An Interview With Spore’s Infectious Designers

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An Interview With Spore’s Infectious Designers


In a word, Spore is overwhelming. This ultimate simulation is coming to Macs and PCs simultaneously on September 7, 2008. But somehow, this simulation of early life, evolution, tribal interactions, rise of civilizations, and interplanetary colonization makes “overwhelming” a good thing. On top of that, players create their own automatically animated creatures, vehicles, buildings, and more. (Check out our exclusive screenshots and deeper impressions in the April issue of Mac|Life magazine.)


We recently stopped by EA’s Maxis office to try the game and speak with its developers. Spore Chief Designer Will Wright created SimCity, The Sims, and founded the original Maxis. Spore Executive Producer Lucy Bradshaw previously helped develop several The Sims games, most recently as Executive Producer. Both spoke with us about planetary phases, potential expansion packs, iPod and iPhone plans, and your personal Brian Eno.



The scope of Spore is just immense. What are some things that you’ve been able to include in this huge scope that you’re like, “Wow, I didn’t think we’d be able to get that into Spore?”


Will Wright: It depends on when you ask that question. [Everyone laughs.] … Probably 50 percent of it, you know. Because the initial thing--actually initially, it was going to be everywhere from the end of evolution into space. And then it kind of got expanded to, “Oh, let’s go all the way to microscopic and the beginning of life.”


But there are things that were fairly recent additions like, you know, the development of the pollination system [that sends user-created elements to other gamers], tagging [those elements with keywords]--all that is fairly recent. Procedural music…. A lot of music is generative in the game that Brian Eno has been working on with us.


Lucy Bradshaw: In fact he helped us design the generative music system. He really gave us some great insights and made us believe that we could execute it. Before we got involved with him--


Both: --we’d given up.



Is that like the background music for the game or your civilization theme music?


Will Wright: Different parts of the game. It’s like your city music is procedural. You can also go in and customize and change and fiddle with it…. Depending on what you’ve put on the creature you’ve designed, there’s a different theme playing. In fact, you’re composing the music as you’re building the creature.


Lucy: So it changes over time.… And the ambient music of the planets and everything [also changes].



Anything else that you’re surprised that you were able to include?


Will Wright: I think the galactic simulation of the empires--the way they interact and stuff--ended up being more elaborate than we were originally envisioning. What else? The diversity of planets and planet types ended up being much broader than we originally envisioned…. There are of course millions, literally millions of different ones. You know every single one is unique.


Lucy Bradshaw: Some of the tricks that our graphics team has pulled off… When you’re playing and over the horizon, and you see a planet coming. And there you are playing the Creature Phase, and when you finally zoom out with your spaceship and see your whole planet for the first time and realize, “There I am in my solar system. I saw that planet across the horizon.” That sort of sense of depth and wonder.


Will Wright: The sky that you see at night when you’re in evolution. You look up, you might see these planets and moons and stars. They’re actually doing the real thing. They’re actually being simulated doing their real orbits. When you get [into space] you realize, “Oh I’m seeing that one so much because it’s my moon. And this one I see very infrequently because it’s so far out in orbit.”… You’re actually seeing the apogee and perigee of these things being simulated. And once you get to Space Phase, you realize you were looking at something that wasn’t an imposter but was the actual physical motion of the planets around you.


Lucy Bradshaw: So those are surprising moments that even now they kind of catch my breath.



And what about things that you wish that you could have included in this huge scope that you just had to cut?


Will Wright: [Laughing] A million things.


Lucy Bradshaw: Some of them are very large-- The whole bit about sculpting planets out of gasses would have been a whole phase that went on.


Will Wright: We had hundreds of prototypes which involved you actually controlling the birth of a star. And the formation of the planets on the planetary disc. And other areas of the game that I think we’ll probably eventually develop and we ended up cutting because they didn’t seem like a good return on investment. Like the evolution of the water in the multi-cellular sense, we kind of cut out. We kind of made a firm jump from microbial life to living on land. You know without the underwater evolution phase. That’s another big area.




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I've been waiting for this game to come out since the beginning of last year when a fellow gamer like myself had shown me the YouTube interview of all the capabilities of this game. You can play it solo or via internet to amp up the challenging world of Spores. It reminds me of Age of Empire, Civilization, and Caesar - build a city and watch it grow. Same here - create a spore and watch it grow.... and grow... and grow! Be like God and make your creatures at the genetic level any way you want. How cool is that!

I think I will end up playing this in leu of WoW and Caesar. :)
Because when all is said and done.... "What are we going to do tomorrow night Brain?", Brain replies "What we do every night Pinky.... try to take over the World". Nuff said! :)



Well as neat as this game looks I am left thinking that it looks too simple. As much as I love playing World of Craft, I just see this game leaving me wanting more blood and gore heh.



To eyeheart:
I'm betting that as we learn more about this game, 'simple' will not be an accurate description.

I can't wait for this title. It may actually cure my WoW addiction. (Imagine: a game in which my actions actually make a difference. Indeed, my actions help define the world)

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