Thursday, April 19, 2012

AAA, Part I

As you may or may not know, Wasteland 2 is under development. Wasteland came out in 1988 and the original has united , thanks to Kickstarters, for a damn overdue sequel. If you're not salivating, you will be. Because you most likely poured hours into its spiritual successor: the Fallout series. So yeah, Wastelands 2 is something indeed to be excited about. If not, well, you can go back to your button collection.

I am not sure what's scarier: a future with 80s prostitutes or STDs that requires weaponized radiation to be defeated.

Now, I cannot help to think of other games that deserve a sequel. The first game, of three, I have in mind is Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri or SMAC. For those who are unfamiliar with this game, it’s quite simple: it’s the true sequel to Sid Meier's Civilization series. It is the premier turn-base strategy video game. You might be asking: “Wouldn't Civilization V be the sequel of Civilization IV so forth” or “So, you want a sequel to a sequel of another sequel” or “Which is worse: Snooki or Kim Kardashian”.

Almost a celebrity deathmatch to savor...except you're feeding them even more attention, their only nourishment.

The whole Civilization series are not sequels but refinements of the previous game. The end goal of this series has not changed: build a civilization to stand the test of time. The ultimate victory was to send a colony ship to Alpha Centauri, and hence SMAC. Ranging from unit design, society engineering, more diplomatic choices, and an actual storyline, the game was a vast improvement overCivilization II. Hell, when Civ III came out, it could not live up to SMAC. The reason behind the lack of a sequel mainly stems from some of the original designers leaving Sid Meier's side.

So, what makes this game so enjoyable? It has the legendary time travel of the Civilization series for starters, which is good or bad (depending if you really wanted to do something else on your weekend). But what makes this so? For one thing, you're rebuilding, not building, civilization in SMAC. You see, it’s actually a post-apocalyptic game except instead of surviving Earth, you lead the remains of humanity in an alien world. Apparently, once we shot for the stars, we just loose our shit.

Silly Stewart, they're only combating the Anti-Christ.

Under the alien skies, humans restart free from woes from Earth. Each faction in the game represents certain ideologies found throughout human history: collective unity, trade ambition, military strength, knowledge pursuit, democratic peacekeeping, faith keeping and environmental concerns. Each faction comes with their strengths, weakness, and rivalries: faith vs. knowledge, economy vs. environment, and individual rights vs. society's security. After the rebuilding effort and other factions, you have the barbarian aliens. Unfortunately, they do not have cute little battleaxes but parasites that burrow into your brain and do telepathic nightmare attacks. And this leads into a rather sly sci-fi story line involving the general direction of human evolution.

Why not Zoidberg, indeed.

While the setup is great, the gameplay is the obvious star. SMAC, much like the Civilization series, plays like a cross between Risk: you see almost everyone's pieces (through exploration and espionage), guess their general strategy, be anxious about everyone's moves, and face off against unexpected surprises (such as backstabs and sudden armies at the gate). The other players are AI, so their step are quick. Obvious, bonus against Risk.

So, why would should there be a sequel? Besides rumors of potential sequel, it’s been nearly a decade since this game seen an expansion. Think of the development in gaming technology and what it would do for the game. Another thought is take elements that worked in Civ V or IV, such as resources, more diplomatic options, better A.I., etc. and blast their ass to the nearest planet.

Okay, more like star system.

The above is a mod from Civ IV called Final Frontier. This mod was one of my favorites and for good reason. The gameplay mechanics were tweaked to let the player feel like s/he is the leader of some fledgling human space empire. This particular mod was released several years ago and did wet my appetite. That and Galactic Civilizations series. Of course:

Planetfall is basically SMAC plastered into Civ IV. Do not get me wrong, it is a great mod but there is something missing.
What made SMAC so great was simply its uniqueness for the time. I do not want something plastered into an existing game engine. I want a true sequel with a game engine and gaming formula built specifically for the game. Like the Civ series, take what made SMAC so good and add more. Have a basic, familiar formula but change the equation a bit to get a new experience.

The Civ series focuses on Earth and SMAC is about settlement of an alien world, then I think the sequel should go beyond that. Perhaps just settlement of a solar system and its glory and horror. Or perhaps just go for the galaxy and duke it out with Stardock.

Post your thoughts!    

Posted by Richabob

1 comment:

  1. Love your references. It's funny because I can actually hear you talking while I'm reading. Other than a few typos and syntax errors this was a super cool read. Excited for the next one. AAA II mayhaps?? ;0)