So it's been a while, but today I would like to treat you to a little behind the scenes in how we go about 'Evolving a Race' for the game First Law: Override.
Now when I say 'Evolving', I don't mean in the same way as say Darwin or even Pokemon. No I mean how a race goes from a primordial idea into the finished article.
For this we are going to look at the primary two alien races; The Kratel & The Hydan.
As a summary the Kratel are the brutish, warlike race of Override, while the Hydan are the technologically advanced, highly intelligent but almost devoid of a moral compass.
I should probably point out, this is where a lot of my work nowerdays comes into play. As the World Builder or Teraformer of our duet, it is my role and responsibility to create races who are not only realistic and believable, but also fun.
To begin with we look at the Core Principle. Just what trope does this race follow. Are they the plucky Human who survived against the odds? Are they the intelligent but arrogant Space Elf? Maybe they are the honourable Space Warrior? Could they be Space Traders valuing currency above all else? Maybe they are a small school of Space Monks?
These are just a select few tropes used in every single Sci-Fi.
Now I know what some of you may be thinking; "Why copy what someone else has done? Why not create something 100% original?"
- Well that question has 2 main problems: 1). It's next to impossible. You want to find something 100% new and original in regards to these sort of tropes? Good luck! Even looking at recent Sci-Fi TV in the forms of Star Trek & Babylon 5, you will find so many alien races all covering different ideas, the chances of a 100% original idea? Good luck!
2). It's not always easy for the audience to relate to. People like to read something and attach it to an existing schema, this is how we are wired. You may not even be aware you are doing it half the time, that is how schema works, but we like to create categories. Once we have these categories we can then create sub-schemas and individuals who are juxtaposed with those schemas. But we like to have them to begin with.
For those interested, the Hydan is the Space Elf, made famous in wargaming in either attitude or appearance by the Eldar, Tau and Tohaa and in TV and film with the Vulcans, Mimbari & Space Jockeys. These are creatures who often look just like Humans with one, maybe 2 notable physical differences. They are always technologically advanced, see Humans as primitive and often use a series of crystals, gems or semi-organic for their technology.
The Kratel however are the Space Warrior, probably most known by the Klingons and Predators (Yautja), but also the Naan, Luxans and Krogan. The Space Warrior is often less technologically advanced than the Space Elf, but more often than not more advanced than Humans. They are almost always Humanoid in appearance, but more distinct from Humans than the Space Elf. They value melee combat and will almost always have some sort of honour code that they abide by. Where as the Space Elf will see the Human as primitive due to a lack of intelligence, the Space Warrior will more often see the Human as weak, but admire their resourcefulness and ability to adapt.
Once these tropes are pinned down, some fleshing out began. I began with the Hydan, of which little was directly planned.
I knew I wanted them to be athletic who were very high-tech, almost certainly focusing on a crystal or similar technology. This was largely for one reason: aesthetics! The lore was going to be very Human focused, with colour schemes focusing on greys, browns and black. We're looking at military shades of colour and rust covered walls. A crystal tech for the Hydan would provide a strong contrast to this really setting themselves apart.
They needed something else, and from that came their almost reliance on stealth tech. Here we are looking at a race who almost entirely relies on technology for everything, their weaponry was going to be the best on the battlefield and their protection would be the same.
- Now I ask you; ever been shot by a gun? What about punched really hard? I'm sure one of those you can relate to, and you will agree that unless you are quite literally in an immovable tank, if you do not have the physical resilience to take the blow, it is going to hurt. So how should a race 100% physically feeble have the best technological defence on the battlefield? By not getting shot at all! Enter stealth tech!
Here we are, an image forming of a high tech space elf who is able to kill an enemy while being totally safe itself. How does it do it? Up close? Of course not! Doing so puts it's precious body at risk! No we're looking at a sniper rifle! So a sniper rifle powered by crystal tech. Sounds interesting! And they have stealth tech! In other words we have a total glass cannon! It can shoot from far away and be safe from reprisal, but take away its tech and you have one vulnerable space elf!
So that's the template for the Hydan. What's next? Attitude!
Yeah, attitude! How do these Space Elves, or Hydan act? Well we know from their trope that they are aloof, arrogant and have a massive superiority complex, but what would that do elsewhere? Surely they wouldn't live with any other race? Of course not! They'd live in a glittering tower of crystal powered by their own unlimited energy source, floating in space allowing them to always look down on others.
Of course this attitude would bring them disdain, very few non Hydan would get on with them, but they wouldn't understand why, instead seeing themselves as the eternal victim of their own superiority.
Enter the big boys! The Space Warriors!
How are these guys different to both Humans and Hydan? I know! They're Imperial! I can see it know; The Kratel Empire! It rolls off the tongue!
Ok what else? What about if we made then more feral? After all if they are more like the tribal races of the Space Warrior, there needs to be something almost feral about them. Let's take a look at nature, what do we often see? Strong females!
That's it! The Kratel Empire is dominated by an Empress, not an Emperor!
Ok this is starting to take shape already, a brutish warlike race who is ruled by an empress (sounds a bit like the British before WWI).
I dunno, I don't like the sound of that. It seems very 2-dimensional. Not much scope for character...
...hold up! What if not everyone agreed with the Empire? What if the Empress was truly dominating, a real man eater (literally in the case of bugs) and the playable group were the ones facing off against her? Yeah! A rebel faction trying to take down the Kratel Empire! Imagine the propaganda ideas that can be thrown around!
Also let's go back a min... What did I say about bugs? Yeah they are like empires with the queen bug controlling the drones, interesting idea! Let's roll with that!
So what are we left with?
The Hydan, a race of humanoid high-tech users who will be physically frail but should look imposing as ranged snipers and the like. As a community they are aloof and separate from Humanity, mixing only when they deem Humanity worthy of their time.
The Kratel, a race of Humanoid bugs who should be physically strong and tough but who's culture is in turmoil from civil war and/or terror attacks.
Looking back from the current writing, these descriptions do not fully (if at all) match the end product, but about a year ago this was what we had.
You'll notice that no attempt to fit them in with existing model ranges or similar is present, with the focus instead being on developing the races from a reverse evolutionary state.
- By that I mean I didn't start off with a primitive creature and advance them into a state to see how they would end up, but instead start off with a semi-end result in mind and then go backwards to see what they would need to be like to fulfil those requirements.
For those familiar with the end result you will probably be surprised and curious about how we got from this stage to the final product. It is this that I hope to bring to you soon in Part 2 - Realising Potential.
Until then; stay safe and be excellent to each other.
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley