“And when at last it is time for the transition from megacorporation to planetary government, from entrepreneur to emperor, it is then that the true genius of our strategy shall become apparent, for energy is the lifeblood of this society and when the chips are down he who controls the energy supply controls Planet. In former times the energy monopoly was called ‘The Power Company’; we intend to give this name an entirely new meaning.”
— CEO Nwabudike Morgan, “The Centauri Monopoly”
The Quantum Converter is an additional mineral multiplier building in the vein of the old Robotic Assembly Plant. It requires the twelfth-tier Quantum Machinery technology to construct, quite naturally. And as such, there’s nothing important about it that cannot be comprehended by the player through analogy to the previous series of facilities. The Quantum Converter is clearly intended to be the next level of futuristic factory.
So Reynolds has made for himself an opportunity to use the accompanying quote for another purpose. And the purpose he’s chosen turns out to be tremendously important for the implied canon. Here, CEO Morgan finally lays bare here his plan for global domination.
From the other selections we have seen, “The Centauri Monopoly” was certainly written around the time of Planetfall. So the fact that this quote is revealed to the player here implies that only now, around the time Quantum Converters become the mainstay of the global economy, is CEO Morgan able to launch his faction’s bid to corner the global energy market.
The mechanics around the Economic Victory in SMAC are worth revisiting in light of this canonical development. In the game, the way it works is that a player wanting to try this needs to build up a massive pile of reserve energy credits. This value is roughly based on the base cost to mind control every rival base at once, but then modified by the difference in Commerce rating instead of the Probe values for normal attempts to flip a base covertly.
However, there are a couple of other modifiers that are worth mentioning. If a faction has an active Treaty of Friendship going with the faction that’s making a bid for supremacy, the effective cost of subverting that faction’s bases is halved. And if there’s an active Pact, the cost is quartered.
This means that an economic win in a contested game of SMAC is intended to reward a faction that’s rich, technically advanced, economically sophisticated, and deeply interconnected with the other factions. So a faction that’s trying to win this way would seek to be everyone’s friend. Or, barring that, at least a neutral broker and profitable trade partner, being seemingly content with a second or third place finish until they strike from the shadows.
Once this bid for economic supremacy is launched, the energy is immediately and publicly spent. Then all the other factions have twenty turns to attempt to abort the bid. If they can capture or destroy the headquarters base of the faction that’s trying to win this way in time, then the game goes on. But if the economic winner can hold their enemies off militarily for this “last gasp” period, they end the game in triumph.
It would seem that canonical Morgan has been executing this playbook ever since Planetfall. All of his seemingly shortsighted mercenary money-grubbing, all of the Treaties that he paid for and technologies that he sold, were really all aiming toward this one crucial moment. The idea of transitioning from entrepreneur to emperor might seem like a flight of fancy when laid out like that. It’s reminiscent of a plan one would expect from a James Bond villain.
But Reynolds has been laying the groundwork for this moment all game. For one thing, CEO Morgan and his faction have been clearly sovereign since Planetfall. Unlike a real world entrepreneur, he doesn’t rely on a state for security nor to establish the order necessary for him to do business. So it would appear that he chose to cloak his faction in the language and structure of the modern corporation for practical as well as ideological reasons; he sought to disarm his rivals and leave them open for their eventual co-option.
In canon, it stands to reason that this plan has a good chance of working. The Morganites have been competitive technologically and in nabbing key Secret Projects. We have reason to believe that the CEO has maintained good working relations with all of the other factions on Planet. And we know that the Gaians, his ideological archrivals, have spent most of the game embroiled in an expensive war with the powerful Spartans instead of interfering in his affairs.
Yet the canonical game did not end with a Morganite economic victory. Why not? I believe the answer lies in that twenty turn gap. Remember, unlike every other victory condition, an economic victory takes time to solidify. Morgan Industries could remain invincible to the very end if the game ended some other way first within that twenty year window.
We have noted that Reynolds intends the end-game to go by very quickly, judging by the ratio of tech cost scaling to potential energy production. And the technology tree gets very narrow at the top. In fact, after the twelfth-tier, there are only six total technologies left to research before the end of the game. And they are arranged such that it is possible to end the game without getting the last military technologies and completely finishing off the tree.
So I believe what happened is that Morgan’s centuries-long plan to dominate energy production on Planet fell a few years short. He didn’t lose the game, straight up, so much as the rules of the game were changed out from underneath him. And it happened just in time to snatch his final victory out of his grasp.