The Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri wiki last edited by Deathawk on 07/16/13 04:47PM View full history

Overview

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is a turn-based 4X strategy game developed by Firaxis and published by Electronic Arts for the PC on February 12, 1999. A science fiction successor to Sid Meier's Civilization II, players choose from one of seven competing ideological factions in the 22nd century as they attempt to colonize the planet Chiron in the Alpha Centauri star system. As they establish bases, research technology, conquer other factions, and fend off attacks by native lifeforms, they begin to learn that there may be more to the planet's sentience than they thought.

The story is set in the 22nd century, as Earth's United Nations launches a colonization mission (codenamed 'Unity') towards a habitable planet (called Chiron) in the Alpha Centauri star system. A reactor malfunction on board the spacecraft wakes the colonists from their slumber early while the ship's captain is assassinated. The chaos splits the crew into seven factions led by charismatic leaders with differing agendas and priorities. As the Unity craft reaches the planet, its escape pods break off from the ship, each containing one of the factions.

The game received an official expansion pack, Sid Meier's Alien Crossfire, on October 20, 1999, adding seven new factions (two of which are alien races) while further developing the gameplay and lore.

Gameplay

A landscape view of several cities, fungal patches, and busy terraformers.

The gameplay is very similar to the Civilization series. Whether in single or multiplayer, players select their faction and starting parameters (such as as world size, starting technologies and victory requirements) and begin the standard game with a colony pod and one scout unit. From these humble beginning players explore the planet and expand their faction as they develop new units and run into their old rivals from the Unity. Players are given great freedom over their faction and are able to set the faction's economic and social models, develop alliances, build secret projects which give unique bonuses to whichever faction constructs them first, and even design their own custom units in a similar manner to Warzone 2100.

Lady Deirdre Skye wins a diplomatic victory in Alpha Centauri

Players must balance the need for a strong economy with the need to keep up with the arms and technological race among the other factions. To this end they can swap technology with the other factions or form alliances in order to benefit from trade agreements and to attack mutual enemies. Through the Planetary Council, players can convene with the other factions which allows them to vote on issues such as repealing the U.N. charter or melting the polar ice caps. However, if diplomacy fails, weapons such as the devastating nuclear weapon the Planet Buster can be developed along with navies, helicopters, planes and anti-gravity tanks. From the simple spear-wielding scout unit available at the start of the game players can go on to develop advanced military units capable of making orbital drop jumps or launching nerve gas. Players can also produce probe teams which can infiltrate enemy bases to conduct espionage including stealing research, assassination or introducing genetic plagues.

There are four victory conditions which players can aim for either on their own or as part of a pact. The first involves a straight-forward conquest victory in which you wipe out every other faction. The second involves cornering the global energy market, thereby controlling the global economy. The third involves diplomacy as you attempt to install yourself as supreme leader. However, if a faction does not agree with the vote they may break from the council and seek to destroy you. Finally, the game can be won through Transcendence which involves researching the next level in human consciousness and creating a new relationship with the planet itself.

Factions

Gaia's Stepdaughters

Lady Deirdre Skye
In the great commons at Gaia's Landing we have a tall and particularly beautiful stand of white pine, planted at the time of the first colonies. It represents our promise to the people, and to Planet itself, never to repeat the tragedy of Earth.
-- Lady Deirdre Skye, "Planet Dreams"

Homebase: Gaia's High Garden

Leader: Lady Deidre Skye

Ideology: Green Democracy. The Gaians seek harmony with the planet and its native inhabitants. They prefer social engineering choices and base improvements which improve ecology, and shun those that harm the environment.

Gameplay implications: They have the ability to capture native lifeforms and can move freely through thick xenofungus. They have high base efficiency from extensive recycling. However, due to their pacifist tendencies they have poor military units. They may not use Free Market economics due to its environmental impact.

  • +1 Planet (environmental safeguards; can capture mind worms)
  • +2 Efficiency (experience with life systems such as recycling)
  • -1 Morale (pacifist tendencies)
  • -1 Police (freedom-loving)
  • +1 Nutrients in fungus squares
  • Can use mind worms as police unit(reverence for native life).
  • May not use Free Market economics
  • Aggression Pacifist
  • Priorities Explore
  • Starting Tech Centauri Ecology
  • Agenda Green(Economics)
  • Aversion Free Market (Economics)

The Human Hive

Chairman Sheng-ji Yang
"Learn to overcome the crass demands of flesh and bone, for they warp the matrix through which we perceive the world. Extend your awareness outwards, beyond the self of body, to embrace the self of group and the self of humanity. The goals of the group and the greater race are transcendent, and to embrace them is to achieve enlightenment."
-- Sheng-ji Yang, "Essays on Mind and Matter"

Homebase: The Hive

Leader: Chairman Sheng-ji Yang

Ideology: Authoritarian Collectivism. The Hive's leader believes in a communal utopia and is willing to enforce an isolationist, totalitarian police state to achieve this goal. Since the ends justify the means for Yang he shows no quarrel with experimenting on his people in the Hive's underground bases for the good of the Hive as a whole.

Gameplay implications: Due to their isolationism each base comes with Perimeter Defense. Their industrial and population growth is high but due to the tightly controlled society they have a poor economy. They may not use Democracy as it conflicts with the collective ideology.

  • +1 Growth (rapid population growth)
  • +1 Industry (brutal serfdom)
  • -2 Economy (little political freedom)

Underground bunkers (free Perimeter Defense at each base) May not use Democratic politics.

  • Aggression Aggressive
  • Priorities Conquer, Build
  • Starting Tech Doctrine: Loyalty
  • Agenda Police State (Politics)
  • Aversion Democracy (Politics)

The Lord's Believers

Sister Miriam Godwinson
The righteous need not cower before the drumbeat of human progress. Though the song of yesterday fades into the challenge of tomorrow, God still watches and judges us. Evil lurks in the datalinks as it lurked in the streets of yesteryear. But it was never the streets that were evil.
-- Sister Miriam Godwinson, "The Blessed Struggle"

Homebase: New Jerusalem

Leader: Sister Miriam Godwinson

Ideology: Religious Fundamentalism. The Believers are a theocratic faction who draw strength from their single-minded commitment to their faith. Their tenacious belief creates a skepticism of technology which retards their scientific progress. They believe the planet is their promised land.

Gameplay implications: Their strong conviction gives them a bonus when attacking enemies and makes them an extremely aggressive opponent in single-player games. They have slow research rates and may not conduct any research in the early years. They may not make the Knowledge social choice.

  • + Morale
  • +1 Probe
  • -2 Research
  • -1 Planet
  • Aggression Aggressive
  • Priorities Explore, Conquer
  • Starting Tech Social Psych
  • Agendas Fundamentalist (Politics)
  • Aversion Knowledge (Values)
  • Special bonuses When attacking, units gain a +25% attack bonus
  • Accumulates no research points until MY 2110.

Morgan Industries

CEO Nwabudike Morgan
"Human behavior is economic behavior. The particulars may vary, but competition for limited resources remains a constant. Need as well as greed have followed us to the stars, and the rewards of wealth still await those wise enough to recognize this deep thrumming of our common pulse."
-- Nwabudike Morgan, "The Centauri Monopoly"

Homebase: Morgan Industries

Leader: CEO Nwabudike Morgan

Ideology: Freemarket Capitalism. The Morganites possess a strong belief in laissez-faire economics. The Morganite society is a corporate plutocracy where no clear distinction can be drawn between government and industry. Profit is pursued above all else, even at the expense of Planet itself.

Gameplay implications: The Morganites are masters of the energy market and have increased energy rates and trade advantages. However, the divide between the haves and have-nots in their society can lead to great social unrest resulting in frequent drone riots. The Morganites may not use Planned Economics.

  • +1 Economy (industrial conglomerate)
  • -1 Support (followers have expensive tastes)

Commerce (bonus increases value of treaties, pacts, loans) Begins with 100 extra energy credits. Need Hab Complexes for bases to exceed size4 (creature comforts at a premium). May not use Planned Economics.

  • Aggression Pacifist
  • Priorities Build
  • Starting Tech Industrial Base
  • Agenda Free Market (Economics)
  • Aversion Planned (Economics)

The Peacekeeping Foces

Commissioner Pravin Lal
"As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth's final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last loose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master."
-- Commissioner Pravin Lal, "Librarian's Preface"

Homebase: United Nations Headquarters

Leader: Commissioner Pravin Lal

Ideology: Democratic Humanitarianism. The Peacekeepers seek to defend the ideals of the United Nations of Earth in the unforgiving and often hostile environment of Chiron. The faction attracts an intellectual elite due to this idealistic goal and their leader possesses great knowledge of diplomatic strategies.

Gameplay implications: The faction receives double votes for their population in Planetary Council meetings and has extra talents at their bases. However, U.N.-style bureaucracy produces high levels of inefficiency. Their passionate belief in Democracy means that the Peacekeepers cannot make the Police State social choice.

  • -1 Efficiency (U.N. style bureaucracy)
  • Extra talent for every four citizens (attracts intellectual elite)
  • May exceed hab complex population requirements by 2.
  • Receives double votes in election for planetary governor and supreme leader.
  • Aggression Erratic
  • Priorities
  • Starting Tech Biogenetics
  • Agendas Democracy
  • Aversion Police State
  • Special bonuses

Spartan Federation

Colonel Corazón Santiago
"Superior training and superior weaponry have, when taken together, a geometric effect on overall military strength. Well-trained, well-equipped troops can stand up to many more times their lesser brethren than linear arithmetic would seem to indicate."
-- Col. Corazon Santiago, "Spartan Battle Manual"

Homebase: Sparta Command

Leader: Colonel Corazón Santiago

Ideology: Frontier Survivalism. The Spartan Federation is, like the greek state, a militaristic faction which shuns creature comforts in favor of raw power and military supremacy. The Spartans dogged pursuit of strong offensive capabilities means that other areas such as their economy are put under great pressure.

Gameplay implications: Due to their military knowledge the Spartans do not have to pay extra to develop prototype units. They have extremely high unit morale as a result of their military culture and training. The Spartans cannot make the Wealth social engineering choice due to their perpetual wartime economy.

  • +2 Morale (well armed survivalist movement)
  • +1 Police (highly disciplined followers)
  • -1 Industry (extravagant weapons are costly)
  • Aggression Erratic
  • Priorities Discover, Conquer
  • Starting Tech Doctrine: Mobility
  • Agendas Power (Value)
  • Aversion Wealth (Value)
  • Special bonuses Prototype units do not cost extra minerals

University of Planet

Academician Prokhor Zakharov
"The substructure of the universe regresses infinitely towards smaller and smaller components. Behind atoms we find electrons, and behind electrons quarks. Each layer unraveled reveals new secrets, but also new mysteries."
-- Prokhor Zakharov, "For I Have Tasted The Fruit"

Homebase: University Base

Leader: Academician Prokhor Zakharov

Ideology: Unfettered Knowledge. The University faction places great importance on scientific research and believes that all social and political problems can be addressed as technological challenges. They focus on research above all else, including at times, social harmony.

Gameplay implications: The University have a high rate of research and begin the game with bonus technologies and network nodes. However, as a result of their knowledge-based society they are vulnerable to attacks by probe teams. Due to their constant inquiry they may not make the Fundamentalist social choice.

  • +2 Research (Brillant research)
  • -2 Probe (Academic networks vulnerable to infiltration)
  • one bonus tech at start of game
  • extra drone for every four citizen (lack of ethics)
  • Aggression Erratic
  • Priorities Research
  • Starting Tech Information Networks
  • Agendas Knowledge
  • Aversion Fundamentalist
  • Special bonuses Free Network node at each base.

Native Lifeforms

"Although Planet's native life is based, like Earth's, on right-handed DNA, and codes for all the same amino acids, the inevitable chemical and structural differences from a billion years of evolution in an alien environment render the native plant life highly poisonous to humans. Juicy, ripe grenade fruits may look appealing, but a mouthful of organonitrates will certainly change your mind in a hurry." - Lady Deirdre Skye, A Comparative Biology of Planet

Chiron features several native lifeforms which act as the planet's immune system and are extremely hostile to all foreign life. Any increase in pollution will be seen as a threat by Planet which will lead to an increase in the proliferation of these native creatures. Throughout her time on Planet, Lady Deirdre Skye documents her research into the abundant flaura and fauna which exists on the planet.

Gameplay implications: the psionic attacks used by Planet's native life bypasses a unit's armor and combat is decided by a unit's morale. The higher a unit's moral is the more likely it will be able to withstand an attack by a native lifeform. During the early turns native life is usually quite small and hatchlings are most frequently encountered. As the game progresses the size of the lifeforms increases up to Demon Boil status. As battles against these creatures take place psychically an elite spear unit would stand a better chance against a demon boil than a rookie plasma hover tank.

Mind Worms

"As the writhing, teeming mass of Mind Worms swarmed over the outer perimeter, we saw the defenders recoil in horror. "Stay calm! Use your flame guns!" shouted the commander, but to no avail. It is well known that the Mind Worm Boil uses psychic terror to paralyze its prey, and then carefully implants ravenous larvae in the brains of its still-conscious victims. Even with the best weapons, only the most disciplined troops can resist this horrific attack." - Lady Deirdre Skye, Our Secret War

Isle of the Deep

"The Isle of the Deep is really not a single creature but a colony of thousands of individual tubules, an aquatic vector of the Mind Worm which terrorizes Planet's continents. Over its lifetime certain tubules secrete a tough, gluelike substance which hardens to form the characteristic shell that floats the colony and creates the appearance of a rogue island." - Lady Deirdre Skye, A Comparative Biology of Planet

Xenofungus

"The fungus has been Planet's dominant lifeform since about the time of the Lower Paleozoic on Earth. But when, once every hundred million years or so, the neural net at last achieves the critical mass necessary to become sentient, the final metamorphosis kills off most of the other life on the planet. It is possible that we humans can help to break this tragic cycle." - Lady Deirdre Skye, Planet Dreams

Background

In 1996 Firaxis released Gettysburg, a real time strategy game, but despite that game's success Brian Reynolds and Sid Meier still believed that there was a large audience for turn-based strategy. In an effort to move away from both historical and real-time games Reynolds and Meier wanted to capture the possibilities on mankind's future in a turn-based game. However, one of the challenges they faced was how to make this new settings accessible. Whereas players of Civilization could easily tell the difference between a sword and a rifle, making the difference between a plasma or photon weapon apparent to gamers was a major design challenge. To assist with this they hired Derek Cotter, a British fan of their games, to flesh out the biosphere and create a consistent world. The game also makes use of footage from Baraka, a 1992 film which is made up of a series of long shots of different locations around the world. The footage is used for several of the secret project movies which are also used to flesh out the new human cultures which are developing on Chiron.

In Civilization the civilizations were demarcated by geography but in Alpha Centauri the factions are divided by ideology. This focus on ideology allows the game to explore a wide range of social and philosophical issues. By focusing on humanity's future Brian Reynolds hoped to spur on interest and enthusiasm for space exploration at a time when projects such as the International Space Station were being described in the press as white elephants. Through its exploration of social, scientific and moral issues Reynolds hoped that 'if Alpha Centauri inspires a few young scientists and astronauts; if it convinces a few more citizens to write to their congressmen and work to rejuvenate our space program, humanity's space program, that will surely be its greatest and most lasting accomplishment.'

PC System Requirements

Minimum Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP
  • CPU: Pentium 133MHz
  • RAM: 16MB
  • Optical Drive: DVD-ROM, 8 speed
  • Hard drive :1.0 GB free space
  • Video card: 128MB Video Card with Direct X 8 support
  • Sound card: DirectX 8.0 –compliant sound card

Recommended Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP
  • CPU: Pentium 4
  • RAM: 1.0GB
  • Optical drive: DVD-ROM, 8 speed
  • Hard drive: 2.0 GB
  • Video card: 128MB Video Card with Direct X 8 support
  • Sound card: DirectX 8.0 –compliant sound card

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