Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares (or MOO2 for short) is widely held as one of the best space-borne turn-based strategy games ever made. Released in 1996 as a sequel to the massively successful Master of Orion, MOO2 was a huge hit with fans of the old game and new players alike. Much to the dismay of the many MOO2 fans and online communities, its own sequel Master of Orion 3 was a complete failure and is generally accepted as one of the worst games of recent history. Completely lacking any of the gameplay that made its predecessors successful, MOO3 failed in its entirety.
Phase 1 complete
The first phase of the Master of Orion 2.5 project was started as a long-term game design and implementation project to keep myself busy during university. The main goal was to figure out what made MOO2 so good that it's become the benchmark against which colonisation games are now measured. I recognised that critically evaluating the gameplay would only take me so far and that there were lessons to be learned that simply couldn't be found by examining the game. To learn more, I decided to re-implement the game from scratch to see first hand what kind of design decisions they must have made and investigate alternatives. I used Java as this was the language I was most familiar with at the time.
Although I stopped short of a decently playable version, I count the the project as a success as I gained a good deal of insight into the design decisions that went into the game. For example, I gained insights into the planet distribution ruleset that previous players couldn't discern through simple statistical analysis. I discovered that the distribution wasn't the result of simple probability but was likely the product of a complex ruleset developed to improve and constrain gameplay. Similarly, I gained some insight into how they present very dense information in a simple UI and I had the unique opportunity to test out some alternative ideas.