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Offline MercantileInterest

Modding Beyond Earth to Alpha Centauri
« on: February 23, 2015, 08:12:40 PM »
Quite a lot of us looked forward to Beyond Earth as an Alpha Centauri II but, apparently, it's not. I haven't bought a new 4x Firaxis game since Civ III but I still play old AC every now and then. (Am currently involved in a six player multiplayer game. The Hive is amassing a few troops on our border. Hopefully, they come in peace.) What follows is a sketch on how to mod Beyond Earth into version of Alpha Centauri that extends the original gameplay and retains the character.

I. The Map

This shouldn't need that much change. The graphics already depict an alien planet. After adding fungus and tinting the palette reddish-brown, everything will look perfect. The map won't have elevations but we can tolerate that. The hexes are gorgeous too.

II. Units and Combat

From the look of it, BE has this down ace: one unit per hex and actual battlefield tactics. All the units already come in sci-fi flavors - no need to make new models other than mind worms.

III. Factions

Include all the original fourteen factions, with the possibility of using them all in a single game. Every AC player has longed to wipe out all thirteen of his competitors. Give each faction distinct positives and negatives so everyone not only has a unique play style but also natural friends and enemies.

Set the Planet Cult and the Data Angels as city states rather than full out factions. Add a few new city states to such as the factions from the Smaniac mod. Give the Consciousness and Free Drones a late start. Set the Progenitor rules to reflect their alien traits. (For example, they could have semi-random population booms about every 50 years instead of normal steady growth).

Note: The (presumably) advanced AI of BE is one of the big justifications to make this mod. Can't stand how the original AC AI has no concept of how to wage war.

IV. Game Mechanics

Nothing to note here. Health, orbital layer and terraforming all look good. Use them as are.

Only worry is the quest system. Is it any good at all? Looks rather silly.

V. Social Engineering

This is the hard part. The virtue system doesn't look so thrilling. Will chairman Lal really get upset over someone's use of frontier survivalism? Would very much enjoy a system that opens up all the possibilities of politics, social systems, ecologies and economies.

We could have choose between a militaristic culture, a conservative family based structure or a civilization that fabricates people like the state in Brave New World. In the same way, we could choose between an egalitarian democracy, an oppressive police state or a highly stable feudal system. Imagine this as a hybrid between the BE's virtues and Civ5's civics. Suppose the player chooses a militaristic culture. Afterwards, he can select accompanying perks (or policies) to further customize his society. For example, the military officers could have direct control over day-to-day decisions or civilian officials could handle some matters. The Brave New World could start by factory producing children but later choose the perk which allows direct manufacture of adults, thereby saving resources.

However, the player could switch systems. If CEO Morgan changes from a Militaristic to a Conservative society, he transfers all his perks. Naturally, this comes at a cost. Such a system would allow us to build any future we want with greater detail than ever before.

VI. Religion

Religion would operate differently than previous Civ games. Various denominations would naturally crop up and influence citizens without any player choice. In great enough numbers, the religious portions of the population would oppose or support wars, slow or speed the transition to other forms of government or even secede with their bases. Similar religious groups also facilitate trade. Religious influence would spread in a manner similar to culture.

Players would interact with religion through social engineering perks. Options would include establishing a denomination as state church, encouraging missionaries, minor accommodations,  restricting religious expression to home life or attempting to ban it all together. Obviously, none of these measure will result in total uniformity. They will only encourage or discourage.

In the future, I suspect all religions will be forms of Christianity because of its focus on conversion. Islam and Hinduism only increase by population growth (sweeping generalization but generally true). This doesn't mean all the denominations will be orthodox traditional Christianity. Outfielders like LDS (Mormons) are a possibility. While denominations do have their differences, we'd never be able to agree on what they are. So, I suggest a single small positive bonus for each one, achieved in a base if converts reach higher than 50% of the population. The motive for discouraging religion would be to curb the random events it generates.

The Denominations would be Reformed, Pentecostal, Apostolic, Syncretistic and the Planet Cult. Google the first two if not already familiar. Apostolic would be an Anglican-Catholic church with a rigid top-down structure. Syncretistic beliefs alter Christian monotheism to a pagan pantheon. The Planet Cult isn't related to Christianity (despite the earlier statement) but the extraordinary circumstances of colonization could allow its formation.

The Denominations would not become noticeable (in game terms, although we know they've been there all along) until fifty or so turns after planetfall. The Believers are the exception.

VII. Victory

The later turns of the game should turn into an all out war with planet as the mind worms rise. It's not Alpha Centauri without transcendence but wouldn't it be great to also have the option to terraform the entire planet? To walk, without a rebreather, under a sun that is no longer alien? All fungus must be purged!

We need diplomatic and economic victory as well, if at all possible. Always wanted to build a spaceship and return to earth. We could also use an option to spread your religion to a certain percentage of the global populace and a technological singularity victory condition (mechanical intelligence replaces humanity). Finally, we retain the privilege of crushing all who oppose us.

VIII. Sea Cities

Right, must have sea cities and the ability to terraform the oceans. Love the Pirates, but its a bit of a stretch they'd start with the ability to build on the water. Is there a way to guarantee they start on an island?

Haven't any ability to mod myself but hopefully you all like the sound of these ideas. We would all love to play Alpha Centauri with improved graphics and programming, along with the best concepts from the later Civ games. The Planetfall mod looks good but so do many improvements in Civ5 and BE. (Must have hexes.)

Have fun, everybody.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2015, 10:33:55 AM by sisko »

Offline BlaneckW

Re: Modding Beyond Earth to Alpha Centauri
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2015, 08:23:20 PM »
You agree with one unit per hex?  It isn't a malus on the ability of the AI?

Regarding the expansions factions, even from the perspective of the SMAX I think they would have to be reworked.  They weren't made by the same team as the original and I don't care about them as much, but that aside, I don't think they are as playable versus the originals, the exception maybe being the Svensgard option (mostly because they aren't retarded). 

The Cybernetics actually have a growth malus, and I don't think the research makes up for it.  But then, after having tried them I would never play them, so you can all do what you like, and I can just set my factions to ones that aren't push-overs.  I would personally just have made socialism and cybernetics their own expanded customization options (like Moo2 or something), but people are attached even to the expansion's characters, and there's always more modding.

Religion
Totalitarian factions like Hive, and maybe to a lesser extent Santiago, would not be subject to religious movements unless they liberalized or Hive decided there was some advantage in propagating some particular doctrine other than Legalism.  The Party today is talking about trying to develop a universalistic spiritual philosophy, and spirituality has always been integral to Chinese and Asian culture - and this was reflected in their interpretations of Communism.  Though Yang might be atheist, I imagine the Hive does have some particular spiritual function since the RPG read that it's people do meditation as one activity, and I don't really consider atheist states a viable option given most peoples have some degree of spirituality anyway.  I guess Santiago's survivalist might be Christian to begin with, though.  Survivalists often are. 

I don't know your background in history or religions, but in my opinion Buddhism is more viable than you seem to think.  It spread to the middle-east to Europe multiple times, and effected religions.  China, Indochina and Indonessia essentially incorporated Buddhism.  Buddhism has effectively had internationalist organizations throughout history.  The Middle East might be plenty Buddhist today, except that the Mongols in the middle-east adopted Islam to cut themselves off from the Yuan, and the Sufis filled in.  And Sufism, with it's value in dance and poetry, and incorporation of meditation, might become more viable as fear of the middle-east dies down.  I can also imagine the development of a meditative Christianity.

Secondly, you are right that this accounts only for modern religious conceptions.  Remember that Christianity itself is essentially a syncretic religion.  The same is true for Buddhism and Hinduism (it can be argued that some Hindu movements are also becoming more universalist and developing as an alternative religion, but more slowly.)  Zen is a syncretic religion(probably won't become popular).  If you look far enough into the future, I see many strange options.  But then, I'm not even that familiar with Buddhism.  Regarding Pagan Christianity, this exists already in the form of Zoroastrianism.  So if nothing else, you can have a Christian denomination incorporating the Zoroastrian tradition.  This seems plausible to me.  And Mahayana already incorporates Paganism.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2015, 09:25:41 PM by BlaneckW »

Offline BlaneckW

Re: Modding Beyond Earth to Alpha Centauri
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2015, 09:00:36 PM »
You should watch the original Solaris.  It's one of the things that inspired the fungus, along with some other book series.

Offline Buster's Uncle

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Re: Modding Beyond Earth to Alpha Centauri
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2015, 09:27:45 PM »
Malus?

Offline MercantileInterest

Re: Modding Beyond Earth to Alpha Centauri
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2015, 10:18:50 PM »
When you look above, you'll notice that I haven't actually played a modern civ game. One unit per hex sounds good from a tactical and management perspective but I can't tell you how well it actually works.

You're quite right that the Crossfire factions need modification. I currently use the Smaniac mod but in any case, the rules could change quite a lot, judging by the faction mods for BE that have already arrived.

As for religion, it's important not to get sidetracked because no one will agree on exactly how it works. It would work well as an independent game mechanic that can be dealt with not dictated, as outlined above.

Totalitarian nations on earth still have religion. Christianity survived in the Soviet Union, it does quite well in China and refuses to disappear in North Korea despite all the efforts of the larded dictator. State repression decreases religion but it doesn't eradicate it, which could make for an interesting game choice.

The majority of Buddhists simply use it as an expansion on existing polytheism. There aren't that many actual 'high' Buddhists. It has always been an elite religion. Without a widespread polytheistic base, it's unlikely to occur in any significant numbers.

You sure about many strange religious options in the future? Religion has an innate tendency to reform and return to its simpler roots. Look at the Protestant Reformation. The wildest cults today aren't crazier than those of the past.

Again, want to emphasize that we're not all going to agree on exactly how it works but we could agree that religion could be represented by independent growth that can be dealt with but not entirely controlled by player fiat. Also, we have good reason to keep to more common historically recurring denominations. Most everyone here agrees that the original historically grounded SMAC factions are more plausible than the far out zany SMAX set.

Offline BlaneckW

Re: Modding Beyond Earth to Alpha Centauri
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2015, 10:53:05 PM »
When you look above, you'll notice that I haven't actually played a modern civ game. One unit per hex sounds good from a tactical and management perspective but I can't tell you how well it actually works.
I'm given to understand that the AI is not able to use it very effectively.

You're quite right that the Crossfire factions need modification. I currently use the Smaniac mod but in any case, the rules could change quite a lot, judging by the faction mods for BE that have already arrived.
If you give the cybernetics a growth malus, they'll suck.  Similarly, a covert operations bonus just isn't significant.

As for religion, it's important not to get sidetracked because no one will agree on exactly how it works. It would work well as an independent game mechanic that can be dealt with not dictated, as outlined above.
I would agree with you, except that if you want to go there, it's a major part of the sci-fi genre.  And ideally, in the end, it shouldn't be done the way it's been done before, but in the same depth as the rest of SMAC's philosophical considerations.  But I agree that it shouldn't be your primary consideration as a game developer.

Totalitarian nations on earth still have religion. Christianity survived in the Soviet Union, it does quite well in China and refuses to disappear in North Korea despite all the efforts of the larded dictator. State repression decreases religion but it doesn't eradicate it, which could make for an interesting game choice.
You misunderstand.  I simply suggested that they wouldn't have the same problems.  The Hive isn't going to have cult outbreaks except in remote areas under poor conditions, or if the whole faction is experiencing problems.  Just consider it an additional control modifier.  Though I guess other factions might have means of accomplishing the same, if they aren't liberty-obsessed.  You'd also be better off comparing Hive with Ch'in, except regarding it's planned economy.

The majority of Buddhists simply use it as an expansion on existing polytheism. There aren't that many actual 'high' Buddhists. It has always been an elite religion. Without a widespread polytheistic base, it's unlikely to occur in any significant numbers.
The latter might be true on Earth, but I can tell you that it isn't for lack of trying on the part of the Lamas.  They're here, in the United States, trying to establish a base to continue the tradition.  Admittedly, some of the people they're training right now aren't much good at it, but there's a few larger centres right here in Albuquerque.  The less esoteric of them are just a "get rid of your suffering with meditation" for the masses.

You sure about many strange religious options in the future? Religion has an innate tendency to reform and return to its simpler roots. Look at the Protestant Reformation. The wildest cults today aren't crazier than those of the past.
Does Protestant really mean anything these days?  My point was that religion, at it's roots, is syncretic.  Zen-Sufism isn't as far off as you may think.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2015, 03:22:28 PM by BlaneckW »

Offline Buster's Uncle

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Re: Modding Beyond Earth to Alpha Centauri
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2015, 10:55:40 PM »
Oh.  Malus is the opposite of bonus.  I finally got it.

Offline Yitzi

Re: Modding Beyond Earth to Alpha Centauri
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2015, 03:31:16 AM »
III. Factions

IV. Game Mechanics

Nothing to note here. Health, orbital layer and terraforming all look good. Use them as are.

Only worry is the quest system. Is it any good at all? Looks rather silly.

The quest system, as a fundamental system, could actually contribute substantially to SMAC, but it would need a serious rework in terms of both the actual content (including a lot of faction-specific content; the difficult choices for  ;yang; and the difficult choices for   ;deidre; are extremely different, and the effects need to reflect that) and the way it's presented (minor quests can use just dialog boxes, but major ones should come with movies.)

Quote
V. Social Engineering

This is the hard part. The virtue system doesn't look so thrilling. Will chairman Lal really get upset over someone's use of frontier survivalism? Would very much enjoy a system that opens up all the possibilities of politics, social systems, ecologies and economies.

We could have choose between a militaristic culture, a conservative family based structure or a civilization that fabricates people like the state in Brave New World. In the same way, we could choose between an egalitarian democracy, an oppressive police state or a highly stable feudal system. Imagine this as a hybrid between the BE's virtues and Civ5's civics. Suppose the player chooses a militaristic culture. Afterwards, he can select accompanying perks (or policies) to further customize his society. For example, the military officers could have direct control over day-to-day decisions or civilian officials could handle some matters. The Brave New World could start by factory producing children but later choose the perk which allows direct manufacture of adults, thereby saving resources.

However, the player could switch systems. If CEO Morgan changes from a Militaristic to a Conservative society, he transfers all his perks. Naturally, this comes at a cost. Such a system would allow us to build any future we want with greater detail than ever before.

The virtue system does not fit SMAC at all, unless it's made faction-specific.  If that cannot be dealt with in some manner, the project is dead in the water.

Quote
VI. Religion

Religion would operate differently than previous Civ games. Various denominations would naturally crop up and influence citizens without any player choice. In great enough numbers, the religious portions of the population would oppose or support wars, slow or speed the transition to other forms of government or even secede with their bases. Similar religious groups also facilitate trade. Religious influence would spread in a manner similar to culture.

Players would interact with religion through social engineering perks. Options would include establishing a denomination as state church, encouraging missionaries, minor accommodations,  restricting religious expression to home life or attempting to ban it all together. Obviously, none of these measure will result in total uniformity. They will only encourage or discourage.

In the future, I suspect all religions will be forms of Christianity because of its focus on conversion. Islam and Hinduism only increase by population growth (sweeping generalization but generally true). This doesn't mean all the denominations will be orthodox traditional Christianity. Outfielders like LDS (Mormons) are a possibility. While denominations do have their differences, we'd never be able to agree on what they are. So, I suggest a single small positive bonus for each one, achieved in a base if converts reach higher than 50% of the population. The motive for discouraging religion would be to curb the random events it generates.

The Denominations would be Reformed, Pentecostal, Apostolic, Syncretistic and the Planet Cult. Google the first two if not already familiar. Apostolic would be an Anglican-Catholic church with a rigid top-down structure. Syncretistic beliefs alter Christian monotheism to a pagan pantheon. The Planet Cult isn't related to Christianity (despite the earlier statement) but the extraordinary circumstances of colonization could allow its formation.

The Denominations would not become noticeable (in game terms, although we know they've been there all along) until fifty or so turns after planetfall. The Believers are the exception.

Rather than religion, why not use the percentage of people who subscribe to another faction's ideology?

Quote
VII. Victory

The later turns of the game should turn into an all out war with planet as the mind worms rise. It's not Alpha Centauri without transcendence but wouldn't it be great to also have the option to terraform the entire planet? To walk, without a rebreather, under a sun that is no longer alien? All fungus must be purged!

I think adding such an option is definitely beneficial...however, even in terms of Transcendence, it needs to be a proper SMAC-style Transcendence with an impressive movie and epilogue, not just a small dialog box about a gradual change.

There's also the "tech web" concept; while interesting, I don't think it would work well with SMAC's overall themes.  And affinities would have to be completely reworked.

I think the changes needed would be so big that "design a worthy SMAC successor from the ground up" might be a more viable project, provided we can find quality writers/videomakers.

Offline Buster's Uncle

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Re: Modding Beyond Earth to Alpha Centauri
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2015, 03:33:14 AM »
I don't think writing would be a problem at all.

Offline Yitzi

Re: Modding Beyond Earth to Alpha Centauri
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2015, 03:44:50 AM »
I don't think writing would be a problem at all.

Well, that's good to hear, as I'm fairly sure we've got the necessary programming and game-design skills available here...

Still, it's probably on the list behind a SMAC RPG*, which is probably behind the decompilation project, which is currently waiting on either hearing from Scient or giving up and going on without him.  (Of course, I'm willing to follow the general opinion of the board regarding these priorities.)

*Which is a particularly interesting challenge to design, as naturally a mixed-faction party will be more effective due to specialization, but of course SMAC's focus on ideology means that such a faction will need some way to handle/model intraparty ideological conflict...

Offline Buster's Uncle

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Re: Modding Beyond Earth to Alpha Centauri
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2015, 03:48:02 AM »
Mylochka is a Poser artist who knows a lot of Poser artists, so some CGI might be possible, too...

Offline Flux

Re: Modding Beyond Earth to Alpha Centauri
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2015, 01:26:22 PM »
As for religion, it's important not to get sidetracked because no one will agree on exactly how it works. It would work well as an independent game mechanic that can be dealt with not dictated, as outlined above.

Totalitarian nations on earth still have religion. Christianity survived in the Soviet Union, it does quite well in China and refuses to disappear in North Korea despite all the efforts of the larded dictator. State repression decreases religion but it doesn't eradicate it, which could make for an interesting game choice.
"Even in our dark times, God is still there."
As you've found its impossible to break true Christians. Probably why they just kill us in some places.
Left the internet, more-or-less.... Might drop in occasionally.

Offline Yitzi

Re: Modding Beyond Earth to Alpha Centauri
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2015, 02:54:02 PM »
As for religion, it's important not to get sidetracked because no one will agree on exactly how it works. It would work well as an independent game mechanic that can be dealt with not dictated, as outlined above.

Totalitarian nations on earth still have religion. Christianity survived in the Soviet Union, it does quite well in China and refuses to disappear in North Korea despite all the efforts of the larded dictator. State repression decreases religion but it doesn't eradicate it, which could make for an interesting game choice.
"Even in our dark times, God is still there."
As you've found its impossible to break true Christians. Probably why they just kill us in some places.

Which also tends not to work that well, with the martyrdom phenomenon and so on.

Pretty much the only thing that can truly end a religion is another religion...and even then it usually takes multiple generations.

Offline BlaneckW

Re: Modding Beyond Earth to Alpha Centauri
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2015, 03:19:10 PM »
Rather than religion, why not use the percentage of people who subscribe to another faction's ideology?
I agree with you on a greater ideological consideration for gameplay if a mod got far enough along in development.

There's also the "tech web" concept; while interesting, I don't think it would work well with SMAC's overall themes.  And affinities would have to be completely reworked.
I consider the original's tech tree integral to the game, in terms of it's balance or perfection, and I would agree with trying to create a tree closer to the original, though that doesn't mean it couldn't be developed at some point see to if anything couldn't be added or better off modified. 

Pretty much the only thing that can truly end a religion is another religion...and even then it usually takes multiple generations.
They say that even Islam incorporated more Zoroastrianism than it set out to.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2015, 03:38:51 PM by BlaneckW »

Re: Modding Beyond Earth to Alpha Centauri
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2015, 09:12:56 PM »
Would it be wrong if I plugged my ongoing modding effort here?

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=366626684

I've been browsing this community as a guest for a while, for the purposes of research. I saw this topic and thought I'd make an account and maybe gather actual opinions from it. I'm focusing on the human factions for now.

 

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