Alpha centauri

I think the terraforming in SMAC was really great, but it was rather too much. There’s a certain amount of attention that a player can give to a game, and the more complex features you have, the less attention each piece of it gets. The prime example for me is the elevation. It’s really cool that height determines solar panel output as well as rainy/dry side of hills, and artillery, and so on, and you can even terraform up and down and potentially use that against your (eastern) neighbor–I mean really, how cool is that? But there are so many better things to do with your formers–namely, improving your tiles and drilling the occasional borehole/aquifer/condenser–that the elevation thing just gets overlooked. If I ever had a free former to use for elevation changes, then it meant that I probably just had too many formers, or it was too late in the game to really matter. And when choosing a city site, sure, I’d go for the west side of a hill, but generally other concerns trumped this, and I’d certainly never say, “I’ll settle here and then raise/lower the land around to make it perfect.”

rezaf–I know from another thread you really love the elevation and view it as a cardinal sin that they dropped it from later games, so I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree. ;-)

Ah, my apologies Gus. Sometimes I fail to remember usernames - I wouldn’t have bothered to respond to your post if I had realized who you are.
It would’ve been kinda neat if you hadn’t dragged this into this thread, but ah well. At least you got the opportunity for some more drivelling, so it’s not all bad, right? Wanna call me a dick again too? Go ahead, don’t hold back.

I missed Civ2 style terraforming ever since and made personal reforestation mods both in Civ4 and Civ5, but other than that, I didn’t really feel SMAC style terraforming was “missing” in the Civ games - in fact, I think it would probably not be a good fit. Yet I’d love to play a more modern incarnation of the SMAC take in SOME game. Obviously I’m alone with that (appearently stupid) opinion, but that’s how it is.


rezaf, I think Gus got annoyed because you said his opinion was ridiculous. There was probably a better way to go about it and Gus probably could have refrained from escalating it from there. In any case, I really enjoy reading what both of you have to say about games so hopefully you guys can move past prior misunderstandings.

Maybe we can get the first AC PBEM game in 10 years going…

Now that the file could just be stored in a public OneDrive or Dropbox folder, it’d be a little less hassle than in the olden days. :)

That’s pretty much it. He can feel that elevation is important, but claiming that anyone who disagrees is “ridiculous” makes him an ass. Since this is the second time he’s done this in a few days, the first being declaring that anyone who liked Civ V doesn’t really like Civilization games, and he doubled down on that when challenged, I’m not inclined to cut him much slack.

no no no no! I love the height mechanics! When I first discovered them I was like a kid at Christmas. This is one of the few games where the more stuff to tweak made it better and more immersive. Ugetwadri - Unique Gameplay Elements and Technicality Which Add Depth Realism and Immersion.

If you played a small game with fewer cities and faster development, the height elevation really became important. And that was the amazing thing about Alpha Centauri. Playing a big game you focused on entirely different aspects and goals vs. a small game. For a big game those elements were still there you just needn’t bother. Civ V is different. You do the same 3 things on every tile and it gets boring and thoughtless.

This forum needs a rollseyes smiley.

At least I’m not entirely alone in appreciating this feature. :-)
Though I seem to remember a podcast where Brian Reynolds essentially said it’s presence in the game is a bit of an accident.
I believe it was this episode of Three Moves Ahead. If that’s the one I recommend it because it offers some interesting bits about the AC design/development process.


I can see Ooomalley’s point, there is a quantity of attention you can give to the game, and a Civ game with some new weird things on top of a entire slew of terraforming options can be a bit too much. More when you have a limited amount of formers busy doing farms, mines, forests, roads, the normal stuff. Maybe if playing with height could be done in groups of tiles to make it faster and with less micro.

I still think the height mechanics is a cool feature, but essentially one that is easily ignored. Especially because you tend to use up the majority of the land, you don’t want to waste some tiles by drying out the eastern side of the mountains. If the tiles are on the border of your holdings, that’s one thing, but I just can’t see wanting to raise some mountains in the middle of my lands. Maybe I just don’t have a full enough grasp on how it works?

I don’t think you guys are wrong. I think the game is definitely richer for them. But because of this

and this

…I would rather have the effort put into the AI, rather than one more system that the AI has to learn to deal with. Granted, there’s an argument to be made that the AI is a bit of a lost cause in a 4X game (given the realities of the game market), or that there’s not a 1-1 tradeoff between AI dev time and game dev time, but you get the idea. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t feel like there’s this great summit of 4X game development that has never since been surmounted that is the elevation system (if you’ll pardon the metaphor).

I like the mechanic precisely because it’s sortof an advanced gameplay mechanic that can be totally ignored. There’s only a limited number of scenarios where it makes sense to use terraforming as a measure of “attacking” an enemy, but I regularly used it to flatten a mountain to make room for a new full fledged city, or even to raise terrain out of the sea. Sometimes the opposite to create a strait where there was none previously. This can sometimes be useful like the Suez or Panama channel in real life - you can’t build anything like that in Civ games to this very day. Which disappoints me, we’re talking about a game that goes into future stuff like giant mech walkers, but building a channel, nurturing a forest or greening the desert is out of the question? Sad.
Also, RTS games for example have long since embraced full 3D terrain. Civ5 is still like Dune 2 or whatever in that regard, everything is just flat. And that’s also a bit sad.

That’s why I was sorta offended (that’s how you’re supposed to present your case, right?) by the view that later civs essentially copied all the important stuff in AC and ran with it. You can’t flatten a mountain range in Civ. You can’t build a channel in Civ. You can’t plant a forest in Civ. You can’t raise terrain out of the sea in Civ. Some of these things are even possible in real life. In AC, you can do all that AND you can do stuff like create a new river.
Saying Civ games have all the important parts is like saying the Wii can recreate all the important parts of soem real sports, say tennis. I know, I know, a stupid opinion.

Yeah, I can see how this expectation can be at odds with having a mechanic like this which the AI ignores most of the time. But on the other hand, does it really negatively impact your enjoyment of the game when you can turn that small pond in the middle of your empire into a fertile plain for another good city that the AI won’t ever do the same because it doesn’t understant the mechanic well enough?

Despite jettisoning/simplifying a whole lot of mechanics in Civ5, the AI was (and still is) so terribad at playing the game that - even as an “ordinary” Civ player - you have to play the game on the highest difficulties - difficulties you could only hope to win in earlier Civs if you were a really hardcore minmaxing player that had a very, very intricate understanding of various subtleties and exploits - for it to be even remotely challenging.
So, yeah, I guess I’d rather have another mechanic that the AI never uses or doesn’t properly understand but that can be enjoyed by the player.

Maybe I just subscribe to the argument you mention that hoping for a “perfect AI” is just a lost cause anyway.


I did the “build a mountain to screw your neighbour” thing a couple of times but mostly used the terraforming to flatten mountains. It was an interesting game mechanism but really wasn’t one that I made much use of. I don’t really miss it in subsequent Civ games.

I loved playing Morgan. A crap load of money is never a bad thing.

Assuming totally control of the environment and sculpting it to suit your whims was the most satisfying part of AC. Forget winning, I’d often get strong enough to dominate and then leave my neighbors alive and kicking so I could continue building the perfect nation. I’d have legions of supply crawlers, armies of super hover terraformers, and swarms of satellites. When I’d finally build up the exact sickeningly rich empire I wanted then I’d casually build an army and go stomp everyone else.

I had to bust out Alpha Centauri this weekend. Beyond Earth was a disappointment on several levels, and I needed a fix.

Installed the GOG version on my Macbook. This is the first time I’ve attempted to play it on a laptop and mac, and it’s surprisingly irritating - lack of a numeric keypad, and the fact that the only way to move with the mouse is click and drag (hard on a Macbook trackpad.) Any suggestions? (Is there a way to assign a keystroke to ‘move here’, for example?)

All of these 4X critters have Empire too deeply embedded in their DNA for that.

1UPT cuts it way down


20 years.

Probably my favorite strategy game ever. First game I bought on day one, and has been installed on every system I’ve owned. Nice article, but the omission of Brian Reynold’s name is a shame, as it was his baby. AOW: Planetfall has a bit of the AC vibe, though it lacks the human interaction between the factions.

Wow, it’s been 20 years? It doesn’t seem that long ago I was arguing with my GameSpot editor over the 9.5 rating I’d given it. Ended up with a 9.1, but I at least successfully fought the argument that it only deserved a high 8. ;)