“A handsome young Cyborg named Ace,
Wooed women at every base,
But once ladies glanced at
His special enhancement
They vanished with nary a trace.”
— Barracks Graffiti, Sparta Command
The Cyborg Factory is pretty cool. It’s a scaled-up application of the Mind/Machine Interface technology that acts as a free Bioenhancement Center in each base. This means that all units produced by any base in the faction will suddenly get a +2 morale bonus right off the line. Combine that with the previous morale-boosting buildings and the available morale increases from Social Engineering and it becomes possible to roll max-promoted Elite units off the line. Since Elite land troops get an extra movement point along with the expected strong combat bonus against all opponents, this is a very good thing.
As an aside, it turns out the morale subsystem in SMAC is buggy. It doesn’t deliver the right combat odds in some circumstances. The biggest variations seem to happen when very low morale units are defending bases with Children’s Creches. It’s also a little harder to build high-level units than it seems like it should be, since bonus morale from the SE screen tends to add (+) indicators to the morale level instead of just leveling the unit up. But most players don’t dig into the mechanics far enough to notice that, even after countless playthroughs, so it’s nowhere near fatal.
The video that accompanies the creation of the project is funny and memorable without needing to do a lot. It’s just a few shots of what looks like a robot assembly line. Since this is the Cyborg Factory, presumably there are highly-modified people either already inside or destined to be paired with these unfinished robotic components.
But, really, it’s the limerick that goes along with the video that makes it. It’s pretty funny just on its own. Outside of the obvious appeal, though, it’s illustrative of a couple of points that are worth mentioning. First, it would have been really easy to make the Spartans grim and serious all the time. But, like with Morgan, Reynolds goes out of his way to give a couple of the humor beats to the Spartan grunts. This is pretty inspired, as it is both more realistic and more entertaining.
And second, it serves as an intriguing counterpoint to Lal’s dire warnings about the human rights implications of the MMI technology. He concluded that the tech had made it possible for power brokers to create a private army of demons. In canon, he must have been referring to Santiago’s Power-focused Spartan faction creating the Cyborg Factory.
So it’s possible to piece together these clues into some conclusions about the context of the joke, as it would have been contemporaneously seen by the Spartan who wrote the graffiti. The cybernetic enhancements are so extensive that lots of people would much rather not go under the knife. Lal states they have to be drafted for it. And a big part of the reason why it’s unpopular even among macho, victory-focused Spartans is because they commonly reconstruct away the subject’s genitals as part of the procedure.
Now that’s quite a futuristic sort of problem to have! It’s yet another reminder that the game is barreling on into the future at an increasingly dizzying pace. But it’s portrayed in a way that demonstrates that while simultaneously showing deep links to the past. After all, smart-alecks writing graffiti on barracks walls has been a thing since the day the first barracks wall was built.