Where do you go from designing the best selling PC game of all time? Evidently onto a new and more enticing project, while EA go on to milk the Sims for all its worth. With that in mind, Will Wright has been busy designing his next masterpiece: Spore. However, before we get into the game itself, let’s take a look at the online community and the Creature Creator released just a few months earlier.
Spore is one of those titles that will get a lot of support from the community through user-generated content. The user-created monsters have ranged from obscene phallic symbols to creatures inspired by anime characters and console controllers. The Creature Creator is a user-friendly program. It gives the future Spore players a selection of limbs to customize by expanding and rotating and pick from a variety of colours and art styles for their creature. It’s so easy to use even a blind monkey could put something decent looking together in a short amount of time. So predictably, not long after the free and full versions of the Creature Creator went live, thousands of creatures showed up online.
Of course, with so much to check out in this new game, it’s only natural to create a dedicated encyclopedia about it... And that’s exactly what Maxis did. Dubbed the “Sporepedia”, the website hosts a huge amount of user-created content for Spore and will be an essential site for Spore owners to continue to watch. With a huge online community in place, the game is finally out and has tons of DLC ready - but is the game actually good? In short: yes, but that’s much too short for a game of this scale.
Once you get into the game you can either pick a planet to inhabit or choose from one of the creators on hand, including the creature, building, spaceship and other assorted vehicle creators. Although it should be noted that creations can only be accessed once you are up to a certain point in the evolutionary process. Alternatively you can access the Sporepedia to check out the latest user-created content.
After you have selected your planet you can begin inhabiting it, starting with cellular level organisms who must pick between herbivore and carnivore; each has their unique ‘consequence abilities’ to learn as they grow and evolve. Evolution and breeding play a big role in Spore; each creature will grow from cellular to creature, then tribe, civilization and eventually space.
To begin the evolutionary process you just have to guide your cellular creature around a level feeding – it’s reminiscent of the PlayStation title ‘Flow’ but with more mouse clicking. Eventually you will be able to make a mating call and breed with another creature. Once someone heeds your call, the evolution factor of the game kicks in and you can change your creature in the creature creator by taking creature parts you have acquired other creatures and manipulating their parts. This evolution system works well and overall what at first glance may look like a god sim, plays more like an action RPG, and RTS in the tribes stage. It changes genre in almost every stage. This formula - as strange as it is - works well.
At the start of the early stages you can change your species to suit the play style. Once you make it to the tribe stage you have to finalize your creation. Each stage is full of other species created by both other players and Maxis, providing opportunities to acquire new parts to add to your species. Each of the evolutionary stages is represented by a status bar at the bottom of the screen. There are two ways in which to progress: either by hunting other species or making friends. Hunting will occasionally lead to your untimely demise, while making friends usually leaves carnivores to starve to death, depending on which diet you choose at the beginning.
Unfortunately, fights are plagued with clipping problems; creatures locked in combat will frequently dive into each other. Spore’s visuals, while colourful, are definitely the weaker aspect of the game, and at a glance casual gamers may pass it off as ‘kiddy’. Sure, the world is huge and full of life, but the ground textures are muddy, lacking detail. The up side of the low detail is that it will run fine on a lot of lower end PCs.
In the end Spore is one of those titles that jumps genres with ease, while not dipping too far into any one genre, leaving players with a very diverse gameplay experience, and odds are, there will be a lot more content such as monsters and vehicles to expand on the huge worlds already available. If someone wanted to stick a genre label on Spore it would be an ‘evolution sim’ with RTS and action RPG elements.