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"Designing "Credible" Intelligent Aliens For 15mm: Help!" Topic


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Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP28 Aug 2012 1:03 p.m. PST

I'm looking for ideas that are a bit more than simply putting alien or animal heads and/or legs on 15mm human dollies . . .

I really doubt I'm the only trying to come up with 15mm sculpts of "intelligent" aliens* in castable bodies that are designed more or less the way that today's exobiologists/astrobiologists/xenobiologists (take your pick) predict their physiology to be, right?

So, here are some of the sources I've been able to track down:

The Science of Aliens, Jack Challoner, 2005

Though nice and fun to read, Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials (1979) is just a collection of artistic renderings of aliens described in old SF.

There's also a really interesting episode of Morgan Freeman's Through the Wormhole (Season 2, 2011), "What do Aliens Look Like?" that examines what intelligent aliens might have developed out there:

imdb.com/title/tt1931230

And a few other websites with "reasonable" scientific speculations, like this one:

hardsf.org/AlieAnat.htm

Are there any recent sources you recommend, with insightful projections of what "intelligent" alien races might look like?

Thanks,

Dan
* By "intelligent" I really mean of sufficient consciousness to use weaponry and become good allies or opponents in games.

Glenn M28 Aug 2012 1:51 p.m. PST

You may be better off trying to design an alien animal that has the potential to become intelligent and work up from there. Let us take the horse from Avatar as an example:

picture

To be fair, it is very similar to the earthly equivalent, but it had some traits that I wanted to borrow to show how evolution could work. Now, a lot of my evolutionary leaps are fairly unlikely to happen, such as the possibility is up and growing manipulative hands. Or switching to a omnivore from an herbivore, but still.

So, it has four frontal limbs like all the animals of it's world, at least 2 of these would need to become tool using. Finger and allocation are up to you, thumbs seem necessary unless the fingers can flex in any direction (tendril like)
Both rear legs would have to stay legs, but the fronts could go either way, I would say logically the internal front legs would become manipulators, therefore the external fronts could develop as further manipulators, or remain as legs. Let's keep them as legs.
The head would remain a problem, somehow we need to fit a higher intelligence into the skull, you could keep the skull long, causing long thin brain development, or it could swell in the brain region to allow a larger more human like brain shape. The eyes are something else to consider, is this a creature that preys on others or is preyed upon. Our current understanding leans towards hunters developing more intelligence than prey. Therefore eyes would generally be moved forward and centered more to allow better depth perception. However a secondary set of eyes wouldn't be amiss either. Hunter eyes would be a must though. Therefore a predator jaw would be needed, sharp tearing teeth in the front, even keeping it omnivorous would have these.

Breathing was done through nostrils located in the collar bone, this would make sense to continue, however that leads us to another important conclusion, they can't smell in the same sense as we do as we use our tongue to scent. Presuming this is an absolute truth, perhaps a longer tongue would be used and could be hovered over nostrils to taste incoming air. Two separate tongues would work even better giving easy direction to the wherabouts of the scented thing.

So we have upgraded this beasty to the point of being feasibly intelligent and capable. Vestigial parts are almost required though. Everything has vestigial body parts, if you uprighted it you could remove a pair of limbs, perhaps they barely work and become atrophied as the creature ages. Even still they could be fine manipulators where the outer limbs lack finesse but still function, a caste system could be fun here where some young are taught for fine work, where others for brute strength.

Fun thoughts. Grab a critter you like the look of, and evolve it in your mind. I like to start with manipulation as it seems to be on of the first major requirements, how does this critter use tools, if it can't it won't evolve to where we need it to.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP28 Aug 2012 2:31 p.m. PST

Consider the factors which appear to produce human-like intelligence:

Poor personal defensive capabilities. (Put any naked human up against any decent predator— or even any decent herd animal. Animal wins the fight.)
Poor speed "fly for your life" abilities.
Poor ability to survive harsh or inclement weather— even simply prolonged sunlight.
Poor ability to swim.
Poor ability to catch smaller prey (rabbits, fish, etc.)
Limited ability to safely ingest/digest vegetation.
High vulnerability to parasites and disease.

In other words, a species so incapable of feeding itself, sheltering itself or fending off predators (or even simply equal-food competitors) that it damn well *better* develop intelligence if it wants to frickin' survive!

At this point, it appears the closest plausible non-primate critter is… the chicken.

(Or look to various extinct species, like the dodo).

Chief Lackey Rich Supporting Member of TMP Fezian28 Aug 2012 2:35 p.m. PST

Though nice and fun to read, Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials (1979) is just a collection of artistic renderings of aliens described in old SF.

There's no "just" involved there, and it sounds like you're being awfully dismissive of so-called "old SF" simply because it's old. Xenobiology is a purely speculative science and hasn't come very far in the last six decades – and classics like Niven's Puppeteers, Clements Meslkinites, and Laumer's Demons are as reasonable as anything modern authors have come up with and better than most efforts.

That said, if you want something a little more current from Barlowe's brain, try getting a hold of his book Expedition, which was adapted for television by the discovery Channel as "Alien Planet" back in 2005 (easily found on youtube last I looked). Most of the aliens there are nonsentient, and the TV version alters some things (sometimes for the better) but it's the best example of a broad look at xeno-evolution that you're likely to find. It's not hard to see how some of those critters could be adapted into tool-users, although some are unsuitable.

Only Warlock28 Aug 2012 2:36 p.m. PST

Pournelle's "Moties", Niven's Puppeteers, Kdatlyno, Slavers, Outsiders.

Also, the Alien horde from Final Fantasy: Spirits within:

picture

Personal logo snodipous Supporting Member of TMP28 Aug 2012 2:41 p.m. PST

If you can find a copy, check out the book "Expedition," also by Wayne Barlowe. It's the illustrated log of the first expedition to an alien planet harboring life. The creature designs are imaginative and plausible and very non-human, with a lot of thought given to the ecology and evolution of the aliens. There aren't any human-intelligent creatures in the book, but there is one species on the cusp of evolving intelligence.

Mako1128 Aug 2012 3:06 p.m. PST

That is a tall order, especially if you want them to carry or be able to use weaponry too.

Made even more difficult, since the jury seems to still be out on whether there is intelligent life on Earth. Seems like pretty much a 50:50 proposition to me, currently, with lots of anecdotal evidence one can point to on each side of the argument.

About the best example I've seen is the lizard man, who is a bipedal decendent of the dinosaurs, with little, or no tail, and lacking the typical long snout of a lizard/dinosaur. Kind of reminded me of Greedo, with large eyes, fairly flat, humanoid face, holes for the ears, etc.

Tri-pedal aliens, like in War of the Worlds might work as well.

Really alien-looking aliens might be unrecognizable as true sentient creatures.

I'd suggest looking again at Traveller art, and/or some designs from the Star Wars Universe as being perhaps some of the best options, currently.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP28 Aug 2012 9:09 p.m. PST

Parzival: "In other words, a species so incapable of feeding itself, sheltering itself or fending off predators (or even simply equal-food competitors) that it damn well *better* develop intelligence if it wants to frickin' survive!
At this point, it appears the closest plausible non-primate critter is… the chicken.
(Or look to various extinct species, like the dodo)."

Dude, you cough up my water through my nose! I like how you think though. :)

Chief: "There's no "just" involved there, and it sounds like you're being awfully dismissive of so-called "old SF" simply because it's old."

I apologize for sounding like that. It's probably due to having so little artwork here in the house, other than Barlowe for so many years. After a while I began to hunger for more. But, in all honesty, I often find myself going back to that collection.

GlennM: "Our current understanding leans towards hunters developing more intelligence than prey. Therefore eyes would generally be moved forward and centered more to allow better depth perception."

What about eye stalks? Cephalopods hunt and, though they don't have their eyes at the tips of antennae or such, they are still able to extend their complex eyes forward, back or even sideways, to enhance binocular vision.

I recently watched a science show that described the possible development of bilateral symmetry (limbs in pairs, and both sides of the creature mirror each other). That's something I always thought would be absolutely necessary but, in recent years I've begun to consider what if other ecological systems were based on something else entirely.

Mako11, I never had a chance to see, much less play, any Traveller games. You are making me curious now.

"Tri-pedal aliens, like in War of the Worlds might work as well."

Well, about tripedal aliens, soon a lot of you willing souls will get a chance to turn a basic idea into a creature of your imagination (at least that's my goal):

TMP link

Let's hope the next steps in the process go smoothly.

Dan

Mako1128 Aug 2012 9:44 p.m. PST

Also, wolf spiders are hunters, and have multiple eyes to do the job.

Not really sure how a brain would handle all that visual input, but clearly they are pretty good at it, as demonstrated by my trying to sneak up on them from behind with my hand, when toying with them.

Try Google Images for Traveller alien pics, since there are some decent ones there.

RTJEBADIA28 Aug 2012 11:06 p.m. PST

"Really alien-looking aliens might be unrecognizable as true sentient creatures."
This. This is why I think that the "galactic community" that humanity joins if/when we have FTL and meet a bunch of aliens (unlikely IMO) is going to mostly hang out with species that seem intelligent to us… if they develop tech like us (space travel, for example) then they probably evolved along similar lines to us, in a similar niche, from similar worlds. End result? They'll probably be pretty humanoid (mentally and physically). Some of those weird jelly fish from that gas giant might technically be highly intelligent, but they won't seem smart to us, because their intelligence will probably be entirely different. So there will be "starfish" aliens but not many of them will be friends with, get in wars with, and live on ships together with humans.

Kinda like how in Mass Effect the "galactic community" is basically a bunch of fairly humanoid aliens… but then you do meet some other intelligences who are entirely separate and VERY alien… Rachni, Thorian, etc.

Also, on the idea of humans being weak and all that.

Kinda true. Other than humans, what are the closest to intelligent creatures we have?

Some birds are up there with our closest relatives, the Apes (who are functionally pretty close to us for this discussion… bit stronger here, less endurance there, little less smart in this way, little more perceptive in that way, whatever).
Arguably wolves and dogs. Though we think of them as pretty tough, man for wolf, we're pretty close (we're smarter/more developed and they're a bit faster, but whatever). The niche is similar, too, which is why we have an instinctive rivalry with wolves…. we ARE rivals, in an ecological sense.

That said, humans aren't as weak as we think. We always compare ourselves to the best… we're not as big as an elephant, as fast as a cheetah, or as strong as a gorilla, but we're pretty balanced… we're pretty tall (but not the tallest), our top speed is low for an animal of our size but our endurance is very good compared to the vast majority of animals, similar things applying to strength, and though we're not too protected against weather in cold climates (naturally), we're pretty good for ancient Sub Saharan Africa.

I think the main traits to look for are:
1) physical manipulation ability… hands, basically.
2) Social. Pack animals at least.
3) Omnivore. Predator is good but having some basic division of labor built in (as pack omnivores would) is pretty good, and the versatility of Omnivores is a big advantage. Predators are also less frequently social and more frequently essentially solo.

So far that qualifies Apes and Birds, the two big intelligent groups. Arguably cuts out all marine life (1) but not necessarily… dolphins have been said to use tools, just very different than the sort we use. Dogs are basically in there, too, but better manipulation (1) would be required for true intelligence.

Looking at those, (4) would probably be warmblood. Cold blood might work but it is too unreliable for sustained intelligence, and therefore not a good candidate, IMO.

You need a certain size for a brain. Probably scales a bit to environment, but for Earthlike this seems to be from the size of a fairly large bird (really small birds are generally not the intelligent ones… we're dealing with birds about a foot "tall") to probably bigger than an elephant… you can be too big (too many energy requirements, slowed response times, etc) but that limits ultimate size before it limits ultimate size for intelligent animals.

Being bipedal/having free manipulators is probably an advantage… winged animals might seem to be the exception, but they can easily pick something up in a foot (or a mouth, though a mouth in itself doesn't satisfy 1 it seems) and then fly, effectively making their feet like hands while they fly (with wings being leg equivalents). I've also seen a bird use its foot and one mouth together while standing on the other foot to manipulate objects, so perhaps thats why a mouth isn't enough by itself… two manipulators are needed to most detailed manipulation.

Honestly, I'd find an alien design that seems cool (as long as nothing illogical is going on), an alien that makes sense because it fills a similar niche to humans (and is likely to, therefore, be humanlike) or one that is kinda an extrapolation of intelligent life on Earth (other than human) to be realistic.

I also like the idea of taking an unintelligent animal and thinking of how it would evolve to be intelligent, but sometimes this requires a very long evolution with a lot of extraneous solutions… might be easier to start further down the chain. You could do a rodentish creature… but in real life, apes came from rodentish creatures… so start with the ape. What other way would a rodent become intelligent? Suddenly grow a brain? Nah, they need to be social, large, have good manipulators, etc first….

Frothers Did It And Ran Away29 Aug 2012 1:42 a.m. PST

You are right to point out that most model aliens are fairly unimaginative and look like refugees from old Star Trek or Dr Who episodes. But IMO this is a failing on "SF" game rules as well – really they're just WW2/post WW2 rules with some chrome.

"Really alien-looking aliens might be unrecognizable as true sentient creatures."

+1 on that statement. How about a species that is a sentient gas which manipulates its environment psychokinetically? Does it need spaceships to get about or does it bend space itself? Does it need weapons? How would humans effectively defend themselves from it?

And why are aliens nearly always the same size as humans? They might be tiny, like mice, or so small as to be naked to the human eye. Or huge, the size of blue whales.

And how would they even perceive reality? We have sight, hearing, smell, etc due to the evolutionary pressures of earth. If you evolved on Antares IV you might have an entirely different sense perception. You might not even register human beings at all.

All of which throws up some interesting gaming and modelling challanges…

ThorLongus29 Aug 2012 4:30 a.m. PST

vorlons

Eclipsing Binaries29 Aug 2012 5:15 a.m. PST

I think the only thing we need to consider when we look at the limitations of designing miniatures for alien races, (and that's what we're discussing – putting attractive alien miniatures on a table, so for our purposes they'll need a physical form), is that they have the ability to interact, influence and alter their invironment, either through physical or mental means. We always think "where would the brain be?" or "where and what kind of eyes does the creature have?" but who's to say that an alien will even have a brain as we understand the term. I have an idea for aliens that are just blobs that can change their shape depending on their purpose.

wminsing Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2012 5:51 a.m. PST

If you're only looking for aliens that are suitable for tabletop gaming that narrows down the possibilities into something manageable. Try to accurately predict the physiology of an alien species is basically impossible, so instead I'd approach it from the idea of identifying what an alien species need to be a good 'game friendly' entity and go from there.

To be 'gaming suitable' an alien species wold need the following:
Locomotion: They need some way to move around in their environment
Manipulators: They need some way to interact with their environment
Sensory organs: They need some way to understand their environment
Structure: They need some way to hold everything above together

So just pick what seems plausible/realistic options for each of these categories and then doodle various body plans until you come up with a design that combines the elements you want. Looking at earth species isn't bad per se, since there are multiple solutions to these problems present on Earth to act as examples.

Though if you wanted to interpret this broadly you could get some very odd aliens. A totally sessile alien species that only moves by warping space to teleport itself, used telekinesis to manipulate objects and telepathy for sensors would fit the above criteria. But such a force could be gamed with.

A few other pointers to keep in mind:
Symmetry- Most life forms on earth have Bilateral symmetry, though there are plenty of exceptions. One could consider aliens with different types of symmetry easily enough.
Size- Beyond any practical biological issues with size and possible intelligence, there are limits on how large/small an alien can be and still work for a tabletop game.

-Will

Personal logo Eli Arndt Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2012 6:19 a.m. PST

From a miniatures standpoint, I think you will find that the more alien you make your design, the harder it is to create action poses that will engage the human brain's concept of action.

In sculpting my crustacean aliens, I found that their lack of humanoid form, multiple small legs and odd articulation meant a range of motion (or lack of) that kept them from being posed with any real energy.

For this alien design, a few things would likely have helped but at the cost of the concept. Long and fewer legs, making the creature seem less crustacean and more insect would have allowed more obvious motion in the poses. Arms that moved in more human ways would have allowed for more recognizable action there as well but at the risk of anthropomorphizing the aliens a bit more.

It's a tough one to do.

-Eli

Ghostrunner29 Aug 2012 7:31 a.m. PST

One obvious factor that gets overlooked when considering alien intelligence is the matter of scale.

Even in Earth's oceans, where the environment could be considered 'consistent', you have octopi and whales – both creatures that exhibit problem-solving intelligence. Yet one is 4-5 orders of magnitude larger than the other.

So, consider a battle on a low-gravity planet, where Colonial Marines are defending a remote Earth science station against alien 'infantrymen' that mass 800 metric tons each.

It certainly would be easy to differentiate the forces involved.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2012 8:54 a.m. PST

For an interesting take on some plausibly conceived alien races and their cultures, take a look at Jack Campbell's "The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier" series (which continues his "Lost Fleet" series).
The Egnimas, the Kicks, and the Dancers are three that he introduces. While their general physiological structures are not that radical, their perspectives on how they view the universe and other aliens are all very different and well thought out, logically influencing their approaches to technology, combat, etc.. Part of the plot is how the humans speculate on why each race behaves as it does and therefore how to predict their probable actions and responses.

One line from an earlier Campbell book that is pertinent here (and in the Beyond the Frontier books) is "Feathers or lead?"
It's put forth in a brief fable as a question raised by a demon, to which there is no possible way to know the answer or the consequences of it. You don't know the logic behind the question, if there even is any, and thus you don't know what answer, if any answer, is correct or best. Campbell's point is that an alien race could be a case of "feathers or lead"— there's no way to know what they want or how they think— they're alien, in every way.

Of course, in a gaming situation a "feathers or lead" alien is not one you want to consider, because it would be ungameable. You want an alien that has some logical process of motivation and reasoning that creates the unique capabilities and tactics of its side, and which can be easily grasped and played by humans. So really what you're doing is creating a human-like intelligence that is limited or guided in specific ways. Nature of the beast— we'll play 'em the way a human thinks, though the rules can guide that thought in unusual or specific directions.

So while we can speculate about gooey glowing space blobs with motivations and sentience inexplicable to or unfathomable by humans, but those are not going to wind up being part of a game setting, except as terrain or game-controlled event producers. The playable critters will be something humans can understand and plan for, whatever else they might be in terms of appearance or technology.

Personal logo Eli Arndt Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2012 9:03 a.m. PST

As true as that might be, the other thing you have to worry about in miniatures gaming is pretty much "rule of cool".

Regardless of how solid and intellectually satisfying your alien is, if it's not cool or at least appealing it won't speak to players and therefore won't sell. It's a horrible, awful truth of producing for a market.

Super giant alien warriors might be cool but are people going to look at them and think they are cool or are they going to think they look out of place. You never know!

Anything that break from the pack is going to run the risk of rejection from the market.

-Eli

RTJEBADIA29 Aug 2012 9:16 a.m. PST

Size would be a problem… they might evolve huge on a low mass world, but then they wouldn't be able to live on a high gravity world. If we're looking for realism, a lot of the weirder designs end up getting thrown out (how would hyper intelligent gas that can warp space evolve, even if such a thing is physically possible?).

They're cool ideas, but I don't think they're that good for gaming or realism.

Personal logo Eli Arndt Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2012 9:32 a.m. PST

I've run into this issue before even designing for non-minis games.

I once created a race for a strategic game that was so obscure and odd, even though it was designed by the rules, that ti would have been nearly impossible to play them in a game against other players. The race was just so alien it had so many penalties when dealign with other races.

I also ran into trouble visualizing it as anything other than some sort of overlord species. Physicially it was just too strange to conceptualize as a ground troopers.

So, yes, an alien race can be too funky to be playable. they would have been great to write about and good fiction fodder, but definitely not the best wargaming fodder.

-Eli

CorSecEng Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Aug 2012 9:32 a.m. PST

I'm still surprised that no one has tried to make a crustacean like race. I'm not talking about crabs with laser weapons but more of a race that uses shells as natural defenses.

It might be hard to do this in 15mm but you could create armor that was synthetic but filled the roll of the natural shell the race produces. Civilians would have natural covers but those are not laser/bullet proof. The warrior caste would need to augment the shells and make them out of better materials.

It adds a few interesting layers. The warrior caste would have to commit to the augmentation. These could include integrated ranged or melee weapons. You could take it really far and take all the normal kit that a soldier has and incorporate it into the synthetic armor. Invent a ritual that civilians have to perform were they shed the normal shells and forever augment themselves as warriors with the new shell setup.

Older warriors could have earlier tech so your leaders and officers would have a different style then the new recruits.

We have been talking about the physical characteristics of an alien race but you could easily start with a basic philosophy and build from that.

For instance, The Yuuzhan Vong based everything on organic tech. This leads to organic armor, weapons, vehicles. It also leads to interesting habits like self mutilation and grafting augmentations in replacement of eyes, arms, and other parts.

You could easily brain storm a bunch of ideas in several categories. Physical, social, and scientific.

Just mix and match them till you find a combo that inspires you and run with it.

Yuuzhan Vong would be humanoid, masochistic, and organic.

Another combos could be quadruped, religious, crystal tech

I think the race would be more convincing if you work from the basics and build up. I know I respond to scifi stuff a lot more when it looks like they come from a world that someone constructed instead of just a concept that an artist doodled.

Personal logo Eli Arndt Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2012 9:36 a.m. PST

CorSeceng – I am working on one, but it's a slow process. Still in the concept stages to see what works.

-Eli

WarrenB Inactive Member29 Aug 2012 11:28 a.m. PST

About the best example I've seen is the lizard man, who is a bipedal decendent of the dinosaurs, with little, or no tail, and lacking the typical long snout of a lizard/dinosaur. Kind of reminded me of Greedo, with large eyes, fairly flat, humanoid face, holes for the ears, etc.

link

And for Parzival, here's how puny humans are:

YouTube link

-----
Warren B.
minisculpture.co.uk

Personal logo Eli Arndt Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2012 11:47 a.m. PST

That damned evolved dinosaur bothers me. grin

Not only has it plagued every thread I've started on "space raptors" but it really assumes a LOT.

That model assumes that to evolve to sentience you have to become more human. Raptor like dinosaurs are already bipedal and even had "hands". There is no reason they would have had to have become more upright to develop the rest of their sentient characteristics.

Grip mode off grin

-Eli

Etranger29 Aug 2012 6:54 p.m. PST

We also know what happened when the dinosaurs evolved – they become birds. At least that's true for a certain subset of reptiles, who were warm blooded, became smarter (eg crows, parrots, reckoned by some to be smarter than dogs), able to use simple tools (crows again), live socially, forage, build, learn and communicate (some species learn an increasingly sophisticated repetoire of bird songs as they age), adapt to changing enivronments etc.

All Hail the chickenman…..

RTJEBADIA29 Aug 2012 8:48 p.m. PST

There's also pretty significant evidence that parrots are better at communication than all apes other than humans.

I'd definitely look to birds as a potential source of ideas.

then again, bipedal/having hands/whatever isn't necessarily enough, Eli. To support a large brain it is possible that the body position might have to change… being more upright is a pretty efficient way of doing this.

Mako1129 Aug 2012 9:52 p.m. PST

While I may not know what they look like, I'll lay 2:1 odds they'll like sugar too:

link

Mako1129 Aug 2012 10:00 p.m. PST

Here's proof positive evidence for the intelligent bird theory:

link

This little guy guards his bread bait carefully, removing and replacing it four times, until he finally scores his fresh fish dinner.

Personal logo CeruLucifus Supporting Member of TMP30 Aug 2012 10:32 a.m. PST

I think you need to decide what game rules you're going to use. Your aliens have to fit into your game mechanics. (Or they can all have special rules but those feel harder to balance.)

For example in some games all units move at the same rate, so effectively there is no movement rate stat to manipulate. (Two examples: in 40K all models move 6". In CrossFire you move as far as you want until the enemy spots you, more or less.) That means either you can't have speedy aliens, or you have to make up a special rule to represent "speediness".

And most likely the larger a model, the more targetable it is (can't find cover as frequently, easier to spot, etc.). That means the large alien is at a disadvantage, and on the table you have a counter-intuitive result: a non-fearsome big alien miniature. He better cost fewer points, which again is counter-intuitive. So you need to enhance his toughness stat, or if the game doesn't have one, invent a special rule (forcefield, wound absorbing blubber, etc.)

You have the opposite problem with small aliens, plus their miniatures are easier to lose.

Yes, restricting yourself to statline enhancements does somewhat argue for the traditional boring alien races that play like men except: fly, run fast, have no ranged wepaons, shoot very accurately, are hard to see, have forcefields, don't surrender, etc. They can *look* any way you want to sculpt them but what's important is they *play* well.

There's also the alien whose forces look like yours. The genestealer aliens who harvest your DNA and breed mutant human soldiers. And the psionic alion who mentally controls some of your soldiers.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP30 Aug 2012 2:11 p.m. PST

And for Parzival, here's how puny humans are [Attenborough African "runner" hunter clip]

Excellent clip, Warren. But it goes to my point as well: The puny human does not defeat his prey with brawn or speed or claws or teeth or even endurance— he defeats it with his mind.
1.) He uses his intelligence to team up with others to find a quarry, and plan the hunt.
2.) He uses his intelligence to select the prey most likely to succumb to his hunting technique— the one with the biggest horns (and therefore to any "dumb" animal, the most dangerous quarry).
3.) He uses his intelligence to coordinate with the others to separate this quarry from the herd.
4.) He uses his intelligence to, and I quote, "imagine" the paths and actions his quarry will take, even when he cannot see it, hear it or detect any evidence of its passage. (That is quite possibly the biggest advantage of human intelligence in the example— the man is able to conceive of the beast and reason out its actions, even when the beast is no longer present— however, the beast is not able to do the same with regards to the man. The man thinks, and acts. The beast only reacts.)
5.) He uses his intelligence to develop tools for his purpose— a method of carrying water along with him, which no beast can conceive of, and, of course, the spear he uses to kill his prey. Not to mention that the man in question is also smart enough to wear shoes, making his hunt all the more likely to be successful.

It is not man's body that wins the match. It remains his intelligence. Without it, the hunt would be an utter failure.

Etranger30 Aug 2012 7:09 p.m. PST

Apart from #5, that would also be a description of how pack hunters (eg wolves, lions) work too.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP31 Aug 2012 8:52 a.m. PST

I also note that it probably didn't hurt that the guy had a camera crew there… with a vehicle, perhaps? Maybe even a *gasp* helicopter?
Makes it a lot easier to "imagine" where the Ubu went, doesn't it?

Elenderil22 Oct 2012 8:22 a.m. PST

Several interrelated issues here.

1. What will sell and why
2. What can be modelled and cast easily
3. What do you want the model to represent.
4. What might a "real" ET species look like

So lets start at the top.

What will sell and why.
I have done no market research so this is based only on what I might buy. Firstly I'd like something similar to some of the aliens I have enjoyed reading about in my favourite SF works. These are not necessarily the hard science carefully thought out aliens. Kzinti from Larry Niven's tales of known space (an intelligent feline like species) or the Thranx or A'Aa nfrom the Commonwealth stories of Alan Dean Foster (inteligent insectivoids and reptiles respectively) would be on that list. Next would be some seriously odd aliens that I cannot buy variations on elsewhere (which is good for you as you then have the market for that alien).

What can be modelled and cast easily.
Most of the generic man in a suit aliens can be done easily some of the others perhaps less so. Not one I can comment on easily more one for the casting company to advise on.

What do you want the model to represent
Is it a different take on a "standard" alien type (lizardman, catman etc) or something new and different that is truely alien looking. Which brings us back to…

What might a real ET species look like.
You might want to look at the BBC natural history series/book Early Life. This looked at very early animals such as Trilobites which ended up as evolutionary dead ends and would allow you to see how evolution could have gone in a different direction.

Esentially all animals on our planet have evolved from something that was a flat sheet of cells. These evolved into a tubular shape which allowed cells on the inside of the tube to be protected. These cells then evolved into groups of cells fulfilling different functions (proto-body organs). Now evolution at this very early stage is more likely to be mimiced in most earth like environments as it is an elegant solution to evolving specialist organs. Next we have to look at the mechanical design of these life forms. Eating organic matter needs a guit which needs to be a reasonable length. So we can expect most aliens to be longer than they are wide with a mouth at one end and an anus at the other (after all that is a reasonable way to avoid poisoning yourself on your own waste products!). Sense organs need to be positioned where they can get a good "image" of the world around them. The seat of inteligence (Be that a brain or someother organ) needs to protect that intelligence and probably needs to be close to the key sense organs to reduce sensory inputs being degraded and transmission slowed. The protection might be by having it relatively well armoured as Humans do either by bone or similar, or by having a dispersed serious of processing nodes. It is beleived that some very large dinosaurs had secondary nerve clusters at the base of the spine because of the delay in sending signals from brain to tail.

The arguments about a weaker species having more use for intelligence as we understand it makes a lot of sense. Stronger faster species don't need intelligence they already have a perfectly good system for survival.

So building a new alien species from these parameters gives any number of possibilities. Many of which have been listed above. Something to observe the world with (eyes, ears) something to communicate with (mouth), something to eat through (mouth again), something to manipulate the environment with (hands), a means of movement (legs) (i don't really expect many sessile life forms to be good gaming enemies). Size range depends on the environment but by and large to keep figure costs reasonable you don't want them to be too big.

Personally I would raid SF novels for basic ideas and then adjust them.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2012 8:39 a.m. PST

Ok then …

1) Would this sell?

TMP link

link

Dan

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