MOO2 Devs 10 years later: Russ Williams

Hello Russ Williams,

am I correct that you were involved in the development of Master of Orion II? (I hope that my research wasn't futile.)

Yes! (There is another game developer Russ Williams as you probably figured out, so it can be confusing. :)

I simply think that the 10th birthday of MOO2 is a good opportunity to ask the developers for a retrospect. Are you interested to post a guest entry on this blog or do you prefer a small interview? Or any other kind of contribution? Some anecdote?

Well, I am no longer in the game development business, and it's been along time since I played MOO2 (or indeed any similar computer games) so I don't know if I'd have much of interest to say about strategy or anything. I began to get burned out on software development in general (due to frustrating mismanagment and insane overtime work - there were several months of 90-hour weeks during MOO2), and with computer games in particular (due to more and more emphasis on flashy graphics and real-time action - I'm more interested in classic turn-based strategy.)

Anecdotes about MOO2... hmmm.

Here's a few things that come to mind:

I was the one who put in the April 1 joke, which was an homage to SimCity and also to my usual lunch at work... I was amused to see people asking about the undocumented strange news message on the newsgroups during the first April 1 after MOO2 shipped.

Various of us developers contributed names to the list of random starsystem names; I took a lot of place names from the Cthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft.

We spent a lot of time and effort on the AI. I wanted it not to cheat as much as the AI cheats in many such games, e.g. in some games the AI players get 4 times as much production and other insane advantages.The AI in MOO2 still cheats at the higher levels, but not nearly as much as upper management was willing to let it. It was a long difficult but interesting process. I had previously programmed AI for the game 1830, where cheating was not possible (since it's a game of no chance and no hidden information) and I liked the idea of trying to cheat as little as possible.

Near the end of the development period, we were working on internationalization - translations were made to Italian and German and maybe Spanish, if I recall. That was my first exposure to issues of software localization and all the fascinating things we take for granted about our native language, which are often totally not true in other languages. I later got a lot more experience with internationalization at another company. This began to spark an interest in foreign languages, so I learned Esperanto and started studying other languages, and the geek programmer part of my mind continues to affect how I learn and think about languages. (I now use Esperanto every day with my Polish girlfriend, while I am slowly learning Polish, and am living in Poland... 10 years ago I wouldn't have expected this. :)

Hopefully that is interesting for you... if you want to ask a few more questions, feel free.

I am happy to know that MOO2 still has a following. We all worked hard on it and it's cool to see people still enjoying the results of our work. Thanks for contacting me and letting me know about your interest in the game.

cheers, russ


siron said...

Thanks Russ.

Hopefully that is interesting for you... if you want to ask a few more questions, feel free.

Guys who are still reading this blog (after 10 years) are likely some kind of MOO2 geeks, and I assure you your anecdotes/trivia about MOO2 are interesting. Funny, that the first dev who was contacted by me, is actually the dev, who put in the April joke. We had this topic a few months back and I was surprised that even some guys in our community never saw this message before. Therefore a screenshot:

April Joke

One of the mysteries in MOO2 is the hide option for spies (I mailed this already). I guess no player ever figured out so far what it actually does. I read in the MOO1 guide that you get better spy rolls in MOO1 but....spying without trying to steal techs or sabotage makes no longer sense in MOO2 since you have permanently an updated report of the other races (in MOO1 the accuracy of the report depended on (also hiding) spies.) I therefore assumed it was just a hangover of MOO1. Would be nice if some dev could explain this option....

And one further thing....I read about your affiance with your polish girlfriend. Let me also say publicly: Congratulations!!!

Anonymous said...

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Regards. Cabman

ChadFrog said...

Wow, a year after you write this and I find it. I've been unable to get my MOO2 fix for a few years and recently starting playing it again.

I believe I can explain part of the "hide spies" option. I believe in having a lot of spies for defense - I really hate it when my tech gets stolen. A few times while playing I had created so many spies that I could no longer "recall" the ones that were placed on a rival when he demanded I stop spying on him. It just wouldn't let me put them back on defense. I hid them instead so they were "standing by" but ceasing their efforts against him.

Is there any chance you could tell us how to get in touch with Mr. Williams? I have more questions and I would like to discuss a few things about the game.

antigraviton said...

IIRC, the "hide" option lets your spies get established without risk (or with less risk) of being discovered... I think there's some sort of escalating experience bonus for a spy: the longer it's been assigned to a particular enemy (whether hidden or not), the better the bonus.

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