Stars Beyond Reach:Explanation Of Human Technologies, And Race Tech Tree In General
Please note that there are 14 races overall in the game. Eight of them can be chosen from to be controlled by the player, and the remaining 13 races then are AI-controlled. The player-chosen race is new to the planet, just landing at the start of the game, whereas the AI-controlled races have all been around for a long time on the planet. Depending on which of the 8 playable races you choose, they will either act like "the player race" as described below, or "the non-player races" as described even further down.
The Player Race
The aliens that were on board your capsule were all in cryo-freeze, and their memories have all been wiped (as has your character's). They have some knowledge that has been downloaded into their brains, but no real life experience and not much left of their original culture.
Unfortunately the ship took much longer to get to its destination than planned, and it actually took you to the wrong planet for mysterious reasons. Some sort of electronic signal also wiped out large portions of both your electronically-augmented brain, as well as the memories from your computer.
One interesting thing that your computer did pick up en-route, however, is a lot of chatter from an ancient dead planet called Earth. The planet has long-since been consumed by its own star, but the transmissions persisted. A lot of the available technology that your scientists are able to come up with are based on studying the old earth transmissions, as well as the other alien races that already exist on this new planet.
The stuff that the player is building is kind of futuristic-human-inspired, with some compromises and takeaways from various alien cultures. And of course the alien terrain that will help make the local alien populace happier.
From A Gameplay Perspective
From a functional standpoint, this makes it so that players have some connection to the buildings they control. When things get TOO alien, then the difference between a "freem drive" and a "blork building" start having no meaning. By blending earth tech with alien ideas, we get the best of both worlds for the players. Which is particular important given the citybuilding nature of the game.
The Non-Player Races
By contrast, the "non-human-associated" races are separated out to an extreme degree. None of this human-inspired stuff at all, and they have not forgotten their racial pasts in the same way. Just super, super alien buildings.
From A Gameplay Perspective
I don't care if the players can't tell what those racial buildings are: I don't WANT them to feel comfortable or at home with those buildings at all. There aren't many per race anyway, and so learning their functions is not a gargantuan task. And making them feel utterly alien is a very very good thing in terms of the feel of your opponents.
You're not having to manage these cities, so there's not a bunch of memorization required, and when you want to go interact with a city (read: attack it), you can quickly refresh yourself on things. We did the main military buildings in a very consistent fashion for the main 11 surface races so that those in particular would be easier to pick out, given that they are of the most immediate importance in combat.