Secret Project: The Longevity Vaccine

“I plan to live forever, of course, but barring that I’d settle for a couple thousand years. Even five hundred would be pretty nice.”

— CEO Nwabudike Morgan, MorganLink 3DVision Interview

The Longevity Vaccine, logically based on the Bio-Engineering technology, seems to do what it claims on the label: it enables clinical immortality. At the very least, it cheaply extends the lifespan of large numbers of people so that they can plausibly expect to survive to the end of the game. This contrasts with the presumably-expensive longevity treatments we’ve already seen the faction leaders have access to for their personal use.

From the game mechanics perspective, the really interesting thing about this project is that it is one of the few whose effects depend upon the owning faction’s economic social model. If the faction is running a Green economy (or the default Simple one), it pacifies one drone per base. If the faction is running a Planned economy, this bonus is doubled. But if the faction is running a Free Market economy, it instead gives a massive multiplier to energy production at the base in which it is built, like how the Supercollider supercharges research in a single base.

To choose to make the effect dynamic is an inspired choice on Reynolds’s part. Consider for a moment what’s on the line here. This project represents the scientific conquest of death itself. Life, eternal life, is now available in a bottle. And the question before the player is this: what are you going to do with it? By now, the player should have the full array of economic choices available to his faction, so it really is a free choice.

Only a little imagination is required to glean from the rules what the options really are. People invested in a centrally planned economy will seek to share this boon as widely and cheaply as possible, uplifting even the least among the faction’s citizenry. Those who prefer green economics will ration the gift of eternal life more carefully, fearing for the ecological effects of a sudden, catastrophic drop in the death rate. And free marketeers will force their citizens to earn it, only allowing the rich and productive to partake in exchange for their redoubled efforts.

As has been the theme throughout the game, these choices are all valid. Each one makes sense, in its own way. And as long as a faction can adopt the given economic model, the choice can be made to conform with that faction’s broader ideology. It’s a neat trick.

Using our current assumptions, we imply from the video that the Morganites were the ones to develop the vaccine. We can pretty safely conclude that he’s running a free market. So he’s almost assuredly turning his monopoly control over these cutting edge drugs into a huge cash cow. All and all, in character for the heartless mogul.

But, at the same time, we learn that CEO Morgan has a sense of humor and some real charisma. The video begins with a brief clip of one of his TV stations making fun of Brother Lal before transitioning into his quip about wanting to live forever, over some shots of him doing calisthenics in his suit. The whole thing’s ridiculous, but in a way that makes Morgan seem like a fun and compelling guy.

That’s impressive enough in and of itself. After all, the player gets to spend so little time with any of these characters outside of insulting them in the diplomacy screen. But now take a moment to step back and realize that Morgan is the guy who fills the ideological role of “Ayn Rand Superman” in SMAC.

In CEO Morgan, Reynolds has created a likable Objectivist hero! Even fans of Rand’s oeuvre would likely agree that the degree of difficulty here is something like 15/10. It’s almost a contradiction in terms. And Reynolds manages this titanic accomplishment effortlessly, just so that a bit of the background for the gameplay experience he’s focusing on will be just that little bit better.

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