Robert Hornbek

Game Development & Exploration

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Alien Race Concepts

Posted by rHornbek on October 14, 2012

Only just recently have I discovering the rich characters and lore of the Mass Effect series.  I have always been a big fan of Science Fiction, but I have also been extremely critical of the genre.  So much so I have regrettably passed up a lot of quality media including games like Mass Effect because of my preconceived notions that most Science Fiction is cheap and unimaginative.

After some thought, I figured one of the primary reasons I prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy is that Fantasy is typically an image of what does not and cannot exist, where Science Fiction is an image of what could and can exist.  The themes portrayed in Science Fiction are inspiring, mysterious, and overwhelming. When viewing Science Fiction media you know that what you are seeing is based in the realm of possibility… which cannot be said for Orcs, Wizards and Dragons.

While I would still argue that a lot of modern-day Science Fiction is pretty poor, starting now I plan on giving a lot more time to the genre in hopes to find some real gems like the Mass Effect series.

One of the most enjoyable parts of Mass Effect has been learning about the alien races and the overall lore.  Inspired by this I have gone back into my creative archives to find some of my own creature and lore concepts that I thought would be fun to share here.  This should be just as interesting for me to find and describe ideas that originated in high school and in most cases had not been updated since.

CROPUS (crow-pus)

Appearance – the Cropus are long bodied mammals that are equine (horse) in quality that can stand twice the height of the average Human.  One of the most notable features of the Cropus are their three sets of limbs: two strong rear legs that allows for bipedal motion for short distances, two arms with hands capable of object manipulation and precise fingers for  complex workmanship, and even more interesting a third pair of limbs between the two that appear to be a combination of the arms and legs.  This third set is usually used for extended movement in conjunction with the rear legs, but can also be used as additional arms when needed, but with much less precision.  Another notable feature are the horns like that of a moose on their head.  Unlike the moose, the Cropus horns never fall off or grow back when broken, which plays a role in Cropus society.

Seeker CG model turnaround, and a good example of the general anatomy of the Cropus.

Society – I did not write a lot about the Cropus society, except for the fact that they are an elder rand society.  Positions of power are filled by the oldest members of the society and not through vote, heritage or qualification.  The horns of the Cropus are a massive indicator of both age, occupation and social status.  Cropus with well maintained and decorative horns are generally more wealthy, where as horns that are uneven and broken can be a clear sign of Cropus who has endured great hardship like poverty and even war.  The state of the horns is not so taboo as one might think, there are plenty of elders who have fought wars and lost portions of their horns and are admired for their sacrifice.

Architecture – Cropus architecture is generally minimalistic so not to take away from the beauty and reverence of the trees they plant in, around, and through them.  Like molding the shape of a Banzai tree, the Cropus weave live trees into their structures so they appear to have grown naturally.  The type of trees used in this process tend to indicate status, where as any tree will do, but the white Karango trees of their homeworld are ideal.

Final Thought – I still find much about the Cropus interesting especially their anatomy, but I would love to dig a little deeper into their architecture and where they would fit into a galactic society.  The architecture, while interesting, is not practical for all purposes, and from this description they do not sound advanced enough to be an active member of a galactic society, which is not my intention.

ABURON (ah-boo-ron)

Appearance – the Aburion are shorter than most humans and were once light avian creatures capable of flight.  Due to a horrible debilitating genetic disease the Aburion’s bones have hardened and muscles have grown large and unnatural.  They still have feathers that cover their body, beak like mouths, and two dark side facing eyes.  The physical toll the disease has taken on their bodies causes them to walk awkwardly and slightly off balanced.  The color of their feathers differ depending of gender.  Females are typically completely black where males have warm colors like red, orange, yellow, and even purples and green.

An image of World of Warcrafts Arakkoa.

Society – popular belief among the Aburon is that the contraction of their genetic disease was during first contact with the other races of the galaxy .  The loss of their ability to fly has enraged the society more than just the physical malformations turning them from a peaceful people to a barbaric race out for revenge.  The disease itself does not set in until adulthood.  Only the most powerful Aburon leaders and generals are able to live in completely sterile environments preventing the mutation but they become extremely neurotic as a result.

Architecture – most Aburon architecture is a symbol of their anger containing a lot of dark and Gothic themes.  The image of broken wings is seen a lot as well as images of agony, and in the idea that in death they will fly again, which fuels their will to fight.

Final Thought – this was the first race I remembered when I learned about the Krogen of Mass Effect, who are also afflicted by a genetic disease.  Unlike the Krogen, the war-like nature of the Aburon is brought on by their anger toward the other races supposedly infecting them.  What I find so powerful about all this is how tragic they are, starting out as a prosperous race meeting the galaxy for the first time only to turn angry and vengeful.  What is even more devastating is the idea that it was no one’s intention to infect the Aburon and in reality no one really knows the origin of the disease.

SCRUD (scrud)

Appearance – the Scrud are large blubbery creatures much like a walrus that are extremely resilient and adaptive.  Most Scrud are large a dimwitted but their adaptive nature allows them to survive nearly anything and any climate.  Their bodies adjust quickly; in cold climates they will grow dense fur to protect their bodies, where as in heat they will become almost hairless and their skin will darken to protect against harmful radiation.  The Scrud reach physical maturity very quickly but can continue growing to almost ten times their original size based on lifestyle and gender.  The smaller the Scrud is the smarter they typically are, and the opposite applies as well.  In any case the Scrud are not known for their intelligence but for their physical and social adaptation.  Female Scrud almost always become very large and when they reach sexual maturity will grown long thick hair on their backs.  When a Scrud female has babies they will crawl from her womb,  like a marsupial, clinging to the hair on her back and remain their until they are mature enough to leave.

A rough concept of the Scrud that my brother drew years ago.

Society – the Scrud are an excellent work force for heavy labor and basic engineering.  The large Scrud are strong enough to perform most tasks other races cannot without the aid of machinery and if they get hurt they can easily recover.  In fact the durability of a Scrud is something they value with pride.  So much so, Scrud will sometimes challenge each other to a game of Chicken where they see how long they can last in the vacuum of space before retreating inside or enduring cardiac arrest.  Needless to say most Scruds hearts stop before feeling fear, but they always seem to bounce back.

Architecture – the Scrud are for the most part scavenger and are happy with using other races Scraps.  When first encountered the Scrud lived in open air without clothing or dwellings, seemingly tribal.  But only a century after first contact the Scrud had managed to weave itself into the active societies of the galaxy.

Final Thought – the Scrud are pretty strait forward, and while they are pretty silly they are also believable.  Not every sentient creature has to care about culture and technology to be successful in a galactic society and even their biology exudes this nature.  I also really like the image of two Scrud willingly entering an airlock to see who will last the longest in space only to have both of them almost die and be praised for it by their peers.

GRAKGODEN (grack-go-den)

Appearance – the Grakgoden is one of the most mysterious races in the know galaxy, and it is greatly debated whether or not they are actually a living race or simply an anomaly caused by the existence of certain technology and environmental elements.  The purest form of the Grakgoden is a black and purple vapor that can take on any shape and even become liquid or solid.  The strangest ability of the Grakgoden is to bind itself with that of another living creature, allowing control of their mind and body.

Unknown creature from a Final Fantasy game, that resembles the bizarre and chaotic image of the Grakgoden.

Society – the appearance of the Grakgoden has emerged in nearly every alien society typically as a result of experimenting with faster than light speed and other advanced quantum physics.  Some believe the Grakgoden are portions of a parallel universe forced into this plane due to the super science, where others believe they are demons or angels appearing to execute the will of gods.  Because of this, some fanatical religious have created devices for regular or constant release of the Grakgoden.

I am pretty sure this is also a Final Fantasy character, but it is also a good example of the way a person looks when they are possessed by the Grakgoden.

Architecture – no known architecture except for the architecture build by other races in reverence to them.

Final Thought – this concept needs a lot of work, but I think it is worth it.  The original concept was formed from the idea of a future religious terrorist, one who might enter a crowded area and open a portal to another dimension allowing the Grakgoden to emerge and attack.  There is no clear objective to the Grakgoden, but the pure chaos made them pretty scary.

TIKACHI (tea-ka-chee)

Appearance – the Tikachi are an insectoid race that are very thin and slight, standing a little shorter than the average human and have wings that allow for short range flight.  They do not have any extreme or identifiable features between the individuals or the genders, appearing almost like exact clones of each other.

The ancient alien race from Metroid Prime, and a good example of how I imaged the Tikachi may look.

Society – the Tikachi live in massive colonies lead by a single queen.  The queen was once a faceless member of the society under the rule of another queen.  The new queens are genetic heirs that are unknown until the death of the current queen.  There is a lot of ceremony and mourning for the loss of the queen, but the emergence of the new queen is met with an equal amount of celebration.  However, the new queen is infertile until she has mated with a male which does not come from her own genetic pool.  After a queen takes a mate they will copulate and for many days after that the male is given every luxury the colony can offer before he passes away.  The male is also remembered for many generations but is judged by the outcome of the offspring.  The Tikashi race does not go without greed however, and some have even killed queens to force others into power, or fought over who should be the mate of the queen to maintain a strong gene pool.

Architecture – the architecture of the Tikashi is generally simple and always symmetrical like the race itself but like the race the structures are almost entirely devoid of strait lines.  The architecture is utilitarian and focuses on efficiency rather than excessive beauty.

Final Thought – I wanted a bug race that wasn’t the enemy or mindless, and I have always loved bees and ants, and wondered what it would be like if they were had sentient societies.

SAJAAN (sa-jaw-n)

Appearance – at first glance the Sajaan appear as no more than glamorous robots, but the chrome colored mechanical bodies are in fact vessels for a living creature.  The Sajaan are sentient plants capable of living for thousands of years that begin life in the soil as a seed, then graduate to a mobile mechanical body for hundreds of years before retiring to the soil to grow to full size.  The Sajaan are capable of moving on their own, but very slowly.  Their mechanical bodies, and technology, allows them to move at the same speed as (or faster than) the other races of the galaxy.

Just an awesome robot!

Society – most issues are considered petty to the Sajaan because of their immense lifetimes.  They are a wealth of knowledge and even their technology is superior to most, but they spend most of their time observing and maintaining balance.

Architecture – the Sajaani structures are generally large and open aired and the same polished chrome color as their mechanical bodies.  Planet side their structures rarely have floors so they can appreciate the soil.  Even the inside of many of their ships contain portions of soil for them to enjoy on long trips.

Final Thought – I look forward to working out how these guys actually look, both in mechanical and natural forms.

ZAK’HAR (zak-har)

Appearance – you could easily begin describing the appearance of the Zak’har like that of dragons.  Like dragons, they have massive bodies, a long tail, a powerful neck and reptilian head.  Their rear legs are clawed much like their front, however their front arms are much stronger and appear to double as wings.  Up until young adulthood the Zak’Har are capable of full flight, but after that point their bodies become too large to do more than gliding.  Unlike dragons, they do not have the traditional reptilian scales, but instead have thick bone-like armor that becomes very large and pronounced as they grow older.

The Rathian from Monster Hunter is close, but it does not have the same size or armor plating that I was imagining.

Society – the Zak’Har are one of the oldest known creatures in the universe, and have no apparent use for technology or civilized culture.  They live in colonies lead by a single alpha and as many as hundreds of young that leave to form their own colonies when they reach adulthood.  Despite appearing no more than animals, the Zak’har have language and a very dark culture.  While they live in solitary, they will enslave other races they encounter to fulfill their every need.  If not just for food, the enslaved races will also serve as workers and soldiers.

Architecture – the Zak’Har have no architecture because they will typically live wherever they please at the expense of the locals.  In some cases they will have their slaves build structures for them to live in.

Final Thought – personally I am sick of dragons, and when I first wrote about the Zak’Har I was trying to find a way to not only freshen up the idea of dragons for myself, but also introduce them into a science fiction world.  I think the concept still needs a lot of work, especially if I ever want them to be any more than space dragons.  Something I did not mention in my notes in their massive psychic power, which I have not touched on with any of the races.  This power would allow them to travel through space and instead of breathing fire they would emit powerful blasts of energy.  Another thought that occurred to me while writing this is how they could be bio-mechanical creatures, built perhaps by a long since past race that used them as weapons.

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