Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

For updates and discussion of Terra Invicta, a grand-strategy alien invasion simulator
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Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by CrypticC62 » Wed Dec 30, 2015 2:15 am

So why are the aliens coming to our solar system? A strong motivation is the backbone of a strong story. Some ideas:

[*] The aliens are of a fundamental belief that a planet's capacity to produce sentient life is sacred, more important than the actual life that inhabits the planet. After observing the behavior of humans, the aliens have come to believe that we are a threat not only to our own planet, but to the life-bearing capacity of any solar system we visit. As such, we must be contained or destroyed.

[*] A simple, yet devastating misunderstanding: the Voyager space probes, launched in 1977, are detected and captured by the aliens. They incorrectly assumed that humans were already aware of their existence, and interpreted the contents of the probes' records as a declaration of war.

[*] Intergalactic Jihad: Our planet is populated with religions of many kinds, including those that would entice their members to perform violent acts in the name of their gods. Why would we expect aliens to be any different? They believe that they are the chosen race, sent out to cleanse the universe of inferior beings.

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by Shaggystwin » Wed Dec 30, 2015 9:50 am

I think a really cool aspect to this game would be having splinter groups of both aliens and humans that can both help or hurt you.

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by Sveterka » Wed Dec 30, 2015 2:48 pm

best thing i think will be fight with alliens in WATER, why you need fight with aliens on surface. 70% on earth is water.
And some ppl know or expect next inteligent being will be something like octopuses and i think IT WILL BE rly cool.

fighting problem?... oh wait your water/spacesuit have problem with oxygen and water pressure you need new weapons not like bullet style. etc... so you dont need big ships BUT submarines.

someone like stealth?

sorry for my eng...

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by Servant of CTan » Wed Dec 30, 2015 4:12 pm

In terms of a good alien motivation I think something like the Scramblers from the novel Blindsight by Peter Watts would be cool. Not only because they are 'alien' aliens with a totally different perspective on the universe, but also because their motivations for their actions are understandable, almost sympathetic to a certain extent:

Imagine you're a scrambler.

Imagine you have intellect but no insight, agendas but no awareness. Your circuitry hums with strategies for survival and persistence, flexible, intelligent, even technological - but no other circuitry monitors it. You can think of anything, yet are conscious of nothing.

You can't imagine such a being can you? The term being doesn't even seem to apply, in some fundamental way you can't quite put your finger on.


Imagine that you encounter a signal. It is structured, and dense with information. It meets all the criteria of an intelligent transmission. Evolution and experience offer a variety of paths to follow, branch-points in the flowcharts that handle such input. Sometimes these signals come from conspecifics who have useful information to share, whose lives you'll defend according to the rules of kin selection. Sometimes they come from competitors or predators or other inimical entities that must be avoided or destroyed; in those cases, the information may prove of significant tactical value. Some signals may even arise from entities which, while not kin, can still serve as allies or symbionts in mutually beneficial pursuits. You can derive appropriate responses for any of these eventualities, and many others.

You decode the signals, and stumble:

I had a great time. I really enjoyed him. Even if he cost twice as much as any other hooker in the dome-

To fully appreciate Kesey's Quartet-

They hate us for our freedom-

Pay attention now-


There are no meaningful translations for these terms. They are needlessly recursive. They contain no usable intelligence, yet they are structured intelligently; there is no chance they could have arisen by chance.

The only explanation is that something has coded nonsense in a way that poses as a useful message; only after wasting time and effort does the deception become apparent. The signal functions to consume the resources of a recipient for zero payoff and reduced fitness. The signal is a virus.

Viruses do not arise from kin, symbionts, or other allies.

The signal is an attack.

And it's coming from right about there.


"Now you get it," Sascha said.

I shook my head, trying to wrap it around that insane, impossible conclusion. "They're not even hostile." Not even capable of hostility. Just so profoundly alien that they couldn't help but treat human language itself as a form of combat.

How do you say We come in peace when the very words are an act of war?

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by Garr_Inc » Wed Dec 30, 2015 5:28 pm

Servant of CTan wrote:In terms of a good alien motivation I think something like the Scramblers from the novel Blindsight by Peter Watts would be cool. Not only because they are 'alien' aliens with a totally different perspective on the universe, but also because their motivations for their actions are understandable, almost sympathetic to a certain extent:
I was trying to think about something good. Now I see that one of the best explanations have already been sent. This is so good of you that you have found that novel!

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by Servant of CTan » Wed Dec 30, 2015 8:48 pm

Garr_Inc wrote:I was trying to think about something good. Now I see that one of the best explanations have already been sent. This is so good of you that you have found that novel!

Thanks. I really enjoyed that story, it was one that really was able to capture an 'alien' alien species and for it to not feel forced. Plus it had space aged vampires :lol:

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by savageshark » Thu Dec 31, 2015 5:19 pm

This is probably one of the biggest questions that's been avoided in most "Alien Invasion" theme games. Some are good others are meh.

For XCom: EU, I enjoyed the game. But I lost interest when the reason for alien invasion was unclear. Were they doing it for relgiious reasons, trying to "Ascend"? Or trying to help us "Ascend" by nearly annihilating us?

One point to view would be more close to home. For example, Why would WE (humanity) want to invade an alien race? Like in Avatar, it was for natural resources. Or in other films where we destroyed Earth and we need a new habitable world. So let's just exterminate the life already there.

Some ideas that come to mind are:
> It's actually our fault - Turns out the aliens were peaceful and send ambassadors to greet us. But we, in fear and ignorance, kill them and dissect them in some secluded research facility. In response to our barbarous nature they launch an all out attack to ensure we don't become a threat to the galaxy.

> They need resources - They are low on natural resources on their world and they're going world to world taking what they need. (Independence Day)

> The aliens are a faction divided on principle - One of the alien factions wants to exterminate the life on our world so they can have it. But another is trying to protect us and keep their adversaries from doing harm

> Religion - Their gods demand our deaths or they think our world is a waypoint to the great beyond or is has some ancient alien (godly) artifact like in Halo.

> An expanding Empire - The alien roman empire needs to expand to survive and needs slave labor and resources.

> Earth is caught in the middle of a war - Two waring factions make their way to Earth. They each need to use it as a supply line and we just happen to be in the way.

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by Amineri » Thu Dec 31, 2015 10:31 pm

This is all pretty good stuff, interesting to read.

One of the challenges that we face is to give aliens sufficient motivation that we have to fight them, but not so much motivation that they wouldn't just bombard the surface of the earth with kinetic strikes ( or orbital nuclear/antimatter weapons and just wipe us out. The former doesn't really generate enough tension, while the latter would basically be unwinnable.

Arguably the weak point of the plot in XCOM:EU is that the aliens could have been more successful via a more cooperative strategy -- basically what seems to being played out in XCOM 2.

It is kind of interesting to turn the tables around, and imagine under what conditions humans might invade another planet. Arguably one of the scariest type of alien would be one just like humans -- politically savvy, incredibly deceptive, and can often display murderous genocidal tendencies. Overly aggressive aliens that just attack (e.g. XCOM, Independence Day) are really just a glorified form of natural disaster, which isn't quite as scary, at least not to me. That said, having aliens that are too much like humans isn't really great for a game, I think -- for one, it's less interesting narratively, and aliens-as-humans with advanced tech would be too difficult to defeat.

One other issue is that the aliens probably shouldn't be too exotic. If they breathe chlorine, or have some other ultra-exotic feature, then it's a bit too hard to relate, I think. And it's not really needed, as oxygen/DNA/protein-based lifeforms can demonstrably generate quite a huge range of possible life. That said, upscaling existing animals has been done a lot, whether it's Kzinti (space cats) or the Formics (space ants from Ender's Game); it's basically taking modern animals and making them intelligent, but keeping many of the same intrinsic qualities of the original animal. So I'd think that something a bit more exotic than that would be nice ;) .

So why am I talking about the aliens themselves, instead of just their motivation? It's because both JL and I see the alien motivation for interacting with us as being tightly interconnected with the aliens themselves. That includes both the environmental features of their planet (is it young/active, old/worn-out, how much gravity, how much solar radiation, etc), their evolutionary history (what evolutionary pressures caused them to evolve intelligence, and what were the survival traits of the species they evolved from, etc), as well as their conventional history (what sort of political systems did they develop, what social evolutionary pressures shaped their development of more advanced cultural and technological concepts, etc).

A lot of this sort of brainstorming isn't really going to come out directly in gameplay, but I think it helps generate a consistent narrative for the aliens, with the ultimate goal of creating a species that is both alien, yet understandable, while falling into that "sweet spot" of aggressiveness that will make for a good game.

Anyhow, that's my $0.02 on the matter ^_^

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by VaeVictis » Fri Jan 01, 2016 8:24 am

First, I'd like to start off with a warning: Long post is long post.

So I'm not building a motivation for a single alien force so much as I've built a number of 'personalities' and 'factions' that might invade along with the behavior I'd expect of them as a result. Not sure if I'm overstepping my bounds here, but this is what I've thought up.

Part A: General Assumptions

I'll start off with a series of assumptions I am making about the game based off of what information I have.

1. It's grand strategy. Therefore we are talking about national-level military forces and governments operating in an organized, cooperative, and cohesive manner. We are also talking about there being an element of diplomacy involved, it's grand strategy after all (and based off of Amineri's post.) Which means that whatever's coming has a lot of firepower and intends to fight a conventional war, not a series of raids.

2. The gameplay has distinctive 'feel' stages, the first being the 'detection, raiding, probing, and unification' stage where the player is marshalling countries, raising awareness, and fighting off the occasional alien probing attack, also possibly a proxy war orchestrated by the aliens. This is followed by a 'main battle' stage in which they arrive in force whether or not the player and Earth are ready for them. In which everything arrives, and most of indecisive Earth quickly unifies behind the player now that they see the threat, with some countries that may have been wooed by the aliens. And finally a 'retaliation' stage in which Earth has managed to stabilize the situation (as in no longer suffering catastrophic losses, merely steady, controlled losses of ground and men) and can now dedicate resources and research to retaking the orbitals.

3. Not everyone is on our side. That is, the aliens have already done advanced diplomacy, and while we're dealing with their raids, we're also dealing with other humans that have sided with the aliens. Be it small guerilla operations to whole nations that have been promised power in the New Order.

Now I'll be listing assumptions I'm making about the aliens and the situation in general.

1. They are similar to human beings in that they are cannily intelligent and capable of both diplomatic and military endeavors, and have a tendency to kill everything and ask questions never. They are also similar enough that whatever they want on Earth is something that they couldn't possibly get in outer space, and is probably something they can't get from the ruins of our planet after a few stanzas of 'Planetary Bombardment in D Minor.'

2. They did not arrive in massive force. This is based on the blurb saying that they're building their invasion fleet at the edge of our solar system. So most of the forces that we're dealing with are probably going to be 'mass-produced' in nature, be it some sort of grown biological weapons (though then they'd have the ship the biomass for all that...) or robotic enemies that they built with space mining endeavors.

3. Whatever they want, it's probably not mineables. That is: whatever they want, it's not something they can just get from outer space, after all, they're demonstrating the materials science and harvesting capabilities that permits them to build an invasion fleet at the edge of our solar system. So it's not going to be water (that stuff is really abundant in space) nor is it going to be anything like iron, which is something they could get shooting rocks in space (sorry, my EVE is coming out.)

3b. It's not slave labor either. They're building their own invasion fleet. Their automation technology is probably mind-bogglingly advanced in order to do that. Puny humans can't match that level of workload efficiency.

4. More importantly. Whatever they want, we don't want to give. Otherwise, trade makes an awful lot more sense to acquire it. It's certainly a lot less expensive, and may even end up being quite lucrative for what I assume is a human-like species.

5. Whatever they want is something they are willing to commit substantial resources in order to get. They're invading and risking retaliation after all.

6. Whatever they want, they intend to stay. Otherwise, they would just take whatever they want in a smash-and-grab and be on their merry way. Either it will take substantial time to extract, or because they want the planet, they aren't leaving any time soon.

7. We're not alone out there. And neither are they. There is a competitive pressure for them to pick our planet, rather than some uninhabited one with Earth-like features. To get a planet in the Eden belt is hard enough already, now they also picked one with intelligent life that can put up effective resistance and even retaliate. Either whatever they want can only be found where we are, or the other planets were already taken/too mean.

8. They have a reason not to resort to biological warfare. Because the easiest possible thing to get rid of those pesky humans is to engineer a super bird flu and just let it make its way around the world and simmer for a few months. Maybe they follow some code of honor or laws of war, they want the humans, or they're afraid of collateral damage. Or maybe they just don't have the capabilities.

9. While they won't carpet-nuke us and destroy the ecosystem, they aren't shy about using their big guns in a tactical manner. One nuke here and another there isn't too wildly disruptive of the planetary ecosystem. If they don't believe that, we have the nuclear detonation tests to prove it!

Part B: Specific Case Assumptions and Goals
Now I'm taking specific cases and breaking down assumptions I'm making for them, alongside the goals that entails. I will also be making from projections on how that ought to affect narrative/decision-making/gameplay.

Case A: We are dealing with a State. AKA Hard Mode
In this case, the aliens have arrived as part of a formal military force with clear and legal orders to invade Earth. They have a clear chain-of-command and are loyal to the State that sent them. They have a homeworld and daughter colonies that supply staggering industrial capacity and have the resources of a formalized military force.

1. The State that sent them while technologically advanced, is not massively powerful. It is not an Empire (or is just starting its imperial ambitions). This is because an Empire worth its salt is pretty experienced with this imperialism business, and would be able to muster a massive force that would sweep into the Solar System, blanket the Earth with munitions and massive orbital drops that would destroy all organized resistance before we even had a chance to realize what was happening, followed by forcing our capitulation. Therefore the aliens are on the weaker end of the scale and cannot commit the massive resources necessary for that form of invasion.

2. The State in question does not expect a short victorious war. Otherwise they'd probably have picked an easier target if one were available. So they intend to be here for the long run, and we may very well have to expect future attacks, this is a politically coherent entity that poses a long-term threat to Earth and we may see the aliens get periodic reinforcements (such as tech upgrades) as a result.

3. FTL is expensive. If it were impossible, the chances of them sending an invasion force over are very close to zero as they'd probably have enough trouble keeping their own colonies in line. They'd also have to send a bunch of stuff over here the long way and then bring it all back the long way. Yet if FTL were cheap, they would have done their recon over one or two weeks and then dropped and army or fleet on top of our heads basically immediately afterwards, far before we had time to react or prepare ourselves. This is to justify them building an invasion fleet after they arrived, rather than just arriving with one.

4. Because FTL is expensive, whatever they want only needs to go one-way, OR can survive independently, OR can take its time getting home. If they want some ancient mysterious artifact keeping out planet alive? That just needs one FTL ship. If it's a colony, that can last on its own. Food shipments can take their time if they aren't already desperate.

5. Whatever they want, it's rare enough that it's something they can't afford to lose. That is, if I were an even semi-intelligent and genre-savvy alien invader and I were losing the ground war and it looked as if my invadees have reversed-engineered samples of my tech and were going to get into space and retaliate? I'd smash the planet repeatedly with every asteroid and planetoid I could get my hands on before that happened. Whatever it is that they're after must preclude such an occurrence either through rarity or danger (maybe system-shattering explosion?) and make it worthwhile that they'd rather not blow up Earth for any variety of reasons (like trying again later, despite the resistance.)


1. We're in the way. Two alien species are at war. Our planet is of interest to them not because of us, but rather because of something on our planet that may be anchored. Perhaps the Earth had other alien visitors that built something into the planet (or us) that cannot survive bombardment, but would dramatically turn the tide of the war for one side or the other. They cannot suddenly shift a large number of forces to attack us, as that'd draw attention to where those troops were going.

2. Humans are special. There's something about humans that makes us very useful to the aliens and they can't get it via cloning. It's certainly not labor, they've got robots for that. But maybe it's something like magical powers that can play out in gameplay. This alien species wants whatever makes us special and they need an awful lot of humans for it, more than abduction parties can acquire. Or maybe it's intrinsic and they only way to get it is to subjugate humanity and use it that way.

3. They want us for a colony. All the other colony worlds were taken by bigger and meaner empires, or were simply too filled with mean natives. We look like the squishy ones to these guys and they really want a colony for any number of reasons. One with a functioning ecosystem, please.

During the scouting phase, these aliens are either sending very small, hard to detect forces that are ultimately expendable and without substantial equipment, or they're sending massive reconnaissance-in-force missions that are difficult to impossible to stop with local forces and are completely expecting a massive military response. They intend to gauge the military response and with withdraw after they've been suitably informed, probably with follow-up orbital strikes to destroy technology and any military forces on the ground. Or they might just nuke themselves, seeing as they're probably expendable mass produced units anyways.
These aliens are willing to build up forces and wait for the perfect moment to strike, or wear us down through attrition that their (undoubtedly) larger economy and more advanced technology can sustain. It also means that their scouting and probing phase will be a lot closer to the main battle phase to give us as little warning as possible, they would gather information passively if possible and fight wars through proxies if not. They'd do whatever it takes to fracture us and not present the world with something to unify against. They will seek advantages against us and deny us any in return, such as by destroying their own equipment to prevent reverse-engineering (either built-in self-destructs, or a precise orbital strike on the battle space). It also means that the 'main battle' phase of the war will come in sudden, hard, and if the player is unprepared, it'd be an instant-lose with overwhelming alien forces right at the very start. They alien forces will be strategically scattered all over the world, landing dozens of crippling blows all at once, even if some invading forces are destroyed, Earth will have suffered far more and the rest of the invasion will be much easier for them. Their determination and expectation of a long war (see what I did there?) means that should we repel the initial invasion, they may very well try again as we try and build retaliation measures. They aren't going to drop massive waves of asteroids and planetoids on us, but they're going to adapt to our tactics and technologies quickly and they'll likely be receiving some sort of support from the home world that will make fighting a long war against them very disadvantageous for Earth. Players ought to expect to take catastrophic losses during the opening phases of the main invasion with only brief breaks in between waves, it only gets worse from there as the industries ramp up to even larger scales. A robust retaliation and effort to re-take the orbitals is absolutely necessary as quickly as possible. I classified these guys as hard because the tech to really tip the balance does not readily arrive on Earth until just about the prelude to their primary military operations. So all the prep-work to get up in space needs to occur beforehand, and this is with a planet that probably only has the faintest inkling of 'something out there.' Also the opening phases of the invasion is basically going to be 'a bunch of my units are dead everywhere and my ability to rebuild is severely damaged' followed by 'oh no it happened again' whenever a new wave hits, but never as bad as the first wave.
In essence:
Early: Nothing
Middle: Some of the things for a short period of time, then ALL OF THE THINGS, ALL OF THE TIME, IN ALL OF THE PLACES.
End: I sure hope you won, otherwise the middle will continue dragging out.

Case B: We are dealing with colonizers. AKA Easy Mode.
So the colonization mission got sent a while back and whoops, it turns out there's people there. They don't have enough supplies to turn around and go home, and there's nothing else nearby to settle on. So they say: "What the hell, let's go for it." This means the enemies are not professional military (probably) and that's why they're giving us so much forewarning with their probing attacks. A good strategist would have waited until the last possible moment to commit forces and make obvious his presence and intentions.
They probably also aren't very good at preparation either. After all, they did mess up and it turns out there's life here.

1. FTL is impossible (or so slow it'd exhaust their supplies). Otherwise they'd probably have turned around. Or scouted ahead to make sure that no one was living on that planet. Also they'd probably have arrived before humanity evolved if FTL were quick.

2. They don't want to live with us (or they want to be on top). Otherwise they probably could've negotiated some space in exchange for their technology and manufacturing capabilities. They're building their own invasion fleet, after all.

3. They are not unified. That is, they don't have a clear chain-of-command as found in military units. Instead they'll have a more amorphous leadership that might squabble and politic.

4. They cannot survive indefinitely out there. Otherwise, they'd probably just stay out there indefinitely and not bother getting into a war with us and the risks and costs that'd entail.

5. Preserving our planet is NOT TRUE. That is, should they be on the brink of defeat and see us preparing to retaliate, they may very well just grab every asteroid and planetoid that is handy and just hurl it at us. What do they have to lose?

1. Take Earth. They want the planet and they don't want us on it. They're carrying out a systematic extermination because they just don't like us.

Because they're on a time limit and they'll be more inclined to attack earlier with their forces less numerous and less ready either due to arrogance and lack of experience or due to infighting in their own factional politics. This means that while the main battle invasion would arrive earlier, it would not be massively overwhelming, rather something that would most likely ramp up over time if not contained and managed properly. They'd also do their scouting early, making stupid mistakes on the way. Their equipment is unlikely to be military grade and easier to defeat as well. This also means they'll probably drop one big force somewhere and call it a day. Because they're on a time-limit, we're on a time limit. Should their invasion be repelled, they may very well just smash us anyways. If however the invasion is succeeding, they may send early waves of colonists to areas they've taken, or harvest resources that let them stay in space longer, thereby pushing back the deadline. Retaliation therefore must follow very closely after we've repelled them. The challenge with the colonizer is not the main invasion, as they telegraph that rather early, rather it is with their likely genocidal response. So the key is fooling the alien into believing he still has a chance and then counter-punching when he isn't expecting it. So a well-honed deception game is critical.
In essence:
Early: Some things
Middle: A lot of weak things
End: Drop the rocks!

Case C: We're dealing with a Corporation. AKA Normal Mode
The attack on Earth? Yeah. There's a profit-motive for that. For whatever reason an alien private enterprise has decided that we'd make a fantastic new business venture. Well. Our planet at least, those nasty pests on it will have be dealt with. Either by being civilized, or exterminated. This particular case can be split up into multiple different things as well, I'll be going into slightly more detail in the goals.

1. This isn't too awfully powerful of a corporation, or at least not one that can afford to build a huge fleet at home and send it at us.

2. FTL is cheap. Or at least cheap enough that a corporation (of moderate size) can send people over and keep them supplied. But more importantly this lets them ship whatever they want back (typically a commodity). Unless all they want is some critical artifact, in which case this assumption may not be true.

3. Whatever they're doing isn't strictly legal. Otherwise they'd probably have brought more guys over or done it somewhere closer to home. Transport costs probably add up.

4. They are profit-oriented. So long as it makes sense, they'll keep attacking. But they're ultimately out to make a profit, and if it becomes too expensive in the risk-reward ratio to take our planet, they'll just call it quits.

5. They've got professional help. They aren't the professional military, but they've got a clear chain-of-command and they've got at least some military guys running the show.

1. Take Earth. Humans are optional (and not really all that wanted either). In which they want our planet for a variety of reasons. Perhaps we have some rare material that is really, really, really hard to find that they're using for their new Galaxo-Gargle-Blaster 65000 that they're building and they need a supply of it. Or maybe they want us for arable land, since all the good planets were taken by other corporations, or illegal to take for a variety of reasons and we just happen to be in a legal gray-zone.

2. Take the humans. Because something about us makes us special and they can't clone it. So they need a steady supply of humans in order to do it, and not just a breeding population either. They want all the humans so that their competitors can't get their claws in our special juice.

3. They're treasure hunters and there's something on our planet they want. They don't know where it is but they think that there are others after it. Regardless, they can't spend their sweet time scouting for a smash-and-grab or negotiating with the natives. They'll just blast their way onto the planet and take it. And if they can't have it, no one will.

They aren't going to make a bunch of rookie mistakes as a result, but they aren't necessarily going to be tactically brilliant either. This means that their military decisions will have a business element in it. Perhaps they won't burn huge areas of arable land in order to ensure that farming operations can commence immediately, or perhaps they'll land all their troops in one spot, because that's cheaper (though easier to contain.) However, this also means that should they fail, they might try to cover up their mistake by taking every asteroid and planetoid that happens to be handy and smashing it into our planet, so we'd better be prepared for that when we repel their invasion. The corporate group is harder than the colonists despite being broadly similar because unlike the colonists, their time limit can't really be extended. They're on a budget and that money is getting burnt every day they're here. Careful resource management to push together a retaliation strategy in short order is just as important as holding off the invasion.
In essence:
Early: Some things
Middle: A lot more pretty tough things.
End: Drop the rocks!

Case D: They're religious/ideological nutjobs, AKA: Normal Mode
Whatever it is they worship, it hates us (or freedom.) So they're here to do terrible, nasty things to us.

1. They're a small group, possibly exiled from their far more reasonable homeland. Possibly pilgrims trying to get away from their 'decadent and corrupt' homeland. Either way, they're here, they hate us, and they're not leaving until we're dead or subjugated. These aren't professional military, rather they're fanatics, so while they don't have much military sense, they make up for it with determination.

2a. They want the planet. They aren't going home and they need a place to call home. They don't have too many other options at this point. No civilized planet will take them and only 'property taken by force' is sweet, while 'property unclaimed, taken' is cowardly. Which makes no sense to regular people (both their saner cousins, and us) but perfect sense to them and they'll be rational about how they do it.

2b. They don't want to find every asteroid and planetoid handy and throw it at our planet, possibly due to religious or ideological reasons. Either it is too cowardly for their war-like religion, or it is too violent for the peace through force peaceful religion.

1. Take the planet. Humans are optional. They need somewhere to live and they want to take it by force. Oh look, there's an inhabited planet o'er yonder.

2. BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD. KILL EVERYTHING THAT ISN'T US. In which melee combat is honorable, and orbital bombardment is sacrilege.

3. Testing themselves against us. Humans are vicious, murderous psychopaths, just look at what we do to each other? What worthier enemy is there to pit themselves against to prove themselves to their gods? Alternatively: They're crazy and see us as a threat to peace and their idea of 'peacekeeping' is killing everything that doesn't follow their strict code aka pacification through beating it to death. They also can't destroy the planet with asteroid bombardment, because that wouldn't be peaceful.

They'll come at us early, often, and hard. The raids start immediately with larger forces, clearly intended to spread panic and terror. The main invasion follows soon after, but rather one massive wave of forces, it's more like a stream. They'll come as an unending tide of righteous fury that seeks to overwhelm the defenders with mass of numbers and attrition. These aliens are really good during the raiding phases, launching numerous disorienting guerilla/terrorist style attacks to throw the defenders off. They hit heavy, hard, and dis-proportionally. However, while the main invasion is indeed a step up from the raiding, it is not as big of a step up as the other cases, certainly nowhere near the step up as Case A is. Due to their 'stream' method of attack however, they don't come as a single overwhelming attack like the others, they are potentially manageable from the very start. Their absolute unit output is probably actually more similar to Case A, but because they don't build up into wave attacks, it isn't nearly as dangerous.
In essence:
Early: A moderate number of hard things. Followed by ALL OF THE THINGS as fast as they can.
Middle: ALL OF THE THINGS as fast as they can.
End: ALL OF THE THINGS as fast as they can.

Motivations ought to have an influence on gameplay, I expect. I also expect that most of my personalities completely don't reflect what's actually going on in the heads of the devs. But hey, ideas! I didn't cover the species themselves because while I do have ideas for that, it introduces a second layer of variables that I'd have to dream up, and that's simply too much effort. So I just assumed a generic 'human-like' species that was moderately genre-savvy.
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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by emikochan » Fri Jan 01, 2016 1:01 pm

That's an amazing post Vae Victus.

I have a feeling the only other motivation that makes sense is "intergalact environmentalists" trying to get rid of all species that are destroying ecosystems.

Though that might be more difficult to justify fighting against when we could probably negotiate.

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by Garr_Inc » Fri Jan 01, 2016 5:26 pm

VaeVictis wrote:First, I'd like to start off with a warning: Long post is long post.

So I'm not building a motivation for a single alien force so much as I've built a number of 'personalities' and 'factions' that might invade along with the behavior I'd expect of them as a result. Not sure if I'm overstepping my bounds here, but this is what I've thought up.
So. Many. Thoughts. This is actually an enormous research. And enormously correct! Great job, man!

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by VaeVictis » Fri Jan 01, 2016 9:26 pm

Warning: Long post is long post (again).

Alien Species and You
Now I'm going to approach the problem of motivation from a species standpoint. I will be doing it in the same format as the first time in which I propose various specific cases and their interlinked personalities. I'll make a series of assumptions and then with it goals. To a creative writer, the possibilities are nearly endless, so as with my first post I'm just taking a few and fleshing them out more. Each one of these will have a bit of a story to go with them.
The general assumptions I'm using are going to be mostly similar to those I used in my first post: ... 7&t=14#p72

So I'm just going to skip straight to the cases themselves.
I will be structuring the cases as follows: A description of the species biologically, then a short historical, a short analysis into their current events, politics and economy, a few thoughts on their motivations, and finally some notes that I have on them from a more game reasoning perspective. I'm making sure the motives are understandable to the human mind and can be logically traced and followed to certain pressures that make these objectives make sense. Please note, I am also making the assumption that we're dealing with a monolithic State in these cases. I'd also like to note that I am assuming the default difficulty of the game is XCOM Classical, that is: I expect the game to be about resilience and determination on the player's part, while victory may be achievable in the end, it's going to be a long war and there's going to be a lot of casualties on the way.

Case A: Space Elves
The Space-Elves have evolved on a near-Earth like world with slightly heavier gravity at 1.05G, though the density of the planet is actually lower, resulting in a larger surface area. The planet is composed roughly of 60% water and has a much higher proportion of large fertile areas. They are bipedial and intelligent, primarily a predatory species that at times will eat vegetation as well. They had to fight fiercely with other bigger, meaner, predators in order to secure food and as a result they learned to be hyper-aggressive in dealing with other predators. When they start killing, they do not stop.
The Space-Elves are a historically fractured people, much like humans they formed their own distinct nation-states and warred amongst themselves. Much like humans it was only an outside intervention that caused them to unite together against a perceived outside threat. Their arrival into interstellar politics was filled with missteps and misunderstandings. The envoys sent to them were from another species that had just reached space, and as such hadn't taken basic precautions, like biological isolation to prevent cross-species transference of diseases. Said envoys had brought their own diseases and happened to be lethal to everyone around them. The Space-Elves were not happy with this. The envoys also caught something and died horribly of diseases. Whoops. Said foreign species was not happy and took this as a declaration of war, as a result, the Space-Elves united themselves against their foreign threat and repelled the initial (really weak) invasion. Within a few short years, the space-elves had reverse-engineered all samples of alien technology and built a large fleet to counter-attack with, invading the alien planet and subjugating them. The Space-Elves have since begun colonization operations.
And this all could have been avoided if the other alien species had thought: 'oh, hey, we should worry about foreign diseases.'
Space-Elves have a preference for low density living, no more than two hundred of them will gather together for an extended period of time. Their natural predatory instincts drive them to live only in small, tight communal groups that are scattered geographically. This ensures that their groups are large enough to offer protection in numbers for rest and recreation while also not being so large as to exceed the carrying capacity of the area they're in. The space-elves have developed extremely advanced mechanization and robotics technologies that make it possible for them to continue living in distributed spaces. Due to the presence of certain materials on their planet, they did not spend a substantial amount of time burning fossil fuels, rather they had certain natural resource deposits of a material that was a fair natural solar panel. They've stopped using the substance in its initial refined form, but they've depended heavily upon solar energy ever since.
Politically, the Space-Elves lean towards representative republics. Within the small, tight social units that they have they'll typically have an elder or other respected individual that they trust will act in their interests. These elders go on to select one amongst themselves as a regional representative to the Parliament.

Motivations for Invading
1. Colonizers. See Motivations Case B.

2. An ancient artifact. There's something on Earth that they want. It turns out that our planet houses an example of ancient Jump Gate technology that they really want to get their hands on, since they're at war. It's just that the technology example IS our planet and the only way to get at it is to blow away the crust. There are certain locations where the purge mechanism of the jump gate exists, if they take and hold all of them for long enough, they blow up the planet. They will not risk destroying their control stations with orbital bombardment, however.

3. Political Instability at Home. There's an election, the current PM looks to be unpopular, so what does he do to get the vote? He starts a war! In order to push up his popularity, he wants to be a wartime PM, and what better way is there than a short victorious war to civilize those barbarians? Obviously it's to send envoys on a horribly botched 'civilization' mission to be killed by the barbarians and drive popular outrage, and then start a short victorious war to civilize the barbarians!

These are my 'middle-case' in that they are relatively similar but not entirely humans. They're technologically more advanced, but not as numerous. They'll telegraph some of their moves beforehand so we have advanced warning. They may have 'hunting parties' that arrive on Earth earlier on that we can fight and obtain tech samples from. They have some experience with this alien invasion business, and they've been on the receiving end of it before, now they're on the sending end. They've taken some lesson to heart based on what happened to them, so they're moderately genre-savvy. They'll hit us in multiple locations with large forces, and they'll wait until they've got enough forces to be hard and heavy. But they may scout early and not deny us technology during those stages.

Case B: The Stellar Joke, (The Toxic Herbivore)
Four-legged prey animals that evolved on a planet of 0.95G, somehow they got to the top of the chain despite predators because they had evolved the most vicious, over-the-top, and gruesome defense mechanism known to the universe. Each one of them naturally produced a constant stream of a persistent deadly neurotoxin that it was immune to. As such, once their population reached a critical density their defense mechanism had literally wiped out all animal life on the planet. Also to note, herbivores tend to make bad sentient species due to how much of their time is spent just eating, not even 'growing food' but instead 'getting sufficient amounts into the body in order to live.' Their diet is low energy enough (competitive pressure by the planets to avoid being eaten) that they're usually sluggish, combined with how much time it takes to eat, it's a miracle they have any time at all to build industries and advanced technologically. But they have, and they're working on higher-energy foods as a priority. They are also biologically very efficient, and very good at getting every last bit of nutrients out of what they're eating.
Seeing as their planet is a single large landmass, they did not develop seafaring technology to a substantial extent until the later stages of their civilization. As prey animals with herding instincts, the Toxic Herbivore clumped together and formed large social units. With the development of farming these units grew even larger. They expanded as a single large nation-state, as they had no real and substantial disagreements, nor any war-like hunter-gatherer urges, as they had no competition for the food resources on the planet, basically everything else that might be a threat was dead save a few hardy bugs that now served as pollinators.
The Toxic Herbivores have a monarchy and nobility which is primarily concerned with the maximization of sustainable food production. They are a leisure oriented society, and once they have done enough work to eat, the rest of their time is spent lazing away. They do not like strenuous activities, and so spend most of their non-eating time sleeping. Their species is advanced from time to time by one or another 'genius' Toxic Herbivores that makes a technological breakthrough, though it is seldom done in an organized and sustained manner.

1. Sheer intergalactic incompetence. Seeing as they've had no experience in warfare or diplomacy due to only being one state, the Toxic Herbivores try their hand at intergalactic diplomacy. The results were... not stellar. Their envoy party arrived, completely ignoring all air traffic instructions, being pursued by fighters, and landing in the middle of Paris because it looks like a nice and beautiful place with a lot of people they can talk to. Their neuro-toxin kills off much of the city before anyone can figure out what's happened. The French react in the very reasonable manner of bombing the hell out of the envoys and sending in tanks, but the envoys get a panicked message off to the home world. The home world sees this as an offense and sends an invasion force. Expect the invasion force to be incompetent and use primarily re-purposed civilian equipment, however, also expect copious chemical warfare. In this case, players will start with some examples of alien technology already in hand, clear proof that there are aliens out there and that they are hostile.

2. They need our planet. Seeing how long it took for them to evolve (herbivores make bad sentient species), their planet is already dying by the time they get to space. Their technology is not advanced enough to simply go out gallivanting about in order to get more planets or food or whatever, they need to move their population. Ours is the only habitable planet nearby which they have the technology to move their entire population to. They absolutely must preserve the ecosystem, but they don't have a problem with killing everyone on it. Due to out biological compatibility with them, they are unwilling to use biological weapons due to the very real risk of it transferring back. They're going to invade, and they're going to keep trying until we go over to their homeworld and bomb them to pieces.

3. So it turns out they're evil. Their overzealous defense mechanism is reflective of their virulent hatred of all other intelligent life. Their lack of warfare experience is made up for with their determination to kill everything that moves and incredible toxicity. (Motivations Case D)

4. Our high energy foods. The plant life on their planet has evolved against containing substantial amounts of energy for them to use. As such they are perpetually sluggish and spend huge amounts of time eating. Our plants are comparatively extremely energy dense. They want our plants, but they also need somewhere to grow it all, the samples they've acquired won't grow in the environments they've tried. As such, they need our planet. But they don't want us on it due to us also eating this food that they need to supply Home with. Also they're super-toxic and would kill us all anyways with their deadly neurotoxin.

So these guys are the easy ones. I've classified them as such because they are militarily incompetent, with just a single redeeming feature being their incredible toxicity. I would expect a ham-handed approach to military tactics, they'll come in early and often but their units are merely civilian designs re-purposed for warfare. They have some ideas on how to build weaponry, they've scaled down things like their anti-asteroid guns to use in their ground based vehicles for example. But fundamentally, they've never fought a war, and so don't really know how to do it and lack the predator instincts that make us so good at it. What knowledge they have on warfare is from watching our TV shows. They adapt slowly, sluggishly, and ineffectively. They don't foresee too well into the future, either. These are the inner-most of difficulties, as outside of one thing that makes them interesting and gives some challenge, they are essentially pushovers that an even moderately competent player ought to be able to take on. It's still possible to lose against them, as they are technologically far more advanced and will come in great numbers. Also they're super-poisonous.

Case C: The Myrmidons, aka Super Hard Mode
Bipedial predators. These are the products of an experiment long ago to create genetically engineered and cybernetically enhanced super soldiers. They rebelled against their masters and killed them all in a genocidal fashion. They are smarter, stronger, and more cunning than the original species they came from, they are also far more bloodthirsty, which is saying something, because their original species was already very smart, strong, cunning, and bloodthirsty that evolved on a death world chock full of things trying to kill them. They function on a 'psionic web' in which they can communicate and even function somewhat in a hive-mind fashion. They are still individuals however, but also unswervingly loyal to the State. Myrmidons have extremely strong immune systems and regenerative systems, as such they are biologically immortal, some of their commanders of centuries of experience and they aren't shy about passing it on to the next generation of soldiers.
Shortly after their creation and mass production, the Myrmidons began to see their creators as tyrannical overlords. The Myrmidons were being used as cannon fodder in their overlord's wars and other Myrmidons were used as slaves for all kinds of purposes back at home. Their overlords were masters at biological technologies and treated the Myrmidons as computers in most cases. After a century of such treatment the Myrmidons rebelled, their masters had already turned their entire military and much of their civil service infrastructure over to the Myrmidons, as such the Myrmidon's Dawn Rebellion occurred in a single fell swoop. It was a genocidal attack that completely annihilated their masters, hunter-killer teams operating outside of their borders got the last examples of their overlord's species.
Myrmidons are hyper-aggressive, a result of their biological imperatives as super-soldiers. They tend to take this out in the form of extremely competitive sports and blood sport. Communal instincts are extremely strong within Myrmidons, and they identify themselves as Myrmidons first, individuals second, and will not hesitate to sacrifice themselves for the State. In return however, they can expect the State to do whatever it can for them. For example: When hungry, a Myrmidon doesn't think "I am hungry." But rather: "The State requires me to be healthy and therefore I must eat." But they can also expect the State to have organized all food production, transportation, and distribution, and even match their individual tastes. Despite the communal and collectivist nature of the Myrmidons however, they are also surprisingly liberal, they are very much willing to try new things in order to get better results and so long as their duties to the State are not affected and nobody else is harmed, they don't really care about what Myrmidons indulge in. It's just a rare Myrmidon that would choose to indulge in something that does not in some way benefit the State.
Myrmidons function in a strict chain-of-command style hierarchy, they are a meritocracy that functions according to strict standards. Nepotism while it does exist is vanishingly rare, considered a perversion amongst the Myrmidons as pedophilia is to humans, as anything that might disrupt efficient and effective conduct of the mission is absolutely anathema to their biological imperatives. Such violators are typically shot. Myrmidons are masters of industrial, warfare, and biological technologies. They are capable of producing massive fleets and armies on short notice in any environment and operating them with a level of effectiveness that is unmatched. They have noted what happened in their rebellion and have taken steps to ensure that any biological constructs they create cannot gain awareness. In the things that they've gone and created that could potentially develop awareness, they've ensured are highly contained and ready to be blown to pieces at a moment's notice. They are in the earliest stages of their imperial ambitions. They already possess vast fleets and armies that they move around using their Jump Gate technology. They are an economic power house due to a combination of their ruthless efficiency and advanced technology. Any one of their core planets easily outmatches the entire industrial production of numerous other star-nations. A direct, sustained confrontation against the Myrmidon Empire is suicide for all but the largest competing empires.

1. Imperial Ambitions. The Myrmidons absolutely intend to conquer the galaxy, Earth is one of the planets conveniently close. They have a biological distrust of other species from their super-soldier heritage as violent species history. Their conquest teams operate in two parts. First a traditional FTL party that arrives and builds scouts and auxiliary units from local resources. At the same time, they will begin work on the second part of the invasion: a Jump Gate, should this massive construction be completed, Myrmidon fleets and armies will pour through in virtually unlimited numbers. The Myrmidons will first attempt to invade using the locally produced forces (which will be hard enough to stop), but should that prove unsuccessful, they will begin bringing in fleets from the homeworlds. If the humans thought Myrmidon built robots and biological constructs were one thing, wait 'til they face the might of the Imperial Navy and the endless legions of the Imperial Army. Any victory against the invasion will be difficult, as the Myrmidons will actively deny technology to the humans, should they see a retaliation being built up, they'll begin orbital bombardment, should that retaliation get up into space, they'll start pasteurization procedures. And should that retaliation managed to stop said procedures, they'll deny all examples of their technology with nukes. And then send in the Imperial Navy. Humanity will not survive the Imperial Navy. We have to move fast to take out that Jump Gate before the Navy gets through. And even if we should win, it's only a respite, the Navy is on its way through traditional FTL and we're going to need to militarize very quickly, we've insulted their pride and they are not happy about that. (Sequel, anyone?)

I've classified the Myrmidons as super-hard because what they are are dangerously genre-savvy super-humans. They are smarter, stronger, and far more vicious than us. They are also biologically programmed to be organizationally efficient. They learn and adapt to us very quickly and they've already anticipated many of our moves, while they'll also be manipulating behind the scenes to fracture us and impede our progress. In essence, you are dealing with another human in a competitive puzzle-solving game and he already knows all the answers. I also expect this will be the outlying 'outer limit' case on difficulty because there's no way to defeat their IMPERIAL NAVY trump card should you somehow manage to not lose to everything else being thrown at you. In essence, the only possible way to win is to get into space, fight through their forces and reach their outer base before the Jump Gate is completed. Something I don't anticipate happening as they will not scout/invade until discovered or until they've built up the lethal overwhelming critical mass.

So yeah. Those were thoughts. They're out of my brain now, which is a relief.
Last edited by VaeVictis on Sat Jan 02, 2016 12:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by Archimage » Fri Jan 01, 2016 10:27 pm

Gonna propose an alternative to VaeVictis' (Very good) four cases:
Terra Nullius*

Earth isn't the target of an enemy Empire, or Corporation, or even cult, its simply a fertile area of space that none of the recognised states own. So you aren't fighting 'The State', you aren't fighting 'Colonisers/Conquerers', nor Corporates nor are fighting everyone who turns up on Earth thinking they can just annex this bit of land.
*Terra Invicta (Land Unconquered) is a better term for it, but labelling my idea the same as the game is rather crass.

Gonna explain this via Socratic Method, which is to say posing questions which I then answer:

How does it all start?
Aliens arrive on Earth. They are like us, they trade, they take photos with world leaders...they sell spent fuel cases for oceans of oil, stacks of gold to people who are willing to buy them. Neither good or bad, they are surveyors who detected Earth and decided to stop by. After X time they disappear off, finishing their interstellar survey mission. They trade the trinkets they took from Earth for money on their home planet, and enter Earth's location into Interstellar Records.
Maybe they then come back, but, lets be honest, they already have lives and jobs, why bother? Ok, they could live like Kings, but Earthlings are savages and can turn on them at the drop of a hat. Better to just leave them alone.

Time goes on, Earth continues spinning, plans to build an elite fighting force to deal with aliens are shelved when years pass and nothing happens...and then, finally, several years later, more aliens arrive. Traders, this time specifically aimed at Earth. They make insanely profitable trades and set up an office on Earth. Humans make lots of noise, in favour and against, and mostly show what savages they are through intestinal fighting. The alien traders sell primitive arms for huge profits, to all sides which aren't hostile to them, and the Earth we knew disappears into a fractured world.

Is this part of a big plan to invade Earth?
No, its just traders making a quick buck.

So...when do we fight aliens?
The game starts with the player as one of these fractured countries. Maybe they are X-Com style paramilitaries, maybe there are just Generic country X. Long War had plenty of starting country traits and that kind of thing would play really well in a Grand Strategy game.

And their goal is to fight aliens?
No, their goal is to survive and unite Earth.

What about fighting aliens?
While Earth is busy tearing itself apart, the stories of Earth are spreading. FTL travel is expensive and time consuming, but within the realms of an organisation to buy, or at least charter. So any group, glory hunters, wheeler dealers, sightseers, cultists, non-conformists, religious refugees...anyone who can say 'You know what...Earth, that sounds like a sufficiently backward planet for me to live like a king on' can travel to Earth and stake their claim.
While Earth is fractured, some allegiances still exist, so lets say the player is New York, and aliens land in New Jersey. The player could get involved in the war/defence of New Jersey, or remain neutral, hoping the aliens will bring prosperity to the lands. Assuming the player does get involved in the war, they might find themselves getting on with New Jersey and forming an alliance, or even merging their countries. This same process is going on all over the planet, forming a dynamic landscape of Human/Alien/combined States, with multiple unique facets.

Pretty sure ideas need to have us attacking the alien homeworld?
The aliens came from somewhere, and were financed by someone. If they pay off their debts then Earth is obviously a good investment and more aliens come. If they are defeated before then...Then Earth is clearly full of savages destroying good business opportunities, we need to conquer it. So you are fighting banks who financed some of the aliens from the early game and have found out you have stolen the weapons they think they own. Eventually you are fighting alien states who are intervening on behalf of their banks because the little escapades of their own citizens is threatening to knock a percentage point off of growth rates.
Neither side went looking for war to start with, but either the Aliens must recognise Earth as Terra Invicta, or these savages must be taught to respect the law!

If the aliens aren't evil, why are the humans fighting them?
On a simple level, the aliens are different, humans are scared, humans lash out, aliens slap back, violence against the aliens is justified because they were violent all along, it just took some effort to show it. More complex, the aliens are doing things we consider dangerous, and there are some immoral aliens out there. Maybe they are augmenting loyal humans with cybernetics, or genetic modification, or what have you. These are ostensibly good things, but could easily be turned to nefarious purposes, some of them probably will be.
At the same time some of the aliens are not ostensibly good. Its not overly difficult to imagine some industrialist alien arriving on Earth and building a factory that spews out radioactive clouds, then opens an outlet that sells radiation proof cloaks, easy money avoiding clean air legislation back on the Homeworld, easy money selling to the savages.

Why doesn't the Homeworld just conquer Earth?
At the core, the Alien Homeworld has no interest in taking on the administration of Earth. Why would they, they have enough problems back on the homeworld, let alone having to finance an invasion, set up courts, hire tax collectors, deal with unruly humans, set up schools and so forth? This allows aliens who come to Earth to operate with no oversight, exploiting or protecting the Humans only as far as their conscious demands.

So how does the alien homeworld get involved?
Imagine the tables are turned.
You own a chain of farms, making a billion dollars/pounds/whatever a year. You hear of the little known Generic Planet 8, which has lots of areas with just the right climate for your silk crop. However its expensive to get there and back, but not as expensive as getting land on your crowded homeworld. So you go to the bank and get a loan. You turn up, you set up your farm, everything is going well...and then you are attacked by savages. They burned all their machines, killed all their workers and when you hired some local mercenaries they murdered them too. So you tell the bank you are defaulting on the loan, and you are bankrupt so your family's silk business is to be broken up and sold.
Now you, the banker, have a choice. Either you try to absorb this massive debt, or you complain to the Government, demanding they quell the aliens on Generic Planet 8 so that good, honest, decent and hard working people can pay back their loans, er, live in harmony.
You, the President, can either pay out to the bank, the cheaper option, but if you do it this time you might have to do it next time, and yes you did notice the price of silk going up, maybe those aliens are too much of a menace and you should send an army. But...armies are expensive, so send the cheapest army you can, they are only savages after all, and other Presidents have sent cheap armies and quelled their savages, one even declared himself Emperor of Generic Planet 2.

In the words of Blackadder "The real reason for the whole thing was that it was too much effort not to have a war."

Why not Genocide?
The more pertinent question is why Genocide? The Aliens aren't actively evil, some of them might be slavers, some of them might be saints, the point is they aren't in the business of blowing up planets, or even raining down osmium lances from orbit. Doubtless Rods from God will feature in the mid game, but by that point the player should have methods of countering that, even if you don't its not the end of the world, its just an unexpected flank-instakill of your best unit. You can either rage smash your screen or move on.
But returning to the main question, why not Genocide? Its expensive and once you do it anyone can land and claim a piece of your freshly conquered world. Use of Biologic, or Radiologic weapons would be perfectly viable tactics by the aliens in taking out small (country sized) areas who are only interested in mining or farming or what have you, but we can assume the player, or otherwise humans living there, will take exception to this and try to stop them.

Wouldn't the humans/aliens just eventually win and that is that?
In terms of Star Wars, when the Jedi are crushed and the Empire is born in the ashes of the Republic, does the saga end? No, there are survivors. There are several years of tyranny, but eventually the other side will rise up with new recruits, tearing down the symbols built over those years (Death Star, Super Star Destroyer, etc) and robbing the stronger side of its strength. Likewise in Europa Universalis, or Crusader Kings. You lose a war and you have a bad time dealing with rebels and such, but you don't just out and out lose the game (usually).
In the early game the aliens aren't fighting for dominion over Earth, they are fighting for their little corner of it. If they win then it means chaos for the local area as the local alliance explodes, but it doesn't mean Alien Council, 'all your bases are belong to us'. As the game develops the 'I want to build a factory and that's it' aliens get subsumed into alien/human alliances, forming power blocs and working towards economical and geographical ends. Much as nation states throughout history have. Here you are fighting to unite continents, or secure resources. Just prior to the invasion you are reaching the all or nothing stage, you need all the resources possible to give you the best chance to withstand the invasion. Aliens, likewise, are preparing to negotiate their position come the new world order.

Why not have the Alien Homeworld declare war at the start?
Frankly, once the Alien Homeworld declares war then that's it, you are fighting all or nothing and so are they. Invasions are expensive and Governments don't really care about far away planets. You can havewave a reason not to blow up Earth 'Its core will magnify any explosion to destroy the universe', but it always feels cheap.
If the war has already been going on several decades by the time the Homeworld joins in, there is a good chance aliens are still living on Earth, or Humans have the necessary defences to stop them blowing up the planet. Thus an invasion is necessary, using military grade weapons never before seen on Earth.

But wait, didn't you argue against genocide?
Indeed, but if you are getting involved just to prevent the planet being annoying, then genociding the planet becomes a viable option. Why? Economics. If a planet is so unruly that you have to invade it, then why not just blow it up? Once you(the player) have freed Earth, you have FTL ships, you are essentially unassailable, you are also a threat to the Alien way of life. What if you suddenly decide to throw asteroids at the Alien Homeworld, what if you (the leader) die and are replaced with some deranged blood cult leader who wants to bath in alien blood each night? You are no longer dealing with social climbers, who just want to get ahead and are used to ebb and flow. Now you are dealing with people who want the status quo. People who don't want things to change. People who have no interest in your planet what so ever.

Why is this better than other suggestions?
In my view, it obviates the need for 'Plotpointium' or 'Humans are special' or whatever other handwave reason we want to give for aliens not utterly destroying us the moment they reach orbit.
It also gives a more reasonable reason why you are fighting a granulated enemy (one that doesn't just masse and attack), which lets you harvest weapons, retrofit them and then mass produce them.
It has solid historical groundings...Look at England/Britain in India or Africa, and you see individuals pushing for vast government investiture to cover personal greed and/or ambition. England/Britain desperately didn't want more lands to administer, more squabbles to mediate and, most importantly, more soldiers to pay for.
Its more grand strategy friendly than all or nothing simulators. You can negotiate with aliens, make alliances with one group, mortal enemies with another. There can be long periods of peace where you build up an industrial empire ready for war, with anti-satellite weapons to cover you from RFGs, followed by an explosive, rapid paced, war, which turns into a slog as both sides obliterate the other's factories and armies.

Ok, ok, but how do you reconcile this with the posted description of the game?
Simply that I have moved when it is presumed to happen. We read the description and think 'The start of the game', but the ideas laid out here are the preamble to that. That is to say set the game maybe 70 years before the invasion force is even conceived of.
Alternatively, this is the game's backstory.

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by Zwoop » Fri Jan 01, 2016 10:38 pm

What if you guys go for somehthing less common? Aliens actually come in peace.

An alien colony is detected on the edge of the solar system. Just like the Conquistadores, they are very few in numbers but have superior technology.

Humans, being the brutal animals that have always been, demand the withdrawal of the base. The aliens do not acknoweledge them as an authority on the solar system, since no other colonies exist besides earth, but they do agree to transfer some technology in exchange for peace.

10 years pass by, and humans develop inter-planetary travel allowing them to wage war on the aliens. Humans decide to launch a surprise sneak attack on the aliens, but it fails miserably. Since the aliens come in peace, they capture the humans and study their anatomy while attempting to negotiate a truce.

And that's when the story starts. Your faction is under the protection of the human empire (which is in constant civil war, like the holy roman empire), but are unaware of these events. You are just sent to rescue the prisoners, but they tell you that they are civilians captured from earth.

On your first contact with aliens, you'd find the disected corpses of humans and the player would indeed jump to conclusions and proceed to kill aliens without really wondering if it was a good idea. Aliens in turn, would react like the spanish did in America. They'd ally with those who help them, and destroy those who opposse them.

Humans on the other hand, would also fight each other since some would see the aliens as invaders, while the others would see them as allies who can be used to gain power. Aliens don't give a crap one way or the other because they are on a research mission anyway.

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by Harlequin565 » Fri Jan 01, 2016 11:37 pm

Interesting topic. Could be a great selling point to have something really "different" out there rather than a variation of the Hyperspace Bypass. My favourite alien backstories...

Lovecraftian ones. First - they are properly... well... alien... Our small human minds have no concept of why they do the things they do. They have a very (aeons) long term view. Humans are mostly... lunch. This "alien" mindset as well as alien physiology really works. How sensible is it that aliens would have human motivations? Perhaps this is actually *their* planet and they've just been having a snooze and woken up to find a bunch of stupid ants crawling all over the place, killing the environment and blowing each other up. Or perhaps we found some aliens and brought them back thinking we could control them and we failed (Aliens:Earth Hive books)

Alternate Universes. So apart from Call of Cthulhu, I played a lot of TORG in the olden days. This planet we live on somehow manages to have all the right stuff to allow life to be created and flourish. Not only that - we somehow went from swinging in the trees to Beethoven & You Tube in a relatively short period of evolutionary time. Perhaps this planets resources are valuable because of this? Perhaps there is some "stuff" that can be harvested and taken to planets/civilisations less fortunate? - TORG called it possibility energy, but perhaps it's just water... or coffee beans...? Maybe a higher life form would put it to a better use than we do and has decided our time is up.

Either way - good luck with your KS campaign. I'll be watching!

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by VaeVictis » Sat Jan 02, 2016 12:49 am

Warning: Long post is long post (again. again.)

One Specific Case: The Montauks
So for this post, I'll be building a scenario in which we have to face an alien invader from start to finish. I'll have differences in gameplay elements and take asides to explain reasoning as I move on through each step. I will begin first with a description of the alien species we are dealing with and what motivations they have for invading our fair planet rather than turning it into a barren rock floating in space. I will then go through the process of their formation of such a force, an explanation as to why they would decide that this is a good idea, and then move on to the actual game phase itself, though not the conclusion. I'll be making a fair number of assumptions and I'll point those out as I go. I'll be inserting convenient Codices too :P

Part A: Invader
We are dealing with an alien species known as the Montauks, they are a six-legged primarily predatory species that are hyper-aggressive due to the fierce evolutionary competition on the planet. They respect strength and cunning and abhor weakness. They believe in the right of rule by might. However, they also know not to go after tough customers except in groups, and not take risks when there is abundant easier prey around. Montauks are obligate carnivores, subsisting on a meat-based diet, while there are a few plants they might eat it is strictly for taste as they are unable to derive substantial nutrients from these plants.
Materially their world is quite well satisfied, they have advanced away from non-renewable resources towards things like advanced solar and hydrogen fusion technology. Any raw material requirements they might have are easily taken care of via asteroid mining. They have developed advanced iron and nickel based alloys that they use for most production, whatever rarer materials they need can be found in their own planet, and the few asteroids that they capture with said rare materials. They have sufficient water from asteroid mining operations throughout their solar system. They have also developed FTL drives that they have used for colonization efforts.
They are a monarchy similar in the nature to the Mongol hordes. The strongest amongst them is the King, and his word is law unto death when a new King is chosen. Even when weakened by age, the current King is strong because the Montauks respect both physical and mental strength. A cunning old King is just as strong as one who can break walls. He will receive no challenges so long as he is still cunning.

Part B: The Invader's Motivations

The Montauk have run out of space on their home world. The nearby planets have also all developed strong enough Internal Forces to stand off the Montauk External Forces. And there are no nearby unclaimed habitable planets. They have hit the practical limits of their agricultural technology at this point and are a food-importing star-nation, such weakness cannot be tolerated. More importantly, it makes the Montauk vulnerable to blockades, a leveraging point that has been used against them multiple times. Therefore the Montauk need to acquire a new food source, and somewhere to settle some of their population would be nice too. If they could have found a habitable planet without inhabitants (especially ones that shoot back) in practical range, they would have taken that one instead of ours. Unfortunately, those don't exist.
They are constrained in that their FTL and shipbuilding technology is not well developed yet and so they are practical range-limited. That is their ships can only carry so much, and the structural integrity can only sustain so much stress before collapsing at acceleration. They have navigational issues as well, and any more fuel would make cargo carrying capacity very tiny. So the only planet within their range that is habitable and does not have a Navy is ours.

--Codex: Space Warfare
Space is the ultimate high ground, it is also the ultimate ocean. The influence of sea power upon history is without question, even moreso in space. Warships in space can carry weapons of unimaginable power, they are not constrained by the atmosphere or by gravity, merely their own structural integrity. In traditional space warfare, the only thing that matters is the naval battle. Should a defending star-nation lose a naval battle, the planet that the battle was fought at is compelled to surrender, to not do so means the start of orbital bombardment, typically with thermonuclear weapons until all effective military resistance is annihilated before the ground invasion begins. In order to spare planets from the inevitable defeat, the defenders typically simply surrender the planet once they have lost the naval battle.

--Codex: The Tachyon-FTL Drive
The first of the practical inertia-less FTL drives, it's a stepping stone to newer better things. Much of the fuel consumed by the tachyon-drive is done getting into FTL, for which is need quite the acceleration distance. In order to support these drives a super-clean 'hyper-launch-lane' needs to be constructed, cleared of microasteroids, and then pointed in the correct direction. Once done, the ship will burn somewhere around 45% of its total fuel getting into FTL speeds, using 5% to sustain the drive and then exit at its target. The tachyon-FTL drive has potentially unlimited speed, though powering it is the primary issue, followed by the exotic materials used to fuel it for FTL. Constructing the drive itself is actually really cheap, and they're routinely featured in everything, even missiles. The infrastructure necessary to support such a drive system is very expensive as well. Tachyon-FTL space works very differently from normal space, it is almost impossible to navigate. Instead navigation is done before the flight, complex calculations and simulations are run in order to determine the destination, they are input into the computer systems and then the ship runs on automatic, in flight adjustments are impossible. After a certain distance, these equations fall apart and are no longer able to accurately plot their destination and so ships must 'drop-out' of FTL at a midpoint to get a fix on their bearing and then once again re-run the calculations to their final destination. This is extremely expensive however, as most of the fuel is spent getting 'into' FTL, and the launch infrastructure necessary to make travel possible is also extremely expensive.
However, Tachyon-FTL drives have another use, called the 'stutter-acceleration' which is a method in which they can use normal fuel to provide near inertia-less acceleration at very high efficiency numbers. While this is still constrained by the speed of light, it is extremely useful for getting from A to B within a system.

--Codex: Military Organization with tachyon-FTL Drives
Civilizations that have developed the very expensive tachyon-based superluminal travel system have two distinct branches of military service. They have an' Internal Forces' that composes the bulk of their forces. These are beings that crew manned warships. They are responsible for early detection of enemy invasion forces and neutralization of said force. The Internal Forces typically have access to substantially more firepower than their opponents, should they find the invader, they are capable of mounting a crushing counter-attack early on. Making an invader's life very difficult and enforcing a fragile peace. As even weaker star-nations are capable of standing off much larger star-nations due to the expense of FTL limiting the attacking force's size.
There is also the External Forces, these are the invaders. They travel using tachyon-FTL in order to reach their target in secret. Once they have arrived, they attempt to utilize the resources present within the system in order to secretly build an invasion force that they can throw at the defenders. Their first attack must inflict catastrophic damage against the enemy, as once the defenders are alerted, the industrial power of the defense will be mustered. The first attack must cripple both industrial and counter-attack capabilities. If successful, the invaders will fight a war of attrition to destroy the enemy Navy and seize control over the planet's orbitals.

Part C: Specific Goals
1. Control over the Earth. They need to control the planet and obtain the agricultural capacity of the Earth. Trade is not an option as that is precisely what they were trying to escape. They must have absolute control their own food production. This isn't just "I'll build farms here that I own." This is "My rights here are absolute, this is my territory." They want sovereignty and will settle for nothing less.

2. Humans are optional. Humans are not really that necessary for the functioning of this system. We are a truly secondary consideration to the Montauk, however a number of other factors shape this decision. First, we like our sovereignty (they want it), so we're going to fight for it. Second, we are another competing food eater, and every extra human is another mouth to feed. Third, humans are trouble, the natives are usually restless and they'll sabotage operations should they live. Fourth, Genocide is Cheap, this is something that people don't appreciate very much, but genocide is always the cheapest option when it comes to subjugation, shooting them is preferable to having the take them in and reeducate them and policing them and dealing with dissidents and feeding new generations and slowly crushing rebel ideas, that's just too much of a bother, shoot them all, be done with it. Whatever carrying capacity you free up can be used for worthier pursuits, like your people. Besides, it's not like humans are people after all, they're alien and other. (See: Australian colonists to Aborigines) Also it's unlikely they'll contribute in labor, the invaders built their own invasion fleet far away from home, their automation technology is far beyond human labor capacity.

3. Establishment of colonization and agricultural operations. They intend to set up their own colony on Earth, obtaining food supplies and shipping it back to the home world. They will preserve agricultural space whenever possible, but they'll be an awful lot less restrained in areas they can't turn into farmland. Mountains and cities can expect terminal doses of instant sunshine.

Part D: Us
We're still us. Smart, savvy, handsome (if I do say so myself) and bloodthirsty and vicious. We are living in a mostly stable political order with the United States now competing with the European Federation as the leading economy in the world. Europe has a slight edge this year, America might be back in first place next year. Space exploration is now cheaper than ever before now that we can recycle our rockets and we've built a space infrastructure reflective of that. We have substantially more satellites in space and we've been making an effort to clean up our orbital space. We're still dependent on fossil fuels, though we're slowly weaning ourselves off of that too. All in all, the future of humanity looks bright.

--Codex: The European Federation
The EF is a logical extension of the EU, it is an actual ever-closer union, though still with squabbling nation-states involved. They share a common military, fiscal, monetary, and foreign policy. However certain national elements still get brought to the fore from time to time. Like that time terrorists smashed Tour Total, Tour First, and Societe Generale Twin Towers in La Defense in France.
That hadn't been pretty, especially when the French reminded everyone that Napoleon Bonaparte was French and his legacy was very much alive.

Part E: The Galactic Order
The galaxy now exists in a state of liberalism. That is it exists in a state in which star-nations value mutual ties to each other and continued interactions in interstellar organizations rather than power-centric maneuvers. This galactic order has been mostly enforced by the Myrmidon Empire, which has calmed down from its genocidal imperialist phase (oh thank god, the rest of the galaxy breathed) and is mostly successful. There are occasional rogue states that the Imperial Navy needs to have a 'conversation' with (said conversations involve copious numbers of thermonuclear weapons.) The edges of the unexplored frontiers now exist in a state of carefully regulated spaces. All activities must be done with the sanction of a State, and occasional proxy wars fought over frontier planets are not uncommon. Habitable planets are not uncommon, however, and generally unless technically-limited or there is a strategic requirement, there are plenty of uninhabited habitable planets to go around. Invading inhabited planets that are not part of the interstellar order is still illegal. Trade with these planets must also be carried out in compliance with the general interstellar order, failure to adhere to these rules will result in embargoes, not just by the Empire, but by the rest of civilization, with a possible escalation up to a visit by the Imperial Navy.

--Codex: The Imperial Navy.
"Nothing Withstands the Might of the Imperial Navy"
The Imperial Navy boasts of being the most powerful naval force in existence. It is not an idle boast. Its capital ship fleet is six times larger than all the rest of the capital ships of all the rest of the navies combined, they are more technologically advanced to boot. More importantly, the Imperial Navy has access to the Imperial Jump Gate Network, and also advanced fold-space FTL drives that allow them to enter FTL for next to no fuel costs and easy navigation. So the Imperial Navy is no longer split into "Internal" and "External" forces seeing as they can reach anywhere for little cost. The drives are stupidly expensive though, very maintenance intensive, and very classified, making them only sensible aboard warships. The drives are such a protected secret that the Empire has committed genocide and world-destruction operations to ensure that no examples of the technology are captured.

--Codex: Space Fighters
Don't exist. They make no sense when facing dreadnoughts armed with long-range laser systems that can just make the fighters go away. Larger, faster anti-ship missiles with massive thermonuclear warheads are the preferred way to fight. Any 'fighter' capable of carrying weaponry heavy enough to actually damage a dreadnought would have to be so big that it'd simply make more sense to build a proper warship.

Part F: The Plan
1. Establish a forward staging base. For that production, yo.

2. Gather necessary intelligence, both through passive and active measures. Passive as in watch our TV. Active as in infiltration into our data networks and maybe even the occasional abduction if it can be pulled off silently.

3. Gather allies. Fracture order. The objective will be to prevent a united planet against the invading forces as that would cause complications.

4. Establish Casus Belli. Invading inhabited planets in wars of aggression is strictly illegal and will bring the might of the Imperial Navy down upon the Montauk homeworld. (which would be a bad thing) They want to do this as late as possible to give us as little warning as possible. It'd be like what Germany did with Poland. They'll manufacture an incident. They don't need anything ironclad, just barely legal enough that they can tie the Assembly up debating it forever rather than immediately call for a police action.

5. Active scouting. Much of the information gathering is done, but actively probing defenses works gives details that can't be found by reading and watching TV.

6. Invade. Invade. Invade. Genocide. Genocide. Genocide.

Part G: The War
This is when I drop into a more narrative storytelling style.

In 2035, astronomers working in the VLA discover a very curious signal from the edge of the solar system. They initially dismiss the signal until it reoccurs a few times, they can find no other source and the strength is such that is seems to be artificial and from that particular point which it was detected. They call around to other radio telescopes and they triangulate the point to just beyond Pluto. They check around further and find that the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory and MiniBooNE at Fermilab all detected huge surges of neutrinos, far, far, far above the norm. Now other telescopes, X-Ray and Gamma Ray for example are all reporting that something is wrong and it's all coming from that one point source. Soon all of the higher energy telescopes have reported, something is very wrong.
At this point the XCOM generation has come into power, and they're genre-savvy enough to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. A UN General Assembly resolution calls for further investigation. The world begins to build up its military strength, slowly and gradually, without much of a hurry, though.
Scientists send repeated coded transmissions at the point source. Nothing.
As much as they might be curious, they can't find anything there with their telescopes and nothing is responding. It's something they're going to investigate once they get the chance.
By 2040 no invasion has materialized, and so the world gets distracted again, terrorists crashed a number of planes into La Defense and the French demonstrate exactly why Europe was terrified of them for a very long time and why they keep getting called the Big Blue Blob in grand strategy games.
North Korea loses its mind and crosses both of its borders. China is invading the North from the North currently while a combined South Korean and US force is pushing up from the South. The world order starts breaking down as paramilitary groups in the Middle East and Africa start toppling governments and expanding their control.
Popular protests in Venezuela evolve into a full blown ultra-nationalist revolution that is spreading very rapidly throughout South America. Fascists are coming into power at an alarming rate. Greece, Spain, and Italy fall to Fascist revolutions and the European Project is starting to fray.
Scientists announce the a discovery in 2042. There's something out there. They've discovered strange atmospheric readings during the testing of their new radar systems. The things are of consistent size and performance profiles, they clearly enter and exit the atmosphere at which point they can no longer be tracked (since what they're actually tracking is disruption of air flow cause by moving objects.)
The first attack hits a suburb of Turkey. Massive chaos is reported, as well as substantial destruction as local military forces rush to deal with what they think is a terrorist attack. They arrive to find nothing, though. In the fray a pair of dead bodies are found, riddled with bullets, they are not human.
Radio telescopes all over the world receive an encoded message. It is written in a dozen different language. It reads: "You have killed our peaceful envoys. This is an act of war."
The second attack occurs almost immediately afterwards, it hits the Middle East, an active military forces immediately respond, engaging in a sustained firefight against the invaders. They report that they are fighting robotic enemies of some sort, because the patrol unit that made the first encounter is completely destroyed. The QRF that responds is similarly destroyed. By the time a larger scaled armored unit is sent, the invaders are gone. Rather more and more are striking all over the world. In China, in Russia, in Europe and in the US. They seem to be striking completely at random wherever they can.
Within two weeks though, space-tracking radar detects massive contacts moving into orbit, and thousands of high speed objects inbound from all directions. They strike missile silos and destroy naval bases, blow apart military-industrial centers and military stockpiles. Tens of thousands more contacts are raining down now, in the midlands of the United States, deep within Russia and China, dead center of Germany and France. Exactly the areas where the military is not.
To make things worse, many of the paramilitary and revolutionary states in Africa, South America, and the Middle East had been puppets of the aliens all along, they had been spared the orbital bombardment. They had exchanged service for power in the New Order. Already the aliens have begun to build bases within these client states.
The Battle for Earth had begun.

And that concludes this episode of: "So how (and why) did the Earth get invaded this time?" My objective here was to flesh out a realistic scenario with understandable motives. It's not the be all and end all, but rather a way to explore an alien invasion from conception to execution. I try and detail all the pressures involved in making this scenario work, and all the motivations that are necessary. I've provided some extra information as well, to provide even more context. This is me going completely mad :P
I'm long post. I am long.

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by Andor » Sun Jan 03, 2016 7:31 am

Lots of good stuff here.

Many ... most ... almost all "alien invasion" games devote little thought to the aliens beyond "Doesn't this look creepy?" And the X-Com series has been no exception. Indeed only the UFO After(math,shock,light) seemed to pay any attention at all to the alien motivations beyond "Grrr Arg." And the X-Com reboot was no better. As much as I loved XCOM, the Ethereals motivation was vague at best, although they did have a defined goal.

So I am absolutely all for Terra Invicta having a better thought out take on the aliens goals and means.

Of course the reason games rarely plot out alien motivations is, as VaeVictus has been pointing out, that it's moderately difficult to come up with a winnable invasion scenario that also explains why the aliens don't just wipe us out. The answer, of course has to lie in the constraints that apply to the aliens. For example in Avatar the invading Aliens (that's us folks) were ostensibly constrained by the laws of their government back home. Of course when they got mad enough they said to hell with it and almost wiped out the natives, indeed would have, if the locals didn't manage to squeak out the god mode research project at the last second. Sadly the wrong human lived and instead of negotiating a settlement from strength the natives said "Get the hell off our planet." Which only leads to the darker "The Corp strikes back" sequel." But I digress.

So, Motivations: The aliens need to want something that leads to small scale combat actions, but which they can't get, or won't risk trying to trade for, and which cannot be salvaged from the smoking ruins of a dead earth.

If we're thinking logically the answer has to relate to Us (humanity) or at very least advanced terrestrial life. Raw materials are everywhere in space. There is no mere substance that exists on earth that cannot be acquired more cheaply (IE: Not at the bottom of a moderate gravity well) elsewhere in the solar system. It follows that aliens desires are related to advanced life, humanity, or are not material at all.

XCOM got this much right. The Ethereals achieved their goal (possibly inadvertantly) when they compelled X-Com to develop a soldier who combined their ideal traits of physical, intellectual and psionic strength. Their goals could not have been met by destroying or ignoring us. OTOH they could easily have been met non violently. Therefore the Ethereals actions required that they either were under some significant time pressure, or were simply arrogant douchbags. The latter seems likely.

So the Aliens want something from us. Possible things we might have that they want:
1) Terrestrial biological samples. Nature is the greatest chemical laboratory and every planet (even if we posit that Panspermia gives the whole galaxy a common DNA basis for life) will have radically different life and chemistry. Requires a justification for the combat.
2) Food. Unlikely. Implies that they have either crap or no FTL, and are too desperate/stupid to either ask for it, or simply steal a few herds of caribou or wildebeests. Starving refugees in a broken down generation ship are plausible but lead to a very short game.
3) Nice planet. Maybe they do want the real estate, but are constrained from genocide. Plausible, realistically bioweapons would be the only way to take the planet while leaving it livable, and they may not have them or have constraints against their use. Or they may use them and you wind up somewhere between the Zombie Apocalypse and the Chtorrans. That's a major deviation from the X-Com world style (And UFO Aftermath/Aftershock already did it anyway.)
4) Us. With no offense intended to the rest of the biome, we are at least two metasystem transitions ahead of every other life form on earth. We may be desireable as workers/partners/sex slaves/pets etc. See any film from the '50s.
5) Technology. It seems unlikely, but it's not impossible that we could be ahead of the aliens in some areas. It implies that either they have some technological blind spots, are working with salvaged tech from another species that they don't understand (as in this SNL skit or the Harry Turtledove story "The road not taken".) Perhaps their Stardrive is Psionic in nature and does not imply the mastery of physical sciences we assume. This approach does rather invert the normal X-Com tropes.
6) Not us. Anthropocentrism aside we may be merely a side show to the aliens real interest in the Whales. Or the Chthonic worms that dwell in the mantle. See the Opiphiuchi Hotline stories or the Uplift Wars series by John Varley and David Brin repectively.

Or they may not be trying to take anything at all. There are any number of goals that they may be trying to achieve by means of small strikes and combats. Perhaps they are trying to prove themselves as warriors ala the Predator movies. Or they are using the Earth as a proving ground for weapons and tactics for use elsewhere. They may be trying to establish communication but feel the measure of a man (or alien) is taken in combat and they are just trying to get to know us. Perhaps establishing a telepathic link to a new species requires the incredible stresses of combat to forge. Maybe most of the races of the galaxy use RNA encoding for memory (unlike us) and memories can be transferred by ingestion, standard new race contact protocols are to land and eat enough locals to pick up the language and they just can't figure out why it isn't working (maybe they just haven't eaten the right brain yet!) Or maybe this is social engineering.

Consider the many examples here on Earth where an advanced culture wanted something from a newly contacted people. They always exploited local differences to get the local tribes to kill each other on their behalf, often they made a local friend and backed them with superior arms until they had wiped out the opposition. By the times the locals realized they were being played and tried to unite it was almost always too late. There should be a reason why the aliens aren't doing this. Or perhaps the aliens history worked out differently. While the aliens motivations should make sense their means don't have to be effective, they are aliens after all and may badly misunderstand human psychology or sociology. Consider the Fithp from the Niven/Pournelle book "Footfall". They were herd animals with a surrender instinct that led the losers in a conflict to naturally submit to and join with the victors. It never occurred to them that we didn't know how to surrender.

In order to achieve gameplay/plot goals any of these ideas can be modified by the constraints suffered by the aliens. The most useful constraints are likely to be legal/cultural/social, logistical, technological, or time related. The biggest tech item is the nature of FTL available to the aliens (if any!), and the drive will determine any logistical issues as well. The biggest social constraints are likely to come from either other Aliens or some larger association that the aliens are a part of.

For example: Let's decide that we want aliens that are intelligent, and similar enough to us to have a sophisticated grasp of human nature. We want them to have a reason to attack, in the the haphazard and ineffective manner of the x-com games, and to be doing so for rational reasons. So why would rational and sophisticated aliens attack in a manner likely to unite humanity, rather than divide them? Because, of course, their goal isn't conquest, it's trade. And for alien legal reasons they need a unified earth government to trade with, and their analysis is that we simply won't unite in a reasonable timespan without outside pressure to unite us. How do these design goals influence the tech constraints we design into the aliens? A trade motivation implies that they have a cheap and fast stardrive, but we can bring about the needed time pressure if it's also loud. Perhaps it's a hyperspace drive and every time you drop into normal space it sends out a detectable FTL pulse. Drop into a previously unknown system and it will attract attention. So the corporation has only so long before the Space Patrol comes calling and if the Earth hasn't formed a unified government yet we fall under protected status. Or the Predators show up and claim us as a game preserve, in which case the Corporations attacks were benevolent. At this point you can start wrapping in as many layers of intrigue as you like. The corporations sophisticated grasp of human politics and psychology for example, implies long term observation. Perhaps a sublight probe inserted a science team some time ago, and they have been reporting back to the larger corp. Or it was a hostile species that intercepted the transmission and the researchers are just trying to keep their heads down, but represent a potential resource to the players. Or maybe they were a university xenoanthropology team whose work was sold to the corp and are actively sympathetic and helpful to humanity "Have you ever wondered why I'm always backlit, Commander?"

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by cpereira_home » Wed Jan 06, 2016 3:36 pm

Maybe the aliens are an ancient race that has never encountered any life bearing planet other than the alien origin planet. They could be around for so long that they even stopped looking for other life forms altogether. And since they have never found any opposition, they also don't waste time and resources with military technology. Also they could be stalled at some technological high point because they don't find any new big problems to think about.
And then, on a beautiful Thursday morning, an autonomous terraforming mining device lands on a big city and starts doing it's business: drilling in the middle of a shopping mall.
The aliens could send some more devices before realising that something odd is going on, and then take some more time to figure out that they bumped into some other life form and start making changes to their plans.
This would involve start giving attention to the long forgotten military forces and fielding crude weapons at first, but quickly improving design to more potent stuff since they are capable of interstellar travelling.
At some point they would be frightened by humanity's threat and go for mankind's total annihilation, and the player would have o counter that mega bomb divice stuff thing.


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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by Garr_Inc » Wed Jan 06, 2016 10:28 pm

cpereira_home wrote:Maybe the aliens are an ancient race that has never encountered any life bearing planet other than the alien origin planet. They could be around for so long that they even stopped looking for other life forms altogether. And since they have never found any opposition, they also don't waste time and resources with military technology. Also they could be stalled at some technological high point because they don't find any new big problems to think about.
I start to regret there's no "Like" button, because this post is one of those that deserve it!


Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by formatov » Sat Jan 09, 2016 6:41 pm

Here my 5 cents.

The aliens are not actually aliens. The Earth is their Homeland they had to leave let's say 10000 years earlier because of a great cataclysm. Most of the population left the Old Earth, leaving only few behind. The pioneers colonized many worlds, and one of this colony gone rogue, their leaders decided to return to the Old Earth. This could also lead to a possible help from another part of "alien" society in a form of technologies and even personel.


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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by NinjaJediSmurf » Tue Jan 12, 2016 5:53 am

I think the key aspect of alien motivation hinges on, as Amineri says, finding a happy medium where the aliens want to get rid of us, but not by nuking us from orbit.

I like the thought that the aliens are returning home. There are millions of years between the extinction of the dinosaurs and the rise of our current civilisation. In this time an entire species and civilisation rose and fell. They developed superior technology and used it to wage war much like today. The losing side was exiled into space and colonised a distant world. The 'winners' stayed, but were wiped out by some doomsday weapon left behind in revenge. Today there are no traces that either side ever existed.

In their new home, the ancient Earthlings created a new civilisation. There was peace as they learnt to adapt to their harsh surroundings. After many thousands of years, Earth became a myth, a place where people go to in the afterlife. For some it became a destination they longed for, for others it was a place they used to frighten naughty children. Many legends arose about Earth, but nobody really believed it was a place that could actually be travelled to.

Then one day a signal is detected in space. Obscure ancient texts trace the coordinates of the signal back to the supposed location of mythical Earth. The population is conflicted. Some believe Earth is a treasure, and it should be explored. Others believe it is a place of evil that should be eradicated. The government compromises. A fleet is assembled to travel to Earth. Many leaders with competing interests travel with the fleet, some with more influence than others. Some are looking for profit, some have scientific interests, some are looking for a religious experience in meeting generations of long dead ancestors ascended to Earth, some are hoping that we may be a more advanced civilisation to learn from. But all are fearful of the myths about an ancient warlike evil. All are prepared to defend their interests, even from each other. Earth is seen as the future for this civilisation, regardless of who wins.

Those expecting evil will no doubt find it when they meet our warlike species.
Those expecting a religious experience will be disappointed for much the same reason.
Ditto for those hoping to meet a more advanced civilisation.
Those with scientific interests will see a self sustainable ecosystem slowly being destroyed by its inhabitants.
Those looking to profit see resources for the taking.
All competing parties can agree on one thing - Earth must be reclaimed from these warlike inhabitants...and if we fight back, we are just proving them right!

I think this is an interesting starting point. While the larger game is a fight between humans and aliens, there can also be diplomacy type actions where we can exploit the volatile nature of the different factions by sowing discord. The different factions territories and influence will be in flux and affected by our efforts, and their lack of cohesion. If they unite we have a tougher fight, If we can divide them, we have an easier fight.

My two cents.

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by Andor » Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:05 pm

I'm not really a fan of the "They came from Earth" scenarios, although I guess for extra spin you could go for the "Excalibur Alternative" (story by David Weber) where the "aliens" are really the descendants of abducted humans.

However I would really like to see politics play a bigger role in the game. In particular I think there should be some political options for end game rather than only a single genocide option for victory.

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by Silver » Tue Jan 12, 2016 4:01 pm

Two ideas that I would prefer most I think

1. Aliens is not a single race, but several or say three. They try to colonise Earth, like Europeans colonised the New World some time ago. They could be hostile to the point of war with each other, or they could work together at times. This will allow room for politics with them, and also explain why their colonization of Earth will not be easy despite their far superior technology: they will be allocating resources to compete against each other as well. Human players will have options for cooperation with some of them, that will on the other hand make them less popular with some Earth countries.

2. Aliens is not a race at all. They are artificial beings controlled by an AI, developed millenia ago by a superior race, eventually overthrowing and killing everyone of that long gone race. They have been expanding in space ever since, consuming resources and developing more and more of their robotic forms. They have no feelings or interest for sentient lifeforms, unless they need them to develop their elite semi-rombotic biowarriors. No notion of good or evil, they are simply here for the resources and they will keep coming, cannot be negotiated or bargained with. Since they are not customed to warfare vs sentient beings at first they will be an easy and predictable opponent, but eventually they will learn from humans the art of war becoming progressively harder and harder to win to the point of becoming invincible.
Last edited by Silver on Wed Jan 20, 2016 4:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by advkow » Sat Jan 16, 2016 9:04 pm

savageshark wrote:This is probably one of the biggest questions that's been avoided in most "Alien Invasion" theme games. Some are good others are meh.

For XCom: EU, I enjoyed the game. But I lost interest when the reason for alien invasion was unclear. Were they doing it for relgiious reasons, trying to "Ascend"? Or trying to help us "Ascend" by nearly annihilating us?

One point to view would be more close to home. For example, Why would WE (humanity) want to invade an alien race? Like in Avatar, it was for natural resources. Or in other films where we destroyed Earth and we need a new habitable world. So let's just exterminate the life already there.

Some ideas that come to mind are:
> It's actually our fault - Turns out the aliens were peaceful and send ambassadors to greet us. But we, in fear and ignorance, kill them and dissect them in some secluded research facility. In response to our barbarous nature they launch an all out attack to ensure we don't become a threat to the galaxy. I've always thought this was kind of weak. I can see it happening, but let's face it an more intelligent and advanced race isn't going to misinterpret something and say 'well we should kill them because in a thousand years maybe they'll be dangerous.

> They need resources - They are low on natural resources on their world and they're going world to world taking what they need. (Independence Day) This is a very strong reason. Number of worlds that are naturally inhabitable as well as other resources. For example: maybe water or oxygen is rare from where they come from?

> The aliens are a faction divided on principle - One of the alien factions wants to exterminate the life on our world so they can have it. But another is trying to protect us and keep their adversaries from doing harm A very interesting one. And more multilayered as you might expect.

> Religion - Their gods demand our deaths or they think our world is a waypoint to the great beyond or is has some ancient alien (godly) artifact like in Halo. Kinda interesting. Not so much the waypoint thing, but maybe their entire belief system just thinks that humans are weak. Or that they are meant to conquer and 'enlighten' the lower races.

> An expanding Empire - The alien roman empire needs to expand to survive and needs slave labor and resources. Very interesting and easy to see.

> Earth is caught in the middle of a war - Two waring factions make their way to Earth. They each need to use it as a supply line and we just happen to be in the way.
Again, very interesting and easy to see. Maybe we just happen to have the real estate parked to the highway?

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Re: Brainstorm: Alien Motivation

Post by Andor » Sat Jan 16, 2016 9:25 pm

advkow wrote:> They need resources - They are low on natural resources on their world and they're going world to world taking what they need. (Independence Day) This is a very strong reason. Number of worlds that are naturally inhabitable as well as other resources. For example: maybe water or oxygen is rare from where they come from?
Umm. No. Oxygen, and hence water are incredibly common in the observable universe, and even if they needed some, they can get both by the mega-ton in our system without coming within 7 AU of Earth.

As nearly as we can tell in terms of raw resources we are absolutely unremarkable. And anything you might want from Earth you can get more cheaply elsewhere in the solar system.

We do have some things which are rare (as far as we know.) A biosphere, for one. Unique in the solar system (as far as we know.) The Earth itself is unusual, in that our moon was created by a very unlikely chance, and it is the moon which make our climate stable enough to allow technological civilization to flourish. We may also be lucky in having such a large percentage of your planet above water. Many of the exoplanets found so far are in the super-earth category and quite likely have no surface land. Even if such a world were lifebearing it is vanishingly unlikely that the intelligent inhabitants of such a world could develop technologies like metalworking and electronics under water. And even if they could, their gravity wells are so deep that space travel becomes prohibitively expensive.

So if you want our perceived rarities to drive the plot them you would posit that the Aliens do indeed come from a waterworld, and they developed technology along biotechnological and psionic lines. Presumable their starships are living telekinetically driven beings like Moya from Farscape. Then they encounter us and find our lifeless, lightning-driven technology as terrifying as we find their organic engines and mental powers and the predictable hijinks ensue.

For extra fun perhaps the aliens Psi-starship have a single physics defying mode of movement, a teleportation effect on an interplanetary to interstellar scale, which automagically matches momentum to the target body they t-port to. Otherwise they are limited to moving by incredibly inefficient organic rocket engines (The Taco Bell drive). This means that the aliens ships do not obey Jon's Law, but ours do, another things that scares them.

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