I've been ill over the last few days, probably as an inevitable consequence of doing so many events in January. So I've been playing a fair amount of Sunless Sea, a great game if you're ill, because it's quite soothing in a "dark sea filled with monsters" kind of way.
And as always when I play Sunless Sea, my thoughts turn back to Space Exploration: Serpens Sector, my old game project that got backburnered hard when Airships: Conquer the Skies took off. The two games are in the same "go from port to port in your ship and do stuff" genre, after all.
The last few years have seen a number of games attempting to reinvigorate the Space 4X game. They have all been disappointments. The trouble is that Master of Orion II still looms large. New games not only have to compete against it on their own merits. They have to be both better than MoO2 and at the same time deliver the exact same happy experience as remembered through a decades-old haze of nostalgia.
Space 4X games are stuck in a rut. Much as what used to be the case with Tolkien and Fantasy, or D&D and roleplaying, a single work looms large, and all other works have to define themselves in relation to it, either subverting or surpassing it, but always remaining deeply constrained by their genre.
I recently read A Mountain Walked, a compilation of modern writing based on HP Lovecraft. I quite enjoyed the stories. Then I read The Litany of Earth by Ruthanna Emrys, and re-evaluated the stories in the compilation: they were actually really, awfully shallow.