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BE vs SMAC discussion

Discussion in 'CivBE - General Discussions' started by AriochIV, May 26, 2015.

  1. AriochIV

    AriochIV Colonial Ninja

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    Although Firaxis was clear from the beginning that Beyond Earth was "not Alpha Centauri 2", they indicated on many occasions that it was an inspiration for Beyond Earth and was "in our DNA" at Firaxis. They most definitely positioned Beyond Earth as a spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri.

    Just a few examples:
    http://www.pcgamer.com/civilization...w-factions-aliens-technology-and-more/#page-2
    David McDonough: "Like you, I played Alpha Centauri until my eyes bled. When we very first got the option to make the game, to us it was making a game about the idea of Alpha Centauri, the idea of the future of humanity. That as expressed by a Civ game, we sort of figured out. Part of that was inspired by Alpha Centauri, part of it was inspired by the Civ legacy, and part of it just invented."

    Will Miller: "Yeah, the influence of Alpha Centauri will be apparent, but it's in winks and nods—it's an homage to that game—this game really is meant to be our version of the place that game sat when it came out."

    I'm not one of the SMAC fanatics who expected Alpha Centauri 2, and the lack of being SMAC is not what I think is wrong with Beyond Earth. But to say that they didn't trade on Firaxis' heritage with SMAC when promoting BE is simply false.
     
  2. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    Actually, AriochIV, both those statements appear to me to want to address the obvious fan expectation - "We know you are all thinking SMAC and we loved that game, but this game is not that." They've been very explicit on this point and repeat it over and over and over in many instances.

    It's less promotion of the SMAC brand and more polite distancing, IMO.
     
  3. Gort

    Gort Emperor

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    Unfortunately for Firaxis, Beyond Earth shares a lot of common features and themes with SMAC, and is beaten on many of them by it, which is shameful for a game that came out more than fifteen years after SMAC.

    It's a bit like how Beyond Earth's similarities with Civ 5 make it easy to see Beyond Earth as disappointing, containing many of Civ 5's failings while improving few of its flaws - if the games didn't share an engine and much more besides, it'd be a lot harder to compare them side-by-side.
     
  4. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    Broken ICS-happy SMAC beats Civ:BE design? Nuh uh. Beats CivBE in terms of video. I don't see it beating CivBE on anything else. If nothing else, I won't destroy a CivBE world with a single unit.

    That said, I haven't played CivBE since the December patch that killed Trade Routes and Battlesuits. The new patch leaves me cold. I'll get back when Affinity 4 units aren't a complete waste of time.
     
  5. Gort

    Gort Emperor

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    Given the technological advances made in the last fifteen years and the advantages of hindsight, there shouldn't be a single area in which SMAC is superior to Beyond Earth. And yet they're there.
     
  6. iki

    iki Warlord

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    I'm not sure why you say Battlesuits are a waste I've found them to be quite powerful still.

    SMAC beats BE on Story, Character of the factions, the way the planet reacts to you, video and voice over as well as unit modification.
     
  7. Lord Tirian

    Lord Tirian Erratic Poster

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    I'd also add to that: SMAC was the first game that really nailed that concept, namely "continuation of Civ" - Beyond Earth clearly positioned itself in the same spot, conceptually.

    As a result, the comparison was inevitable and it was the benchmark in terms of how well you can represent such a scenario in an engaging manner without the weight of history adding gravitas to your game as in the mainline Civ games.

    I think it is no surprise that so many people complained about the lack of immersion as a result because SMAC managed to feel like a fully realised world, Civ:BE's world never quite comes together.
     
  8. iki

    iki Warlord

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    Don't get me wrong BE tries with the quest system, but it falls flat, Planet in SMAC was a character in itself. I understand why they did it and I like the game I really do. But SMAC just has more depth to it.
     
  9. TabeticClown

    TabeticClown Chieftain

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    I think the Firaxis team is smart enough to realized that trying to market this as a new SMAC would only be bad in the end. It's obviously not a SMAC remake, so marketing as such might have increased initial sales, it would only lead to bad reviews and lower lifetime sales. So like another commenter said, this really seems more like polite distancing than anything because people would expect too much looking through their rose tinted glasses otherwise.
     
  10. TabeticClown

    TabeticClown Chieftain

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    I'm pretty sure I've read interviews where the devs specifically said that BE wasn't a continuation of historical Civ.
     
  11. Valvts

    Valvts A Plant

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    SMAC was a pioneer in it's genere, 15 years ago and it is still smashes BE in every and each aspect. What a shame.
     
  12. Mutineer

    Mutineer Deity

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    they did keep major SMAC characteristics, like 3 main path, planet interracting with development, just water them down.. Really, is miasma mach different from (Actially I for got CMac name, that read fungus try which native live move like roads?)
     
  13. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    SMAC's story is the usual 80's Planet is alive schlock. I don't find particularly compelling. I found the shorts in BE's Civilopedia better.

    The factions in SMAC have limited expression of character beyond the vids. Units are the same, particularly. Weighted behavior is similar in both games. Arguably better in BE.

    Planet reacts by sending blob units to you. Wow.

    Unit modification is complex but poorly-thought out and ultimately shallow. A few design win all. Worse, the AI doesn't know the winning designs; and doesn't know how to deal with them.

    Voice over work and video are reportedly better than BE. I didn't experience them with the game since my machine couldn't even render the pictures with voiceover without crashing. I experienced SMAC mainly as text. Experienced without video and sound, I have to give it over to BE. It's just a better game on every aspect except for video and sound, which are not design nor technology-dependent.
     
  14. Mutineer

    Mutineer Deity

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    basically you are saying that technology now betetr and computers faster...
    Otherwise even with simular units strategy was soo different for each faction. Factions had acces to same tools, but how to use them was very different. I am sorry, the fact that you actially compare voice overs of 15 years old game speeks volumes..
     
  15. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    I'm comparing voiceovers because that's the only thing that's better. And that's better because art isn't technology dependent. Shakespeare's still a pretty kickass writer even after all this time.
     
  16. iki

    iki Warlord

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    I'm quite sure the living planet thingy was always about from mythology to SCFI, I think you mean 90s schlock. From earth2 and other things at that time. While AC probably would be more appealing to yourself if it had a graphical overhaul. Maybe it's more of a Solaris thing though.

    Yes the design workshop had problems. The simple upgrade thing from BE although fun and easy does lack what SMAC had.

    And while the game graphically can't compare to most games it's terrain can when compared to BE, Arid or Desert is just brown yellow or yellowish brown with some white or blue with ice and water respectively.

    Fungal is purple or purple, and lush is just kinda green.

    While I understand dividing resources into minerals energy and food I prefer BE's diversity in this so it's a close call which SMAC wins as you can tell what terrain is what at a glance without mouse hovering.


    The planet doesn't only send blobs to you but talks to your leader via cut scene text when certain things happen. It destroys improvements, it actively resists these interlopers and for its day it did a fairly decent job of portraying a living planet it still does.

    While it's going to always be close between the two and it could be said SMAC heavily influenced BE. But I've said it before BE feels like a mod a wonderfully produced mod but one nevertheless.

    Now saying this if they had more diversity in technology voice overs, better wonder and victory movies BE would probably win out against SMAC.

    Again writing is subjective some people think that Shakespeare is poor when compared to Marlowe but all anybody remembers him for is Dr Foustus. And some Shakespearean researchers claim he didn't even write his own plays.
     
  17. Karl0413

    Karl0413 Prince

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    Agreed, but rose colored glasses is hard for some people to remove.:p
     
  18. Halbbruder

    Halbbruder Prince

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    Here's my comparison of the 2, in terms of which is better:

    SMAC
    Story is clear and concise: a story unity broken up en route by an assassin who killed Garland, the leader of the entire expedition. At that point, everyone else followed their own desires/ideologies, which leads to next point. None of this "what happened to earth" detail. They just made the premise that the world was screwed by 2060 and continued from there.

    The ideologies in each faction add brilliant flavour, along with the SE system, which enables you to customize your combination of ideologies. Your choices affected your relations with other factions, which leads to next point, and to a lesser extent the planet, which also leads to a later point.

    The diplomacy is so immerse arguably it's better than civ 4 and civ 5. Never ever in those games would you have a civ that DoWs you upon meeting you. There is better interaction, through loans, tech trades, vote trading (aka horse trading), etc. And to top it off, you've got the option to make your AI opponents submit to you if they beg for their lives. No other civ game has that.

    The way the planet interacts with you is also brilliant and the planet never gets weaker like in later civs and CivBE where the wild faction (barbs/aliens) essentially die out mid-game, despite the option to add raging/frenzied barbs/aliens. It reacts more and more depending on how strong your mineral production is, even if those minerals come from an abundance of forests (probably because Voice considers them as introduced pests like weeds).
    The ability to customize your troops is also unique. No civ game besides CivBE to a much lesser extent covers this. You got plenty of options to create your preferred style of fighting.

    And the wonders, they really work wonders and they have a substantial impact in SMAC. CivBE needs work on this feature.

    CivBE:
    The most prominent feature of CivBE that beats SMAC is combat. Old civ tradition made combat purely luck-based through who could win between spearmen and a tank with spearmen somehow having a chance to win, while in civ 5 and CivBE, those kinds of chances where a primitive unit could unit are phased out entirely. In SMAC, it's possible for a terraformer with a high level reactor to beat a mid-game type unit. Multiple unit stacks may be easy to arrange, but CivBE encourages you to think about the surrounding landscape before attacking, while in SMAC, you could just squeeze through battlelines with a stack of doom. At least SMAC had the consequences of losing a defensive fight containing a stack of doom, while civ 4 failed miserably at this and left collateral damage to artillery units. Civ 5 and CivBE reward skill in combat more than the old civs or SMAC. Not only that, it's harder to maintain a large army through costs in CivBE while with SMAC, you could have a deathball of clean units and locusts and just flush everyone out within a matter of turns. One thing with SMAC is that the luck factor does die out a bit as the game progresses by having new reactors and having native units to circumvent that.

    In SMAC, expansion (depending on fungal settings, land:sea ratio and early luck) is generally very easy and you usually have plenty of room to expand. ICS was also a problem and it was so easy to maintain happiness in SMAC. In CivBE, there is a greater challenge in expansion and the siege worms are designed to put you on your toes (or rush to electronic fence). AIs usually respond aggressively to early expansion. Not to mention sea bases, which will now be very interesting to see in CivBE.

    Trading in CivBE has definitely added a new level to the game and it beats civ 5 in that the limit is not dependent on tech as much. It's now dependent on growth so as to reward tall plays while also encouraging some wide plays.

    Virtues are way more dynamic than civ 5 social policies and this replaces the old civ tradition of sidegrades through the civic system. Culture has an impact and it helps level up your faction to unlock new perks and such.

    Affinities was an attempt to reduce dependency on science to improve weaponry, but since affinity quest rewards got nerfed, that attempt failed. Still, the affinities provide you with the option to choose between 3 unique styles of combat and with this expansion, you should have the opportunity and incentive to mix those styles a bit more. The level upgrades for troops is also awesome and you have to make a rather big decision over which upgrades to get, as most of the choices are pretty significant.

    Building quests also added a new layer to their effect on the game. SMAC never had that, but didn't really need to. Other civs never had that either.

    CivBE adds are dynamic and localized use of satellites while SMAC satellites were way too powerful in general and you could really snowball with them once you got your orbital power transmitters and nessus mining stations up (barring the random event that destroys one type or the other only once per game).


    Conclusion: SMAC still has that storyline and flavour to the factions. On harder difficulties, it's still pretty easy to play given the early opportunities to expand.

    CivBE has done a reasonable job in implementing new concepts like virtues to diversify approaches and flavour for sponsors, quests, trading, affinities and level upgrades for troops, but it still needs more work on those features. The concepts themselves are great but they still contain some irritating parts where the features are meant to give you a difficult choice to make, but instead some choices are just one-sided and are core features to progress in the game. It's important to move away from the whole civ 5 starting policy issue, where tradition is still the prevailing social policy tree. SMAC also had those problems, where cybernetic was the strongest future policy while Thought Control was the weakest choice.

    As the devs once said after releasing the game: they should have been more ambitious.
     
  19. SupremacyKing2

    SupremacyKing2 Deity

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    The one area where I think most can agree that SMAC beats BE is diplomacy. SMAC's diplomacy was more engaging, more conversational with each leader's personality more colorful. And SMAC's planetary council was a neat feature that tied well into a diplomatic victory. But compared to today's standard of gameplay balance, SMAC fails measurably. Very early on, the impact rover rush could easily win the game. Copters were horribly OP. A single copter could destroy all the defenders in an enemy base in one turn. Crawlers were OP as you could spam them to rush-build any wonder in one turn. Later in the game, gravships were super units which could stay aloft indefinitely and just move around the map, easily taking enemy bases. ICS was the best strategy: just spam cities on land and sea, spam crawlers, spam rovers with your best weapon. win.
     
  20. lilgamefreek

    lilgamefreek Warlord

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    Considering how much modding that I've done that is directly inspired and based off of SMAC, I felt I should share my thoughts on this discussion.

    It may be surprising to some that I don't think SMAC is a better game than BE, nor did I expect, during BE's development, that it would become a spiritual successor to SMAC. This is primarily because the game's have fundamental differences that are irreconcilable. I would argue that SMAC is not a Civilizations game, no matter its designer or gameplay.

    What sets them apart are their tones. Civilizations has always been a celebration of Humanity's achievements and goals. It is by nature an optimistic game. This permeates deep into everything in Civ, from its art, gameplay, and text. Civ5 is a game about picking from a menagerie of exclusively positive bonuses with the only thing requiring consideration being the other positive bonuses you will miss out on through your choice. This is a far cry from SMAC where many of the choices in the game forced negative attributes on you, whether it was from your civics, buildings, units, or faction choice. So while mechanically SMAC is incredibly similar to other Civ games, it is disparagingly different in tone. SMAC is a much darker game, visible in its very colour pallete and reinforced by the gameplay decisions players face and the text that fleshes out the universe it takes place in.

    It should come as no surprise that Civ is an overall positive game. There is the political correctness aspect. Many people would be offended if Firaxis began attaching downsides to a Civilization in a way similar to SMAC. But most of it comes down to the idea that Human History should be celebratory, and this is seen in most historically based games, from Age of Empires to Children of the Nile. Humanity's story has had its ups and downs, but overall it has been a Heroes Journey and we've overcome most of our external challenges and internal weaknesses to end up stronger and better than we were before. But these weaknesses and challenges are what make humanity's story so interesting, and Civilization games have always relied on Human History as a crutch to keep the player emotionally invested. Without the context supplied by things like the Medieval Era, Isabella's fanaticism, or Japan's ancient warrior culture, Civ5 would be nothing but a game about making numbers grow increasingly higher as fast as possible. Good stories rely on weakness, flaws, and challenges in its characters, otherwise they are boring.

    This is particularly egregious in Civ5's ideologies system. Even before BNW, Freedom, Order, and Autocracy were in the game as part of its Social Development system and very clearly represented the conflict between Democratic, Communist, and Fascist powers of the early-mid 1900's. But by not having any downsides to picking from these three, Civ5 offers no interesting social commentary about the three systems of government that brought the world into so much conflict. Questions like "What challenges everyday people faced under these systems?" or "Why were these systems irreconcilable?" are left unexplored and all Freedom, Order, and Autocracy serve to do is add flavor and context to the players choice and leaves little opportunity for critical thought and analysis about the subject itself.

    The problem is Science Fiction is a very different bag from Historical Fiction. Science Fiction has a rich history of criticizing humanity, probing it for flaws, and extrapolating social trends to their extremes. This is something SMAC took full advantage of which makes it very different from the Civ series, including BE which took very little advantage of this. SMAC's actual narrative, while well thought out in its details, was not particularly creative for its time as many have noted. But the appeal was not in Chiron or mindworms or Chariman Yang themselves, but rather the themes that could be explored while using them as vehicles. A player thinking whether they can continue to afford pursuing Democracy or whether they should switch to Police State for its better empire management are indirectly exploring the reasons real world governments might do this, whether it's because they've recently conquered a swath of new territory or because their populations have grown out of control. It's these themes, and these moments, that really make SMAC memorable.

    The brilliant part about SMAC, and storytelling in games in general, is that these themes can still be explored even when all of the narrative is stripped. When you take out the setting and names and backstory, what you are left with is the game design that makes up the story. It is then through a series of gameplay choices that the characters of player 1, 2, and so on are established. Even without the narrative backing it up, you can still have an interesting story and explore complicated themes by sidling players with inherent weaknesses and forcing them through out the game to make decisions that may help them in one field but actively hurt them in another. Weighing whether you can afford the costs a particular choice entails and then eating the consequences for it later down the road may not make for an interesting story to tell your friends, but fleshes out the heroes journey for the player themself, one that was told through game-design and communicated from the developer to the player.

    And this is the primary reason why I persevere with my mod making. It is not because I think SMAC is a better game than BE. It is not because I even like playing SMAC over BE. It's because I enjoyed the themes and commentary SMAC provided early in my life and I want newer gamers to have the opportunity to re explore these. Beyond Earth is not the best vehicle for this because of how overwhelmingly optimistic the rest of the game is, but I know I have the technical ability to craft gameplay experiences that represent a pale shadow of what it was like to play SMAC originally. I am a storyteller who sadly cannot write, cannot draw, cannot orate, but I can program and I know I can tell this story through game design.
     

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