Master of Orion Interview – Jacob Beucler
Last Monday, thanks to the folks at Wargaming and PPR, I had the pleasure of attending the press event for the company’s newest title: Master of Orion. Some might remember this game from the early 90’s, but trust me when I say it’s not the same anymore (it’s better!)
Held at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, the event was a tonne of fun (to say the least!). PPR put on an excellent spread of food, including fish and chips, burgers, hot dogs, and for those with a slightly more refined palate than a teenage boy, a hand cut selection of deli meats, vegetables and salads. But I know what you’re thinking: Jenn, we don’t care about the food. Can you move onto something more important?
Yes, I can.
So the alcohol was an open bar, which for anybody who knows me, knows that is my favourite thing about absolutely anything in the world. You could make me watch paint dry for seven hours but if you gave me an open bar I wouldn’t even be bothered.
However, that does lead me into the next segment; my interview with Jacob Beucler, Global Publishing Producer of Wargaming. Jacob is known for his work on a range of games, including Mortal Kombat, Deus Ex: Invisible War and many others, so he’s got quite a bit of experience at his back.
My interview was the last of the evening and didn’t start til 9pm. The event started at 6pm which meant I had three hours to slowly sip on a single glass of wine and enter my interview cool, calm and collected.
If that had actually happened, that is.
9pm came around and I made my way to the space shuttle (you heard me) to interview Jacob. I introduced myself, we shook hands and I handed him a beer.
“We’re going to play a drinking game,” I said.
And that’s where the fun really began. The rules were as follows:
- Every time one of us said the name of the game, we drank.
- Every time one of us referred to the game as a plural (Masters of Orion instead of Master of Orion) we drank twice.
So let’s get started shall we?
Jacob: I like your skirt
Jenn: Thankyou! *continues to babble about her skirt for a while (it had the solar system on it, so was in theme!)* Ok, so, tell me a little bit about your background. How did you come to work for Wargaming?
Jacob: I love video games; I made a conscious decision to make video games and I’ve been doing it for 15 years. I came to work with Wargaming because of some friends of mine… those guys got jobs in the industry. I was living in Austin and they said their work needed people there, and my current job was boring so I thought ‘yeah, this would be great!’
Jenn: My next question was going to be ‘was video games always a passion’, but obviously it was. So what kickstarted that passion?
Jacob: Two things, the ability to very clearly know you’ve failed or that you could get better- like Sonic. And eventually, if your thumb didn’t fall off or become so raw, you would get it down and complete the level. The mastery element of video games I always super appreciated. And the fact they could elicit an emotional response. I think Flashback was the first one that did that for me. That changed things dramatically for me, and that was really cool. It was a form of entertainment and it was a passion and it’s a blessing to be able to do this kind of thing.
Jenn: Why the reboot? The game was made in 1993- it’s a classic, why reboot it into the 21st century?
Jacob: A better question is why not? There are no reasons why not. I love this game, Master of Orion *Jacob drinks*. This game meant a lot to Victor [CEO of Wargaming] and basically he…had to have it. Then we had a prototype and all of us a sudden we were working with an early access business model. There’s been a lot of challenges on Master of Orion *Jacob drinks* but we’ve come out of it with arms wide open. I love the feedback that we’ve gotten- some of it is really tough, some is great, some is real brutal and some is just mean.
Jenn: Well yeah, people on the internet are mean
Jacob: And that’s a fact! But where we’re at now, it’s time for us to deliver what we’ve been talking about doing.
Jenn: Are you trying to capture the old audience or engage a new one with the reboot? Or is it more a bit of both?
Jacob: Well it’s a bit risky to do a bit of both, you don’t want to do too many things at once, so I think what was more important for us was bringing back the franchise in a very solid way and making a legendary game. But at the same time, there’s a lot of really cool, culturally relevant things in this game. I mean, you look at the voice talent, you know Mark Hamill and the other guys, and that’s going to entice both old and new people to play. You look at the fidelity of the graphics, it looks gorgeous, it sounds great, it runs great and it runs on almost anything! It’s a super accessible game and that’s going to encourage new people to play. But it’s also Master of Orion! *Jacob drinks*
Jenn: Other than the upgrades you’ve mentioned, what’s different in this one from the old one?
Jacob: Well we’ve got the same races from the original, which is cool but they play and sound differently, they act differently. The AI system is completely re-done, we’ve rebuilt it from the ground up in the spirit of Master of Orion *Jacob drinks*. It’s all different but the good news in that is we’ve employed the experts who built the first ones, and we’re very open with our community with their feedback. It’s a new experience, it’s a rebirth of a product. Everything is different but it gives you the same feeling, and we’ve really captured the essence of Master of Orion *Jacob drinks* which was really important to us.
Jenn: Did you overcome any challenges during the development process?
Jacob: There’s been a lot, trying to learn when and how to balance the game was one- you’ve got to have a done game before you can balance it. And that’s what we’re working on now. Additionally, we’re trying to understand what the required feature set is without going too big and compromising the quality of other aspects. You really have to be able to control your scope. We would have liked to include more races from Master of Orion 2 for example *Jacob drinks* but, you know, we decided to focus on the right size of the product.
Jenn: Ok so finally, what is your personal favourite part of the reboot?
Jacob: It’s the personal narrative part. There’s nobody telling me the story of Master of Orion *Jacob drinks*. Every time I play this game I get to make some meaningful decisions that play out differently so it’s super dynamic. It’s my narrative, it’s me who’s I’m telling the story. There’s that mastery element I talked about earlier that got me into games that I feel like this game provides for me in Master of Orion *Jacob drinks*.
Jenn: Excellent, thank you so much! Now for one last time can you just read me what’s on your shirt?
Jacob: Master. Of. Orion.