Master of Orion

Master of Orion
Master of Orion cover.jpg
Developer(s) Simtex
Publisher(s) MicroProse
Platform(s) MS-DOS, Apple Macintosh
Release date(s) September 6, 1993
Genre(s) Turn-based strategy
Mode(s) Single player

Master of Orion (MoO or MOO) is a turn-based, 4X science fiction computer strategy game released in 1993 by MicroProse on the MS-DOS and Mac OS operating systems. The purpose of the game is to lead one of ten races to dominate the galaxy through a combination of diplomacy and conquest while developing technology, exploring and colonizing star systems. The game uses a point-and-click interface as well as keyboard shortcuts to control the management of colonies, technology, ship construction, diplomacy and combat. The name is a reference to the Orion system, the game universe's conquerable homeworld of a mythical race that once controlled the galaxy.

Two sequels were created, Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares in 1996 and Master of Orion III in 2003 - as well as the free, open source FreeOrion which is loosely based on the series.[1] A prototype was developed under the name Star Lords though it was only released as freeware in 2001 as part of the promotion for MoO III.

Master of Orion was well received, and is a member of GameSpy's Hall of Fame and GameSpot Greatest Games of All Time.



Master of Orion is a significantly expanded and refined version of the prototype/predecessor program Star Lords. Steve Barcia's game development company Simtex demonstrated Star Lords to MicroProse and gaming journalist Alan Emrich who, along with Tom Hughes, assisted Barcia in refining the design to produce Master of Orion;[2][3] and the game's manual thanks them for their contributions.[4] Emrich and Hughes later wrote the strategy guide for the finished product.[5] MicroProse published the final version of the game in 1994.[6]


A preview by Emrich described the game as "the best that galactic conquest can offer", and summarized its type of gameplay as "4X", meaning "eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate".[7][8] Emrich and later commentators noted earlier examples of this genre, including Civilization in 1991,[9] and Reach for the Stars in the early 1980s.[10]

The game was reviewed in 1994 in Dragon #202 by Sandy Petersen in the "Eye of the Monitor" column. Petersen gave the game 3 out of 5 stars.[11]

Master of Orion is a member of both GameSpy's Hall of Fame[12] and GameSpot's list of the Greatest Games of All Time.[13] In retrospective reviews, Jason Osborne, Tom Chick and Bruce Geryk regarded MoO as the standard by which turn based strategy games set in space are judged, although Osborne regretted the lack of a multiplayer option.[14][15][16]

System environment

Master of Orion does not offer a multi-player mode, only contests against AI opponents on the user's computer.[14]

The game was developed to run under MS-DOS or Mac OS.[17] Running the MS-DOS version on Windows XP can be difficult, but DOSBox emulator supports the game.[18][19] Linux users can also use DOSBox to run MS-DOS programs.[20]


The main screen showing star names (color-coded by empire) and ship movement (red lines indicate enemy fleets, blue indicate friendly). Planetary management controls are displayed on the right.

Master of Orion is a turn-based game in which players alternate actions and decisions with computer-controlled opponents. A mouse is needed, but hot keys can access many functions.[21]

The main screen is a scrollable map of the galaxy; clicking on a star system makes the rightmost part of the main screen display information about the planet there. If the player has not explored the system, only the word "unexplored" appears; otherwise the panel shows the planet's current and maximum population; if the player has a colony there, it also offers controls to allocate the colony's output.[22]

There is a separate space combat map, and additional screens for managing research, diplomacy and espionage. The diplomacy and espionage screen acts partly as a menu that provides access to screens about specific aspects. There is also a Planets List screen that can be used in managing an empire's economy.[22]

Lockable sliders are used to allocate a colony's output between ship construction, planetary defenses, factory construction, ecology or research.[23] Within each of these industry sectors, there is a fixed sequence of activities to which resources are allocated; for example defense effort will be used to upgrade existing missile bases if improved missile types have been discovered, then to build or upgrade planetary shields, and finally to build additional missile bases.[24] The technology screen uses a similar set of lockable sliders to allocate research spending between the 6 technology areas.[23]


The game begins with a single colonized homeworld, one colony ship and two scout ships that can be used to explore nearby stars. As the game progresses, gamers discover new worlds, encounter other races, colonize worlds, and fight wars. Despite their different backgrounds and homeworlds, all races possess legends of the Orions, a master race that once controlled the galaxy. Their homeworld contains powerful secrets and technology but is defended by a powerful robotic starship, the Guardian.

Victory conditions

Victory is gained either by eliminating all opponents or by being elected supreme leader of the galaxy at a meeting of the High Council. Elections are held every 25 turns after two-thirds of the planets in the galaxy have been colonized, and each empire's voting strength depends on its population. To be elected High Master, an empire's leader must gain at least two-thirds of all available votes, with abstentions counting as a vote against both candidates. Some combination of conquest and diplomacy is usually necessary in order to gain such a large majority. Once a High Master is elected the player can accept the result or challenge it; the latter results in a "Final War" that is fought to the death between the High Master's supporters and the dissident.[25] Even if it is the player themselves who has been elected by the High Council, the player may still choose to challenge the results, thus placing them in a "Final War" against all the other empires. This allows the player to choose whether to win the game immediately by diplomatic victory, or to continue until complete conquest is achieved.

Despite the game's name, conquering the Orion star system is neither necessary nor sufficient on its own to win the game.[25] The planet in the Orion system is unusually large and extremely valuable, since artifacts left by its former inhabitants give its conqueror some very advanced military technologies, one of which players cannot research for themselves, and a colony there will be four times more productive in research than on most other planets.[22] Other races are also more likely to support the empire that holds Orion during High Council elections.[25] In order to colonize Orion or capture its technology one must destroy the robotic Guardian warship, a feat that requires a large, advanced fleet.[23][23]


All of a colony's outputs are based on its industrial production, including research.[24] All citizens are capable of industrial production, but are significantly more productive when assisted by factories.[26] There is a limit on the number of factories a unit of population (notionally 1M individuals) can operate, but players can increase this by researching and building upgrades.[24] The cost of upgrades rises rapidly unless the player first researches technologies that reduce factory costs.[27]

Players can allocate a planet's industrial output to various combinations of: building or upgrading factories; building or upgrading a planet's shields and missile bases; research; spaceship construction; and ecology (pollution control, terraforming, increasing population growth).[24] A planet's output can also be transferred to the planetary reserve (treasury), but with a 50% penalty.[26]

The treasury can also be increased by scrapping ships or missile bases, by gifts from other empires and by random donations from non-playable rich merchants.[22] Its funds can be used to boost the output of other planets, subject to strict limitations,[26] and to provide gifts to other empires.[22]

The need to clean up pollution is a serious constraint on economic growth in the early game. Various technologies reduce the cost of cleanup to the point that pollution may not be a significant factor in later stages.[22] Players must also pay maintenance costs for ships, missile bases and spies, which is financed by a percentage tax that is calculated by the software and applied to production at all colonies; players cannot control how this burden is allocated between colonies.[22]


The software generates a map randomly at the start of each game; the player's only influence over the map generator is the ability to choose the size of the galaxy and the number and difficulty of AI opponents.[22] Star systems have at most one colonizable planet and a few have none.[22] Planets vary in the following ways:

Mineral wealth Productivity in factory, defense and ship construction[28]
Ultra-poor 33%
Poor 50%
Normal 100%
Rich 200%
Ultra-rich 300%
  • Mineral wealth dramatically influences a colony's industrial productivity when building or upgrading factories, building or upgrading defenses and building ships; it has no impact on the productivity of research nor of ecological improvements such as pollution control or terraforming.[28]
  • Habitability influences population growth rates: fertile planets increase growth rates by 50% and Gaia planets by 100%, while hostile planets halve them.[28] There are seven normal and six hostile planet types;[28] the various hostile types require increasingly advanced technology to colonize,[23] which extends the exploration and colonization phases of MoO for much longer than in most 4X games.[29] Hostile planets are the most likely to be rich or ultra-rich in minerals.[28] All planets can be upgraded to Gaia class with the appropriate technologies.[27][30]
  • Size, which determines the planet's initial population capacity. This can be more than doubled by various kinds of terraforming.[28][30]
  • Artifact worlds contain relics of a now-vanished advanced civilization. These usually provide a free technology advance to the first empire that discovers the planet, and always double the research productivity of a colony there,[28] except that on Orion the research productivity of a colony is quadrupled.[31]


The left side of the Technology screen highlights one technology area and tells the gamer which technologies have fully researched in that area. The right side shows the sliders that assign resources to the technology areas.

The designers regard technology as the most important contribution to a player's success. Advances can be acquired through research, trading, spying or conquest. Six technology areas can be researched to produce new advances:[32]

  1. Computers: spaceship systems that improve combat effectiveness; factory controls that increase the number of factories each colonist can operate; scanners that monitor the movements of other empires' ships and eventually can even "explore" planets remotely; and a weapon that can destroy other ships' computer systems. Computer technology advances also improve the effectiveness of spies in both offensive and defensive operations.
  2. Construction: reductions in the cost of building and upgrading factories; reductions in pollution; improved armor; and self-repair systems for ships.
  3. Force fields: protective shields for ships, planets and ground troops; devices that make it harder to hit the players' ships; and some special weapons.
  4. Planetology: reductions in the cost of pollution control; colonization of hostile planets; terraforming, which increases the maximum population of a planet; the ability to increase populations more efficiently; biological weapons and defenses against such weapons.
  5. Propulsion: increases in the range and speed of starships; some special weapons and combat systems. Range increases are particularly important in early colonization.
  6. Weapons for use by ships, missile bases and ground troops.

If a ship uses a component from a particular technology area, further advances in that area reduce the cost and size of the component; this effect is called "miniaturization". When one has researched all of the technologies in an area of the tech tree, further research can discover "advanced technologies" in that area, which do not provide specific new capabilities but increase the miniaturization of ship components.[32]

Players can research several technologies at the same time, controlling the allocation of research resources by means of lockable sliders on the Technology screen.[32] Each research project returns "interest" on resources invested in it, using a formula that produces the greatest return if the project accounts for 15% of the total research budget.[31] There is a small random element in the number of turns required to achieve an advance – it may take a few more or less than one would predict on the basis of simple arithmetic.[32]

In each game each player is allowed to see a different random subset of the technologies at each level.[23] On the other hand there are often alternative technologies that provide similar benefits. These features force players to adapt rather than follow the same favorite research strategy in each game.[29] One can also make up for any important gaps by spying, technology trading or conquest.[23]


Master of Orion provides a wide range of diplomatic negotiations: gifts of money or technology; one-time technology trades; trade pacts that boost industrial output; non-aggression and alliance treaties. Players can also threaten each other, declare war and arrange cease-fires[33] Each AI player remembers others' actions, both positive and negative, and will be unwilling to form alliances with a player who has broken previous treaties with it.[34]

Hostile actions do not automatically cause war. Clashes are even expected at the opening of the game, when all sides are sending probes out into the unknown. On the other extreme, a ground assault must be knowingly targeted at an inhabited planet, and is a massive provocation.

Spaceship design

The ship design screen showing the selection of hull sizes and components.

Ships can be used to colonize planets, scout for planets worth colonizing, attack other races and defend against attacks. Only six ship designs can be used at a time; beyond that, a previous slot must be emptied and all ships of that class scrapped before a new class can be designed.[23] Ships cannot be upgraded or refitted with new technology,[23] except that increases in travel range automatically benefit all ships.[22]

There are four hull sizes; smaller sizes are harder to hit while larger ships can survive more damage and hold more components. There are eight types of components, each with different effects:[35]

  1. Battle computers increase the chance of a beam weapon hitting and damaging a target
  2. Shields reduce the damage done by opponents' weapons
  3. Electronic countermeasures reduce the risk of being hit by missiles
  4. Armor determines the amount of damage a ship of a given hull size can withstand before being destroyed
  5. Engines supply power to systems, and determine the speed of interstellar travel and a ship's maximum maneuverability during combat
  6. Combat maneuverability determines how fast a ship can move during battle and how hard it is to hit; maximum maneuverability is determined by the engine type used
  7. Weapons: missiles, beams, bombs and biological weapons (the last reduce a colony's population without damaging buildings)
  8. Special systems which have varying effects: improve a ship's range or maneuverability; improve weapon accuracy or range; provide defensive, offensive, repair or sensing advantages; a few "special" weapons, some of which affect whole stacks of enemy ships; colony bases are also considered special systems

Space combat and invasions

Space combat screen. The numbers beside the ship icons show how many ships are in each stack.

Ships can travel to any star system within their range and combat always occurs in orbit over a planet - it is impossible to intercept enemy ships in deep space.[36] All ships of the same class form a single stack, moving and firing as a unit.[29] Players can control space combat manually or ask the software to resolve combat automatically.[37] Battles are almost always decided by numbers and technology rather than by clever tactics.[29] An attacker can bomb a planet during combat and, if it wins the space combat, can bomb more intensively immediately afterwards.[38]

Invading an enemy colony without destroying all defending ships and missile bases will result in the loss of some or all of the invading ground forces before they land,[39] and hostile planets can not be invaded unless attackers have technology that allows them to colonize an at least equally hostile type of planet.[24] There are no specialist invasion ships; invading forces are drawn from the population of one or more colonies, which reduces the population of the planet(s) from which they are sent.[40]

Invasions are depicted in real-time but players cannot control combat.[38] Results depend on numbers, technology and (if one of the races involved is Bulrathi) racial ground combat bonus.[41] Invasion is expensive,[7] but usually provides worthwhile advantages if successful: the production capacity of any remaining factories, plundering of technologies if enough factories survived the attack,[41] and control over a new system that extends the range of the invader's ships. A successful invasion exterminates the previous inhabitants and the surviving troops form the planet's new population.[41]


Players choose to be one of 10 pre-defined races[42] - one cannot create customized races.[43] The Klackons and Meklar have different types of advantage in industrial production; the Sakkra have very fast population growth; the Psilons are the best at research; the Mrrshans and Alkari have different types of advantage in space combat; the Bulrathi are the best at ground combat; the Humans have advantages in trade and diplomacy; the Darloks excel at spying and sabotage; and the Silicoids can colonize even the most hostile planets without any research and are not constrained by pollution, but have slow population growth.[42]

The typical race is very good in one research subject and below average in another. However, the Psilons are very good in all areas, while the Silicoids are above average in computers, which is useful for spying and sabotage, but are weak in all other research areas. The Humans excel in one area, and are good in two others. They and the Sakkra have no weak subjects.[31]

Each race has a pre-defined initial relationship with each other race, and they gradually return to these relationships unless these are improved or damaged by events. Most races start with neutral relationships to most other races, except that each has an uneasy or in some cases belligerent relationship to one other race. The exceptions are the Humans, which initially have amicable relationships with all others, and the Darloks, whose espionage skills make them objects of suspicion to all except the Humans.[34]

The races also have "personalities" which vary from one game to another when played by the AI. Their attitudes to other races can vary from honorable (reliable friend and unforgiving enemy) or pacifist to aggressive or xenophobic. Each has a major policy objective which guides their research and economic management; for example militarists build combat ships as fast as possible and prioritize technologies which have military benefits, while ecologists put a lot of effort into pollution control and terraforming.[44] Each race's behavior varies from one game to another,[44] because in both attitude and policy objective each race has a most probable trait and less probable ones.[34]

Random events

Master of Orion will sometimes produce random events which can be harmful or advantageous. These include discovery of ancient ships and technology, changes to planetary conditions that alter the planet's population or mineral richness, diplomatic blunders/assassination attempts, changes to research, industry or treasury production, planetary rebellion, space piracy and attacks by space monsters that can destroy colonies.[45] Random events can be disabled by means of a cheat code.[46]


Master of Orion is based on its predecessor game Star Lords, often called Master of Orion 0 by fans.[47] Star Lords was a prototype and never commercially released (its intro opens with "SimTex Software and Your Company present"). The crude but fully playable prototype was made available as freeware in 2001, stripped of all documentation and copy protection, in anticipation of the launch of Master of Orion 3.[47] Major differences between Star Lords and Master of Orion I include inferior graphics and interface, simpler trade and diplomacy, undirected research, a lack of safeguards to prevent players from building more factories than are usable and the use of transports rather than colony ships to colonize new planets. One feature of Star Lords that Master of Orion lacks is a table of relations between the computer-controlled races. The game is available for download on FilePlanet[48] and the home page for Master of Orion III.[47]


Two commercial sequels to Master of Orion have been released, Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares and Master of Orion III. The sequels are significantly more advanced in graphics and sound and feature large differences in gameplay, with some players claiming the original game remains the best version of the three.[46][49]

In 2008 Stardock, the creators of the popular Galactic Civilizations series, expressed interest in acquiring the rights to the "Master of Orion" series from Atari, Inc. and developing a fourth game in the series.[50]

In 2011, a clone of MoO II, "Starbase Orion," was published by Chimera Software, LLC on the iPhone.

In popular culture

The game setting has been the influence of Russian writer Sergey Lukyanenko's trilogy, the Line of Delirium.


  1. ^ Official website of FreeOrion
  2. ^ Emrich, A. "Master of Orion: The History of a Game Series - One Man's Telling of a Cosmic Tale". Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  3. ^ "Star Lords". MobyGames. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  4. ^ MOO Manual (PC), "Credits" page
  5. ^ "Alan Emrich Recipient of Lifetime Achievement Award". Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  6. ^ Sources differ on this:
  7. ^ a b Alan Emrich (September 1993). "MicroProse' Strategic Space Opera is Rated XXXX". Computer Gaming World (110): pp. 92–93. 
  8. ^ Quick, D (2002-02-01). "Master of Orion III – Developer Chat". GameSpy. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  9. ^ "IGN Videogame Hall of Fame: Civilization". IGN. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  10. ^ Bruce Geryk (2001-08-08). "History of Space Empire Games - The Early Years 1980-1992". GameSpot. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 
  11. ^ Petersen, Sandy (February 1994). "Eye of the Monitor". Dragon (202): 61–65. 
  12. ^ Fudge, J (2001-01-01). "Gamespy: Master of Orion". GameSpy. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  13. ^ Ocampo, J. "Ridding the Galaxy of Klackons, One Solar System at a Time - Master of Orion". GameSpot. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  14. ^ a b Osborne, J.A.. "Master of Orion". Allgame. Macrovision Corporation. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  15. ^ Chick, T. (2001). "PC Retroview: Master of Orion II". IGN. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  16. ^ Geryk, B.. "History of space empire games – Master of Orion". Gamespot. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  17. ^ "Master of Orion - PC - GameSpy". Gamespy. IGN Entertainment, Inc.. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  18. ^ "Dyn" (May 3, 2005). " - Master of Orion". Retrieved Oct 6, 2009. 
  19. ^ "DOSBox, an x86 emulator with DOS: Master of Orion". Retrieved Oct 6, 2009. 
  20. ^ "The Linux Game Tome: DOSbox". Retrieved 2008-06-04. 
  21. ^ MOO Manual (PC) p. iii
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j MOO Manual (PC) p. iv
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i MOO Manual (PC) p. viii
  24. ^ a b c d e MOO Manual (PC) pp. 8-9
  25. ^ a b c MOO Manual (PC) pp. 29-30
  26. ^ a b c MOO Manual (PC) pp. 23-24
  27. ^ a b MOO Manual (PC) pp. 31-32
  28. ^ a b c d e f g MOO Manual (PC) pp. 11-12
  29. ^ a b c d Thomas, B. "Master of Orion - Sirian's Perspective: The Player". Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  30. ^ a b Planets can be upgraded in three ways:
    • Terraforming increases population capacity by a fixed amount for each tech level achieved, up to a maximum of 120 extra units.
    • Soil enrichment increases a planet's population capacity and growth rate but can not be used on hostile planets. The advanced version increases capacity by up to 50% of its initial value and doubles the rate of population growth.
    • Atmospheric terraforming converts hostile planets to normal ones, making soil enrichment possible there.
    Planet type does not affect the costs and benefits of terraforming and soil enrichment.
  31. ^ a b c MOO Manual (PC) pp. 55-57
  32. ^ a b c d MOO Manual (PC) pp. 25-26
  33. ^ MOO Manual (PC) pp. 21-22
  34. ^ a b c MOO Manual (PC) pp. 33-34
  35. ^ MOO Manual (PC) pp. 15-17
  36. ^ MOO Manual (PC) pp. vi-viii
  37. ^ MOO Manual (PC) pp. 27-28
  38. ^ a b MOO Manual (PC) pp. 51-54
  39. ^ MOO Manual (PC) pp. vi, vii
  40. ^ MOO Manual (PC) p. vi
  41. ^ a b c MOO Manual (PC) p. 14
  42. ^ a b MOO Manual (PC) pp. 39-41
  43. ^ Giovetti, A. (March 13, 1997). "Master of Orion II (2): Battle at Antares". Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  44. ^ a b MOO Manual (PC) pp. 42-43
  45. ^ MOO Manual (PC) pp. 44-45
  46. ^ a b "Jon's MOO I Resources". 
  47. ^ a b c "Master of Orion: The History of a Game Series — Star Lords". Quicksilver software. 2001. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  48. ^ "Star Lords Info". 2002-06-06. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  49. ^ "Sirian's Master of Orion Page". Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  50. ^ Remo, C. (November 17, 2008). "Stardock CEO Wardell Eyes Star Control, Orion, And More". Retrieved 2009-06-16. 


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Master of Orion — (kurz MoO) ist eine Serie von rundenbasierten Globalstrategiespielen für DOS, Windows und Mac OS. Die erste Version, Master of Orion (1) wurde von Simtex entwickelt und 1993 von MicroProse veröffentlicht. Es folgten 1996 Master of Orion II… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Master of Orion — Desarrolladora(s) Simtex Distribuidora(s) MicroProse Diseñador(es) Steve Barcia Plataforma( …   Wikipedia Español

  • Master of Orion — Разработчик …   Википедия

  • Master of Orion — Éditeur MicroProse Développeur Simtex D …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Master of Orion II — Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares Master of Orion II Battle at Antares Éditeur MicroProse, Infogrames (PC) Macsoft (Mac) Développeur Simtex Date de sortie 31 octobre 1996 (États Unis) décembre 1996 (France) V …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Master of Orion II — Master of Orion II …   Википедия

  • Master of Orion I — Master of Orion Master of Orion Éditeur MicroProse Développeur Simtex Date de sortie 1993 Version 1.3 Genre Gestion, stratégie tour par tour …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Master of Orion 3 — Master of Orion III Master of Orion III Éditeur Infogrames Développeur Quicksilver Software Date de sortie 25 février 2003 (États Unis) 7 mars 2003 (Europe) Version 1.25 Genre …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Master of Orion — La saga de Master Of Orion pertenece al género de estrategia espacial por turnos. El jugador asume el control de una civilización en los albores del salto hiperespacial y debe dirigirla hasta la victoria, en forma de Presidente del Senado… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Master of Orion 3 — …   Википедия

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.