Lux Absio Bervatum

Friday, February 18, 2022

Playing Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri on modern computers

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (SMAC) was released in February 1999⁠— 23 years ago as of this writing. That's nuts. It's the only computer game that old that I keep coming back to after such a long time. One of my all-time favorites. But I hadn't been able to play it for a while because an OS upgrade rendered all versions incompatible (or at least nonworking even with my tinkering). Now I'm on a new computer that's got enough mojo to run a proper Win10 virtual machine, so of course I downloaded GOG and SMAC. Noticed I was having some minor issues (display messing up after alt-tabbing, a menu option being unselectable) so I started googling around and found some unofficial patches that vastly improve the game on modern systems.

Did you know that if you have the Windows/GOG version you can just copy the Alpha Centauri directory from C:\Program Files (x86)\GOG Galaxy\Games, paste it anywhere, and run the executables?

There's a great wiki that has links to the fan-made patches here. I started by applying scient's v2.1 patch, then PRACX by PlotinusRedux/DrazharLn. Massive improvement. Here's a screencap from the current GOG-release SMAC:

And here's a screencap of the PRACX version with support for widescreen displays and multiple zoom levels:

Being able to zoom in and out with the mousewheel makes it so much nicer to play. Really grateful to these folks for making and sharing these patches.