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Snatching Good from the Jaws of Great: The Bungled Release of "Master of Orion 3"

By Nice2Cats in Op-Ed
Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 06:56:40 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

Master of Orion (MOO3) is a space strategy game by Quicksilver/Infogrames that was released the end of February. Its predecessor MOO2 commands a fierce loyalty amongst game fans, rivaled only by those still playing Blizzard's "Starcraft"; therefore, any new version was bound to be controversial. Unfortunately, a lot of the controversy of the first week of MOO3 centered on obvious bugs, weak documentation, and bad communication by the developers. This has left fans not only with the impression that Infogrames released MOO3 before it was ready, but that it is also approaching one of the most beloved game franchises in history with a blatantly commercial "good enough to sell is good enough for us" attitude. All of this is threatening to drown out that MOO3 in fact has dared to break the strategy game mold in several important areas and has the potential to become one of the best games of its type ever made.

Master of Orion in all its forms is a strategy game where you start off on one planet as a race with certain characteristics and spread out through the galaxy, expanding your empire and power base by settlement, diplomacy, research, and war. It belongs to the same group of games as Civilizationor Call to Power. MOO3 breaks the traditional mold of strategy game playby giving the player a very high-level interface that by default delegates the tasks of deciding which ships and infrastructure to build to AIs. The player is still able to dive down and micro manage if he chooses, leading to an "onion"-style interface that is associated with a rather steep learning curve. Even players who have come to love the game report being enormously frustrated and confused in the first few hours while they were getting their brain wrapped around the new concepts.

MOO3 in its original release has three types of major issues:

1. Obvious bugs. Example: After a planet has been marked for colonization, the AI will start sending colony ships until the colony is actually established. This means that if it takes time for the first ship to get to its destination, the AI will send more colony ships than needed. The excess ships will then just sit uselessly in orbit. In other words, the AI doesn't remember that it has sent a ship, and wastes time and resources by sending an endless stream of more ships.

2. Game play issues. Example: The production of troop transports is separate from the assembly of ground troops. The AI will happily produce transport ships in great number and even let you send them around the galaxy as part of a combat task force, even if they are completely empty, even if you don't actually own ground troops, and without any warning.

3. Threadbare documentation. Example: The Geodic race is silicon-based lifeform that does not require the usual production of food. However, the game still lets you set a whole host of "bioharvest" factors for the Geodics without explaining what these mean in their case, if there is difference between mining and bioharvest for this race, and what effect the biological science research advances have.

None of the problems are true show stoppers. The game is actually very playable and rather enjoyable once the initial learning phase has passed. This, in fact, probably just makes the impact of the current problems worse: Its hard to believe that Quicksilver was not aware of such a very noticeable and major bug such as the colony ship problem or the woefully inadequate documentation before release. A lot of this frustration and the bad blood it has produced in Infogrames' game forums could have been nipped in the bud with a quick patch fixing the most obvious problems.

Instead, the developers have given no date for even preliminary fixes -- there is talk of "weeks" -- but instead say they are concentrating on the documentation. There is no question that an enormous amount work remains to be done in that department. However, this leaves the actual game in its current buggy state and will just prompt people who have bought it to tell their friends that MOO3 is, in fact, "banana software" -- it ripens after you bought it -- and that they should avoid it till the patches come out.

Given that MOO3 had to be pressed on CD, packaged, shipped all over the world, and distributed amongst vendors, Quicksilver would seem to have had days, if not weeks to provide a patch that addresses at least the most glaring problems. Forcing customers to wait what could be months adds to the general frustration and giving the impression that Infogrames is not doing all in its power to address these issues, but would rather hush them up to sell more boxes.

Adding to this impression is a major communication problem. Trying to get feedback to the developers of the game has been made hard to the point of being an exercise in frustration tolerance, cutting them off from the most natural source of bug reports and enhancement suggestions. There is no way of sending feedback from inside the game itself; there is no email address mentioned in the documentation; there seems to be no web interface for feedback items. The only way to make bugs known to the company apart from maybe writing a letter or phoning them is to take part in forum discussions on the Infogrames web site. However, to post in the forum, you need to register with the company, and the sheer amount of spam, trolling, and other noise makes it seem doubtful that the developers could find the time to pick out the legitimate postings even if they wanted to.

The little documentation that is provided with the game shows that Quicksilver has grossly misjudged who their target audience is. MOO3 is a game that has a depth and complexity that will appeal to hard core strategy fans. The developers themselves seem to have realized this when they decided to keep the graphics to a bare functional minimum rather than providing eye candy so beloved with the point-and-shoot crowd. Anybody interested in a complex game and willing to climb the learning curve wants to know the details of how the galaxy works -- like, how is mining affected in percent of output if I am playing a Geodic race, am on a mineral rich planet with deep core mining and have a unification government? The handbook and the on-line encyclopedia both are too superficial to be satisfying. Since MOO3's "onion" interface is new, far more documentation then the rote cute background story that takes up about half the space in the manual and the superficial game play introduction is required.

The release of MOO3 will probably go down in history as one of the better examples of a great software product that was ruined by managers and marketing droids. Quicksilver's programmers have created an innovative, fascinating, and possibly ground breaking new strategy game with a scope well worthy of its predecessors. However, it is becoming apparent that the managers in charge, faced with the usual pressure to get the game to market, lost their nerve and released it long before the shakedown phasewas complete. Now, by not fixing the most glaring mistakes promptly and by making feedback next to impossible, they are alienating the original MOO2 fan base and rapidly giving the game a reputation as a bug-ridden, badly tweaked failure that threatens not only to destroy the proud franchise the game's name stands for, but also severely limit their sales on the long run.

This is a fate that no good game deserves; the fact that MOO3 had the potential to be truely great makes it a tragedy.


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Snatching Good from the Jaws of Great: The Bungled Release of "Master of Orion 3" | 79 comments (73 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
you have the source (1.22 / 50) (#3)
by turmeric on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 08:28:16 AM EST


You're in the wrong game discussion (4.42 / 7) (#6)
by pyramid termite on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 08:47:50 AM EST

The Jump Start Toddler discussion is in someone's diary.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
I take it back (3.33 / 3) (#24)
by Tatarigami on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 02:17:42 PM EST

Now I prefer your old trolling style. Your new one's been done already.

[ Parent ]
Why games are released before they're ready (4.50 / 2) (#4)
by bsimon on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 08:39:37 AM EST

Its hard to believe that Quicksilver was not aware of such a very noticeable and major bug such as the colony ship problem or the woefully inadequate documentation before release.

I've often seen people make this kind of comment about a newly-released piece of software, or other product.

It's a bit like me looking at your story and complaining that there are 3 or 4 grammatical errors "So obvious! How could you have missed that!", I say. But I'm not aware of the 40 other errors that you fixed before you posted it. Of course, you're not getting $50 for your story... but it's a similar misconception, nonetheless.

No doubt the developers of MOO3 were under great pressure. They were probably faced with a list of hundreds of bugs, some serious, like random crashes, some just minor annoyances.

In the last few weeks, I expect they were working 16 hours a day trying to fix the bugs. Perhaps they dealt with 99%, but they didn't have time to fix all of them.

Even worse, some of the bug fixes inevitably created new bugs. Perhaps the AI bugs you mention were the result of a change that corrected something far more serious...

If they'd had more time, they could have fixed more bugs - though never all of them. So why didn't they have more time?

"When will the game be released?", people ask. "When it's ready", is the traditional reply. But it'd be far more accurate to answer "When we can". Meaning: when the game is ready enough to get good publicity that will generate sales that will keep us going while we patch all the bugs.

The second problem you mention, the lack of documentation is harder to understand. It suggests a lack of planning by someone, because much of the information in the documentation would come from the design spec, which should have been roughed out before the game code was even written.

you have read my sig

MOO3 history & a few guesses (none / 0) (#7)
by nusuth on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 09:24:31 AM EST

The game finally froze at January the 24th, it has been 40 days until now. During the first 28, developers had not much to do except fixing bugs found during internal testing. They must have fixed obvious bugs by now.

I guess they are still waiting for the reports of more serious but less common bug come in before releasing a patch. It has been only 12 days you could buy a copy, so there must be many serious-but-rare-bugs not reported yet, especially if triggering the bug requires a certain configuration.

Documentation problem may be due to drastic playability and interface changes after the reactions initial testing phase. People found there were way too many options and screens. IIRC they decided to dumb down the interface as late as 5 months before release and (again, IIRC) they cut more than half of the screens. Also they dropped the fifth X (eXperience - which has been hyped quite a bit) from the game as late as 2002 summer. I don't think that is very relevant to single player game though.

[ Parent ]

Double Standards (5.00 / 3) (#12)
by DarkZero on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 12:06:03 PM EST

I think the real problem here is the double standard that these companies are given. When a newspaper article, even a twenty page spread in a magazine, is rife with spelling errors and factual inaccuracies, no one says, "But they had a deadline" or "They did the best they could". They complain that the article is rife with spelling errors and factual inaccuracies and the newspaper/magazine is given a bad reputation. When a movie is released with most of the special effects shots having obviously been rushed, no one walks out of the movie theater saying, "Well, I bet they worked really hard to get it out for the summer" or "Well, they gave us the bare minimum that we were willing to pay for". Instead, you hear people (and critics) complaining that the special effects SUCKED and that they were ripped off.

But move it over to software, which doesn't cost $5 like a weekly magazine or $10 like a movie ticket, but instead costs fifty dollars, and suddenly there are a ton of excuses for why these companies should be pitied. Making games is hard. Bug fixing and patching takes time. Playtesting takes time. The project is on a budget. Bugs overlap. Smaller bugs are okay because as long as the game isn't crashing to the desktop every six seconds, it's apparently worth fifty dollars. And if it does constantly crash to the desktop, well... bug fixing and patching takes time, playtesting takes time, the project is on a budget, etc.

Fuck that. If a developer's game is buggy and crashes constantly, there aren't any excuses for that. You see that maybe twice a year in console games. This is because if a console game does that, the consumer isn't going to take it. They're not going to say "Oh, I guess I'll wait three months for the patch and THEN play the game". They'll have bought a coaster, rather than a coaster that magically turns into a game in three months, and they will be pissed as Hell, never buy from that company again, and keep all of their friends away from that company's products. Somehow, console game makers manage to miraculously release dozens of games in a row with no fatal defects or extremely noticeable bugs. This isn't just because console games are easier to program than PC games in a few instances. This is because they can't justify their game's utter crappyness with "we're working real hard on a patch right now" for three or four months. They have to get it right the first time and they consistently do so because their customers demand it.

We're not going to get away from this flood of crappy PC games through technology or natural market forces as long as there are still so many popular excuses for companies that get to screw over their consumers because they figure they can patch the game later and they know that Electronics Boutique or CompUSA or wherever isn't going to accept a PC game return even if the game is totally defective.

These people are screwing you over and giving you bullshit excuses and you're helping to shield them with newer, even more ridiculous arguments for why their bad behavior is okay. Why?

[ Parent ]

Correction (none / 0) (#14)
by DarkZero on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 12:11:32 PM EST

Please stratch the part about Electronics Boutique. Someone else claims otherwise and I'm inclined to believe them. I'm rather surprised by it, though, since these PC game companies have become so uptight about DRM that I've heard a lot of reports of players having to hack their own games just to get them to work properly.

[ Parent ]
Yup, it's true (none / 0) (#15)
by baberg on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 12:26:47 PM EST

I was surprised when I read about it, too. Some people on a message board were saying that they returned their opened PC games to EB, and I thought, "Nah, they're just trolling, no game retailer would accept an open PC box." But I went into EB with a game I didn't like (Starcraft Commander III, I think) and asked about the policy. As long as it's still in good condition, with packaging and receipt, they'll refund the full price of the game.

[ Parent ]
Explaining, not defending... (none / 0) (#16)
by bsimon on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 01:22:36 PM EST

I'm not trying to defend the game developers and publishers, just trying to explain how games get released with bugs that appear to be obvious to us.

I agree that it should not be acceptable for companies to release games that are full of bugs. As you point out, console games rarely have such serious problems (though having a single, stable hardware platform helps of course).

But if people keep buying them, they'll keep selling them...

you have read my sig
[ Parent ]

Footnote? (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by NFW on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 06:34:37 PM EST

But if people keep buying them, they'll keep selling them...

Seems to me that this is it, period.

Polishing the game to perfection before releasing it would result in $X profit.
Releasing it without polish results in $Y profit.
$X < $Y.

That could change, but I'm not holding my breath.

Got birds?

[ Parent ]

Not just games... (none / 0) (#19)
by puppet10 on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 01:36:23 PM EST

PC software in general seems to get a pretty major pass on a lot of errors that would not be tolerated in other products.  Perhaps they've managed to convince people that no one can make solid software anymore so not to be so upset if the software they sell isn't very high quality either.

[ Parent ]
Hyup... (none / 0) (#53)
by Skwirl on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 06:42:47 AM EST

Hm. Let's see. One company has a monopoly on the desktop OS market. Company decides that they don't need to put out a quality product anymore. People keep buying it anyways because they don't know they have a choice. People learn to assume that magical fairies in their disk drive inevitably make the computer crash every 15 minutes.

That is to say, your commentary is dead on. Normal people really just assume that buggy software is a part of life. Lucky for us, nuclear plant engineers don't generally carry this philosophy.

"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
[ Parent ]

Console games don't have problems? (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by subversion on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 05:13:13 PM EST

News to me.  My copy of Metroid Prime froze around 15 times during a single 18 hour playthru of the game (which doesn't change the fact that it was badass!).  GTA3:VC has frozen on me several times, and I've had corrupt save problems with it as well (to be fair, they were with cheats, and Rockstar warns about that).  Hell, I've even had major bugs in every single FF I've played (yes, 1-3, and 7-10.)  Not to mention random graphical glitches and whatnot.

Console games really aren't that much better for gameplay type bugs.  Mostly, they're better due to the single stable hardware platform they can write for, leading to fewer lockup/non-load type bugs.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

Slightly OT: Just Curious... (none / 0) (#37)
by Blah Blah on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 09:44:11 PM EST

I've completed FF1 many times and never experienced any bugs. What bugs have you noticed?

[ Parent ]
Lockups, mostly. (none / 0) (#47)
by subversion on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 02:19:02 AM EST

Lockups at a couple random places.  The cartridge was getting old, which probably contributed, but I had a lock entering the Elf town and a lock later in the game (can't really remember when, but it was roughly around when I got the airship).  Both of these were on an original cart, not an emulator, and the cart was probably 10 years old at the time, which as I said might have contributed.

Still a damn fine game, though.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

Possiblities (5.00 / 1) (#69)
by Kintanon on Mon Mar 10, 2003 at 10:24:33 AM EST

1. You have a generic PS2 memory card that is supersized. They are known to randomly corrupt save files as well as occasionally causing other problems.
2. You got a bad disk or your system is gimpy, some kind of hardware problem.

I've played through ALL of the FF games on their original systems and most of them in their playstation remakes, as well as all of the PS2 ones and I've never run into a real bug. The occasional Zone Boundry bug that lets you fight monsters bigger than you should be able to fight and the occasional invisible NPC bug not withstanding. The only game I've had problems with is my copy of FFX and that's been hardware related both times.
My brother has played through GTA2 and GTA:VC without ever seeing a bug. Though we did find a cool place where you can run a sportscar up a stairway, it will start to accelerate in reverse REALLY REALLY fast and eventually shoot itself backwards and off a ramp into the ocean.
I did find a bug in Gauntlet Legends for the N64, if you use an exploding potion while another potion is on the screen it would crash the game.
But of the hundreds of console games I've played I've only run into 2 or 3 bugs, of the hundreds of PC games I've played I've run into well, hundreds of bugs.


[ Parent ]

I'll note (none / 0) (#72)
by subversion on Mon Mar 10, 2003 at 01:04:19 PM EST

That I've never found a replicable bug in a console game.  All of them were one time things, and Metroid Prime has been the worst so far (lots of lockups).

But it wasn't my memory card, because it was Sony issue, and generally worked just fine (i.e. corruption only happened with the FF games I played on it).  FFX, come to think of it, did not have a corruption issue, it just locked on me during voice acting one day.  Once.  Which is better than a PC game.  But still.

What you found in GTA:VC I would call a bug.  Not a serious one, but nonetheless a bug, just like graphical glitches are bugs.  Don't forget all the overflow glitches in the early FFs that allow you to 'trick' the game into giving you a ton of an item, or the add/subtract glitches that can let you increment items usable in battle, and so forth.  These are bugs - not game-stopping, but bugs.

If your definition of a bug is "must crash my system", then you aren't operating on my level.  A bug is any non-standard behavior or mechanic.  Not just ones that the player feels abused by, but ones that the player can take advantage of as well.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

Definition... (none / 0) (#76)
by Kintanon on Tue Mar 11, 2003 at 02:50:58 PM EST

My definition would be something that affects gameplay. So the Vice City deal with the car off the cliff isn't a bug, it's an easter egg. Something neat in the game that doesn't affect gameplay. The Old FF math errors were bugs. The thing I found in Gauntlet was a horrible bug. But I still don't find NEAR the level of issues in console games that I do in PC games.


[ Parent ]

Bah. (none / 0) (#73)
by subversion on Mon Mar 10, 2003 at 01:05:06 PM EST

I start by saying one thing and end saying another.

I should have said I've never found a replicable bug that causes system lockup in a console game.  I have found replicable non play-stopping bugs.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

I have (none / 0) (#75)
by Malvoisin on Mon Mar 10, 2003 at 04:26:00 PM EST

In two separate games of Tokyo Extreme Racer 1 on my stock Dreamcast, using a non-compressed memory card and the Sega controller, the game will crash at least 33% of the time when opponents "Exhaust Eve" or "ZERO" come out.  This crash requires a power cycling to clear--even a software reset by opening the CD tray doesn't work.

Mighty irritating, if you haven't been saving your game every night or you had a good run going that night.

[ Parent ]

Some comments (5.00 / 1) (#5)
by pyramid termite on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 08:44:27 AM EST

Example: After a planet has been marked for colonization, the AI will start sending colony ships until the colony is actually established. This means that if it takes time for the first ship to get to its destination, the AI will send more colony ships than needed.

So far, what I've been seeing is that one has to learn to keep a close eye on the AI and overrule any stupid decisions it makes - if an extra colony ship is placed in the build queue, you can delete it and build something else - if you've got an extra ship headed somewhere, pick a new destination for it. Working with the AI as a partner is necessary - micro-managing everything is too hard, but letting the AI handle it all is a mistake. It's a different concept than what players are used to - I'm still getting used to it. (I've played about 60 turns, so far, so I can't say I've got 100% knowledge of anything yet.)

Example: The production of troop transports is separate from the assembly of ground troops.

There's all sorts of things that are awkwardly placed in the interface - things that should be together, such as listing of task forces and being able to send them somewhere or add to them, aren't.

Threadbare documentation.

You wouldn't think a 160 page manual would be threadbare, but it is - I still haven't figured out whether I can select certain technologies or not. Generally, the documentation does a poor job of giving you the big picture and sometimes, telling you exactly what you can and cannot do in each screen. And it certainly doesn't explain how one is supposed to work with the AI.

I still haven't played this enough to make a real judgement, but I'm leaning towards thinking it's a fairly good game.

Now, by not fixing the most glaring mistakes promptly and by making feedback next to impossible, they are alienating the original MOO2 fan base

Mmm, yes and no - remember that the original MOO and MOO2 fan base had to wait until patch 1.31 in both those games to get the kind of game they wanted. I can only hope that Quicksilver is going to see this process through and not just abandon it halfway like SSG did with Reach To the Stars. I'm still trying to figure out why so many beta players of MOO3 were so enthusiastic about it when it was so awkward a product.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
no (none / 0) (#13)
by Politburo on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 12:08:10 PM EST

what I've been seeing is that one has to learn to keep a close eye on the AI and overrule any stupid decisions it makes

I absolutely HATE when I have to do this in a game. It's a computer. I do not want to have to babysit the computer. If it's going to do a task for me, I want it done right or not at all. I shouldn't have to be keeping one eye on the enemy and one eye on the computer.

[ Parent ]
You're right, but... (none / 0) (#36)
by Blah Blah on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 09:40:00 PM EST

what did you expect? I have yet to play a strategy game with a good AI. It's by far the hardest and most time consuming part of a game to program.

[ Parent ]
Best AI (none / 0) (#42)
by ghjm on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 11:04:54 PM EST

Total Annihilation with the Battle Tactics expansion. It's pretty damn good.

[ Parent ]
the problem with this is... (none / 0) (#68)
by joshsisk on Mon Mar 10, 2003 at 10:06:08 AM EST

... the way the game is designed, if you rely on the AI to do everything right, you might as well walks away and let the game play itself.

The only things in the game that the AI won't at least try to do is diplomacy, recruiting spies, and creating combat unit deployments.

If you could rely on the AI to do everything right, then there really would be little reason to play the game.
logjamming.com : web hosting for weblogs, NOT gay lumberjack porn
[ Parent ]

I haven't played the game (1.82 / 17) (#9)
by medham on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 10:27:27 AM EST

But I feel as if I must offer some comments about your story based upon my deductive reasoning capabilities. A game such as MOO3 is shaped not only by commercial pressures, which are to some degree quantifiable, but by the pressures of the World Spirit, which is moving towards manifestation at a stately--but inexorable--pace.

Now, the first object for any cultural analysis is to attempt to recreate the entire civilization which could have given rise to any act of creation. Obviously, M003 isn't a poem or a painting, but they are collaborative works as much as it was. The fact that computer software inverts the digital/analog hypostasis transubstantiates gender. Consider the Geodics, who are not dimorphic and were not produced by natural selection, e.g.

The exoticism of the interface is a reaction to its essentially rhizomatic epoche [bracketing]. M003 is the first post-pomo, pre-modern computer game; don't expect the slashbots to understand it.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

There are other problems, too (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by baberg on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 11:55:51 AM EST

I personally didn't feel like fighting through the 30+ hours people have quoted before considering the game "fun." I was fortunate enough to buy from Electronics Boutique, who takes returns for any reason up to 14 days after purchase, so I have already returned the game.

But from what I hear on the Infogrames forums, even when you get past the initial learning curve, the AI is hopelessly non-aggressive. Even on the highest difficulty setting, it seems content to send small, 3 ship fleets against your 8-ship armada. It will not attack any planets you control. When it does attack, it does so without provocation and without a declaration of war. Indeed, the player can conquer entire systems under AI control while maintaining peaceful relations.

That's not a bug. That's poor design.

Quicksilver/Infogrames had this game in development for 4 years. Its release date was initially scheduled for Q1 2002. They got in over their heads, realized it was never going to be complete, and shipped it out so that fans (like I was) would snap it up immediately, only to be disappointed by it. It's just not fun.

Ironically, it comes packaged with one leaflet for another game, Galactic Civilizations. MOO3 does have one redeeming quality - it led me to GalCiv, which will be everything MOO3 hoped to be. It's shipping out at the end of this month, and general opinion is that it's good. If you're disappointed in MOO3, look at GalCiv. It might be what you're looking for.

This game is just terrible (4.00 / 4) (#17)
by RyoCokey on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 01:23:09 PM EST

...I played it for about 100 turns before I realized there was no point. First of all, in spite of all the detail, you have to automate it or spend exorbitant amounts of time. Why couldn't you just use a simplified system, making it complex without being too complex?

Secondly, the combat system is terrible. Good luck if you can do much of anything during it. It doesn't autotrack your ships, combat is generally over too fast to give much in the way of commands, and it just plain doesn't look good. Where's the turn-based combat of the earlier games?

Finally, I swear you just spend most of the game clicking the turn button. It takes forever to reach an enemy, and most of the time you just sit there colonizing planets, hoping tech gives you something to stick in your woefully empty civilian build queue.

On a completely unrelated note, I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone managed this.

Pacifism in this poor world in which we live -- this lost world -- means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.
-- Francis Schaeffer,
The reason (1.00 / 4) (#26)
by medham on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 05:00:26 PM EST

That you spend most of the game just clicking the turn button (a triumph in itself, for one of your mental attainments) is that you have not learned how to play the game--indeed you might not even be capable of understanding the meta-game that is M003. However appealing micromanagement is to your shunted, anal personality, M003 requires a higher level of thinking.

And as much of an egalitarian as I am, I suspect that you may simply lack the capacity to play this game. You never see chimps throwing things because they lack the neural density to make the calculations required to hit anything, and there is a wide variance in homo sapien endowment. Games push the envelope of our cognitive abilitiews. That's why we (some of us) find them attractive.

By all means, please give us illusory ramblings about your fascination with go and old-school wargames. We'll merely shake our heads and make shorthand notes in our journals.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Meh.. (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by jmzero on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 06:21:58 PM EST

There is actually quite a bit of established thought on this.  See here for a good discussion of clarity - which is part of the issue here.

Complexity, as in a game like MOO3 (or Alpha Centauri or many others) is often a detriment.  It is an excuse - a way for the developer to make the game difficult to solve without actually giving the player a satisfying problem.  

Performance at a strategy game will vary with:

  1. Your ability to reason on the game's "problem"
  2. Your knowledge of the game
I prefer games that emphasize 1. I enjoy flexing my brain muscles, but I have neither the time nor patience for memorizing game trivia.  How will a chaos shock platform psy trooper perform against a laser batallion squad armored carrier?  Who the hell cares?  Where's the game?  

Perhaps you enjoy studying rules more than I, or perhaps you lack the hardware to play a clear game, one where knowledge can't make up for poor strategy.  

"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

Curious (none / 0) (#46)
by Kal on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 02:10:30 AM EST

I enjoy flexing my brain muscles, but I have neither the time nor patience for memorizing game trivia. How will a chaos shock platform psy trooper perform against a laser batallion squad armored carrier? Who the hell cares? Where's the game?

What do you expect out of a strategy game? In most of the ones I've played, and enjoyed, knowing how your units stack up against the other guys is very important. I don't care for the Chess like strategy games where any unit can 'take' any other. I much prefer knowing that it's stupid for me to send this little squad of Infantry against that platoon of Tiger tanks.

[ Parent ]
Indeed - I agree (none / 0) (#59)
by jmzero on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 04:01:25 PM EST

In most of the ones I've played, and enjoyed, knowing how your units stack up against the other guys is very important

The problem is that in some games there are too many kinds of units.  The best games have a good number of different units - and those units are really different.  Starcraft, for instance, had really good balance this way.  The different units had truly different properties, and yet maintained balance (for the most part).

Now imagine Starcraft, only there's 30 different kinds of Mutilisks - each with vaguely different statistics.  Even if they could balance the game such that they were all useful (which they couldn't), would it really make the game better?  There's other things about Starcraft I don't like, but I like how the units were laid out.

I don't care for the Chess like strategy games where any unit can 'take' any other

I don't mind it either way - just so long as things make sense and winning is based on being able to put together a good strategy.

"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

Actually (none / 0) (#67)
by Kal on Mon Mar 10, 2003 at 08:40:57 AM EST

The problem is that in some games there are too many kinds of units.

One of my all time favorite strategy games, Space Empires 4 has an almost infinite number of units since they are all designed by the players. Reacting to different ship designs, and forcing the other players to react to your changes is a large portion of the fun.

[ Parent ]
My main MOO3 peeve... (4.00 / 3) (#18)
by SvnLyrBrto on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 01:35:54 PM EST

... is that I haven't even been able to play it yet!

Was anyone else here following John Carmack's .plan updates during the development/release of Quake 3?  Yeah, I'll admit...  I was one of those suckers who thought Quake 3 was actually going to be a GAME instead of just an engine for Id to license.  Anyway, one of the things the really had me PO'd...  Carmack flat out said openly in his .plan that he had finished all three versions (PC, Mac, Linux) of Quake 3 within just a few days of each other.

But the suits had decided to suck up to gates, and drag their heels on the Mac and Linux versions so as to artificially drive up the numbers for the pc version.  Thus, it was a good month and a half or so before the Macintosh and Linux verfions of Q3A hit the storeshelves (Thus, both missed the xmas buying season.); DESPITE the fact that all three were golden master within three days or so of each other!

(Yes, I'm aware that Loki DID obtain the software and started sending CDs for the Linux version out to pre-orders shortly before xmas that year.  But sending out just the CDs, to be followed by the packaging later, and only to mail/web-order customers, is a far cry from a real "on the storeshelves" release.)

Well, quicksilver has decided to pull the same stunt with MOO3.  The developers took great pains to avoid writing platform-specific code, and developed both the Macintosh and PC versions simultaneously.  Once again, both versions went gold at about the same time.  And yes, once again, (according to the salesguy at CompUSA I tried to buy MOO3 from) the tie-wearers have decided to delay the Macintosh release a good month after the pc version FOR NO TECHNICAL REASON WHATSOEVER!

> 3. Threadbare documentation.

That's almost certianly intentional.  And it's another thing that annoys the crap out of me with games thesedays.  They ship with incomplete and totally inadequate manuals, in an obvious effort to make it necessary for you to buy the strategy guide as well as the game.  Well... at least there's gamefaqs.com to get around THAT little bit of bastardry

Bastards..... fucking bastards.  Well... from all accounts their DEVELOPERS are pretty cool guys.  Platform agnostic code, easy porting, and simultaneous development IS the way to go.  But Quicksilver's MANAGEMENT types can burn in hell for all I care.  I've half a mind to just grab it off of carracho when it shows up THERE, instad of CompUSA.


Imagine all the people...

The irony... (none / 0) (#31)
by dark on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 07:03:56 PM EST

The irony is that if they included proper manuals it would encourage more people to actually buy the game. I remember how cool it was when I opened my Ultima V box and it contained a map (printed on textile!), some kind of amulet, and a "moonstone" (a colored pebble, but it would activate the Siege Perilous, your gateway into the game world :). All this in addition to an excellent manual that was written with style and humour. These extras, which can't have cost them much, really made the legit version worth owning.

These days, you're lucky if the enormous box a game comes in contains an A5 "technical notes" sheet in addition to the CD and the cardboard filling. Some games throw in a "manual" that contains some screen shots and explains that the "New Game" button will start a new game (but usually neglects to describe the different difficulty options). It's just disappointing.

[ Parent ]

Yeah (none / 0) (#34)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 08:33:50 PM EST

I remember back in the day there were times that I would buy a game and the manual would be the size of a damn dirty BOOK. Now it's 20 pages on postcard size paper, 1/4 of which is installation instructions, 1/4 is troubleshooting, and 1/4 is EULA.

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Irony (none / 0) (#45)
by irrevenant on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 01:20:59 AM EST

dark wrote: The irony is that if they included proper manuals it would encourage more people to actually buy the game. I remember how cool it was when I opened my Ultima V box and [...]

Sadly, I think you've just shot down your own point. The fact that these items came as a pleasant surprise indicates that they weren't a deciding factor in your purchase of the product. It wasn't a showstopper for you.

You say the lack of this sort of thing in modern games is disappointing. Has it stopped you buying the games?

I'm guessing not, and so are the marketting departments.

[ Parent ]
Another thing I've noticed (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by tang gnat on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 01:52:29 PM EST

Missiles shred your fleets to shreds, even if you have point-defense ships. This means that missile launchers ("Indirect fire") are the most powerful ships in the game.

Reminds me of Neverwinter Nights (3.00 / 1) (#21)
by Gord ca on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 01:55:32 PM EST

An incredibly anticipated game taking forever to get out the door, then being incredibly buggy once it left.

Bioware kinda redeemed itself by posting extensive patches (fixing plenty of bugs, adding new flavours of mosters, adding features). These made it decidedly less buggy (but even with the latest patch, I still had to enter the in-game debugger to finish chapter 2, since the end of chapter sequence refused to start automatically.) Will MOO3's developers do this?

If I'm attacking your idea, it's probably because I like it

um (2.00 / 1) (#25)
by nodsmasher on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 02:32:40 PM EST

both your obvius bug and your game play issues are both actully ai issues, how exactly are they in those seperate catigoires ?
Most people don't realise just how funny cannibalism can actually be.
Can a game like this be made... (3.00 / 1) (#28)
by guidoreichstadter on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 05:14:25 PM EST

... in which the computer learns or copies the actions of the person playing the game?

you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
Not Really (none / 0) (#39)
by DarkZero on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 10:09:11 PM EST

I remember some games trying this sort of system out and it didn't work. The key problem is that even though everyone thinks that they want a computer partner that will work with them and adjust to the way that they play, what they actually want is very predictable AI assistance. When the AI assistance adjusts to the way that you play, almost every round of the game will feature new changes to your build order and your battle tactics, since the AI will always be doing something different. For instance, if you anticipate that the AI will send a small amount of forces to attack a small enemy encampment the same way that it has in the last ten games and then find that it has adjusted to the way you usually play (sending a very large force to attack a large target) and sent a large amount of forces, your tactic is screwed. A perfectly good diversionary tactic has become a big, stupid rush that the enemy easily counters.

Most players plan out their team games ahead of time, deciding which player will do what. Being able to manually set the way an AI teammate/assistant works achieves pretty much the same goal and is probably a better idea.

[ Parent ]

I was thinking more along the lines of ... (none / 0) (#44)
by guidoreichstadter on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 01:01:45 AM EST

a situation where the computer opponent would learn from you, the player, constantly over the life of your software, emulating your behavior if your behavior produces outcomes superior to the built in AI. You would basically teach the computer how to play the game.

you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]
Games where computer learns from player... (none / 0) (#48)
by bsimon on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 03:17:13 AM EST

I've seen simple games (like tic-tac-toe/noughts & crosses, and checkers/draughts) where the computer learns from the player, and improves over time. But I don't recall seeing any really complicated games that can do that. I assume that's because the programming would be very difficult, and/or the AI would use too much CPU time.

It could be a very good thing. For me, the appeal of online multiplayer games is that you can't keep using the same tricks, because human opponents learn them (some quicker than others). I think playing against a computer is boring if you find weaknesses in its AI, because you can repeatedly exploit them, and the computer will fall for the same trick over and over.

Of course, if the computer was too good, the game wouldn't be much fun for most people.

I read (at firingsquad.com) that a game called Galactic Civilizations might eventually have the ability to learn from players, but that will only come in a patch after it's released.

Funnily enough, I think it will be distributed by Infogrammes, who have apparently done such a lousy job on MOO3... but the developer is different.

you have read my sig
[ Parent ]

Ahem (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by Happy Monkey on Mon Mar 10, 2003 at 12:33:23 PM EST

I've seen simple games (like tic-tac-toe/noughts & crosses, and checkers/draughts) where the computer learns from the player, and improves over time.

If anyone writes a complicated AI for tic-tac-toe then they are doing it for practice - tic-tac-toe has an actual solution. I had a tic-tac-toe game on my first computer with the warning: "NOTE: you will never win."
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
I wrote one once upon a time (5.00 / 2) (#77)
by fluffy grue on Wed Mar 12, 2003 at 11:14:56 AM EST

Well, sort of. There was this game published in RUN! Magazine called Snakes which had a really stupid AI, and when I was 12 I wondered if I could improve the AI by making it "breed" the rulesets (basically, I figured out genetic algorithms without knowing anything about them before). It got a lot better, but even then I still had a very simple strategy which would defeat the computer players easily.

Then a few years later I ported it to the PC, and decided to make it so the computer-controlled players could learn from the human players' moves, and it got extremely evil after just two rounds (basically, it'd take my simple strategy and add in a slight random element which made it quite efficient).

The trick to GAifying a game AI is to figure out some way of boiling the current situation down to a simple pattern which can be fed into a rule table, consult the table, and if the entry hasn't been filled in, put in a random valid move. Then have some sort of performance metric (like, "how much has my situation improved in the last 5 moves") and maintain a set of the best strategies, and occasionally "breed" them by randomly deciding which ruleset to take a rule mapping from (and also randomly deciding to drop a rule, so you don't get stuck in a local maximum).

For something like a turn-based strategy game it might be better to just associate a "performance" with each individual rule mapping, and randomly drop them based on how poorly they've performed.

In any case, the AI mechanics aren't the hard part. What's difficult is coming up with a decent rule mapping and performance metric. Also, obviously this is difficult to adapt to an action game (just because the range of inputs is extremely difficult to parameterize, especially when you factor in things like visibility and so on).
"Is a hyperlink" is a hyperlink.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.

Cats: Nature's entropy generators

[ [ Parent ]

Examples of (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by kaol on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 04:05:34 AM EST

Shogun: Total War claims to use a GA to search a strategy against the player over games.

Galactic civilizations learns from players, sort of. A player has the option after a game to send a log of the game to the game developer. Consequently they have copied the playing style of the top ranking players to improve the AI. Nowadays the game boasts a challenging AI that doesn't cheat.

May be others around, I don't know about them. I've no real information on these two either, Google might know more.

[ Parent ]

I would post my opinion on the game... (3.00 / 1) (#32)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 07:53:30 PM EST

...if I had it running. I've been trying off and on for a few days to get it running under winex and I still can't get through the installation.

Btw, if anyone knows something about how to get winex to actually resolve long files names from the foo~1.stf type file names that are one the cd, email me. I haven't a clue why it is a problem since several people have said moo3 under winex worked for them with no trouble, but it is.

Get a real OS (1.20 / 5) (#33)
by medham on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 08:17:00 PM EST

And it'll run fine. Why muck around with emulation?

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Send it back. (1.00 / 3) (#35)
by it certainly is on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 09:12:46 PM EST


Companies not supporting Linux are just being perverse. After all, 95% of desktop computers run Linux, only 5% run Windows -- why do games companies support such a minority operating system?

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

Here's something to try (5.00 / 2) (#38)
by Blah Blah on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 09:49:00 PM EST

If you have a Windows box available, install the game on it, then copy all the files over to your Linux machine. I haven't tried it with MOO3, but that technique has been known to work for some games.

[ Parent ]
Long file names (5.00 / 2) (#40)
by obvious on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 10:28:51 PM EST

Do you have the Joliet extensions compiled into your kernel? It's in `File Systems/ISO 9660 CDROM file system support'. Without this option long file names on CDs get truncated. I was having this type of problem with various games when I first started using WineX.

[ Parent ]
Compiling long filenames into the kernel... (3.00 / 1) (#60)
by BadmanX on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 04:14:29 PM EST

...and all my friends wonder why I don't use Linux when I'm such a big programming geek. Jeez.

[ Parent ]
Where else but the kernel? (none / 0) (#62)
by matthead on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 08:09:12 PM EST

Where do you expect filesystem support to go?
- Matt
I'm at (-3.1, -5.0). Where are you?
[ Parent ]
Uh...my point... (none / 0) (#63)
by BadmanX on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 08:37:14 PM EST

...is that having to recompile your kernel in order to make a program work is pretty stupid and I'm glad the operating system I use (that there Windows OS) doesn't require it.

[ Parent ]
Um I guess (none / 0) (#64)
by iasius on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 09:30:56 PM EST

if you want to make a program work for which you have to compile a new kernel you're pretty much stuck using windows. That said I don't need Linux, Windows 5.1 is stable enough for my purposes, so I use that. :)

the internet troll is the pinnacle of human evolution - circletimessquare
[ Parent ]
Custom kernels (5.00 / 1) (#65)
by obvious on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 10:21:38 PM EST

If you don't want to bother compiling your kernel, you shouldn't use a custom kernel. Most distributions that aim to be easy to use have a pre-compiled kernel that includes everything you need, and you almost never have to recompile it.

If you do choose to compile your own kernel from scratch, then it's up to you to make sure you have everything you need. It's your choice.

[ Parent ]

Thought I did... (none / 0) (#61)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 04:18:06 PM EST

Thanks. I would have sworn that I put them in. I mean, I just can't imagine that when my local guru and I were going through the list of what to put in we saw it, he said something like "that lets you read cd's with windows style long file names", and I said "nope, next". It would have been totally irrational of us, but there it is. When my school and work schedule allows a couple of free hours, I'll put in the extensions.

Just as well that my computer didn't let me play the game, I probably wouldn't have gotten anything done this weekend.

[ Parent ]

Update to this. (none / 0) (#78)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 04:27:13 PM EST

Seems that I had the iso9660 extension in as a module, but I couldn't modprobe it and when I looked for it in /lib/modules/kernel.name/ it was nowhere to be found. I checked a friend's machine, which was reading the disks fine. He had the extension compiled in, so I switched from module to that. That worked and all is good now. No idea why iso9660 wouldn't work as a module.

[ Parent ]

Infogrames, say no more (4.66 / 3) (#41)
by Sze on Sat Mar 08, 2003 at 10:55:19 PM EST

I was not a MOO2 player and was not planning on buying MOO3, but this story reminds me of the Civilization 3 release in 11/01. The players in that fiasco were Firaxis (designers) & Infogrames (publishers). Like MOO3, Civ 3 was eagerly anticpated by a huge fan-base, myself included. Speculation and ideas flowed freely for years before the game came out and everyone was excited that Firaxis seemed to be implementing many of those ideas in Civ 3. Multi-player was cut a few months before release, but was promised to appear in a patch within a few months.

Civ 3 was awful when it was released. Not just bugs, but poor design, poor implementation, poor AI, etc... I could write a book about how disappointing the game was. It was pretty, but unplayable for a serious gamer. Firaxis received the brunt of the negative feedback and they stopped interacting with the community. The incompleteness was not their fault, the game was rushed, but the poor design was their fault. I and dozens of other would-be fans posted endlessly about the flaws to show our displeasure, inform them what needed to be done to fix the game, and to warn those who hadn't bought it to hold off for a while if not indefinitely. I vowed to never buy another Infogrames game until I read the message boards and discerned for myself that it was a good release. And to be honest, I'm hesitant to pre-order any game at theis point (WWII on-line anyone?).

They brought out a few patches which fixed the silliest and most harmful bugs and added some features that should have been there in the first place. Each patch created as many problems as it fixed. I imagine the near future of MOO3 will be similar. Then they had the audacity to release multi-player as an expansion, fraught with more bugs. I wonder if Infogrames is aware of how many present and future sales they missed by putting out such a mess?

The sources of the problem are complex: the designers go into the project without a realistic concept of how long it takes to develop a game; the publishers don't care about quality, they just want something on the shelves by x-mas; the consumers are often not sophisticated enough to recognize a shoddy product.

Talk about a game with bugs (1.00 / 3) (#43)
by medham on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 12:15:19 AM EST

Starcraft. In the sixth Terran mission, for example, the enemy AI keeps sending hordes of zerglings to disrupt your buildup, making it very difficult to finish the scenario. I'm sure, if asked, that the team at Firaxis would say that this was somehow intentional on their part; but a more honest answer is that its buggy cheating. And for I one will not stand for it.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

The 6th Terran mission in Starcraft... (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by Kasreyn on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 04:58:10 AM EST

That's not very difficult to beat. One of my favorites, actually. The early Zergling rush is easy to counter with a few carefully placed bunkers, plus Raynor's Spider Mines. (That is, bunker + 4 Marines). One bunker should be built near your Refinery to the North, and another to the northeast; this will combine with the ones you start out with so that each bunker is within range to support the next. End of Zergling menace. Now build up 2 full units of Marines, go take the expansion to the north, build up to 10 full units of 'rines, and go wipe up the rest of the opposition. Move in with Raynor and the dropships when no Zerg are yet alive (make sure you kill all the Scourges!)

Sorry to get off-topic, but I can't understand that 6th mission posing any difficulties to anyone.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Firaxis? Blizzard made SC - nt (none / 0) (#52)
by Fuzzwah on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 05:22:34 AM EST

The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris
[ Parent ]

Hehe, good one. [n/t] (none / 0) (#74)
by coljac on Mon Mar 10, 2003 at 03:42:06 PM EST

Whether or not life is discovered there I think Jupiter should be declared an enemy planet. - Jack Handey
[ Parent ]
Speaking of MOO3... (3.00 / 1) (#51)
by Kasreyn on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 05:01:17 AM EST

...anyone know ANYwhere a copy of MOO2 for the PC can be found? All I can find are Mac versions for sale, nothing for PC.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Here (none / 0) (#57)
by Cameleon on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 10:33:17 AM EST

Try it here . Found through Home of the Underdogs.

[ Parent ]
CompUSA (none / 0) (#70)
by Eccles on Mon Mar 10, 2003 at 10:34:18 AM EST

I've seen MOO2 on their cheap software shelves, and it's also listed as available on their website for $9.99 (albeit with a 2-4 week wait.)

[ Parent ]
More Gripes (4.00 / 1) (#54)
by bugmaster on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 07:14:58 AM EST

  • Apparently, you can only manually control one battle per turn. Why ? No idea. But it would have been nice to know before I controlled my "96 ships vs 1 scout" battle and let the AI bungle the "protect the choke point from enemies" battle.
  • Speaking of the battles, the real-time battle screen is useless. Ships appear as dots. You can't tell how much armor/shields they have left... all you can see is this green bar at the bottom that may or may not be related to how well you're doing.
  • Do Silicoids suffer penalties for colonizing red worlds ? No one knows.
  • How can I have a war with another race at the same time as being engaged in trade with them ?
  • The planet economy AI seems to be intent on saturating my reserves with troop transports. If left alone, it will bury you with transports. Well, either that or the "Eagle Attack" ships which are the weakest ships in the game.
I could go on, but I won't. Playing that game is just more bothersome than it's worth.
There's a difference between bugs and ignorance (4.66 / 3) (#58)
by ZanThrax on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 11:57:22 AM EST

  • When you create the new game, you set how many battles you want to have as a maximum control. I believe it defaults to five, so if you set it to one, that's not the designers fault. I don't understand why they felt the need to have the setting in the game at all, but I also can't see why anyone would want to bother commanding a 96 ships vs. a scout battle anyhow.
  • The green bar directly relates to how much shields and armor a task force has left; if the initial volley of a battle drops your task force to half and you barely scratch the enemy task force, obviously it's time to hit General Retreat. (I do agree that the ships are really tiny; but they are meant to be to scale with the multi-kilometer range combat, so I don't see what they could do to fix that.)
  • Of course. It's a red world for them, so the air pressure and temperature are not anywhere near what they need. Just because they eat rocks doesn't mean that they can handle any temperature and any atmospheric conditions.
  • Never seen that happen, but it sounds funky if it's true.
  • The planetary economy AI is building the only type of military vehicles that it can; the planet doesn't have enough industrial DEAs, population, or (likely) both to build big ships. Read this for a better explanation. (Yes, the documentation of this game is essentially non-existant.)

Destructive, evil, vile behaviour, focused on an enemy, is a a pretty good evolutionary strategy, right up until you run out of enemies.
[ Parent ]

Thanks (5.00 / 2) (#66)
by bugmaster on Mon Mar 10, 2003 at 03:18:50 AM EST

Thanks for the info. However:
There's a difference between bugs and ignorance
Agreed; however, it seems that MOO3 is really lacking in the "ignorance elimination" department. Technology has evolved since MOO1; now, we have these things called "context-sensitive help" and "hyperlinks". In a game with such a steep learning curve, those tools would be ideal. Saying "well, it's your fault for not reading the forums before playing the game, you sux0r" is not going to make the game better.

The green bar directly relates to how much shields and armor a task force has left
Yeah; I know that, but it's not very helpful. For example, consider a task force comprised of 2 carrier Battleships, and a horde of throwaway picket ships with point defence. At this point, it is very important to know which ships are taking the damage. The picket ships are just there to absorb the hits and die; but if the capital ships start getting heavily damaged, it's time to retreat.

The battle UI that I would have preferred is the UI that almost every other game uses: a green health bar and a blue shield bar above each ship. This way, I get more information than "some of your ships are taking damage", which is what MOO3 gives me now.

[ Parent ]

Most games seem to be released with issues (4.00 / 1) (#55)
by sypher on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 07:36:15 AM EST

Here is a link to the games support boards, it looks as though workarounds for some stuff has been discovered.

A lot of things are being discussed there that could help people decide on the scale of the problem.

I haven't played this game yet, but it is one i am keeping my eye on to get, the last game i bought 'brand new' was Vampire-The Masquerade

I had to d/l a humongous patch and miscellaneous files just to play the damn thing for more than 10 minutes, but that was mostly for stability, not game mechanics issues.

Stories like this might make the publishers more considerate for the future, I won't buy a game now unless I know it's finished before it hits the shelves.

Hell most all coverdisc and downloadable demos seem to play better than the finished articles these days.

Playtesting and beta feedback is important, don't give your betas to warez kiddies who spend more time sharing the beta and bragging than playtesting the game mechanics. Did MOO3 even have open testing?

I dreamt of it once, now I fear it dreams of me
More Issues (4.00 / 1) (#56)
by iasius on Sun Mar 09, 2003 at 08:57:30 AM EST

The most obvious bug or AI issue is that the AI disbands its troops ships just before they reach you. I had in 4 games and 1000 turns total only one planet ever taken from me and that was on the difficulty of impossible.
Another thing is that your point defense ships usually don't fire onto the first incoming missile round unless you have rockets on those said point defense ships (just putting a PD nuclear missile fixes this though).
Actually at this point you don't really have to do anything except press turn to win the game if you select auto colonization. Not my  idea of a challeging game experience.
BTW the AI does build too many troops transport and early defense ships when you haven't encountered anyone (which means they're useless once you encounter an enemy because they're outdated).
That can be fixed though if you make those ship types obsolete in the first turn and only have transports not-obsolete for a few rounds until enough are in the build queue. By then you can make the design obsolete again.
Other than that the game has potential and is even fun at times when you figured out that you don't really have to do much besides preventing those AI bugs and moving your fleet around. It just should have been shipped way more finished.

the internet troll is the pinnacle of human evolution - circletimessquare
What went wrong and what was good. (none / 0) (#79)
by dolo on Tue Mar 25, 2003 at 12:51:36 PM EST

Master of Orion 3 is fun for me. I enjoy it, but it's got issues.

Overall here is what went wrong:

  • AI mode is stupid
  • Space combat is stupid
  • Ground combat is stupid
  • Tech trees are cool but pointless because we just turn the AI on to avoid micromanaging tech because there is not any clear rules or reasons why things work in the game - only consequences of bad decisions
  • Voting in the Orion Senate is pretty pointless and has no advantage or impact on the game
  • Spying is really really stupid and simple-minded because you can't order hits on diplomats, loot other empires, protect your own worlds (ie control your spy in any way) You can just build them and set them free in enemy territory. How bogus is that?
  • Bugs
  • The menus are obtuse at times
  • Navigation in the game's menus could be faster but it's like navigating a UNIX dumb-client at times
  • The planets look cool but they don't do anything
  • Knowing what kind of star feeds your worlds has no effect
  • Too many meaningless statistics that have little or no impact on the game
  • You can't rename planets (or at least I can't figure out how)(We want Romulus and Remus, dammit!)

    Overall here is what went right:

  • The tech trees are cool to read, if you have time
  • It's fun to plan the demise of an entire species
  • It's fun to slowly build your fleets and attack interlopers on your systems
  • Upgrading ships is fun
  • The species are fun to laugh at
  • If you play a Meklar, you can call all of the other species "Ugly bags of mostly water".
  • Discovering new planets is cool
  • Having a pet marble collection is cool
  • Discovering new and more efficient ways of playing the game is fun!
  • You can cheat with mods that let you have max everything, and that's fun, even though it will still be weeks before you can beat the New Orions.
  • You can create your own race of Borg (you just call them that and they look like Meklars)
  • You don't have to do anything but click the turn button because everything is done for you (results may vary)
  • Diplomacy can be funny
  • Passing laws in the Orion Senate is funny because it never works, and when it does, it's totally pointless. Hehe!
  • Some of the tech descriptions are funny, like the invisibility one, where it talks about late night cartoon talk shows (more evidence that the designers were glue-huffers?)
  • Fun to play if you are petty and vindictive and take yourself way too seriously (which is 100% of the target audience)

    In the spirit of this review we should employ some Moo3 logic to our scoring of this title!

  • 100% Starting score before we make any adjustments.
  • -50% Game lost fifty percent for being only half complete
  • 20% Megalomaniac factor made us laugh and was good
  • -50% Bad game systems design
  • -50% Bad menu navigation
  • 30% Funny races that really talk
  • 50% Detailed tech trees
  • -50% Pointless tech trees
  • 50% Good clean fun for the whole family, even your dog, Spot
  • -10% Lame ship design
  • -20% Lame AI
  • 60% Good star systems design
  • -20% Bad Ground Combat
  • -20% Bad Space Combat
  • -20% Bad Game designers
  • -10% Bad spying design
  • +20% X factor
  • -10% Antarans were New Orions, maybe. (we have to flip them and check)
  • -10% Human species speaks German (tacky German accents) Total 12.26% of a possible 500% give or take a few.

    Ahh but if you happen to be in the tough 2.65% target audience, you will think this title rates 98%. So it's pretty hard to say which is which.

  • Snatching Good from the Jaws of Great: The Bungled Release of "Master of Orion 3" | 79 comments (73 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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