Finally, Will Wright and his cadre of demoscene hackers has created something that I’ve wanted since I first started playing games. Spore lets you take a species from molecule to intergalactic civilization an a free-form manner. The game is both evolutionary and revolutionary (and I use the latter term cautiously) in a number of ways.
I’ll start by talking about the way much / most of the game universe is created. Procedural generation is a term you will hear from Will Wright at Spore presentations a lot. To explain briefly, I’ll give an analogy. Consider Grand Theft Auto. It has a relatively vast area for the player to freely explore. Everything in the game world was created by a game artist and deliberately placed by a level designer. So although the area you can explore is big, it was all created manually. Now, consider a game such as Elite. It has innumerable star systems for the player to explore, but in this case the game universe was generated by a computer algorithm. Spore uses mostly the latter technique, although much of the interactive content (the organisms, buildings, etc) is human generated.
This actually brings us to the next interesting feature – asynchronous updating of game content from the creations of other players. Wright calls Spore a “Massively Single Player Online Game”. Since the content is procedurally generated, animated and controlled, the data files for creations can be just a few kb, greatly facilitating sharing content between players. I’ll give another example to illustrate how this works:
A player has reached the “space” phase of the game, and leaves their home planet, traveling to a nearby planet populated with intelligent life. The player makes contact with the civilization on this planet and can proceed accordingly. Now, the civilization the player is interacting with is AI-controlled, but it was created, evolved and developed by a player in another game guiding the race from molecule to society.
Content from other players is imported at other stages of the game (i.e. in the pre-tribe phase; it may occur even earlier) to populate the player’s home planet. The nifty part of the feature is that the game tracks how you have been playing and how the world is progressing, and imports based on what the needs are and what it thinks the player would like. If Spore is as popular as The Sims (and I day say it will be even moreso), there will be a vast cornucopia of player-created content.
Anyway I think that that was a more than adequate taster of what to look forward to in Spore. Part Deux of my preview will be written soon – well, once I mop up the drool…
I think the tagline for Spore should be “The only game you’ll ever need”. A statement like that wouldn’t be hyperbole, unlike most taglines…