Monday, November 19, 2007

Puzzles

Two things that puzzle me:

1) Why do video games have humanoid aliens? I understand why humanoid aliens are so common in television and movies--it's much cheaper to slap some makeup on a person than to have a quadraped with two mouths and tentacles. But video games should allow the creators' minds to run wild. Instead, developers seem to stick to the standard, boring biped (for intelligent aliens, anyway). Take Mass Effect, for example. Every screenshot I've seen from the game features humanoids. Some are skinny, some are thick, but they've all got two legs, two arms, and a head atop their shoulders, with two eyes and a mouth. Boring! One of the things I used to love about the Star Frontiers pen-and-paper RPG was the diversity of the aliens. It had eight-legged insectoid vrusk, ameoba-like dralasites, four-legged two-tongued Osakar, and the worm-like Sathar. It also had a couple non-human humanoids (Yazirians and Ifshnit, although I think everyone decided to ignore the Ifshnit), and the Humma, who looked sort of like kangaroos.

2) Why do doctors ask you to rate pain on a scale of one to ten? Don't they know interpersonal utility comparisons are very difficult? I had a kidney stone several years ago. When it started to cause pain I didn't know exactly what was going on, so I went to the hospital. The pain got worse and worse, and the doctor asked me "On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst pain imaginable, how much does it hurt?" I started to answer "ten", but then I thought it might hurt more if I had a kidney stone and someone was trying to saw my arm off. And that wouldn't hurt as much as a kidney stone, my arm being sawn off, and a heavy weight crushing my foot. How can I possible rate my pain from one to ten? Furthemore, is this scale linear? Is it logarithmic? Is ten twice as painful as five, or is it ten times as painful as nine?

5 comments:

Paul said...

Mass Effect has tons of crazy aliens! For instance, and I've only played for an hour or so, I've already run into telepathic brain stalks and massive, unemotional elephant like things.

Mike Hammock said...

Really? Are they intelligent, or just monsters? All the screenshots online show two-legged, two-armed, one-headed sentient aliens. If there are more interesting aliens, then that's fantastic.

As an aside, I'm guessing that a good reason why some games might have humanoid aliens is that in multiplayer games, strange body shapes and sizes might give different players an advantage or disadvantage (due to the size of the hitboxes).

Paul said...

They're intelligent. Most, like the elephant-things, are vaugely humanoid, but those brain-stalks are pretty different, and they are intelligent (one just sold me a pistol, I think).

I think another reason you don't see non-humanoid aliens in science fiction games is because developers and the industry are still very influenced by the movie industry, which for obvious reasons, at least until farely recently and the advent of cg, rarely has non-humanoid aliens.

Mike Hammock said...

Well, kudos to Mass Effect then! Maybe I'll try it on PC if that ever happens, depending on whether on the consensus on the combat has changed by then.

I thought of a multiplayer game that had a non-humanoid option. Anyone remember the Nali Warcows in Unreal Tournament?

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