LDespot: Tell us more about unit configuration.
Brian: Units in the game are fully customizable in any of five different categories: chassis, weapon, shielding, reactor, and special abilities. There are literally thousands of possible units as a result. Chassis determines the type of unit (land, sea, or air), and the number of movement points it has. Weapon is the offensive armament, or may be replaced by a non-combat package such as terraformer equipment, supply pod, colony pod, etc. Shielding is the defensive capability of the unit. The reactor determines the hit points, and more advanced reactors decrease the overall cost of the unit. Special abilities confer special bonuses on the unit, either at a cost or at a penalty to some other aspect of the unit. Cost increases exponentially with new features, so a unit with the best armor AND best weapon will cost much more than two units, one with the best armor and one with the best weapon. This keeps unit design interesting--there is never one clear choice to build, since you have to weigh cost issues as well as capabilities--do I want to build a lot of cheap, less powerful units or a few monster units.
The computer AI reacts to what you build. If you tend to breed a lot of native units, then the computer will build units with the 'Trance' special ability, which works well against the natives.
LDespot: How will the factions interact in the game? Will certain factions start out disliking others?
Brian: The factions can interact on quite a number of levels. You can exchange technology, declare war or offer peace, lend or borrow energy credits, give units and bases, exchange unit prototypes, join Pacts of Brotherhood or Sisterhood, co-ordinate battle plans against common enemies, demand withdrawal from your territory, and request for a specific vote at an upcoming meeting of the Planetary Council, to name some of the many options. Speaking of the Planetary Council, you can also meet with all seven faction leaders to vote on matters affecting the entire planet, including global trade pacts, repealing the UN charter prohibiting atrocities, and many other weighty issues. While in the Planetary Council, you can try to influence people's votes through negotiation, bribery, or intimidation.
A faction's baseline attitude towards you is primarily determined by how much the AI thinks you are a threat, and by your social choices. Thus, Lady Deirdre and her ecologically-minded Gaians will be hostile to anyone with a pro-Industry stance. Also, AI leaders are more likely to have a negative attitude towards those allied with their enemies.
LDespot: Will the map editor ship with the game?
Brian: Yes. You'll be able to create complete custom scenarios in the game.
LDespot: Will people be able to design their own map tiles and use them in the game?
Brian: Yes. Most art, sound, and text in the game are in common formats, so you can modify them to your heart's content. Units, of course, you design as an integral part of the game itself.
Alpha Centauri E3 slide show:
Firaxis' E3 demo of SMAC was housed at the Electronic Arts Booth (SMAC's publisher). Above is a picture of the SMAC display. You can see the two screens on the left and right that were showing off some of the game's move trailers. They were quite cool. At the bottom of the picture, you can see the tops of one or two people's heads. This display was truly massive.
Here you can see a shot of Jason Coleman of Firaxis demonstrating a portion of AC to Mike Ely. You see, as webmaster at Firaxis, they usually lock Mike up in a closet and force him to do site redesigns. When they finally let him out, they like to reward him and show him parts of the game. (Just Kidding Mike. I could not resist). The demo that they were showing on the floor looked quite good. This demo station is located beneath the right side of Slide 1.
Here is the door to the infamous Firaxis Shady Area (that's what I call it anyway). Behind this door, Firaxis was giving private demos of the game to VIPs. I was lucky enough to sneak in (well, Lindsay and Jeff from Firaxis let me in, but I would rather pretend that I beat up this security guard and rushed in ).
So I finally get in and who do I see? Well, first I found Mike Ely and Tim Train hiding in one corner. Some people came in for an appointment and I sat through a demo (given by Tim Train). Sid walked in a few minutes later, followed by Brian. The picture above is of some dork (me) flanked by Brian on the left and Sid on the right. In all, the Firaxis people were very nice to me and I was able to sit down with Sid and talk to him for a fairly long time. I just want to take a moment and thank everyone I met at Firaxis for being so nice and helpful. Special thanks to Jeff Morris for being such an awesome guy and letting me past that ogre of a security guard. I owe you one Jeff!