An ancient dream
From forgotten age, players have talked about the idea of introducing a third race to play. This idea is very ancient, people already talked about it at Tremulous time. In fact, the Unvanquished name was at first the name of a Tremulous mod aiming to implement a third race (if you have heard of the yokai model, you’re maybe yourself a dinosaur).
Then, while that confidential Unvanquished mod project was going inactive, and our project to revive development on Tremulous gameplay was making first steps, a name had to be found and the Unvanquished name was kindly given, with domain name transferred, etc.
For time to time I thought about the idea of a third race, and no one idea made me really happy with it. The problem is not about the idea of having three teams fighting against each other, which is a nice idea by itself. The problem is about the nature of the third race: the gameplay mechanics that would come with it.
The survival game
The alien race depicted in the Unvanquished game has several pairs of legs allowing some of characters to wallwalk, and alien gameplay is based on claws, poisonous bites, morphological evolution, fast movements, organic defenses with spikes and toxic spores. On the other hand, our human race gameplay is based on mammals standing on feet, carrying guns, protecting their fragile bodies with armours and exoskeletons, and building elaborated mechanic defenses like automatic machine gun turrets and rocket pods.
Aliens and humans play together the hide-and-seek and the search-and-destroy games attempting to put opponent team on checkmate by decimating all its living individuals while denying them to respawn. You win the Unvanquished game by making your population able to survive.
So, Unvanquished is a multiplayer survival game, a tactical, real-time survival game.
The need for a third gameplay mechanic
The problem that comes with the idea of a third race is to get an original gameplay mechanism that works well with other mechanisms, while being different enough when compared to each others.
While our human gameplay is similar to what other first-person shooters have to offer, the alien gameplay and the alien race remind a bit what science-fiction explores in well-known artwork. Arachnid-likes alien may remind a bit of Starship Troopers movie, while the need to hide from horrific creatures walking silently in vents reminds more the Alien movie.
Seventh art already explored the idea of a third race, especially with the Alien versus Predator crossover, with humans in between.
There is many problems with the idea of predators. First, we maybe cannot do predators as this character may be the property of someone else. Second, AVP games already exist. Third, it would not introduce interesting gameplay.
It’s not that hard to make aliens that are originals and not rip-offs of another character. But for two-legged predators, either it’s a predator, either it’s just another biped with weapons. So, the problem of doing a third race like AVP movies did is the same problem we have with gameplay mechanism. A gameplay based on a two-legged life form that can use long range weapons is too much close to the human gameplay itself. In the end it would just feel like two human kinds fighting with different weapons and physics (that’s more a scenario for UnrealArena).
The Alien franchise itself explored another third race: the engineers. But that’s just another kind of two-legged human-like creatures. Many people complained about the lack of imagination about them in later installment, where they just look like taller humans when first movie depicted them with body shapes that looked very different than humans (it even allowed imagination to not think them as mammals).
At this point of my speech I forgot yet another third race (the third third race?) we can see in those movies: the androids… But those are still two-legged people with hands able to carry weapons.
So, there is no real inspiration to get from those characters. Well, even the Stargate SG-1 TV series and their replicators did better on the creativeness side of the job than the Alien Covenant re-installment.
That’s not fun.
Giving the player an new toy
The Halo franchise did it a clever way: it first introduced humans and covenants, which are both bipedal species carrying guns. While their appearances are very different to each other, playing one or the other specie is very similar: they can go whenever the others can go, they can even use vehicles and weapons from the other team!
So when the flood is introduced in the story, player get surprised and have to learn new gameplay mechanic, strategy and movements. While flood still move like bipeds, their behaviour have almost nothing in common with covenants and humans, they act erratically in a suicidal manner, trying to kill the player without having nothing to protect, not even themselves, the zombie way.
Introducing a third race in Unvanquished would be a bad idea if this is just yet another insect-like alien or yet another humanoid race. It’s better to do nothing and forget the idea of a third race if that third race is not a game-changing addition.
The game-changing third race
Let’s imagine a third race that does not move by itself. It would not even requires to be alive by itself. That mysterious and unexpected menace would attack other teams by infecting individuals in a way that sneaky monster would move with their hosts. While humans would be fighting against aliens in close combat, they would infect each others, infecting both team members and their enemy.
While historic teams fight each other, they would have to fight against that other deadly opponent. To add horror to the survival game, why not making this thing invisible? The idea would be that players would only detect its presence because of symptoms: being slowed down, feeling pain (we already have visual effects for this), loosing strength, with the risk of loosing consciousness and to die.
Players would have to come back to their medical station or healing crops to hope for remission. If the infection isn’t deadly enough, players would sometime cure by themselves after having experienced some disablement. In that case, the player would be immune to the threat until its death, when the player would be killed by its historical antagonist. It’s never time to end a war after all, right?
Dead corpses would be contagious for some time. Live players would be contagious for a given time before experiencing symptoms. The illness would be able to spread over the air given the range is close enough, and it would be possible to reuse surfaceparm mechanism to make surfaces able to transmit the disease for a given time: metal, skin, wood or glass would not behave the same.
That would change the face or our world and redistribute the cards.
So, yes, you’ll noticed it’s 1st day of April. There is no work-in-progress on such third race.
Anyway, while fighting Covid-19 for real, stay home if you can, take care of your relatives, take care of yourself, philosophize a bit, think about our pale blue dot and fragile world, remind wars can wait, play Unvanquished, read some stories, enjoy some games with your friends, contribute if you can — it may be the right time to start learning some new skills! Join our channel and talk with other players and development team. Make yourself great again and take care of that beautiful but fragile garden we live in.
Also, we hope to release something around the end of April. The date was fixed before that Covid-19 thing changed a lot of schedules for a lot of people, so we don’t know what would be doable, but in the case you don’t see a release on the end of April, don’t be afraid: you wouldn’t have to wait much more.
Oh, and pray for some dinosaurs to not face extinction. 🙂