In my quest to blend genres, I’ve played a lot of turn-based strategy.

Most recently, I’ve played a bunch of Alpha Centauri (1999), Master of Magic (1995), and Eador: Masters of the Broken World (2013). Years ago, I played Rome: Total War (2004). I’m trying to find my disc so I can review it with fresh eyes.

Of the games, I think Alpha Centauri is the crunchiest by far.

I’ve only been at the game for about a week, but I do have Civilization and Civ-clones to compare it to, and some of the decisions made in this game strike me as utterly bizarre. Understanding the game as the work of a team is important.

Before I go on, let me say Alpha Centauri may be the greatest game ever.

Perhaps not the best. Definitely not my favorite. But so far the greatest.

There are just so many things about this game that make it great. From all the different ways you can interact with the world. It’s enormous. It almost fully realizes the potential it sets for itself. There’s very little wasted space.

And yet, parts of the game hurt my brain. I mean, it’s still a human work, there are so many inelegancies that just make me itch. So many odd choices that make me want to tinker. More than any game before, AC makes me want to mod.

And there’s the title. I refuse to call it “Sid Meier’s” anything. I don’t care to put an author’s name on anything. It SMACs of vanity. *rimshot*

So there are all these stats you can find on the Social Engineering page, and not all of them make the most sense to me. There are things that do things and tings that do other things, and very little of it is explained anywhere.

Like the “Planet” score. That one bugs me.

I get that a lot of this stuff works, and based on the company’s iterative process, I understand this game was made through play more than by design.

Ultimately, my preference for a designed game is my preference.

My problem.

I have different goals, besides, so I’ll address the problem differently.


Alpha Centauri scores are as follows:
Economy
Efficiency
Support
Morale
Police
Growth
Planet
Probe
Industry
Research

After some analysis, I realized that the first and most important concept I needed to design around was population growth. Because that’s one of those things you absolutely need to account for — populations will constantly be changing throughout the game. And without people, nothing happens.

I wrote the following note:

“The first conceit is that Life exists as POPULATION, and that populations experience GROWTH.”

Right off the bat, I had my first two stats: POPULATION and GROWTH.

I’ll tie this into my work on factions in future writing. For now, let’s stick with what I’ve made progress on — principles and scores.

Initially, my second score was related to the first. Because I’m developing a fantasy game, I wanted long-lived races like elves and dwarves, and immortals like vampires, faeries, and demons — to have some representation in the basic concepts. So I created a score called LONGEVITY.

Longevity had two associated stats, which were MORTALITY and MORBIDITY.

Unfortunately, they proved unwieldy, so I set them aside for later.

I thought my next principle would be related to combat, but it turned out to be more basic than that. I wrote the following note:

“The second conceit is that Life turns energy into stuff.”

My working term for this is EXCHANGE, and it has an associated score called BUILD/TRAIN. This is the score that determines how quickly people make stuff.

I wish I had more to report, but that’s honestly as far as I’ve gotten thus far. I’m still working on the interactions between things, and I have lots and lots of notes.

There’s also a tech tree I’m building out, and all of this other stuff that will tie back into factions, cultures, and magic. But it’s all too big and spread out to put in a single blog post. So I’ve got to write about what I can.