Terraforming: Options, options, options

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Originally from the The SMAC Academy, by Ogie Oglethorpe.


Much has been made of various and sundry terraforming methodologies and stratagems and terraforming in of itself can be considered a sub-game within SMACSid Meier's Alpha Centauri.

In the following article I write of a number of different stratagems that are employed.

Stratagem 1 - The all forest approach

Foresting is such an integral part of the game. In almost everyones game foresting is at least a start to effective terraforming if not an end to terraforming. Departures may take place from foresting but by and large forestation is a viable means to have a well balanced output of factors of production namely: Nuts, mins and energy.

The advantages of forestation is manifold plus it is low on terraforming time.

Key Concept - Definition - Former turn - Amount of terraforming completed by a standard terraformer in a given turn. Also includes turns spent moving formers into position etc.

The cost in terms of t-formers is negligible due to short times for actual planting a forest (4 turns) but is aided by spontaneous forest growth as well thus negating the need for additional terraforming.

Forests initially deliver 1 nut, 2 mins, & 1 energy. An all around decent square considering with a +2 econ you’ve gotten a 1-2-2 which is almost the best you can get pre-restriction lifting.

As the game progresses and you acquire tech enabling facilities such as tree farms and Hybrid forests the square can ultimately deliver 3-2-2 and with a +2 econ 3-2-3.

All in all a decent all around little square.

Stratagem 2 - The all advanced terraforming approach

Initially the approach is the same as forestation at some point in the game though (normally Post Weather Paradigm acquisition and/or Post Clean reactor acquisition) forests get paved over in favor of Condenser/farms with Soil Enrichers and boreholes to supply mins and energy or perhaps a rocky/roaded mine here and there.

This approach then assumes ultimately that the only squares actually worked are boreholes to supply 6mins/6 energy.

All other squares then become target for mass crawler usage. In doing so a Condenser/Farm/soil enricher yields 6 nuts all crawled back to the base for population support, a sprinkling as the terrain permits of rocky roaded mines provides 4 mins each and are similarly crawled.

By specializing citizens that otherwise would work squares large amounts of equivalent energy are available. More so, in fact, than the traditional forestation. The cost is rather substantial though as it requires almost 5 times the amount of former turns and requires significant crawlers. (hence the need for WPWeather Paradigm, clean reactors, and ultimately super formers) Energy production is almost 50% higher than forestation while mins are comparable. What's more, excess squares are still available for massive population growth post hab domes. (Of course by the time hab domes come along the end game is rushing along so the window of opportunity is not as great as in the early to mid game. Likewise nutrients are available via hydro sats to pump up populations. By the by max population at this point can be described as number of land/sea nuts = max population assuming you have enough hydroponic sats to match the land/sea nuts.)

Stratagem 3 - Energy Park - Land Based

This assumes a portion of land is set aside for massive renovation in the form of land raising to 3000 meters and alternating rows of solar collectors and echelon mirrors.

Each square then is crawled back to a base(s) for energy to fuel econ and labs. The effect is pronounced and gives significant energy. The downsides are once again the amount of terraforming involved, which coincidently is in the range of the advanced terraforming approach. The energy output is similar to the output of the advanced terraforming approach but there is no benefit with respect to mins and multiple build queues. So one asks the question are land based e-parks worth it? Yes and no are the qualifying answers. Energy form e-parks are multiplied manifold when delivered to Super Science Cities (SSC’s). While there is no marked improvement in overall energy delivery of the two options there is an improved in the performance due to the multiplication of facilities and less overall maintenance costs.

Overall though the cost is high in terms of former turns, the output is singular in nature and doesn’t offer any additional benefits with regard to mins or available build locations (build queues).

Each square delivers from 4 (5 with +2 econ) to 10 (11 with +2 econ) energies.

Stratagem 4 - Energy Parks - Sea Based

Sea Based energy parks requires simply a tidal harness and in SMAXSid Meier's Alien Crossfire (Cross = X) are aided via thermocline transducer facility. Each square delivers 4 (5 with +2 econ) energy.

Terraforming is relatively low but is more expensive by about 50% more so than forestation or kelp farms. Add to that the need for a trawler per square.

All in all a quick way to get some energy to the SSC if you don’t have the room for a full blown land based e-park.

Results of the above Stratagems

Which brings me to the second key point. FOPFactors Of Production’s are a measure of the efficiency of your land usage. Territory and time have to be considered the limiting factors for what is considered the best t-forming approach. I’ve already attempted to put a definition on the time aspect (former-turn) although manufacture of crawlers and placement into service is a very real concern as well in some of the above stratagems. This then leaves the other concept, what gives the best yield in a given area.

In the attached spreadsheet I’ve laid out a 20 X 20 grid and neglected the corner squares for an overall 396 squares of land. I’ve superimposed 3 square spacing for bases and laid out terraforming according to Stratagems 1-4.

The results are in:

Stratagem 1
Total Pop points - 576: Workers = 360, Specialists = 216
FOP’s (Factors of Production): Excess nuts = 0, Mins = 792
Equivalent Energy (Specialists = Engineer) =2232
Former Turns Required = 2268
Crawlers Required = 0
Stratagem 2
Total Pop points - 576: Workers = 93, Specialists = 483
FOP’s Excess nuts = 0, Mins = 630
Equivalent Energy (Specialist = Engineer) = 3174
Former turns required = 10788
Crawlers required = 180
Stratagem 3
Total pop points = 0
FOP’s Excess nuts = 0, Mins = 0
Energy = 3078
Former Turns required = 9504
Crawlers Required = 396
Stratagem 4
Total pop points = 0
FOP’s Excess nuts = 0, Mins = 0 Energy = 1980 Former Turns required = 2376 Trawlers Required = 396

Conclusions - Each style has its benefits and weaknesses. For example one can see the speed of the forestation approach is a significant strength and by the time the game roles around to the hybrid forest time period chances are your looking to expand via acquisition verses internal building. So this is a great means to get up and running quickly with an eye to conquering in the mid game.

If you wish to be a pure builder then you probably are looking more to the advanced t-forming option despite its heavy t-forming requirements it is doable and allows a tremendous late game advantage (best of all options for the late game). But chances are as a consequence of this approach you’ll be focused internally and tend to neglect the outside world.

E-parks need also be considered. For purposes of feeding a SSC, they rock. But if you follow a advanced terraforming approach then likely you’ll be spread too thin on ground formers to follow this approach. The sea then becomes a very viable quick means to augment the SSC.

All in all there probably is no best terraforming approach other than making sure in the early game you consider having plenty of forests.

The spreadsheet (in .xls (Excel format)) can be downloaded at CGN.