Spore: Playing God and Evolution in a Game

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Ever wanted to play God? Well, stay tuned for Spore, a new game on the horizon which is one part Mr. Potatohead, one part Warcraft, one part Sims, one part SimCity, one part Starcraft and everything in between.

The computer and gaming community is buzzing about this innovative game which allows people to create their own life forms and have them evolve. All that seems to be missing from the game at this point is requiring the creatures you create to perform sacrifices.

Check out the video and be amazed at how you can take a microscopic creature and evolve him into a space alien with 8 legs and a butt for a face, and eventually build spaceships and abduct aliens.

Intro video:

The future comes from the mind of Will Wright, the lord and master of the "Sim" series. Apparently it wasn't enough for Mr. Wright to make thirty billion dollars with The Sims, because his current endeavor, Spore, makes the former look like a tea party. Whereas that terrific game simulated the social aspects of life, Spore focuses on, well, just about everything else.

Spore begins, of all places, in a pile of goo. You start as a two-dimensional single-cell organism whose sole capacity is to "eat" smaller floating bits. This eventually leads to the first evolutionary step – the ability to attack things. Stick a horn on your amoebic bag and watch it take down bigger floaty bits than before, or add some creepy hair-like fins to increase its speed when fleeing predators.

Eventually, you'll lay an egg, which takes your thing from the tide pool to the swamp and triggers perhaps the coolest creature editing device seen outside the iron gates of Pixar itself. You can manipulate your creature's skeleton by literally shaping a ball of clay. Sculpt any shape you like, add or subtract limbs, give it googly eyes or a gaping maw – whatever your inner Dr. Frankenstein desires. Plant eater? Meat eater? Everything eater? This is the basic premise for your beast as it evolves over time, the blueprint of its life.

As you wail on other lifeforms, you'll gain points to spend on upgrading new parts. Soon you'll lay another egg, rock the editor, and advance up the ladder to the next phase: walking.

Using "procedural animation," Spore animates your creature based entirely on physics, meaning it doesn't require any hand animators whatsoever. If you build tiny, skinny legs, your creature will wobble along slowly, whereas if you build fat, strong thighs, your creature will cover ground quickly. I saw a handful of bizarre examples, from Will's own three-legged beastie (see screenshots) to a two-faced spidery-thing with twelve legs, and all managed to move appropriately, if that's the right word.

During this walking phase Spore moves from a single-creature workshop into a much more complex experience. As your creature learns how to walk on solid ground, it will encounter a variety of other lifeforms, all of which are actually created by other users. Every player's creature data is compressed into a tiny file and uploaded to the game's server network, which then sends that data back to other players' games. In other words, your world is populated by other people's creatures without actually being massively multiplayer. You don't play with anyone else, but you share each other's content. It's a daring design move that might be the best example of what "user-created content" can mean.

As your freak wanders the land killing smaller things and avoiding giant creepy ones, it will eventually find a mate and lay another egg, which prompts another bout with the editor, this time allowing you to give it nasty new weapons and better parts. This also moves the game into a "tribal" period. You'll start to toy with the foundations of culture by introducing actual weapons into the mix or perhaps focusing more on art and technology by giving your crew some drums. Get down with your seven arms.

What starts off as a small gathering of your beasts will eventually turn into a full-fledged city builder, a pared-down version of SimCity. The look and feel of your buildings will mimic the look and feel of your creature; this was demonstrated via two entirely different cities, one made of brutal, pointy metal, another of happy, Smurfy mushrooms. You'll soon be able to design vehicles as well, navigating the entire planet with tanks, planes and boats, setting up trade routes or plundering other tribes.

As if the transition from bacteria to architect wasn't crazy enough, Spore takes another giant leap for game-kind as it allows you to enter space. Once you build a UFO, you'll be able to actually cruise around the whole planet, terraforming the environment and even abducting other life forms. Pull out even further and you'll witness the solar system. Take some of your beasts to colonize another world.

You can then pull out even further to the mind-boggling entirety of the galaxy, where you can attempt to communicate with strange alien races. Land and colonize or blow an offending planet into space dust. It's your universe…sort of. Every world out there is actually made by another user, remember, albeit just a copy of their data. Considering it isn't actually online, Spore looks to revolutionize the way we play with one another.

Will Wright talks "What I learned about content from the Sims, and why we're pursuing procedural animation & development" @ GDCe (this encompasses the intro video and is about twice as long):

Spore is a venture between EA Games and Maxis and is scheduled to be released February 1, 2007 for the PC platform (and eventually consoles). The game has been in development for several years and has created quite a lot of excitement.




Posted by Subnormal on 2006-05-08 12:31:13
Intelligent Design
Posted by Pile on 2006-05-08 13:07:21
Actually, if you think about it, this is another way of explaining evolution and literal "intelligent design." Who's to say this isn't what God is up to?

However, I do find it scary that Will opts to blow up a planet that was initially aggressive towards him, in lieu of seeking diplomacy. That does kind of seem like the national progression someone with omnipotence might pursue. Someone too difficult to deal with? Smite 'em.
halo needs to wach its back
Posted by big daddy mac on 2006-05-18 15:24:42
i'm the mirical master of disaster,
i'v betten mini mes modles and fat bas---.

the only thing wrong with this game is you can't have galactic wars with other players. other wise it's no come out soon anuf.
Re: Intelligent Design
Posted by Navimaster on 2007-01-04 22:54:05
Actually, you don't need to think about it, theistic evolution doesn't go in either direction. According to God's own word, he spoke the world and man into existence. As for Evolution, there is no place for an intelligent designer, only random chance - natural selection, etc ...

I find it hard to believe that God really meant to say "let there be survival of the fittest" and he saw that it was "good"?...
Posted by popeys girl on 2007-05-01 16:06:36
When will Spore be released in the USofA?


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