“Remnants of the Precursors”

“Remnants of the Precursors” is the new, non-infringing name of the Master of Orion remake formerly known as “Java MOO”.

There are reasons for this name, although I realize that there is no name I could come up with that would be pleasing to everyone. Instead, I have chosen a name that will allow me to blaze a trail through the Master of Orion backstory that was virtually non-existent in the original game. I have opinions about the presentation of game lore, and at some point exploring the backstory in-game will become an integral part of the post-Orion release of this game.

Also, please realize that this blog will self-destruct soon as I try to distance the project fromthe use of “Master of Orion”! This is a specific request from Wargaming that I have every intention of honoring. I have set up a new website at www.pretendstudios.com to serve as a clearinghouse for information about the game, and will be firing up a new dev blog in the next week or so.

If you are following twitter at @JavaMOO,  please start following at  @PretendStudios



Java MOO no more!

Well, I just got word back from Wargaming.net about the viability of the Java MOO project existing as a fan-made version of the original Master of Orion.

They are cool with it under two conditions:

— Cannot use “Master of Orion” in the name

— Cannot generate revenue from it

So there it is. Java MOO will be receiving a new name, since “MOO” is just an abbreviation for “Master of Orion”. I’ll let everyone know what it is once the various domain and twitter accounts are locked up.

But this means that race names like “Mrrshan”, “Klackons”, etc are permitted for the time being. If they change their mind on that, then those can be renamed at some point as well.

This is great news because it allows me to continue to invest in the development of the game without fear of losing it all due to a Cease & Desist order!

Thanks to Wargaming for being so cool about this project. I have no doubt that certain companies would have just shut this down on Day 1.

The case for scientific realism

One of the things I love about space 4X games and sci-fi in general is the constant effort to maintain a sense of scientific realism in what is essentially a futuristic fantasy setting. It’s as if all we agree to suspend scientific disbelief on a few core items that are necessary to advance to the story, but anything else is frowned upon.

The Star Trek franchise is famous for their scientific rigor, and the Master of Orion franchise follows suit since it is basically set in a Star Trek-like universe. With that in mind, these are the items that I think are most important to maintain in Java MOO:

1.  Realistically evolved races

A lot of players snicker at the “animal” races in MOO, but I think they are more scientifically credible than people realize. Natural selection and the evolution of species is a scientific fact, except perhaps for a few denialists, and species will gradually adapt to survive in their environment. And guess what? Terrestrial environments will be similar across star systems because they are driven by fundamental chemical and physical processes that are the same everywhere. Planets with large, water oceans are common in the  universe because water is the most common non-elemental compound in the universe. It’s everywhere.

So while the Mrrshan are not evolved from actual Earth felines, it is plausible to suggest that a cat-like predator on another planet could have evolved into the Mrrshan, and that we view them as a “cat race”. There is also an artistic effort to avoid the trope of “alien = human body + alien head”. Star Trek has to do that, of course, because human actors were required to play aliens in the pre-CGI days. In Java MOO, however, Klackons will look like ants, the Bulrathi will look like bears, the Mrrshan will look like cats, the Alkari will look like birds, and Darloks will be phase-shifters.

All of the race backstories in Java MOO are being created from scratch since there were none provided with the original game. The only exception to the “evolved species” rule is the Silicoids because they are an atypical, silicon-based species. Their origin as an intelligent species is left intentionally mysterious. Their reproduction is unique and outside of natural selection. In addition, they are the oldest race in the galaxy. The plan is for all of the racial backstories to be fleshed out through game mechanics in a 2nd expansion of the game, but that is still quite a ways off.

2. No death stars

ok, just stop. Death stars are so scientifically non-credible that they could only be created in a fantasy sci-fi universe like Star Wars. Force use is very cool and will definitely be in Java MOO, but death stars and planet destroyers will not. They were introduced into the MOO franchise with MOO2, so I have the option of ignoring their existence and will do so. If you want to see how ridiculous the death star trope has become, just watch the latest Star Wars movie where they dig the rotting corpse of that horse out of the ground, prop it up, and then give it yet another round of beating.

3. No hablo Inglés

Alien races that are able (and willing) to speak to us in our native language really breaks immersion for me. Klackons are ants and don’t have vocal chords. Silicoids don’t even have heads! Sakkra and Mrrshan have no lips. I’m not even sure if the Darloks have a body.

How are these races even able to speak a Human language, much less English? I get that voice acting is cool in games, but it will be greatly restricted in Java MOO to those races where it makes sense (generally those with mouths and tongues). What you will instead experience is an alien speaking in some unintelligable language with the words  “Receiving…” and  “Translating…” in the text box.  Then you will see the English text of what they said. That to me is more realistic.

Non-English translations will be funded at some point after the first release.

4. No alien cohabitation

Species comingling will be patterned after MOO1, not MOO2. In other words, there won’t be any. Given what we know about biological life, mixing two ecosystems that have been separated for a long time (in this case, forever) is exceedingly dangerous. Besides, this is a sandbox game. Who trusts a completely alien race to come hang out on the planet just a few years after contact?

Actual contact  between races will be restricted to establishing trade routes and spying.

That’s about it for now.

This project is one year old…

A year ago, I decided to pick up the torch for a project I attempted a long time ago and then dropped.

After analyzing where to start, I google-stumbled onto my long-lost project and its source code, safely stored away in a jar file on a now-obscure website. What a find! Although I threw away all of the user interface code in favor of a rewrite, salvaging all of the underlying game logic probably saved me 4-6 months of work in my off-time.

Since the project has stayed faithful to its ‘recreate Master of Orion 1’ plan, there haven’t been any delays due to feature creep. However,  I have added a amazing  artist, a creative writer and a talented musician to the project, so it has clearly experienced “polish creep”. The original goal for a quick and dirty game has been scrapped in favor of a more realistic schedule that will (hopefully) produce a higher quality game.

Back in June, Wargaming.net announced a reboot of the Master of Orion series, breathing life and AAA quality back into a legendary video game franchise that has long deserved another chance to reach a modern audience. All in all, it’s been a pretty exciting year for me to finally scratch my “Master of Orion” itch again!

Of course, now that I realize that someone actually owns this intellectual property and is using it (it had been held by a bankrupt Atari), the parameters under which I can distribute a Java MOO game are completely under the control of Wargaming. I have been in touch with Wargaming in recent days about this subject and will update the blog as soon as I know anything definite.

I’ve been working on more of the diplomacy AI, which will now trade technologies with the player. There is still some balancing work to do, but that applies to just about every aspect of the AI. The bottom line is that all of the programming kinks needed to get the feature to work is done. Polishing is a neverending process that will be a constant focus up until the release date.