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GS: It's really strange because Master of Magic itself, though I'm a big fan and I know quite a few others who are, but it's not that huge of a name.
BW: Exactly. Personally, I'd love to get a hold of all those titles. Master of Orion 4. If someone went back and took Master of Orion 2, updated the graphics to modern standards and extended gameplay in areas that make sense, I think people would like that.
GS: There were a lot of people that were disappointed with Master of Orion 3.
BW: There are a lot of people who liked it, but it wasn't what people expected. I think that if you make something the third in a series, you can't just go on and pursue your own vision.
GS: That does seem disingenuous.
GS: So, now you have the latest expansion for Galactic Civilizations 2 expansion coming out. What can people look forward to in that?
BW: My favorite parts are different than the rest of the game team. I always like the AI stuff, because I program that. The biggest gameplay differences will be, for one, the planets now have environments. In Galactic Civilizations you had this thing called the colony rush, where you'd send out as many colony ships as fast as you could to mark your territory. In Dark Avatar you can't colonize the planets initially; you have to get the right environmental technology.
So if it's radioactive, or underwater, you have to research technology in order to colonize those worlds and it costs a lot of resources to do that. That completely changes the initial part of the game. Another big area that has changed is that there are now asteroids on the map. You can mine these asteroid fields, but the further away the field is, the less you get out of it. You have to make a lot of strategic decisions based on that. Like, I may have a really great industrial planet but it's far away, or I could use the closer planet that isn't as industrial.
GS: Yeah, but you get quicker money from the closer one.
BW: Right. My favorite feature is that you can now design - and I think this is something that's going to become more common when people see it - your opponents. You know how a lot of times an expansion pack will come out with five new races to play against, which we'll have too, but now you can actually design them –design what they look like. You can design their ships and assign races to what ships they use. It's really cool in action. If you ever wanted to have that Star Wars vs. Star Trek vs. Babylon 5 battle, here you can do it. You just sit there as a player. Did you play much Galactic Civilizations 2?
GS: Sadly, I haven't had much time with it.
BW: Ok, did you ever play with LEGOs as a kid?
GS: Oh, yeah, of course.
BW: The ship design in GalCiv 2 is basically LEGOs. It's not like ship design in any other game I've ever seen. You literally can design any type of ship you can imagine - both how it functions and how it looks. People on the forums have designed every type of ship you can imagine from the Enterprise to their own creations, which is the most common.
So, with Dark Avatar, you can actually assign what the ships look like, what the races look like, what strategy they use - like whether they're a turtler or a rusher. How much CPU power should they get versus the average player. Whether this player should be given more money. The difficulty has been split between whether they should have more money or use of the smarter algorithms. You can actually pick between the two. For me, that's a big deal. I like the idea of having a customized game where I'm playing exactly the game I want to set up.
GS: That's pretty cool.
BW: There's a whole bunch of other stuff, too. If you go to galciv2.com/darkavatar, it'll give you the rundown. We kind of got out of control on the feature set. We realized that we're going to be on this fantasy strategy game for quite a while, and there are all these cool ideas that players came up with. I didn't want to wait years for some sequel to come out to add them.
GS: You add a lot of replay value that way.
BW: Exactly. There's other stuff too. In GalCiv 2, all of the races are the same except for graphics. Dark Avatar adds powers for each race.
GS: That sounds great. I was talking with Simon [Carless] and we were talking about how you make games for a very specific market. Do you ever think you'd like to do something with more mass appeal?
BW: I think that a real time MMO would be mass-oriented. There's a market for that. We also want to make a role-playing game at some point. Not in an Elder Scrolls style, but more of a Baldur's Gate kind of thing.
GS: Yeah, that would be very popular. There's been a big movement away from that kind of thing.
BW: Didn't Baldur's Gate 2 sell like a Gajillion copies?
GS: It was huge. I don't know why they haven't made any more. They made Baldur's Gate 2 and Icewind Dale.
BW: I'd buy a Baldur's Gate 3. Did you play Planescape Torment?
BW: That game is awesome. Where's Planescape Torment 2?
GS: It's strange that they got away from the whole feel of those games and went towards Knights of the Old Republic. Now they're doing Mass Effect.
BW: I think those would be wide appeal. I think the hardcore would like it because they can get really into the numbers, and a casual user doesn't feel overwhelmed because it's not as arcadey. Though Knights of the Old Republic is probably my favorite game of all time in terms of role-playing.
GS: It's a great game, but it's a huge move away from the Baldur's Gate style of play.
BW: Yeah, it is.