Take what is good about it and improve what was not so good about it.

Chimera Software stated that Starbase Orion will be available for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, and that the release date is this Summer.

Well zigzag, MOO2 with better LAN support seems to be under way, let’s hope AI is also as good as Chimera promises it to be. Regarding graphics, well, we’ll probably have to wait a bit more on that one :)

I’m really looking forward for Starbase Orion. This range of new 4x games coming out for Apple (Ascendancy, Empire of the Eclipse and now Starbase Orion) mean that probably it is time to buy one iOS device, probably an iPad :) Well, you know where to donate don’t you :razz:

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22 Comments


  1. Elmer says:

    Well I first fell in love with this genre of games when I played Cosmic Balance.

    I really enjoyed the hands on design and feel of space combat. The closest I ever came to repeating that was MOO and MOO2.

    Here is hoping a successful launch for both Starbase Orion and my hopes for a modern replacment!

  2. Jake says:

    Looks like the ui was ripped from civilizations V and some graphics don’t go well with each other but other than that looks interesting.

  3. Jake says:

    Also I don’t think remaking/cloning MOO2 is the way to go… It will always be a good game if done right but never a classic like MOO2 was back then.
    It takes imagination to make the MOO2 of this era, and I think the reason why not many standout games have been released in recent years was because they all try to clone MOO2 in one way or another.

  4. Paolo Bertiglia says:

    Will get it when it comes to the app shop.

    Remaking MOO2 it is not the way to go forward in Space TBS, let’s call it a sideward move. While we are waiting for the next great thing let’s study what was good in the past.

    • Adam Solo says:

      I agree with you. Remaking MOO2 cannot be “the strategy” for future sci-fi strategy alone. I’m one of those fans that want to see it happen but that cannot be the only goal of the industry.

      I totally agree with you that the dev community should look and study the good games of the past, take note of the great features and use them, 75%, on future games while at the same time innovate the other 25%.

      This is the key for success of the genre in the long run in my opinion. The uncertainty is only on the percentage you innovate VS what you keep.

  5. bertipa says:

    While I love the idea of a good TBS on my iPad I still think that the good place for it is on the desktop and a big screen.
    Said that I see, for an A-list TBS game, space for apps on iThingies or other mobile platforms that will duplicate or enhance side activities like ship design/test etc.

    So, for as much I like my iPad, I’m a little nervous when they call it a post pc device.

    In a future of tablets and consoles I don’t see the place for an heavyweight galaxy level TBS.

  6. Michael thomas says:

    Sounds great. I’ve been waiting for a moo 2 clone for ages. Bring iron for the iOS platform!

    • Adam Solo says:

      iOS is becoming more interesting day by day for 4x games. In a couple of days I will post about Distant Star, another 4x old-school space strategy game. Stay tuned! :)

  7. Michael thomas says:

    Distant star is ok for what it was, it is very, very basic though.

  8. bertipa says:

    Really basic graphics, so basic that I have not felt the pull to commit for more that a few turns on my iPad. Will try again.

  9. bertipa says:

    Sorry, I was not clear in my post, I was reacting at the Distant Star post
    and I thought that you where also.

    I’m still waiting for Starbase Orion to be available on the app shop.

  10. Sigismund0 says:

    Armada2526 is the first 4x game I ever played… actually I guess it was VGA planets, but Armada was the first one in a long long time. That was a couple years ago. I was into Armada for a couple weeks then got kinda bored.

    Then about a week AGO I downloaded MOO2 off of impulse. I had never played it before, but I remembered reading about it a few times and it intrigued me.

    Fourteen hours later I pried myself away from the screen.

    Mind you, I am the sort of person who can easily get bored of games. Right before downloading MOO2, I played Shogun 2 (which came with my new Radeon HD6870) for the first time… got bored after about an hour and a half.

    My point is: MOO2 is something very special. I think that Atari or whoever owns it now should just do “MOO2” remastered. It would have 3, err 4, modes, selected from via the keyboard in a retro dos-prompt window:

    0) Classic MOO2, the original game with no changes at all.
    1) Classic MOO2, the original game with no changes at all (except that it will display in it’s original aspect ratio if you have a wider monitor, and maybe fixing the mouse bug that makes battles kind of annoying. Oh and maybe something so the ships aren’t as fugly… but that’s as far as I’d mess with it.)
    2) “Remastered MOO2” which would have exactly the same game rules, but state-of-the-art 3d-based graphics. And LAN support
    3) “Re-imagined MOO2” which would allow all sorts of tweaks and special features.

    While they’re at it, they could re-master and re-imagine MOO I and III as well.

    THEN start work on MOO IV.

  11. Kyle Rees says:

    I agree with all of the sentiment of these comments.

    Adam the problem of the larger publishers are that why would they change from what works? Especially after the failure of MOO3, plus 4X games don’t represent the majority of gamers. Strategy gamers only account for 35% of the PC Game market, and out of that 35% I suspect is an even smaller amount of 4X gamers. I am also assuming most of those are of the RTS type with games like Starcraft 2.

    So large developers/publishers largely avoid 4x games because of the lack of a large market, and the risk of something being a failure.

    So a MOO2 successor will come from developers like CodeForce, who made an excellent RTS successor to MOO2.

    I am now getting into game design to hopefully someday create a true successor, and among those plans I am going to develop simpler indie titles on the pc/ios before I make a first try for a successor.

    So for now I have been deeply thinking about what elements made Moo2, I really enjoyed thread about it, on my blog as I develop the game design doc for my games.

    Issues like the tactical combat of Moo2, it was a love or hate relationship for gamers. I personally really liked it, because of how closely your designs and research decisions tied into the combat. However, other players legitimately complained that it became tiresome fighting one tactical battle after another.

    You had the option of no tactical combat in the game menu, however if I remember correctly it removed ship design which I believe a majority of players like. Another option could be to incorporate an Simulate option, something similar to the Total War series.

    Gratuitous Space Battles is a good look at tactical combat, however you lack control of your fleets.

    Another area I am thinking about is the research aspect, which in my opinion has just been stagnant in 4x games. Even saying stagnant is being generous, I would even claim regressed in areas.

    Moo2 really offered a good variety of tech, and not just laser 1 or missile 4 (looking at your GalCiv) that offered subtle differences that affected your strategic game play. It is a good system that should be cloned in any future 4x games, however I would like to take it in a new direction. One game that offered a different take in one aspect, was the now defunct Beyond Protocol. The alloy designer was a complicated mess, however it was very cool in how you combine different resources to create alloys that best suits your design goal.

    So I am thinking about moving Research in 4x game to more R&D where you research theories, and not all bear fruit. Then you have to develop alloys from Empire resources, that can go into your designs.

    So that all sounds amazingly hard to code, but I think the way to go in 4x games is to look at each function that is a definite requirement for a future 4x game, and develop them into game by their own right. Then all of these mini games come together as a ultimate next gen 4x game, that in my vision would need to be reclassified from the 4x standard set by the MOO series.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yes, MOO2 space combat was probably it’s weakest link, due to the boredom of moving stacks of ships one by one on late games (and the fact that there was a limit to the number of ships says much about this also).

      I also enjoy Gratuitous Space Battles tactical combat look and feel. It really works. That could be the way to go. And the key is really that, as you say, to pick the good stuff function by function and create a worthy new game.

      I agree, Research is one of those areas that desperately needs to evolve, I wrote an article about it some time ago: http://www.spacesector.com/blog/2009/07/dynamic-and-specialized-technology-research-in-space-strategy-games/

      I’m all for that, I mean to reearch theories and then watch with surprise what comes out of that. A random feel to it is also fundamental in my opinion.

      Good luck on your endeavor to design 4x games Kyle. I checked out your blog, definitely one that I will follow in close look in the future.

      I hope you come see me once and a while also :)

  12. OrionRebirth says:

    Hi,

    I am working on a Moo2 remake. I have decided to start working on the ground combat. Im reusing most of the copyrighted material from Moo2. I am a programmer so help is needed in the fields 2D animated sprites, AI, sound effects and music. Game designers are also welcome as you will see in my website I am counting on user feedback to enhance the Moo series.

    The game will be published on Android, Iphone and Ipad. You can follow up my progress through my blog http://www.orionrebirth.com. Also if you are interested you can join my team.

    Thanks.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Hi Elie,

      I saw in your blog that you still have doubts regarding what you can re-use from MOO2 and what not due to copyright issues. My suggestion is for you to clarify that completely before you move forward. It would be a shame that you could not get commercial to find out that your game violates MOO2 copyright somehow. My advice is to check the FreeOrion website forums: http://www.freeorion.org (they are also developing a Master of Orion clone so to speak – a free one), maybe they can help you understand the legal limits of copyright.

      If you are looking for help to develop your game maybe you could make your announcement in the SpaceSector forums, in the sub-forum “Game Jobs & Recruiting” http://www.spacesector.com/blog/forum/forumdisplay.php?fid=63

      Good luck in your quest.

  13. OrionRebirth says:

    Thanks Adam for your help especially in the forum link you provided. I have noticed that someone else in the forum is working on this too. Therefore ill try to contact him especially that I am in need of a graphic designer.

  14. eike says:

    “matches lasting 30-60 minutes”

    They failed their vision. All multiplayer matches I played now lasted weeks, with contact to the enemy only in the second half (with the decision who is stronger basically already concluded)


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