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O.R.B. Preview
game: O.R.B.
posted by: Aaron Stanton
publisher: Strategy First
date posted: 09:10 AM Tue May 28th, 2002
last revision: 05:43 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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After three days wandering around at least eleven football fields (505,000 square feet) worth of pre-release games, I\'ve used two pairs of shoes, and accumulated a notebook full of my own handwriting that I can\'t really decipher. Naturally, it\'s hard to decide what my first preview of E3 should be. Should I hit the big names, the ones that start with \"W\" and end with \"craft\"? What follows the week after L.A. is a sort of post-traumatic videogame overload. During this time, I drool a lot, type long strings of meaningless letters on my keyboard, and gaze in wonder at the little paper on which, sometime in the last three days, I\'ve written either \"poctic\" or \"platife\", neither of which are words that I recognize as English. In such a state, I must fall back on the most simple of decision makers, and thus here is my deciding criteria: Strategy First, esteemed publishers of Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns, gave out the best press packet. Little stress-ball asteroid, T-shirt, survival kit including Band Aids and moist towelette = first preview I write.

Ever want to control a truly gigantic space armada? For years Star Wars has flown us around the big screen with large-scale cinematic space battles, and for years games have been trying to reproduce that experience. A game called O.R.B., from Strategy First, is the only game I\'ve seen that looks to deliver immersive free space combat in a workable RTS. It\'s that simple. Hands down one of the most cinematic game play experiences in the genre, O.R.B. delivers a space-world that is beautiful, complex, and playable--so far. \"We knew that everything we did in 3D,\" says one of the developers at the booth, \"the player also had to be able to do in 2D.\" Not only can the player view all the carnage their space armadas deal out through a free flying 3D rendered engine, but also a press of the tab key will leave you looking at the universe from the top down. From what I\'ve played of O.R.B., the developers have spent as much time making sure it\'s easy to stay oriented in a universe with three unique axis as they have making the ships beautiful as they swarm a space cruiser three times their size.

After the control issue is mastered and out of the way, the game still has to hold a player\'s attention. So far it looks as if O.R.B. is going to follow through. Strategy First is promising a multitude of command ships and weapons, technology trees, and multiplayer elements: \"There are two types of radar,\" the fellow in the Strategy First T-shirt at the booth points out. \"Up close you can scan their ships, tell their stats. Far away ships just appear as gray dots. The gray dots could be either a few scouts, or a monstrous armada waiting to launch an invasion.\"

Additionally, players can capture and research other vessels, defend mining resources, and build fleets all in a fully dynamic solar system. The planets orbit the sun; the remains of your ships dissolve into debris that theoretically never disappears and continues to orbit--presumably as little gray dots on the radar. This allows players to park their fleet in an asteroid belt and float unannounced into enemy territory on the pulls of universal gravity.

It remains to be seen if the final product will hold itself together as well as the demo promises. E3 only showed a limited number of ships, nothing like the huge advance of siege machines we expect from the best moments of a RTS. Will the visual presentation continue to be a plus to the game, instead of a hindrance that prevents easy manipulation of the units? If Strategy First can pull it off, and stay on the track they appear to be on, the August 2002 release date could change how we think of RTS.