Ok, lately I’ve been toying with some new concepts for creature design for a new alien race or two, for use in 15mm Sci-fi wargaming. Everytime I start this creative process, regardless of what the creature is going to be used for, a large sculpture or mask, an ornament or miniature, the brainstorm begins.
This post isn’t so much a show and tell, rather it’s fundamental questions you have to ask yourself in the embryonic stage, where the idea is still just an idea. It’s something that will blend and mutate with each answer, the seed if its evolution. I just want to share some thoughts with you and let you into how my creative process works.
I’ll get to showing you what I came up with another time, for now I just want to talk about just what can, would and should be to the creator, and ultimately its audience and final consumer.
What you have to think at the start, is what it is you want to achieve at the end of the process, be it a mini or an ornamental object, in this example since we are talking about 15mm miniature aliens and monsters, so we first might look at inspiration for a new and interesting creation.
I prefer to keep as original as possible, but with so much that has gone before us, originality is truly hard to achieve without the end result looking like a formless mess. That’s fine if your making some kind of chaos spawn beast, but its far too random and mutable to pin down to a specific look and style that one might want for a race of creatures.
It is a help if you take a look at what’s already been done, there’s nothing worse than taking time to make something up, taken time to get a fixed form, only to find that it’s been done before, and your design is percieved as a mimic or a bad copy of anothers work. Best to do your homework on that one!
Another question you should consider is realism verses the fantastic. Sure it can be both, but depending on different amounts of both these attributes when applied to your information you are gathering, will produce totally different beasts! It’s a matter of personal taste of how you will execute the idea on this level, as is how it will be recieved by your peers, so it’s worth thinking carefully about it.
Where you will get your initial inspiration from could come from anywhere and anything, so take a walk, look at books, films, comics, talk to people or listen to music, fill your surroundings with inspiring things and something good will pop in your mind and create a seed.
So, as it is, we are creating an alien race for a set miniatures. We are now with purpose, we know that it is an alien, so it comes from another world, but how different is it from what we are used to? It’s a case of the realistic Vs the fantastic again, so if it was more realistic and believable, we might follow our own planets rules of nature as a start, which might be almost human, semi human hybrids, animal, or plant, man made or machine, while on the other end of the fantastical spectrum might be elemental beings, ghostly or energy, unusual objects or even number based ideas, or the bizarre, we then just slot in any inspirational thoughts and cool bits we like to one of these brackets and follow with the next questions. Many times the next stages will be a style, or influence that will change the design, such as tech levels and intelligence of said race. A primitive race won’t have tech if it doesn’t have intelligence to make or use stuff, but if it does will how its insectoid or birdlike apendages affect what it uses or prefers to use? Or has it adopted found or stolen tech? Like wise a higher intelligence and developed race might have adapted another race’s idea or concentrated upon an idea and took it to extremes, like grav or electro-magnetic technology, try to look at how you alien race had evolved from and why the tech has developed in this way, trying where ever to apply the realism vs fantastic, as you go. A race evolved from a starfish for example would have a central mouth and face, with five or more limbs, how pronounced these features are would be dependent on the realism v fantastic levels, with a realistic version appearing to follow a more scientific shape and movement, and an emphasis on the dexterity or tool use with the limbs, to the fantastic being an upright walking starfish with a gun in each hand! Both concepts identical, but the sliders at opposite ends of the scale of believability.
My best advice is to keep your influences simple, just add extra themes and ideas only when really needed, remember you can redo and chop and change as you need. Try to use the realism sliders to change the info you amass in the brainstorming sessions, always remember to keep a jotter or notepad with you to make notes so you don’t forget any great ideas you get as well, you might get inspired further down the line and be able to use a defunct design again, but with additional principles from another.
A you add more questions to the design like what its diet’s like?, how does it see? What influences its society, how it procreates, are there significances to male/female forms for breeding? Whats the homeworld’s gravity, ecology, atmosphere and terrain like? Things like this will influence how the creature acts, looks and does in your design, so even so you might think just having five limbs would just look cool, maybe the race would have a mathematics system based around the number five (rather than human binary and us having two limbs) over time the maths languages of the aliens would eventually become very complex. This complexity might lead to them being excellent strategists or technicians. Just by applying these simple details will lead to more diverse visual ideas.
With these outlines in mind, I will talk you through some of my latest concepts and reasons for and why, but not today!
I’d like to know your thoughts and ideas on creature creation, so as usual, all comments and discussion are welcome.
What’s your opinions on the realism verses fantastic theory?
Let’s stir the ideas pot people!