Tuesday, March 30

Playing Alpha Centauri on Mac OS X 10.6

As I mentioned a few days ago, forces have conspired to get me interested in the Civilization series again, and those forces compounded over the past weekend as Tracy brought her Civ Rev love up for PAX and 2K teased us with posters for (but not an adequate supply of) Civilization V.

All of this made me pine for the Civ game I have the fondest memories for, Alpha Centauri. But could I still play it?

Aspyr released Alpha Centauri for the Mac ten years ago. It was never officially released for Mac OS X, so, since Classic doesn’t run on Intel machines such as my MacBook, my hopes were slim. Nevertheless, with a bit of luck, Internet-searching with Google, Inc.’s titular search engine, and a beta release hosted on what I can only deduce is a former developer’s home machine, I was able to get things to run on Snow Leopard.

Steps to Install Alpha Centauri
  1. Insert your legally-aquired Alpha Centauri Mac CD-ROM.
  2. The installer won’t run (it’s a Classic app) so instead create an Alpha Centauri folder on your hard drive and drag the Data and Movies folders to it.
  3. Visit the blog of former Aspyr employee Brad Oliver — taking care to use port 8081 for extra sketchiness — and download either 1.5.3b2 or 1.5.3b3. b3 fixes some bugs, mostly in net code I think, but b2 doesn’t check for the presence of the CD on startup. I chose b2 so that I wouldn’t have to dig out my CD when I wanted to play.
  4. Get your hands on Stuffit Expander. Yeah, those patches are .sit files. Bring back memories? Whoever owns Aladdin now wants a valid e-mail address to download it. You can’t fake them out, because they send the download link in the e-mail. Ugh. Aren’t you glad Apple switched to ZIP?
  5. Copy the SMAC Carbon application out of the unstuffed archive into your Alpha Centauri folder.
  6. Launch SMAC Carbon and immediately press the Command key to launch the Settings panel.
  7. Check “Run in a window” and “Don’t change screen settings for movies”
  8. Crash-land on a new planet and destroy your rivals.
That’s all it should take! I haven’t yet played enough to get a full sense of how it all holds up, but I’ve been having fun. The voiceovers are still perfect, and the terraforming and unit designing are great. I also love how research is only in general directions, rather than particular technologies.

I miss the graphics of the newer Civs, certainly, and the culture mechanic for expanding borders and taking over cities. I also miss the resource details of Civ IV, which is a really neat way to give extra strategy to city placements.

Were these instructions useful to you? Let me know in the comments.