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A Walkthrough on Scenario Generation

Discussion in 'Alpha Centauri' started by Darsnan, Nov 3, 2018.

  1. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Premise for the Scenario

    And while I've been generating the map I've been jotting down words, phrases, and ideas on the backstory, until there is enough to make a first draft of the backstory:

    Reader's Digest condensed version: humans have discovered the location of Manifold Ten on a distant planetoid (read: low grav environment), and several of the more powerful Factions have sent out expeditions to claim the prize solely for themselves. However the Manifold is still crewed by the descendants of the original Manifold's constructors, and they will fight to protect their sacred relic! You will lead the defense of the Manifold and repulse these heathen humans from the holy ground that is Manfold Ten!

    In Defense of All that is Holy!
    In response to Devine direction from the Protector High Priest, the Progenitor Faithful activated Manifold Ten, and then awaited word from their brethren across the cosmos, and how their corresponding Manifolds had fared in their attempt to contact God. However days then dragged into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years, and still no contact from their far-flung Progenitor brethren. Finally the Protector ordered the People into stasis, to await the day of the reawakening of the Progenitor people. The Protector himself would assume the throne of the Manifold Ten and stand guard over the people while they slept.

    Protector Jaa'hroooon settled himself into the Prayer Seat located within the Great Communal Hall and sent a command to Manifold Ten to envelope the throne room in a partial stasis field. Within the bubble of slowed time Jaa'hroooon used the powers of the Manifold to project his senses out amongst the stars, searching for any sign of the People's return. Ages swept by in the blink of an eye, and as the slowed time continued to progress Jaa'hroooon watched stars slowly march across the sky, while other stars flared and died, their lives spent . And still Jaa'hroooon sat upon the throne, communing with the Manifold while he patiently waited for word from his People.

    And suddenly it was real-time again! Jaa'hroooon had given the Manifold orders to immediately stop the stasis if it detected an imminent threat, and it appeared that threshold had been met. Jaa'hroooon allowed his senses to be directed by the Manifold to several tiny specks of light descending through the planetoids thin atmosphere. From their descent Jaa'hroooon could tell the specks were artificial in nature, and using the Manifold's probing abilities Jaa'hroooon reached within each of the vessels to probe the minds of those that would dare intrude upon the holy ground that was Manifold Ten. Jaa'hroooon sifted the uncomplex minds of the aliens, sensing simple, primeval drives of greed and hatred towards his species. And they knew of other Progenitors! It would be interesting to extract knowledge from these creatures regarding the fate of his People amongst the stars! Jaa'hroooon had sensed enough and broke contact. It was time to wake the people and prepare them for battle...
     
  2. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Editing the alphax.txt: Basic Updates

    First off, what is the alphax.txt file: It is the file which contains the rules for the game Alpha Centauri. Simply put, you change the rules, and you change how the game plays.

    First off, the edit I always do when building a scenario is to change the first 3 lines of the #UNITS section of the alphax.txt to the following:

    #UNITS
    38
    Speeder CP, Speeder, Colony Pod, Scout, 8, 0, 0, Disable, -1, 00000000000000000000000000
    Rover Formers, Speeder, Formers, Scout, 9, 0, 0, Disable, -1, 00000000000000000000000000
    Scout Patrol, Infantry, Gun, Scout, 3, 0, 0, None, -1, 00000000000000000000000000

    This allows me to very quickly place a set of starting units for each base that I place on the map.
    Note also that I copy the first original entry in the #UNITS section (which is for the Colony Pod) to the end of the #UNITS section, and I increment the number directly below the "#UNITS" entry by one.

    Other additions I typically make when creating a scenario are as follows:

    - Intrinsic base defense increased from 25 to 40. Rationale: benefits the AIs as they are typically on the defensive.

    - Boreholes changed to have a -2 nutrient intake. Rationale: simulates the horrid conditions workers face while slaving away in the boreholes (i.e. this "fits" with the darker theme which permeates Alpha Centauri). Note that you will need scient's patch or better, as this doesn't work in the base game.

    - Crawler entry in the #UNITS section has been replaced with a different unit – this means the player will have to prototype their first crawler themselves. Rationale: crawlers are overpowered human exploits, so this is in a small way benefiting the AIs.

    - Virtual World moved to Social Psycholoy. Rationale: watering down the beeline to Industrial Autmation.

    - Cloudbase Academy: moved to Monopole Magnets. Rationale: watering down the beeline to MMI.

    - Seawolf Attack Submarine available at Superconductor

    - Fungal Tower gets a gravship chassis. Rationale: this way fungal towers can't be drowned, and I can also place these units onto sea squares via the Scenario Generator.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2018
  3. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Edits for a Low Grav Environment

    - Movement rate along roads changed from 3 to 4. Rationale: lower gravity increases movement. Also this assists the AI in that they can more quickly congregate units at threatened points within their empires.

    - Max artillery range changed from 2 to 4. Rationale: lower gravity increases artillery range. The AI will use this on occasion. Forewarned is forearmed in this case! (Note: you will need Scient's patch or better, as this does not work in the base game).

    - Max airdrop decreased from 8 to 6. Rationale: flying around a battlefield is exponentially more dangerous than for planet or sea-bound military units, as drop units are exposed to a larger field of enemy units while airborne. In a low grav environment these dangers are compounded even moreso: from battle damage, malfunction, or just plain inexperience while airborne, a drop trooper can literally reach escape velocity much more easily and be lost forever in the depths of space. Thus the decision has been made to lessen the strength and duration of a drop pod's thrusters in low grav environments.

    - Infantry movement changed from 1 to 2, Speeder changed from 2 to 3, and Hovertanks changed from 3 to 4. Rationale: lower gravity increases movement.

    - Hovertank chassis now available at Monopole Magnets. Rationale: with the decreased gravity hovertanks become available more quickly.

    - Needlejets and copter chassis disabled. Rationale: the thin atmosphere of a moon or small planetoid is not dense enough to support roto nor winged aircraft.

    - Missile chassis movement decreased to 8. Rationale: similar to drop pods, missiles face a greater visibility and threat matrix while flying through the air, especially with continually being confronted with the dangers that lie just over the near-horizon as the missiles transit towards their targets. Thus the decision has been made to decrease their distance, effectively telling commanders "use missiles wisely".

    - Missile chassis is now available at Doctrine: Air Power. Rationale: with the decreased gravity rockets become available more quickly.

    - Conventional Payload available at DocAir. Rationale: with the decreased gravity rockets become available more quickly.

    - Planet Buster has been disabled. Rationale: on smaller moons or planetoids the detonation(s) of planet busters are actually significant enough to change the trajectory/ orbits of these bodies. In addition, because of the lower gravity the amount of debris cast into near-space from such cataclysmic detonations makes these planetary bodies unusable, and so the use of nuclear weapons are strictly prohibited.

    - Air Superiority disabled. Rationale: not needed since there are no aircraft in this game.

    - AAA Tracking: moved to DocAir. Rationale: need to start building units ASAP that can defend against missiles!

    - Missile Frigate available at DocAir

    - Drop Trooper Mk1 available at DocAir

    - Chaos Battletank available at Fusion

    - Missile Mk1 available at DocAir

    - Nessus Mining Station available at DocAir. Rationale: lower gravity allows for orbital launches much sooner.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2018
  4. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Other Environmental Changes

    Back in 2005 a player named wgabrie did some great artwork by changing the fungus from the glaring neon-pink to a frothy gold color. Much better IMO, and I've pretty much always included this graphical update in all of my scenarios that I produce. wgabrie also created a replacement graphic for the Unity wreckage, changing it into an ancient city: the "Unity Command Bridge" is now an ancient telescope, the secondary reactor is now a bank holding ECs, the Unity Chopper is now an ancient airport, and the cargo bay is now an ancient armory. Here is a pic combining the two graphics updates from wgabrie:
    Graphical changes.png

    I'll be using both of these graphics mods as a) I really like the frothy gold fungus, and b) the "Ancient City" fits with the story/ theme for this scenario.
     
  5. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Editing the Protector's Factional text file

    So what traits should the Protector's Faction have? First off, I always keep in mind that this is a scenario and not a mod, so the word "balance" can be thrown right out the window!
    Secondly, I'm going to have 5 AIs aligned against this Faction, so what traits should I give this Faction to make it an interesting challenge for the human player while not being overbalanced? For my first pass at the scenario I'm going to model the Faction off a hybrid of the Believers and Caretakers, as I find myself oscillating back and forth between the Believer's "FANATIC", "PROBE", and "SUPPORT" bonus's versus the Caretakers as they were what I originally envisioned for this Faction. In the end I'm going to splice in the elements of the Believers that I want into the original caretake.txt file (again making a backup of the original file before I start editing), with the resultant as follows:

    #CARETAKE
    Manifold Protectors, The Protector, Protectors, M, 2, Jaa'hroooon, M, 1, 1, 1, 0, 1,
    ALIEN, 0, SOCIAL, +PROBE, SOCIAL, ++SUPPORT, FACILITY, 3, FANATIC, 0, FUNGNUTRIENT, 1, FUNGMINERALS, 1, FUNGENERGY, 1
    Economics, Planned, PLANET
    nil, nil, nil

    And after saving the caretake.txt file I open SMACX and ensure none of my edits have broken the game:
    Opening screen.png


    Success!

    Note that I don't care about the opening saying from H'minee, as this will be, ah, Usurped by the Scenario premise! :mischief:
     
  6. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Here is a screen pic of the menu options for the Scenario Generator:

    upload_2018-11-25_16-13-10.png

    IIRC Googlie stated the first think which needed to be done was to "Reset All Factions", which re-initializes all the AIs to their default values. After this is done I place the cursor at one of the locations I want to found a base.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2018
  7. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Placing Units on the Map

    The only hotkey sequence I use out of the above menu options is for placing units, so I select Shift F1 which brings up the Unit Creation menu:
    Unit Placement.png

    From this menu I select "Player", choose the player that I want to place units for, and then individually select the units that I want to place. Note here the order I'd created when I edited the alphax.txt file in that the Speeder CP, Rover Former, and Scout patrol are all right together so that I can very quickly place these units together on the map. Once done placing units at one location I move the cursor around the map and place the units for all the other players as well.

    And of course once I'm done with this I select Menu>Scenario>Save Scenario, and save as Playtest1.
     
  8. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    The Founding of the Bases

    Now its time to plant some bases. First I position the cursor over one set of units containing a CP, then select Menu>Scenario>Switch Sides/Set View and select the Faction I want to found the base. Now I select "Activate Scenario Editor" and then select "Activate Scenario Editor" again, and I can now control the units under the cursor, and so now I cycle thru the units until I can found the base. I then repeat the process for all the other CPs I've placed on the map.

    Once I'm done with this I again save the scenario.
     
  9. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Setting the Difficulty Level and Mission Year

    Typically now I go right down the menu options in the Scenario Editor, so first is setting the difficulty level, and here I'm going to set it to Transcend.
    Next is setting the Mission Year, and since there are Aliens in this game I'm going to set the mission year to 2110.

    Once done I again save, and note that the save will be different in that the Mission Year appended to the save is now 2110. Keep that in mind so the wrong scenario file isn't selected for editing or saving!
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2018
  10. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Editing Faction Diplomacy

    Once "Edit Faction Diplomacy" is selected I get a menu option of which player I want to edit, and so I'll typically go right down the list here. In this case I'm only going to discuss four of the Factions, as the other two I'm simply going to clone.

    University Diplomacy
    Zakharov is here for one purpose, and that's to obtain the Manifold X for himself. And woe to anyone who gets in his way! I've set his diplomacy so that he is in permanent vendetta with everyone, and he considers everyone else's presence on this planetoid an atrocity which must be dealt with in the post severe measures:
    University Diplomacy.png

    Spartan Diplomacy
    The Spartans want the Manifold X for themselves as well, but they aren't as strong as the University, and so have brought along their trusty henchmen the Believers.
    Spartan Diplomacy.png

    The Spartans are set to permanent vendetta against the University and Protectors.

    Believer Diplomacy
    The Believers are here to bring muscle and bibles to the conflict. That and protect one flank of the Spartans. They are also set to permanent vendetta against the University and Protectors:
    Believer Diplomacy.png

    Peace Keeper and Drone Diplomacy
    The Peace Keeper/Drone relationship mirrors the Spartan/Believer relationship, right down to the same vendettas.

    Protector Diplomacy
    Nobody likes the Protectors and everybody will constantly war on them until one or the other is extinct. In addition I've made sure that the Uni's will use nerve gas as soon as they gain the technology:
    Protector Diplomacy.png
     
  11. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Edit Faction Personality

    Next up is editing the Factions' personalities, and again I'll go right down the line:

    University Personality
    University Personality.png

    What I want the University AI to do is found lots of bases and build lots of military units and kill lots of sentients. We will see during the playtest if that's what actually happens.

    Spartan Personality
    Again focus is primarily on the military:
    Spartan Personality.png

    Believers Personality
    For this first playtest I'm going to differentiate between the Believers and Spartans regarding Explore and Discover and see what it gets me in regards to how successful the AIs are in this environment.
    Believer personality.png

    Peace Keepers and Drones Personalities
    Again I'm just going to mirror the Spartans and Believers regarding the PK and Drone personalities.

    And of course once done I save the scenario.
     
  12. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Setting the Faction Strategies

    Selecting "Edit Faction Strategy" again brings me to a selection menu, and I again just go down the list:

    University Strategy
    Here is where I can really sculpt what I want the AI to do in regards to its overall vision:
    Uni Strategy.png

    Ideally speaking the University AI will build lots of sea bases thus giving it lots of Network Nodes to increase its research while in parallel the AI builds lots of military units to continually attack the other Factions with.

    Spartan Strategy
    Here I want the AI to concentrate on land units as well as focusing on the nearest enemy, which happens to be the Protectors:
    Spartan Strategy.png

    Lets see how well the AI builds missiles!

    Believer Strategy
    Again, land power, attack Protector's HQ, and lets make sure the Protectors have to deal with the Probe aspect as well:
    Believer Strategy.png

    Peace Keepers and Drones Strategies
    These strategies mirror the Spartans and Believers strategies.

    And save.
     
  13. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Next in the Scenario Editor menu is "Edit Custom Rules". Here is how I set these rules up:
    Scenario Rules.png


    After this its "Edit Scenario Rules", and here is now I've set these up:
    Special Rules.png

    This essentially will force the player to play the Protector faction. Also note that I've not selected the "Force current difficulty level" option: this will allow the player to play at the difficulty level they feel comfortable with.

    For this scenario I'm not changing anything in regards to the "Edit Scenario Parameters" or "Edit Scenario Victory" screens, so now that I'm done with my first sweep down the Scenario Editor menu I save the scenario.

    And save.
     
  14. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Editing Base Population and Population

    Next I left-click on a Headquarters base which brings up the ability to edit the base parameters:
    Editing Base Facilities.png

    Typically I'll give Recycling Tanks to all bases, and for HQ bases I'll give them a Network Node as well as something else, in this case Hybrid Forests:
    Editing Base Facilities 2.png

    I'll also increase the HQ base populations by at least one.

    Editing Technology

    Next up is "Edit Technology", and again after selecting this option from the Main Menu I'm given the option as to which Faction I want to edit, and so again I just go down the list. For the University, since I've aquatized them, I'm going to give the Doc: Flex to start out with. Hopefully this won't allow them to spread too rapidly.
    Editing Technology.png

    Extra Starting Units

    Since I've set up a rather steep challenge for the Protectors I'm going to give them a couple of rather hefty units in this first playtest. First, I put the cursor where I want to place the unit, and again select Shift-F1 and place the unit that I want into the specified location. Then I right-click on the unit and select "Edit Unit":
    Editing Unit.png

    And now I place it into Lurker mode:
    Editing Units 2.png

    And I do the same for the remaining additional units I'm assigning to the Protector.

    And save.
     
  15. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Editing the 8th Faction

    Again since I'm setting a rather steep challenge for the Protector I'm going to use the 8th Faction as a semi-ally in that I'm going to put blockades around the Protector's beginning position:
    Strategic Placement.png

    Hopefully between these fungal towers and the associated native life it'll slow down the AIs enough for the Protector to get his house in order.

    Note also that during the editing of the alphax.txt I gave the Fungal Towers the gravship chassis, so that means I can place fungal towers into ocean squares:
    Aquatic Fungal Tower.png
     
  16. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    First Playtest

    Now that everything is done I can start my first playtest!
    First Playtest.png

    The first thing I do is go amongst the buildings in the ancient city and revive the Sleepers in order to found new cities:
    Text update needed.png

    Gonna need a text update there so that its clear to the player whats happening and what they should do. Same goes for all the other buildings the player gets to explore at the beginning of the scenario.

    Well that was much sooner than I expected! :hmm:
    First Encounter.png

    And so should I give the player the option to try and speak to these primitive creatures?
    Interesting Choice 1.png

    Sid Meier said that a game should be a series of interesting choices, and so here I think I'll leave the scenario the way it is and let the player decide if they want to prioritize their research.

    And now the Believers show up a few turns later! :wow:
    Second Encounter.png

    I could rationalize that the Spartan Battle Ogre got teleported into my territory, but having another Faction's unit show up on my doorstep is concerning, especially since I'm still in my initial build stages.

    And now a couple turns later I lose a base to a Believer Scout!
    First Base Lost.png

    So, at this point I'm going to call it quits and open the scenario by selecting Menu>Scenario>Activate Scenario Editor. After taking a quick look I see the Spartan Front is by far the worst:
    Spartan Front.png

    So it looks like I need more fungal towers, and a larger fungal patch to slow down the AIs.

    And taking a peak at the Uni's I see they aren't doing anything aquatic to date:
    Uni Front.png

    Nor does it look like their gearing up for an aquatic Armageddon:
    Uni Research.png

    So, as Marvin the Martian once said, "Back to the Old Drawing Board" and after thinking about it we will re-build the scenario to address the shortcomings observed from this first playtest.
     
  17. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Bwahahahahahaha!!!

    Bwahahahahahaha!!!!

    Well second try seems to have done the trick! Bwahahahahahaha!!!!

    Anyways, here's the results so far from my second playtest after making some adjustments:

    First contact with the Drones in MY 2130:
    First Contact.png

    And my first victory against the Spartans:
    First Victory.png

    And now the AIs are discovering Progenitor Psych and so are showing how they feel about me:
    And I Love You Too.png
    Feeling The Love.png

    Virtual World built - one of the Secret Projects I benchmark as far as where I am at with a scenario's development:
    Homer SMACerized.png

    And following up very quickly was the Merchant Exchange:
    Should Have Sold My Palladium Futures.png

    And the joys of having a range of 4 for artillery:
    Max Artillery Range.png

    MY2162 status:
    MY 2162 status.png

    This is where I envisioned being: competitive but not running away with the game, and the Uni's are in the lead!

    And then it begins! And who out of all the Factions would be the first to throw chemical weapons at me but the Drones!?!
    Nerve Gas Ned.png

    And the Drones mean business (note the scroll bar update regarding Vinculum)!
    Drones use Nerve Gas.png
     
  18. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    I thought at first maybe the Drones had captured a few Uni Nerve gas units, but that appears to not be the case:
    neXt wave.png

    Figured I should get a little more physical with the AIs, so built the Command Nexus:
    command neXus built.png

    And now heading back to enjoying the fun that is scenario playtesting this iteration. Will give updates probably later this week. :)
     
  19. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    Spartans have now started throwing nerve gas units at me as well! :goodjob:
    Spartans Nerve Gas Ned.png

    And the Unis are going all nerve gas on the Spartans! Bwahahahahaha!!!!! :devil:
    And more atrocities.png

    Since the Drones were being the most troublesome I went after them first, with Drone Central falling in MY2225:
    The Fall of Drone Central.png

    And that followed up with a clearing of the PK infestation in MY2243:
    Fall of UN HQ.png

    First Uni base falls to a combined missile and amphibious assault:
    First Uni Base Falls.png

    There's nothing like the smell of human flesh burning in the morning.... smells like...... Victory! :devil:
    Smells Like Victory.png
     
  20. Darsnan

    Darsnan King

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    AAR of Round 2 Playtest

    Now that Round 2 has been completed I can sit back and digest what the scenario did well and what it didn't do well.

    Good
    - The 4 land-based AIs did what I wanted them to do, which is continually throw gobs of units at the Protectors!
    - The AIs did build some nerve gas units, however upon inspection I realized sometime in the past I'd given the Drones nerve gas and never removed it. Rookie mistake there! :shake:

    Bad
    - PKs never built any more bases. They had room, but just never did. Not sure why as all the other AIs expanded. :hmm:
    - The Uni's did research nerve gas early on, but didn't use it as much as I wanted them to: essentially I want the human player uncomfortably aware of the Uni's continually nerve gassing everyone, and of the consequences if the human player doesn't do something about it (i.e. the enragement of the Planetmind, as well as global flooding). However looking at the map there's just too much territory for the Uni's to cover. So after thinking about it a while I'm going to move the Uni's starting bases north, and then add the Consciousness in down south and give the Consciousness nerve gas ability as well. I'm also going to narrow the focus for the Consciousness and Uni's in that I'm only going to put them into atrocity mode on their nearest two neighbors, so hopefully they'll then focus their forces better.
     

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