Secret Project: The Merchant Exchange

“Human behavior is economic behavior. The particulars may vary, but competition for limited resources remains a constant. Need as well as greed have followed us to the stars, and the rewards of wealth still await those wise enough to recognize this deep thrumming of our common pulse.”

— CEO Nwabudike Morgan, “The Centauri Monopoly”

The Merchant Exchange is the first secret project whose benefits do not extend throughout the entire faction.  Instead, this project permanently boosts the energy production of the base it was constructed in, as if the faction were running a high Energy social engineering choice (like Free Market).  This is a better boost than it might seem, as it gives additional input energy instead of serving as an additional multiplier.  This means that any other facility that might be in the base that multiply input energy to yield output energy, labs, or psych gets to do its work.

It’s worth mentioning that the game gives the player an incentive to construct this project in the capital because of the way that energy is lost due to inefficiency.  In previous Civilization games, this mechanic was called corruption, and it was intended to penalize players who expanded to too many bases without researching more advanced government types.  Inefficiency in SMAC works in the same way, and since the capital base itself is immune to inefficiency penalties, it makes sense to build the Merchant Exchange there in order to prevent the loss of some of the extra energy.

So, judging from the video, the mineral cost of this project is actually modeling the construction of a massive futuristic skyscraper that ends up serving as the financial center of an alien world.  And given its likely location, possibly the seat of government for the faction, as well.  Quite the extravagance for the first few years of colonization!  But it gives a sense as to how quickly things are progressing on Planet.  By the time this project is built, it would seem that at least some of the initial settlements have given way to modern-looking urbanity.

The quote itself is a reprise of CEO Morgan’s intro quote, implying that in canon he was the one to build it.  This makes sense.  CEO Morgan’s all about the energy.  So much so that the AI often fails miserably at developing the Morganites, because it can’t understand how to correctly spend its energy surplus on early expansion.  But, in canon, it would seem that his faction is prospering more than is typical if he is able to bag one of the early Secret Projects.

But since we’ve already discussed this quote and it’s implications, I think it’s more interesting to look at the second quote we get in this video.  On the crawl at the bottom of the screen, among the mineral price change quotes resembling a stock market ticker, we get the following additional tidbit of wisdom from the CEO:

“Greed ensures the transfer of power from the weak to the strong.”

— MorganQuote of the Day

I find this fascinating.  First, it would seem that Morgan is just as fond of intellectual propaganda as the other faction leaders.  It’s plausible that a leader who saw himself primarily as a businessman might be content to merely make bank and, outside of a few treatises, not worry too much about what his people are thinking.  But this notion is disproven here.  The existence of the institution of MorganQuotes of the Day in the price feeds means that CEO Morgan is just as interested in philosophy as any of the other seemingly more intellectual leaders.

Second, it shows that there’s a real social Darwinist edge to life with the Morganites.  We know from Morgan’s prior quotes that greed is good.  So it then follows that Morgan believes that power should rightly be held by the strong and not the weak.  This is surprisingly militant language from the seemingly peaceable CEO.  But it makes sense.  Morgan’s gunning for world domination just as much as the other six faction leaders.

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