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DescriptionAfter the 20th century, humankind reaches its hand out across the stars. Seeking to escape the overcrowded chaos of Earth, the United Nations builds a single seedship, the UNS Unity, and sends her on a mission towards the Alpha Centauri star system. After a long journey in cryogenic suspension, the Unity reaches Alpha Centauri where the Captain is killed under mysterious circumstances. Suspecting the motives of one another, the officers and the crew split into 7 factions, each lead with a distinct ideology and motives that they seek to build the planet in their image...
Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is best compared to Civilization II, but features many distinct differences in gameplay and thinking. In Civilization, the objective was to evolve a society from primitive tribes, whereas Alpha Centauri starts with the landing of colony pods on a barren planet with society becoming fractured. Each faction (aka nation) receives it's own share of the Unity's resources and tech base. For the basics, bases produce nutrients, materials and energy. Nutrients are required to feed to population, Materials are used in production and energy represents the commerce effect which can be traded to players diplomatically or spent on improvements. The 7 factions each have their own agenda, which is determined in large part by the Social Engineering. This enables a faction to customize its values, earning a bonus for what it considers important and a penalty for what it doesn't. Social Engineering system are discovered through research, the same as other improvements, such as structures and units.
Research is divided into 4 types of technologies, which form an intertwining tree of dependencies. They are: Conquer (direct military applications), Explore (indirect technologies for units and bases), Build (direct infrastructure application) and Discovery (Science for the sake of science, indirect applications). Because of the separation, factions can focus on what they hope the intended result of their science will be, and can be changed at any time. To explore the planet, units are needed. Any unit can be customized out of known technologies; consisting of a chassis type, reactor, weapon, armor and special abilities. Each of these components has a different expense, with untested technologies having additional overhead (prototype).
Finally, Alpha Centauri is not a desolate star system. There is life on the planet, in the form of alien fungus that litters the ground and strange creatures such as mindworms. Initially hostile to all factions, this form of life holds its own secrets and effects on the world at large.
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The Press Says
CutscenesMost of the secret project movies contain scenes from the documentary Baraka.You can find information about Baraka at IMDB.
DevelopmentFrom an interview with designer Brian Reynolds Brian Reynolds with Computer Games Magazine (June 2000):
I always wondered if my degree in Philosophy would ever come in handy for something. My favorite part of this game was developing the characters and factions, and the AI to give them divergent personalities and agendas.
I think a part of broad appeal is merely choosing the right topic, and certainly compared to Civilization II, science-fiction was a lot harder, and gave the game more of an esoteric feel. Everybody knows what the wheel is, everyone knows what mathematics is, but linear mathematics? Particle accelerators?...It's even worse when you get into things you kind of made up.
Plasma bombThe "planet buster" of the first-generation model, is listed in the game manual as technically called the Mark 714 plasma bomb, a single warhead delivered by a ballistic missile that locks onto its target by the signature of charged particles coming from it. The active kill radius, or the radius in which everything and everyone would be immediately destroyed (as opposed to people killed eventually by the side effects) is listed as 2,000 kilometers -- about 1,240 miles. The yield of the first-generation "planet buster" is said to be equivalent to 296 gigatons of TNT.
Here is what would happen if a bomb one ten-thousandth as powerful as that were detonated in a groundburst upon New York City:
There would be an overpressure of 15 pounds per square inch out to about five miles, or as far as the Receiving Reservoir at Central Park, Manhattan, and even reinforced concrete structures such as skyscrapers would be obliterated. Most water would be vaporized. No one would survive there. The surface of the land in that area would be melted to resemble black glass.
Smaller concrete structures would be destroyed as far as about six miles away.
In a doughnut shape covering the area between seven and nine miles away, all houses and other small buildings would be destroyed. Towards the outside, wreckage would remain.
Windows would be shattered as far out as about sixty miles away, from Scarsdale in the north to Keansburg in the south.
The above information about blast radii is from the HYDESim High Yield Detonation Effects Simulato.
PremiseAs people who play Civilization know, at the end, one of the ways to win the game is get the expedition to Alpha Centauri first. So it was no coincidence that Sid's next game is Alpha Centauri.
ReceptionAs of August 2000, Alpha Centauri was PC Gamer's highest rated game ever with a score of 98%. Prior to the review this honor belonged to Sid Meier's Civilization II which had a score of 97%. In the December 2004 issue of PC Gamer, Alpha Centauri's "highest-rated" title was lowered to a mere tie when Half-Life 2 received a 98%.
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Brian Hirt (10025) added Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (Windows) on Mar 01, 1999
Other platforms contributed by Corn Popper (69536)
Jerome Atherholt, Michael E. Bazzell, Gregory Foertsch, Michael O. Haire, David Inscore, Nicholas J. Rusko‑BergerMusic: