Lineal Legitimacy and the Fallacy of the Spiritual Successor

Ray Fowler shares some deep insight into the nature of the “spiritual successor” in his blog post “Lineal Legitimacy and the Fallacy of the Spiritual Successor”.

Particularly interesting is Ray’s hypothesis that, in order to make a success of a game – or series of games – stepping in the footsteps of a giant, one has to “create legitimacy”. This is achieved, he says, by initially staying as true to the original as possible and just rebooting it with improved graphics/presentation. At this point, one has created “legitimacy”, and one can begin to iterate on the original.

Ray is doing some amazing work on “Remnants of the Precursors”, a Master of Orion reboot (in all but name), so the concept of a spiritual successor is of particular interest to him. I highly recommend checking out some of his other posts if you enjoyed this one.

Remnants of the Precursors

My Sunday morning browsing led me to this thread on the Interstellar Space: Genesis forums. In it, players were discussing how faithful ISG should be to Master of Orion 2, a game for which they hope ISG to be the “spiritual successor”. It’s not a particularly noteworthy thread if only because some variation of this discussion appears any time a new space 4X game is being developed. This is indeed both a very common discussion and lament among space 4X fans!


A brief history is in order so we can understand sentiments like this. With apologies to earlier space 4X games, it’s generally well-received wisdom that the original Master of Orion in 1993 established that brand as iconic within the 4X genre. It was an extremely popular game for its time, contending with Civilization (1991) as the best 4X on the market. In fact, the term “4X” was…

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