The original Master of Orion came out in 1993 and because of its age, it wasn’t something I had any exposure with as I was too young. Quite frankly I’ve never heard of the title Master of Orion until Wargaming bought the rights to the classic franchise back in 2013. Argentinian-based developers NGD Studios under Wargaming’s WGLabs label have been working on a reboot for the Master of Orion series called Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars.
We’ve seen many reboots in the past few years which can be quite risky if the developers don’t understand how far gaming has come since the original came out. With a game this old like Master of Orion, I spoke to Jacob Beucler – Wargaming Product Director about re-inventing a classic for the modern age.
Straight off the bat, Jacob explains that “It’s really important to upfront to evaluate who you are building the product for” when creating a game based on a classic. “It’s not incredibly difficult to find out what the old school Master of Orion fans love, it’s pretty transparent. It’s well known and documented so you look at the requirements. Then you look at what 4X games have come since then plus plenty of research of the genre.”
The term 4-X (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) is used to describes the genre Master of Orion is – similar to titles like Civilization. 4-X in itself is somewhat niche and is not one of the top or well-known genre today but it still exists. Jacob talks about understanding what the 4-X audience wants and needs but what about the people that are not experience with Master of Orion and the genre itself?
“It’s been part of the challenge for us.”
“How do you translate something that’s super complex, old-school, nerdy, spreadsheets… into a game? How do you work through that?”
“Well, that’s why we need Early Access.”
When Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars launched, it went into Early Access which Jacob explains helped the development team shape the game. “We need that feedback where we go ‘help us finish this game’, talk to us about what you need etc.” The game can be quite daunting for new players and while not as systematic and confusing like the original, Jacob still enforces that the game still has a difficulty curve but nothing too intense like the original which will help newcomers to the series and genre.
Early Access has been quite the topic around our conversation and you can see it clearly plays a big part of the process. “Master of Orion is a living and breathing organic process – it’s a rollercoaster you can’t predict where it’s going to land and that’s where it gets really painful… but it has been very informative for us and it’s going to continue to be especially now where we are feature complete. “
“Right now we can sit back, look at the whole picture, look at all the feedback and go – this is what we need to do next. Then maybe, just maybe, it’s perfect. Or Legendary.”
Switching the discussion from development to marketing, I asked Jacob about grabbing the wider audience and marketing towards the players not exposed to the genre and original itself. He went on explaining that this topic has been the most ‘popular conversation within Wargaming’ but insist at the of the day – “it’s just to provide the best possibly product, word of mouth and people wanting to play it and wanting to share it with their friends.”
He continued to explain that big marketing budgets can buy an audience “I’ve see it done but I’ve also seen a lot of copies of terrible games sold that way, it’s nothing to be proud of. This is not the business we’re in – our strategy has always been about, making the best game possible. It’s all about having fun and this all comes down to our early access strategy because we care at the end of the day about what people say.”
Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars is now available on Steam in Early Access.