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Master of Orion III
Macintosh version
Developer(s) Quicksilver Software
Publisher(s) Infogrames
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
Release date(s) February 25, 2003
Genre(s) Turn-based strategy
Mode(s) Single player, Multiplayer

Master of Orion III (MoO3, MoOIII) is a 4X turn-based strategy game and the third in the Master of Orion series. MoO3 was developed by Quicksilver Software and published by Infogrames on February 25, 2003.

Contents

Backstory

In The Master of Orion III Civilpedia or the game manual, the player discovers that what was thought to be Antares in Master of Orion II was really a forward base, "ConJenn". The Antarans 'played dead' for 25 G.C (galactic cycles, the measurement of time that is universal to all races and planets), then returned and, following a slaughter lasting another 25 G.C, defeated the young races of the Orion Sector, enslaved all of the people on every planet, destroyed all research and military centres and effectively made it impossible for a retaliation of any kind.

However, a thousand years later, the Antarans mysteriously disappear. The reason, unbeknownst to the inhabitants of the Orion sector, is due to the Antarans' Harvester bioweapons program. Harvester Gamma was a horrible virus-like organism that would kill all species exposed to it, mysteriously being set loose into the Antaran population, wiping out 98% of those in the Antaran sector. The few who survived were left on only two planets: Antares itself, and the Antaran overseers ruling the sector from Orion. (Not including the odd colony and outpost in other sectors conquered by the Antarans, such as the Alioth, and Debhei sectors).

The Antaran overseers on Orion foresaw the complications and diplomatic issues if they kept their current government reactions to outsiders. In a fit of arrogance, they declare themselves the "New Orions" (as opposed to the true "Ancient Orions"). Anticipating rebellion, the New Orions grant the conquered territories a new Orion Senate, pretending enlightened leadership. Half a dozen races from the previous games challenge them, only to be beaten into near extinction (isolated colonies and refuges of these races can be found throughout the Sector). Rumors also abound about a Legitimate Heir to the Orion Throne.

Meanwhile, in an isolated lab, the Antarans had been engineering a living weapon as part of their bioweapons programs. An Antaran scientist brings a shipment of these sentient parasites, known as Harvester Zeta, to the Orion sector. Seeing the actions of the wayward New Orions, the scientist releases them on a Human outpost, allowing them to spread and wreak a terrible vengeance on the separatists. However, being sentient, the Harvesters start to pursue their own agenda, spreading and forming colonies like other races, and give themselves a new name, the Ithkul.

Gameplay

Master of Orion III is a turn-based strategy game with the goal of defeating the AI, or other players, in one of three ways. During each turn, the player makes all the decisions that will be performed during that turn, including exploration, colonization, diplomacy, trade, voting in the Senate, technological research, espionage, and the design, construction, and combat deployment of their space fleet. The player can leave most of those decisions to their planetary governors to handle, or they can make changes as they desire.

Victory conditions

The main planetary control screen of Master of Orion 3 with six submenus.

Victory conditions, set at the beginning of the game,includes: domination of the galaxy, leadership of the Senate, and/or discovery of the five Antaran X’s. The easiest to achieve is leadership of the Senate where the periodic vote for leadership is based on the power of each voting member. The victory method with moderate difficulty is the discovery of the five Antaran X’s through exploration and sending out of special high-priced exploration fleets. The most difficult method is galactic domination where you must completely subjugate all other races in the galaxy.

Exploration and colonization

Colonization is of individual planets located in the numerous star systems randomly generated at the beginning of each game. Each star system will have from one to eight planets and each planet is rated on a scale of habitability related to your race’s physical requirements. Red 2 and Red 1 planets are the least habitable to your species, with Yellow 2 and 1 and Green 2 and 1 designating increasingly friendly environments up to the so-called 'Sweet Spot', which is a planet perfectly suited to your race or the conquered race(s) you are using to colonize. The factors that can affect the habitability include temperature, toxicity, atmospheric density and composition, and gravity level. The various races of the game each have preferred planet types, from terrestrial races preferring the variations of the Earth/Mars-type terrestrial worlds, to the etherian races that prefer Jupiter-type gas giants. Worlds of any type can be colonized, however, as technological advancements will allow the terraforming of worlds to suit your race’s requirements, with the most hostile planets requiring more initial settlers and the population’s growth rate being greatly reduced. Planets are discovered through exploration and trade. By sending a starship to a given system the player discovers the basic information on and an assessment of the habitability of each planet in that system. Extras such as pre-spaceflight magnate civilizations, stranded leaders, rare resources, and other unusual and unique attributes can add additional bonuses or penalties to each world. Information on star systems and their worlds can also be gained though trade negotiations with the other races resulting in an exchange of intelligence.

Diplomacy

In the Orion Senate, laws, treaties, and resolutions are voted upon and periodically the President is chosen. Declarations of war and peace, alliances, trade relationships, technological trade and outright blackmail are performed in the Senate. Votes are also periodically proposed on various laws that will be binding to all races in the galaxy (although you can opt out for a small penalty in race-relations). These can be rules of war, labor laws, taxes, and other regulations.

Technology

The key to success over the other races is through technological development where knowledge in six fields of research can be advanced. The six fields are Biological Sciences, Economics, Energy, Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Social sciences. Development in these fields will result in advancements in technology that can benefit all other aspects of gameplay, from the ability to terraform your worlds to better suit your race, to larger and more powerful space fleets, to better equipped ground troops, to stronger economic development tools and more capable spies.

Spies and Espionage

Espionage is broken into espionage and counter-espionage through the recruitment of spies.

In order to spy on other empires, you must have made contact with them. In order for them to spy on you, they must have made contact with you.

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Offensive Spying

In Master of Orion 3, you can utilize your spies in several different ways. You can send in 6 different Types of Spies, who have different objectives.

  • Military Spies: These spies will sabotage building fleets, shipyard buildings and ground troop support buildings.
  • Diplomatic Spies: These spies will sabotage diplomatic efforts.
  • Scientific Spies: These spies will either steal tech or sabotage research efforts.
  • Political Spies: These spies will try to assassinate any leaders the enemy has.
  • Social Spies: These spies will create unrest in colonies to slow down production, and attempt to incite rebellion.
  • Government Spies: These spies will blow up government buildings of the enemy.

Defensive Spying

If you do not deploy your spies, they will perform counter-espionage duties within your empire. Enemy spies who are caught or killed will be displayed in the situation report at the beginning of each turn.

Conquest

Combat in the game results when the space fleets of two or more races occupy the same star system. The combat progresses in two phases: Space combat and Ground combat.

Space combat is fought in open space or near one of the star system’s planets, which is determined by the attacker and defender at the beginning of combat. If the attacker’s goal is the conquest of a planet in the system then the space combat will be fought near a planet with that planet’s defenses included in the battle. If the attacker’s goal is merely the destruction of the enemy space fleet or occupation of the star system then the battle can be fought in open space between the fleets only.

The player can either manually control the fleet or allow the AI to take command of the fleet. The player is not even required to watch the battle, but can let the game decide the outcome and display the resulting winner and the number of remaining ships. If the attacker is victorious in space with the goal of conquering one of the system’s inhabited planets and brought ground troops with the fleet then the second phase of combat will follow.

Ground combat involves the confrontation of the attacker’s landing ground forces against any of the enemy’s ground forces that were previously assigned to that planet as well as a portion of the planet's population. Ground combat can be fought over multiple game turns and is concluded when either of the forces are defeated. As in space combat the player can control the attack by designating an overall plan or allow the AI to take command, and the battle can be watched or allowed to play out with only the final results reported. Victory means gaining control of the planet, its surviving population, and all surviving planetary improvements.

Player-controlled ground combat is largely determined by a number of factors beyond the player's control; for example, terrain, gravity at the battlefield (not necessarily the gravity displayed on the planet overview—sometimes a high-gravity planet will inexplicably produce a zero-G battlefield), and weather. While the army creation screens do display the preferred ambient conditions of each type of unit, the ground combat screen fails to display the battle conditions that will be affecting the battle until after its conclusion. Subsequent battles on the same planet do not necessarily have the same battle conditions, making any attempt to prepare for certain conditions with a specialized ground unit impossible.

The one specific thing a player can plan for is to invade a planet that is preferable to the species that makes up the invasion force; meaning using aquatic troops to invade an aquatic planet rather than humanoid troops, but an aquatic planet doesn't guarantee the battlefield will be the same; for all the player knows, the battle could take place on a desert.

The overall battle plans available to the player (flank, trap, surprise, mass assault, etc.) are presented in the manual, although no game information about the battle plans themselves is made available.

Development

In 2002, while the game was in development, a pre-alpha copy was accidentally released to an Australian game magazine, which published it as a demo. Not only was it not scheduled for release, but the game was also very buggy, and the incident caused some consternation at Infogrames. Not the least of their concerns were that it gave away some parts of the game they were hoping to keep secret, and showed things that weren't going to be in the final version. Because it was released by an Australian magazine, it became known informally as KangaMOO. More information is available from the official announcement [1].

The existence of KangaMOO has caused some confusion among members of the gaming community as to whether a demo exists; the delayed release of the game and its muted popularity have contributed to a lack of knowledge on this point. Infogrames did indeed release an official demo, which is stable, true to the real game, and plays with a time limit. [2]

Reception

The game received mixed reviews. As of December 2007 it has an aggregate Game Rankings rating of 59 and a Metacritic score of 64 of a possible 100. Many reviewers cited the cumbersome interface, poor AI, and launch bugs as serious faults in the game. However, it did receive some praise for its massive depth.[3]

Criticism

Although highly anticipated and much lauded by some gaming publications, MOO3 was only a moderate seller and not the breakout hit that the previous games had been. This is generally attributed to an unwieldy and cumbersome user interface, poor space battle A.I., a number of software bugs that caused the game to crash and were never fixed (save for the two patches that addressed a few of the worst bugs, Infogrames provided no support following the game's release), the suppression of many popular features of the previous games (such as genocide and refitting of obsolete space ships) combined with the absence of many of the promised new features (such as racial ethos systems and colonization of moons and asteroids, as opposed to the player being limited to planets), and lack of micromanagement or the general character and charm of the predecessors. One significant problem was poor enemy AI (although subsequent unofficial, community-created patches made small improvements). The automated player AI was very effective, and could control almost anything, making it much easier to leave the game to play itself.

Trading technology was nearly impossible without first doing considerable study in the Technology screen, as computer players would flat-out refuse tech trade proposals that weren't just right, without giving a specific reason, and never countered an offer. Also the computer players' relations with humans were affected by very complex factors, with no easy place to keep tabs on (to see why they are happy or unhappy with the player), and with little warning that a computer is becoming upset. Players often complained that they would enjoy good relations and an alliance with a computer player for years when the ally would suddenly declare war.

Quicksilver focused MOO3 into a very robust and realistic space empire from the macromanagement point of view, lacking the characteristics that made MOO I and II a hit. It could be most aptly described as less ruling an empire than running the bureaucracy of an empire, but without the "people management" that might attract some gamers. Many fans of the first two games felt the developers succeeded too well in removing micromanagement from the game (it had been a big complaint about MoO II), going so far as to remove the parts of micromanagement that made the first two games fun and gave the player a hands-on feel to managing an empire. Playing MOO III was commonly compared to "Doing your taxes" and often described as being about as much fun.

None of the original development team was involved in the production.

Several fan-made modifications have been made in an attempt to resolve many of the broken features and bugs that plague the game, even after applying the two official patches by Quicksilver, and to add new content. The game is now in a fully playable state thanks to unofficial fan-made patches.

References

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ Master Of Orion 3 review, Pelit 3/2003, page 34.
  5. ^ Galactic Civilizations review, Pelit 5/2003, page 50.
  • Master of Orion III
  • FAQ/Strategy Guide

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Master of Orion III
Box artwork for Master of Orion III.
Developer(s) Quicksilver Software
Publisher(s) Infogrames
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Turn-based strategy
System(s) Windows, Mac OS X
Mode(s) Single player, multiplayer
Website quicksilver.com
Preceded by Master of Orion II
Series Master of Orion

Master of Orion III (MoO3, MoOIII) is the third computer game in the Master of Orion series. MoO3 was developed by Quicksilver Software and published by Infogrames in February 25, 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.

Contents

Gameplay

Master of Orion III is a turn-based strategy game with the goal of rulership of the galaxy. During each turn, the player makes all the decisions that will be performed during that turn, including exploration, colonization, diplomacy, trade, voting in the Senate, technological research, espionage, and the design, construction, and combat deployment of their space fleet. The player can leave most of those decisions (apart from spy production and ship design) for his/her planetary governors to handle as they see fit, or can make changes here and there as he/she sees fit.

The automatic player AI does make many mistakes when building DEAs on a planet (buildings) as the AI will place a research DEA on a region where it would be completely useless as opposed to a mining DEA, etc.

Victory Conditions

The main planetary control screen of Master of Orion 3. Note the six submenus and the possibility of AI control.

The goal of Master of Orion III is to win control of the galaxy through one or more predetermined means. The winning conditions, set at the beginning of the game, can be domination of the galaxy, leadership of the Senate, and/or discovery of the five Antaran X’s. The easiest to achieve is leadership of the Senate where the periodic vote for leadership is based on the power of each voting member. When the game begins the New Orions’ power level is one hundred times higher than any other race and they dominate all Senate votes. Through simply colonizing as many worlds as possible in the early stages of the game, and then developing and defending them, it is easy for the player to quickly develop a voting power level that exceeds all of the other races combined. At that point merely voting for your own race to be President of the Senate will result in victory. The victory method with moderate difficulty is the discovery of the five Antaran X’s through exploration and sending out of special high-priced exploration fleets. The most difficult method is galactic domination where you must completely subjugate all other races in the galaxy including the New Orions. This requires the military conquest of all worlds controlled by the other races and can take thousands of turns to fully complete in the largest, densest galaxies.

Colonization and Exploration

Colonization is of individual planets located in the numerous star systems randomly generated at the beginning of each game. Each star system will have from one to eight planets and each planet is rated on a scale of habitability related to your race’s physical requirements. Red 2 and Red 1 planets are the least habitable to your species, with Yellow 2 and 1 and Green 1 and 2 designating increasingly friendly environments up to Paradise, which is a planet perfectly suited to your race. The factors that can affect the habitability include temperature, toxicity, atmospheric density and composition, and gravity level. The various races of the game each have preferred planet types, from terrestrial races preferring the variations of the Earth/Mars-type terrestrial worlds, to the etherian races that prefer Jupiter-type gas giants. Worlds of any type can be colonized, however, as technological advancements will allow the terraforming of worlds to suit your race’s requirements, with the most hostile planets requiring more initial settlers and the population’s growth rate being greatly reduced. Planets are discovered through exploration and trade. By sending a starship to a given system the player discovers the basic information on and an assessment of the habitability of each planet in that system. Extras such as pre-spaceflight magnate civilizations, stranded leaders, rare resources, and other unusual and unique attributes can add additional bonuses or penalties to each world. Information on star systems and their worlds can also be gained though trade negotiations with the other races resulting in an exchange of intelligence.

Diplomacy

In the Orion Senate, laws, treaties, and resolutions are voted upon and periodically the President is chosen. Declarations of war and peace, alliances, trade relationships, technological trade and outright blackmail are performed in the Senate. Votes are also periodically proposed on various laws that will be binding to all races in the galaxy (although you can opt out for a small penalty in race-relations). These can be rules of war, labor laws, taxes, and other regulations.

Technological Development

The key to success over the other races is through technological development where knowledge in six fields of research can be advanced. The six fields are Biological Sciences, Economics, Energy, Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Social Sciences. Development in these fields will result in advancements in technology that can benefit all other aspects of gameplay, from the ability to terraform your worlds to better suit your race, to larger and more powerful space fleets, to better equipped ground troops, to stronger economic development tools and more capable spies.

Espionage

Espionage is broken into espionage and counter-espionage through the recruitment of spies. Spies can be recruited with the specialties of Social, Political, Diplomatic, Scientific, Economic, or Military. Recruited but not deployed these spies will assist in counter-espionage activities in their area of specialty. Inserted into another race’s territory they will attempt hostile actions in their area of specialty. For example a Social spy inserted into another race’s territory will attempt to foment social unrest that will disrupt production on one or more planets, while a Military spy held in reserve will attempt to identify and thwart enemy spies attempting to sabotage your military infrastructure and space fleets. Inserted spies can be very effective in slowing the advance of an enemy and disrupting their plans, while enemy spies can create havoc in your own systems. It is wise to maintain a balance to ensure that each area is protected while focusing on inserting spies into your strongest opponent’s territory.

Conquest

Combat in the game results when the space fleets of two or more races occupy the same star system. The combat progresses in two phases: Space combat and Ground combat.

Space combat is fought in open space or near one of the star system’s planets, which is determined by the attacker and defender at the beginning of combat. If the attacker’s goal is the conquest of a planet in the system then the space combat will be fought near a planet with that planet’s defenses included in the battle. If the attacker’s goal is merely the destruction of the enemy space fleet or occupation of the star system then the battle can be fought in open space between the fleets only.

The player can either manually control the fleet, which can be difficult due to the cumbersome and less than intuitive control system, or the AI can be allowed to take command of the fleet, which can result in losses due to the less than intelligent artificial intelligence – although the enemy’s AI is just as bad. The player is not even required to watch the battle, but can let the game decide the outcome and display the resulting winner and the number of remaining ships. If the attacker is victorious in space with the goal of conquering one of the system’s inhabited planets and brought ground troops with the fleet then the second phase of combat will follow.

Ground combat involves the confrontation of the attacker’s landing ground forces against any of the enemy’s ground forces that were previously assigned to that planet as well as a portion of the planet's population. Ground combat can be fought over multiple game turns and is concluded when the attacking forces are defeated or when the planet’s forces are defeated. As in space combat the player can control the attack by designating an overall plan or allow the AI to take command, and the battle can be watched or allowed to play out with only the final results reported. Victory means gaining control of the planet, its surviving population, and all surviving planetary improvements.

Unfortunately, player-controlled ground combat is largely determined by a number of factors beyond the player's control; for example, terrain, gravity at the battlefield (not necessarily the gravity displayed on the planet overview), and weather. While the army creation screens do display the preferred ambient conditions of each type of unit, the ground combat screen fails to display the battle conditions that will be affecting the battle until after its conclusion. Subsequent battles on the same planet do not necessarily have the same battle conditions, making any attempt to prepare for certain conditions with a specialized ground unit impossible. The overall battle plans available to the player (flank, trap, surprise, mass assault, etc.) are presented in the manual. The ground combat is essentially reduced to massively outnumbering your opponent.

Table of Contents

Master of Orion III/Table of Contents

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