Star Control

Alien Dialogue Thoughts

Published on Friday, June 9, 2017 By cuorebrave In Founders Starbase

I'd like to preface this with: This is not an inflammatory post, just some casual observation about the current state of dialogue with aliens. I'm certain it's not finished, but would prefer to offer thoughts on the current-state, when it can be molded relatively easily, as opposed to when it's finished and set-in-stone (very hard to change, then).

I feel that there's a general lack of exposition in the current build of dialogue. I want you guys to have fun writing these conversations, so this is just some encouragement to head in a general direction of fully-fleshed-out characters. All Star Control races have, in the past, had one generally defining character trait, and *most* every line of dialogue is filled-to-overflowing with this character - including personality and extensive backstory on the race's history, rituals and colloquialisms.

Here's an example of a typical Ilwrath dialogue:

We Have Found Ultimate Pleasure In Your Cruel Service In These Alien Stars!
Though Our Enemy, The Thraddash, Possess A Tough And Chewy Exterior
Inside These Creatures Can Be Found A Most Smooth And Sweet Set Of Innards.
Their Low Bellows Of Fear And Agony Do Service To Your Names, Great Dogar And Kazon!
We Will Slay These Beasts In Your Name, Until They Are All Dead, Dead, DEAD!

Insatiable bloodlust, violence fuels their every word.

Here's an example of a typical Orz quote:

Here is bright and smooth. The other place is hurt Orz too much tired for keeping together.
Other place is Frumple. Orz are here now, but almost not yet.
Soon Orz are really here! You are help Orz with parties.
Orz looking for you, and find you. So much joy!!
Now smooth place all the time, and after now never going back to outside.

Insanity? Or so completely foreign we have no clue what they're even talking about. Inexplicable, and very, very happy.

Here's an example of Zoq-Fot-Pik quote:

Attention, starship!
We are the Zoq-Fot-Pik.
        Make no hostile actions!
We come in peace, and with good will.
        But if you make one false move, you're vapor!
Don't worry, my companion is just a bit nervous
        No, I'm not!
and argumentative.
        No, I'm not.

Constant bickering of numbskulls and battling personalities. One wants to appear threatening, the other more down to earth, and the third? Completely silent.

Here's a typical quote from the Spathi:


Certainly, most gracious destroyer, as is well known, before departing this mortal helix
all Spathi must complete the short, poignant ritual of Wezzy-Wezzah to be assured of a secure afterlife
and by allowing us to fulfill this requirement, you too shall be granted immortality in our beautiful afterworld
which is absolutely guaranteed to be free of similarly immortal monsters who would otherwise eat the both of us.


They're utter cowards, and terrified of being eaten, but they also talk about their rituals to prepare for death, and speak of an afterlife NOT filled with monsters.


Here's a typical conversation with an ominous Urquan:

There is something wrong here... something which makes my sheath retract and my talons ooze.
I sense the ugliness of a thousand evil thoughts
and I have located the source of these fetid emanations.
They come from aboard your vessel!
Foolish renegade human, why have you come here? All that you have found is your inevitable punishment.

Imposing. Ominous. Authoritarian. Alien sheaths retracting and talons oozing.

The point of this summary: Every single line is infused with the alien's character traits. I swear, the Ilwrath don't say one single word that isn't in line with their race's disgusting, gods-praising, quivering, lust for violence.


Now, here's a typical line from our first meeting with the Tywom:

(This is not an exact quote) Tywom: Hey guys! The Scryve are the most powerful race in the galaxy, and they rule this sector. They sent a planet destroying missile at you! We accidentally told them you lived on the 4th planet from the sun. So, now you're alive!

Do you see the difference? That line is purely explicatory. Not expository. It serves to advance the plot with dialogue, rather than having fun with it. What needs to HAPPEN is this: Each race needs to pick a defining characteristic, and then just go balls-out with that for each encounter.


The Tywom are obviously, the stereotypical "nerds", to the extreme of them having earthly pocket-protectors! So why not infuse their dialogue with "nerdy" things??? If you're gonna make a stereotype nerd, you ought to infuse EVERYTHING with calculations, explanations, chemical theories and the like. Instead of saying, "Hey, they blew up Mars!" Say, "We put the odds of your survival at pi-rounded-to-the-thirteenth place, divided by z - so around .00015 %" Obviously better written than that... but infuse their character with that race's personality trait. Tell us the EXACT number of square meters the Scryve cover in this galaxy - instead of saying, "They cover most of this quadrant". And give them a bully-complex, too. Because that's stereotype nerds, too - the Scryve said they'd dunk our heads into the mouth of a black hole (swirly) or something. I don't know.

Really, the Tywom could easily have a different style dialogue altogether, to support their personality. An example of what I'm saying is something like:

Information: The Scryve caught wind of you guys in this solar system.
Hypothesis: They would come to the conclusion in 7.8 seconds that humans must be destroyed
Analysis: Humans could be a valuable ally to make the Scryve stop giving us blackhole-swirlies
Counter-analysis: The Scryve may not enjoy our efforts to trick them and have a 46,997,851 : 1 chance of obliterating our race
Conclusion: Tell the Scryve what homeworld the humans live on
Margin-of-error: π-to-the-second-place 3.14% chance of error

They could preface each decision they make (not every line, that could get boring), with a very scientific proposal, avoiding conjecture, about what they're speaking of. I read that in a book, The Boy On the Bridge, so not exactly that, but break up their dialogue into scientific hypotheses and conclusions based on reasoning and logic. That's their trait. That's what they built their civilization on. They should be EXCITED for scientific progress, their antennae constantly probing for new meaning in the universe. And then their lines could be based around that. Does that make sense?

I also want to hear about their homeworld, their culture, all of the rituals that give them meaning. I want to hear the challenges they overcame to get to the stars, their breakdown of how many years it took them to advance past certain problems (like light speed), I'd be very interested in hearing their thoughts on death and their equivalent of the Spathi's Wezzy-Wezzah, and maybe the predators that bullied them for eons, before their advanced minds figured out ways to fend them off.

This, of course, would be fully-skippable for the players who just want to blow stuff up.