“The sea is everything. It covers seven-tenths of the globe. Its breath is pure and healthy. It is an immense desert where a man is never alone, for he can feel life quivering all about him. The sea is only a receptacle for all the prodigious, supernatural things that exist inside it; it is only movement and love; it is the living infinite.”
— Jules Verne, “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”, Datalinks
In the game, Naval Yards are the naval cognate to Command Centers. They provide a morale boost for naval vessels constructed in the base and allow damaged naval units to repair to full in a single turn. Since naval combat tends to be less common and less crucial than land combat, and since the technology that unlocks them also unlocks the Maritime Control Center secret project, this quote isn’t seen too often by players in a single-player game. Essentially, if the map warrants Naval Yards, the player is probably better off getting them by building the Maritime Control Center rather than building them directly.
So it’s interesting that the quote that accompanies it is another shout-out to classic literature. Instead of Melville’s dark rumination, this time we get a reasonably contemporaneous bright and sunny quote from the father of science fiction. Where Melville saw the essential nature of the sea as the killer whale lurking beneath the surface, Verne focuses on the sea as a brand-new, exciting frontier to explore.
This is an interesting choice. Many of the quotes associated with the fourth tier of the technology tree have combined to paint a rather dystopian vision of the future. This progression mirrors the experience that a science-fiction consumer would have felt in the late-’90s, as the older, more heroic styles were being discarded as passé in favor of newer, grimmer, supposedly more authentic visions of the future.
It’s also worth mentioning that the player will almost certainly not be advancing through the future history in precisely the order laid out in the tree. Even though there are many cross-links among the different paths through the tree, it is both possible and expected that a faction will beeline a couple of tiers deep at any given time. This is especially true if the player is using the blind research option with one or more of the priorities selected. And then, of course, building base facilities tends to happen a few turns after the discovery of a given technology, at that.
So that means that if the player encounters this quote, it will likely come as something of a breath of fresh air among the increasingly dour visions of the future. Verne is a reminder of the time when the frontier was something to be celebrated and embraced instead of something to be feared. A reminder, in SMAC terms, of the first few turns after the colonists made Planetfall and everything seemed new, different, and exciting.