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Crossing Over: Alpha Centauri
October 22, 2012 | Justin Ancheta

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New elements introduced into the game built upon familiar aspects of Civilization II; Wonders of the World were replaced by Secret Projects, with many of them touching upon themes of transhumanism, technological convergence, and ecological sustainability. Players menaced by roving bands of Barbarians in Civ II would find the mindworms of Planet to be just as familiar...and just as deadly. Terraforming was a key gameplay element, building upon the ability of settlers and engineers to improve land squares in Civ II. The tech tree was massively updated and expanded, and to go with it was a Design Workshop - that felt like it was almost taken straight out of Warzone 2100 - which gave players a dizzying amount of choices and possibilities for new units. Turn your transport ships into aircraft carriers. Upgrade your colony pods to allow them to make orbital insertions. The only limit, it seemed, to what you could build was your imagination - and your present tech level, of course. To drive home the point of the consequences of WMDs, use of the Planet Buster missile, Alpha Centauri's answer to Civ II's mighty Nuclear Missile, carried grave consequences. Not only would every other Faction in the game declare war on you, but the immense ecological damage would cause Planet itself to attack you with hoards of powerful mind worms and other native life forms. To match the ambition and grandiosity of the most epic endgame of Civ II - construction of the colony ship to Alpha Centauri - the team at Firaxis brought in the concept of Transcendance, the unification of humanity's collective digital and biological consciousness with that of Planet, thus bringing about humanity's conversion into Godhood. However, simply building the requisite Secret Project and acquiring the necessary research breakthroughs wasn't enough; once its accompanying Secret Project was completed, players had to act fast, lest a competing Faction attain Transcendance first.

It is a true testament to the excellence that Firaxis displayed, in both fleshing out their universe and designing their game, that Alpha Centauri remains an iconic title in its genre. While Firaxis' legacy was, and remains an excellent game, Alpha Centauri still belongs to a field of gaming that quickly faded, amidst the rise of games satisfying the demand for fast gameplay and even faster action.

Installation Instructions

After its release on the Mac, (former) Aspyr Media employee - and famed heroic Mac developer - Brad Oliver continued to release patches and updates for the game, long after its discontinuation from both EA and Aspyr (including a major OS X-compatible patch). However, with the release of Lion, Oliver's patches and the original game don't work; their use of both the Carbon API and their use of PPC code preclude them from running on systems without a PPC environment (such as Rosetta, last seen on Snow Leopard). Luckily, we have WINE and CrossOver to come to our aid.

Getting this game to install in CrossOver is, once again, straight-forward. As with other games covered in this series, start by running the GOG installer within the CrossOver Software Installer. Make sure that you use the "Other Application" entry under the "Unsupported Applications" heading. As with many other games, it's best to put it into its own Windows XP-based bottle. Once installation is finished, the game bundle should be available in the Programs menu, under "GOG". I'd also recommend disabling "Allow Window Manager to Control the Windows" and "Allow Window Manager to Decorate the Windows" in winecfg.

Before we play though, there are a number of things that need to be done. Immediately, we need edit the game's .ini file to, among other things, disable in-game cinematics (which currently crash WINE). In-game music also needs to be disabled; Alpha Centauri generated its in-game music on-the-fly from a set of premade .wav samples to match in-game events, and this system may lead to audio problems during gameplay. First, we need to do a little editing of the game's .ini file; this can be seen in "drive_c/Program Files/GOGcom/Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri" (remember, your Alpha Centauri bottle will live in ~/Library/Application Support/CrossOver/Bottles). The .ini file is text file that you can edit in TextEdit (or any text editor of your choice). Under both the "[Alpha Centauri]" and the "[PREFERENCES]" heading, make sure that the lines "DisableOpeningMovie=1" and "ForceOldVoxelAlgorithm=1". This may not stick after the game is launched for the first time, so if the game crashes after being first launch, go back to this file and make sure that these lines are in the .ini file.

The second thing to do is to go to the "Audio-Visual Preferences..." selection in the game menu (while in-game). Disable "Secret Project movies" and click on the Music button to turn music off. Finally, we have the option of installing an unoffiical fan patch. Two have been so far released; both with the intention of preserving the game's longevity by addressing gameplay balance issues and AI behavioural bugs. The first patch was released on the civgaming.net forums by forum moderator **scient*(forum registration required for download). The next, based on that patch, is available on the RPGCodex forums, and boasts a more aggressive AI for a higher challenge.

Disclaimer: Justin Ancheta is a beta tester and volunteer advocate for Codeweavers, and maintains both a tutorial for getting GOG games to run on Mac OS X, and a list of games he has personally tested to work on Mac OS X through CrossOver, Wineskin, and open source ports.


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