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Stellar Indie Venture: Lord of Rigel

By on January 26th, 2016 10:27 am

Lord of Rigel | A turn-based space 4X strategy game by Rhombus Studios

The quest for a worthy successor to Master of Orion continues, and Lord of Rigel, from the indie devs of Rhombus Studios, is one of the latest contenders. Their inspiration is clearly Master of Orion 2, judging from the game’s screenshots and their frequent updates on this site’s forums. Their strategy seems to have been to pick up from Master of Orion 2 and stick very close to its formula, while enhancing it to today’s standards and fixing some of its weaknesses. But, it’s not only about Master of Orion 2, apparently. Here’s how the devs describe their game.

“We’ve been working on a turn based space strategy game in the vein of Stardrive, Endless Space, Galactic Civilizations and Master of Orion called Lord of Rigel. Basically we’re taking everything we like, tossing out what we disliked, and really focusing on the end game which is always a bit of a weakness in these sorts of games. Having a Babylon 5 style cold war with two elder species is our answer, basically trying to do what Master of Orion 3 was aiming for with the New Orions and Galactic Council. The big thing separating us from the flock comes down to fleshing out the universe and sticking with turn based tactical (since so many current games have real time or non-interactive cinematic tactical).” –Rhombus Studios

The project seems to have started in early 2014. In September 2015 they released a demo for their turn-based tactical combat system and soon after they launched a Kickstarter campaign, that didn’t succeed.

Lord of Rigel | Colony development view

But, it wasn’t the end for the Rhombus team and their venture, and in the latest status update they state to have been doing good progress and hope to release still in 2016 (as a matter of fact, Lord of Rigel almost made it to our 2016’s “can’t miss list” but we ended up not including it because we tried to be a bit more conservative with the release schedule expectations this time).

Key game features include:

  • Turn based strategic and tactical combat (\Edit: now a real-time combat system as clarified by the devs in this post’s comments)
  • Randomly generated Galaxies with a wide range of customizable parameters
  • 10 Pre-set species with unique characteristics
  • Species customization
  • Minor species, including two Elder races waging a cold war
  • Rich technology tree ranging from lasers to artificial planets and Dyson spheres
  • Fully customizable space ships for waging war
  • Easy to grasp but deep economic system
  • Leaders, either mercenaries or from your empire, who are shaped by their successes and failures.
  • Diplomatic system that is simple, but has considerable depth
  • Several victory conditions including military, diplomatic, and research options.
  • Strategic resources that require unique strategies to acquire, hold, and exploit

Lord of Rigel | Ship design screen

A few thoughts

The idea isn’t new. Many have tried (and are trying) to recreate the Master of Orion experience in one form or another (not to mention the official Master of Orion reboot itself which is on the way). But, again and again all seem to fall short to the expectations of people who want to relive the old classics’ experience. And, it’s not hard to understand why that happens, and why it’s such a challenge to create a worthy successor to Master of Orion: it’s because Master of Orion 2 (and its predecessor) greatness was not due to a particular aspect or subset of systems that need to be captured or done well, but due to the fact that the entire product worked brilliantly as a whole (not without its weaknesses, of course).

So, instead of trying to revolutionize the formula, what Rhombus’ team seems to be doing here is to take the totally opposite approach, by going with a very conservative design built on top of a proven concept. But, how close to the formula will Lord of Rigel really be, and how much will it need to be for the experience to feel familiar but at the same time still feel fresh enough to stand on its own? That’s what we’ll find out in the near future as we’ll follow this title and let you know more when/if it’s pertinent.

Lord of Rigel is a turn-based space 4X strategy game (\Edit: with real-time combat – as clarified by the devs in this post’s comments) currently being developed by Rhombus Studios for the Windows PC, Mac and Linux and, by the latest devs’ update, is expected to release somewhere in 2016.

Lord of Rigel | Starmap

Lord of Rigel | System view

Lord of Rigel | Research screen

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33 Comments


  1. t1it says:

    “…going with a very conservative design built on top of a proven concept”.
    Aside from tactical battles that’s what SD2 did more or less. What exactly is different this time?

    I’d guess nothing at all. Looks like some SD2 sidegrade with TB combat instead of RT. At least it looks better than the “official” MoO reboot.

    • Mark says:

      It isn’t hard to look better than the official MOO reboot. I still shudder whenever I look at those hideous starlanes in the screenshots. What do they have to do with MOO?

  2. Gary Vandegrift says:

    Thanks for following this game. Perhaps you’ll have a preview for us if you get to play it at some point :)

  3. poctyk says:

    I love when civilizations that are able of spacetravel have preindustrial agriculture.

  4. Jeff P says:

    The “don’t change the game-play just make it look modern” approach is what many gamers have demanded for classic games. We’ll see how this turns out, but it isn’t a good sign that the Kickstarter campaign failed. Perhaps we have reached peak-MoO?

  5. First of all I would like to thank Adam and Space Sector for covering Lord of Rigel. Good press is always hard to come by and it helps spread the word about our project which is crucial for getting a community and support for the game.

    I think Adam did a great job of laying out the fundamental though process behind Lord of Rigel and where we envision trying to take the series. I would also like to add that through the process of creating Lord of Rigel we are continuing to better understand the define what the character of Lord of Rigel is evolve it into some a bit more distinct from purely a MOO2 clone. This has come in a couple of big changes recently in both our UI and ship combat system.

    The UI system for Lord of Rigel is in the process of being completely revamped. We have created a new theme for the game that we are going back and implementing throughout the currently completed areas of the game. Secondly in the process of doing this we are having further discussions on how best to refine the UI to make it sleeker and more modern.

    Secondly on ship combat we are completely revamping our ship combat system and moving to a real time system. We believe that we have enough systems in place that we can strike a balance between the pitfalls of the click fest that can be large scale real time battles and wanting a combat system that rewards players using tactics and design to win the day.

    Nextly I know some people are worried about the failure of Kickstarter. I can assure everyone that like any good company we have had and are currently using contingency plans we had in place long ago to ensure the projects survival in the event of not meeting our Kickstarter goals. There are numerous great ideas and products that have not been funded by Kickstarter that went on to be great products for the consumer. I encourage people to look at the content we have produced and be the judge for themselves.

    Like all creative processes Lord of Rigel has been and continues to be a journey for the team and I encourage everyone to watch it as it develops and as always realize that all projects start from raw materials and are refined as time progresses. Nobody would judge the design of a car based on the first pieces of steel sitting on a factory floor. We have many updates forth coming and we look forward to sharing them with everyone.

    • poctyk says:

      Will lore explain why all races suck so much at agriculture, that they are barely able to sustain themself? :D

      • Lord of Rigel’s lore is that all of the younger player species in the game are given FTL tech via a probe by left by one of the Elder races on their homeworld. So the game begins with many of these species making radical technological advances in a very short period of time including becoming space faring.

  6. SQW says:

    It’s getting to the point the three words ‘inspired by MOO2’ automatically translates to ‘the devs got no creativity and hope lightning will strike twice by standing as close to the MOO2 carcass as possible’ for me.

    MOO2 was not the holy grail and we did NOT hit peak 4X circa 1996. You indies are suppose to be the platform of innovations and not nostalgia vultures. What happened?!

    Wish someone try to copy SoTS. =/

    • Mark says:

      Somebody did, it was called SOTS 2………. :(

    • SQW says:

      The biggest missed opportunity for space 4X of the decade that was. =(

      Still, I will give Kerberos credit for trying different ideas. That fleet based system of SOTS 2 would’ve been awesome at decreasing late-game micro had it been implemented properly.

      Every space 4X dev that came since then, apart from Paradox and to a lesser extend, Amplitude, keep treating MOO2 as the ultimate perfection – one that can only be imitated but never surpassed.

      • Mark says:

        Yes, Kerberos came up with some amazing and innovative new ideas. And then proceeded to completely wreck their game with horrifically bad implementation combined with a thick-headed refusal to listen to any criticism at all.

        As you say, huge missed opportunity…. :(

        Hopefully in the future, different devs with a few less birds on their antenna will be able to take those ideas and turn them into a game worthy of the awesome original concepts.

    • Evil Azrael says:

      Open sourcing SOTS1 would be really great. I would donate a nice sum if they decided to do some crowdfunding for this. Other projects did this.
      Funnily, I consider Sots1 to be a rather perfect game, the only wish for an update would be a better game customization, so I can pick rules and features from all “DLCs” and leave out the rather annoying ones (like grand menaces and these trading fleet stuff).

      • SQW says:

        It doesn’t even have to be open source. I mean, it’s pretty clear what made SOTS special so I’m surprised no one tried to clone it over the years or even aspects of it.

        Can I yawn any harder and the supposedly Alien races who just happen to discover the exact same FTL travel AND work of the exact static tech tree? At this rate, Multiple human factions warring across the stars on political/cultural/racial/religious differences would make it more engaging.

        • Mark says:

          I really like Stellaris’s Idea of uncoupling FTL method from race too. SOTS should really have done the same thing. Having the Humans in SOTS saddled with using fixed starlanes forever was…….. Well lets just say I never play the humans in SOTS and I would if I could pick their FTL at the start of the game.

        • SQW says:

          Yeah, it sounds good to us but I can’t imagine the AI being sophisticated enough to properly utilize all three forms of FTL.

          Crusader King, EU and HoI AI never had to worry about method of travel. I really see this as a potential stumbling block for Stellaris. The reason to have fixed FTL travel per race is so AI can be programmed to function within a defined rule set. Having 3 FTL methods each with pro/con and best-use-scenario is exponentially more taxing on the AI.

        • Mark says:

          That’s a good point, I *really* hope they dont end up substituting interesting FTL options for bad AI. That would really suck.

          AI in modern 4x games is bad enough already.

        • Evil Azrael says:

          I think that multiple movement methods are doable for the AI. In the end it boils down to some “plugin” system where each movement way implement certain generic functions like “get (all/friendly/uncolonized) planets in range”, “get shortest ways and distance for planet X from planet y”, “calculate defense priority for planet Z”

        • SQW says:

          The way the dev diary explained the 3 FTL methods available, each require time and investment and mechanically exclusive.

          You can’t just say you want to go from A to B and method 1 is the quickest then have the AI choose it. Maybe your fleet has already equip with method 2 and having to research and re-equip method 1 is unnecessarily wasteful. Maybe you are heading into battle but the quickest method doesn’t have the option to retreat so the AI need to evaluate the relative fleet strength and weight the risk. Then you add in research that buffs each FLT method so AI need to constantly re-evaluate the situation.

          There are so many factors involved, many HUMAN players not accustomed to 4X game will struggle to make the right choice let along an AI. Just having the AI to coordinate water transport with land troops in Total War in a linear fashion has always been a disaster.

        • neil says:

          “AI in modern 4x games is bad enough already.”

          AI in *all* 4x games is bad enough already. Some of the worst AI I’ve witnessed is in classics from the supposed golden era of 4x (Master of magic and Ascendancy come to mind). MOO2, for all it’s strengths, had weak AI.

          I am strongly in favour of adjusting gameplay mechanics to benefit the AI, because I have yet to see a 4x which can hold my interest in the long term in single player. Once a human player figures out the various systems it is trivial to beat even the hardest settings in pretty much any 4X.

        • Mark says:

          I disagree, you were spot on with your examples, MOM and Ascendancy definitely had very poor AI. But MOO1, MOO2, Alpha Centauri, CIV III & IV, BOTF, SOTS1, Gal Civ1 and many others were quite adequate. Not amazing mind you, but enough to provide some fun and a few challenging moments.

          No game AI ever invented has been able to come close to competing with a competent human and nor should we expect it to. Adequate is about as good as it ever gets.

          I think the problem is that modern 4x games are getting more complex but game AI has been frozen in time for decades and cant keep up. Either that or AI programming is becoming a lost art.

        • SQW says:

          That’s right Mark.

          Mechanically, games have been improving to suite our demand for more complex and engaging game but I wager 4X AI hasn’t made any improvements since the 90s. It doesn’t help that the most popular genres like FPS, MMORPG and MOBA in the past 15 years didn’t require much AI development at all.

          I wish the devs can step back and make a fun 4x game the AI can play well rather than a game full of bells and whistles that a human finds fun and THEN try to shoehorn a completely inadequate AI into it.

          That’s why my prefer SP genre has been shifting to tactical games like XCOM or RPGs lately. If it wasn’t for Stellaris’s shoot for the moon pitch, I’d just ignore the entire 2016 4x line up.

        • neil says:

          “That’s why my prefer SP genre has been shifting to tactical games like XCOM or RPGs lately.”

          One huge advantage games like XCOM have, with regards AI development, is that they are inherently asymmetrical. No-one complains about the aliens in XCOM being able to out build the human player, or that their troops start off stronger, because that’s part of the game design from the beginning.

          In 4X games, the AIs use player-pickable civilizations, but they can’t use them properly. As a result they stand no chance against a competent human player. For harder skill levels, they simply receive buffs to increase the challenge. However, it is impossible to balance the game properly this way and everyone complains about ‘cheating’. Why not have non-playable AI civilizations planned from the begining? This way you can balance them properly to give a fun challenge throughout the game. On a harder skill level an equivalent to the Star trek Borg might show up half-way through a game. If you decouple player and non-player civs, a lot opens up, in my opinion.

        • SQW says:

          That’s partly due the framework we’ve been stuck with since the original CIV and MOO days.

          The AI nowadays just can’t keep up with the 2 decades of added features aimed at wowing the human players. It’s worse when we expect the AI to use the same tools in the name of balance.

          I’d would like to have a 4x game where the alien race is NOT playable. You’ll still have your diplomacy but program the AI so it doesn’t have to worry about build queue, research, food, industry etc mechanically the same way.

          Make it so the lore is that the alien is so alien, there’s no equivalent to human comprehension. Make it so the AI can produce a similar result to that of the human but without being restrained to reach there the same way.

    • dstar says:

      “MOO2 was not the holy grail and we did NOT hit peak 4X circa 1996.”

      You’re right, but probably not in the way you think. MOO2 was really crappy compared to the original — My wife and I still play it (just finished a game a an hour or so, in fact. Minimal micromanagement, great replayability thanks to the randomized tech tree,the ability to have large fleets _and_ the ability to deal with them, thanks to the black hole generator… I would -kill- for a new version of MOO1 with better graphics.

      • Zeraan says:

        Good news! There’s two MoO 1-esque games in development!
        First is a blatant clone, even using the original name in its title: Java-MoO (www.java-moo.com). The author is planning on releasing it for free for obvious reasons (can’t sell game with trademarked name/races/etc). It’s 2D, and tries to copy the same gameplay mechanics, but with updated graphics.

        Second is a game that is being developed by a team, including myself. It’s pretty far in development. Name is Dominus Galaxia, which was previously known as Beyond Beyaan (http://dominusgalaxia.com/). It’s 3D (but takes place on a 2D plane), and while it is very similar to MoO 1, it has its own differences (three types of nebulas, addition of wormholes/black holes, up to 7 sides in one turn-based space battle, hex-based grid instead of square, etc). The screenshots on the site is pretty old, we’re planning on updating the media pretty soon after we re-do the UI! The idea is that it’d be what MoO 2 was supposed to be, a sequel of MoO 1 that refined its gameplay and improves on it.

        • ACEofHeart says:

          Cool news.. I’ll be keeping an eye on these projects.. MOO1 was great long before MOO2 got all the headlines.. So wish you on the best in your endeavor …

        • Gary Vandegrift says:

          Zeraan, I look forward to reading a preview of your game done by Keith or Adam here at Space Sector :)

  7. Mark says:

    I’m not opposed to RT tactical combat in principle, although I have my doubts that it will be able to achieve the same level of deep, thoughtful and engaging tactical complexity that TB combat can. If you can manage it though, good luck to you.

    I do like the idea of the B5’esque elder species war, that could be really interesting in the late game where the interest in many 4x games normally begins to wind down.

  8. SamDog says:

    Not another Moo2!

    Every guy with a compiler and paint program writes a moo2 clone.
    Don’t forget the gyro-destabilizer.

    If you want to clone something from that time you could do armada 2525.

    If you cloned starflight I would buy it for sure. But not another Moo2.

    yours
    SamDog

  9. Manfromstars says:

    I´m sorry but as i read and see pictures from grame, then it is in my eyes and old gaming experience. That this game is waste time to make it.
    Maybe as some demonstration for somoe that starting make games.

    But there already are many that same or similar games and some of them also bring some new ideas or ways of gameplay.

    There i do not see nothing from these, only copy MOO style. Maybe usable for Tablets, but for PC in my opinion is unsuficient.

    I see that many people forgot on Reunion or Imperium Galactica and litle stories in gameplay.

    Example Polaris Sector try bring some interesting experiencing with ideas and ways of gameplay.

  10. ACEofHeart says:

    Sure are a lot of negative remarks from our group.. LOL
    Personally I care not so much what the designers decide to put in their game but it’s the HOW they do it that matters to me.. If it’s FUN to play that’s usually my bottom line… Star Lanes or Not, Turn-base fights or Real Time..whatever. Just get it right in the beginning, so that’s it’s playable from the start..


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