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Spore Hands-On Preview

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the frothing-at-the-mouth dept.

Games 192

cardjoe writes "The release date for Spore has just been announced and what better way to celebrate than to check out the latest build of the game? That's just what bit-tech.net did, spending hours with the full version of the game. The article covers all the different editors and stages in the game as well as providing a brief on the pollinated content and how it may well introduce an entire new genre to PC gaming — that of the Massively Online Singleplayer. The article is in-depth and has a whole load of brand new screenshots too, showing the various stages that the player will go through as they play the game and move their creature from single cells to galaxy-hopping space freaks."

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192 comments

I can't wait... (4, Funny)

Darundal (891860) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408216)

...until I have created a race of suicidal paper clips, and have them wage war on all the fruit-producing fauna in the universe.

Re:I can't wait... (3, Funny)

mouko (1187491) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408370)

Too bad my race of fire-breathing red staplers will kill your paper clips when they aren't looking. All is fair in love and cube warfare.

but, but, but.... (1)

tacokill (531275) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409878)

Yes, but is your stapler Fire-engine red? ... or just red?

If fire-engine red, you win
If "standard" red, I'm betting on the paper clips.

Re:I can't wait... (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408960)

Can we retro fit Clippy's DNA to be that of suicidal paper clip? That would be a good Office Assistant.

Layne

Re:I can't wait... (1)

knight24k (1115643) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410106)

Unfortunately, every time Clippy's race attempts to leave the planet their spaceships are bombarded by the flying chairs in perpetual orbit around it.

Re:I can't wait... (4, Funny)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410002)

You fail to understand the breadth, depth and scope of our new creative power.

I shall create an entire race of Weighted Companion Cubes!

Biggest problem with massively online singleplayer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22408234)

Too many smacktards.

Or... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22408250)

maybe its Massively Singleplayer Online

Re:Or... (2, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408652)

I don't understand what that's supposed to even mean. If you're not playing with other people, what does being online get you? Downloadable content? Haven't games been doing that for years? What's so revolutionary here?

Re:Or... (4, Informative)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408720)

I don't understand what that's supposed to even mean. If you're not playing with other people, what does being online get you? Downloadable content? Haven't games been doing that for years? What's so revolutionary here?
It's not so much revolutionary as in providing a completely new technology, as it's revolutionary in combining a number of existing technologies in a way that's never been done precisely the same way. The online portion comes from the fact that the other creatures your creature will compete against in the world will be more or less randomly selected (you can specifically select them as well) from the pool of creatures created by other players. It's sort of like as if instead of having a bunch of NPCs in a game you instead interact with all the characters created by other players. The catch is that the creatures aren't controlled by other players, merely designed by them. Really kind of a cool idea. Think of it as the ultimate downloadable content, where it's not just a bonus, it's a core part of the game.

Re:Or... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410752)

"It's sort of like as if instead of..."

  and such as?

Re:Or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22409798)

Instead of asking four questions in your post, why don't you RTFA. Moron.

Re:Or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410260)

I don't understand what that's supposed to even mean. If you're not playing with other people, what does being online get you?

Yeah. If only there were some way, some method, some systematic combination of mouse clicks you could employ to cause organized pixels to appear in front of your eyes, allowing you to scan for that very information.

Re:Or... (4, Informative)

irc.goatse.cx troll (593289) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410386)

The revolutionary part is that by playing, you're creating the content and sharing it. You don't go out of your way to download Worldcraft and spend a week creating a nice bsp with some custom textures, you design your species in game as part of the game and if you're online then that species you create is going to end up in someone else's game.

The difference is in that custom content IS the content of the game for the most part. Not an external entity you go out of your way to get, but something that you seamlessly create and acquire.

I do hope they let you put some kind of restrictions in there, just because I think it would be more fun to be able to join a pre-made group (say, your friends or wow guild or cs clan or what have you) and have their creations pulled more often and with preference to others, so that you get more of the social feel in. And some way to see who authored something, so you can rub it in their face when you wreck it.

OSS (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22408286)

This game is only being released to run on closed source, propietary operating systems, so I for one am not interested. Not only that, but the game itself is closed source. If they had written it for Linux, and made the code open source, it would not only be more secure and elegant, but it would probably be more efficient too. When will developers learn? OH well, their loss.

Re:OSS (0, Troll)

SimHacker (180785) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408440)

Shut the fuck up until you've invested your own time in developing (and FINSHING) an open source game of this magnitude.

Linux is only free if your time is worthless.

-Don

Re:OSS (1, Insightful)

Neil Hodges (960909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408546)

Compare the installation time of a Linux distro with a full set of applications at once to installing Windows, antivirus, anti-spyware/adware, an office suite, a web browser, an e-mail program, and an image editor one at a time.

I'm not trying to flame here, but I've found myself spending a lot more time finding websites to download packages, buying/finding install CDs, and trying to make applications from different third parties interoperate well than fixing problems under Linux. Distributing an OS with useful software seems to work better for me, especially since getting certain Linux utilities to work on Windows (such as ZSH) can be a real pain.

Re:OSS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22409262)

YHBT HAND.

Don't feed trolls. :-( Why respond to that worthless comment?

It's fine that the source is closed, for them... (4, Insightful)

capnkr (1153623) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408612)

I just wish they would have made it cross-platform or Linux compatible.

As a die-hard Linux user, I wouldn't mind paying retail for a copy of this game, based on what I've seen of it. I give money to developers for their work on other apps I use, why wouldn't I do the same for a game? I understand that it took years for them to develop, and they need to make money for what they've done. I don't need the source to play it.

Game Devs don't have/need to give us their work for free, IMO, but if they'd make it to where *anyone* could use the games they write, they'd sell more, and I for one would sure appreciate it.

Re:It's fine that the source is closed, for them.. (4, Insightful)

SimHacker (180785) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408846)

There is absolutely no way to justify the millions of dollars EA would have lost if they delayed the release of Spore for another year, just to port it to Linux, so that they could sell a few hundred more copies of it.

If you really want to play Spore, then you probably can find a Windows or Mac to play it on. If you really can't find a Windows or Mac or game console to play Spore on, then you have much bigger problems, and probably should not be wasting your time playing games, because you should be working on solving your bigger problems instead.

If you've decided never to touch a Windows or Mac box, then that's your decision you made with your eyes wide open, and one of the consequences is that there are many pieces of software you will never be able to use, like Spore. If you made that decision yourself without being forced into it, then you made your own bed and now you must sleep in it, so shut up and stop complaining. If you're disappointed or surprised about the consequences of your own decision to boycot Windows and Mac, then you obviously made the wrong decision, so don't blame EA for not supporting you. You have no right to complain about the consequences of your own decision not to use Windows or Mac.

-Don

Re:It's fine that the source is closed, for them.. (5, Insightful)

capnkr (1153623) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409228)

Take a chill pill, bro. I wonder if you work for them, based on the handle. I'm surprised at the anger that came out of your misconstruing what it was that I wrote... You might need a re-read.

Though apparently you took it that way, my post was not criticism, it was observation. I'm just saying it would be nice if game companies would make their products cross-platform, including *nix users in the mix.

If they started out doing that from the beginning of development, they would have games at the end which they could sell to everyone, *without* needing to port them to different architectures.

There's lots more than a few hundred Linux users out there now, too. And more every day. Emerging market, and all that.

Re:It's fine that the source is closed, for them.. (2, Funny)

wampus (1932) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409946)

And I'm sure the folks at EA will just LOVE supporting every permutation of every Linux distribution out there or listening to the loud BAWWWWWW noise when they only support 3 major distros.

Re:It's fine that the source is closed, for them.. (4, Informative)

SimHacker (180785) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410048)

Yes, I worked for Maxis and EA, with Will Wright on The Sims, and also on porting SimCity to various platforms.

I developed a commercial game (SimCity) for Unix, and promoted and distributed it over the internet 16 years ago [google.com], and there is still no viable market for games on Linux. Look what happened to Loki. And look at the sad shape of the modern Linux desktop: Lots of easy eye candy and useless transparency, but absolutely no crucial usability nor simple consistency.

I have done a lot of cross platform development and porting (I also ported The Sims Online server to Linux, and I'm currently developing TomTom Home on Mac and Windows using xulrunner and XPCOM), so I'm painfully aware of how much harder it is and longer it takes than developing for one or a few platforms. It's not easy, it's not fast, and it doesn't come for free.

I've also put a lot of time and effort into writing code, proposals, and working with people at EA and other companies, to convince them to make some of their existing products open source, many years after their release, like Micropolis (SimCity) [google.com]. But I never made the argument that it was worth their development effort for an initial release of a game to support the Linux desktop.

Developing cross platform code and porting games to Linux is not nearly as easy as you make it out to be. It took me many years of work to port SimCity to all the different flavors of Unix, Linux, OLPC, and other X-Windows platforms like Quarterdeck DESQview/X, NCD X terminals, Windows, Mac, etc.

Don't act like nobody at EA ever heard of Linux, and it's up to you to evangelize to them about it and make them see the light, and support it as if it were a mainstream desktop platform. They run it on their servers, and many people at EA use Linux all the time, are experts at it, and understand its problems and limitations.

Trying to argue that EA should release mainstream games on Linux will get you absolutely nowhere. It wastes their time, makes you look like an idiot, and they will never take you seriously again. And representing the Linux community as a bunch of greedy crybabies who just want everything right now and for free, reduces the chances that they will eventually release other games as open source or port them to Linux later.

-Don

Re:It's fine that the source is closed, for them.. (4, Informative)

capnkr (1153623) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410372)

Thanks for all your hard work, Don, nice resume you've got there.

But you obviously still don't understand what I wrote. :)

Plain as day, I wrote that I WILL PAY RETAIL, and DON'T NEED THE SOURCE, and that I think that you and your fellow EA devs *deserve* to earn whatever money your product of work can produce.

From my OP: "I wouldn't mind paying retail for a copy of this game, based on what I've seen of it. I give money to developers for their work on other apps I use, why wouldn't I do the same for a game? I understand that it took years for them to develop, and they need to make money for what they've done. I don't need the source to play it."

I'm all good with that! Not a problem at all. I hope you are getting rich, actually - because I understand that good coding isn't something that just anyone can do.

That makes me neither a "crybaby" nor "greedy". Quite the opposite, I'd think.

Despite your insinuation, neither did I attempt to "evangelize" anyone to use Linux. I just stated that that is what I use (yep, my own choice, made in the full knowledge of what that entails), and have, for 9 years, closing in on 10, on a daily basis as my own source of income. And that I personally would like it (WILL like it, the day is coming) when companies such as yours begin releasing games for the Linux platform.

That, my friend, is just an expressed personal desire, nothing more, and certainly nothing to ream me out over, or to get so upset about. IMO, of course.

Best of luck to you.

Re:It's fine that the source is closed, for them.. (2, Informative)

SimHacker (180785) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411518)

I'm sorry, I didn't mean that you yourself were a greedy crybaby. I appreciate your attitude, and that you're willing to pay for products that take time and money to produce. It's the grandparent article that you were indirectly replying to that I was insinuating about:

This game is only being released to run on closed source, propietary operating systems, so I for one am not interested. Not only that, but the game itself is closed source. If they had written it for Linux, and made the code open source, it would not only be more secure and elegant, but it would probably be more efficient too. When will developers learn? OH well, their loss.

Now that's a whiny crybaby, who bitches about how hard it is for poor old him, because of the decision he chose to made of his own free will, then he throws out a bunch of ridiculous claims about how superior Spore would be if only it had been developed on Linux. More secure, elegant, and efficient, ehe? It's people who bull shit like that out of their ass who give Linux and Open Source Software a bad name.

-Don

Re:It's fine that the source is closed, for them.. (1)

Night Goat (18437) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411618)

I'm currently developing TomTom Home on Mac

Thank you for doing this. I decided to get a TomTom because I had heard that they had the best Mac software out there. I have my gripes, but at least I don't feel like a second-class citizen like with some software.

Re:It's fine that the source is closed, for them.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410804)

How much money did you spend on software last year?

I'm guessing there's your answer.

Re:It's fine that the source is closed, for them.. (1)

Jugurtha (802448) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411202)

Spore is coming to all the consoles, including the xbox360 and the ps3, as well as the wii. You don't even need to own a computer to play spore. You might have wait a little bit longer is all, depending on where they are in development for the console versions. I'm guessing they are shooting for a close to simultaneous release.

Re:It's fine that the source is closed, for them.. (2, Interesting)

misleb (129952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409606)

Game Devs don't have/need to give us their work for free, IMO, but if they'd make it to where *anyone* could use the games they write, they'd sell more, and I for one would sure appreciate it.


When I used Linux I used to wish more games were released for LInux but then I realized that it isn't that big of a deal to boot into Windows to pay the types of games that I tend to enjoy. Really, what's a 3 minute reboot (or whatever it is) to play a fullscreen game for a few hours? Once you're in, the OS it happens to be running on is pretty much irrelevant.

That said, I sure am glad EVE Online came out with a client for Linux and Mac because it means I don't have to reboot just to login and update my skill training. Though I suppose just providing that functionality through the web site would be enough.

-matthew

Re:OSS (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408990)

I can understand standing up for what you believe in, but I think you are going a bit overboard here...last time I checked, closed source hasn't stopped some games from developing INSANELY huge communities...or have you already forgotten about user-made stuff for things like doom, quake, etc. The roller coaster tycoon series and the elder scroll series come to mind as well...

Get off your high horse. You don't have the source code to many websites (slashdot included) and yet you don't seem to have a problem "using" them.

Re:OSS (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22409366)

You don't have the source code to many websites (slashdot included) and yet you don't seem to have a problem "using" them.
http://slashdot.org/code.shtml [slashdot.org]
http://slashcode.com/ [slashcode.com]

Re:OSS (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409792)

Didn't even know that was there...then I retract the slashdot portion of my statement, but it still stands. You can't sit there and honestly tell me that you only use websites that you have the full code to.

Stupid links (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22408296)

Anyone else having problems with the link in TFA? I had to edit it slight [bit-tech.net]...

Torrent please! (-1, Redundant)

BeeBeard (999187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408306)

But on a more serious note, I just want to cosign as another "Me too!" who can't wait for the release of this game! :)

It's hard for me to contain my excitement (2, Interesting)

kentrel (526003) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408332)

I have never looked forward to a computer game before in my life. Their Cross pollination implementation sounds absolutely revolutionary in not just gaming, but computing in general.



Only a game that gives you that much control over life can satisfy my ego.

Please try to contain your 'excitement' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22409892)

Or you might get some 'spore' on your hands.

So... (4, Insightful)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408380)

... if third parties are getting to try it, it's not vapour anymore, right?

Re:So... (2, Insightful)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408616)

Yeah, pretty much confirmed at this point. The article says it's more or less ready to ship, they're just ironing out a few bugs and adding a bit of polish at this point. Of course, that whole exporting and importing of other creatures thing I think will either make or break this game. Personally I bet that within a month of the release there are already at least 6 races designed to look like genitalia due primarily to the greater internet fuckwad theory [penny-arcade.com].

Re:So... (1)

eht (8912) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409156)

http://www.vgcats.com/comics/?strip_id=199 [vgcats.com] original
http://www.vgcats.com/news/comic_spore_Will.jpg [vgcats.com] the Spore team's interpretation

way way too late

Re:So... (1)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409342)

Yeah, I'm aware of those, but I'm not talking butts in odd places, I'm betting there will be creatures that look like gigantic talking dicks. That's it, just a giant dick with feet, hands, and a mouth.

Re:So... (2, Interesting)

The PS3 Will Fail (998952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409560)

"Personally I bet that within a month of the release there are already at least 6 races designed to look like genitalia due primarily to the greater internet fuckwad theory."
An entire month and only 6 races? That's not much of a bet. For a lot of people, that's going to be the first goal they hit when designing a species.

Re:So... (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410022)

Maybe. But you have to wonder how far those races will spread, unless they're evolutionarily stable. A giant vagina or penis doesn't really lend itself to hunting, any kind of protection... much of anything, really. I'm betting that you'll make them, but it won't spread far.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22411300)

Oh yeah? Well, my Spore Giant Vagina creature will have teeth... No.. Fangs... And a 10' long prehensile tongue with which it will catch prey. My Giant Penis creature will squirt a slippery, white gob of immobilizing goo, and also have scary teeth, resembling a cross between a boa constrictor and a sloppy, rabid St. Bernard.

It hasn't been vaporware for a long time (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408920)

There was a playable demo at the 2006 e3 [ign.com]. Vaporware is software that doesn't exist outside the marketing department, not just software that has not yet been released.

I care only about one thing: (4, Funny)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408384)

Can I make my spore avoid the whole Microsoft debacle during their evolution?

Re:I care only about one thing: (0)

SnappyCrunch (583594) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409050)

So... you're most worried about Microsoft, and not say... Nazi Germany? Stalinist Russia? The Apartheid? Rockefeller's control of the oil industry? Or are they okay because they're problems that have already been solved in real life? I not really angry, you just have some interesting priorities.

Re:I care only about one thing: (4, Interesting)

nschubach (922175) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410102)

Well, I don't know how it all ties together, but Hitler was bent on world domination and oppressed an entire religion (no comment), Russia was Communist (one OS for everyone), I'm thinking MS fits into Apartheid because it has to do with changing the rules and sectioning the computer industry so they have control, and you can pretty much change Rockefeller's name to Gates and have the same problem. You did however forget Carnegie and the work housing problems, but even I might have a hard time trying to relate taking away your desktop if you stopped working for MS (or you change your hardware and don't buy a new Operating System) is considered the same. ;)

But sure, we all have our priorities in life. Spore happens to let you control that since we seem to have lost control in real life.

High Hopes (5, Interesting)

ectal (949842) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408408)

Everything I read about this game makes it seem like this is either going to be the greatest game ever released or the most disappointing.

The thing that fascinates me the most is that the progression through the game's stages seems in some ways to mirror the evolution of video games themselves, from simple Atari games to the modern day. Or to look at it another way, the idea of having an arc throughout the game in both the objectives and the style of gameplay itself sounds amazing.

Re:High Hopes (5, Funny)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408462)

The thing that fascinates me the most is that the progression through the game's stages seems in some ways to mirror the evolution of video games themselves, from simple Atari games to the modern day. Or to look at it another way, the idea of having an arc throughout the game in both the objectives and the style of gameplay itself sounds amazing.

You could have saved yourself some typing by just saying "Spore is so Meta!"

Re:High Hopes (5, Funny)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410054)

Reminds me of that Mitch Hedberg quote:

My friend said to me, he said "I think the weather is trippy" and I said "No man, it's not the weather that's trippy. Perhaps it is the way we perceive it that is indeed trippy." Then I thought man, I should have just said "Yeah."

Evolution of computer games (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408788)

But the FPS and RTS genres (which are the examples Will Wright used) are the same age. At least, Wolfenstein 3D and Dune II was both released in 1992 (a great year for gaming).

Re:High Hopes (2, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408996)

Everything I read about this game makes it seem like this is either going to be the greatest game ever released or the most disappointing.
Remember how cool the concept was for Black & White and how shit the reality was? I'm officially anti-hyping myself by anticipating another Daikatana. I will be pleasantly surprised if I hear otherwise. The concept is so cool, I just know I'll be disappointed if I start looking forward to it.

Re:High Hopes (2, Insightful)

ectal (949842) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409184)

Remember how cool the concept was for Black & White and how shit the reality was? I'm officially anti-hyping myself by anticipating another Daikatana. I will be pleasantly surprised if I hear otherwise. The concept is so cool, I just know I'll be disappointed if I start looking forward to it.

I don't think Spore will have the problems Black and White had. Will Wright has referred to Spore as more of an "evolution toy" than a game. B&W's problem was it wanted to be open-ended but wasn't. It was like having a nice convertible on kiddie rails. Spore might still end up sucking, but it'd be in the details, I bet. Things just not clicking together, poor execution... B&W was fundamentally broken at a much higher level, in that its key promise was simply missing.

Re:High Hopes (2, Interesting)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409346)

While I'm a big fan of being anti-hype as well, it's a little disingenuous to make that comparison. I mean, just look at Romero's credits before Daikatana, and Will Wright's before Spore. Not quite the same thing, is it?

Also, I've yet to see an ad that says "This Christmas, WILL WRIGHT will make you his SIMBITCH."

I've got mixed feelings (1)

blacklabelsk8er (839023) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408518)

As much as I hate the wait, I'm now faced with a similar dilemma to when Sims 2 arrived. Once again my rig is too underpowered to muster the polygons needed so the one good thing about waiting til September is that it gives me time to get the needed upgrades. This game is going to be a revolutionary piece of digital artistry. Z.o.m.g.Can't.Wait.

Re:I've got mixed feelings (3, Insightful)

cHALiTO (101461) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408650)

Screw spending more and more money on newer graphics cards, CPUs, mobos, etc.

I'm getting this game for Wii.

i wonder (1)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408578)

what they would call a game based on ID

Re:i wonder (2, Insightful)

Empiric (675968) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408636)

Spore wasn't designed?

Design vs. evolution (4, Interesting)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409148)

It seems like a large part of the design process for the game consisted of of trying a lot of ideas, and selecting the one that worked as a base of future experiments. And that description could be extended to previous generations of games, each generation consisting of thousands of games, most fails in the marketplace, and those that survives form the basis for the next generation of games.

That is may main irritation as a professional designer of the whole "intelligent design" pseudo debate. Any intelligent designer is aware that evolution is the most important design tool, especially for complex systems.

Re:i wonder (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410376)

They'd call it, "Spore."

ID is the bastard child of religious misunderstanding (understandable, it is Faith after all) and scientific dogmatism (inexcusable, since science is supposed to be dogma-free (tm)).

The point is that they combine elements of both to produce something that is at the same time universally, unequivocally wrong, and, from a faith point of view, abominable. If Science explains faith, it's not really faith, is it?

Anyway, spore takes the essence of that idea: evolution, but directed by an all-powerful being, and attempts to turn it into an amusing game with neat, sometimes humorous, graphics. According to TFA, we'll know by the end of the year if they're successful.

Text of the article (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22408608)

Spore: Hands-on Preview
Author: Joe Martin
Platforms: PC, Nintendo DS, Mobile, Mac
Publisher: Electronic Arts

Spore. Games don't come any more ambitious than Spore and although the premise of the now in-famously delayed game and magnum opus of Will Wright is fairly simple, the actual realisation of that concept has proven incredibly difficult.

The idea behind Spore is this; you are God, the Alpha, Omega and Almighty. You are omniscient, omnipresent and capable of creating a rock so big you can't possibly lift it. Then you can lift it. You're God and that type of feat is your bread and butter.

Specifically, you are the God of a particular species that you will design, craft, sculpt and guide through from primordial ooze to inevitable extinction.

You start off small, designing a single cell and guiding it through the cesspool in which all life must begin. As time passes you use evolution as the tool by which you will shape the destiny of your creature for better or worse. A mouth here, a leg there, and a twist to the torso - you slowly create the creature you want. You can do that. You are God.

From there, the game expands ever outwards and you will move from guiding a single cell or creature to encouraging a small tribe, then a city. In the climax to this universe in a box you'll be aiding your civilisation in spreading to other stars and planets.

Such game concepts are truly the things of dreams - open, sandbox worlds with almost limitless possibilities and completely open setting. The game says to you; "Here are the tools, now do as you wish."

Unfortunately, with such an impossibly complex design even getting the basics of the gameplay right can be a daunting task in and of itself and, even with the full might of Electronic Arts behind him, Will Wright has struggled to get Spore working. The game, which he has reportedly been planning for the last decade at least, has suffered numerous delays. At the start of this year we gave it an honourable mention as a game which we thought would definitely turn out to be vapourware.

Now though, it looks like we may have to admit that we were wrong. Not only has EA confirmed that Spore will be out in time for the holidays, but the game is now in a fully playable state. All that is left to do is polish up a few glitches, test it and load it with content before release.

How do we know that, I hear you ask. Simple; we've played it--nearly all of it.

There are five stages or levels to Spore and we've played them all on the PC, as well as playing on the DS and Mobile versions of the game - though the latter failed to make as much of an impression, to be frank.

The first level is a basic arcade type game where players guide their single cell about its existence, helping it eat other creatures and grow. When it has grown enough it jumps into the Creature Stage, where players zoom their view out and manage the more complex needs of their creation. Survival skills must be complemented by socialisation skills as players enable their creature to build a tribe.

In Tribe stage the game zooms out once more and players are no longer controlling a single alien. In this stage it's more like The Sims as you monitor the needs of a small tribe as they carve out a niche in the alien landscape. The penultimate stage of the game is the Civilisation Stage where it transitions from The Sims into Sim City and you'll be controlling whole cities in cultures.

The last stage is the Space Stage where you hop off your polluted little rock and find new playgrounds to party in.

Share and share alike
Before we delve deeply into the well of never-ending gameplay that Spore claims to offer, we should talk about the Pollination System that Spore uses to keep the game full of brand new content at all times. Pollinated content is something that Electronic Arts and Maxis have tried to show off before at Leipzig, but felt that it was misunderstood by journalists and misrepresented to fans.

It also happens to be one of the coolest and most interesting things about the game on both a technical and casual level as it's the system by which Spore is creating a whole new genre - Massively Online Singleplayer.

Yeah, that seems like a contradiction. Bear with us and let us explain.

Every time a player starts a game in Spore they're given a new planet. The planet is the same every time and serves as little more than a blank slate for the creatures to play on.

Except, it isn't always the same and, although the landscape is always basically the same, the types of other animals and vegetation are actually sourced from other Spore players. Their content spills over into your game to keep things fun and perpetually new but, in order to accommodate to casual gamers and those who don't actually want to play multiplayer, those players aren't actually in control of their content.

EA calls the technology behind this idea a Sporecast and revealed to us how it ties into a huge and previously unseen social network behind Spore.

The best way to describe exactly how Sporecasts work is by example; so imagine that you've just booted up the game and named your planet. You've gone straight to the second level of the game--the creature phase--and you're running around like a madman. Now, the basic planet is always the same - you'll have the same hills, the same continents and so forth. What is different is everything else; animals, vegetation, allies and enemies for your race. These are all taken from the Sporecasts of other players.

This works both ways and as you create new races and aliens they too will be downloaded via the Sporepedia by other players.

Sporepedia is the framework around which all of Spore is built. At its most basic level it's little more than a catalogue of free content and a help-desk through which players can get tips and guides. Delve a little further though and Sporepedia becomes much more and players can start to take advantage of the social networking tools held within.

Each player in the game has a page on the Sporepedia and it's possible to browse through by using any number of filters and tags to see a specific player. From that page you can send messages to that player, see what Sporecasts they have created and so on and so forth. You can even monitor their popularity and see what achievements they've unlocked in the campaign game.

The game will automatically download suitable Sporecasts if you've not selected ones and the content is designed so that the community itself can decide what is and isn't appropriate for players. At any time though players can access the Sporepedia and download either whole Sporecasts, which are composed of many pieces of content, or specific pieces which they like.

So, say for example that I wanted my new world to be heavily Mango-themed. All I would need to do is open the Sporepedia whilst playing, search for Mango Sporecasts and download them. The computer will then litter my universe with Mangoes - or the fruit of my choice. Alternatively, I can decide I want just one specific Mango and place that in my world myself.

The social networking elements in Spore do look truly stunning and already there's a wealth of content available from the testers and developers - everything from flying toilets to animals that look like letters! Amazingly the whole process is specially compressed too and an entire Sporecase will only weigh in at 8KB, meaning that even the most pathetic of rigs won't have to worry about space restrictions.

Dear Editor
There's a lot of things to love in Spore and we're not even halfway through mentioning a quarter of them, but the thing that most people are interested in seems to be the variety of editors open for players to mess around with. With hilarious demonstrations from the likes of Robin Williams (though the interface in that video is no longer accurate), it's easy to see why the editors are getting people excited.

However, the editors aren't as straightforward as they look and it's not actually as simple as just tossing a few hands onto a blob and putting that in the game. Instead, players are limited in terms of how detailed they can make their creatures and adding new limbs and so forth will cost you in terms of DNA points.

Yeah, I was surprised they weren't called Sporepoints too - though I think that phrase has got some rather icky undertones when you think about it.

The fact that players have to spend and earn DNA points will be a clunky and unfortunate reality in the eyes of some - namely those who just want to create crazy aliens and leave it at that. The truth is though that the points system is well integrated and is a necessity to prevent players doing anything game-breakingly complex. DNA points are never too hard to come by either and you can earn them by attacking other aliens or by discovering fossils. Either way, it's not just points up for grabs, but also whole new appendages or types of mouths that you add to your alien.

Still, DNA aside, the Creature Editor can definitely be seen even at this stage as a clear success on the part of EA and Maxis. The creation system is simple and easy to use, utilising simple drop down menus and tabs. At the same time though it's wonderfully complex and affords gamers tremendous creative freedom.

Creating an alien is easy. When you first enter the editor there's a basic blob in front of you with a backbone running through it. Click and drag the specific bones and areas you want to play with and force them into the shape you want. After that you can add limbs and the like and alter them in the same way.

My first time in the game I jumped straight in at the start of the game, eager to see as much of the game as I could. If you want to then the game does free you up to skip to certain stages, but doing so will mean that you miss out on all the achievements and rewards. That's fine though - as one of the producers pointed out to us, casual gamers who like a specific part of the game and want to play that aren't interested in achievements. Hardcore gamers on the other hand will be interested in that and will be willing to play the game as a whole.

My first creature was a monstrosity and even as it grew up through the cellular phase it was ugly for me to behold - but at the same time I loved it. My beast was shaped like a cartoon greyhound with low back legs, high underbelly and defined ribcage. I covered the underneath in pincers that would afford it more aggressive attacks in true RPG style, gave it jagged spikes on the back legs, Velociraptor claws and a huge tail which ended in a spinning circular saw made of bone.

I had a few points left over at the end, so I dumped some rudimentary wings on its back, coloured it lime green in honour of Mankini Man and that was it. I had named the planet Cardland out of pure lack of imagination, so I named my alien race 'Cardigan' and shipped it out. Sure enough, it hatched out of its egg and was promptly eaten by something called a Valeroid. I cursed, stamped and screamed - an hour of hard work bought to waste. Memories of the twisters from Sim City came to mind and I started to wish Will Wright had never been born.

Thankfully, the game was far from over and I was promptly bought back to life. Another Cardigan was hatching nearby, so I assumed control and immediately took to flight. The animation on my freshly created content was perfect and Cardigan II as I had taken to calling him was able to scrabble all over the world in search of food.

It was fascinating and delighting to see that the Creature stage of development had some basic RPG elements to it. Each appendage and addition to your design gives them new advantages and abilities that fit well with the reality. At basic levels this translates to "Have wings, can fly". At a more involved level though it involves specific uses and I quickly found out that, because I had chosen a mouth that looked good for the race of Cardigans, and not one that was useful then the race was a little limited.

Despite all the spikes, pincers and bonesaws on Cardigan II, he was actually a herbivore because the jaw I'd given him fitted that type of creature. Naturally, I wasn't going to spend four or five hours playing a vegetarian, so I found a more interesting mouth, saved some DNA points and evolved Cardigan II to something a little meatier.

SimSpore
From the creature phase things start to get a little more or less interesting, depending on your tastes in terms of game genres. If you find detailed simulations to be less interesting than quick arcade action then Spore is going to get progressively less interesting the more you play through it.

Fortunately, the more you play, the more editing there is to do. By the time you reach the Civilisation and Space Stages then there's plenty more content creation to do to help break up the micromanagement. You'll get a chance to design vehicles, buildings and later, UFOs.

Designing all these structures is essentially very similar to the Creature Creation stage, except you don't start out with a torso for a starting point. Instead, it's down to players to place simple geometric shapes down, tweaking them and adding detail until you get the look you want.

Now, that style of editor may sound simple, but it can be as complex as you want. It's very much like Lego in that it can be as involved or simple as you want. If you'd rather get down to the nitty gritty of running an entire culture and have your industries ticking over the way you want then all you need do is draw a cube and add a door.

If, on the other hand, you want to do something a little more satisfying then, well, the possibilities really are endless and you can make your designs as crazy as you like. Personally, I always had a thing for Arthurian legend growing up so I made my City Hall resemble my own idea of Camelot.

Unfortunately, I kind of forgot that theme by the time I got round to creating a UFO and my spaceships ended up looking more like rolled up porcupines that had sat down on a jet engine. Watching a big spiky ball take off while surrounded by medieval castles is an odd experience.

By the time I got round to the space stage though, I had other things on my mind than how ludicrous the world my imagination had built was. The Space Stage of the game is arguably the most explicitly driven part of the game and unlike the other stages of the game it has goals which are directly given to the player via the race they have created.

As you fly your UFO around the world expect to have the head of your own Starfleet on the screen telling you what they need you to do - everything from scanning flora to abducting and probing fauna.

Chatting with some of the folks from Maxis, it was hinted at that although Spore doesn't have an endgame or an overall victory scenario it may in fact have a way to win in some way. EA and Maxis were both closed-lipped on details, but there are definite suggestions of such a thing in the Space Stage where the game starts to feel more goal orientated and less like a playground.

In my opinion, the Space Stage is where the game starts to feel most like a game too and where the graphical style of Spore is most appreciable. The cartoony presentation and bright colours look OK, but not much more when you're zoomed in on the Creature Stage.

By the time you can see the whole planet though the world is starting to get filled up with cities and buildings of your own design and the look of the game is at its most awesome. The contrast of the white clouds, green land and inky blackness of space in particular looks pretty awesome - especially since it's filled with flying porcupines.

Initial Thoughts
There's no question in my mind that Spore is going to be fantastic on pretty much every level and I can already tell that I'm going to be have to be very careful when it's released. Too much exposure and I can easily see myself getting addicted to the game. In that sense Spore stands to be hugely successful - more so than Guitar Hero or even The Sims.

I find the backstory of Spore fascinating too, not just the up-front gameplay. Electronic Arts gets a lot of stick from the gaming press and from gamers at large and a lot of people hold the uber-publisher with ire - the company is well known for its repeated visits to Sequelville.

At the same time though, Electronic Arts has not only published the likes of The Orange Box and Crysis, but is now set to publish a genre-creating game.

So, EA likes The Sims a bit too much when it comes to expansion packs - that doesn't have to be a bad thing!

I actually got a chance to speak to some of the marketing people recently and I quizzed them about the future of Spore - pressing on whether we could expect to see a slew of new content on shelves soon after release. The reply was a stark awakening to the brilliant reality of Spore in that I was treated to a kind of "I don't know" answer and an explanation of how that wouldn't work with Spore.

You see, in The Sims, new items can't be easily created and the expansions can consist mainly of new furniture and so forth. In Spore that doesn't hold true and the future of the game seems to be grounded more in adding new tools to the game through expansions - ways to export and import creatures to Photoshop or Maya 3D. It's not enough to simply give people a new building or two, because those can always be made by the community.

To me, this attitude perfectly expresses how important Spore will be.

Frankly though, even if the game doesn't prove to be as redefining as I think it will be, then it's still shaping up to be a fantastic game and clearly shows how even the most complex of tasks can be accomplished with enough persistence.

Spore does have flaws in some regards and it's plainly obvious that most players aren't going to enjoy parts of the game. Personally, while I loved everything from the Creature Stage onwards, I did find the first part of the game--the Cell Stage--to be a little tiresome and pointless. I've nothing against simple arcade styled games at all, but there are titles that do that better than Spore.

Spore's strength though lies in that the game overcomes the personal loves and hates of certain people and frees players up totally. You can do almost anything you want with the tools on offer here and the game is totally open to let players skip to the parts they want. If all you want is the micromanagement and sense of control then Civilisation Stage is there for you from the get-go.

If on the other hand all you need is cuddly animals and something to show off to your friends then you'll rarely need to stray beyond the creature editor.

Given the mammoth development cycle and the staggering ambition of Spore, there was always a fear that the game would at best become vapourware or at worst be released as a shadow of its intended self. From what we've seen of the game though, Spore is shaping up to be the type of game that can truly deliver on its promises. With any luck, all of us will have a universe in a box on the 7th of September and we can't wait.

Are you the same? Let us know in the forums.

Obligatory Kirk (1)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409820)

The idea behind Spore is this; you are God, the Alpha, Omega and Almighty. You are omniscient, omnipresent and capable of creating a rock so big you can't possibly lift it. Then you can lift it. You're God and that type of feat is your bread and butter.
[...]
In the climax to this universe in a box you'll be aiding your civilisation in spreading to other stars and planets.
But what does God need with a starship?

Re:Obligatory Kirk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22411362)

Just take a sip of this cool-aid and go lie down over there and you'll soon see.

Look of the game (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408716)

So far, the only thing about this game that I'm disappointed with is the visual style.

I liked it so much better in the early stages, like the 2005 GDC video. It was really beautiful then. Now it just looks too cartoony.

Hang on- I think I played this before! (5, Interesting)

VValdo (10446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22408730)

Wasn't this game around more than twenty-five years ago? I mean, I remember clearly that you'd--

Oh, wait... I guess there were some minor differences [youtube.com].

Whoops.

W

Re:Hang on- I think I played this before! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22411498)

There were also EVO [mobygames.com] and Evolva [mobygames.com].

Spinoffs & Mods Galore! (2, Interesting)

pabrown85 (1128059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409074)

How long after the release date do you think it will take for people to make an exact duplicate of the Mos Eisley Cantina? 3 hrs?

Re:Spinoffs & Mods Galore! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22409386)

Did someone say spores nude patch??!!??!!?

Re:Spinoffs & Mods Galore! (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410208)

Nah, you'll have people creating the Penismen and Boobinite races to quell that motivation.

Overhyped (1)

llZENll (545605) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409084)

I'm sure it will be fun for a while, but it seems overhyped. Nothing in the game is ground breaking, every aspect of it has been done in other games already, its more about the combination of game play elements and scale that sets it apart I guess. Wright is a fantastic designer so I'm sure it will be great, but the best game ever made, no way.

Re:Overhyped (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22409430)

"I'm sure it will be fun for a while, but it seems overhyped. Nothing in the operating system is ground breaking, every aspect of it has been done in other computers already, its more about the combination of user interface elements and design that sets it apart I guess. Jobs is a fantastic reality distorter so I'm sure it will be great, but the best computer ever made, no way." - BBS poster, circa 1984.

Re:Overhyped (3, Insightful)

Bob-taro (996889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410672)

Nothing in the operating system is ground breaking, every aspect of it has been done in other computers already, its more about the combination of user interface elements and design that sets it apart I guess.

I disagree. The "massively online single-player" aspect is pretty new (AFAIK), but the "parameterized models" and "procedural animations" are subtly revolutionary. I mean they've DRASTICALLY streamlined the process of creating a 3d model for a game. Do you think the game studios run something as simple as the spore interface to create a 3d model and all of it's animations?

Imagine how other games could benefit from this approach: Imagine, say, a zombie game where instead of randomly spawning zombies from a set of 10 or 20 (or even 100) models, you have a nearly infinite variety of zombies generated from randomly chosen inputs for height, weight, hair, wounds, clothing, state of decay, etc. Now suppose the animations are not all the same, but are randomly determined by the zombie's height, weight, and number of functional limbs. Or imagine characters whose walk or climb animations are based on the actual geometry of the world, so they don't "jump" with every step up an incline or "moonwalk" trying to go through a wall. The game studios have done a very good job of making fixed animations and fixed characters look good, but there is a lot of room for improvement (especially since a high-end CPU is usually twiddling it's thumbs in even newer games while the GPU does all the work).

With creatures like these... (3, Interesting)

RichPowers (998637) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409108)

The social networking elements in Spore do look truly stunning and already there's a wealth of content available from the testers and developers - everything from flying toilets to animals that look like letters

Stop right there pal, you had me sold on "flying toilet"!

I look forward to exploring new worlds and encountering other players' utterly ridiculous creatures. Of course, I'll be disappointed if someone doesn't create creatures/civilizations based on every internet meme ever (oh how I'll enjoy destroying the LOLcats with my spaceship's death ray).

Oh yeah, Spore's Wikipedia article mentions how the galaxy will feature active planetary nebulas, black holes, rotating spiral arms, etc. After acquiring a spaceship, I fully plan on plotting a course to the black hole's event horizon. I wonder how the game will model that experience...

FULL TEXT OF ARTICLE WITH IMAGES; Not on 5 pages (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22409126)

Spore: Hands-on Preview
Platforms: PC, Nintendo DS, Mobile, Mac
Publisher: Electronic Arts

Spore. Games don't come any more ambitious than Spore and although the premise of the now in-famously delayed game and magnum opus of Will Wright is fairly simple, the actual realisation of that concept has proven incredibly difficult.

The idea behind Spore is this; you are God, the Alpha, Omega and Almighty. You are omniscient, omnipresent and capable of creating a rock so big you can't possibly lift it. Then you can lift it. You're God and that type of feat is your bread and butter.

Specifically, you are the God of a particular species that you will design, craft, sculpt and guide through from primordial ooze to inevitable extinction.

You start off small, designing a single cell and guiding it through the cesspool in which all life must begin. As time passes you use evolution as the tool by which you will shape the destiny of your creature for better or worse. A mouth here, a leg there, and a twist to the torso - you slowly create the creature you want. You can do that. You are God.

Image: Spore is perhaps the most ambitious game ever [bit-tech.net]

From there, the game expands ever outwards and you will move from guiding a single cell or creature to encouraging a small tribe, then a city. In the climax to this universe in a box you'll be aiding your civilisation in spreading to other stars and planets.

Such game concepts are truly the things of dreams - open, sandbox worlds with almost limitless possibilities and completely open setting. The game says to you; "Here are the tools, now do as you wish."

Unfortunately, with such an impossibly complex design even getting the basics of the gameplay right can be a daunting task in and of itself and, even with the full might of Electronic Arts behind him, Will Wright has struggled to get Spore working. The game, which he has reportedly been planning for the last decade at least, has suffered numerous delays. At the start of this year we gave it an honourable mention as a game which we thought would definitely turn out to be vapourware.

Now though, it looks like we may have to admit that we were wrong. Not only has EA confirmed that Spore will be out in time for the holidays, but the game is now in a fully playable state. All that is left to do is polish up a few glitches, test it and load it with content before release.

Image: The Cell Stage is where the full game begins [bit-tech.net]

How do we know that, I hear you ask. Simple; we've played it--nearly all of it.

There are five stages or levels to Spore and we've played them all on the PC, as well as playing on the DS and Mobile versions of the game - though the latter failed to make as much of an impression, to be frank.

The first level is a basic arcade type game where players guide their single cell about its existence, helping it eat other creatures and grow. When it has grown enough it jumps into the Creature Stage, where players zoom their view out and manage the more complex needs of their creation. Survival skills must be complemented by socialisation skills as players enable their creature to build a tribe.

In Tribe stage the game zooms out once more and players are no longer controlling a single alien. In this stage it's more like The Sims as you monitor the needs of a small tribe as they carve out a niche in the alien landscape. The penultimate stage of the game is the Civilisation Stage where it transitions from The Sims into Sim City and you'll be controlling whole cities in cultures.

The last stage is the Space Stage where you hop off your polluted little rock and find new playgrounds to party in.

Share and share alike
Before we delve deeply into the well of never-ending gameplay that Spore claims to offer, we should talk about the Pollination System that Spore uses to keep the game full of brand new content at all times. Pollinated content is something that Electronic Arts and Maxis have tried to show off before at Leipzig, but felt that it was misunderstood by journalists and misrepresented to fans.

It also happens to be one of the coolest and most interesting things about the game on both a technical and casual level as it's the system by which Spore is creating a whole new genre - Massively Online Singleplayer.

Yeah, that seems like a contradiction. Bear with us and let us explain.

Every time a player starts a game in Spore they're given a new planet. The planet is the same every time and serves as little more than a blank slate for the creatures to play on.

Except, it isn't always the same and, although the landscape is always basically the same, the types of other animals and vegetation are actually sourced from other Spore players. Their content spills over into your game to keep things fun and perpetually new but, in order to accommodate to casual gamers and those who don't actually want to play multiplayer, those players aren't actually in control of their content.

Image: Sporecasts make the game endlessly replayable [bit-tech.net]

EA calls the technology behind this idea a Sporecast and revealed to us how it ties into a huge and previously unseen social network behind Spore.

The best way to describe exactly how Sporecasts work is by example; so imagine that you've just booted up the game and named your planet. You've gone straight to the second level of the game--the creature phase--and you're running around like a madman. Now, the basic planet is always the same - you'll have the same hills, the same continents and so forth. What is different is everything else; animals, vegetation, allies and enemies for your race. These are all taken from the Sporecasts of other players.

This works both ways and as you create new races and aliens they too will be downloaded via the Sporepedia by other players.

Sporepedia is the framework around which all of Spore is built. At its most basic level it's little more than a catalogue of free content and a help-desk through which players can get tips and guides. Delve a little further though and Sporepedia becomes much more and players can start to take advantage of the social networking tools held within.

Each player in the game has a page on the Sporepedia and it's possible to browse through by using any number of filters and tags to see a specific player. From that page you can send messages to that player, see what Sporecasts they have created and so on and so forth. You can even monitor their popularity and see what achievements they've unlocked in the campaign game.

Image: Pollinated content can be automatically or manually downloaded [bit-tech.net]

The game will automatically download suitable Sporecasts if you've not selected ones and the content is designed so that the community itself can decide what is and isn't appropriate for players. At any time though players can access the Sporepedia and download either whole Sporecasts, which are composed of many pieces of content, or specific pieces which they like.

So, say for example that I wanted my new world to be heavily Mango-themed. All I would need to do is open the Sporepedia whilst playing, search for Mango Sporecasts and download them. The computer will then litter my universe with Mangoes - or the fruit of my choice. Alternatively, I can decide I want just one specific Mango and place that in my world myself.

The social networking elements in Spore do look truly stunning and already there's a wealth of content available from the testers and developers - everything from flying toilets to animals that look like letters! Amazingly the whole process is specially compressed too and an entire Sporecase will only weigh in at 8KB, meaning that even the most pathetic of rigs won't have to worry about space restrictions.

Dear Editor
There's a lot of things to love in Spore and we're not even halfway through mentioning a quarter of them, but the thing that most people are interested in seems to be the variety of editors open for players to mess around with. With hilarious demonstrations from the likes of Robin Williams (though the interface in that video is no longer accurate), it's easy to see why the editors are getting people excited.

However, the editors aren't as straightforward as they look and it's not actually as simple as just tossing a few hands onto a blob and putting that in the game. Instead, players are limited in terms of how detailed they can make their creatures and adding new limbs and so forth will cost you in terms of DNA points.

Yeah, I was surprised they weren't called Sporepoints too - though I think that phrase has got some rather icky undertones when you think about it.

The fact that players have to spend and earn DNA points will be a clunky and unfortunate reality in the eyes of some - namely those who just want to create crazy aliens and leave it at that. The truth is though that the points system is well integrated and is a necessity to prevent players doing anything game-breakingly complex. DNA points are never too hard to come by either and you can earn them by attacking other aliens or by discovering fossils. Either way, it's not just points up for grabs, but also whole new appendages or types of mouths that you add to your alien.

Image: Click to enlarge [bit-tech.net]

Still, DNA aside, the Creature Editor can definitely be seen even at this stage as a clear success on the part of EA and Maxis. The creation system is simple and easy to use, utilising simple drop down menus and tabs. At the same time though it's wonderfully complex and affords gamers tremendous creative freedom.

Creating an alien is easy. When you first enter the editor there's a basic blob in front of you with a backbone running through it. Click and drag the specific bones and areas you want to play with and force them into the shape you want. After that you can add limbs and the like and alter them in the same way.

My first time in the game I jumped straight in at the start of the game, eager to see as much of the game as I could. If you want to then the game does free you up to skip to certain stages, but doing so will mean that you miss out on all the achievements and rewards. That's fine though - as one of the producers pointed out to us, casual gamers who like a specific part of the game and want to play that aren't interested in achievements. Hardcore gamers on the other hand will be interested in that and will be willing to play the game as a whole.

My first creature was a monstrosity and even as it grew up through the cellular phase it was ugly for me to behold - but at the same time I loved it. My beast was shaped like a cartoon greyhound with low back legs, high underbelly and defined ribcage. I covered the underneath in pincers that would afford it more aggressive attacks in true RPG style, gave it jagged spikes on the back legs, Velociraptor claws and a huge tail which ended in a spinning circular saw made of bone.

Image: The game can be played completely peacefully if you want [bit-tech.net]

I had a few points left over at the end, so I dumped some rudimentary wings on its back, coloured it lime green in honour of Mankini Man and that was it. I had named the planet Cardland out of pure lack of imagination, so I named my alien race 'Cardigan' and shipped it out. Sure enough, it hatched out of its egg and was promptly eaten by something called a Valeroid. I cursed, stamped and screamed - an hour of hard work bought to waste. Memories of the twisters from Sim City came to mind and I started to wish Will Wright had never been born.

Thankfully, the game was far from over and I was promptly bought back to life. Another Cardigan was hatching nearby, so I assumed control and immediately took to flight. The animation on my freshly created content was perfect and Cardigan II as I had taken to calling him was able to scrabble all over the world in search of food.

It was fascinating and delighting to see that the Creature stage of development had some basic RPG elements to it. Each appendage and addition to your design gives them new advantages and abilities that fit well with the reality. At basic levels this translates to "Have wings, can fly". At a more involved level though it involves specific uses and I quickly found out that, because I had chosen a mouth that looked good for the race of Cardigans, and not one that was useful then the race was a little limited.

Despite all the spikes, pincers and bonesaws on Cardigan II, he was actually a herbivore because the jaw I'd given him fitted that type of creature. Naturally, I wasn't going to spend four or five hours playing a vegetarian, so I found a more interesting mouth, saved some DNA points and evolved Cardigan II to something a little meatier.

SimSpore
From the creature phase things start to get a little more or less interesting, depending on your tastes in terms of game genres. If you find detailed simulations to be less interesting than quick arcade action then Spore is going to get progressively less interesting the more you play through it.

Fortunately, the more you play, the more editing there is to do. By the time you reach the Civilisation and Space Stages then there's plenty more content creation to do to help break up the micromanagement. You'll get a chance to design vehicles, buildings and later, UFOs.

Designing all these structures is essentially very similar to the Creature Creation stage, except you don't start out with a torso for a starting point. Instead, it's down to players to place simple geometric shapes down, tweaking them and adding detail until you get the look you want.

Now, that style of editor may sound simple, but it can be as complex as you want. It's very much like Lego in that it can be as involved or simple as you want. If you'd rather get down to the nitty gritty of running an entire culture and have your industries ticking over the way you want then all you need do is draw a cube and add a door.

Images: Content [bit-tech.net] creation [bit-tech.net] can [bit-tech.net] be [bit-tech.net] as simple or as complex as you like

If, on the other hand, you want to do something a little more satisfying then, well, the possibilities really are endless and you can make your designs as crazy as you like. Personally, I always had a thing for Arthurian legend growing up so I made my City Hall resemble my own idea of Camelot.

Unfortunately, I kind of forgot that theme by the time I got round to creating a UFO and my spaceships ended up looking more like rolled up porcupines that had sat down on a jet engine. Watching a big spiky ball take off while surrounded by medieval castles is an odd experience.

By the time I got round to the space stage though, I had other things on my mind than how ludicrous the world my imagination had built was. The Space Stage of the game is arguably the most explicitly driven part of the game and unlike the other stages of the game it has goals which are directly given to the player via the race they have created.

Players get a chance to build every aspect of their world [bit-tech.net]

As you fly your UFO around the world expect to have the head of your own Starfleet on the screen telling you what they need you to do - everything from scanning flora to abducting and probing fauna.

Chatting with some of the folks from Maxis, it was hinted at that although Spore doesn't have an endgame or an overall victory scenario it may in fact have a way to win in some way. EA and Maxis were both closed-lipped on details, but there are definite suggestions of such a thing in the Space Stage where the game starts to feel more goal orientated and less like a playground.

In my opinion, the Space Stage is where the game starts to feel most like a game too and where the graphical style of Spore is most appreciable. The cartoony presentation and bright colours look OK, but not much more when you're zoomed in on the Creature Stage.

By the time you can see the whole planet though the world is starting to get filled up with cities and buildings of your own design and the look of the game is at its most awesome. The contrast of the white clouds, green land and inky blackness of space in particular looks pretty awesome - especially since it's filled with flying porcupines.

Initial Thoughts
There's no question in my mind that Spore is going to be fantastic on pretty much every level and I can already tell that I'm going to be have to be very careful when it's released. Too much exposure and I can easily see myself getting addicted to the game. In that sense Spore stands to be hugely successful - more so than Guitar Hero or even The Sims.

I find the backstory of Spore fascinating too, not just the up-front gameplay. Electronic Arts gets a lot of stick from the gaming press and from gamers at large and a lot of people hold the uber-publisher with ire - the company is well known for its repeated visits to Sequelville.

At the same time though, Electronic Arts has not only published the likes of The Orange Box and Crysis, but is now set to publish a genre-creating game.

So, EA likes The Sims a bit too much when it comes to expansion packs - that doesn't have to be a bad thing!

I actually got a chance to speak to some of the marketing people recently and I quizzed them about the future of Spore - pressing on whether we could expect to see a slew of new content on shelves soon after release. The reply was a stark awakening to the brilliant reality of Spore in that I was treated to a kind of "I don't know" answer and an explanation of how that wouldn't work with Spore.

Spore definitely looks set to revolutionise gaming [bit-tech.net]

You see, in The Sims, new items can't be easily created and the expansions can consist mainly of new furniture and so forth. In Spore that doesn't hold true and the future of the game seems to be grounded more in adding new tools to the game through expansions - ways to export and import creatures to Photoshop or Maya 3D. It's not enough to simply give people a new building or two, because those can always be made by the community.

To me, this attitude perfectly expresses how important Spore will be.

Frankly though, even if the game doesn't prove to be as redefining as I think it will be, then it's still shaping up to be a fantastic game and clearly shows how even the most complex of tasks can be accomplished with enough persistence.

Spore does have flaws in some regards and it's plainly obvious that most players aren't going to enjoy parts of the game. Personally, while I loved everything from the Creature Stage onwards, I did find the first part of the game--the Cell Stage--to be a little tiresome and pointless. I've nothing against simple arcade styled games at all, but there are titles that do that better than Spore.

Spore looks set to be released on September 7th this year, according to the recently released teaser trailer that's on the official website [bit-tech.net]

Spore's strength though lies in that the game overcomes the personal loves and hates of certain people and frees players up totally. You can do almost anything you want with the tools on offer here and the game is totally open to let players skip to the parts they want. If all you want is the micromanagement and sense of control then Civilisation Stage is there for you from the get-go.

If on the other hand all you need is cuddly animals and something to show off to your friends then you'll rarely need to stray beyond the creature editor.

Given the mammoth development cycle and the staggering ambition of Spore, there was always a fear that the game would at best become vapourware or at worst be released as a shadow of its intended self. From what we've seen of the game though, Spore is shaping up to be the type of game that can truly deliver on its promises. With any luck, all of us will have a universe in a box on the 7th of September and we can't wait.

Are you the same? Let us know in the forums.

Spore's hidden sixth stage (4, Funny)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 6 years ago | (#22409160)

After your race has risen from the primordial slime, competed with other critters, evolved to sapience, built cities, and achieved spaceflight and reached the center of the galaxy, you can submit proof of age and $45 to receive a key to open up a new level . . .

SimGalaxy Interspecies Brothel

Just remember . . . one race's intimate lubricant could be another's caustic death sauce.

Re:Spore's hidden sixth stage (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411612)

You are not Orz! We are Orz! Orz are happy *people energy* from the outside. Can you come together with Orz for *parties*?

you can submit proof of age and $45 to receive a key to open up a new level . . .
SimGalaxy Interspecies Brothel

tubgi8L (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22409596)

and enjoy All the

10 years? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410094)

10 years to design a roll-up of other popular game genre's?

Sounds like Sims for the Facebook crowd. How cute.

Doesn't make sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410176)

In Spore you play as GOD but the process is evolution?? How can this be when evolution is merely a random unguided biological process that makes the idea of God unnecessary, irrelevant, and archaic?

Re:Doesn't make sense! (0, Flamebait)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410986)

How can this be when evolution is merely a random unguided biological process that makes the idea of God unnecessary, irrelevant, and archaic?

I hate to toot the creationist's horn here, but as an agnostic, I'm forced to point out that you really have no idea how random and unguided it is. You just have faith that it's random and unguided. Which really makes you no better than them.

So cool, I might buy a computer to play it. (1)

Zarf (5735) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410272)

This thing looks so cool I might just go out and buy a computer to play it on. I hear you can get on the webbernet and play on the video games with those.

No really. I really might have to buy a windows PC to play the game on... because I don't have one. I only have Linux workstations. I'm not joking... stop laughing...

Re:So cool, I might buy a computer to play it. (1)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411058)

Go buy a Wii. You'll be more happy with it. And, given 6 months, you can run linux on that, too.

This is about aliens? (1)

version5 (540999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410350)

Why does the reviewer constantly refer to his creature as an alien? The whole point is that it evolved on the planet.

Re:This is about aliens? (1)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410944)

Yeah, just not this planet. I mean, you must admit, none of the animals look very "earthbound."

Spore or Spoor (1)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410496)

Every time I see something about Spore, my mind twists it into Spoor.
Must have watched too many nature shows on TV.
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