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How to Fix BE (Why AC is a classic game and BE is not)

Discussion in 'CivBE - General Discussions' started by dwcole78, Apr 24, 2017.

  1. dwcole78

    dwcole78 Chieftain

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    How to Save BE/Why AC works and BE does not


    BE could have been wonderful. Sid Meir triumphantly throwing off the shackles of history and returning to space and philosophy. Instead it showed how they learned all the wrong lessons from the success and overall adoration of Alpha Centauri, how they do not understand science fiction, and how much of the greatness of Alpha Centauri came not from Sid Meir but from Brian Reynolds.

    In an interview talking about starships Sid Meir said something along the lines of – its science fiction the story doesn’t matter. Like many people I only stopped slamming my head against the wall recently. Even the most tolerant interpretation of this comment is ridiculous. The friendliest interpretation to Sid is that he was trying to say “its science fiction there are no limits to the story you can write”. This conflates science fiction and fantasy. Even the softest science fiction (see star wars) tries to have some logical scientific explanation for its oddities. Yes, writing science fiction is freeing because you can ask “what if” but the best science fiction stories are defined by the limitations they impose on themselves.

    The other interpretation “its science fiction the story doesn’t matter just write anything” (which given BE and starships I think may be what he believes) is so ridiculous that it doesn’t even need rebutting.

    I have 313 hours in BE – and I cannot name any of the BE leaders and none of them are distinct characters. AC is completely different.

    Let’s look at two of the AC factions as examples. Miriam is a complete stereotypical religious fundamentalist. She has all and the only answers and everyone else needs to serve her. That bible thumping grandpa you likely have if you live in the US – turn him up to 11. Instantly interesting and instantly memorable. Especially when BE was published as the US was arguably in the thrall of the Christian Right at the time. Still leaves empty spaces for the player to fill (does she really believe what she spouts or is she just using it for power, what level of Christian charity does she practice) but you have tools to work with.

    Similarly Morgan is an extreme American Libertarian Capitalist. Instantly you have a character sketch but details are left for you to fill in. Does he believe in giving to charity on a personal just not governmental level, or is he the worst kind of Gilded Age Robber Baron who would buy the children of poor people as sex slaves? You could find both and every version in between in the stories written on the internet using AC games or characters. I have yet to see a good BE story.

    All of the above focuses on story and character, but this is because to me this is where BE fails to capture the spirit of AC the most. It is also what made AC such a revelation and still the best Civ version. A strategy game with RPG level story and characters that actually promoted thought. But BE could also learn from AC’s mechanics. The best part of BE’s gameplay mechanics though, started with story.

    As in all Civilization games, government is a major issue. You can be communist, democratic, capitalist, or green. Harkening back to Civ 2 (and somewhat like civ VI) though, rather than just consisting of various bonuses each form comes with its own negatives. Want to be green? Sure the planet will like you more and aliens will attack less, but your growth and industry will be limited. Oh wait you are playing as Morgan – will then you can’t choose green.

    Think about that – the faction you choose limits the gameplay choices you can make in game. Playing Didere , who can never be capitalist, vs playing Morgan is almost like playing a completely different game. In the same token, playing Miriam who for the first 100 turns or so generates no science (that’s right zero science) vs. playing Zarakov whose almost entire mission is to amass science is like playing two different games.

    Choosing one affinity in BE vs another not only changes nothing narratively it also changes nothing mechanically. They tried with the various bonuses each faction gets but it just didn’t work. Even on the highest difficulty as a harmony player, not only did I not have to make fungus near where I want to invade and then invade with my fungus loving troops it wasn’t really possible to do so. The techs that gave the ability to use satellites gave no affinity or at least not harmony affinity. As well, especially on the higher levels, pursuing techs that do not give affinity is a way to die since ALL of your unit advances are tied to affinity. The wonderful tech web quickly becomes linear again as most paths quickly become nonviable.

    Let’s talk more about the affinities. Really, they each only feel like coats of paint. My leader avatar changing as my affinity increases sounded cool but it wasn’t taken nearly far enough. If I go technocracy I am supposedly becoming a computer but never does my leader avatar become really more computer like – just a human in a yellow robe. As I move up, I should be replacing my limbs with computer parts and eventually become a cyborg and then completely bodiless. Represent me as ones and zeros or the 2001 obelisk. I should certainly no longer be human. The same is true for harmony. I should gradually become more alien eventually becoming a bug with a human face and then a full on alien bug. Think the human sandworm in the later Dune novels. ONLY the purity affinity should have stayed recognizably human.

    The affinities also should have had drawbacks as well as bonuses. ESPECIALLY when the hybrid affinities become mixed in. Some hybrid affinities make sense. Purity technocracy can be interpreted as incorporating computer parts into human bodies. But even here you go too far down technocracy purity no longer works. Human bodies are limiting, true freedom is in being pure conscious ghost in the shell code. This is how a high technocracy society would function. To continue using the hybrid units your affinities would need somewhat to stay in balance. Get two out of balance and your society is making the choice not to use the other affinities.

    The last thing I will discuss is the lack of wonder movies. One of the best story hooks in AC was the quotes for the technologies, given they either came from philosophy greats of humanities’ past or faction leaders. Each quote from a faction leader fitting with the faction leader’s basic character and using that faction leaders voice actor. Even better than this though were the wonder movies. Each movie told a tiny story that fit not only with the faction leader but also helped flesh out the world. Watch the self aware colony video or the mind twister video and tell me these don’t add immeasurably to the sense of the games world.

    If I wanted a completely abstracted mathematical strategy game I would play chess, go, or Sudoku. What firaxis increasingly seems to think of as window dressing is really an important part of the game experience.

    Lal, Yang, Miriam, Morgan, Santiago, Zakharov, Dierdre; the core faction leaders in Alpha Centauri and names I can rattle off with very little prompting even though it has been years since I have played the game. If you have every played Alpha Centauri, or even heard of it, you can probably do the same and ,more importantly, have some idea of who each of these people are.
     
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  2. PontifexMaximus

    PontifexMaximus Chieftain

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    The fact that no one replied to your post in six hours tells you all you need to know about this game. People stopped caring a long time ago. At this very moment, there's about the same amount of people playing it as Civ 3. A 16 year old game.
    And that is the biggest tragedy of Beyond Earth I think. The fact that it died so quickly and, with it, probably the idea of Firaxis revisiting the sci-fi 4X setting in any foreseeable future.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2017
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  3. joncnunn

    joncnunn Senior Java Wizard Moderator

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    Minor nitpicks: Actually, Morgon could choose Green; it's Planned economy he wasn't allowed to pick.
    Mirriam's no science was 10 turns; not 100 turns. She also an innate science penalty (-2 Knowledge / every point was +/- 10%) and wasn't allowed to pick Knowledge.

    Some other good leader things about SMAC was also want choices you needed to make if you wanted to keep various AI's happy, which included choices as they were mutally exclusive:

    1. You can only make one of Lal, Yang, or Miriam happy with your govt choice.
    2. Your economic choice will also make at least one of Morgon & Dierdre mad.
    3. Your societies agenda will also make at least of of Santiago & Zakharov mad.

    Along with the choice of do I follow my own leaders agenda (which tended to stack very well with their own settings) or do I choose something else (when possible) to appease an AI leader.
     
  4. Valessa

    Valessa ate all of your cookies!

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    I've picked up SMAC only recently, and I have to say I personally think the factions are the most terrible thing about the game. They're so comically over the top, they're almost caricatures, which completely breaks the immersion for me.

    So I guess it's personal preference, I like the more "down to earth" leaders of Beyond Earth, but of course the game does indeed do a terrible job at putting their character traits into the spotlight.
     
  5. OrionStyles

    OrionStyles Chieftain

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    Just because the BE leaders are not extremists like in SMAC, does not mean they are forgettable. They all have well detailed back stories (both leader and faction entries + fluff quotes in the techs) and you get a feel for who they are.

    BE's problem is that there's not really more than a few interesting ways to play, because 1) Balance is atrocious 2) Wonders are uninteresting 3) BERT didn't add any new colonist/ship/cargo options
     
  6. Darsnan

    Darsnan Chieftain

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    Word. I'm pushing 1,700 hours (mostly with BE), and I still can't remember most of just the BE leaders names. And as far as potency is concerned, here is a screen shot of my current game this afternoon (i.e. the finished BERT product):
    Weak attack.jpg

    This happens time and again where the AIs commit to war after repeatedly wandering their units thru Miasma patches before declaring war with their severely damaged attack force, and its very apparent that the AIs were never programmed to compensate/ deal with Miasma, and thusly its hard to respect the BERT AIs. As opposed to SMACX, when Miriam, Yang, or Zakarov came calling, they meant business, and you learned very quickly to respect the AIs abilities, because the SMACX AIs wielded their units very effectively.
    However I'm also going to add that the BERT devs never had the same resources available to them that are available for a premier title like CiVI: this became very apparent from the opening BERT screen, where it was just a re-colored Earth globe from CiV, and the devs didn't even have the resources to develop the Scenario Generator for BERT, or even be able to release the DLL like the devs had with all previous Civ related games. There was a lot of promise in BERT, and it went unrealized, and a lot of that had to do with a lack of resources. My only hope is that the devs take the lessons they learned from this and apply them in order to release a more well-developed sci-fi themed XPAC for CiVI.

    D
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2017
  7. CountAccountant

    CountAccountant Chieftain

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    I think what you are describing is one of the key differences between the two games. In Beyond Earth, the faction leaders are political leaders (different nations launching similar ships). In Alpha Centauri, they are ideological leaders - all colonists were on one ship, and each colonist chose which faction to join based on a compelling ideology that was articulated by its leader. They aren't leaders who happen to be over the top, they are leaders explicitly because they are over the top. I personally found it plausible and compelling as described, especially with the incredible writing offered by some of the in game quotes, but I can understand why you would prefer Beyond Earth's style.
     
  8. Blue3

    Blue3 Chieftain

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    I completely agree.

    I was most looking forward to the leaders and factions of BE, thinking they'd be just as original and interesting as AC. I also thought they'd bring back the cutscenes, the great quotes, the Secret Projects movies. But nope.

    Something else I missed in BE... Social Engineering. Now that we're on another planet, governments no longer care about what political system or economic system they have??

    It would have been better to have the affinities for each faction pre-determined. Like how you knew Miriam was going to go down the Religious Fundamentalism path once it became available, have:
    *a Superiority faction
    *a Harmony faction
    *a Purity faction
    Have the division already happened back on Earth, either as the cause or effect of the Great Mistake.

    Or bring back social engineering, and have Affinities still a choice (but I agree the choice should have more consequences). But, like AC, have the factions already favorites and least-favorites for the social engineering options
    *Democratic "Rule of Law"/Humanist/Diplomatic faction
    *Democratic "Populist/Mob" faction
    *Dictatorial/Cult/Monarchy/Fascist faction
    *Communist/Totalitarian/Hive faction
    *Socialist/Green faction
    *Capitalist faction
    *Protectionist/Mercantilist faction
    *Fundamentalist faction (maybe add multiple religions to the game, and you pick which one, to make it more interesting)
    *Military faction
    *Pirate/Raider faction (to distinguish from Military, they create many small cheap units, just enough to plunder the outskirts)
    *Scientist/Teacher/Doctor faction
    *Anarchist faction
    *Artist faction
    *Decentralized Farming faction

    And maybe allow for a faction to specialize in more than 2 affinities when they're not necessarily at odds... and I think it makes sense to have more than 3:

    Harmony (traditional) + Harmony/Supremacy
    -the traditional "blend your genes to adapt to environment and native life" route, and they can also this time include cybernetic enhancements that help harmonize with surroundings (traditional Harmony and how they describe the Harmony/Supremacy hybrid make sense to be combined)

    Naturalism?
    -just adapting your cities/buildings/improvements/structures to be in harmony with planet, but keeping your genes... floating cities to preserve natural wildlife, harmoniously meshing city and landscape together when possible

    Supremacy (traditional)
    -the traditional "upgrade to better robotic/cyber body & mind" route

    Supremacy/Harmony (Superiority?)
    -the superhumanism of the Harmony/Purity hybrid through genetic engineering to have the "best humans genetically possible" I think actually makes more sense as a Supremacy sub-affinity

    Purity/Supremacy + Robot Servants (Technology?)
    -just focusing on the best technology, but keeping humanity, like the Purity/Supremacy/Hybrid, but also having a robotic servant workforce (would be favored by the Artist faction and Decentralized Farming faction)

    Purity (traditional)
    -the traditional route of staying human but wishing to terraform it all
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2017
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  9. beetle

    beetle Chieftain

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    I only just finished my first BE game, but I think I am already experienced enough to say that OP is right on the mark.

    Fortunately, I went in with low expectations. I loved SMAC, and read the BE reviews, so I was waiting to get BE until it was dirt cheap. The game is nice enough as a civ5 reskin for ten bucks.

    I also agree that the story aspect could have been salvaged with minimal tweaking, just by having the AI affinities preset. I think the best narrative is when loading a saved game, but how much does that happen? Clearly the developers put a lot of thought into the AI characters. Too bad so little of that work is manifested in actual game play!

    Probably there could (and should) be other varied personality behaviors that are hard coded. Warmongering should be okay with at least one of the AIs! Unfortunately, the virtue mechanic has no tension like there is with with the SMAC Social Engineering choices, so it does not seem like an AI could be offended by the player choices of virtue perks. Still, it seems to me that completing a whole column should have noticeable favorable opinion when interacting with at least one AI. That is, each AI should strongly favor not just an affinity but also certain virtues. These prejudices would be hard coded (as they are in civ5) so that a player gets a real feel for the different AI personalities by playing more games. The diplomacy modifiers for shared virtues should be just as exposed (in the negotiations screen) as the few others already available.
     
  10. joncnunn

    joncnunn Senior Java Wizard Moderator

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    It's not so much the price, but the poor UI for the ruleset that makes it not really worth my time.
    We'd need:

    1. Pathing rules : Avoid ending the turn in fungus unless the harmony virtue giving immunity to it is prsent (and if that's too hard for units that have sufficient MP then simply treating the tiles as impassible for the purpose of path orders in which that tile was not specifically selected) -- And this taught to the AI

    2. Workers and fungus : Two choices : 1) Either have it auto wake up when health is at or below 1/3rd OR 2) Have it instantly remove the fungus in one turn but at a cost of it consuming the unit.

    3. Disarm Newbie trap #1 : Remove ability to give open boarders. (Several cases in which it's terrible idea : 1) Nest inside your territory 2) Your lands protecting an outpost you are trading with. 3) An RNG can fire where part of the spacecraft crashes )

    4. Disarm Newbie trap #2: Several decision points in quests are no brainer always do X and not Y no matter what due to imbalance : Pass thru making it possible that in some circumstance the other idea might be better; perhaps have all decisions from all such paths push you towards one of Purity, Harmony, or Supremacy.

    5. Agree with above, I think SMAC like personalities / agenda based wars work better in a SCI-FI environment than Civ V flavors. But you wouldn't need to hard code values in code; simply redefine what some of the numbers in the XML mean and increase contrast for them. (say Civ V's protect city states flavor as translated to independent stations : 10 = I'm declaring war immediately on anyone who declares war on or takes an independent station / 0 = I hate independent stations and consequently my opinion of anyone who captures an independent station goes up!)
     
  11. beetle

    beetle Chieftain

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    Had I paid more, I would be bitter. I do not expect to run more than a dozen games, as all the civs seem just about the same to me, but I will have gotten my money’s worth.

    I agree that the UI is poor. I can live with your items 1-4. Missing 5, as per this thread, ultimately extinguishes the replay potential. I can understand why there is not a BE gotm!

    Aside from the generic AI behavior, the poor UI things that bother me most are:
    1. Lack of strategic view.
    2. Building perk choices are not “quests” and (1) should be a single-click, and (2) divorced from the actual quests.
    3. Trade screen is buggy. E.g., I type in a number 2 for resources and it changes the 5 to a 6! I have to be much-too-much careful!
    As a sequel or re-skin of V, I am most disappointed that:
    1. The civ choices (for both the player and the AIs) are boring, as discussed in this thread. At least I had low expectations for this!
    2. Stations are so much less interesting than City States. Even with the reviews I read ahead of time, that was a surprising disappointing.
    3. It was not a surprise not to have religion or ideologies. I thought there might be some minor new aspect of the game instead. Affinities are good enough substitute for not having UU/UB, and for influencing diplomacy, but ideological pressure is gone. It is hard to make a game better by removing features!
    4. After the first 100 turns or so, I am not feeling any reason to explore the map. With Civ5, even after the ruins are gone, one is meeting CS and finding Natural Wonders.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2017
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  12. SupremacyKing2

    SupremacyKing2 Chieftain

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    I like this. Each faction could get a solid backstory and unique playstyle right from the get-go. And you could still start each faction at the beginning of their affinity and have them progress to a more advanced or extreme version of their affinity as the player levels up in the affinity/tech tree. So, I feel like there would still be a very interesting narrative that could be created for each faction throughout the game. You could have 2 or 3 factions for each affinity in order to get enough "civs" for the game. But I think it would be important for each faction to be unique. You don't want say 2 supremacy factions that are basically the same except for minor differences in bonuses. Rather, you want the 2 Supremacy factions to be as unique as possible even though they share the same basic affinity. I think ideology would be a good way to do that. Having a "good" version and an "evil" version of each affinity would be a cool way to do the ideologies since players like to role-play as the good side or the evil side. For example, you could have a Purity faction that is democratic (good) and a Purity faction that is fascist (evil). Both factions would share the Purity affinity because they believe in preserving what makes us human. They would both reject cybernetic or genetic enhancements but they would have different ideological values. The democratic purity faction would value freedom, free elections, free speech etc... They could have a greco-roman look to them. The fascist purity faction would be totalitarian and value order, rule of law, obedience. They could have a very "1984" look to them. Similarly, the supremacy faction could be divided into a "good" side and an "evil" side. The "good" Supremacy faction would be one where technology has improved society in a positive, utopic way. Think the idyllic view in the movie Tomorrowland. The "evil" Supremacy faction would be like the Borg in Star Trek where technology and cybernetic enhancements has turned humanity into a highly efficient hive mind. The "good" Harmony faction could be a very pacifist, hippy faction where people live very low tech and "one with nature". The "evil" harmony faction could be one that has fully embraced genetic splicing of alien DNA with human DNA and has created human-alien hybrids that want to dominate the planet. I think the good vs evil approach would really lend itself to simulating ideological wars. Plus, it would be thought provoking as it would get players to imagine how each affinity could evolve if taken into a positive or negative direction.
     
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  13. joncnunn

    joncnunn Senior Java Wizard Moderator

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    Does the "Orbital view" screen not function as a strategic view?
     
  14. Galaxy Scribe

    Galaxy Scribe Chieftain

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    BE never had a chance to even stand in SMAC's shadow because SMAC has an uncharacteristically high nostalgia factor for anyone who played it regularly. I still have my manual on my bookshelf alongside the three novels. I'm still probably playing 10 full games a year. How can BE ever compete with that, despite being a very good game?
     
  15. beetle

    beetle Chieftain

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    The orbital view just puts a purple haze on everything. But maybe I am missing something?

    With Civ5, I use strategic view to (1) make resources really stand out when looking looking for settling spots; (2) count hexes when it really matters; (3) when sometimes opponent units are obscured by the scenery; and (4) scan for archeology dig sites. Would the orbital view help with any of that? It is still pseudo 3D and fuzzy.
     
  16. SupremacyKing2

    SupremacyKing2 Chieftain

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    The orbital view is NOT the strategic view. It is a new map layer just for showing orbital units and their ranges. In fact, the BE devs claimed that they could not add a civ5 style strategic layer because it was not compatible with the new orbital layer. Not sure if they meant it was an actual coding problem or just that they were never satisfied with a strategic layer that properly represented both the ground info and the orbital info at the same time.
     
  17. joncnunn

    joncnunn Senior Java Wizard Moderator

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    I recall slightly differently : The engine for Civ V could only support 2 modes; and so BE couldn't have a third mode. I don't know if they tried starting with strategic and adding orbital material or simply wiped it from the BE copy of the code base and started with the tactical view and added haze + orbital units, but purple haze would defeat the purpose of strategic icons.
     
  18. Gorbles

    Gorbles Load Balanced

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    This is a late reply, but for me personally it's more that he posted this on another site and never responded to the thread there again after replies were made. No, I'm not going to link it because privacy is a nice thing. That said, I wouldn't make assumptions in why people don't post.

    That said, I don't deny the general lack of interest. The common perception is that it wasn't different enough from CiV to justify its own existence. Which, as much as I disagree with it, is going to stick.
     
  19. HEF

    HEF Chieftain

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    Y'know... with each playthrough, with more time I spend with Beyond Earth, Rising Tide, I'm liking the gameplay more & more.

    Beyond Earth, Rising Tide feels like a much more mature version of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.
     
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  20. Galgus

    Galgus Chieftain

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    I've always loved the soul and setting of Beyond Earth, with different visions of the future that could be bright or off-putting depending on how they are interpreted ultimately competing with each other.

    Its central problem is that the mechanics do not present that rich background well and that it is not presented enough in the game.

    It has some great ideas with Alien behavior, the affinities, artifacts and marvels, but generally they just aren't taken far enough.

    Aliens feel like a minor nuisance early and a non-factor later rather than a potentialy game-ending threat and barrier to expansion and exploration to fight through.

    Affinities barely seem to effect how one plays, despite being huge divergences lore-wise. In my opinion they should have very distinct strengths and radically change how the game plays.
    _______________________

    The factions of Alpha Centauri always felt like absurd caricatures of ideologies to me, often trying to be as cynical as possible.

    Beyond Earth's sponsors and leaders feel more realistic to me, though much of the lore behind them is mostly locked away in the Civilopedia.

    Maybe some sort of sponsor-specificnwuest would help give them more personality, or more distinct AI personalities.
    _________________________

    The Affinities are the core of Beyond Earth's theme and its strongest idea: visions ignore the future that are open enough for interpretation that any of them could be a force for good or evil.

    In my opinion they are far more interesting than government types and having government types would deemphasize the affinities.

    And with more pronounced differences Affinities could handily serve the function of creating different play styles: ideally where a player must choose and devote themselves to an affinity or its hybrid.

    I'd personally like less emphasis on the tech web as the way to advance affinity, with more focus on quests and some from tile improvements and buildings as some mods do.

    And I think the game would be bette rid combat strength increased less with affinity leve, while having powerful perks, to keep Aliens from falling off as much and give a fighting chance to players that are behind Affinity.

    I completely agree that leader changes with affinity should have been taken much, much further.

    I'm not totally against using downsides as a mechanic, but I really don't think they are needed to have depth and diversity with the Affinities.

    If other affinities get powerful bonuses in an area while another doesn't, that area essentially becomes a major weakness for the affinity without.

    Or if, say, Harmony gets powerful benefits from Forests they have a strong incentive to not cut them and weaken themselves later: though ideally there should be some way to regrow them.
    ______________________

    I don't think you are seeing Hybrids as their own unique identity enough.

    The way I see it they agree and disagree with their parent affinities on certain things, and that gives them a unique outlook from them.
    ________________

    Purity/ Supremacy takes the Supremacy view that Purity's intensive terraforming isn't worth the effort and in embracing thinking AI, while diverging from Supremacy on neural uploading (which only Supremacy embraces) and having far less enthusiasm for cybernetics, but permitting them.

    Purity/ Supremacy's ideal is a world where smart drones and robots bring humanity unprecedented prosperity within economical domes.

    I personally like to think that they have an obsession with human-like AI, first as servants and later as equal citizens.

    Supremacy would seek to make humans more like computers while Purity/ Supremacy would seek to make AI's that think like humans.
    ____________________

    Harmony/ Purity embraces adaptation and mass terraformation: seeking to create the perfect environment and the perfect version of humanity: unbound by either simply preserving humanity or in integrating with the existing environment.
    _________________________

    Supremacy/ Harmony's vision for the future is that there shouldn't be a single vision for the future: they find power and possibilities in places others do not, unbound by dogma or squeamishness.

    In a sense this makes them the most tolerant of the affinities: they won't necessarily try to accommodate everyone, but they take no issue with however one has or has not modified their form.

    Though again only a true Supremacist embraces uploading.
     
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