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Towards a philosophically-updated SMAC

Discussion in 'Alpha Centauri' started by joseph34, Sep 5, 2020.

  1. joseph34

    joseph34 Chieftain

    Sep 5, 2020
    I recently saw a video by Yaz Minsky about the politics and philosophy behind SMAC; full disclosure, I largely agree with his points and consider SMAC one of the defining fictional works of the post-Cold War era. For most Americans the 90s felt something like the Victory screen at the end of the game of history, with no bad guys left to take down. This attitude stood tall for as long as the Twin Towers.

    SMAC does a lot to question the Whig history assumptions of its predecessors, one of the strongest qualities of its writing. IMO, some of the factions have aged better than others. The fact that the UN is depicted as the leading force in the Unity mission sounds quaint now. If Meier's and his team wrote this game circa the mid-2000s, the colonization mission would be an explicitly corporate venture run by an eccentric multi-billionaire, with the UN official serving as his corrupt bean-counter.

    I would alter the survivalist faction to focus more on counter-terrorism and possibly with a slightly higher focus on technology (for police state enforcement purposes). Like they could get some kind of research bonus for CONQUEST-labeled techs.

    I would expect also that discreet commodities would have played some role in the economy of "SMAC 2005". The game mentions several substances ("planetpearls" being one) and I could envision this reboot having some sort of trading market similar to the commodities system in Galactic Civilizations 3. This could include manmade products as well, such as "Silksteel". Maybe the green faction's Planet bonus affects her buying and selling prices for Planet-sourced goods.

    It would have been cool if the player's title as leader of the Council differed depending on their faction. If you win the governorship as the UN faction, you get the boring title of "Planetary Council Governor". As the armed and mean faction, you become the "Planetary Supreme Commander". As the scientific faction, you become "Planetary Doctoral Administrator".

    Any other ideas for an updated SMAC?
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2020
    MysticWind and Protok St like this.
  2. md4

    md4 Warlord

    May 2, 2020
    I wanted a lot more out of the planetary council. Probably the most disappointing aspect of SMAC is that every ideological conflict is expressed in combat, usually without warning. A faction leader wakes up and decides that, if I'm playing as Lal for instance, they cannot tolerate my humanitarian meddling any more, only I haven't done anything aside from benignly trade technology and offer them loans.

    Now, what if I could meddle in their affairs through the council? What if we could pass votes on scientific ethics that, if passed, impact every faction's scientific output, and Zakarov's most of all? Then he'd have reason to be irritated, and also form common alliances against me with likeminded individuals, like the Spartans or the Morganites, the latter of which especially don't like regulation and red tape getting in the way of business. But as Lal I might find support for this measure from Miriam (who distrusts science playing god).

    The issue determines the alliances, because each faction is going to agree and disagree on a range of issues. On another topic, Zakarov and Morgan might be completely at odds, where the former wants to pursue knowledge for knowledge's sake, while the latter is only interested if he can turn a profit from it. If there were to be a sequel, this is where I would want the majority of the effort to be focused. War is then the last resort of a faction when they are getting outvoted on too many issues.
    Saint Leibowitz likes this.
  3. GenyaArikado

    GenyaArikado Judge of Love

    Oct 12, 2011
    I feel like Deirdre Skye woule be a far more aggresive character rather than the shy celt druidess with a dark side. She'd be closer to Lena Ebner from CivBE

    While Yang is still a super vigent character, he would be portrayed in a better light probably given how China kinda forces game developers to portray them as good.

    I feel like someone would flex social media power. Either a more influencer-inspired Morgan or "JK Rowling on twitter" inspired Miriam...

    Talking about Miriam... Well i won't get in detail but I feel like Trump and she cater to the same crowd... If anything she's more likeable/reasonable than him, so i guess she's still valid.

    I also agree that the UN Lal might get dropped or... Changed. The UN feels kinda like a joke at this point. I also don't feel so strongly about Russian scientists. I'd rather switch Yang and Zakharov nationalities in fact
  4. MysticWind

    MysticWind Chieftain

    Dec 25, 2008
    SMAC really works well as a turn-of-the-century retro-futuristic work. Sort of feels like modern day politics and popular philosophy (the sort of stuff that gets posted to YouTube or discussed on Reddit) are either depressing or really tawdry and embarrassing. The late '90s were idealistic and there was still earnestness to be had.
  5. Buster's Uncle

    Buster's Uncle AC2 Co-Owner

    Apr 13, 2009
  6. Saint Leibowitz

    Saint Leibowitz Chieftain

    May 11, 2020
    Many great points here so far, especially about the Planetary Council. It's rather underused and I would love a more complex inter-factional geopolitics. I would also like a more complex economy of Planet's resources, as you said, but that's not super tied to the philosophical bent.

    I actually don't think the UN thing is quaint and dated. The Unity project is implied strongly to have been a last-ditch international effort to save humanity as the world collapsed into war by mustering all nations together for a cooperative project. Sure, it has corrupt corporate involvement. This is actually explicit in the lore -- Morgan funds the project heavily and has severely outsized influence, which is how his faction got established on board. And it's very much a desperate an ad-hoc project that is forced to make concessions to uncomfortable political realities, which is how so many dubious characters with their own agendas got on board and got positions of influence.

    One thing that seems a little dated:

    "Not by nationality, but by ideology." Actually, this line is still great for reasons I'm about to explain, but it's a little bit illustrative of a very 90s mindset.

    SMAC, as originally designed, severely underestimates the force of nationalism as an ideology an ethnocentrism as an extremely prevalent factor throughout world history. That doesn't mean there has to be an ultranationalist faction! The lore very much seems to imply that various ethnicities ended up scattered throughout the factions because the leaders haphazardly had to scramble for the colony pods as the Unity crashed. I do think there should be some way to address, for realism's sake, the ethnic tensions that may have resulted. SMAC tends a little bit in the direction of 90s optimism that racism had already been, or was about to be, abolished.

    It would also fit in really well with a lot of the lore. Perhaps the fact that the leaders are SO aggressively ideological is precisely because they're trying to erase these tensions by uniting around a common international ideal. The more I think about it, the more this makes sense.

    Now, a faction by faction analysis:
    Again, I think the UN thing still holds up. Also note that his faction isn't necessarily the actual real-world UN but an idealist attempt to maintain human civilization under a particular internationalist multicultural banner. Sure, it's quaint. Every other faction thinks it's quaint. It's actually a brilliant deconstruction, honestly.

    As GenyaArikado mentioned, the "ominous Chinese dystopia" thing might not fly as well today for a few reasons. First of all, given how China has actually developed in the last 20 years, it's gotten uncomfortably realistic in ways that were not very predictable with the tech level of the 90s. Second of all, there's the current Chinese government pressure to portray China in general, and especially the CCP as good and indomitable in media. Third, there is a strong concern among some in the West that portrayal of the Chinese as evil and despotic is too racist and stereotypical. I think there are some ways around this. For example, as I explained above, it should be a bit more explicit that the factions formed from the scattered remnants of many nationalities. I think Yang definitely imposes a cultural hegemony, but who says it has to be a Chinese cultural hegemony? I think he is the type to try to erase the memory of Old Earth cultures in favor of his own constructed Hive identity. I think this even fits with his Westernized name. "Sheng-ji Yang" seems dated because Western media no longer tries to reverse the order of Chinese names, but what if this is an explicit part of his monocultural project? He's probably the least "morally gray" of the characters, but there's probably still a way to emphasize some positives, like a strong focus on protecting his people or building up the infrastructure to supply their needs. It shouldn't be too hard to give him enough of a Machiavellian "ruthless but competent" flair and make him acceptable in China as a mirror of how the CCP presents itself. (The niche lore about Yang being part of a successful rebellion to restore a Chinese Emperor would probably have to go.)

    Ah, everyone's favourite character. Heh heh heh. I think she's probably the most obvious example of how the political and cultural context of the game's development shows through. She is very much a stereotype of the USA's Evangelical Right, especially in the 90s, when creationism vs. evolution was still a big debate. Has it aged well? Ehhhhh, I dunno. I think there was a bit of confusion on where to go with her character, possibly caused by some developers grasping Christian history and theology better then others. She's a weird mix of cheesy over-the-top villainous fundie with an occasional reflective side on the ethical implications of certain technological developments. Also, were there only Baptists and Pentecostals from the USA on board the Unity, or all in a specific section of the ship or something? I think she works much better as a pan-Christian visionary rather than the specifically American low-church Protestant she seems to be portrayed as. In real life we start to see this as the West secularizes: Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and Mormons start slowly putting aside their differences as they feel that their cultures are under threat, and start uniting against the common threat of liberalism. This would fit super well with the lore, honestly. As Earth collapses into chaos, the Lord's Believers movement could be something like an attempt to unite the factions of Christianity against the SINS that the LORD hath heaped JUDGMENT upon the EARTH for. AMEN! So there could be bases named for Catholic saints and Protestant evangelists and figures in the Book of Mormon or something. And then when she goes "Fundamentalist" she is privileging her own theology and trying to control heresy, while with Democracy or Police State she's sticking to a relatively more tolerant system where you just have to worship Christ to be a citizen.

    She holds up, I think. I imagine her type of Western ecofeminist mindset would have a lot more traces of decolonialist ideology by then, though. So maybe a few references to Pachamama and other nature deities from non-white cultures, instead of being Gaia everything. She already can have an aggressive streak sometimes so I don't think that needs to be updated without getting too similar to Cha Dawn.

    What is there to change? He's Black Elon Musk. He still holds up great. Although, I do think the "African royalty" thing comes across as a little bit silly and unrealistic. He seems extremely Westernized; he has a randomly Nigerian first name despite being Namibian, an English surname, and is a free-market dogmatist. Maybe he was adopted by rich American expats?

    Also holds up great. Going back to the nationalism thing, I do love the little detail that she was once part of a militant group in New Los Angeles called the Red Panthers during its martial law era, hinting at severe racial conflict in the dying USA. (A prophecy that gets uncomfortably more realistic by the year.) That would probably be more controversial these days, but it's something I'd want to keep. As perhaps the most explicitly far-right faction besides the Believers, the Spartans seems like they could have the greatest tendency towards ethnonationalism. But like with Yang, I think the lore implies a cultural fusion, except in this case Santiago is more like "I don't care who you are, just fight for me and don't cause trouble," whereas Yang is trying to totally orient culture in his chosen direction. Counter-terrorism makes sense, I guess, but the Spartans are heavily implied (or maybe explicitly stated somewhere, I forget) to have started as a terrorist organization. But who knows, maybe that just makes them better counter-terrorists. I think that would be more of a Yang thing though.

    Eh, the "godless Russian" thing does seem a bit dated. Soviet state-atheism was still in very fresh memory in 1999, but in the 21st century Russia has trended much more towards a return to religious nationalism. I'm not saying to get rid of him, though! Sure, we can have a Russian Richard Dawkins. Maybe he's such a cranky fedora because the Orthodox Church took over Russia again. It's just a bit weird to have so many bases with only Russian names and not reference other cultures, implying that the University is a Russian-dominated project. Also... what on earth is he wearing?

    She's a bit TOO much of a Borg clone and her "pure rationality, abolish emotion" thing comes across as cliche. She's a good example of how some of the SMAX factions lack the nuance that made the original seven so great. However, I do think she has amazing potential. Transhumanist philosophy has developed a lot since the 90s so there is a lot more to work with. Maybe give her some quotes explaining how she thinks the human brain is basically a computer and considers emotions to be advanced algorithms, but believes her project is capable of improving on them and getting rid of evolutionary vestiges that mess up society. Like racism or sexual lust. Very cool, very creepy, very... ideological. Maybe she's right? Maybe she's nuts? Isn't that the perfect kind of profound, uncomfortable philosophical theme that a great science fiction game should explore?

    I love him. He's completely nuts in a way that makes sense and fits in very well with the lore. Keep him as-is.

    Oh boy, where to start... Roze is exactly who everyone thinks of when asked which character is the silliest in SMAC/X, right? Right? She's cringe. She is extremely cringe. Why? It's not that hers is a bad faction. It's a great faction! It's oriented around probing and techstealing with a few military and control downsides. It's amazing, in theory. So why does she fall flat? First of all, "cool trendy mischievous hacker" was a very overused 90s trope that has not held up super well. Second, she doesn't have a really compelling ideology to hold her society together. Are they all edgy rebellious hackers with weird slang? See, you can have a subculture like that as a subset of a wider society, where they can do their whole stick-it-to-the-man thing on a small scale. But you can't really found a whole nation on a hostile alien planet, with a government and stuff, with that kind of ethos. If updated for the present day, I think their aesthetic would be very different and be, for lack of a better description, a type of super-woke "SJW" society. First of all, that's hard to pull off right without either being too preachy and positive or too mocking and strawmanned, and second, it will rapidly look just as dated as 90s internet culture looks now. So here is how I think Roze can be salvaged. She should indeed be canonically very progressive and see her faction as a haven for all manner of cultural outcasts and marginalized identities, and focus a lot of critique on the power structures of other factions. The difficulty of keeping her society stable should continue to be emphasized with the police and military penalties. Scrap the opening quote about "life is the jazz" or whatever and make her go all in on the "information wants to be free" thing. Maybe also make her AI very open to tech trading. And, of course, leave a lot of interpretation as to whether she's really just doing her best to abolish power structures, or is just a lifestylist in it for her own popularity and benefit...

    I like Domai, he holds up well as a more classically Marxist kind of faction. If Roze had more depth, he could be a great foil to her, with Roze going strongly for identity-politics while Domai is more interested in improving material conditions and reforming the class structure, thus reflecting a major divide in real-life leftist philosophy. Roze would see Domai as a class-reductionist crypto-fascist who ignores other axes of oppression; Domai would see Roze as a bourgeois idealist liberal who does not act in the proletarian interest. I've always been slightly confused as to why he hates Green economics more than Free Market, but it could reflect a tolerance for some kind of distributist guild system while not wanting to impoverish his people for the sake of some mushrooms and mindworms. Okay yeah, I guess I can see where he's coming from there.

    He works well enough, I think. An organized crime faction is fairly villainous and doesn't really work as a viable ideology, but hey, there are a lot of organized crime factions in the real world. Why not have a gang of space pirates? You can tell he really leans in a little hard on the pop-culture image of 17th/18th century pirates. But sure, why not? He's got to have some kind of cool persona for PR purposes, as gangs, mafias, and cartels often do. There should still be some kind of tension as his faction gets established and has to transition to a more respectable kind of nation and political system. This is more of a mechanics balance thing, but we all know about the problem where he expands to fill the ocean too easily because [whisper] it's Free Real Estate. So since his group is basically Libertalia or the historic Republic of Pirates (look it up), it makes sense that it also should have a few more penalties since it's not a normal society. But that's more of a balance/realism critique, not whether Svensgaard is outdated or not. He isn't.

    EDIT: Oh right, there were also aliens. Meh. I think keeping them kind of shadowy and inscrutable works better. They probably shouldn't even be playable except by cheat code. Having them overpowered and imbalanced should be the point. They should probably also have trouble distinguishing human factions. Now that could be an interesting dynamic, a little bit how European settlers frequently held the wrong native tribe to account for "breaking" a treaty they weren't even party to, because the colonialists didn't pay enough attention to native politics.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2021
  7. MysticWind

    MysticWind Chieftain

    Dec 25, 2008
    It's dated insofar it feels like the U.N. pretty much lost all of its '90s clout (back when America was still doing things like intervening in Somalia or Bosnia under peacekeeper auspices) since about 2003 or so. But I don't want to get too much into the politics because it just depresses me. The Unity mission being a last ditch thing that was actually achieved through international and inter-corporate cooperation under the U.N. umbrella is kind of cute, okay sure.

    This I don't think is a '90s mindset, and actually explains why the game is so timeless: it's about Big Ideas, hearkens back to classic philosophical sci-fi. It's dated only in the sense that classic humanist sci-fi that asks big questions is dated to the age of Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, Herbert, etc. (though there are always more recent works that capture a similar spirit like Cixin Liu.) SMAC's factions all embody basic facets of the human experience that go beyond petty tribalisms surrounding color, culture, or country. It's dated only in the sense that Star Trek: the Next Generation aired in the '90s.

    While certainly tribalism is here to stay it makes sense thematically why a Civilization sequel would not want to linger on it. It's too messy and too easily dated to pick one specific country or another. Not to mention pretty tasteless. Better to make all the prejudices sci-fi based instead.

    True enough.

    I think that was always his intention. He was building his own personal Oceania. The Michael Ely novels don't really play up his Asian-ness too much. My favorite portrayal of him is the novel-length fanfic "Joe", perhaps the most nuanced take on the Chairman and the Hive. Even his stereotypical Orientalist mystic aspects don't sound super-stereotypical.

    Maybe? It could've been a mistake of his youth, something he learned from and moved on. And the whole segment was written confusedly, it sounds like the Golden Emperor was in power, but then a Crimson Succession (which I've just taken to mean some sort of neo-communist movement) overthrows him.

    Well, they lasted as a political force to at least 2008 or the early 2010s or so, but they're definitely on the wane now, and culturally so too.

    I tend to think she's only a villain in the game itself because of gameplay reasons- but then again with the A.I. who knows because I just started a Lal game today and both Zakharov and Deidre declared vendetta on me after failing to extort my energy. In the actual writing she seems much less vengeful.

    I think that was always the intention. And I rather like this short story which gives a very sympathetic portrayal to Miriam, and even places a Jew in her flock.

    He's pretty much pan-African; the GURPS supplement says he was born in Kenya, out of nowhere lol. Morgan is probably an easy reference to J.P. Morgan.

    I didn't think the riots were racially motivated, but given the game was made in the '90s... oh dear.

    Given that they idolize Sparta, which is a generic ancient ideal of the perfect warrior-state (it's not like Santiago's exactly focusing on the anti-Persian Empire aspects), I think they're Social Darwinians.

    The "Journey to Centauri" novella says they are, and that the Spartan Battalion was a survivalist organization on Earth. I don't much like Michael Ely's stories very much, so I choose what to accept; the idea that the Spartans predate the Unity mission as an organization with a clear ideology is a bit annoying to me (though I've sort of done that with my own custom factions), but the fact they were terrorists that caused Planetfall in the story is really annoying.

    I think it's nice when the game intermittently references real-world non-English languages. Zakharov is just really invoking the good ol' Soviet Space program, that's all. Also he's wearing Spider Jerusalem glasses, obviously.

    It's especially boring since there doesn't seem to be any sinister aspects to it, either.

    Yeah that works. Play up the "we're trying to achieve the Singularity" angle.

    I think the only annoying thing is that ever since atheism became a movement in the '00s, and then Rationalism because an internet cargo cult subculture in the '10s, having a faction that idolizes pure reason just seems so embarrassing these days, because the real-world movements have been so lurid and painfully awkward. So the trick is to really focus on the A.I. aspects and crib from the aforementioned sci-fi greats instead of trying to fit in ideas from LessWrong or Slate Star Codex.

    That's really the biggest problem with them, they exist to oppose others, but what happens when you're the Man? The "Joe" fanfic above does a good job with it, basically they're a bit like cyberpunk Amsterdam... and then the faction has to fight a war so basically you have a nascent Police State that needs to secure itself with curfews and a whole lot of nonlethal weapons, and Roze is just pulling all of the strings with her cabal of the most l337 hackers who are undemocratically making the rules for the rest of society.

    Come to think of it, it's a little like the concept of a benevolent dictator for life, as seen in open software projects. I think to come up with the Data Angels' culture, don't just think hackers who crack into systems, think of programming in general and the weird societies and subcultures that sprout up around code.

    I'm not sure. I think there's definitely room for a super-woke faction. I think such a faction could be based heavily on modern social media subcultures, going all the way back to Tumblr in its prime. But I'm not sure what that faction has in common with the Data Angels, who only care about information for its own sake. They're both socially liberal and libertine and a little anarchic in nature, but they've got different priorities.

    The fact that we've got SJWs on one hand, podcast socialists on another, bluecheck liberal centrists on another, 8ch fascists on yet another, and then Boomer conspiracy theorists on the last one, and these are major mainstream currents of political ideology in the modern day West (not just the U.S., all these movements have international counterparts), is another reason why a modernized '10s/'20s SMAC just feels so wrong to me. Everything is so dumb these days.

    I posit that SMAC was outdated not by just 9/11 and the end of the history, but the emergence of the internet as just this chaotic ball of dumbness that's made everything feel tacky and without gravitas. SMAC has gravitas. The times we're living in? Hoo boy. Miriam was right. Evil stalks the datalinks.

    I think you could possibly take some influence from Pirate Parties, which were a neat phenomenon for a while in the near past. Also infosocialism/nanosocialism from GURPS Transhuman Space, another sci-fi series that was blessedly created before the dumbification of everything.

    I can see all of this happening. And I absolutely hate it, because I hate the way internet culture has polluted our politics and dragged it down to the level of Twitter dunks and TikTok memes. How culture wars have somehow infected the left over the past decade. But what you're writing is cogent and yes it would work incredibly well in a 2020s version of SMAC. God have mercy on us all.

    It's probably a coal miners want to keep their jobs sort of thing. People over Planet.

    You also need to remember there's the whole exploring Planet's briny depths aspect. Which is timeless, I guess. Maybe someone could update him to be a former tech mogul turned submariner (Remember that there's not just one but multiple billionaires engaged in a space race at this point- Richard Branson got into it all the way back in 2004), but that's just cruel to my oversensitive appalled sensibilities.

    How I wish SMAX had given us seven human factions before tacking on the aliens. I've always wondered what the remaining two factions could be about. Probably about as thematically random and gimmicky as the others, but still fun to think about. Here's a lot of words and speculation!

    Anyway great analysis, always good to see posts in this sub-forum, glad people are still talking about this game, gives me encouragement to post more here.

    Edit: also, this thread is pretty good too and has some ideas for updated factions.

    Last edited: Mar 13, 2021
  8. Saint Leibowitz

    Saint Leibowitz Chieftain

    May 11, 2020
    Okay fair enough, I guess this kind of is the big suspension-of-disbelief part of the premise. Maybe the updated version can be that the UN is still a weak and mostly symbolic entity, but the Unity project has been bankrolled by Morgan. Or! Flip the backstory roles of the Morganites and Peacekeepers slightly. The entire starship is a Morgan project, and the UN is brought on board for PR and diplomatic reasons. And then Lal is left running the faction that truly believes in the UN mission. So the other factions are now all a schism from Morgan instead of from Lal. The more I think about this, the more I like it.

    See, I totally get why that genre exists, I just think it's a little bit idealistic. Color-based tribalism is something that can go, but culture and country are a bit less escapable. Especially since all these factions are trying to build new cultures and new countries. There are definitely some strong echoes of Earth cultures that bleed through but they don't entirely make sense, as I explained with Miriam and Zakharov seemingly having only Americans and Russians. What I want is something a little like Beyond Earth where the factions have several distinct cultures thrown in (with a more haphazard global distribution than BE of course) even if that's just reflected in base names or something.

    Ah right; I haven't read Journey to Centauri in a while, and never read the novel trilogy. Yeah, the Spartans are the villains in that and sabotage the ship for no discernable reason besides pure evil, right? That was a little confusing.

    No yeah I love the Russian names in the University, I just wish there were a few other languages also. Although that reminds me, I really want this to be his faction theme music.

    Hmm, I do like this idea too. A great deconstruction of their mindset.

    Roze's opening quote, which is admittedly pretty vague and bland, does explicitly indicate that she doesn't just care about info for its own sake and believes in what you do with it, which is... the JAZZ, man. Whatever that means. Whatever you want it to mean, I guess. But realistically, that leads to...

    Perhaps there is a different path. Perhaps we must dissent. Our blessed Sister is looking for new recruits for the probe teams, skilled coders who can wage a Holy Cyberwar! Evil lurks in the datalinks as it lurked in the streets of yesteryear, but it was never the streets which were evil. After all, any street can be cleansed of filth...
  9. MysticWind

    MysticWind Chieftain

    Dec 25, 2008
    That's a neat subversion. Kinda apt given how sadly we are heading towards cyberpunk megacorp land, but yeah definitely works as an interesting twist!

    ehhhh I understand what you're getting at, but I think it's kind of hard to single out specific cultures that would try to preserve their own, because 1) we're projecting into a 22nd century setting so it might look dated not by 2100 but even just in 5-10 years, 2) it gets... messy positing how some cultures would react with self-perpetuation while others don't. Doesn't mean it's bad, it just means there would have to be more care in figuring out how some factions are more universal while others are specific.

    I'm also a huge critic of the Beyond Earth lore which is fodder for another topic (believe me, I can go on and on), but I certainly wouldn't be against it if it was done better. I'm curious about your ideas actually, maybe it's possible to have factions embody Earth cultures.

    I have a concept faction set that adds a Roman Catholic faction, partly as a more tolerant counterpart to the Believers with a different religious style and hierarchy, but also to acknowledge how the RCC has somehow existed as an entity for centuries and retained its own polity. Certainly there could be room for other factions based on religions, but I didn't want to do that for fear of cheap rehashing of crusades/jihad sectarian holy wars on an alien planet.

    I'd like to think that Miriam's belief is not simply in her own faith, but in the belief that faith is inherently worthy, in contrast to other factions, and thus the religious life is the best life. So she goes to war not only for specific dogma, but for the very guiding principle of theism itself. (So presumably she could have other Abrahamic believers in her ranks, who knows.)

    The Spartans were definitely just cardboard villains in the first novel at least, Santiago really does a number on Lal. Looking back at the novella-

    I wouldn't say in the novella they were pure evil, but they definitely seemed like they were insubordinate wrecked the whole mission for no reason, which was a weak twist. I'd like to think Planetfall was caused by the collective failure of everyone involved; singling out the Spartans as a specific mutinous violent faction sort of pins the original sin on them.

    Oh damn they really should do themes for each faction. I saw on YouTube there were songs for the Civ IV Planetfall mod, which was neat though a little heavy on the electronic music.


    Hahah a Data Angels vs. Believers vendetta over datalinks censorship could be fun.

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