Aliens that look alien.

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Skaro
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Aliens that look alien.

#1 Post by Skaro » Fri May 18, 2007 8:08 pm

Hi there peeps, I've been going over some alien designs after the alien head thread. I've come to the conclusion that we shouldn't make aliens look humanoid to make them truely alien.

So I came up with a studymodel for a for a electric jellyfish type alien:

Image

The model itself isn't much to write home about, the only interesting thing about this model is the electric effect, it's actually animated. Additionally I made the tendrills move during animations.

Though I don't seem to be able to upload these movies to photobucket (do you need a special account for movies?).


Anyway, I'd like to hear the wierdest ideas you people have for aliens (prefably from the alien races in the story subforum).

So give me your best shot, I'll be taking a request 8)
A sucking chest wound is Nature's way of telling you to slow down. --Murphy's war laws

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eleazar
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Re: Aliens that look alien.

#2 Post by eleazar » Fri May 18, 2007 9:47 pm

Skaro wrote:I've come to the conclusion that we shouldn't make aliens look humanoid to make them truely alien.
—Complete and total agreement.

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Re: Aliens that look alien.

#3 Post by utilae » Sat May 19, 2007 1:01 am

Skaro wrote:I've come to the conclusion that we shouldn't make aliens look humanoid to make them truely alien.
We are uncreative though, because we just create aliens that look exactly like existing animals, eg your Jelly Fish.

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#4 Post by Zanzibar » Sat May 19, 2007 3:49 am

How about a race of intelligent octopus??
Image

Image

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pd
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#5 Post by pd » Sat May 19, 2007 4:28 pm

I've come to the conclusion that we shouldn't make aliens look humanoid to make them truely alien.
That's not very wise from a design point of view.

There is a reason why 'usual' aliens in movies or games look somewhat similar to humen or animals. Don't think that's because of lack of creativity or something. It simply is that way because the audience has to be able to relate to the aliens.
If an alien design has a mouth, some eyes, ears, arms or legs it's possible to convey things like emotion for example using mimic and gesture.
One of the major things you want to pay attention to, when designing a character is either the face or the hands.

Also, a good design allows the audience to say just by watching it, whether this alien is aggressive, friendly, clever, sneaky, ... This is just possible, because we are so used to seeing humen and animals. For example we know that insects with their spikey, sharp shapes and intense colors can hurt us, since we've all been hurt by a bee or ant. Using similar shapes and colors in an alien design will definitely create an agressive and dangerous race.

If all aliens are going to look like blobs or just made of freaky shapes the player isn't able to identify with this alien race. Anything too abnormal will 'alienate' him.

Of course there can be some freak aliens, but the majority should relate to things we as humen are familir with.

When we really need to create alien races at around v0.6 or v0.7 there will be a design brief for every race which will include a backstory and other important things(see story board). Key elements of those then have to be shown through the design.

Since there are already so many race proposals, maybe someone could browse through and review them. In the end, the best and most diverse should be selected. Variety is key here.

edit: Most of this is also true for the spaceships - they also should convey the key elements of a race, even though it is much harder and can't be done in such detail as with a living creature. Since ships are needed pretty soon, I ask for someone to sort out the best race proposals. I would do it on my own, if I had the time.

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#6 Post by Muside » Sat May 19, 2007 5:26 pm

Full ACK, PD!
Thy soul shall find itself alone
Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

E.A. Poe, "Spirits of the Dead"

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eleazar
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#7 Post by eleazar » Sat May 19, 2007 6:26 pm

pd wrote:
I've come to the conclusion that we shouldn't make aliens look humanoid to make them truely alien.
That's not very wise from a design point of view.

There is a reason why 'usual' aliens in movies or games look somewhat similar to humen or animals. Don't think that's because of lack of creativity or something. It simply is that way because the audience has to be able to relate to the aliens.
If an alien design has a mouth, some eyes, ears, arms or legs it's possible to convey things like emotion for example using mimic and gesture.

A good design allows the audience to say just by watching it, whether this alien is aggressive, friendly, clever, sneaky, ... This is just possible, because we are so used to seeing humen and animals. For example we know that insects with their spikey, sharp shapes and intense colors can hurt us, since we've all been hurt by a bee or ant. Using similar shapes and colors in an alien design will definitely create an agressive and dangerous race.

If all aliens are going to look like blobs or just made of freaky shapes the player isn't able to identify with this alien race. Anything too abnormal will 'alienate' him.

Of course there can be some freak aliens, but the majority should relate to things we as humen are familir with.
Whoa, let's not argue over a false dichotomy here. There's a lot of room between humanoid aliens (Vulcans, Wookies) and incomprehensibly strange aliens. It's quite possible to make an alien that's not an obvious derivative of humanity or common animals, while still maintaining comprehensible visual clues about it's mood or nature. The Spathi from Star Control, and the Alien from Alien(s) are good examples. There's room for lots of creativity and uniqueness before an alien becomes incomprehensible.


But even if aliens are so strange that they cannot be read emotionally, we can implement a simple "emotional translator" See crude example:

Image

pd wrote:Since there are already so many race proposals, maybe someone could browse through and review them. In the end, the best and most diverse should be selected. Variety is key here.
Some of the most important criterion for evaluating the species proposals are not yet solidified, i.e. "Can this species be interestingly implemented with FO's picks." Since the picks are far from finalized, the question can't be answered.

However, it certainly wouldn't hurt if someone made a list (with links) of the most interesting/unique alien concepts. I might even do that.
pd wrote:edit: Most of this is also true for the spaceships - they also should convey the key elements of a race, even though it is much harder and can't be done in such detail as with a living creature. Since ships are needed pretty soon, I ask for someone to sort out the best race proposals. I would do it on my own, if I had the time.
The practical path is to implement v.4 first with a single style of spacecraft/weapons, and then to consider species variants, though you might consider the general style of various species.

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#8 Post by Muside » Sat May 19, 2007 10:53 pm

Well, if the Alien from "Alien" is not humanoid, I don't know what a humanoid Alien is ;)
Thy soul shall find itself alone
Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

E.A. Poe, "Spirits of the Dead"

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eleazar
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#9 Post by eleazar » Sun May 20, 2007 1:02 am

Muside wrote:Well, if the Alien from "Alien" is not humanoid, I don't know what a humanoid Alien is ;)
I don't remember the first one very clearly, i was thinking more specifically of the Queen in Aliens.

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#10 Post by pd » Sun May 20, 2007 11:43 am

It's not my intention to argue over anything. I just made a statement, that the creation of an alien race takes some serious design effort. I also said why and how this is done.

While having an emotional translator might be a good idea, it's still just a detour, which can be avoided by good design in the first place. Also, emotion was just an example - there's a lot more to convey.

I consider the spathi to be very bad character design and the aliens from the movies use insectoid, bone and skull shapes to create fear.
Some of the most important criterion for evaluating the species proposals are not yet solidified, i.e. "Can this species be interestingly implemented with FO's picks." Since the picks are far from finalized, the question can't be answered.
I am aware of this, but nevertheless, we should know something about the race behind the spaceships, before we start fleshing them out.

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#11 Post by Skaro » Sun May 20, 2007 9:29 pm

I'm currently working out two designs, a humanoid biomechanical warrior and a morphing enery creature. I'll post the energy creature some time later.

Meanwhile, the biomechanical warrior got its own thread:

viewtopic.php?t=1643
A sucking chest wound is Nature's way of telling you to slow down. --Murphy's war laws

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Re: Aliens that look alien.

#12 Post by eleazar » Mon May 21, 2007 7:12 pm

eleazar wrote:
Skaro wrote:I've come to the conclusion that we shouldn't make aliens look humanoid to make them truely alien.
—Complete and total agreement.
Just to clarify my statement. The alien concepts that IMHO we should avoid are humanoid, by this Wikipedia definition:
Wikipedia wrote:The term "humanoid" refers to any being whose body structure resembles that of a human. In this sense, the term indeed describes primates, as well as mythological creatures and artificial organisms (robots), especially in the context of science fiction and fantasy fiction...

Usually, a fictional humanoid species has the same basic body outline as a human, being bipedal with hands which include fingers and opposable thumbs, but differs in details such as number of digits, coloring, ear form, presence of hair, average height and weight, size of nose, form of skin, "extras" such as horns, plates, claws, tails or multiple appendages, limb structure (such as having digitigrade legs) and taxonomic lineage (being descended from reptiles, fish, rodents, marsupials, or a phylum not evolved on Earth, perhaps, instead of primates). Reptilian humanoids are a common concept.

Most of the aliens in television and movies are humanoid, since it is easier for a fictional character to be a disguised human actor. However, there are various methods for presenting non-humanoid characters, for example computer graphics, creative costuming, and puppetry, as seen in Farscape...
Humanoids with animal heads (Alkari, Bulrathi, Mrrshan) are equally unimpressive.

Which does not mean a good alien concept has to be totally incomprehensible with no identifiable organs— just a little creative.

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#13 Post by MikkoM » Tue May 22, 2007 6:47 pm

One thing that maybe is worth saying here is, that I don`t think you are totally alone in creating these aliens graphics guys.

Now I would at least hope that there will be some sort of music/sounds in the diplomatic meetings, which can also help to give the player some sort of an idea about the mood of the alien representatives. Now these sounds should of course be discussed more on the audio section of the forum, but I think there is a lot that for example music can tell about an alien race and it`s mood, and I think this was quite successfully done in MOO2. Also the sounds that the aliens make, if they make them, can perhaps give you some sort of an idea about their mood.

This of course doesn’t mean that the graphical part isn`t important, and I would even consider the making of the alien races one of the biggest challenges to the graphics team during the project. Since the diplomacy screen is probably the only place where you get to see living representatives of other races. However I would like to think that the creation of these aliens is a hybrid between graphics, sounds and the text that will probably be on the diplomacy screen and making successful designs depends on all of these things.

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#14 Post by pd » Tue May 22, 2007 8:34 pm

I'm glad you brought this up. Your are of course asolutely right. Music and sounds play an important part in supporting or even creating an alien race design.

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Re: Aliens that look alien.

#15 Post by Ringman » Mon Nov 19, 2007 11:31 am

I have edited this post several times to try to get the right message across and avoid restating what's already been said.

Here's why IMHO alien civilisations in sci fi almost always are humanoid (in the good sci fis anyway).

First lets establish the fact that our best resource for figuring out what life is like on other planets, is planet earth. Why? Because environment determines traits, and our explorations of our solar system has revealed that certain environments do not yield life. The only basis we have for life is earth.

That being said Aliens that develop technology, diplomacy, guns, ships, cities, and all that are more then likely going to be humanoid. Because as we've seen from earth these concepts are strictly human concepts. Only humans do these things, and any animals that come close are humanoid in appearance.

Also, the average gamer makes associations about objects by relating them to themselves, or to past experience. Humans work with technology to further their quality of living, animals use instinct and survival tactics to do so.

The most popular science fiction uses these rules. When there are exceptions, (EG Starship Troopers) the aliens usually still adhere to these rules pretty closely anyway. For example, the warrior bugs, don't use weapons, or suits or anything like that. Their "weapons" are other organic species (the cannons) and so are their "ships". The bugs share symbiotic relationships with these, and they're main goals are simply survive and reproduce. Not diplomacy.

Star Wars (not the books, the movies) is a very good example to the rule. No non humanoid alien in Star Wars, utilizes humanoid technology. And that makes sense to people. For example, you would not ever picture a Sarlacc pit building cities, firing guns, or flying fighters, would you? The simplest way to keep the creatures humanoid without totally going human looking is give them a face of some kind with eyes or a mouth (some way to represent intelligence, and awareness), and give them ways to manipulate fine instruments.

Anyway, I hope that gets the message across.

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