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Offline BTAxis

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Alien bestiary
« on: March 02, 2011, 11:14:25 pm »
I'm making this thread because I think it's time we made a clear list of aliens we ultimately want to have in the game, which would be helpful for graphics contributors. I think the discussion about this should be done in two steps:

* First we need to determine what kind of enemies we want to have in the game, in terms of what the role of the enemies is in tactical engagements, what sort of hazard they represent to the player (and by extension, what sort of tactics they entice from the player), how they behave and how they complement the other enemy types.

* Second, we have to fill in the details for the enemies. Once we know what an enemy is supposed to do in the game, we can talk about what it should look like, what sort of innate abilities it should have, etc.

I'm starting off the discussion by first listing what we have, and then by making suggestions for how I think what we have can be extended.


What we have
This section lists the aliens that are either already ingame or are in an advanced stage of planning. What you read here should be considered set in stone.

Taman
* Role: Physically weak enemy with somewhat sub-average combat abilities, but with lots of mental capacity. Serves as a weak enemy for the early game, and a dangerous psionic foe for the later game.
* Implementation: Done.

Ortnok
* Role: Tough and strong, this enemy is a foot soldier fighting at the front. It should be used by the AI as a shock troop, preferring a direct assault over careful tactics.
* Implementation: Done.

Shevaar
* Role: The Shevaar is the aliens' secondary infantry combatant. It is meant to be fast, with a lot of TUs available for moving and firing. It should also have different inherent armour than the Ortnok, so different weaponry works well on it.
* Implementation: Done.

Bloodspider
* Role: The Bloodspider is more or less to UFO:AI what brainsuckers were to X-COM Apocalypse: small, fast and highly dangerous if you let them get too close. They don't have ranged weaponry, but are dangerous in melee. Their primary role is to harvest organic material though, so they aren't meant for combat.
* Implementation: Done.

Hoverbot
* Role: Hoverbots are flying, mechanical units. They have limited firepower compared to ground based units, and they serve mainly as scouts and air support for other aliens.
* Implementation: Done.

Breeder
* Role: Breeders are half-organic, half-mechanical vehicles meant to infuse victims with XVI. In battle their primary role is to find civilians and turn them into alien drones, but when attacked they can retaliate with strong psionic attacks as well.
* Implementation: Rough sketch. Open to improvement or complete redesign. Note: 2x2 unit!

Alien wormhole device
* Role: It's not an alien as such, but it behaves like one in base missions. The wormhole device channels the psionic abilities of the hive mind on the other side of the wormhole, so while it can't move or attack normally, it can use psionic attacks in tactical combat.
* Implementation: Done, I think? Again my knowledge of our artwork fails me. Tell me if you know.


What could come next
This is my personal idea of how the bestiary could be extended. The goal is to provide a number of enemies that require different approaches to beat, without going overboard and making too many similar types.

Alien tank
* Role: The purpose of this unit would be to be very tough and heavily armed. It's an enemy to attack from cover, because a direct engagement would result in almost certain death. It should be a 2x2 unit, so it can't enter confined spaces. It should also be mechanical. Mode of movement could be tracked, wheeled or legged, whatever works. Think ground-based, alien UGV.

Alien flier
* Role: Another aerial unit for the aliens, this time something more combat-oriented. Since the other flier is mechanical, this one should probably be organic.

Combat Bloodspider
* Role: An upgrade of sorts for the Bloodspider. The Bloodspider is a harvesting tool with offensive abilities, but this version is a straight up combat droid. It should be faster, tougher and deadlier than the regular bloodspider, and it should appear somewhere in the mid game.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2011, 12:31:56 pm by BTAxis »

Offline H-Hour

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Re: Alien bestiary
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2011, 11:56:02 pm »
Good idea.

Hoverbot
* Role: Hoverbots are flying, mechanical units. They have limited firepower compared to ground based units, and they serve mainly as scouts and air support for other aliens.
* Implementation: Done, though I don't know of a picture. Help appreciated here.

I am not aware of any artwork done for this. Anyone else?

Breeder
* Role: Breeders are half-organic, half-mechanical vehicles meant to infuse victims with XVI. In battle their primary role is to find civilians and turn them into alien drones, but when attacked they can retaliate with strong psionic attacks as well.
* Implementation: Rough sketch. Open to improvement or complete redesign. Note: 2x2 unit!

I think this could be a good candidate if we changed its description to be predominantly or fully organic. If you agree, the first step is tracking skorpio down and getting the files. I don't think he ever shared them.


Alien wormhole device
* Role: It's not an alien as such, but it behaves like one in base missions. The wormhole device channels the psionic abilities of the hive mind on the other side of the wormhole, so while it can't move or attack normally, it can use psionic attacks in tactical combat.
* Implementation: Done, I think? Again my knowledge of our artwork fails me. Tell me if you know.

We have a model. It's from Vedrit I think? It raises another issue, though, which is how to integrate it into the alien base style I am working on. But that can be dealt with later or separately from this thread.

What could come next
This is my personal idea of how the bestiary could be extended. The goal is to provide a number of enemies that require different approaches to beat, without going overboard and making too many similar types.

Each of those ideas seem reasonable to me. The flier and the combat bloodspider are just upgrades from a tactical point of view, but that's not a bad thing. We will want upgrades for mid- to late-campaign.


Now a couple other questions/thoughts to guide the process:

1. Do we want to plan aliens to have different AIs, or should we focus on diversifying them by the existing stats/damage types? At this point we barely have a single AI.

2. Rather than ranking their defensive capabilities just in terms of strong/weak, it would be good to set out particular strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps ortnoks are more vulnerable to penetrating weaponry while the tank is more vulnerable to explosive weaponry? Which aliens are weak against laser attacks, which are weak against kinetic attacks? Setting out a diverse set of enemy weaknesses will also encourage the player to carry a more diverse package of weaponry. In an ideal world, it would be nice if research expanded options rather than just moved the player from one tech level onto the next, but of course some techs are going to become obsolete. You've probably got better ideas on this than me, but it would be nice to set those down in your list above so we can see how they all stack up.


A couple of ideas to throw into the mix:

Alien tank
Perhaps this could be given a weapon that was powerful and deadly but slow to deploy and maneuver. The idea would be that you must try to catch it on its flanks or rear. It could even be a kind of tracked vehicle that had legs to mount a secure firing platform. This is excessive in scale and deployment time, but it shows what I mean about being mobile but deploying legs to brace itself.

Alien flier
Since it is organic, perhaps it could also play a role late-game as a psi-amplifier (a kind of battlefield comms unit). Destroying this unit could reduce the cumulative effect of any other psi units.

Offline Destructavator

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Re: Alien bestiary
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2011, 12:30:03 am »
I only have a minute or two right now, so I can't type out a full post on this right this second, but I had a discussion about details for ideas for a hovering, organic alien that would "float" and behave much like soldiers with the jetpacks/jumpsuits (and therefore not require too much additional coding to implement).  The discussion was on IRC earlier today, and it starts around this point in the logs:

http://colabti.org/irclogger/irclogger_log/ufoai?date=2011-03-02#l101

I think this would fill nicely for the "alien flier" slot.

I hadn't thought about it having psi powers or not, but now that H-Hour mentioned it in his post it might be a nice addition to the idea I've come up with.  My idea already involves a fragile floating alien that can't even use large and heavy weapons anyways (as mentioned in the discussion in the link), and could be shot (and made to explode) rather easily, so adding psi abilities might make it more challenging, in addition to the issue of being too close to it if it ruptures and sprays acidic gas.

Again, as I said in the IRC I'm open to changes and back-and-forth discussion on my idea that I talked about there, potential changes all across the board, and I also have additional ideas to add to what I talked about there, although I really have to go again now, so I'll have to get back to this forum thread a bit later.  Until then, I'd encourage reading what was discussed in IRC, the the log I gave a link to.

I also want to comment on the other stuff as well, but I don't have time for it right this moment, I'll have to get back to this.

Offline DarkRain

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Re: Alien bestiary
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2011, 01:03:34 am »
I am not aware of any artwork done for this. Anyone else?
I see some models that might be intended for this use in data_source:
see the hovernet here, and a hoverbot

Quote
I think this could be a good candidate if we changed its description to be predominantly or fully organic. If you agree, the first step is tracking skorpio down and getting the files. I don't think he ever shared them.
In data_source:
monster
« Last Edit: March 03, 2011, 01:17:10 am by DarkRain »

Offline BTAxis

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Re: Alien bestiary
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2011, 09:48:35 am »
I think this could be a good candidate if we changed its description to be predominantly or fully organic. If you agree, the first step is tracking skorpio down and getting the files. I don't think he ever shared them.

Only if we absolutely have to, I'd say. The philosophy behind the Breeder is that it's an abomination of flesh and machine, an engineered, living sack of XVI that enslaves humans to the alien hive mind. That's the horror element we were looking for. That said, I think this is an option we should keep in mind.

Quote
1. Do we want to plan aliens to have different AIs, or should we focus on diversifying them by the existing stats/damage types? At this point we barely have a single AI.

Both, ideally. What we'll end up with depends entirely on what we can achieve, but the objective is to diversify the aliens in both behavior and parameters. Going only with the latter is second best.

Quote
2. Rather than ranking their defensive capabilities just in terms of strong/weak, it would be good to set out particular strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps ortnoks are more vulnerable to penetrating weaponry while the tank is more vulnerable to explosive weaponry? Which aliens are weak against laser attacks, which are weak against kinetic attacks? Setting out a diverse set of enemy weaknesses will also encourage the player to carry a more diverse package of weaponry. In an ideal world, it would be nice if research expanded options rather than just moved the player from one tech level onto the next, but of course some techs are going to become obsolete. You've probably got better ideas on this than me, but it would be nice to set those down in your list above so we can see how they all stack up.

Absolutely. I didn't mention any of this in the OP because I don't have a clear idea on how each alien should be configured, but for some time now I've been meaning to make each alien vulnerable/resistant to particular types of attack. I want to achieve this through "inherent armour", which is a set of armour values intrinsic to the alien species. Each member of the species would get those armour bonuses whether they were wearing any armour or not (wearing armour would stack with this). This seems the most elegant way of dealing with aliens that don't wear any armour at all, too.

Like I said, exact configuration to be determined, so do feel free to discuss this as well.

Quote
Alien tank
snip

Would be very cool if we could pull it off.

Quote
Alien flier
Since it is organic, perhaps it could also play a role late-game as a psi-amplifier (a kind of battlefield comms unit). Destroying this unit could reduce the cumulative effect of any other psi units.

Possibly. I like how that would make it a priority target.

Offline H-Hour

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Re: Alien bestiary
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2011, 12:20:27 pm »
Thanks for pointing the models out DarkRain. The monster model appears to be an earlier version. The tail is up rather than down, like the screenshot. I've attached a screenshot of the hovernet model in our data_source. I'd consider it a place-holder at best.

Alien Flier: I think Destructavator's idea is fine, but we ought to decide whether we want a combat flier, as BTAxis suggested, or a weaker gaseous flier as Destructavator described. Of course, we could always have both: an advanced, mechanical combat flier; a weak but psi-enhancing organic floater.


Damage Types
Is this list of damage types up-to-date?

Anyway, here's my thoughts based on the categories on the wiki, entirely for discussion:

normal
Medium-speed kinetic projectile weaponry
Effective against: Unarmored or lightly armored organics
Ineffective against: Armored organics; Mechanical aliens

blast
Explosive, high-speed, area-effect, projectile weaponry
Effective against: Unarmored and armored organics; Mechanical aliens
Ineffective against: ??

fire
Burning, area-effect weaponry
Effective against: Organics in all but a sealed, life-supporting armor
Ineffective against: Mechanical aliens

shock
Electrical shock weaponry
Effective against: Fully mechanical aliens
Ineffective against: Organics and mechanical-organic mixed aliens

laser
Low-damage, burning, long-distance weaponry
Effective against: Armored and unarmored organics
Ineffective against: Mechanical aliens??

plasma
Medium-speed projectile, high-temperature burning
Effective against: Lightly armored and unarmored organics; Mechanical aliens with weak armor (scouts)
Neutral against: Heavy armored organics and mechanical aliens
Ineffective against: ??

particlebeam
High-speed projectile weaponry
Effective against: Medium and heavily armored organics and mechanical aliens
Ineffective against: Lightly armored and unarmored organics and mechanical aliens with weak armor (scouts)

stun
Disabling weaponry via sounds/drugs
Effective against: Organics
Ineffective against: Mechanical aliens


Now with this, I could see a couple of possible changes:

1. Do we need two levels of blast damage? I'm thinking about how we model the difference between the effect a grenade might have and the effect a rocket with a large payload might have on a medium or heavily-armored tank unit.

2. Normal damage types seem to be made obsolete by plasma and laser. Both share all of normal type's effective range and adds to it. Any ideas on how we can preserve normal damage type late-game? Could the Plasma be a high-speed projectile that doesn't work well on unarmored organics? Perhaps the normal damage type is effective against scout mechanical aliens?

Perhaps there are other ways of preserving normal damage types. Laser is weak so there might still be good reason to not give up normal damage types once laser is available. Plasma: is it less accurate than some normal weapons?

Or maybe normal is just destined to be made obsolete...

Offline BTAxis

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Re: Alien bestiary
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2011, 12:30:39 pm »
1. Do we need two levels of blast damage? I'm thinking about how we model the difference between the effect a grenade might have and the effect a rocket with a large payload might have on a medium or heavily-armored tank unit.

Just for the record, this is doable already because of the way damage weights are implemented (see armour mechanics).

Quote
2. Normal damage types seem to be made obsolete by plasma and laser. Both share all of normal type's effective range and adds to it. Any ideas on how we can preserve normal damage type late-game? Could the Plasma be a high-speed projectile that doesn't work well on unarmored organics? Perhaps the normal damage type is effective against scout mechanical aliens?

Don't forget that needler guns use normal damage as well, as does the coilgun, which is one of the few human-tech weapons that should remain effective until the late game.

Offline bayo

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Re: Alien bestiary
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2011, 03:03:03 pm »
Maybe you should publish your list on the wiki and point to it

Offline Destructavator

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Re: Alien bestiary
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2011, 08:40:58 am »
I'll soon have a very rough, simple basic concept model together for my idea of the floating (organic) alien, and I'll then put a shot of it here in this thread.

I've also got to say, I like that picture of the hoverbot, I think it would work quite well for something, and I'd hate to see it go to waste.

Quote
Alien wormhole device
* Role: It's not an alien as such, but it behaves like one in base missions. The wormhole device channels the psionic abilities of the hive mind on the other side of the wormhole, so while it can't move or attack normally, it can use psionic attacks in tactical combat.
* Implementation: Done, I think? Again my knowledge of our artwork fails me. Tell me if you know.

Didn't Sitters finish the wormhole device model a long time ago?  I remember someone spent a long time on it, quite a ways back, and it was completed.

It might already be in the data_source, although I can't check myself right this second because I'm still trying to figure out how to make TortoiseGit work with the data_source as well as the master.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2011, 08:44:16 am by Destructavator »

Offline Kildor

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Re: Alien bestiary
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2011, 01:15:28 pm »
wormhole is in game already. It is used in alienbase, and I think it can be used in new version of base.

Offline DarkRain

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Re: Alien bestiary
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2011, 02:54:04 am »
You can check an pic of the wormhole device here

BTW there is also an (unfinished) alien tank in data_source

Offline wheel83

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Re: Alien bestiary
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2011, 09:26:08 pm »
I'm interested in designing some new aliens in flat 2D concept artwork to later be made into 3D working models. I would like to work with someone who knows how to make 3D models and would like to make them based on my concept art. If anyone's interested let me know.

Some ideas I have are inspired by XCom Apocalypse.
Such as the giant slug alien that when killed spawned several smaller alien slugs. It doesn't have to be a slug, but I always liked the idea of killing an enemy only to have it spawn several more to kill. This always required special strategy in the game like using grenades or fire.

Another xcom inspired idea is "the spitter". It was this humanoid alien with a giant funnel for a head that could shoot some sort of acid. I was thinking on a more realistic approach to this alien. Something more inspired by a spitting cobra or something similar. Something with a real head anyhow.. and spit that had some sort of special property to it, like psi control, or stunning or something like that. Maybe the spit has an area of damage?

Another idea I had was a feral alien. In one of the UFO AI research reports it says that the aliens became unintelligent and primal when seperated from the hive mind. My idea is to have an alien who is completely feral, wild and unpredictable. Very quick and agile. I was thinking of some sort of gland on the hands of this alien, when the victim is grabbed or touched by the alien he could be killed, stunned, psi controlled, etc... by a special substance leaked through the gland and absorbed through the victims skin and/or armor. This alien would need to be killed from range, and would not want to be fought via melee. Although these aliens would be rather weak, they would be quick with lots of turn points and could jump around a corner or off a rooftop and grab a soldier. Very sneaky.

And flying.
I don't have any real design ideas yet for this alien but I was also thinking of some sort of flying alien. Something that could fly and shoot would be ideal. Maybe just an alien with a jetpack.? Can soldiers acquire suits capable of flight in UFO AI? I haven't seen that yet, but i havn't completed the game.

Anyways, my ideas for the new aliens serve to diversify the ranks a little. Instead of just having aliens with guns or aliens with melee abilities. Specialized aliens with special appearances and special jobs within the alien army.  I was thinking these new aliens would be a product of the perverse and twisted bio experiments on other alien species, kind of like the ortnok, i like that idea.
I also like the idea of an alien tank of sorts. But less tank like and more mech like? Something that wouldn't be restricted by huge tracks or wheels simply because I don't think aliens would make that kind of thing. But a half machine-alien is cool for sure. Something biomechanical.

So does anyone know where i can post my artwork? Here? there? anywhere? Let me know if ya know, thanks.

Offline H-Hour

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Re: Alien bestiary
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2011, 02:01:33 am »
wheel83, could you take a look at the posts in this thread and make it clear how your proposals relate to what has already been suggested?

At this point we are not too interested in the lore behind the aliens, but are focusing on the tactical role they might play. It's not clear to me that your "spitter" or "feral alien" would differ significantly from the Breeder unit proposed by BTAxis, and we've already specified multiple flier units.

The alien that spawns more aliens after being killed faces a bit of a barrier in the realism department, but of your proposals I think it is the only one with a tactical role distinct from what's already been proposed.

@BTAxis and others, I am still trying to find the time to figure out exactly how the armour system works to flesh out the damage types better.

Offline wheel83

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Re: Alien bestiary
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2011, 05:21:49 am »
I have read all the posts. I'm just throwing ideas out there, didn't think it would hurt anything to brainstorm a little, different strokes for different folks i guess. I'm not so sure about the realism being thrown out the window on the spawning more creatures creature. There are lots of animals in the real world who carry their young with them. Many species of spiders, frogs, mammals, etc.. My idea was the creature would be carrying these smaller creatures inside of it, when destroyed the smaller creatures would emerge.
anyways, just throwing around ideas, sorry if I caused some sort of disruption.

Although my opinion is that there can be such a thing as too much realism. I mean really what do we know about realism anyhow? We do not know what kind of aliens there could be in the universe, why would it be so far fetched that there could be an alien which carries it's young inside of it? Or an alien that spits? If a spitting alien is unrealistic then I guess a spitting cobra is too?

Offline wheel83

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Re: Alien bestiary
« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2011, 05:30:32 am »
my idea for the feral alien would be a cross between the Sheevar and the Breeder, although it wouldn't be a vehicle, it would be a humanoid alien capable of traveling anywhere on the map as it would not have big clunky tank tracks.

And my idea for the spitter alien would be like the breeder i guess, but it would be capable of psi control from a short to medium range depending if the shot hits and the mind level of the target.

I don't know, I think these are pretty valid ideas and they are different from everything else that's been talked about here.