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Sandman

Invent -an-Alien

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I''ve been thinking about including some none human races in my game design, and it occurred to me that it is really difficult to come up with a convincing alien that is also original. Most aliens in games (or on TV for that matter) fall into one of two distinctive categories: Geigeresque, biotechnological aliens: Zerg, Tyranids, that sort of thing Star Trekesque humanoid aliens: Essentially human, but with some relatively trivial differences, eg cornish pasty foreheads, pointy ears, funny wibbly noses etc. Show how creative you are. Invent an alien that doesnt fall into the above categories. Make it REALLY alien.... PS There is no point to this, just fun.

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Watch Farscape on SciFi. They have a good bunch of aliens (it gets even better if you read the notes on the website; one of the alien lifeforms is a plant - and has photogasms when exposed to sunlight, while another suffers heat trauma when exposed to high temperatures.) They also have a fair amount of crossbreeding occurring, though most species are biped humanoids. An interesting one is the spaceship, which is alive, and its pilot, who is grafted into it...

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The ancient game Ascendancy had some pretty alien aliens in it. Off the the top of my head, I can recall a giant single-celled organism (not called an Ameboid), a jellyfish, a gasous lifeform, a non-organic but not artificial lifeform, a nanoscopic lifeform (presumeably, this isn''t stated for certain, but they seem to behave like a nanoscopic lifeform might), a tube, a giant eye on stalks, something that looked like a small mammoth, and a few others I don''t remember. It was notable for not having any humanoid lifeforms (and even the Zergs and Xenomorphs are essentially humanoid).

Also, Mission of Gravity by Frederick Pohl has a intricately design alien and alien culture in it. It''s a classic and aught to be read.

Things to bare in mind: DNA is not the only way to encode genetic data; it is unlikely that humans are nutricious to aliens; humans will breed with the common oak more easily than with an alien, regardless of how nearly-human the alien looks; the life-cycle of an alien will never include incubation within a human.

So... How about:

A being that lives in nebulae. I''ll call it a Teng. It derives power from the intense radiation.

It has four copies of its genetic code to protect it from excessive radiation-induced mutation, but if it strays to far from the nebulae, the reduced mutation-rate halts its evolution, meaning that this being is only usually found in areas of high radiation, such as star nurseries.

One of a Teng''s most important organs is its laser sac. This organ consists of a reflective skin around a porous, non-reactive, crystal, filled with hydroflouric acid. A series of vibrating bones create sound waves in the sac which, via a process of sonoluminescence and interaction with the hydroflourine, produces a very powerful laser.

When mating, the laser is used to ignite short-lived nuclear fusion reactions in the nebulae. The Teng breathes in hot hydrogen gas and expells it in a bubble; as the bubble contracts and the gas becomes dense, the Teng fires the laser at it and a reaction may start. The ability to start a reaction quickly is a prime sexual indicator.

These reactions are used to generate radiation for their young, whos surface area is too small for them to make do with the normal radiation, and to scare off predators.

Tengs are sex-less, and mate in large groups. When a group has assembled, the alpha member will eject an egg, and the other members inject it with their genetic material. The egg will divide into several more eggs which will then develop into Tengs. Tengs tend to mate and associate in groups of seven.

When a star forms nearby, it gives the Tengs an oppurtunity to move to another system. If they are not caring for any young, the group will entwine themselves and wait for the nova. When it begins and the Teng are thrown across space by the blast, they fall asleep and do not wake up until they arrive in another nebulae, if they arrive at all.

All your bases belong to us (I know. It''s irony.)

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I once designed a decendant race from Humans that might be considered alien...

It was my theory that eventually humans would develop mental powers capable of great feats of telekinesis, and causing humans to nolonger require hands or feet. Thus, arms and legs shortened and hands and feet became paws.



Using science, humans bioengineered a few seperate species, to populate worlds and areas of space where thier bodies would be awkward. Thus, some humans have a fur coat, some are porpoise-like, and there are other variations as well...

Sensory enhancements became popular, like ears that can hear high frequency sounds, and eyes that can see in the dark.

The humans eventually looked similar to regular animals, like dogs, large rodents, walrus, and many of the species looked similar to the Pokemon, Eevee.


(though, to my credit, this species was thought up before pokemon)


--
Relee the Squirrel

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In my humble opinion:

A well-thought-out biology for an alien species is important, but remember that aliens should have alien psychology. C. J. Cherryh has a series of books on the atevi, an alien species, and their relationship with humans. The atevi are large, golden-skinned mammal-like humanoids, and are physiologically much like humans. But their minds work in such a fundamentally different way that the art and science of relating with them is an enormously complex and difficult field, one which few can master. Merely learning their language is enough to drive people nearly insane.

Frederik Pohl''s Heechee can relate with humans relatively easily, as they are also humanoid mammals, but he notes the difficulty of explaining the sex drive to a creature which reproduces asexually. "It''s like that other thing you do... sneezing, right? You don''t do it, and you don''t do it, and then you can''t stand it anymore, and you do it, and then you feel better, right?"

The real trick is to create not only a self-consistent and realistic biology, but an utterly alien, but internally consistent, psychology. In game terms, if the player can guess what the aliens are planning next, he''s good, but if he can guess why, he''s God.

Just my opinion...

You can''t have "civilization" without "civil".

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FUCK

I just wrote up a really long and detailed alien and it got lost in the post so to speak. Bollocks.

Oh well. Ill just say well done so far, and yes, psychology should be really alien too. I''d rather have no alien at all than a person-in-a-rubber-suit style alien.

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The Star Control series comes to mind. Although I only played Star Control 3, I found the aliens in that game to be interesting. Examples:

The Harika and the Yorn. Both are sentient, and they coexist, becuase the Harika use the Yorn for food, and in exchange keep the Yorn population under control.

The Ur-Quan had a 25,000 year history. They are caterpillar-like creatures who all have devices in their brains (excruciators) that continually cause massive pain to them, to prevent telepathic control (extreme pain apparently does just that).

There''s more, but I take it the aim of this post is to invent our own, so I''ll be back when I think of something on my own. (Which is getting more and more difficult, thanks to television.)

------------------------------
Omnipotent_Q
"Natural Gas! It gives you... ideas!"

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You guys should read up on Peter F. Hamilton''s The Night''s Dawn Trilogy (a hexalogy in the US). It profiles a few of the most realistic alien races I have ever come by.

I like the Excruciator idea, if you''re constantly under great pain, anyone who tries to control your mind will have to take on that pain. So naturally your foes would avoid doing so.

Good Thread...

George D. Filiotis
Are you in support of the ban of Dihydrogen Monoxide? You should be!

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very interesting topic here i must say
I think the key is to figure out what the world where the "alien"
lives is like. Let''s say it is a very "earthlike" planet with about the same temperature, same gravity, same orbit around sun and so on then there is, in my opinion, very lkely that thay are similar to humans. And of course if on their planet thera are cyinaide rain and no sun and 50 degrees below (celsius) then they micht turn out like zergs or aliens (from the movie).
THe most fascinating alien i''ve ever read about is a thing called the shrike from Dan Simmons Hyperion books (the best books ever written ). It has the ability to control the flow of time on its home planet, end change shapes so it can meet people "back in time" in the shape of a beautiful girls etc. About the looks of it: It has a chrome like armor skin with spikes all over it and everybody is afraid of it ) a rellay grerat alien )

anyway check it out in the books Hyperion, the fall of hyperion, Endymion and the raise of Endymion

--Spencer

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Well the Zerg''s original idea was great.
Zerg were little parasitic creatures, enhanced by the Xel Naga (some really intelligent god-like species which the Zerg killed in the end) to form a collective.
The Zerg crept into a host''s spine and controlled their mind in such a way.
Eventually, they became very hostile, even to each other and started to modify their host creatures. That''s where it became a more ''standard'' alien species and they just started to destroy everything in their way.
After infesting everything in their planet, a species which could travel through space without vehicles came along and the Overmind (the ''collective'' master) sent a telepathic signal to them and so the Zerg got control over them and added them to their genes.
Oh by the way, before all that the Zerg mutated to assimilate the hosts DNA into their own and somehow into the collective.
This became the Zerg Larvae which can (in the game) be selected to mutate into any creature which has ever been infested/assimilated.

All I''m saying: Zerg weren''t bad but in the game itself they''re pretty default aliens.

---
Allow me to clear my head for once...
Stop polluting the air!

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Most films/TV shows/books that deal with alien lifeforms are more concerned with the biological differences among them that the creatures habits, personality, even language are only given generic descriptions...

Example: Klingons...everybody knows what they are...they are a tough ''warlike'' race that speaks the Klingon language...but think about then and the way they are used in stories, etc...they are basicly stereotypes and little more...

For a planet as small as the Earth is...we humans have a lot of variety...different languages, cultures, habits, intrests...even other animal lifeforms on our planet show a huge amount of diversity (even biological differences among members of the same species).

So to create truly realistic aliens you are going to have to address this diversity...even embrace it

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First of all, the Teng description was really cool. Well thought out and very original. The problem with it is that for most games the race isn''t feastible.

An alien race need to be sufficiently different so it doesn''t seem to come from star trek original series - "human, but redpainted hat on head and longer fingers".
On the other hand it cannot (for most games) be too different, such as living in a nebulae, gaiastyle planets or microscopic insects - you just can''t interact with them in a sensible way.

--Michael

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Hmm. A more interactive alien. Throck

Habitat

Throck lives in air and breathes oxygen and nitrogen.

Physical Characteristics

Throck is a Gestalt lifeform, formed from many indepedent, but identical, parts. In this respect it most closely mirrors the Dictyostelida (celluar slime molds) of Terran zoology.

Like slime molds, Throck exists in two primary forms: single-celled, and multi-celled.

Single-celled

In this form, Throck may be present as a heavy mist, or a clear slimy coating on objects in its habitat. Single-celled Throck has no cognitive ability.

Multi-celled

In this form, Throck may have the appearance of a clear jelly. Over time, it is able to add pigment to any of its cells. When multi-celled, Throck has considerable cognitive ability, depending upon the size of the assemblage - about two kilos of Throck is as intelligent as a human. At forty kilos, the intelligence levels off to a maximum.

Throck cells can move at a maximum rate of about 10m/s. They are also able to solidify, forming bone-like structures. The bone can be formed quickly, but takes time to destroy. The bone-forming reaction is exothermic - the Throck gains energy from solidifying, so a Throck that is starving is likely to become completely solid as it dies.

Food

Single-celled Throck consumes bacteria. Naturally, these are native to the Throck''s planet of origin, so bacteria from any old planet won''t do.

Multi-celled Throck can eat just about anything that is digestable. However, it can do so only slowly. It is most efficient at digesting nutrients dissolved in water, and of course it can eat bacteria just like it''s single-celled form.

Psychology

Throck isn''t used to recognising people by physical appearance, instead depending upon smell and personality. If a person suddenly starts behaving differently, a Throck may believe that a different person has replaced him, even if it happens in the middle of a conversation.

For Throck, death is not usually an issue: Throcks are very hard to kill, and even if only a few cells remain after they are attacked, they can grow back into a sentient Throck, although their memories and learned cognitive skills will most likely be impaired.

Social Structure

The distinction between one Throck and another is blurry. Whenever two Throck-masses are in contact, there will be two seperate intelligent entities, but the exact boundaries between the two will be forever shifting.

Generally, therefore, Throcks do not tend to have a social structure at the small scale. Instead, social structures will be formed for geographically distant Throck colonies. Often, these will be on a peer-to-peer basis, with no colony being more important than another.

Interaction Tips

Threatening an individual Throck is like threatening an individual hair: although your victim may not want you to pull his hair out, he knows he''ll grow another one. The only way to threaten a Throck is to threaten to destroy the entire Colony.

Throck may be confused by local-scale chains of command. If a captain and a commander meet with a Throck, it may not understand how the captain could be more important than the commander. It may not even understand how the captain could be a different being from the commander.

Throck may kill somebody that is in their way without the malice you might associate with such an action. From a Throck''s perspective, killing a single body is like pulling a single leaf from a tree.

Throck may expect you to know everything that has happened to people you have had recent contact with. In particular, if a collegue of yours has talked with a Throck, which you then meet, it will not think there is anything wrong with continuing the conversation from where they left off.

All your bases belong to us (I know. It''s irony.)

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