Research refers to the process of acquiring new technologies in Alpha Centauri. It can also refer to the total number of research points generated, called Labs, or sometimes beakers by Civ veterans.
This setting is enabled by default when beginning a new game. Under Blind Research, players may influence their next technological development by checking one, or more, of four radio buttons in the research preference screen (Shift+R). These four buttons are: Explore, Build, Conquer, and Discover. The four technology tracks are color-coded in the research screen; Green for Explore, yellow for Build, red for Conquer and gray for Discover. Nevertheless, focusing on one track does not guarantee a breakthrough in that area. Strategy is significantly affected by this setting, the most obvious consequence being that the player will often have to work with what they get, and delays are inevitable. Less obvious but equally significant is the increased importance of tech trade and espionage to acquire particular advancements. This is contrary to games with specific research where a player is "researching it anyway."
As the tech tree is highly inter-connected, some research in all four tracks will be required to acquire most technologies beyond Level 3.
Some generalizations can be made for each of the four categories.
Contains nearly essential terraforming techniques that allow the player to glean resources from otherwise hostile and barren squares. Explore has a distinct ecological theme, and has a close association with Deirdre of Gaia's Stepdaughters, who strongly favors this track.
Explore unlocks advanced terraforming commands. With time, improvements can be built on fungus that would be impossible otherwise, and one may even forego a conventional 'form scheme by receiving resources from the fungus itself. Given the various quirks of fungus, a territory covered in the pinkish mass opens up many interesting options for home defense when those restrictions do not apply to you! See: Fungus Strategy.
Comprises mobile units, such as rovers, ships and aircraft.
Also includes the Centauri tech path which unlocks the ability to breed native life forms, which have their own special combat rules discussed on their page. Non-native units may eventually even acquire the ability to engage in PSYCHIC KOMBAT!!1 with other, non-native units.
This tracks emphasizes increasing industry and economy. Also has most of the relevant armor techs.
Strong military focus, many powerful weapons fall under here.
Tends to represent theoretical as opposed to applied science, some of these techs have few direct applications, instead serving as pre-requisites for other areas. Notably, contains the entire Spaceflight path.
Technologies of special interest, sorted by various categories.
Lifting Resource Restrictions
Before the relevant techs are researched, the three resources are each capped at 2.
Gene Splicing (B3) - Nutrients
Ecological Engineering (E4) - Minerals
Environmental Economics (B5) - Energy