One of the key elements of Alien Awakening is the portrayal of intelligent alien individuals who appear to think on their own and have the ability to converse with each other and the player. One of the most important aspects of this is language. One of the most important things that separate human beings from other, non-sentient animals such as dogs, is our language. Language is not just a tool for communication but a tool for thought itself. Our language defines the elemental concepts of conscious thought – that which lies beyond the basic qualia of feeling and need. By changing the language, not just the language we are speaking but the language that we use to form our conscious thoughts, we change the way we think. As an example, one could imagine a species like the Borg from Star Trek – their language would have no words forI or self. As a result they cannot form thoughts of individuality or self – it is a completely foreign concept. Before they could think of themselves as individuals, they would need to learn how to think of individuality.
It follows, then, that the language in Alien Awakening performs several very important tasks: it forms a means of communication between the player and aliens, it forms a visible form of communication between the aliens themselves to make them feel more alive and finally it forms a framework for the alien thought process itself. This thought process would inherently be alien – the concepts expressible in the alien language would certainly be different then our own – and yet understandable if you learn to think in the alien language (or at least understand the concepts that they can express) . This means that the alien AI must express “conscious” thought in their own language – if it is not expressible then it cannot be thought of at a conscious level. True conscious thought can not be achieved at this level, obviously but the goal is to give the appearance – at least in this constrained problem space. Of course, at first this seems crazy, but the AI would need to be scalable. When dealing with individuals, each individual has it’s own thoughts and perceptions. When talking about groups acting out of sight or far away, a group AI would take over. It would still track the individuals – similar to particles in a massive particle system – but work at a much higher level. This would allow individual behavior when needed as well as group behavior for the rest of the world.
So, then, the language should be relatively simple but must be complex enough to give the aliens adequate – even rich – expressiveness of thought and action. First thing, the basic rules of the language must be simplified. For example, in English, there are a large number of phonemes (a group of sounds that serve the same purpose in a language) which each have a number of allophones (individual sounds that belong to the same phoneme). To add additional complexity, there is a poor match between spelling and phonemes. Several things will be simplified here – each phoneme will have exactly one allophone, one sound. Each phoneme will also be represented by a single symbol or letter. In addition the number of unique phonemes will also be reduced, allowing players and aliens to “speak” directly in phonemes – greatly reducing the complexity at the base level.
There is a lot more to talk about when it comes to the language system but that will have to wait for future posts. Feel free to let me know what you think.
You blink, attempting to shake off the grogginess, it feels as if you’ve been asleep for days. As your visions clears, it slowly dawns on you that you are not where you should be. You vaguely remember a flashing of lights and blaring alarms, people running about in confusion. Of what? You don’t remember, it’s such a blur. Then blackness, where you knocked out? Around you there is nothing but glistening rock illuminated by the soft glow of the strange looking platform on which you now lay. Something feels strange… you look down upon your body and scream – sound echoing off the cavern walls. Where your body once was, you see another body – you have 2 arms and 2 legs but they are completely alien, unlike any creature on Earth. After laying, confused and shocked, for what seems like an eternity you finally decide to try and figure out what’s going on. Surprisingly you have no problem controlling your new body and get up with little effort.
As you look around you see evidence of other machines, at least you think they are machines, but nothing you’re familiar with. You start looking for a way out, maybe you can get some answers outside, maybe even find out who’s responsible and get them to change you back. The cavern seems to have a simple layout, it doesn’t take long to find the lone tunnel that leads out of the room you started in. You see small machines and a few strange plants – well you assume they are plants anyway, no point in getting too close just in case – but nothing else other then the glittering stone walls. There’s not much light but enough thanks to the machines.
Eventually you see a single book lying on the ground, an oddly familiar yet strange sight in these caves. It’s a little damp but the pages are thick and whole. You open it to finally see something you understand – it appears to be a journal, though you suspect the author may not be entirely sane. He claims that this cave is not on Earth at all! Yeah, so I woke up on some alien world. But you continue to read… waking up in an alien body… cave with strange machines and even stranger plant life… It claims that there is a settlement not far from here. Then it goes on to describe some of the basics of their language. The aliens here have never heard any English, I have to speak their language for them to understand me… This must be some kind of mind game, you feel the need to get out of this cave and find out what is really going on.
You finally stumble into the sunlight, it takes your eyes a while to adjust but when they do… Where are you? You look around stunned, unable to move as you stare at the landscape… So alien… As you begin to regain your composure it dawns on you that the journal was right after all. You are on an alien world, in an alien body with no idea how you got there or how you can get home. With nothing else to go on, you head in the direction of the alien settlement.
And so begins the Alien Awakening.
Alien Awakening is an original game that I plan on developing on the XL Engine. It is something I’ve thought about for years and I’ve already worked about some of the concepts and details, though no real development work has been done. I will continue to focus on the main XL Engine and finishing the support for the current games before even starting development on Alien Awakening. Even once started, this will be a long term project and the XL Engine will still be focused on supporting classic games.
That said I have a back log of material, concepts, thoughts, story, gameplay and so forth. I will be making posts about it, probably once a week or two. These posts won’t replace the regular XL Engine release news or affect the planned releases in any way. However it’ll supplement the normal content.
As a warning, this game may sound crazy and undoable – but I will chart my progress here as I develop it, so you can see for yourselves. It will also require the XL Engine to be extended far beyond what it would normally need to be… but that’s ok – the new features will be useful for the other supported XL Engine games as extended features.
Alien Awakening is a game/simulation that I plan on building in the future and will be my most ambitious project ever, so I need to plan before I begin, as well as researching many systems before I begin to code the project itself. So while I work on my other projects, I will post my thoughts on Alien Awakening here – any research, test programs and other thoughts.
What is Alien Awakening?
Alien Awakening is a game/simulation of an alien world. You play as a human stranded on this world, somehow inhabiting the body of an alien. When you speak, the sounds are alien to your ears and completely foreign. You can spend your time in this world trying to figure out how you got there, what happened to your real body and how to get home. As you attempt to unravel those mysteries you discover at least one sentient alien race, primitive but unique. You’ll discover, though, that there is more to this world – to these people – then you’d ever expect. But this isn’t a linear game or adventure, at it’s heart it is a simulation. The aliens speak and understand their own language, you can learn to converse with them – even to live with them. You can lead or follow, help or hinder, learn or destroy. The goal is to make you feel like you are on a real world – everything is simulated or procedural. Everything changes, the seasons, animals migrate, alliances form and shatter, creatures grow old and die, new life is born and raised. The game never ends, even if you find out how to go home you may decide that you’d rather stay and continue to live with these people.