social engineering choices
social engineering choices
See .zip attached at bottom of post.
From the included readme_mod.txt:
SMACX AI Growth mod
Copyright 2018 by Brandon Van Every
Version 1.17, August 19, 2018
see CHANGELOG at end of this file
The design of this mod, and all the playtesting needed to improve it, have taken 3 PERSON MONTHS of full time work to produce. In some other universe where I made money, this could have been a quarter of a year's salary. Some people release complete, if trivial, commercial games in that kind of timeframe. Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is a decidedly non-trivial game, one whose complexities have kept me occupied for nearly 20 years. So it takes much longer to mod it, in any substantive way. I am at times amazed, when various game developers do "game jams" and claim to produce quality in a short amount of time. It has never happened with any mod I've worked on. Perhaps changing the rules of wargames, simply invites time to disappear.
This mod aspires to professionalism, to be substantially better than the original game. I hope people will try and enjoy it, as that validates the effort spent. Please let me know if you find any bugs or omissions.
- Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri with Alien Crossfire expansion is required.
- This mod is for the OFFICIAL game. Unofficial patches that change the alphax.txt file, like the Yitzi 3.5d patch, will not work!
- I suggest installing the OFFICIAL game in a custom directory using custom installation options, and then this mod.
- You can have many installations of SMAC on your computer. They're small and won't interfere with each other.
- This mod contains alphax.txt, the 14 faction *.txt files, and this readme_mod.txt
- Drop the files on top of your SMAC installation, overwriting the existing files.
- I've tried to make the AI play better. That's really important.
- The AI uses Foil Probe Teams now. Watch your sea bases!
- Factions are better rounded, and most don't have penalties. This helps the AI.
- Aliens are no longer overpowered. They are no better than normal factions.
- The world generator is tweaked to give the AI factions more land to grow in.
- Enormous 80x160 and Giant 128x256 maps are defined.
- Choosing 30%..50% land mass yields substantial continents, but still plenty of ocean for the Pirates.
- I test gameplay on an Enormous map with 30%..50% land mass. That's my benchmark for "correct experience".
- Techs, facilities, units, and abilities are completely reordered, for what I consider to be good pacing.
- Secret Projects come later in the game and cost at least 300 minerals.
- Overpowered Secret Projects come MUCH later.
- Social Engineering choices are gradualist and incremental, to facilitate mixing and matching.
- Future Society choices become available in late midgame and are not overpowered.
- Completing the entire tech tree is required to Transcend.
- Facilities, abilities, and units are assigned to Explore, Discover, Build, or Conquer according to what they actually do.
- "Explore" really means "colonization and growth" to the AI. It doesn't mean exploring.
- Planet Busters can hit anywhere on Planet.
- Armor has been strengthened to match weapons at the same tech level.
"Explore" techs, I decided, are fundamentally misnamed. Internally, the game files actually talk about "colonization and growth". Consequently, anything that makes citizens happy, or raises population limits, or increases GROWTH rate, is now considered an "Explore" tech. In my opinion the "Explore" category should really be called EXPAND. But if I could rename it, I wouldn't, as it's unnecessarily confusing to veteran SMAC players.
The assignment of various techs to Explore, Discover, Build, or Conquer has been completely gutted, with no respect paid to the original divisions of the game. Weapons, armor, and military abilities are strictly for conquering, and they comprise the vast majority of techs in the tree. Firaxis actually wrote a game with a lot of conquering gewgaws, regardless of any narrative or marketing spin they put on top of it. For instance, Secret Projects that award 2x votes are now considered tools of Conquest, as in practice, Diplomatic Victory is merely an abbreviated form of Conquest Victory. Discover techs attempt to be "pure", awarding either new lab facilities, Secret Projects that double lab output in a city, or a free tech to the 1st discoverer. Build techs increase either energy or minerals output. Notably, they do not make people happy; in the future you can be happy and poor.
Because Explore, Discover, Build, and Conquer now reflect the realities of what's actually in the tech tree, the research priorities of many factions have changed. Explore and Conquer is a common pairing, for instance. The factions with a research bonus simply go for Discover. Because there are so few Discover techs in the tree, they randomly obtain techs in all the other categories and don't miss out on anything.
A few factions have changed their social engineering choices substantially. The Cult of Planet is now Fundamentalist. In fact they're the best Fundamentalists of the game, like the Hive is with a Police State. The Believers still do what they always did, but the gratuitous anti-Christian penalties have been toned down. They should never have been treated like cartoons as the original game did. The Pirates now want Wealth, because that's what pirates actually want. They have this enormous energy rich, minerals rich defensive moat around them called the ocean. They can do whatever they want in that, they don't need to conquer anybody. The Usurpers now want Power. They are conquerors, it's what they should be doing, and why should their social engineering choices agree with the Caretakers in any way?
To facilitate the AI's chances against humans, an ENORMOUS map size of 80x160, and a GIANT map size of 128x256 are included. The world generator options have been tweaked so that an ENORMOUS map with 30%..50% land mass, will produce plenty of room for AI factions to grow in, plenty of ocean if the Pirates are in the game, and will not bottleneck the factions on degenerate 1x1 islands. The same cannot be said of GIANT maps; you may have problems, or not. The faction placement algorithm starts showing bugs when going past ENORMOUS size and I can't change it. I determined this crossover point empirically, trying many sizes of maps. Strictly speaking you could get away with a 160x160 map but the aspect ratio looks terrible in the minimap. I recommend ENORMOUS maps if you want the largest, yet trouble free playing experience.
-2 penalties are atypical in the social engineering choices now, preferring instead to have -1 in 2 different categories. -1 ECONOMY -1 EFFIC is typical, for instance. Similarly, +2 bonuses are atypical. This mod endeavors to be more nuanced and a "game of inches" rather than throwing +2 at something and calling it good. This also makes it easier to mix and match, until one arrives at the society one wants.
This mod started as an attempt to model "realistic" growth in the social engineering choices. Frontier societies get -1 GROWTH, to model the lack of safety inherent in a lack of infrastructure. Simple economies balance this out with +1 GROWTH, modeling the agrarian baby making of the Third World. More industrialized societies do not make as many babies, according to UN data.
Unfortunately the "realism" didn't survive the cold, harsh reality of game mechanics. The end result is there's no cornucopia of baby booming options, but I did put population booming back into the game. You will need a Chilrdren's Creche, Democratic politics, Simple or Planned economics, and Eudaimonia. The latter is now a Level 6 tech, available late midgame. If you cannot make those social engineering choices due to your faction limitations, or if an AI faction wouldn't make those choices, then pop booming won't happen. Anyone can still build The Cloning Vats, available late game.
I never believed that a Fundamentalist society should be amazing at Probe Team operations, so they don't get any PROBE bonus. Instead, they are deliberately similar to a Police State. The Nazis, the Soviets, and the Red Chinese, all used either State invented religions or cults of personality to terrorize people into submission. Police State vs. Fundamentalist has long been a distinction without a difference, and I'd like players to meditate on that.
The Free Market POLICE and PLANET penalties were egregious and have been reduced to token levels. You can still get yourself in trouble with POLICE or PLANET if you make enough other social engineering choices. Green is no longer about capturing the most mindworms. Instead, it's about a sustainable economic model in the modern day sense of a "green economy". It is a completely viable alternative to a Free Market, although it does have its consequences. Green is not pro-conquest anymore, nor is Free Market anti-conquest. If you want to make peace or war with either, you can.
The Values choices have all changed slightly. They are available with Level 4 techs, which tend to appear in early midgame. Advanced Societies are available with Level 6 techs, which tend to appear in the late midgame, and are not overpowered. They too have changed; full details are available in the HELP entries.
In general there is really no point in attaining "advanced" capabilities at the very end of the game, where one only spends a few turns experiencing the benefit. "Interesting" gewgaws like cloaking devices and hovertanks are moved earlier in the tech tree, and "boring" gewgas like bigger guns and armor are moved later.
All factions have been adjusted to be better rounded, i.e. Morgan is no longer a crippled weakling runt. Factions previously considered weak, are plenty strong now. The Aliens have been stripped of various bonuses and don't get any free armor. They are no stronger than anyone else.
To help the AI, faction penalties have been removed unless there are strong thematic reasons to keep them. The Believers, for instance, are not going to do excellent research. Even in that case though, it's only -1 RESEARCH now. Frankly, Isaac Newton was a devout Christian, and at least one strongly Christian playtester pointed out the various cartoonish, anti-Christian biases of the game. Their -1 PLANET penalty was dispensed with as well, as there's no other part of the story that talks about Miriam being hostile to Planet or deluded about its nature. These Christians aren't rabid, until they go Fundamentalist. Which of couse the AI does, but a human player doesn't have to.
The tech tree has been majorly reshuffled. Any given technology or facility, you cannot count on it being where you expect, or following a sequence you're used to. I tried to make various guns come later, in sequence, and not be so pointless. I packed the tree quite densely, so that for instance, a Level 5 technology is always preceded by 2 Level 4 technologies. All technologies lead to another technology, and completing the entire tree is required to Transcend.
Misnamed "Explore" techs are for colonization and growth. They either make citizens happy, increase population limits, increase GROWTH rate, or help colonists get to their destinations faster. Notably, Doctrine: Flexibility is now an E1 level tech with no prerequisites. I've played too many games getting stuck on a darned island, falling behind everyone else technologically as I struggle to free myself from the trap. There's nothing about human history that justifies ships coming AFTER land vehicles. Historically, ships came first, and so will you. Also important, mag tubes are available fairly early in the game. This is not Civilization II, these are spacefarers who already know how to build some kind of railroad. Hovertanks come earlier in the game, because it's annoying to wait so long for them. My hovertanks are based on GREASE, sliding a mere inch above the ground!
Early Secret Projects now cost 300 minerals to build and they are all moved later in the tech tree. Some projects that some people consider overpowered, like the Empath Guild, the Virtual World, The Planetary Energy Grid, the Cyborg Factory, and the Cloudbase Academy, are moved substantially later. Nobody starts the game with the ability to build a Secret Project. Most factions don't start with bonus technologies either. This is to discourage early and rapid tech trading between the factions.
Missiles can now hit anywhere on the planet, up to 132 squares away. This is accomplished by giving the missiles a speed of 66 and a refueling range of 2. There is no safety from a Planet Buster in the early days of orbital spaceflight. Anti-missile technologies come earlier, but can be hard to obtain them quickly, because so many other Conquer techs are available. Food, energy, and minerals satellites come much later, as these are extensive orbital and logistical facilities compared to shooting down a missile. Conventional Missiles can also hit anywhere on Planet, and so their cost increases accordingly. Unfortunately there's no way to add a new Chassis type to create missiles with different ranges. The AI can't spam them now though, because they cost too much, and frankly that's a relief.
The AI gains the use of Foil Probe Teams. It's never been fair that I can grief the AI by sea, and it can't return the favor. Expect the AI to probe your sea bases a lot. It really likes to use these things, even crossing Enormous maps just to bother you.
If you made it this far in my design notes, I hope it helps!
- Brandon Van Every