occupy map

5

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri

There are a number of features that make the maps in SMAC more interesting than those in the earlier Civilization games. It uses height to make hills and mountains, for example, instead of them being tile-features. The special resources are distributed in more interesting patterns; the newly-introduced borders make the size of the map work better; and the native lifeforms are better integrated that the barbarians were (or are, for that matter).

But the map generator has two really interesting features that still set it apart from other Civ-style games.

The first isn’t a feature of the generator, per se, but greatly affects the meaning of the maps: the player can terraform the planet. And not just in little ways, like raising or lowering a couple of tiles, though you can do that too. A couple of the council resolutions can raise or lower the sea level across the entire planet. (Global warming from too many boreholes can also melt the ice caps to the same effect.) The malleability of the terrain makes it fairly unique among strategy games.

It can be a viable strategy to flood the map and drown your opponents cities, or to drain the ocean and march your armies across on dry ground.

The second is vital part of the generator: the landmarks.

When a map is generated, it scatters a number of prefabbed features on the planet. A few are mostly decorative, but most have an effect of some kind.

They owe a bit, I think, to the discoveries in Seven Cities of Gold (like the Grand Canyon) and the wonders in Civilization–the manual refers to them as “giant natural wonders of Planet”–possibly via Colonization, though at the moment I can’t remember if that game had any exploration bonuses for natural wonders.

The landmarks in Alpha Centauri are unique even when compared to the later Civ games that included similar features. They occupy multiple map tiles, sometimes forming significant strategic features on the map in addition to their resource bonuses.

Moreover, they help give the random maps structure. In contrast to the accidental chokepoints of earlier Civ maps, they have deliberate strategic importance.

The map generator as a whole is “spikier” than earlier random Civ maps. The landmarks make things a bit less fair but more interesting. There were a lot of high-value city-sites in Civ II because the even pattern ensured that they would be frequent and predictable, but there’s only one Manifold Nexus.

Which is not to say that it’s an absolutely dominant strategy: There’s enough landmarks overall that everyone should be able to claim one, if they work on it. But there’s plenty of other things going on, so you may have other priorities.

In the end, it is a good demonstration of how maps (and procedural generation in general) are much more interesting when they have outliers to act as landmarks and memorable setpieces.

Finn’s eyes snap open suddenly and he doesn’t know where he is, but he’s cold, and he’s afraid, and the last thing he remembers is the snow and the wind and Starkiller Base.

With a lump in his throat he asks, “Captain?” because of course she’s there, because she’s always there, because of course his brief freedom was a fluke.

“Major, actually,” a woman says to him, and he turns to see her perched on the opposite cot, her ankles crossed in front of her. She sniffs. “And don’t you forget it.”

He thinks he might recognize her from the Resistance base and that secures it, he’s still there, they brought him back and they took him in and he’s safe, he’s away from the First Order. “I’m sorry,” he stumbles, trying to sit up. “I’m sorry, ma’am, I’m sorry.”

“At ease, bigshot,” she says. “And don’t call me ma’am. ‘Ma’am’ is my mother. You can call me Dr. Kalonia.”

“I’m sorry,” he says again. “Dr. Kalonia.”

“It’s okay, you didn’t do anything wrong,” she assures him. “Like I said, I’m Dr. Kalonia and I’ve been treating you, Finn. Do you remember what happened?”

Starkiller. The slash of the three-pronged lightsaber. Kylo Ren. Kylo Ren is superior to all of us and we are grateful for his passionate leadership. If he says jump, you jump. If he says shoot, you shoot. If he says—“Yes, I remember,” Finn coughs, shaking his head a little. Every bit of him feels sore. “I was… my back.”

“Really did a number on it,” she says. “You’ve been in here for about three weeks now.” She’s got gray in her hair and a kind face. She reminds Finn of middle-aged mothers he’s seen in villages. His stomach lurches when he thinks about what happened to those middle-aged mothers. “We’re going to keep you here until tonight just to make sure you’re doing alright, and then we’ll move you into your own quarters. But, ah, you’ll still be reporting here for physical therapy, of course.”

No one will carry you if you cannot carry yourself. You are granted your will and your legs only by the grace of the First Order. If you are broken, FN-2187, there will be no fixing you, and you will be terminated. “Okay,” Finn says, trying to shake old ghosts out of his head. “Physical therapy. Okay.”

“Nothing scary,” she promises. “We’ll start out with something easy.” As she stands, she places a hand on his shoulder and smirks. “Maybe I’ll teach you how to dance.”

Finn’s alone all day— he doesn’t know why, but guesses no one feels the need to visit him, which makes sense. They give him a tablet and he occupies himself by memorizing maps of the Resistance base. If you don’t know your way around you will be left behind. You will be forgotten. You are inconsequential.

A nurse helps him to the bathroom at one point and he takes the opportunity to splash water on his face. He shudders, hands gripping the sides of the sink basin. He hears Phasma’s commanding voice in his head like an echo that never ends. He feels like he’s been running on adrenaline since escaping the First Order and now it’s all catching up with him, he’s sliding back into who he was. A puppet, a soldier. FN-2187.

“Finn,” he whispers, looking at himself in the scratched mirror. “Finn.”

The hours pass, sunlight fading from the one window in the medbay, and by nightfall Kalonia returns. “Ready to bust out of here, bigshot?” she asks, sinking onto the cot beside him. She holds out a tablet and stylus. “Just sign the dotted line and you’re free to go.”

Finn takes the tablet and scans the text on it. It all kind of blurs together— that he’s satisfied with his care, that he feels fit to leave. He doesn’t know what will happen if he refuses to sign and he doesn’t want to find out, so he writes his name quickly without thinking— and stares down at his hastily scrawled FN-2187.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he says quickly, words tripping over themselves. “I didn’t mean to— that’s not my name. I— I’m Finn. I did it wrong. I’m sorry.”

“No worries,” she assures him, taking the tablet quickly and hitting CLEAR RESPONSE. She hands it back to him. “Happens more than you think. One time I had a patient try to tell me he was Jabba the Hutt.”

Carefully, carefully, Finn signs his name. He hesitates. “I— I don’t have a last name.”

“That’s okay,” Dr. Kalonia says. “If you want to use one, you can use mine until you pick your own.” And she spells it out for him.

Keep reading

January through April I had a job at a little local film company, so there wasn’t a lot of time to draw.  I’d gotten into Sinbad, I started doing some more original animations, and I was polishing off some old Homestuck works.

May and June were pretty uneventful, but I’d started work on planning Snow on Summer so that started turning up more frequently in the following months.  October was OC October and November was mainly occupied by MAPs and Snow in Summer work.  December has been a bit rough, but I’ve managed to finish more pages of Snow in Summer and I look forward to doing more in the new year!  Thanks for the support!!

Look at all those orange/blue contrasts! @-@ I gotta do more work in different colors…