If you’re reading this wandering what Master of Orion is, then join the club. Even after my first viewing I was still perplexed. As an absolute amateur would, I checked its Wiki page and in doing so caught the perfect explanation.
Master of Orion is a turn-based game wherein the player leads one of ten races to dominate the galaxy, through a combination of diplomacy and conquest while developing technology, exploring and colonizing star systems. See, that’s not so hard.
The original Orion was released back in 1993 (two years after I was born), and that was expanded upon by a couple more titles, but since then it’s gone a bit dark in the star systems, until recently.
When infamous publisher THQ went down, Master of Orion (I’m going to call it MoO), was one of the license left for auction. As you’ll find out through our interview below with Executive Producer Randall King, the property was bought by the CEO of Wargaming Victor Kislyi, and it turns out his fandom has a major part to play in its return.
SR: Why has Master or Orion made a resurgence now?
Randall: Before Wargaming did what they’re doing now, they used to create turn-based strategy games, and there’s a love for those games that stretches even to the CEO. He loves Master of Orion, hence why when it came up for auction he just had to buy it.
Now we’ve got it, we’re doing everything in our power to create an homage to the original game. We’re rebooting the series and bringing it back to life. The game will be full of wonderful features that were in the original and some of its sequel, but more importantly, all the parts that veteran players loved will return.
Through our introduction of a new user-interface and a redesign, we hope that new players will enjoy the experience as well. If newcomers don’t want to get down into the nuts and bolts of the hardcore Orion experience, they’ll be able to play this game at a higher level and allow the automated system to perform a lot of the micro-management for them. Features such as auto explore and auto generate for example.
Our main goal has been to bring this long-forgotten franchise back to life, for everyone to enjoy. Our CEO wanted his son to play this game, which is one of the reasons he wanted to bring it back.
SR: This is primarily a PC release, though do you see any scope for the future to move it onto console or tablet perhaps?
Randall: We’re considering all of our options. We can’t make any comments as to what we’re going to do, but we’re definitely looking at it. It would suit a tablet very well, but firstly we want to get it out on PC, see how it performs, and then plan our next steps.
As a game developer we’re not going to put too much investment out there unless a fair amount of people like it, so in terms of broadening its horizons it’s still very much up in the air. If they love it, of course we’d expand to other platforms.
SR: Where do you see your main market for Orion coming from? There will be the handful of gamers that remember it from their childhoods, but how will you approach new players?
Randall: A lot of it will be word of mouth, but Steam will be our main base of promotion. We’re partnering with them to do that, but of course we’ll also be showing it off at conferences as well. We’ll be doing our upmost to make sure people know about Orion’s return.
SR: What’s been your favourite part during development of bringing it back?
Randall: Recently it’s all started to take shape, as we’ve brought many parts together and started to breath life into it. We’ve recently been recording triple-A voice talent, and I can’t say who just yet, we’ll announce that later, but you’ll be excited when you hear who’s included. It’s voice talent that’s appeared in multiple games, we went after the top notch people.
With those recordings taking root, we’ve created beautiful characters and animated them after the voice actors’ performances. We filmed each voice actor’s face to ensure we brought their performance to life, attempting to replicate their facial expressions through the characters they voice. It’s really coming together quite beautifully. Hearing all the voices and parts come together, it definitely gets me giddy at the prospect of its completion. I played the originals and love them, so to be able to be part of this creative process is unbelievable.
SR: Games have come such a long way since Master of Orion. Has there been a lot of inspiration taken from the vast catalogue of sci-fi games since the original’s arrival?
Randall: We’ve been playing all of our competitor’s games – everyone we could get our hands on – but we also went to look at all of the Hubble telescope images, as well as popular sci-fi movies, such as Guardians of the Galaxy. That movie has some amazing special effects, some of which we’ve tried to incorporate visually into our game.
SR: Do you have a talking racoon?
Randall: We don’t, but we have a talking cat, bird and bear. No racoon, sadly.
SR: Any release window as of yet?
Randall: Not at the moment, but definitely soon. That’s all I’m allowed to say.
SR: Thank you for your time, Randall, and good luck finishing Orion.
Randall: Thank you so much, it’s a pleasure to talk about it. I’m so excited.