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"Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden. He drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."
The Conclave Bible, Datalinks (paraphrase of Gen. 3:23-24)

Civilization, IN SPACE!

In 2060 AD, the Earth was one hell of an awful place to live, torn apart by war and sunken into disgrace by poverty and ecological damage. In a last attempt to save Humanity from extinction, the United Nations ordered the construction of a massive spaceship, the UNS Unity. The mission: stash as many people as possible within the spaceship, deep freeze them to sleep, get the hell off of the Earth towards Alpha Centauri, the closest star from the Sun, form a settlement on Chiron, a planet orbiting the star that seems to have most of the necessary conditions to sustain sentient life, and leave the planet of their birth to fester and decay like a parasite fleeing a corpse.

But Finagle's Law says everything that can go wrong will go wrong, and this mission was not the exception. The deep freeze system malfunctioned and the colonists found themselves living on rations meant for colonization in spaces around the ship not meant for living quarters. An explosion on board causes massive damage to the ship's thrusters, creating an escalating crisis among the ship's leaders. As a result, the Unity's captain is murdered, and the crew is now split into 7 different factions, each one commandeering a colony pod and launching for the surface of Chiron (known in the game as "Planet", and yes, that's a proper noun). Each faction has a different ideology and their own plans to achieve prosperity in the new world. These factions include:


The expansion pack, Sid Meier's Alien Crossfire, added:

A little tweaking would also reveal a secret faction:

  • the self-inserted Firaxians, which may be two factions or not since either Sid Meier or Brian Reynolds can lead.

Upon their arrival, however, everybody finds, to their horror, that Planet is not nearly the safe haven they had hoped for. The atmosphere is far too light on oxygen and heavy on nitrogen, forcing anybody exiting sealed colonies to wear oxygen masks (with the only saving grace being that at least they don't need pressure suits), and that's the least of their concerns. The local "flora", known as Xenofungus, covers much of the surface and prevents settlement or even easy transport where it occurs. Worse yet, the xenofungus acts as a home to Mind Worms, which randomly boil out of the fungus and attack human settlements by psychically stunning their victims with fear, burrowing inside their brains, and placing their ravenous larvae inside, causing the hapless victims to die a Horrible death, with a capital H. And there is no terrain safe from them since they also come in aquatic and flying variations. Trying to hide far away won't save you either, as the xenofungus can vomit out spore launchers, essentially biological artillery that can attack even submerged colonies. If they try to remove the xenofungus for any reason, they face massive fungal towers with giant tendrils that can tear apart tanks. And even the rest of Planet's biosphere is dangerous to humanity; where it doesn't immediately attack humans on sight, the differences in biology are enough that they act as poisons if ingested by humans and vice versa.

But the real twist begins when Deirdre Skye discovers that Planet's native life might be friendlier if treated nicely, and starts considering the idea that the entire xenofungal network might well be a gigantic brain. And it seems like every 100 million years or so, Planet's native life achieves a state of growth large enough to turn the entire Planet into a gigantic sentient being, with a consciousness and a mind of its own; but this causes an explosive outgrowth that ends up killing most of Planet's life, just before Planet's "mind" reaches a "development threshold" that allows for survival, thus having to repeat the same cycle from scratch. And it seems like Humanity's arrival is accelerating the cycle. Will Humanity face final extinction? Can the cycle be broken? What will happen if the cycle is broken?

Created by the masterminds Brian Reynolds and Sid Meier under the auspices of Firaxis, and released in 1999, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (abbreviated as SMAC, the expansion is SMAX) is a turn-based strategy game that, while rather popular, didn't manage to reach the soaring popularity of the Civilization series. However, that doesn't mean the game is worse. Far from that. According to the Wikipedia entry about the game, even though development was rather hindered by Reynolds and Meier's departure from Microprose to found Firaxis, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri was awarded by the US edition of PC Gamer a score of 98% (the first and one of only three games to have ever done so), and was also granted a long list of Game of the Year prizes. A trilogy of novels based on the game was even written! Admittedly, this doesn't sound too impressive by modern standards, but in 1998 it was basically unheard of.

As the Spiritual Successor of the Civilization series, Alpha Centauri features incredibly complex and profound gameplay, with a myriad of options and variables that can leave an unskilled player dazed with too much information, although a Civilization player can pick up the game and get started right away. Like the Civilization games, in Alpha Centauri you start with a single city, and your job is to create more Colony Pods to expand your colony with new cities, carefully nurture the ones you already have so they can reach a high population and become productive and profitable, research new technologies to unlock new units and options, and if you want to (though it's not necessary) or have to (because the AI can be positively bloody-minded), wage war on everyone else. As is common in the series, there are four ways to win the game: Conquest (just Kill 'Em All), Economic (gather enough Energy—the game's Global Currency—to buy everyone else's bases), Political (get elected as Supreme Leader by the Planetary Council), and Technological (clear the entire Tech Tree and Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, or, if you're an alien, summon your ultra-advanced fleet to blow the rest of Planet away). Also familiar: your civilization is pestered by Planet's native life, similar to the barbarian tribes in the Civilization games. About the only real flaw in the game, if flaw it could be called, was that the expansion kept the seven-faction limit (Players could either choose their opponents or randomize them.) as opposed to expanding it to cover all fourteen.

However, the biggest merit of the game to many came from the way it portrays The Future. The vast majority of it (basically, everything that doesn't involve mental powers, and sometimes even those) is justified by Hard Science, most of the scientific concepts are linked to our nowadays science from 2009 friggin' 1998, and the few ones that aren't have already been explored and predicted by theoretical scientists and writers. Combined with the near total absence of nonsensical Technobabble and the clever use of quotes from game characters and real literary works, this setting actually manages to suck you inside and take seriously the struggle for Humanity's own future, only to let you go once you look outside your window and see the first gleam of the morning sun shining through.

The game is relatively old, and hard to find in most retail stores nowadays, although British re-packaging firm Mastertronic (Formerly known as "Sold-out software") is selling new copies of the original game with expansion pack for some $11/£4.88, likely in honor of the game's 10th anniversary), but it's worth searching out for any fan of hard, complex strategy and simulation games. It is now available on for $5.99 (now, finally, including the expansion for free). Alternatively, you can buy Civilization IV and download Planetfall, a fan-made Civilization IV mod which takes Alpha Centauri's setting (leaders, quotes, and technologies included, with entirely reworked graphics) and mixes it with Civ IV's gameplay improvements.

A Spiritual Successor, Civilization: Beyond Earth was released in 2014.

Naturally has a wiki.

If you came here looking for the actual star Alpha Centauri, and not the Sid Meier video game, look here.

This game provides examples of:

  • 4X: The game was marketed with the tagline "Explore. Discover. Build. Conquer." Additionally, the Tech Tree has identifiable (if intertwined) tracks (Explore=environmental/expansion/scout techs, Discover=pure science, Build=base-building and industrial/development-type techs, Conquer=military techs), and you can set the AI "Governor" at your bases to focus on a single track, or a combination of them, if you don't care to micromanage.
  • Aerial Canyon Chase: In the cinematic for The Cloudbase Academy Secret Project.
  • Aerith and Bob: Some of the later quotes come from people whose names come across as bizarre. Possibly justified due to changes in culture and the fading away of Earth's ethnicities.
  • Affably Evil/Faux Affably Evil: Faction leaders can vary between the two but usually lean to the former, sometimes making war declarations to the effect of "nothing personal my dear <player name>, but Planet simply isn't big enough for the both of us". If they declare war on you due to your social engineering running contrary to their beliefs, they will say so and make it sound like for them it's a case of I Did What I Had to Do, wiping you out to prevent what they see as detrimental societal values from spreading beyond your faction.
  • After the End: Sometime between the Unity's departure and the start of the game, Earth is devastated. It is recolonized at the end though.
  • Alien Sky: Alpha Centauri is a trinary system, with two great suns and a third smaller and farther one. Planet's atmosphere is a bright yellow, claimed to offset life-threatening greenhouse gases generated by being too close to Alpha Centauri A.
  • Aliens Speaking English: All the Progenitor quotes in the game have a weird vibrato effect, which is their language. Where's a Universal Translator when you need one?note 
  • The All-Seeing A.I.: No matter what stealth tech you have, the AI knows exactly where your units are, and while the AI does a decent job of feigning ignorance of the locations of land units it shouldn't know the location of, it isn't as good about it at sea and tends to reveal its omniscience when it gets missiles and uses them on naval units with the deep pressure hull upgrade while they're deep at sea.
  • All There in the Manual: The on-disc manual has an appendix that goes into quite a bit of detail about the nature of Planet and its denizens. Also, there are three novels set in the universe, and one short story "prequel" that is available online. The GURPS tabletop roleplaying game setting book has tons and tons of story information and details that they left out of the main on-disc manual and novels and short stories.
  • Alternate Calendar: Played with. The colonist factions use the "Mission Year" calendar, which is presumably synchronized with Planet. On the other hand, it carries over the year count from the AD/CE system instead of dating from the Unity's arrival, possibly as a reminder of their origins on Earth.
  • And the Adventure Continues: If another faction gains transcendence first, the game ends with the player returning to human form and going back to Earth and other worlds to spread life amongst the stars. This is also what other humans do if the player wins a transcendence victory.
  • Archaeological Arms Race: Mysterious monoliths, artifacts, and other leftovers from the creators of Planet are scattered around the terrain and can boost scientific research of the colonist group who finds them first. Meanwhile, the alien factions have to slowly rediscover technology lost when their ships crashed on the surface.
  • Are You Sure You Want to Do That?: The game will ask if you really want to hurl your (for example) wimpy little scout rover into battle against that entrenched heavily-armored battletank.
  • Armor Is Useless: Psychic combat completely ignores conventional attack and defense ratings and is based on morale and specialized equipment. It's how Planet's native life remains a threat even into the late game (unlike Civilization's barbarians), because unless you go out of your way to develop countermeasures or psychic units of your own, high-tech conventional units are just as vulnerable to psychic attack as the ones you start with.
  • Artificial Gravity: The implication of Graviton Theory and Applied Gravitonics. Graviton Theory allows Graviton Struts—which evidently make your units faster—and Gravships, which based on appearance and description seem to be like airships, except that anti-gravity is used instead of lifting gas (ducted fans—those circular protrusions on either side—being used for the actual propulsion).
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The aptly titled Ascent to Transcendence victory sees humanity merging with technology and Planet, becoming more than they were before.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Several tech, facility, and Secret Project quotes are from the Bible, as is the quote in the opening video.
  • Assimilation Plot: The Ascent to Transcendence, which involves one faction uplifting the Planetmind to a higher level of sapience and assimilating their minds into it to ascend to something beyond a mere human existence.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • You can make a submarine that functions as an aircraft carrier. If you load it with Planet Busters then it becomes a ballistic missile sub, although it's still useless.
    • The Planet Busters (nuclear missiles) completely destroy everything within an area about 4×4 squares with an awesome graphic: not just units but cities as well, even leaving a crater which may fill with ocean if the explosion takes place at low enough altitude. This means that if you use them on your opponents there'll be nothing left to actually conquer, meaning that there's no profit to be made from such a war. They also make all the other factions declare war on you, meaning that you can only use them safely if you're already a significant global power, in which case any edge they might have given you in combat is probably unnecessary as your conventional forces will likely be strong enough to capture anything you want. This was probably intentional. Along with that, even if you are a superpower, the other factions aren't the only problems you'll have to deal with—Planet itself will get royally pissed and swamp the instigator with indigenous life forms.
  • Bad Moon Rising:
    • Every time Hercules/Alpha Centauri B reaches perihelion, that means 20 years (turns) of increased wildlife attacks.
    • Solar flares mean communications are disrupted so diplomacy is disabled. But atrocities are kept secret.
  • Base on Wheels: Colony Pods are big rolling life support systems for a thousand workers that unfold into colony cities when they get to their destination.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: The fundie tendencies of The Lord's Believers prevent them from accumulating research points during the first ten turn-years. Compound that with their natural 20% penalty to research speed, and you get a faction that needs to run Fundamentalist social engineering to catch up using slightly cheaper Probe Teams—and woe betide the Believing player in a game where the most advanced faction has the Hunter-Seeker Algorithm!
  • Berserk Button: All of the AI-controlled factions have a Berserk Button which increases their hostility and can provoke them to declaring Vendetta—namely, picking a government, economic model, value, or future society that isn't their own agenda (or the no-modifiers starting models: Frontier Government, Simple Economics, Survival Values, No Future Society). Human faction leaders are more likely to overlook any of these for pragmatic reasons like global politics, a faction you both hate more than you hate each other, good trade relations, one faction's insignificance to the other (either by being far away or by being very small and weak), technology-sharing, and so on. Progenitor factions, on the other hand, are not as forgiving. Player-controlled factions, of course, will act as their leader sees fit.
    • The Peacekeepers and the Data Angels: Using any government except Democracy. Justifications: "You're violating human rights"/"It's an insult to freedom!"
    • The Gaians and the Planet Cult: Using any economic system except Green. Justifications: "Your insensitivity to the environment is troubling."/"Your insensitivity to the environment is sacrilege!" (The Cult get more irritated/militant about it than the Gaians, who are less bloody-minded).
    • The Spartans and the Pirates: Using any value except Power. Justification: "You're secretly researching something really nasty, aren't you?" (contra Knowledge) and "Your pursuit of Wealth is fat and weak!" (contra Wealth).
    • The Believers: Using any government except Fundamentalist. Justifications: "You're disobeying the will of God!"
    • The University: Using any value except Knowledge. Justifications: "I find your pursuit of wealth/power irrational and stifling to science."
    • The Hive: Using any government except Police State. Justifications: "Running a state according to religious principles is stupid." (contra Fundamentalist) and "You really expect the people to maintain an ordered society?" (contra Democracy)
    • Morgan Industries: Using any economic system except Free Market. Justification: "You are stifling the market with your socialist policies!"note 
    • The Cybernetic Consciousness: Using any future society except Cybernetic (duh). Justification: "Anything else would be irrational."
    • The Free Drones: Using any future society except Eudaimonic. Justification: "Your Blue Sky Solutions will not improve living conditions!" (This works against everyone, especially Green economics—with which the Drones have a problem—and Cybernetic and Thought Control Future Societies—which are respectively research-oriented and..well..shall we say too perfect, for certain values of "perfect").
    • Both Progenitor factions: Using any economic system except Planned. Justification: "You should follow our economic model."
    • All of the policy-related berserk buttons above can also be randomized with the "Randomize Faction Agenda" game rule, which randomizes which social engineering they prefer and despise (and what victory condition they aim for)
    • The Manifold Caretakers will immediately declare Vendetta on anyone who starts the Ascent to Transcendence, since that's the very thing they're trying to prevent happening. You can't make peace with them unless you abandon the project. (Or complete it, but by that point you will have achieved a Transcendence Victory.) The Usurpers, on the other hand, won't hold trying to Transcend against you, because that's what they're trying to do, even if they don't want you to beat them to the punch.
    • The two Progenitor factions have a deep-rooted hatred for each other, so a peace treaty with one will be a Berserk Button for the other.
    • Finally, firing a Planet Buster will cause every faction to declare Vendetta on you, regardless of your relationships between them. Plus, you will be expelled from the Planetary Council, and there is no way to negotiate peace once the other factions declare war.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The Self-Aware Colony's cinematic depicts a city that is capable of punishing criminals by restructuring itself at a detailed level. Also, anytime you or the computer run an oppressive faction the Encyclopedia Entry for "Mind Control" Future Society directly mentions Big Brother.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: The Progenitors can sense and manipulate a variety of fields, including electromagnetism. They communicate through "altering" too. While humans generate patterns of sounds, Progenitors alter existing background noise and it's how they alter those sounds that determines meaning.
  • Book-Ends: The game's very first shot, in the intro, and very last shot, at the end of the Ascent to Transcendence, are of the same nebula.
  • Born Under the Sail: The Nautilus Pirates are more or less a faction of old-school Earth Pirates but Recycled In Space. They start the game with a number of sea-related bonuses, including the technology to build aquatic bases. Their agenda is even listed as "Pillage and burn".
  • Brain in a Jar:
    • The results of the Clinical Immortality project. It's called "Clinical" for a reason. All that's left is a the central nervous system and a pair of eyes to see the room.
    • The Bioenhancement Center facility implies the use of these in the quote heard upon building one as the flavor text is about a brain philosophizing about being a brain in a jar.
  • Brain Uploading: Uploading minds to a new host body is implied to be the result of the Clinical Immortality project; definitely also part of the Ascent to Transcendence.
  • Bug War: Mind worms, xenofungus towers, and spore launchers are hostile and incredibly dangerous, requiring military action against them whenever they appear in your faction's territory, though the second are immobile and can be weakened by clearing the fungus around them.
  • The Captain:
    • The never-seen Captain Garland, who, true to the trope, was the only man who could have held his highly diverse crew together. He was mysteriously assassinated shortly before Planetfall, resulting in his subordinates splitting the crew into the seven factions.
    • Ulric Svensgaard of the Nautilus Pirates is addressed by the title of captain.
    • There's also the leader of the Spartan Federation, Colonel Corazon Santiago.
  • Central Theme: How far are people willing to go for their ideals?
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Averted. The Lord's Believers are for the most part derived from Protestants, though their colonies bear aesthetics reminiscent of Roman Catholicism.
  • Church Militant: The Lord's Believers, The Cult of Planet.
  • City on the Water: Aquatic bases. The Nautilus Pirates start with one instead of a land base.
  • Clone Army: The logical outcome of building Cloning Vats. The project removes Industry and Support penalties of Power and Thought Control social policies, allowing to mass-spam suddenly cheaper units with all the benefits of running said policies. All while the population is locked in non-stop boom. The quote for it only drives the point further.
    Col. Corazon Santiago: We shall take only the greatest minds, the finest soldiers, the most faithful servants. We shall multiply them a thousandfold and release them to usher in a new era of glory.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: On most unit types, certain parts of the unit design, such as the superstructure of cruisers and the tail rotor guard and skids of 'copters and various fittings on rovers, foils, and needlejets will change color depending not on your faction, but on your place in the turn order.
  • Comeback Mechanic: Many good events only fire for players that are not in the top three, and many bad events specifically target players in the top three.
  • Commie Land: While the Hive borrows and incorporates quite a bit of Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist-Maoist principles, the Free Drones try to take the Communist ideal of a classless society to its logical conclusion.
  • Commie Nazis: The Hive meanwhile is essentially an unholy blend of Western authoritarianism, Eastern philosophy, and Communism at its most brutal, "justified" with ideas from Nietzsche, the Chinese classics, and Chairman Mao.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Aside from the straight examples under subtropes, there are some interesting inversions
    • It is possible to reassign the workers of any faction you have infiltrator access with to or from specialists via the bases ledger, which can effectively start drone riots or cause starvation, though the AI will set its workers back as soon as possible.
    • On the easiest three difficulties, the AI will never begin a secret project that a player doesn't have the technology for.
  • Corporate Warfare: Aside from his actions on Planet, Nwabudike Morgan got his start by hiring mercenaries to take over diamond mines back in Namibia. His other earthly ventures included "funding mercenary forces, U.N. escorts... and creating Morgan SafeHaven Hotel Fortress chain 'for the discriminating executive'."
  • Crapsack World: Earth had turned into this in the backstory and no matter how well you do, Planet will go this way as well as she starts to ramp up the mind worm population to deal with the human infestation. Also, most of the factions can be pretty shitty places to live in depending on your social position.
  • Creepy Monotone: Aki Zeta-5. Yang to a lesser extent.
  • Crutch Character:
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Some environmental projects, such as The Telepathic Matrix, are run by what looks like mages in shiny, luminous temples.
    • Used Future: Other structures, however, look dirty, dilapidated, and run by thousands of underpaid workers. The movie for The Self-Aware Colony comes to mind.
    • It also depends on the faction in question. Gaians in particular gravitate towards said Crystal Spires (maybe lacking the togas, maybe not) while the others cover various other sci-fi tropes.
  • Curse Cut Short: "Hey! Get off my land, you peacekeeping sonofa—" (channel change)
  • Cutscene: After finishing Secret Project, a cutscene is played. Some of them are barely animated, some are CGI and others are edited from Baraka. It gives a really eerie feeling how unrelated film fits into themes of the game and those cutscenes can easily count as Nightmare Fuel.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Zakharov is the planet's most brilliant geek, so it makes sense that he'll occasionally make an offhand snarky comment.
  • Deadly Euphemism: War has become something of a taboo among the Unity factions. So how do they get past the "never again" clause? By declaring "vendettas."
  • Death World: Deirdre makes it very clear that "juicy ripe grenade fruits may look appealing, but a mouthful of highly toxic organonitrates will certainly change your mind in a hurry."
    • Organonitrates also tend to be explosive, so the "grenade fruit" might well be aptly named.
    • The xenofungus and mind worms cross this with Everything Is Trying to Kill You, since the planetary Hive Mind recognizes any sort of independent thought as a threat—i.e. the human colonies—and it's up to the mind worms to kill the source of any such anomaly.
    • While Planet is very hostile to Earth animals, the carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere and nitrogenous soil make Planet a paradise for Earth plant life.
  • Defiant to the End: Subverted and then played straight. As you begin to crush a rival beneath your feet, they will ask for a truce. Continue and they'll ask for a truce and try to bribe you with credits or research. Finally, when it's certain they'll lose, they say that they confess their defeat is inevitable and throw themselves at your mercy, offering an alliance and all remaining energy credits and tech if you spare them. Refusal at this point means it's to the death, they will not negotiate with you further and will refuse contact from you, calling "very well, we shall fight to the last man!"
  • Disc-One Nuke:
    • "The Weather Paradigm" secret project increases the rate of all terraforming actions, save for removing xenofungus, by 50%, and also lets you raise and lower terrain, and build boreholes and condensers, without needing the mid-game technologies normally needed to enable them.
    • For Zakharov, "The Virtual World". The Virtual World makes every Network Node in the player's faction double as a Hologram Theater, quelling drones and providing Psyche—it so happens that one of the perks of the University is that every base gets a free Network Node upon construction. Zakharov's problems with extra drones just got solved for the next century or so.
      • If rushed for, the Hunter Seeker Algorithm can be gained in the early-mid game by the University faction. What does that project do? Oh, only remove their biggest weakness, probe teams. Permanently.
    • If you're fortunate enough to begin near a landmark, which give some sort of resource bonus to bases in their radius, it's a big help. Special mention to the Ruins and the Unity wreckage. The Ruins are a cluster of 8 Monoliths, which each give 2 of each resource, while the wreckage gives you a Unity Chopper, Mining Laser, and 150 energy credits.
  • Distinction Without a Difference : The factions don't wage war, as that was what led to the doom of Old Earth. They will, however, pursue vendettas with each other.
  • Door-Closes Ending: Defeat another faction by force, and you get to see the defeated faction leader levitating in a sphere of Electric Torture. Bloodcurdling scream. Blast door with the defeated faction's logo slamming shut, closing off the victim from view mid-scream.
  • Downer Beginning: The intro shows the UNS Unity launching amidst mounting global chaos. And it's all but stated that civilization blew up back on Earth by the time the colonists made Planetfall.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The expanded universe prologue suggest that the Unity planners took no account of the personalities of the ship's leaders before launching.
  • Earth That Was: "You are the children of a dead planet, earthdeidre and this death we do not comprehend. We shall take you in, but may we ask this question—will we too catch the planetdeath disease?" -Voice of the Planet
  • Eco-Terrorist: The Cult of Planet in Alien Crossfire is kind of like this, except they are defending an environment that is more than capable of defending itself, and believe in their cause so strongly they would gladly let humanity go extinct to preserve Planet. (They can convince Planet not to kill them by doing this, and in fact lend them aid in the form of slightly more docile—to them—wildlife.)
  • Egopolis: A lot of the leaders will name at least one of their settlements after themselves if enough are constructed, Yang and Morgan more so than most.
    • Curiously averted by Aki Zeta-5. Usually the Cybernetic Consciousness name their bases along the Greek letters (Alpha Prime, Beta Crossing, Gamma Flats...). The letter Zeta gets skipped, even if one would turn two blind eyes to it, due to the thematic naming.
  • Emotionless Girl: Aki Zeta-5 of the Consciousness.
  • Emperor Scientist: Zakharov may be a researcher, but all of the original seven faction leaders are scientists in their own way. Deirdre's a botanist and plant geneticist, Lal's a surgeon but has done biological research, Yang's a brilliant social engineer with a voracious appetite for learning (having a collection of Classical Chinese poetry and a deep understanding of both Western and Eastern philosophy), Morgan's a visionary financial genius with insight about both psychology and economics, Santiago has a keen insight into military science and has a good handle on industry, and Miriam is a social psychologist who does know a thing or two about the hard sciences, as her quote on plasma steel armor indicates. The seven faction leaders in the expansion also have shades of it. But since they are added in the expansion, you can only assume it based on the 3-4 quotes each of them received.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: The Datalinks entries for every tech advance, base facility, unit ability, and Secret Project in the game. These, of course, run parallel to later Civilization games' Civilopedias. It's thorough.
  • Energy Economy: The Global Currency is energy credits, with energy gathered from solar collectors, tidal generators, and thermal boreholes. Nwabudike said it best when he said:
    "In former times the energy monopoly was called 'The Power Company'; we intend to give this name an entirely new meaning."
  • Everything Is Trying to Kill You: The mind worms are Planet's natural defenses against alien threats, and they specifically target sources of independent thought that is not linked to the planetary Hive Mind. If you start mucking up the environment very badly, Planet will let loose bigger hordes of mind worms and, in extreme cases, their flying counterparts, the Locusts of Chiron.
  • Expanded Universe: A relatively small one, consisting of three novels (Centauri Dawn, Dragon Sun, and Twilight of the Mind), a graphic novel (Power of the Mind Worms), and two free short stories (Journey to Centauri chronicling the story of the U.N.S. Unity in the Alpha Centauri system and Centauri: Arrival introducing the new faction in Alien Crossfire). The novelizations are loosely based on the three scenarios included with the game. In addition, GURPS released a sourcebook for Alpha Centauri. In addition to stats, it provides a lot of background detail on the factions that aren't in the game.
  • Exposition of Immortality: One of the text interludes that crop up during gameplay at various intervals mentions you and your Planetfall colleagues still being alive after several centuries. It makes mention of you spending time in a rejuvenation tank in order to maintain your longevity and that at least one of your staff still looks to be in the prime of his youth, even after two hundred years.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: And in the worst way imaginable.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient:
    • The police state government reduces the "efficiency" stat by quite a bit, increasing energy losses due to number of cities by a lot. Combined with a planned economy for the full totalitarian experience, and the resulting inefficiency will reduce energy income to almost nothing. (The Hive is an exception to this, probably due to both this combination fitting their theme well, and not having a lot of other good social policy combinations.) Thought Control also has reduced support, mainly said to be due to resources needed to control the population.
    • Averted with the Cloning Vats Secret Project, which eliminates the support penalty for Thought Control and the industry penalty for Power.
  • Fantastic Caste System: Alpha Centauri has access to advanced psychological science and genetic engineering, but the availability of these benefits is uneven, resulting in a three-tiered system based on intelligence: the tiers are Talents (elite, highly-educated transhumans with full access to the benefits of their faction's technology), Citizens (average joes with limited access to psychiatric education) and Drones (inferior humans, treated as slaves and kept under control by Bread and Circuses, armed police or nerve stapling). The Free Drones attempt to avoid this form of social stratification, but it's still in effect nonetheless.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Despite being based around ideologies (at least initially), the original seven factions still retain elements of their nations of inspiration and are reminiscent of certain societies back on Earth:
    • The Hive is fairly clearly a dystopian vision of what the People's Republic of China could become, fully committed to authoritarianism, with all the wonders of modern technology deployed to control every aspect of all its people's lives. (One wonders what the developers would have thought in 1997 if we described Xi Jinping's regime to them...)
    • The University is a combination of everything people hoped and feared was possible out of The New Russia in the '90s. (Nobody foresaw Putin, not really.)
    • The Gaians are a distillation of the European environmental and "soft" social-democratic movements.
    • The Peacekeepers are heavily influenced by the democratic, multicultural, prosperous India that was emerging in the '90s (of course), where even the supposedly-right-wing-nationalist BJP could set aside prejudice in the name of progress and delivering services. (Nobody foresaw Modi, not really.) It also reflects the other English-speaking democracies (including the US and UK). The American influence is definite given the exceptionalist humanitarianism of the faction.
    • The Believers capture the spirit of the American Evangelical movement, and there's something distinctly American about the exceptionalist messianism of the faction. (Or, to use terminology that would be alien to the late-'90s creators of the game but a concept they would probably have foreseen: Peacekeepers are Blue State Americans, Believers are Red State Americans.)
    • The Morganites latch onto Africa's peculiar hope of wealth through natural resources and boundless opportunity, although (again) there's a whiff of America about them—the CEO, after all, had studied and played football there.
    • The Spartans, by contrast, latch onto the chronic instability of much of Latin America at the turn of the century. (How things have changed...)
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Averted - as part of the game's attempt to depict a (relatively) hard science-fiction setting and obey the laws of physics (as they were understood at the time), the colonists made the interstellar voyage by Sleeper Ship, which takes 40 years (departing Earth in 2060 and arriving at Chiron in 2100). This equates to an average speed of 0.109cnote , which is about as fast as theoretical interstellar ships using technology conceivable by modern science were expected to be able to travel at the time.
    • Played Straight by the Progenitors, who have the option to build a Subspace beacon to send a distress signal to their main fleet, who then arrive instantly to destroy the other factions.
  • The Federation: What the Unity colonists were originally meant to establish. Pravin Lal's Peacekeepers meanwhile are the only ones still following the old UN mandate.
  • Feelies: The Virtual World Secret Project.
  • Fiction 500: Morgan Industries, sponsor of the entire UNS Unity project and owner of a whole faction!
  • Fictional Geneva Conventions: The UN Charter prohibits extermination of human populations, the use of nerve gas, nerve stapling people (in a non-systematic way; it's perfectly okay to run a Punishment Sphere, though), and the use of planetbusters. However, you can repeal the Charter, which strips out all of these regulations except the law against planetbusting.
  • Flavor Text: Two sets for each technology - one a quote, often from a faction leader or philosopher, and the other a description of the technology and how its prerequisites lead to it. Additionally, all secret projects and base facilities are accompanied by a quote similar to those for technologies.
  • Fling a Light into the Future/Hope Spot: The UNS Unity was one for humanity, a last ditch effort by the United Nations to save some semblance of civilization somewhere in the stars while Earth slowly slid into self-inflicted oblivion. The game itself has you determine whether that hope was well-placed or not.
  • Fungus Humongous: Xenofungus is, while made up of individually small fungal stalks, also functional as a Planetwide superorganism. It also forms enormous fungal towers that make it very difficult to get past certain areas.
  • Futuristic Superhighway: The player can build "magtubes" once one finishes the Magnetic Monopole research. They function like Civilization's railroads, allowing instant travel between locations with a continuous magtube path.
  • Gaia's Lament: Earth in the backstory.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Start polluting the planet, and you'll have to fight wave after wave of mind worms while keeping them clear from your bases. The Cult of Planet attempts to give this a more organized form.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration:
    • Planet's environment is stated to be extremely favorable to Earth flora, and accordingly, forests grow rapidly and vigorously to the point that they crowd out the native xenofungus.
    • The Manifold Caretakers came to Planet to stop the Usurpers (and anyone else they might find attempting to do the same) from triggering another Flowering. Accordingly, they cannot pursue a Transcendence victory.
    • As the interludes progress and Planet wakes up and becomes more capable of communication, the aggression of the native life and the frequency of encounters with them in the wild declines. At the same time, targeted attacks against bases, especially those causing significant eco-damage, increase.
    • The ideologies held by factions nearly always result perfectly reasonable restrictions on social engineering - of course Lal would never run a police state and neither Dierdre nor Cha Dawn would run an environmentally ruinous free market.
    • The Caretakers and Usurpers despise each other and were already engaged in an ages-old blood feud before making Planetfall. As such they can never be at peace with each other.
    • Cha Dawn was born after Planetfall and the Progenitors arrived a few years after the humans did. Accordingly, if they are not player-controlled, they spawn into the game a few turns in (the Progenitors get an interlude, while the Cult silently springs into being), while if they are, the game starts a few years after 2100 (though it also assumes that the other factions did exactly nothing for the first few years).
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • No amount of clearing xenofungus will ever adversely affect the Planetmind's ability to communicate with you or otherwise make its presence felt or even be commented on in an interlude.
    • The Gaians are stated to have used mind worms to wage war against the Spartans without anyone knowing that the Gaians were doing anything. In-game, it is impossible to pin the blame for attacks by tamed mind worms on the wild native life.
  • Gang Up on the Human: Late in the game, as global warming from increased populations and industrial activity provokes Planet, it is supposed to start sending massive waves of mind worms to attack the faction most responsible. Instead of two or three mind worms randomly appearing, massive armies numbering 30-40 in some instances will start suddenly popping up outside of your major bases—and as soon as you defeat the last of this batch (or nearly so), another batch just as large will suddenly sprout into being (the Planet just generates them—unlike your faction enemies, it has no infrastructure limitations). Dropping some Planet Buster nukes causes massive ecological damage so this is guaranteed to make Planet start sending waves of native life after you. The kicker? In single-player, Planet will always single out the human player...even if you were not the one who detonated nukes, or if you only have a meager infrastructure relative to the super-power factions who are doing the overwhelming majority of the pollution. Planet won't single out the faction that fired nukes like it's supposed to, nor will it at least attack every faction equally. Basically as soon as planet-wide eco-damage becomes bad enough, regardless of who caused it, it will single out you the human player as a target. It also gets fairly determined to wipe you off the map: if you're in the late game and have sufficiently advanced tech and military, such as Tachyon Shields around each base and units armed with maxed out tech tree capabilities (Stasis Generator armor, Singularity Engines, Graviton Guns, etc.) you can actually weather an assault by 30 mind worms for one turn. So it just sends more of these super-swarms of over 30 mind worms. Within the space of ten turns you can sometimes fight off over 300 of these things, and they just keep coming. Even if you weren't even responsible for the eco-damage. Dropping a Planet Buster on one of these super-swarms doesn't really help either: 1, they usually pop up right next to your own base, so you're nuking your own soil, dropping the soil down to sea level; 2, dropping nukes is one of the things that specifically pisses off Planet even more (though given that it's already mad at you personally for no good reason...); and 3, for all the damage the Planet Buster does to the landscape, the computer shall just auto-generate another super-swarm of over 30 mind worms on the next turn. While all of this is going on, none of the other, even more powerful factions are getting targeted.
  • Genius Loci:
    • What you—and all of humanity—become after reaching the Transcendence victory.
    • The Self-Aware Colony secret project turns your cities into these.
  • Geo Effects:
    • High ground means better output from solar collectors, rocky terrain increases mine output, fungus is a general-purpose pain in the ass unless you're Gaians/Planet Cult or have a ton of Explore technologies/secret projects, and so on.
    • Since the terraformer units in the game can change the elevation of a map tile, a viable (if ridiculous) strategy in the game is to create a mountain chain between yourself and an enemy to the east. Mountains actually trap moisture, like they do in real life; since for purposes of that the game assumes that the wind blows ever eastwards, it's possible to use the "raise terrain" command as a way of giving yourself better farmland while making deserts out of a rival's farms.
    • A shorter way, albeit a more expensive one, would be to launch a missile with a seismic warhead and detonate it over the needed terrain. This will create an instant mountain. Since this warhead does not wipe out cities, it is not considered an atrocity by the other factions. Edward Teller would be proud.
    • Another silly terraformer trick involves lowering the terrain between you and another faction to cut them off as an island, or doing so within their territory to drown any colonies that don't have Pressure Domes. This works because all terrain below sea level is assumed to be a lake or ocean basin.
    • In more combat-focused geo effects, infantry defend better in rocky terrain and rovers and hovertanks attack better on flat terrain
  • Glass Cannon:
    • Any unit with a high attack rating and a low defense rating becomes this ans the Unit cost system encourages this for mobile units, as any land or air unit with a base speed higher than 1 has an increased price multiplier if both their weapons and armor are greater than 1.
    • In-universe, mind worms are also glass cannons. They can chew through any armor like paper, yet their squishy bodies die easily to conventional weapons. The real threat is the terror they instill in their victims. Battles with them thus revolves around morale and mental combat. If your guys are more experienced and mentally tougher, they can keep it together long enough to blow away the worms, but if they're green cadets, they'll panic and die quickly even if they're in a diamond-hard hovertank. Presumably a similar principle applies to manufactured psionic weapons and defenses.
  • Global Currency: The ubiquitous energy credits used by all 12 human factions and both Progenitor factions.
  • Global Warming:
    • Building on high land and trying to drown your rivals by inducing global warming is a viable strategy, so long as they haven't built Pressure Domes yet. On the flip side, you can choose to induce global cooling, lower the sea levels and get more land.
    • Once a Faction has researched the proper technology, the Council can even go and intentionally raise the sea levels using artificial global warming via giant space mirrors.
    • Can also be Inverted by Council action after discovering the right tech. Timing it right (on the same turn that the global warming event occurs) can actually negate a round of global warming, while missing the timing will still result in changes to elevations and coastlines as the sea level alternately raises and lowers, and not all tiles added and removed match up.
  • Glorious Mother Russia: Zakharov's University is not very overt about it, but there's a clear Russian overtone present, albeit with a strong emphasis on the technocratic aspects of the Soviet Union and Russia's scientific tradition.
  • Gone Horribly Right: If any human faction other than the Peacekeepers managed to take control of Planet by means other than Transcendence, you would have achieved exactly what the Unity project was intended to do in the beginning: To create a new home for humanity on Alpha Centauri, unified under a single government that will be able to face the dangers of the universe.note  Too bad that said government would have an ideology that is vastly different from the one that the original UN council had in mind—although it wouldn't necessarily be completely at odds with the UN vision (particularly with the Gaians, Drones or Data Angels in charge, although a Democratic University or Morgan world would be halfway within tolerances).
  • Good Is Not Soft: Domai started his revolt for the benefit of the downtrodden drones, and his end goal is a free peaceful society focused on maximizing the happiness of the people in it. He's also the only explicitly physically violent leader and is quite aggressive politically.
  • Good Pays Better:
    • Lal and his Peacekeepers are The Remnant of United Nations. While his faction is somewhat crippled with Vast Bureaucracy, all his bases can grow bigger, his people are happier and less likely to riot. His preferred social choice is of course Democracy, giving him further advantages toward expansion and nullifying his efficiency problems.
    • Running Democracy is the most effective choice for social engineering, since it gives population bonus and efficient economy with price of costly military. Other choices are Police State, which lowers your efficiency and Fundamental, which hurts your research.
    • With the right secret project, stacking your planet rating makes fungus tiles far and away the most productive land in the game, as the project gives a boost to fungus and monolith tile yields that scales to your planet rating.
    • Picking a Value of your faction is basically a choice between Knowledge (research bonus and efficient economy) and Wealth (production boost and more profitable economy), since Power makes things much more costly to build and doesn't help your economy in any way.
    • In later stages, there is a "Future Society" tab, which provides you with Eudaimonia, giving overall bonuses to just everything aside of warfare and Cybernetic, which makes your faction an efficiency and research powerhorse. This is contrasted with Thought Control, which is perfect for warmongers, but extremely costly to run.
    • And then it's all put on its head with Cloning Vats—a Secret Project, that removes all the disadvantages of both Power and Thought Control.
    • There is also Yang and his Human Hive with their faction immunity to inefficiency, so he can run Police State with Planned Economy without any problems—something that can kill any other faction.
  • Graffiti of the Resistance: The cinematic accompanying the completion of "Self-Aware Colony" secret project, includes two people fleeing through an empty city from a "We Must Dissent!" graffiti, while voices whisper the slogan in the background. The pair ends up locked in a passage, where something horrible is done to them. The almost finished writing of another tag—along with a pair of human-shaped burn marks—is then swiftly removed without a trace within seconds by automatic mechanisms. An Encyclopedia Exposita quote from one of the faction leaders serves as an Epigraph.
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: About the only ones officially called out as evil are the Usurpers; the others are shown to have their good points and their bad. Even the Hive, Believers, Cult of Planet, and Caretakers are Well Intentioned Extremists with some valid points.
  • Great Offscreen War:
    • "Tau Ceti Flowering" which happened before game play. The Progenitors created another planet similar to Chiron; only when it attained sentience, it went insane and destroyed itself and most of the Progenitor civilization. This caused the survivors to split into two factions divided by their preferred response to the Flowering.
    • It's also implied that civilization back on Earth eventually went down in flames not long after Unity left. By the time Planet's descendants return, only a handful of eroded craters remain of that carnage.
  • Guide Dang It!: The cap for more "clean" minerals produced by your bases increases with eco-friendly facilities only after you experience your first fungal bloom, i.e. after you already produce dangerous levels of eco-damage for the first time, giving you Planet's response. Good luck figuring it out on your own.
  • Guilt-Based Gaming: If you go to quit the game, it tells you, "Please don't go. The drones need you. They look up to you."
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: In Alien Crossfire, the UN charter only prevents humans from using nerve gas or genetic plagues against other humans, not against the Progenitor aliens. You still can't use Planet Busters against them though (even using Planet Busters against native life is considered an atrocity due to the massive ecological damage that results). The Progenitors, meanwhile, are permanently in a state of war with each other so they stand nothing to gain by not nerve-gassing the other alien faction. If you're playing a Progenitor using Planet Busters is still not advisable: while you're not a signatory to the UN charter and thus can't be thrown out of council meetings you aren't a member of it the first place, using Planet Busters will make all of the human factions declare war against you anyway. Genetic plague only kills one population size at any base; however, attacking a city with a nerve-gas equipped unit will halve its population. Late game if you attack a size-30 Progenitor capital city with a massive defensive garrison, rather than using a Planet Buster and suffering from diplomatic and ecological penalties, if you just send 6-7 units armed with nerve gas you can wipe out the entire city guilt free (the first unit halves it from 30 to 15 population, the next from 15 to 7, and so on). The only drawback to using chemical weapons against one of the alien factions is that they will probably never agree to a truce with you again, but stay in a permanent state of war. So don't use nerve-gas for short term goals, only if you're going all in and wiping them off the planet. (Chiron belongs to humans!)
  • Hacker Collective: The Data Angels are a faction whose hat is hacking.
  • Hannibal Lecture: When a computer leader thinks it has you on the ropes, or hilariously when you refuse their surrender and steamroll them.
  • Hard-Coded Hostility: Mind worms. You can train your own or capture individual units, but wild mind worms will always spawn as hostile to absolutely everyone.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power:
    • The Peacekeepers get extra happy people, extra space for people and doubled council votes. Minor bonuses until one realizes that happy people lead to golden ages and population booms. Coupled with doubled votes, this is instant diplomatic victory.
    • A positive Planet rating (which the Gaians, Cult of Planet, and Caretakers start with) has little in the way of passive bonuses, but allows you capture the native life, which never really goes obsolete, includes the only unit that is both a transport and a combat unit (isles of the deep), and if captured far enough from one of your bases, is likely to be independent, and thus require no upkeep. It also gives a bonus in combat against native life that you fail to capture, making it easier to farm them for credits.
  • Heroic Willpower: If you don't have empathic powers or special hypnotic training of your own, your only defense against mind worms is to simply brave their Mind Rape for long enough to turn flamethrowers on them. Trained and disciplined soldiers, particularly veterans who have already experienced combat firsthand, tend to be better at this than green conscripts.
  • History Repeats: A recurring motif up to and including Planet's eons-long cycles, with the Transcendence victory being a means of averting this trope.
  • Human Popsicle: How colonists are stored in Colony Pods (read: new cities in the making).
  • Human Resources: Implied in the quote for Recycling Tanks.
  • Human Subspecies: With the right technology, two human variants are possible:
    • Homo Superior: A being equal parts organic and computer, using the best of both worlds.
    • Genejacks: Genetically modified for labor, with strong body and little brain. It's probably no surprise that Chairman Yang was behind this.
  • Humans Kill Wantonly: Long before realizing nature of the Planet and mind worms, humans (with exception of pro-green factions) treat the Planet more or less as their promised land full of opportunities to profit in many different ways. And wage wars based on tiny ideological differences.
    Lal: In the years since our arrival, we have foolishly disrupted so many of Planet's ecosystems that entire species may vanish without our ever having understood, or even known them. We must halt this plunder, and halt it immediately, for our own survival as a species depends on our ability to strike a balance on this world.
  • Hypocrite: The factions and their leaders tend to be this in varying degrees. Santiago pulls some strings to protect her physically deficient son, in spite of her utter repudiation of weakness. Zakharov conducts experiments in secret, despite his encouragement of freedom of information, and Deirdre's avowed pacifism doesn't stop her from declaring vendetta on the other factions. And on that note, despite the unanimous disdain of the warfare that destroyed the Earth, the vendettas conducted on Alpha Centauri are essentially the same story with a different name.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Ranked from "Citizen" to "Transcend", named after the non-field jobs your bases' workers can take.
  • Ill Girl: Aki Zeta-5 in the Backstory suffered from rheumatic fever three weeks before planetfall.
  • Immortality Seeker: Though all the faction leaders and Talents have greatly extended lifespans due to advanced medical techniques, the Secret Project titled "Clinical Immortality" shows its rather... unsettling long-term consequences. Guess that's what you get when you're an early adopter.
    "I plan to live forever, of course, but barring that I'd settle for a couple thousand years. Even five hundred would be pretty nice."
    CEO Nwabudike Morgan
  • Immortal Ruler: The faction leaders use experimental gene therapies to live at least 500 years.
  • Impeded Communication:
    • One of the random events is Solar Flare Disaster. It disrupts any sort of diplomatic communications for set number of turns... but also makes atrocities impossible to detect.
    • Units can be equipped with the "Comm Jammer" ECM upgrade; this makes a unit have a more effective defense against a "mobile" land-based attacker (rovers and hovertanks).
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: Subverted. There is the "Pre-Sentient Algorithms" technology and its descendants, not to mention Aki Zeta-5 and pals, but the trope is somewhat subverted in that true AIs are hardly instant. Like children, they take time to grow, and they have to be guided by a more mature intelligence to develop properly.
  • Intelligent Forest: The Xenofungus turns out to be a vestigial neural network housing a fledgling sentience, one which has achieved near-godhood on multiple occasions in Planet's history only to inadvertently trigger mass extinctions which resulted in its inevitable collapse.
  • Irony:
    • Further down the tech tree, Sister Miriam Godwinson sounds increasingly rational and cautious regarding some of the more questionable tech advances; one couldn't help but find her "We Must Dissent" quotes sensible compared to the Self-Aware Colony. That her faction, the Lord's Believers takes up at least some Catholic pretensions in its overall aesthetic despite being comprised largely of Protestants just adds to it.
    • In contrast, Zakharov, a man obsessed with scientific endeavor starts referring to discoveries and revelations in a more religious overtone. Towards the end, he even explicitly calls the burgeoning Planet-mind an "awakening alien god" in the Voice of Planet project.
    • It's stated that the UNS Unity colonists were no longer divided by ethnicity or nationality but by ideology. But while the ideological factions initially follow that line, over time they tend to mirror (and function like) the very nation-states they've supposedly abandoned.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats:
    • The Peacekeepers. Their advantages and disadvantages are all relatively slight, so they're a good all-'round introductory faction (although the Gaians can also serve this role).
    • The Pirates. While they face slightly greater innate penalties than the Peacekeepers, the Pirates are unique among human factions in that they are not barred from any social engineering option. Furthermore their aquatic start buys them relative freedom from early conflict with other factions and their significant advantages at sea come with no corresponding drawbacks on land.
  • The Joy of X: The title of your memoirs after you retire (used as a ranking of how well you did) is based off an existing work.
  • Just in Time: You will always be just in time with Voice of Planet. Whenever you complete the project, it'll be just in time to abort the Flowering and set off the race for Transcendence.
  • Just One More Level: Lampshades this, and even encourages it at one point.
  • Kill It with Fire: The standard approach to mind worms is to loose flamethrowers on them. If they can manage to overcome the overwhelming psychic terror, that is.
  • La Résistance: the Free Drones from Alien Crossfire.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Flavor text for the secret project "Longevity Vaccine" has Morgan saying: "I plan to live forever, of course, but barring that I'd settle for a couple thousand years. Even five hundred would be pretty nice." Funny how five hundred years is also the allotted length for a normal game.
  • LEGO Genetics: Discussed and averted: one of Zakharov's quotes insists "genes are not blueprints."
  • Leitmotif: Every faction has theme music and cues that play as you control them, which are usually sensitive to your actions and change accordingly. The original game has five themes shared amongst the seven factions: the University, the Spartans, and the Believers each have their own music, while the Peacekeepers and the Gaians share one, as do the Hive and the Morganites.
  • Longevity Treatment: Several forms:
    • There is a secret project called 'The Longevity Vaccine' and another called 'Clinical Immortality'.
    • The faction leaders are mentioned to undergo harsh gene therapies and other treatments so that they can remain active throughout the whole 500 years of the game.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • A Diplomatic Victory is achieved by convincing 3/4 of the all people living on the planet to unite behind you as leader. However, play your game right and it's possible your vote is 3/4 of the people living on the planet, or close to it. The result is that even if the other six leaders vote "No," your vote for "Yes" will count as a "Diplomatic Victory."
    • The U.N. Charter only protects human factions - non-signatory aliens are under no legal protection from chemical warfare or having their bases razed. It also only protects from signatory factions - since the aliens were never party to the U.N. Charter, they incur no penalty for minor atrocities, save for the standard ire from the receiving party.
    • In a mechanical loophole abuse, the Marine Detachment special ability for naval units allows them to capture any enemy vessel, which means that you can capture a Progenitor naval base (or human if you're a Progenitor faction), forcing it to release escape pods (colony pods - sea colony pods), then capture them in naval combat and use them to establish your own bases, thereby getting more than just one population out of capturing a Progenitor base (or, again, human if you're a Progenitor faction)
    • If you get the ability to control Mindworm Boils, you can release control of it near anyone's units or cities. The Boil will attack on its own accord, so it's technically not an attack by you, just some wild animal who mysteriously ended up near their units and city.
  • Mad Scientist: The University is implied to be what happens when a large number of Mad Scientist types hang out together. The Academician seems like an Affably Evil version from some of his quotes. The Gaians are similar but the madness is because of being best friends with mind worms. The Morganites also have a Lex Luthor tendency to hire these types. Note however that the science involved is still very hard, its more a case that the scientific advances come easier to a science/corporate based society with an ethics board that is either a cost/benefit analysis or a question about how scientific the research is.
  • Mama Bear: Invoked and overlapping with Papa Wolf. The presence of a Children's Creche imparts a defensive bonus (if Morale on Social Engineering is at 0, it is instead treated as 1 for all units) as defending units are determined to protect the base's children. Colonel Santiago says as much in the facility's flavor text.
    "...And never forget that, with children present, parents will defend their home to the death."
    -Colonel Corazon Santiago, Planet: A Survivalist's Guide
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Prokhor Zakharov. His first name is so close to 'Proctor' that the two will become inevitably mixed up. A proctor watches over students taking a test, much like Zakharov watches over his people as they take the test of Planet.
    • Alpha Centauri B is named "Hercules", after the Greek Demigod, because he was often an enemy to centaurs. When Hercules reaches perihelion, bad things happen to Chiron, usually in the form of extra swarms of mind worms and fungal blooms.
    • Nwabudike Morgan. His surname recalls that of J. P. Morgan, the renowned American financier and philanthropist who helped change America (the powerful banking institution he founded still bears his name today). J. P. also invested in electricity and co-founded General Electric.note  In the game, one of Nwabudike's quotes is "Energy is the currency of the future."
    • Miriam Godwinson and Chairman Yang are rather blatant.
    • Miriam is also the name of Moses's sister, the first Jewish prophet. The name Miriam is similar to Maryam; Arabic for (the Virgin) Mary. Plus the Saxon King Harold Godwinson was the one who took over from Edward the Confessor; called so of course because of his piety but there's more; Miriam's voice actress is Gretchen Weigel; a German name which is also fitting given that the Saxons were of German descent and Germany was where the Reformation began.
      • It goes even further if you are familiar German literature: Gretchen is a pure and pious character in Goethe's Faust, and the German expression for a crucial question is Gretchenfrage - literally, Gretchen's question. The original question in Faust? "What is your take on religion." Wow.
    • The Nautilus Pirates almost certainly get their faction name's inspiration from the submarine in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
  • Mega-Corp: Morgan Industries, a corporation the size of an entire faction. (For comparison, imagine if the world had become twelve enormous countries. Now imagine that one of those countries was entirely owned and operated by a single corporation—which also did work outside its own borders.)
  • Mighty Glacier: Infantry are encouraged to be mighty glaciers as they do not incur additional costs for having high offense and high defense like more mobile land and air units.
  • Mind Rape:
    • The way mind worms paralyze their victims.
    • It's implied that The Dream Twister secret project is based on subjecting hundreds of people to this to learn how to enhance psi powers.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Very hard. How hard? We've already created several of the technologies and secret projects that are in the game. The Human Genome Project was completed several years after the game came out and we just recently made monopole magnets, although on a very small scale. The hardness obviously decreases as you move up the technology tree toward anti-gravity, singularity reactors, and teleportation, but even many of those things haven't been conclusively shown to be impossible yet.
  • Money Spider: Dead mind worms tend to leave behind "Planetpearls", which give a small amount of extra Energy Credits for each one. However, Planetpearls only drop when you attack the mind worms. If they attack you, you don't get anything.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-Universe example when using a Planetbuster, which completely annihilates the target but causes everyone to turn against you, even if you repealed the UN Charter against atrocities (It only covers minor atrocities, such as using chemical weapons and nerve stapling.) or use them against aliens. Including Planet. People will get nervous if you so much as build one, and when another faction lets you know they have, you know they're about to try to extort you for something. Nerve Stapling will result in a very negative reaction as well.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Zakharov may be named after Andrei Sakharov, a Russian nuclear scientist, whom Arthur C. Clarke fictively attributed the Leonov's reaction drive to in 2061: Odyssey Three. (Similar to the reaction drive used in the UN Unity, developed by Zakharov.) In the Real World, Sakharov is known for having won the Nobel Peace Prize for his activism against nuclear proliferation and the Arms Race...and the development of the 50MT "Tsar Bomba", aka the biggest bomb ever set off. (The latter led to the former.) It is worth noting that Zakharov is also a real Russian surname, unrelated to Sakharov, stressed on the second syllable (zaKHArov) unlike the original (SAkharov).
    • Zakharov was originally named "Saratov". The dev team changed his name before the game's release when it was pointed out that it was an improbable Russian surname. (There is a city and administrative region called Saratov though.)
    • CEO Nwabudike Morgan and his faction are likely a reference to the 20th century financier J. P. Morgan. And looks just like Morgan Freeman.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • Custom units have preset names, including one name each for high-powered offense and defense. For example, a gravship outfitted with a singularity laser (weapon power = 24, the highest number in vanilla SMAC) will be called a Singularity Deathsphere. Ooh yeah. On the other hand, this can lead to cases of Deathbringer the Adorable: Put Silksteel Armor on an Impact Rover, and you get an Impact Dragon. This might be scary in the early game, but would quickly get dated.
    • One method of putting down drone insurrections goes by the cheery and pleasant label of "nerve stapling." It basically amounts to torture via direct neural stimulation.
    • More or less the Theme Naming for Usurper bases - even aside from the fact that a faction called the Manifold Usurpers doesn't exactly sound like a pleasant bunch, their bases have names like Conquest of the Weak, Evil Eye, Salt : Wound, and Impaler Dome.
  • Naming Your Colony World: An example under virtually every category.
    • The Lord's Believers' first base is always New Jerusalem, and several other base names also fit the "New X" mold.
    • The Cybernetic Consciousness falls somewhere between symbolic naming and alphanumeric code naming, with names like Alpha Complex and Delta Marsh. Many of the second parts are thematically appropriate to the first part (eg. Omega Terminus) or punny (eg. Lambda Farm).
    • Most factions have an Egopolis or two in their name lists, such as Deirdre's Fishery, Port Yang, Ulrik's Hideaway, Maar’s Dissolution, and Godwinson’s Hope. However, Morgan Industries takes the cake, with every base being named "Morgan X", where X is a division of Morgan Industries.
    • Only a few base names are unmodified names of places on Earth, but one of the University's bases is Baikonur, which is a real place in Kazakhstan (fittingly, it is the home of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, home of the Soviet space programme and one of the most used orbital launch sites in the world) and the Pirates can establish a base called Barbary Coast, which is an outdated name for much of the North African coast and was famous for being a pirate haven for centuries, and another called Penzance, which is both a reference to the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Pirates of Penzance and the real town in which it takes place.
    • There are a handful bases named for people other than the faction leader, like the University's Gagarin Memorial and Pavlov Lab and the Believers' Noah's Rainbow. Furthermore, by following an event chain involving growing your own Mindworms and losing the very first unit thereof in battle with another faction, a base may be renamed in memory of the aide who was put in charge of those worms.
    • There are several bases named as Shout Outs, including the Data Angels' Googleplex (both a Google's headquarters and phonetically identical to a very large number (one followed by a googol (10^100) of zeroes)) and Tears In Rain, the Pirates' Robert's Dread, the Spartans' Farnham's Freehold, the Free Drones' Deep Platform Nine, and the Gaians' Vale of Winds.
    • Most other base names are symbolic and tend to follow a theme for each faction.
      • Gaian bases have environmentally themed names, such as Last Rose of Summer and Song of Planet.
      • Peacekeeper bases are all named as U.N. agencies, such as U.N. Social Council and U.N. Disaster Relief.
      • Spartan bases generally sound survivalist and/or like military bases, such as Survivalist Point and Fort Superiority.
      • Morganite Bases are all named as divisions of Morgan Industries, such as Morgan Hydrochemical and Morgan Metagenics.
      • Believing bases are all biblically themed with an evangelical Protestant Christian bent, such as He Walked On Water and Redemption Base.
      • University bases are named as laboratories and learning institutions mixed with references to Russian/Soviet scientific history, such as Academgorodok and Tsiolkovsky Institute.
      • Hive bases tend to sound communist, densely populated, and/or underground, such as Proletarian Knot and Unification Cavern.
      • Data Angel bases all sound cyberpunk/post-cyberpunk, such as Nettap Complex and Trojan Source.
      • Cybernetic bases are named as a mix of Greek letters and shapes or locations, often such that the combination forms a Punny Name or is otherwise particularly suited to the Greek letter in question, such as Psi Consensus and Delta Marsh.
      • Pirate bases sound piratey, or at least nautical, such as Privateer Quay and Sailor’s Delight. They also possess a much longer list of naval base names than most other factions, as well as a relatively short list of land base names.
      • Cult of Planet bases sound militant, religious, and Planet/Planetlife-centered, such as Sword of Planet and Wormfang Shrine.
      • Free Drone bases are mostly named in reference to heavy industry, labor unions, and freedom, such as Liberty Plant and Guild House.
      • Caretaker bases sound harmonious and protective and often follow the Progenitors' strange speech patters, such as Home : Hearth and Melody of Souls.
      • Usurper bases sound aggressive, conquering, and ambitious and less frequently follow the strange speech patterns the Progenitors often use, such as Conquest of the Weak and Godhood’s Grasp
    • Should you exhaust your entire base name list, base names fall back on a variation of letter and number theme naming, being named sequentially as "[Greek Letter] Sector", which can get kind of confusing if you're playing as the Cybernetic Consciousness.
  • Necessary Drawback: Land and air units are only allowed to pick two of high mobility, heavy armor, and powerful weapons without incurring steep additional costs, strongly encouraging units to be glass cannons, mighty glaciers, fragile speedsters, or stone walls. This can be overcome if cost is no object, but a heavily armed and armored gravship can cost more minerals than a late-game Secret Project. Sea units are exempt from this and may freely carry heavy armor and powerful weapons.
  • Neutrals, Critters, and Creeps: Mind-Worms, anneloid psychic creatures equivalent to neutrophils in the Planet's immune system that attack anything not native to Planet, including all the human factions (and both Progenitor factions in Alien Crossfire.) As the game progresses, you come across water-adapted Mind-Worm clumps called Isles of the Deep, and even airborne Worms - the Locusts of Chiron. Alien Crossfire introduces Spore Launchers, which have long-range artillery, speading the fungus around.
  • New Tech Is Not Cheap: This has prototyping, where the first unit of a new design has an added initial cost before you can even produce any. This cost is ignored by the Spartans and at bases with a Skunkworks. Prototype units do get a boost in morale, though.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Averted: whenever a human faction seizes a Progenitor colony (or vice versa), the incompatibilities between the species result in the colony being downsized to 1 population and a number of colony pods for the losing faction being created.
    • Even before the expansion pack added the Progenitors, it takes getting through a good part of the tech tree and thorough analysis of the native life to get useful amounts of resources out of Planet's native xenofungus. One of Lady Deirdre's in-game quotes (also given above) contrasts the appetizing look and decidedly unappetizing nature of a particular native fruit.
    • Even though Planet is remarkably Earth-like, its atmosphere has a lower proportion of oxygen (which, once again, is often mentioned by Lady Deirdre, who talks about plant life thriving in the anoxic environments on Planet). As a result, humans have to wear pressure helmets at the very least, lest they succumb to nitrogen narcosis. This is why all infantry units wear bodysuits in-game.
  • No Delays for the Wicked: Yang's special ability is immunity to inefficiency, meaning he can run a planned economy and a police state without any penalty.
  • No Name Given: While it does have a proper name, Chiron is usually referred to as simply "Planet".
  • No New Fashions in the Future: Averted. The various factions and their leaders have very different ideas for what constitutes fashion, all of which would be considered otherworldly by our standards. That said however, there are some exceptions: Corazon Santiago and her Spartans have a recognizably militarist aesthetic, the Morganites come across as having more futuristic versions of present-day corporate attire and Pravin Lal still seems to prefer more traditional Indian garb.
  • Nonindicative Name:
    • When a Secret Project is started, nearly finished, or completely finished, the fact is broadcast to the entire world.
    • The name "needlejet" implies an aircraft that is very long and thin with a pointy nose, similar to the F-104 Starfighter, but the map sprite depicts it as a short aircraft with a very large wingspan and a chisel-shaped nose, and other in-game art shows it with a roughly equal wingspan and overall length, with a broad fuselage and a chisel-shaped nose. Only the flavor.txt file implies dimensions roughly consistent with the needlejet name, with a length of 18.6 meters and a wingspan of 12.5 meters, making it about as long as a modern F-22 Raptor and giving it a wingspan about one meter smaller.
  • No Place for Me There/Necessary Evil: The Cult of Planet will build industrial capacity in their attempt to purge Planet of the pollution of humanity; they acknowledge this and will destroy them last once everything else is cleansed.
  • No-Sell: The Hunter-Seeker Algorithm project renders all of your cities and units immune to any sort of probe team sabotage and kills the team that attempts it. This makes it a must-have for the University and anybody else with a low Probe stat. (I.e. anyone running Knowledge—indeed, Hunter-Seeker is pretty much a license to run Knowledge, especially if for whatever reason fighting the Spartans is not an issue.)
    • Although it doesn't stop other factions from framing you for probing the rest who didn't get it.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: According to her Datalinks information, Deirdre is from Scotland, but Carolyn Dahl doesn't sound the slightest bit Scottish when voice-acting her. Averted with the other faction leaders, though.
  • Not Playing Fair With Resources:
    • On Transcend difficulty, the AI can mind control your units and bases or hurry production for less than a quarter of what the same would cost you, and several difficulty-related penalties do not affect the AI, such as eco-damage and base number-caused inefficiency. Additionally, on Thinker and Transcend, the AI pays reduced production costs.
    • Inverted on all difficulties under Librarian, where the AI will pay more production than the player.
  • Not So Stoic: Most of Zakharov's quotes have him speaking very calmly, an academic giving a lecture. However, in the quote for the Temple of Planet, he's absolutely furious:
    "Let the Gaians preach their silly religion, but one way or the other I shall see this compound burned, seared, and sterilized until every hiding place is found and until every last Mind Worm egg, every last slimy one, has been cooked to a smoking husk. That species shall be exterminated, I tell you! Exterminated!"
    Academician Prokhor Zakharov, Lab Three Aftermath
  • Not the Intended Use:
    • A more in-universe example than one in gameplay. Exploration/Discovery research sometimes provides you with devastating weapon upgrades. (For example, learning how to synthesize fossil fuels grants you the ability to build combustion-based rocket launchers.)
    • In a more meta sense, playing as the Believers, who are designed to be played very aggressively, can be great for playing a peaceful game with the original seven factions - the Believers are by far one of the largest drivers of conflict in AI hands, but take away those AI hands and run democratic politics and suddenly the normal primary source of conflict is (almost) everyone's best friend and at that point, you just occasionally have to tell Yang and Santiago to knock it off.
  • Novelization: A trilogy written by Michael Ely: Centauri Dawn, Dragon Sun and Twilight of the Mind, all of which are Darker and Edgier than the game.
  • Nude Nature Dance: Enemies of the Gaian faction might accuse Lady Deirdre of dancing naked in the trees.
  • One-Book Author: Of the ten voice actors in the vanilla game, five (Carolyn Dahl as Deirdre, Yuri Nesteroff as Zakharov, Wanda Nino as Santiago, Hesh Gordon as Lal, and Alena Kanka as the Voice of Planet) have no other acting credits whatsoever. (A sixth, Robert Levy as the male Datalinks voice, was also the narrator for the expansion but has no other credits beyond that.)
  • One Nation Under Copyright: Morgan Industries is structured like a corporation and run on the basic principle that "greed is good". Since corporate rule is not itself a choice in the Social Engineering options, the exact flavor of corporate rule can vary widely from one game to another—a power-focused police state ('Politburo of Directors') is just as possible as a knowledge-focused democracy ('One man, one voting share'), give or take hidden AI preferences.
  • One World Order: The original UNS Unity mandate was intended to be this. The various factions meanwhile try aiming at fulfilling that, albeit under their respective ideologies.
  • Opening Narration: There's a little blurb at the start explaining the situation.
  • Oppressive States of America: One of Pravin Lal's quotes references a painful lesson about the importance of free flow of information learned by Americans in Earth's final century.
    • The reference to the Christian States of America as Sister Miriam's nation of origin sheds more light on the situation..although not perfectly, since Captain Svensgaard in Alien Crossfire is explicitly mentioned to be from the United States of America. (Divided States of America is suspected, although the "Christian States of America" being a non-government organization is an accepted possible alternative).
  • Oracular Urchin: Cha Dawn from Alien Crossfire.
  • Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: Scanlines everywhere!
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: The Free Drones can very easily and effectively be played with a Police State social model. One wonders if the developers were making a subtle point here.
  • Perspective Flip: If you play as a Progenitor race in Alien Crossfire, the interludes and in-game messages all change to reflect that.
  • Physical God: In the epilogue after you complete your Ascent to Transcendence, the pronouns referring to You are capitalized, just as they usually are in reference to the Judeo-Christian God in religious literature.
  • Pro-Human Transhuman: Transcendi.
  • Player-Exclusive Mechanic: On the lowest three difficulty levels, the AI will never use probe teams for mind control, functionally making unit and base mind control a player-only mechanic on those difficulties.
  • The Promised Land: The people of Earth and Unity considered Planet to be this, due to Earth's massive Crapsack World status. The Believers consider Planet to be their Promised Land in a more Biblical sense as well.
  • Psychic Powers: Mind worms rely on telepathic fear to paralyze their victims. Humans can develop psi abilities too, from the telepathic empathi and mindworm handlers to units of psychic warriors who are as deadly as mind worms.
  • Punishment Box: the "punishment sphere", which make the oppressed masses too frightened to ever riot no matter what. Constructing this city improvement is not on the list of atrocities that will turn the other civilizations against you — because secretly, every faction has one stored away for the day they capture a defeated faction leader.
  • Puppet State: Completely trouncing a rival faction may leave them begging to be your puppet state instead of being annihilated. If you let them, they count as "conquered" for the purpose of a military victory.
    • They have other uses as well. They can be forced/extorted/cajoled/probed to: vote your way in council meetings, research one branch of the tech tree while you research another, serve as your bank note , fight a proxy war for you with someone whom you are nominally at peace with, build units for younote , build bases for you, serve as a buffer between you and a hostile faction.
  • Racial Remnant: All of humanity in the game, since Earth had been destroyed.
  • Random Event: The game has several random events that can occur on any turn after a certain number of turns have passednote . If the criteria for an event are not fulfulled, there will not be a pop-up mentioning it.
    • One family of events is either positive or negative depending on the presence of certain base facilities.
    • Energy Market Boom/Crash may happen depending on your energy reserves - if over 1000, it's a crash that costs you 75% of your reserves, while if your reserves are between 500 and 1000 and you aren't in the top 3, your reserves double.
    • Another family of events raises or lowers the resource output of all tiles worked by a base by 1 for one resource type for ten years.
    • Abundant energy/mineral/nutrient resources may be discovered or be exhausted.
    • Hail storms/sea beetles/tidal waves may destroy all solar collectors/kelp farms/mining platforms respectively around a base.
    • A volcano may erupt. If a base is near an existing one, that erupts and destroys all terrain enhancements in its radius and causes dust clouds that reduce the energy output of all tiles on the map by 1 for the next ten years. If a base is not near an existing volcano, a new volcano appears, similar to Mount Planet.
    • Sunspots may occur, blocking communication for 20 years, which has several effects.
      • First, and most obviously, other factions cannot be reached via commlinks.
      • Second, the UN cannot be convened.
      • Third, factions will not learn of minor attrocities committed against factions other than themselves.
      • Fourth, minor attrocities will not cause ecological damage.
    • Additionally, there are three rare events that will have a second check that causes them to only happen 20% of the time they would normally happen.
      • Major asteroid strike near base, which always targets one of the top three powers and never directly targets their headquarters. Whichever base is targeted is destroyed instantly, and any bases that are close enough may also be destroyed. Additionally, the astroid strike causes dust clouds that reduce the energy output of every tile by 1 for ten years.
      • Asteroid strikes Nessus Prime, which destroys all Nessus Mining Platforms owned by all factions.
      • Solar storm, which destroys all Orbital Power Transmitters and Orbital Defense Pods, but triples the energy output of every tile for the next turn.
  • Robot Republic: Or rather, Cyborg Republic, in the form of the Cybernetic Consciousness.
  • Recruitment by Rescue: In the expansion, Probe Teams can rescue the leader of an eradicated faction. They begin at a new base and swear a Pact to serve their rescuer.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!! Civilization II IN SPACE!. Most of the game mechanics are either exactly the same or very similar.
    • Later, a mod for Civilization IV (Final Frontier), included with "Beyond the Sword" contains many homages to it.
    • Of course, some of the Civilization games have a victory condition where you launch a colony ship to Alpha Centauri, so it could also be considered a sequel, especially since the game begins 10 years after the latest date Civ can end.
  • The Remnant: Pravin Lal's Peacekeepers are all that remains of the United Nations as well as the original Unity initiative.
  • Sanity Slippage: If you decide not to show mercy to an enemy who offers total surrender, it can be quite fun to watch their rantings get more and more insane as they continue contacting you while you slowly exterminate their faction.
  • Scavenger World: The humans of Planet are able to build their infrastructure on Planet in part by acquiring scattered pods from the Unity, which provide valuable raw materials and data on Lost Technology. As time passes however, this is averted as the colonists forge their societies.
  • Schizo Tech: On one hand, you have Nerve Stapling to keep drones in line by destroying their ability to think subversive thoughts from the very start of the game, on the other hand, you have to rediscover seafaring and flight, which usually takes about 100 turns to achieve the latter. This is justified in-game, however. As Colonel Santiago explains:
    I have often been asked: if we have traveled between the stars, why can we not launch the simplest of orbital probes? These fools fail to understand the difficulty of finding the appropriate materials on this Planet, of developing adequate power supplies, and creating the infrastructure necessary to support such an effort. In short, we have struggled under the limitations of a colonial society on a virgin planet. Until now.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: As in the Civilization series, money is used to determine the success of spy operations and to finance the mass production and upgrading of military units. Unlike the Civilization series, a probe team can not merely sway a base's favor towards you, but can subvert a base entirely and take it over — it's just very expensive. You can also rush Secret Projects, though this too is very expensive. Thus, with a suitable cache of energy credits, you can take over enemy bases without ever marching an attacking unit against them, and complete Secret Projects one turn after achieving the technology breakthrough that made it possible.
  • Secret A.I. Moves: Wild spore launchers can fire from isles of the deep. Under no circumstances may player artillery of any sort fire from any sort of transport.
  • Settling the Frontier: As with most 4X games, you generally want to create new settlements early and often.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Microsoft (in the late '90s) and Morgan Industries. Just compare Microsoft's slogan "Where do you want to go today?" with Morgan's slogan "Where do you want your node today?". Similarly, the "Network Backbone" Secret Project (think "Wonders" from Civilization) includes a quote from Morgan where he insists he doesn't want a monopoly, despite bundling his company's software with every Network Node—their products are "just so good" that no one feels a need to compete.
    • The video for the Secret Project "The Longevity Vaccine" takes the form of a series of network bumpers for Morgan TV (the video opens with what sounds like the NBC chimes played on an electric guitar), surreal, '90s-style rapid-fire ads for other Morgan products (it's Morgan Industries, so of course they're going to treat the cure for death as just another product to be marketed), and the Alpha Centauri equivalent of South Park:
    • The tech name "The Will to Power" is directly derived from the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, and while "Homo Superior" might seem to be a simple reference to Linnean taxonomy, you realize that it's also a good way to express the term Übermensch, which comes from...Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche quotes appear for both technologies (all from the Prologue to Thus Spoke Zarathustra).
    • The Nautilus Pirates take their name and some of their themes from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
    • The names of some bases (like Farnham's Freehold or Googleplex) may ring some bells.
    • In the game's files, technologies use seven-letter abbreviations. SMAC shortens the Digital Sentience technology to HAL9000. SMACX has String Resonance, which enables the best weapon in the game, shortened to BFG9000.
    • The portrait of the Peacekeepers' leader, Pravin Lal, might ring a bell too—he's basically the Indian (Southern Asian) version of real-life UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
  • Shown Their Work: And how! According to The Other Wiki, lots of science fiction books were consulted during the making of this game.
    • The manual has an entire appendix solely dedicated to the technical details of the Alpha Centauri system as assumed in the game. Technical stats on orbital data (for Chiron, its moons, and its suns), atmospheric composition, meteorology and climatology, oceanography, soil composition etc., together with analyses on what exactly they would mean for human colonists. It even has a "Suggested Reading" list.
    • The level of immersion in each faction, the futuristic plausibility and thoroughness presented in detail... quite a lot.
  • Slave Race: Genejacks are an Artificial Human race that are physically and mentally redesigned to be factory slaves. A Genejack Factory increases mineral output at the small cost of increasing the drone population; genejacks are actually lower than drones, but still need to be controlled properly (despite Yang's statement on the matter, when he says that they're perfectly content and impossible to treat poorly).
  • Sleeper Starship: The Unity
  • Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke: Inverted. Planet Busters are explicitly not the same as nuclear devices as we know them (being described as quasi-nuclear), but are treated with all the horror of nuclear weapons and will leave a huge crater where the enemy base or twelve used to be and actually completely annihilating any bases in its blast radius, something no nuclear weapon in a mainline Civilization game has ever been able to do. And every other faction will declare Vendetta on the culprit. And the Planet itself will launch a full-out assault on you.
  • Sliding Scale of Turn Realism: Round by Round.
  • Solar Flare Disaster: Played realistically, solar flares will only disrupt communications for a set period of turns, preventing you from talking to other civs. But atrocities will be kept in the dark.
  • Sound Off:
    "I don't know but I've been told
    Deirdre's got a Network Node
    Likes to press the on/off switch
    Dig that crazy Gaian witch"
    Spartan barracks march, "Yes sir!"
  • Spider Tank: The Battle Ogres, which are six legged robots left behind by the Progenitors.
  • Spiritual Successor to Civilization II. Virtually all of the basic gameplay is identical, just with different terms for all of the gaming concepts. This was due to Firaxis not owning the Civilization rights at that time.
  • Spiteful A.I.: The enemy love to attack you no reason (even if it means they're going to get stomped), just to make sure you aren't allowed to play a relaxing "building" game.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Army: The basic units already cover the main areas of the trope (Infantry, Oceanic Navies, Aircraft, Armored Combat Vehicles, Support). The mind worms and the Isle of the Deep could be consider examples of Exotic and [to a certain extent] Indigs.
  • Starfish Aliens: Progenitors: in depth, their wacky sentence structure. The sentence structure is shown to be just how humans interpret or translate their speech, or maybe their attempts at communicating with humans. The "interludes" shown to a Progenitor player don't contain any of the weird sentence structure.
    • One of the uncanniest things about them is how they communicate. Generating patterns of sounds is how humans talk; progenitors "alter" existing sounds with their resonance. In written form, their alphabet might look like instructions for "*existing sound* Pitch Up, Pitch Down, Pitch Way Up, Elongate," etc.
  • Stock Star Systems: Is pretty self-explanatory: it's set on a planet called Chiron (or "Planet"), orbiting Alpha Centauri A.
  • Strawman Political:
    • Averted. While the factions draw upon straw men used in political debates in America in the 1990s, with the Gaians and Peacekeepers being depicted in a somewhat better light and the Spartans, Believers, and Hive being especially demonized, each is actually a fully realized society with its own benefits and drawbacks portrayed in a somewhat realistic manner (though some details on how these societies work are only available in the ''GURPS'' supplement). Even Miriam Godwinson and Sheng-ji Yang make legitimate points; the former's fear of technology is quite frequently justified, while the latter's goals bear an uncanny resemblance to the process of transcendence and many of his quotes are rooted in Eastern mysticism and suggest he genuinely believes Utopia Justifies the Means.
    • In another sense, the game also deconstructs the trope. Every faction's basic ideology is deliberately taken to its "utopian" extreme. The game then shows what it would realistically take to make such societies work. Hint: If you want anything even remotely resembling the life you have now, avoid everyone who isn't the Peacekeepers or the Gaians. Maybe the Free Drones or the Morgan Industries depending on your ideology's position on economics.
  • Superweapon Surprise:
    • The Gaians. Living in peace and harmony and environmental balance is great, especially when your ecological prowess helps make friends with, and power up, indigenous creatures that psychically paralyze enemies and proceed to core out their skull like an apple. While they're still alive. Which no amount of advanced armor or high-tech weaponry can defend against. Good times. One of Deirdre's books (Our Secret War) talks about how they would attack and obliterate their Spartan opponents with mind worms, with nobody realizing the Gaians were controlling the mindworm boils.
    • The 'Planet Cult', a faction introduced in the Alien Crossfire expansion, are even more naturally aligned to Planet than the Gaians, but they already had rather a fanatical bent.
  • Technophobia: The Lord's Believers faction are Christian Fundamentalists who are suspicious of secular science and fear the progress of technology drawing people away from faith in God. This manifests in-game as a penalty to their research stat.
  • Telepathic Spacemen: Mind worms.
  • Too Awesome to Use: While Battle Ogres in Alien Crossfire have impeccable stats early-game (especially the Mark IIs and IIIs), they can't be built or repaired (even by Progenitors or monoliths) and their encounter rate among scattered Unity Pods is too low to scavenge a decent force. They do, however, come with "Non-Lethal Methods" (double Police duty all the time) and have resonance defenses (to better defend against psionic—i.e. Mind Worm—attacks), and thus are better garrisoned at a base rather than dismantled outright.
    • Planet Busters also have elements of this, thanks to the fact that everyone will immediately and irrevocably declare war on you if you use one. Alternatively, if you can stockpile enough Planet Busters, you could declare war on everyone and win, although you'll run out of continents pretty quickly; initially because you've blown great big holes in all the other continents, this is quickly followed by sea level rise caused by your enormous levels of eco-damage.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Similar to the Civilization series, far too many AI opponents suffer from Suicidal Overconfidence. "Our engineers have invented [laughably weak unit], rendering our forces invincible."
    • Also any AI dumb enough to use Planet Busters. Even if the U.N. Charter is repealed (which will likely never happen in most games), using a Planet Buster makes every other active faction declare war on you.
    • While they finally cave once you press their back to the wall, an AI opponent at war with you will make demands of you like tech or energy credits in the name of signing a truce, even if your units have been steamrolling them for several forces and it's obvious how this war will end if it continues.
  • To Serve Man: When the aliens take a human base, they're quite happy to recycle the inhabitants for nourishment.
  • Tube Travel: The technological advance of Monopole Magnets grants this to your faction.
  • Underwater City: Once naval units are unlocked, you can construct Sea Colony Pods to settle oceanic bases. The Nautilus Pirates of the Alien Crossfire expansion start the game with this technology enabled by default.
  • United Nations Is A Super Power: The remnants of the UN form the UN Peacekeepers faction, which can become a powerful (or weak) faction depending on how the game turns out.
  • Universal Translator: one of the secret projects it's possible to build during the game. It gives you two free techs and lets you cache any number of alien artifacts at that base.
  • The Unreveal: For all you learn about science, technology, and the nature of humanity, life, and intelligence, several key mysteries established at the beginning of each game are never revealed to you no matter how the game ends:
    • The identity of Captain Garland's assassin is never revealed, or even hinted at.
    • Whatever happened to Earth and everyone living there between 2060 and 2096 (since it would take four years for radio signals to reach Alpha Centauri at lightspeed) is never revealed, although the game can end with colonists returning to Earth to find out.
  • Upgrade Artifact: Both the Monoliths and the actual Artifacts
  • The Usual Adversaries:
    • Miriam fills this role to most other factions, due to her belligerent and fundamentalist agenda.
    • Mindworms fill the "barbarian" role typical to the 4X genre, randomly spawning and roving the map looking for juicy settlements to attack. Later revelations about the nature of Planet reveal that they aren't quite the mindlessly hostile alien wildlife that they first seem.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Build an enlightened democracy. Adopt a Eudaimonic society with peace and justice for all. Take good care of your citizens, and cultivate your Talent pool. Be good to Planet, with Centauri Preserves and all the environmentalist Secret Projects. The people will reward you with Golden Ages and the increased cash flow and productivity that comes with it; Planet will reward you with an army of mind worms.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Construct an oppressive Police State! Use Planet Busters on your enemies! Use Thought Control! Rip apart Planet and despoil her for all she's got! Sure, you might get drone riots, but you can just nerve-staple them into submission! Who cares about the sanctions?—everyone hates you anyway! Besides, biological and chemical warfare are just so much fun!
  • Violation of Common Sense:
    • You can reduce eco-damage by introducing rapidly reproducing, highly invasive lifeforms (so much so that they'll clear out fungus tiles) to the environment in the form of trees.
    • In the late game, planting more fungus (or Planet creating a fungal bloom to try to "prune" your destructive tendencies) can actually hurt the environment due to the massive yields fungus produces with heavy technological investment.
    • High mineral production causes eco-damage, which in turn might trigger a fungal bloom, when xenofungus expands in a tile destroying every improvement. However, this also slightly increases the mineral production limit before eco-damage starts. Thus, many players actually try to do early eco-damage and rush their first fungal bloom, when many tiles around bases aren't yet terraformed, in order to quickly raise the mineral threshold before a fungal bloom might destroy mid-game more advanced and precious improvements.
    • Building a Centauri Preserve in a base reduces globally eco-damage for a faction. It's a common strategy to build many preserves during late game, when mineral production is high and causes great eco-damage. This bonus is permanent, meaning that even selling ALL your Centauri Preserves won't hurt at all your levels of pollution or your relationship with Planet's ecosystem (while you will paradoxally produce more minerals than before Centauri Preserves where first built).
  • Virtual Ghost: Transcendi, though unlike the more traditional sense, they are not uploaded to purely computer networks, but rather to a combination of computer networks and the planetmind.
  • Walking the Earth: Well, Walking the Universe, as Transcendence allows humans to basically become energy beings propelled by thought with no regards for Space/Time. Some even return to Earth to restore it.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Each of the faction leaders is committed to their own particular vision of an ideal human society, and they structure the factions they lead accordingly. Most of these visions are mutually incompatible, often to the point of outright hostility.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Humans blasting on aliens with nerve gas is just fine, but God forbid if you use it against other humans! But then, the aliens make no bones about the fact that they consider humans little more than undesirable pests and there's a reason that human bases that they take over drop down to population 1.
  • Where It All Began: Some transcendental humans will return to Earth, mostly because they're curious to see what's been going on and to maybe help out.
  • Winds of Destiny, Change: The Probability Mechanics discovery. Not only does God play dice, the dice are loaded. In addition, it's hinted that Chaos Cannons and Probability Sheaths manipulate probability in their odds. In the GURPS supplement, the Monoliths are said to do this, changing probability so things are better.
  • World of Badass: Every crew member on the Unity was chosen from the best and brightest that humanity had to offer. Everyone on the ship, from the XO (Yang) to a lowly mining specialist (Domai) had some exceptional attributes, from genius level intellect, to incredible personal charisma, to near-superhuman willpower. Makes the very existence of the Drone underclass kinda sad, doesn't it?
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Somewhat parodied by Richard "Recon Rover Rick" Baxton, who is lauded as a hero for holding off four waves of mind worms. At the same time, his death is glossed over to be able to sell his story.
    "Richard Baxton piloted his Recon Rover into a fungal vortex and held off four waves of mind worms, saving an entire colony. We immediately purchased his identity manifests and repackaged him into the Recon Rover Rick character with a multi-tiered media campaign: televids, touchbooks, holos, psi-tours—the works. People need heroes. They don't need to know how he died clawing his eyes out, screaming for mercy. The real story would just hurt sales, and dampen the spirits of our customers."
    CEO Nwabudike Morgan
  • Zerg Rush: Mind worms attack in massive waves, unconcerned about the defenses they face. Planet has reserves. Certain factions also play this way with regular units. (The Drones, Hive, and Believers are the strongest examples.)

Please don't go. The drones need you. They look up to you.

Alternative Title(s): Alpha Centauri


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