All right, I've been playing this game quite a bit this summer (perhaps more than I should, and one might even say obsessively), and doing some reading on the Internet about it. Normal sources such as GameFAQs? weren't very useful for this game, so I turned to Google and managed to find some interesting sites on it. They've made me re-evaluate my own strategies (or rather, my race selections; I had ship design and the tech tree mostly worked out already): while I can win on impossible, I've never tried it at the maximum number of races (I've been working up), and in general it appears like the game can be abused more than I've been abusing it. Particularly, I've been going for creative and attempting to spread out my advantages, rather than focusing them. Apparently, in general it is a better strategy to try to maximize chosen advantages rather than spreading them out: for instance, research advantages should be paired with democracy and production with unification. There are obviously exceptions, but the basic principle is there. I'm going to play around with some new strategies and may post the results here.
The Democracy, Creative, Research +1 is certainly a standard combination. I normally start in pre-warp (I'm a builder, and I like to micromanage), so I'd add Rich Homeworld, which can be an enormous benefit in the early stages of the game, then take a minus to growth and all the combats (the minus to growth sounds bad, but when you're Creative it can be quickly solved by using cloning centers, which I research ASAP, after the Research Laboratory itself). However, there are more powerful combinations. Probably the nastiest is Democracy, Lithovore, and Artifacts Homeworld. Since lithovores don't need any food at all, you can immediately put almost your entire workforce on research, jumping to ~60 research points on the first turn of the game. Then, you use this massive research to build up tech so quickly that everyone else falls behind (since you can research techs like Research Laboratory, Planetary Supercomputer, and Autolab far ahead of everyone else). Granted, you aren't Creative, so you end up having to make some hard choices (made easier by the lack of need for food). Most of the other power races are centered around Unification and either production enhancers (Lithovore, Tolerant, + Industry, etc.) and maximum population increasers (Aquatic, Subterranean, Tolerant), or Telepathic, usually Warlord, sometimes Omniscient, and various combat enhancers for a blitz attack strategy. There is a great deal of mix and match to taste, and apparently in multiplayer a strong rock-paper-scissors element. One website said that, in general, Unification + production enhancers will beat races designed around technology by overpowering them in the mid-game, while technology races (Democracy-Lithovore, other Lithovore races, and all creative races, plus some others) will beat blitzers by being too advanced to be easily rushed (Creative stops many rushes dead), and finally blitzers will kill production races by overrunning them before they get their overpowering production up. Creative is certainly powerful, but many people are of the opinion that since its cost was increased, it's not one of the strongest picks anymore. On the other hand, apparently being a Creative race in multiplayer is like painting a huge bull's-eye on yourself, since the other players know that a creative will kick their butt in the end-game. A final observation about multiplayer I find interesting: as you might expect, Repulsive is a common disadvantage to play in multiplayer. In fact, everyone usually ends up being Repulsive, because it is a dominating strategy: if you are non-Repulsive and everyone else is Repulsive, they have effectively earned 6 free race picks relative to you because you can't enter into trade or research treaties with anyone anyways.
Apparently there's an application called Kali which allows MasterOfOrionTwo to be played over the Internet, i.e. somehow emulates IPX over TCP/IP, and this application has spawned a small community of MasterOfOrionTwo players which still exists.
The set of choices I used to beat impossible with 8 players was Creative, Research +1, Democracy. Minuses to spying, and all the combats. Go for the research station first, then go through the construction section of the tech tree, with a short break when researching the other sections becomes a one or two turn stop. If war breaks out (doing all possible to avoid war, including giving early tech or money), research shielding and use the Gyro Destabilizers as a primary weapon until much better weapons become avaliable. Once the construction tree is done, go through the section that gives stellar converters. Have one planet completely devoted to building doomsday ships with as many stellar converters as possible and a time warp facilitator. Even if you lose combats, you'll take out at least five or so enemy ships for each one of yours, since they won't have researched the shields and armor to protect against it. I recently started playing with other choices for racial attributes, but that's the only one I've actually beaten impossible with 8 players with.
One interesting option I read in a FAQ somewhere is to set up a custom hotseat (? - some multiplayer type) game with 8 human "custom" races, set however you like. Then immediately save the game and restart it as a network game, which has the effect of turning all of the (formerly human) players into computer AIs.
This same FAQ also mentioned that setting all of the players to uncreative and repulsive made for interesting games. I have to admit that it does (nobody gets very much tech, except through conquest... and the Antarans kick butt).
I'll have to go back and look at the FAQ to see if they mentioned any other odd computer player settings...
MasterOfOrionThree? was once scheduled to be released third quarter 2002, but was released first quarter 2003 to a lukewarm reception.
Last Christmas I got to play this with AlexUtter and one of my friends from back home as a cooperative hotseat game. It was just for fun, so there was nothing terribly interesting for strategy, although I did quite well with my creative, rapidly-reproducing, subterranean (and unfortunately weak in combat) cats. My friend played the ants as a typical hive-mind, and called them Jerglings. :) AlexUtter went for cyborg charisma and telepathy.
As a side note, I enjoyed this much more than I enjoyed StarS. There was a lot less micromanagement and it was overall a friendlier game to get into. The player atmosphere was also much friendlier.