Jump to content

  • Log In with Google      Sign In   
  • Create Account

We're offering banner ads on our site from just $5!

1. Details HERE. 2. GDNet+ Subscriptions HERE. 3. Ad upload HERE.


Hello, my name is Human


Old topic!
Guest, the last post of this topic is over 60 days old and at this point you may not reply in this topic. If you wish to continue this conversation start a new topic.

  • You cannot reply to this topic
18 replies to this topic

#1 Tom   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 352

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 01 October 2000 - 08:35 PM

I'm a newbie to this forum, so it'll probably take me some time to settle in. Don't be too violent with your replies, because I try to be as objective as possible about this kind of thing. In the "Klingonness" thread, MadKeithV said something that didn't sit very well with me:
If you want really alien aliens, you wouldn't understand ANYTHING of their moral and social structure. They'd probably be realistic aliens, and completely worthless to your game.
I can't say I disagree with him. In psychology, this kind of thinking is called the "anthropomorphic problem." People expect aliens to be exactly like humans. Either they'll look like humans; have humanoid bodies; possess human ethics, ideals, or a linear way of thinking; or have a history closely resembling our own. Stereotypes are used so we have something to relate to when we view science fiction stories. To this length, he's right: anthropomorphism is typical of our stories because we need to confront something we understand. If we don't understand the story, it's obviously not going to be a very good story! But I would like to address the other side of his point, the part that was left unspoken. Although I agree that what MadKeith said was true in most cases, I have to side with Landfish on this one: I'm freaking sick of all these stereotypes. Whatever happened to originality? To exemplify my point, let's look at this very simple question that contradicts what M.K. said: What if your story really does benefit from a truly-alien alien? What if an enigmatic creature is exactly what the audience needs to see? What about people like Landfish and me, who have seen enough humans in real life that we don't want to see them in games? A friend and I have been developing a truly-alien world for several months now. It's difficult to create something inhuman, or non-earthling for that matter, because we have Earth ingrained into our psyches. Everything we think about relates to our world in one way or another. All we can really hope to do is make it as alien as possible. The world we've created is a desert. There is no surface water whatsoever. No earth life could ever survive on this world, and that was a good start for avoiding earthling lifeforms altogether. The mood we want to portray with this world is one of mystery and terror. If you walk out into the desert, you will meet things that will screw your rationality into the upside of down. Basically, truly-alien aliens are integral to the atmosphere of our world. None of the old stereotypes apply. We've kept things interesting not by creating a world people will recognize, but by creating a world people can discover. I'd like to continue this discussion, but I want to hear what you all have to say about this so far, particularly Landfish and M.K. Edited by - Tom on 10/2/00 2:41:19 AM

Sponsor:

#2 ahw   Members   -  Reputation: 263

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 01 October 2000 - 09:36 PM

Wildboars, when hunted, try do hard to run away from the hunter that they usually to a wide circle and come back exactly from where they started, except they arrive from the other direction...

I don''t understand what the problem is with stereotypes. A stereotype is, by definition, a useful tool created to improve productivity. If you need something ready made, use it, otherwise, create something tailored to your needs.
If you create something totally new, then cool. But how do you distinguish it from a mass ?
You create this cool alien life form called Zorglub. It''s not based on any stereotype, it''s a prototype. you describe it in a very intricate manner, very detailed, etc. But it''s the only one you meet. How do you then describe the species to other people ? You describe the Zorglub you met. And there you are, you have created a stereotype...
Now, if you had created an archetypical Zorglub (a *model* type) , and your players had met several individuals *based* on the archetype (they all have slight variations, but remain not that really original), the players would naturally develop their own stereotype of the Zorglub that they would use to designate the general Zorglub population. You can''t prevent that !
Now, when they meet this guy XxiGho Raaah, a Zorglub that wish to help them, you can put much more detail into this individual. He will look even more interesting in contrast to the mass of other individuals you have created.

What I am trying to say is, don''t think making archetypes (not stereotypes, or cliches) is a bad thing. It''s a tool. If you use it badly, it''s your own fault. Most sci-fi shows, use antropomorphic alien because that''s a stereotype we are so used to ... but it doesn''t make the idea of creating a model, or several models for a species, bad. It helps you create much more personalised characters. Would Worf be that interesting if all other Klingons were as detailed as him ? Would G''Kar have such depth if he hadn''t been first a cliche''d Narn, later becoming a much more interesting character ?

Ahw ell

#3 Tom   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 352

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 02 October 2000 - 03:46 AM

That''s definitely a good point. I suppose I should amend my proposition a bit by saying, I do not expect to avoid stereotypes altogether. Humans have seen these aliens before, and they have already formulated stereotypes for them. (You''d have to read the background to understand, but since you can''t do that, just take my word for it.)

My implication was not that stereotypes are necessarily a bad thing, but that they are used far too often, and without much regard to the effect they have on people. Think about goblin genocide: by stereotype, goblins are filthy, boarish little creatures bent on destruction of everything. All goblins are protrayed in this manner. It''s become a stereotype.

Incidentally, I can expand this to say that any creature derived from goblins/orcs/[insert stereotype of choice] will look and act exactly as expected. Always.

I''m sure I can''t convince you that this is a bad thing, but I want you to take a look at Stonekeep and tell me what the different is between goblins and sharga, orcs and throgs. Probably not much, eh? But you''ll notice the background on Stonekeep''s monsters is so well defined that stereotypes aren''t even considered anymore. You don''t say "oh look, another goblin clone." You say, "this creature''s background makes sense, I can see how it came to be this way."

Maybe I should have said, stereotypes are poorly done when they are immediately recognizable for what they are. All aliens will be human in some (probably most) ways. You can expect them to act like humans, and what''s worse, you can expect their entire race to act like any individual specimen.

I can''t disagree with your claim, but you''re also making one other poor assumption. If a human did encounter an alien, who''s to say he''d be able to communicate with it? Like Landfish said, conflict makes story. The truly-alien alien would incite fear and hatred without even being understood. That''s xenophobia for you.

#4 MadKeithV   Moderators   -  Reputation: 971

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 02 October 2000 - 04:01 AM

I think that reading Lovecraft is a good source for information. He strays away from recognised reality so far that it''s almost impossible to see the "reality" in there, but he stays just close enough for you to touch it.
There''s a lovely quote about him somewhere, I''ll have to look it up, but it goes something like:
"The truly weird is when you feel that you have actually made contact with a plane of existence that is not your own, you believe it, but you do not understand it."

A truly weird alien race might work really well, as long as it fits withing something like reality in a way that you can relate to.


People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
~ (V)^|) |<é!t|-| ~

#5 ahw   Members   -  Reputation: 263

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 02 October 2000 - 12:50 PM

Uhuhuh I didn''t even mention the case where we would encounter a species/being we can''t communicate with, for the simple reason I know perfectly well how natural xenophobia is (Aztechs and co. , Native Indians, Africans anyone ?)
I think, and I noted that somewhere else (probably in a post for Wavinator background story), that this would make an *excellent* excuse for plot development. The best episodes in quite a bunch of shows I have seen had this kind of "we meet something we think is a menace, but in the end they were trying to communicate" (see Babylon V and the BAttle of the Line, see StarStrek and species 237 (or something like that), see Farscape and one particular episode ...)

Once you have passed the first contact. I still don''t think you''ll do a long way before *you* see stereotypes in the beings you meet. It''s a natural of doing. There is nothing really wrong about this as long as you accept that each individual still is an exception to whatever stereotype you have created for yourself. Everyone will see whatever he wants to see in the beings you can make up.
I am still thinking at how annoyed LandFish seemed to be when he compared the Ferengi to Jews (that is, he saw the Ferengi as based on a Jew caricatur). It''s funny to think that this never crossed my mind... we see what we know in other people. I even read something that I verified later, that we usually like and hate in other people only the parts that remember of ourselves (that is, I like/hate someone because I can see myself in him/her).
All I am saying is, stop wrecking your head with trying to avoid stereotyping in your characters, beings, or whatever they are. Whatever you do, it''s gonna pop up somehow. Because that''s the way our minds work.

Now, it doesn''t mean you can''t do a good job and try to avoid totally clicheesque characters, races, etc.
I am not sure it is a bad thing if we immediately see a mix of different references in your creations.
I mean, if you are creating a race of insectoids beings living underground, with a very special way of thiking, etc... what if it happens that *I* am a specialist of enthomology (study of insects life), and I immediately recognise a mix of three different species in your so-called original and different thinking species ??? So long for the originality.

All I am saying is, whatever you do, when you create, you are basing those creations on references, and somehow, someone is gonna see that reference, and thus immediately associate your original creation with his knowledge of what he has recognised... and there you are, your "totally alien" being is not that alien anymore...

so as I said before, you run away so blindlessly from what you try to avoid, that you end up where you started (that''s the wildboar metaphor, in case you got confused).

I say stop trying to be alien at all cost. Make something different, ok. Make something consistant, ok. MAke something good, great.
Just don''t wreck your head with trying to avoid stereotypes... you gonna make them yourself, and if you don''t (how could you not?), people are gonna make them for you, and not necessarily as you would like to (you are better off saying straight that your race is a mix of the thisrace and thatrace, rather than have the player make their own association and totally miss what you were trying to communicate to them.)

youpla :-P

#6 Tom   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 352

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 02 October 2000 - 03:45 PM

Okay, I see your point very clearly. I agree that stereotypes are conventional and even natural for everyone, whether we''d like to believe it or not. I also agree that we despise the self we see in others. (This is a philosophy I came up with on my own just last week.)

This means I need to amend my initial claim again. From this point on, ignore the term "stereotype" altogether. The word I want to use is "anthropomorphism." This concept is used far too liberally when creating alien species.

Every alien race I''ve ever seen had something in common with humans. In fact, the resemblance was so strong they might as well have named the race "Human part two" or "Human from another planet." This is what disgusts me so much in fantasy and sci-fi.

You''re right about associating aliens with existing creatures. This is to be expected, because we can''t create anything beyond our capacity for understanding. Incidentally, most things we understand already exist in the real world.

Besides, there is also the fact that my alien world has to be inhabitable by humans, or else there is no plot. Because of this, many earthling-like creatures will have evolved there. I don''t see anything wrong with this, as long as they''re not a bunch of humans.

I realize that the human qualities a writer applies to his aliens depends entirely on what his story requires. In the case of Star Trek, all aliens were virtually identical to humans because they needed to interact with humans on a regular basis. In the Alien movies, they were looked similar to humans because real people were wearing the suits, but the aliens acted almost nothing like humans. They were more like insects.

Still, there aren''t enough non-human aliens to make me happy. Or rather, there are far too many human aliens that it makes me sick. I''d like to see some originality for once.

#7 wcreviston   Members   -  Reputation: 122

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 02 October 2000 - 04:11 PM

I just want to add that the common races in Star Trek are very similar to humans because they are all different races planted by an ancient bipedal species. I thought that was a neat approach because it made humans the clones rather than the other way around. If you accept that part of the story, then each of the different species are _expected_ to appear and act human-like. It''s not as if a separate species living on a completely different planet just happened to end up like humans. It fits the story.

#8 ahw   Members   -  Reputation: 263

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 03 October 2000 - 02:24 AM

Tom : i am glad we agree. And yeah, there are way too many antropomorphic species in sci-fi. In tv shows, I can accept that as it is hard to create whole new beasts (it costs money). But *GAMES* don''t have such an excuse, and laziness, as usual, is probably the reason.
Alien -> tyranids in Games Workshop games -> zerg in Warcraft
... so much for originality

youpla :-P


#9 MadKeithV   Moderators   -  Reputation: 971

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 03 October 2000 - 02:36 AM

Again, I think HP Lovecraft had some brilliant alien beings ( the starspawn, and the 5-dimensional creatures ), that had practically NO physical equivalent in the recognised world. In "To the Mountains of Madness" I read about these creatures for the first time, and in the beginning you just have no idea what they are. You''re not even sure if they are animals or plants. But then you discover their lost city ( completely desolate ), with frescos of their history, and they turn out to have thoughts that aren''t quite as alien as their bodies, though very, VERY twisted.

Discovery about a weird species is a very good subject for a story, specially if it involves conflict.


People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
~ (V)^|) |<é!t|-| ~

#10 Tom   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 352

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 03 October 2000 - 03:24 PM

Wcreviston: That episode was an excuse for why all the species looked virtually identical. I think it was a cool idea, but by the time they used it, the damage had already been done. There really isn''t any solid excuse for a lack of creativity.

MadKeith: Can you give me more titles of Lovecraft''s work? This definitely sounds like something I ought to be reading.

Ahw: I made the Tyrannid-Zerg connection long ago. Lack of budget is a poor excuse for having humanized aliens these days. Starship Troopers had a terrible plot, but at least the aliens were original. With multi-million dollar budgets, there''s just no excuse.

Of course, producers usually want their aliens to look human so people can relate to them, but I say why should we relate to aliens at all? That''s what makes them aliens. If they look and act like humans, they''re just an extension of humankind. Big freaking deal.

I don''t see a need to campaign against this though. I''ll just be happy with my aliens and continue to despise everyone else''s.

#11 ahw   Members   -  Reputation: 263

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 04 October 2000 - 02:03 AM

Tom : I am glad you mention Starship Troopers
Actually, you''ll notice that one of the marketing points of the movie was the excellent effects, and the use of non-humanoid aliens, which was extremely costly. I don''t remember a lot of movies doing that before (Alien maybe...)

but the interesting thing about Starship Troopers, as you said, isn''t the plot. Rather it''s the message, if you think about it five seconds.
A race of evil bugs from the other side of the galaxy, that would have send an asteroid on our planet ??? How convenient.
The point of the movie was to make you think about how cool fachism can look (IMHO). And the use of non-humanoids as the enemy is just a clever trick to make it more obvious. They are different, they are bugs, let''s wipe them out...
If they had been more like us, we probably would have been thinking a little bit more, wouldn''t we ?
So you see, how our preconceived ideas can be used to manipulate us. The big asteroid being just an excuse to launch a massive attack against a race we would have otherwise ignored (maybe), or treated differently (more probably).
The appearance of the aliens you design is a narrative tool (mm, not sure of the expression, but you get the point?) and should be used just like that : a tool. Unless you are a scientific trying to study alternative life forms (then, refer to the Tierra project, amongst others).

youpla :-P

#12 MadKeithV   Moderators   -  Reputation: 971

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 04 October 2000 - 02:27 AM

Tom - I think you should look around to find the HP Lovecraft Omnibus set... that''s where I read his stories the first time. These are truly classics of the weird, and they are an excellent source of information about the horror/suspense genre.


People might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
~ (V)^|) |<é!t|-| ~

#13 Tom   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 352

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 04 October 2000 - 03:42 AM

You know what''s funny? For all the times I''ve watched Starship Troopers, I never made that connection before. Perhaps it''s because I''m beyond the need to destroy creatures weaker than I am. I don''t kill insects like most people do. In fact, it sickens me to see other people do it.

In this sense, I might not be a very good candidate for making a viscious alien species, which could actually be a good thing. How many alien species do you think would really be bent on wiping out mankind, particularly when they''re across the frigging galaxy?

But I''m thinking in human terms again. A truly-alien alien might not intend to kill. In fact, it might not have any concept of killing. For anyone in this conversation that hasn''t read "Sphere" by Michael Crichton, I strongly recommend doing so. (The book is far superior to the movie, as always.)

As for another really great non-human alien, check out "Deep Rising" (1998). The monster wasn''t really an alien per se, but it had all the qualities that make a great alien menace.

I''ll try to bring my aiens to bear on the plot, so they have a greater purpose other than to mystify. There are several species in my world I can use to do this. Thanks for the tips.

#14 kseh   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2156

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 04 October 2000 - 08:01 AM

Starship Troopers has since been made into an animated series with a considerably better plot than the movie. I believe one of the credits mentions that this series is based upon a book. Whether the book came before or after the movie I don''t know. Or was that the book that Tom mentioned?

Insects and such simply live. It is the primary goal of life to survive, grow, and reproduce. We humans do it too, it''s just we think of ourselves as so civilized that we forget. It''s not that alien a concept, just forgoten.

#15 ahw   Members   -  Reputation: 263

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 04 October 2000 - 10:32 AM

Well, as a matter of fact, Starship troopers is originally a book written by Robert Heinlein. And don''t believe it''s a crap plot just because the movie can''t go deep under the surface. It''s your brain''s job to do that, after all
Even in the movie, you should be at least a bit confused by the underlying fachism of this society, where you can''t become a citizen if you haven''t served ... it''s much more political that the movie make it look like. The reason I talk about it even though I haven''t read it, is because I saw this interview with Heinlein, after the movie was out, where he explain himself what he tried to show in the movie. Seem like a lot of people in the States missed the point ...

kseh : mmmh, I *never* remember the guy who wrote the pyramid of needs... but basically, we humans do survive, grow and reproduce, it''s just that for most of us western societies, we already have got that, and we care about other things a bit "higher-level", which, as you say, make us forget that we do that to. I guess I am just saying I agree with you

ahw ell


#16 Tom   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 352

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 05 October 2000 - 04:20 PM

Which brings to mind an interesting point. What if an alien species were so superior to ourselves that they mastered survival and reproduction, and perhaps even satisfaction? Eudaimonia, anyone?

Just a thought. What would that species be like? What goals could they have if they no longer yearned for enjoyment? My guess is, you''d have an Alpha Centauri plot where all members of the species are striving for transcendence to another state of being. An interesting idea, I think.

Actually, this is interesting to me, because this is where psionics originated in my future human society. People had grown so used to automation and eudaimonia that they began looking into hidden aspects of the human psyche. It''s not your run-of-the-mill plot where people just kind of inadvertantly stumbled onto psionics. No, my humans worked for it.

Okay, that''s it for my rant tonight.

#17 ahw   Members   -  Reputation: 263

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 05 October 2000 - 09:15 PM

cf the Vorlon in Babylon 5, the Thirdspace thingies (I particularly love the question of G''Kar of tha Narn "could it be that we are mere ants on the fingers of giants ?")
cf the Asgard in Stargate SG1 (not sure of the spelling, the little greys, basically).

Your point is nice, what is the goal of a species. And what do you do once you have mastered the basics... I guess it''s a nice definition of what a species does. Fight for survival, look for food, build shelter, create social life, look for self improvement, etc. It applies to quite a bunch of animals, I guess if we expand that, we can create interesting alien cultures.

youpla :-P

#18 DungeonMaster   Members   -  Reputation: 122

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 06 October 2000 - 07:11 AM

I wonder how the player (which is probably human ) can interact with species wich are truely different, because then communication would probably be a problem. Are there some things which are common to all sapient species ? How can we define a frame of reference common to both species ?
This is one of the main reasons why there are so much antropomorphic species, if they don''t share some common traits with us the only possibilities are to avoid them (not very interesting unless the scenario is very well constructed) or to fight them (far too overdone).

Some references :
Orson Scott Card : "The Ender strategy"
David Brin : "Uplift war"


#19 ahw   Members   -  Reputation: 263

Like
Likes
Like

Posted 06 October 2000 - 09:50 AM

Well, on the contrary, I think it could make a whole game to try and understand other species. Or at least make first contact.
Star Trek has it easy, meeting humanoids races. But the few ones that are not, usually end up doing the best episodes I have seen (anything with the Borg, the species 237 or something, that species that was a descendant from Earth dinosaurs and were invastigating the spaceship crew ...)
The special episode Thirdspace (in Babylon 5) gives you one of those encounters you''d rather avoid.
But I think this could make the whole interest in a game.
Rather than having a "you discovered the Zorgluvian. They are friendly" message on your log, you could make a whole portion of the game around discovering a few, well designed species.
Imagine playing the commander of the ship that makes first contact with a spaceship. And imagine you f*ck it up like the guy did in Babylon 5 with the Minbari, provoking a war, and the quasi-extinction of the Solar system ...

Now that would be a nice game !

(since you refer to O.S. Card, try his "Return to Harmony" series, the last book has an interesting form of this kind of encounters)




Old topic!
Guest, the last post of this topic is over 60 days old and at this point you may not reply in this topic. If you wish to continue this conversation start a new topic.



PARTNERS