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Comparing Civ 5 to Alpha Centauri

Discussion in 'Civ5 - General Discussions' started by Autoclave, Jan 28, 2014.

  1. Autoclave

    Autoclave Chieftain

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    Hello dear friends,
    I have recently played Alpha Centauri, after having played Civ 5 for 700+ hours and I feel like i really need to share these opinions with you. Playing a 15 years old game has given me a new perspective about what we currently have in Civ 5.

    It's amazing, how most of the good stuff has been retained and improved in Civ 5 although Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri can offer some very interesting gameplay experience as well.

    Hexes vs Squares
    Definetely hexes. I really do not like how diagonal movement on squares is the same as vertical/horizontal movement. It forces you to abuse the system in order to play effectively. Hexes in Civ 5, for me, where a very good addition.

    Unit stacking
    This has probably been talked to death already, but i feel that the Civ 5 limitation is really forcing me to pay attention where to place individual units.

    Tall vs wide
    Jesus Christ! Thank you thank you dear Firaxis for making tall cities a really strong and viable tactic!! Thank you for adding extra penalties (tech, culture, happiness) for spamming pointless cities.

    What I experienced in Alpha Centauri and Civ 2 is a pure madness. I like to micromanage stuff and having to take care of 20+ cities in SMAC.. this is just crazy.. terraforming (tile improvement), managing production queues... Horrible!!! I do not trust and do not like the governor system for the cities in SMAC, it feels like the AI playing instead of me actually playing it. I don't care that I can modify AI behaviour, this is just too damn tedious. And the more cities you spam the better your economy/science is.. this is crazy. The inneficiency factor in SMAC should limit this stupid ICS spam but it's limitations are not that strict.

    Tech tree
    I like that we can beeline specific stuff in CiV and that the nessary information is presented clearly. What we have in SMAC is a pure fricking tech maze. I do not know what i need to research to get something specific beyond the first 15% of tech tree.
    The fun in these games is focusing your strategy arround some specific tech and gaining advantage with it. And Civ games offer that.

    I think that entire techs trading is wrong. I am glad that it is gone in Civ5. Research agreements are the way to go. It's way too easy to swap known techs with your neighbours with so little effort.

    Embarkation
    Transporting stuff across oceans? Jeeeez. That's too tedious for me to bother. I am glad that they changed this to automatic embarkation.

    Trading
    Trading for in-game currency Civ5 is my first game with trade caravans and cargo ships which bring so much to the decision making. The older games have a way too static system, you just make friends with a dude and you automatically get money from the deal. And you only got like one variable to improve that.

    Diplomacy
    Alpha Centauri diplomacy is as good as Civ 5 diplomacy. Controlling the coucil is really a powerful thing. You can basically drown all your neighbours by melting polar caps if you control the congress (amazing stuff!!!).

    Spies
    Both games offer interesting choices. SMAC has more gameplay mechanics available and they can be quite devastating, you can basically buy out entire cities with just one spy. You can even frame your enemy's allies and thus provoke wars between them! Do I miss all this stuff in Civ 5? I think the Civ 5 implementation is quite potent and not overpowered.

    Social Engineering vs Social Policies
    I cannot say which i like more. The thing is, they are both interesting and unique. I doubt you could have both in a game as it would overcomplicate stuff. I even have trouble saying which one demands more difficult choices to be made. You can switch the social engineering choices on the go with just a small fee, but every option you take invokes quite a serious penalty and dealing with those penalties makes room for some interesting gameplay mechanics.

    For example you can go for Free Market model in SMAC, it improves your economy tremendously (and science is a derivative of your economy in smac), but the downside is that you cannot have military units away from your bases, because it will produce huge unhappiness (drone riots - blocks city production) in your cities.

    Social policies in Civ 5 are more relaxing, although they do have a HUUUGE impact on your gameplay. BNW brought us this diplomatic tension regarding your ideology chosen which was present 15 years ago already in Alpha Centauri. If you picked up "Planned Economy" in SMAC, get ready for ruined diplomatic relationships with the Dude that advocates "Free Market Economy". Sometimes this can be as bad as he declaring war on you.

    Tile Improvement mini-game
    In Civ 5, there is not so much choices about what would be the optimal improvement for a specific tile. At best you are confronted by two possible choices but more often than not you only have on choice. Horses will always require pastures, river tiles will often benefit from farms, jungle is most optimal with trade posts + university+ rationalism and so on. I feel like there is not much choice offered in Civ 5.

    SMAC's terraforming complicates matters because you can do literally anything with most of the tiles, including drowning them. Raising a bridge by terraforming up to a neighbouring continent to flood your neighbour with tanks.. jeeez... this is so fun! A tile that is flat arid, almost worthless can be converted into a forest for balanced resources or can have a consenser + farm for nutrients (food equivalent), or can have built a borehole for some huge mineral buff. Amazing stuff.

    Remember how many people are asking for canals in Civ???

    Expansion and Growth restriction
    The local city happiness implementation in SMAC is interesting. I shall not describe the drone riots in detail, but I will just say that the balancing of it is very interesting endeavour. It does have some happiness buildings like in Civ, it lacks the luxury resources, but it has something more: you can divert fund from your empire budget directly towards happiness; you can assign population units towards happiness production (but they will not work tiles); you can use city garrison as police (influenced by social engineering).

    We do have stuff similar to police in hanour tree in Civ 5.

    So in the end which one is more interesting?? They are both good. BUT! Civ 5 has global happiness that limits stupid city spam and aggressive warmongering. SMAC is not very balanced because it lacks expansion limiting factors like Civ 5 has.


    That's about it. I really hope you enjoyed the read. I wish we got a sequel to Alpha Centauri, but currently EA holds the rights to them and they are not willing to sell it to Firaxis :(
     
  2. mitsho

    mitsho Chieftain

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    Interesting read, but the point I take away the most from this is that micromanagement is bad. And I agree completely!
     
  3. Helmling

    Helmling Philosopher King

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    SMAC had a lot to offer, though. I still like the government system there, plus the ability to loan money, er, energy. Best of all, though, was the unit workshop.

    It was a helluva game.
     
  4. sendos

    sendos Immortal

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    Nice to see this thread. I've been playing SMAC for about 11 years but still haven't beaten transcend (have beaten thinker several times though). I haven't played for about 2 years but my memory of the game is still vivid. Here are my comparisons:


    Hexes or Squares: Hexes provide an excellent visual layout for movement but the weird thing about hexes is that you can't move due north or due south. With squares, that isn't a problem.


    Unit stacking: civ 5's 1Upt is in response to the dreadful civ 4's unit stacking system. There was only 1 type of unit in civ 4 that could do collateral damage. In SMAC, unit stacking is actually balanced: if your offensive units don't have decent defences, just 2 mobile units can wipe out a whole army on a tile in just 1 turn thanks to collateral damage. Battery/artillery units also cause a lot of mayhem by maiming stacked armies but not killing them like in civ 5. Secondly, unit stacking is a useful defence against spiesaka, probe teams, trying to bribe your units.


    Tall v Wide: civ 5 BNW obviously encourages tall play. There is no restriction on the growth of your cities other than food growth itself. There is a science penalty per city you own, as well as higher culture costs and road costs, depending on map.

    If you first play SMAC, you think the game punishes tall empires. The pop limit without a hab complex is 7 (4 if Morgans, 9 if UN). With a hab complex, it is 14 (16 if Lal). With a habitation dome (available late in game), the pop limit in a city is lifted. Not only that, early in game, there are caps on the amount of food, energy and minerals that you can get from an individual tile. Those caps are lifted midgame.

    However, the game does also punish wide empires. If you have more than 14 cities, your efficiency just crumbles and your new cities will generate very little energy (think back previous civs and the bars, where you divide gold into money, luxuries and science). More will be mentioned on SE's concerning efficiency later.

    Keep in mind that you can still play on a huge map size and the number of factions still remains the same (7). It therefore balances all factions who wish to go wide. By the way, you can also settle cities on the sea after a certain tech (doctrine flexibility) so there is plenty of room to settle (but don't settle sea cities in the middle of oceans, as they are literally sea deserts in SMAC). You can also terraform the sea, building kelp farms and ocean solar platforms and mines together (forgot their actual names).

    Tech tree:
    In civ 5, it is pretty straightford. In SMAC, depending on whether you set blind research or not, the techs are divided into 4 categories (Build, discover, conquer and explore). However, they are not fixed categories as such. For example you could still get new armor with build techs, like probability, photon and synthmetal. You need a schematic of the tech tree to get the best beelining plans.


    Embarkation: civ 5 definitely simplified the process but SMAC makes it more tactical: target the transport ships and you'll defeat an armada very easily. Thanks to unit stacking, you can protect your embarked units a lot more easily rather than have 10 ships to defend each land unit you're sending over to another continent.


    Wonders: The wonders in civ 5 indeed diversify the game. In SMAC, some of them are groundbreaking, perhaps even gamebreaking. Both games contain an anti-spy wonder, but SMAC's anti-spy wonder,the hunter seeker algorithm, has broader effects. It stops all enemy spies. They can't bribe you, steal from you or infiltrate your bases. Furthermore, unlike in civ 5, you can rush buy wonders with energy credits, even put forward an investment to hurry production if you don't have the money to complete it in 1 turn.

    Victory types: Both games have 4 victory types. In civ 5, they're pretty straightford: cultural, science, diplomatic and conquest. In SMAC, the victory types are complex: science victory (transcendance), diplomatic, economic (don't know how it works. Never ever experienced it, but it exists. You have to hoard as many credits as you can to win this victory) and domination. Domination in SMAC is both arguably more flexible and more difficult, as it depends on the situation. You can get your enemies to surrender to you which makes them your permanent ally (except in some circumstances where it is overruled). That way, you don't have to finish them off. However, you might fight against an enemy that is particularly stubborn and even if you take their capitol, it doesn't mean victory in SMAC.

    SMAC science victory (ascent to transcendance) involves building 2 very expensive wonders: one of them enables the construction of the victory wonder for all civs, the other grants you the victory.

    There is also a time limit in SMAC, but no such thing as time victory. If you can't beat game before MY2500, you retire. Game score is shown after you completed your game or retired, using approval rating in % (NB: it is not limited to 100%!).


    Natives/barbarians: in civ 5, you have barbarians that harass your development early in game. In SMAC, the native aliens will harass you for the entire game and they get stonger and stronger over time. These native aliens are known as mind worms. They burrow into your body, namely the head and they deposit their larvae to eat your brain. In SMAX, the expansion, there are also fungal towers, which function like barbarian encampments and spore launchers, which are native artillery units that fire acidic spores at you. They can't kill you your units but they do prevent them from healing until you move away. Fungal towers also get stronger if there is more fungus next to them.


    Map Both games have fixed maps and random map generation, but they have different map systems. Civ 5 has clouds and fog of war. SMAC has black shroud and line of sight, but no fog of war. You have to within 2-3 tiles of an enemy unit to see it. Fungus in SMAC also applies low-tech stealth to units: you can't see them until you bump into them. However entering fungus has a chance of spawning a native alien (mind worm).


    Happiness: In civ 5, happiness is moved to an empire-wide level. As most of you know, the unhappier your empire is, the more unproductive it gets and barbarians end up spawning, and you lose cities. In SMAC, like the previous civs, happiness is localized and dependent on the number of drones and talents. Drones are angry workers on strike. Talents are policemen. If your city has more drones than talents then your base revolts. Non-essential base functions, such as production, is suspended (so -100% production in city). If the city keeps revolting, they'll destroy buildings and eventually, the city will flip to another faction. There is the option to nerve staple the populace, but it is considered an atrocity (see diplo penalties for more info). You could also build a punishment sphere to remove all drones but your city's tech production is halved and you also lose the talents.

    Golden ages are also in SMAC, but localized. Your city gets a golden age which boosts nutrients, minerals and energy for a short time. To get a golden age, you need more talents than workers and no drones (I think).


    Diplomatic penalties: In civ 5, warmonger penalties are the biggest diplomatic penalty. They are also more specific as your reputation varies between each faction. Ideology also plays a big role in diplomatic penalties. In SMAC, the penalties are both numerous and generalized. There is an option called integrity which determines your overall reputation. The best is noble and the worst is wicked. Different ideologies and atrocities are the biggest diplomatic penalties. Atrocities involve using horrid means to maintain happiness or win battles. List of atrocities:

    - Razing a city
    - Using planet busters (like nukes but actually leave craters in the world)
    - Using chemical weapons (nerve gas, known as X, which gives a 50% combat bonus and it kills civilians when you attack cities)
    - Infecting an enemy city with a virus

    There is a diplomatic option to repeal the UN charter. Think of it as a move to render human rights laws null and void.

    Ideological penalties depend on social engineering policies in SMAC. For example, Miriam, a fundamentalist and Hive, a communist, atheist and nihilist, will hate you if you choose democratic as your social engineering policy. The hate begins in mere complaints then grows into full blown war.

    More to come.
     
  5. Autoclave

    Autoclave Chieftain

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    Thank you thank you for all your effort. Could you elaborate your opinions about SMAC Social Engineering vs. Social Policies? They are both really good and neither is worse. I did not play Civ 4, therefore I have no experience with civics, but i do know that civics have been influenced by social engineering from SMAC.

    When Civ 5 devs switched to policies, they wanted each policy to be an actual upgrade rather than having to understand whether switching your government system was beneficial or not.

    Population growth
    What do you think of population boom in SMAC? Civ 5 makes it a huge deal about population growth by having a lot of policies, buildings and wonders dedicated to it (aqueducts, tradition, temple of artemis and so on..). In SMAC if you have enough food and happiness (police, wonders and other stuff to supress drones) all you need is children's creche + democracy + planned for the +6 growth modifier that means instant population boom every turn. It feels like population growth is not a big deal at all, you just need to get the necessary prerequisites and voila, you reach the hab limit in a few turns.

    Improvement limiting factors /expenses / Eco damage
    SMAC does not have expenses for tile improvements. This is the reason why we had in Civ II entire maps covered in rail roads.. I know Civ 5 has this with Inca and commerce policy, but still tile improvements cost money. I think they made it a little two complicated in SMAC with all that eco-damage. All those clean minerals (the amount of production you can have before ecology damage starts). And dealing with it with just a few buildings, it's way too similar to using buildings to deal with happiness. Your only alternative is to use industry modifier to make the stuff cheaper. and thus use less minerals
     
  6. sendos

    sendos Immortal

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    That too, that too.

    To continue my comparisons, because seriously, there are heaps and if anyone wants to know them, I'm willing to share them.

    Social policies v social engineering: This is a big difference but it's great for both games respectively. With civ 5, these policies provide sufficient bonuses to strengthen whatever you wish to strengthen (tradition for tall growth, liberty for width and conquest management, honor for strengthening armies etc). In SMAC, the social engineering table is basically a UA combined with social policies. They provide diversity in the game, but they also have diplomatic effects as I explained earlier. They're also both sidegrades too, so each faction has its benefits and limits to prevent them from becoming overpowered. The social engineering table contains about 8 variables (may have forgotten some):

    Morale - regulates the strength of your troops
    Probe - determines strength of spies and loyalty of your people.
    Research - regulates science
    Planet - Determines whether to add environmental policies like a liberal greenie or wreck the planet like a corporate bigshot.
    Efficiency - determines effectiveness of your bureaucracy. You lose energy credits from bases via inefficiency and your capitol is immune to inefficiency. Also enables your ability to expand.
    economy, industry and support.

    However, both civ 5 and SMAC contain OP policies. Tradition and rationalism in civ 5 are like cybernetic in SMAC, especially since there is a wonder that removes the downside of that policy.

    Another big difference is that with social engineering policies, you are not stuck with them like social policies in civ 5, but it costs money to change them. The fee grows depending on the number of changes.


    Economy and trading: Economy in civ 5 is a radical change from the previous civ games including SMAC. Instead of unit maintenance costing production, it costs gold. There is also an infrastructure cost to prevent the old road spamming trick in previous civs. Although you can end up losing energy per turn in SMAC, it is rather simple to manage your money: don't build too many maintenance buildings too early and use stockpile energy if you have nothing worthy to build.

    Trading is rather narrow in SMAC. When you contact a faction, they'll mention their trade wishes or demands and then they'll ask whether you're interested in a trade. Trade also includes techs. The trading is narrow because you can't determine the exact figure in energy credits that you wish to trade, so the AI just set a figure and you either accept or not. There are also loans in the game. The other factions will often ask for one, however there is little to no interest on the loan, which I find ridiculous. Although I guess lending money provides a hidden diplo bonus.


    Combat:
    This is a big one. In civ 5, we've always enjoyed battles that aren't always conclusive. It prevented cases like this: :spear:. In SMAC, there are 2 separate combat strengths: Attack and defence. Attack consists of your weapon. Defence consists of armor. Rules of combat in SMAC:

    - Land unit v land unit: Attack v Defence (e.g. impact gun 4 v plasma metal 3). Winner kills loser.
    - Artillery unit v non-artillery unit: Attack v defence. Artillery unit usually maims the enemy, unless it's a non-combat unit.
    - Artillery unit v artillery unit: attack v attack. The artillery units fight to the death. Altitude helps determine who wins.
    - Naval unit v naval unit: like land v land, unless the naval unit does a bombard attack against the other naval unit. Then it's Artillery v artillery.
    - Artillery v naval unit: There is a brief exchange of fire. Artillery has a 50% combat advantage over the naval unit. Also if you try to shell a non-artillery unit and there's an artillery unit next to it, you engage the artillery unit instead.
    - bomber v land or naval unit: Attack v defence. If an interceptor is nearby, then it scrambles and the bomber is forced to fight the fighter in attack v attack, similar to civ 2. Fight is to the death.
    - Fighter v bomber: attack v defence. Fighter gets doubled combat bonus.
    - land unit or air unit v garrisoned naval unit: attack v defence. Attacker gets a doubled combat bonus.
    - non-native v native: completely new attack rules, known as PSI combat. Attacker has 3 points. Defender has 2. At sea, the figures are 1v1. Weapons and armor in this combat are useless unless you have expansion, where Resonance weapons and armor grant a small bonus in PSI combat. Difficulty also changes the figures a bit too. Killing a native unit also offers energy credits.

    NB: Some combat results in SMAC can be rage inducing though, similar to :spear:.


    But there's more. You can customize your own units in SMAC! You can also put modifiers on them to provide specific bonuses. E.g.: SAM enables your land units to attack air units, but gives no defence bonus against them, AAA gives your land units doubled defence bonus against air units. Keep in mind that the more gear your unit has, the more expensive the production cost. In all civ games, you just can't do that so you're stuck with a more basic rock-paper-scissors stratey game.


    So yeah, I recommend SMAC if you're looking for a complex strategy game. :)
     
  7. Autoclave

    Autoclave Chieftain

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    Yeah, Civ feels a little bit more streamlined compared to SMAC from combat point of view. Hower, given the reality and design challenges i do not think that this modular unit workshop was possible to create in civilization.

    My suspension of disbelief has trouble with the land attack vs land defense. The gun (attack) of the defender completely does not factor in. And when the attacker loses, he dies. Imagine something like this

    Here is a situation i don't like very much:
    unit with 2(attack),10(defense) attacking a unit with 1(attack),(3 defense).

    According to SMAC rules the defender wins simply because his defense is higher then the attack of the attacker? This doesn't make much sense to me.

    I know that having two separate stats allows for glass canons to be created, Civ has melee combat and ranged combat which kind of simulate that a little.
     
  8. TLHeart

    TLHeart Chieftain

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    I enjoyed war fare in SMAC. One could build fast attack vehicles, with little armor, for little cost, or you could build a large slow city killer for a huge cost, or you could build a large fast city killer for an astronomical cost.

    The other part I enjoyed was that the native fauna and wild life was ALWAYS around... even if you removed the fauna, it would regrow, respawn.
     
  9. Justice1337

    Justice1337 Sofa King

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    My take:

    Map and Unit Movement: Civ V by a mile. This is probably the single-biggest improvement with Civ V, and it's a big one. With squares, it makes zero sense that I would be in the North Western corner of the world at effectively the same distance from both the North Eastern and South Eastern corners. And one unit per tile was clearly necessary in hindsight to make war about something other than who has the most stuff. Embarkation was also a clear gameplay improvement, and air combat makes the most sense in Civ V over any of the previous titles. To be fair though, I did like the whole PSI combat thing in SMAC, how it gave a different axis of combat strength that you could use to win with more experienced troops and less technology. You could even outfit your army with all PSI worms. Overall though, Civ V has some AI and unit-type balance issues to redress, but I would never go back to a previous incarnation and play a Domination game.

    Unit Design: I think this sort of mixes in with map movement, but there are a couple things I just loved about SMAC that are not there in Civ V. The ability to design your own units from different pieces, all unlocked by different techs, made a lot of sense to me. Of course ultimately, it was more complicated than it needed to be, given all the hidden penalties and configurations you would never build. There was also little difference between one laser and another in Sci-Fi. But I always thought that Civ would benefit a lot from a system like that, giving Swords and Axes to footmen with different levels of armor, different formations, or what have you. Sort of how the Civ IV Axemen were good v Melee while Swords were good against cities. I mean, think of the Spanish Tercio, which in history was really mostly a decision on what to outfit the troops with.

    Tall v. Wide: Civ V is the clear winner. The fact that previous games were just about seeing how many cities you could make without being punished was getting really tedious. Civ IV's system and SMAC both failed to curtail expansion through the "efficiency" model, since the dominant strategy was just to expand anyway and prioritize things to redress happiness/efficiency problems. Now, Civ V has succeed by directly balancing costs and benefits of expansion. If anything, Civ V leans too much toward centralized play, but that's entirely forgivable because major change was needed here.

    Social Engineering v. Social Policies SMAC wins here. I can see the advantages to casual play in making things simple and benefits-only, but as a more advanced player, I strongly prefer a system of tradeoff's that lends more to customization. It leaves more room for Factions to have unique strengths, as well as alternate methods for maximizing one aspect of the game or another. If policies/engineering were all balanced correctly, engineering would be hours of fun.

    Tile Yield: SMAC far and away. There is basically no decision in Civ V when it comes to using your land. There used to be some decision concerning Trading Posts, but it seems they did away even with that in BNW. SMAC is a game that I still miss for that aspect, though. You could plant Forests, build normal improvements, or even plant that pink moss stuff. There were also mini-projects like Boreholes, Aquifers, and terraforming altitude. If you didn't like your terrain, you could change it, and there were always consequences for doing the wrong thing. Your terraformers never stopped working, while in Civ V you just delete them after Railroads.

    Victory Conditions: Civ V nails this one too. The BNW Cultural victory I feel will be the model of non-Science builder victories in all 4x games for years to come. In all the other games, SMAC included, none of the other VC's worked right. Economic victory was a good idea, but random events would casually wipe out your energy reserves, and there was quickly no point to energy credits once you saved up enough.

    Exploration: I think this is a tie. I really like the City-States, goody huts and Natural Wonders in Civ V. Archaeology was a great touch also to sort of make the world new again. I just wish it were easier to keep up with the AI on the production of exploration units on higher difficulties, but the idea is great. Still, I also like Mindworms in SMAC, how certain events happen to you depending on how you terraform and what policies you choose, and how Mindworms are always a threat to your cities through every phase of the game.


    I think the overall theme here is that I prefer more complication a lot of the time, as long as there is variety. Meanwhile I think, developers have been limiting those more complicated aspects of these games where they do not do enough to enhance the casual experience of the first few playthroughs.
     
  10. sendos

    sendos Immortal

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    Forgot to add a bit info on combat:

    There are 4 types of reactors in the game. The better reactors make your units x2, x3 and x4 harder to kill respectively than the original reactor.
     
  11. Wodan

    Wodan Chieftain

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    I agree with most of what you say, Autoclave.

    That's probably intentional. Are you saying it's a good change or a bad one?

    Personally, I think SMAC's artillery system has some positives. I also think Civ4 and Civ5's systems do, as well. Frankly, I don't think any of them have it perfected yet. There's some other solution that may be a mix of all of the above, that we need.

    Yeah, but currently I think they overshot a little. Tall empires are better than wide in almost every category.

    Are you aware that you can click on the end tech you want, and the game will queue up all the techs you need? So, yes, you do in fact know what to research to get something specific down the tree.

    For myself, I feel Civ5's tech tree is too restrictive. Civ is about "what if," about alternate history. Yet, the tech tree forces us to proceed pretty much exactly as it did in history, with minor ordering the only flexibility we have. Why the crazy tech requirements we have?
    • Theology to get Education? That's only because of the wacky middle ages that we went through in real life. Other civs (e.g., Korea) didn't have such requirements.
    • Acoustics to get Scientific Theory? Wait, what?
    • Navigation to get Archaeology? Oh, I have to be able to build ocean-going ships to be able to dig up a historical site? Again, only because in real life we had rich English 3rd sons heading out to Egypt. There's no reason you couldn't walk there.
    I'd much rather be able to have a civ that focuses on hydraulics (steampunk) before being forced to get internal combustion, or a civ that focuses on biology without having to have oceangoing technology, etc.

    The strict tech tree also reduces player choices, which in general is poor game design.

    Civ still has some improvement to do in this area. Other games have really good Diplomatic systems that Firaxis could learn from.
     
  12. beetle

    beetle Chieftain

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    Thanks for this thread. It is amazing to me that SMAC has game mechanics that the Civ series has still not caught up with. The unit workshop and terra forming are the two biggest.

    I will say that I went back to SMAC after III and IV. I think VI might come out before that happens with V. That says a lot about to me about how good the game is.
     
  13. gps

    gps Chieftain

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    Well, in Civ II you could change more or less every tile type into whatever other type you wanted if you kept engineers working long enough. And from Civ IV on you can fine tune units by giving them promotions.
    I don't think this is really a matter of Civ needing to catch up on game features. I think this is more an issue of game mechanics that do or do not make sense in a game with world history focus. Terraforming does make a lot of sense in a Scifi game, it does not make that much sense in a world history based game starting in 4000 BC.
     
  14. beetle

    beetle Chieftain

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    One of the main things I liked about SMAC was how tightly the social policies tied to the AI personalities. There were fewer of them, and they were somewhat cartoonish archetypes, but that worked well in a game. With V there sure are a lot of civs, and sure some are way prone to war or betray you, but it’s such a continuum that they all blend together. And there are not any social polices that you can pick as way to manage the AI personalities. Shaka will always war, and Kathy will always betray you, and the only way to deal with this is by having a strong army. Sure, similar policies gets you some influence, and I like that there are more choices than what SMAC offered, but with SMAC everything just felt better integrated.

    I don't remember that, must not have tried it much. But it certainly makes the inability to plant forests for the last couple revisions of civ all the more glaring an omission!

    IMHO promotions are weak compared to the unit workshop. It was more straightforward to design attributes from get-go. As units fought they gained experience which made them stronger, but did not gain new abilities. But I care more about each unit in V than I ever did in SMAC, so that helps the role-play aspect which I appreciate. Plus, since there is not a unit workshop, each civ UU ends up being more interesting. It is interesting to me that they took away a feature I liked, but the game play ends up being more compelling!

    Except that it feels more like they don’t offer the player certain features because they can’t figure it out, not that it doesn’t fit the milieu.

    This is at least partially true. The UU fit in the world history, as do the lines of unit upgrades. I, for one, cannot envision a unit workshop mechanism which would preserve this historical feel.

    I agree with your main point, that raising and lowering land using terraformers would be immersion breaking. On the other hand, can you really disagree that flat/hill/mountain is much too simplistic? The line of sight algorithm is opaque, and having a height attribute for tiles could help with that. The inability late in the game to put a road through a mountain does not make that much sense in a world history based game ending in 2050 AD.

    Anyway, it is an objective fact that are game mechanics in SMAC that III, IV, V have not replicated.
     
  15. Autoclave

    Autoclave Chieftain

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    I think the cultural victory in Civ 5 is the most inspired victory type in any 4X games. You got teching, collecting stuff, fighting with your enemies, setting trade routes, looking for all sort of modifiers to improve your tourism, using religion to aid you into that, pushing diplomacy for different cultural buffs. Amazing stuff indeed. To me cultural victory is actually an amalgamation of diplomatic victory, domination victory and science victory. It's all in one basically.

    So there is really not much left to improve in Civ 5 frankly, I doubt we can get something better, we may get something DIFFERENT, but better? I doubt it.

    Still, what Alpha Centauri offers to a Civ Veteran, despite the game being 15 years old feels incredibly fresh to me. Especially when you can pollute your entire environment trigger a global meltdown with water levels rise and thus drown your opponents :D

    I really really love social engineering in SMAC with all its wide implications.
     
  16. Sequitor

    Sequitor Chieftain

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    This is a very enjoyable discussion, and it makes want to dive back into SMAX.

    One nuance that has only been brushed on in this discussion is the similarity and difference between caravans and supply crawlers. While I welcomed the addition of caravans to Civ 5, they still lack the strategic complexity of SMAX's supply crawlers. I enjoyed be able to harvest important resources outside the boundaries of cities. In addition, while it is a bit of a gamey exploit, spamming supply crawlers were an effective way to rush build.

    I assume our desire for a modern version of SMAX is well understood by Firaxis.
     
  17. Wodan

    Wodan Chieftain

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    While we're on the topic, there was a quite good SMAC mod for Civ4. Did anyone else get it? I haven't played in a while but I've still got it loaded.
     
  18. Autoclave

    Autoclave Chieftain

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    It's called planetfall. I did not try it.
     
  19. beetle

    beetle Chieftain

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    I agree, and this is part of why, at the end of the day, I would rank Civ 5 as a better game than SMAC. (An honor that I would not bestow on Civ III or IV.)

    Good times! And don’t forget the fugal missiles and planet busters!

    The way that social engineering matrix worked was very compelling. It really was brilliant how it impacted so much of the game play. Who would have guessed that your ecology rating could be as important as your economy or war bonus? Again, it fit the SciFi setting, and (like the unit workshop) it’s not clear to me how such a feature could be integrated with the historical bent of Civ.

    OTOH I actually think that Civ 5 ideologies and all the social policies are sufficiently robust that I don’t feel like it’s a step backwards from SMAC. (Unlike Civ III or IV which are weak in this regard.)
     
  20. Justice1337

    Justice1337 Sofa King

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    I liked the Supply Crawlers too. In prior games with such rigidly defined city borders, it was annoying to have left out that one uber Food tile left on your landmass, and crawlers were a great thing to look forward to in those spots. I think that problem was somewhat redressed in Civ V by the hex system and 3-tile max distance that's grown into by culture, but the crawlers were cool too.

    I think if they were less-spammable also, it would be better. In that game once you'd researched enough tech and had all the buildings you wanted, there was nothing to build other than crawlers and orbital resource yield stuff, which just snowballed to producing even more of the same stuff.
     

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