“How will you create the universe?”
- - Official tagline
Spore is a simulation computer game designed by Will Wright, developed by Maxis and published by Electronic Arts. Wright has a history of designing innovative, successful games like The Sims and SimCity, and Spore appears likely to continue that trend. It is remarkable both for the innovative technology of the game design, as well as the expansive range of sci-fi game play.
Spore is, at first glance, an evolution simulation game: the player moulds and guides their creature across many generations of evolution, until it becomes intelligent or achieves certain degree of sapience, at which point, the scope of the game expands to encompass a broader range of evolution. This is achieved by first giving the player control over a lone creature (designed by the player) until the creature begins a tribe of its own, at which point the player controls more than one creature and a tribal real-time strategy aspect is incorporated into the game by war or socialization with other tribes. There is then a stage where the player must unite the planet's city-building cultures through various means. The player then begins guiding the creature's civilized society into a space-faring civilization, where the player begins to colonize other planets in their quest to achieve galactic dominance through diplomacy, war or conversion.
Spore does not fall neatly into any one video game genre. While the game's creators and several media sources described it in 2006 as a god game, other journalists have described it as a real-time strategy game and life simulation game. The game is made up of several stages of gameplay that draw on a multitude of games, and thus a multitude of traditional genres.
The name Spore was originally a working title, suggested by developer Ocean Quigley, for the game which was first referred to by the general public as SimEverything. Even though SimEverything was a first choice name for Will Wright, the title Spore stuck. Wright added it also freed him from the preconceptions another Sim title would have brought, saying "...Not putting Sims in front of it was very refreshing to me. It feels like it wants to be breaking out into a completely different thing than what the The Sims series was."
The procedurally-generated music for the game was designed by Brian Eno, an artist famous for his ambient music. The music is generated by the editors depending on which parts (eg: limbs, battle items, hands, feet, etc) are placed on the creature, vehicle or building. For example, something dangerous like a battle spike will give the music more of a ferocious feel, while something peaceful like a herbivore's mouth will give the music a more relaxed feel. Music can also be created by users in the form of a short national anthem for their civilization or empire.
Spore is notable for having several features that are new to games, as a revolutionary game. Civilization IV lead designer Soren Johnson joined the Maxis team to work on Spore, with his contribution focused on the Civilization stage. A noticeable aspect of this is the format of the communication screen in Space and Civilization stage. Spore has advanced Procedural generation and its creativity is extensive, being one of the few games that allow the player's imagination and creativity to shine. Many features of Spore are changeable with editors. They, however, have limits built in, such as the complexity meter, that force players to think more carefully. There are hidden features in the editors, that the player can find as well over time.
- Removed features and changes
Since the demos of Spore, some gameplay features, editors, and stages have been removed. The style and graphics of Spore haven't changed extensively, but the artistry is more stylistically animated in today's Spore, in order to attract a wider variety of players. Features were also removed because Maxis was being experimental with what parts would work, and what might not, and to see what players wanted. Wright hinted this in the Ask Will Wright interview.
- See also
- Will Wright interview on Guardian
- Will Wright Interview in Discover Magazine
- Computer Gaming World June 2006 article
Coined "Creatiolutionism", the game allows the player to develop a species from a microscopic organism to its evolution into a complex animal, its emergence as a social or aggressive, intelligent being, to the mastery of its home planet, and finally to its ascension into space, where it interacts with alien species across the galaxy. Throughout the game, the player's perspective and species change dramatically.
The game is broken up into distinct yet consistent, dependent "stages". The outcome of one stage affects the initial conditions facing the player in the next. Each phase exhibits its own style of play and has been described by the developers as ten times more complicated than its preceding stage. While players are able to spend as much time as they prefer in each, it is possible to accelerate or skip phases altogether. Some stages feature optional missions; when the player completes a mission, they are granted a bonus, such as a new ability or currencies.
Unlike many other Maxis games, Spore has a primary win condition which is obtained by reaching the center of the galaxy, and facing The Grox, a large NPC empire that guards the Core. However, the player may continue to play after the goal has been achieved. Due to there being no definite endpoint, and the degree of variability allowed by the game, Spore can be labeled a Sandbox game.
The game is referred to as a "massively single-player online game" and "asynchronous sharing." Simultaneous multiplayer gaming is not a feature of Spore. The content that the player can create is uploaded automatically to a central database, cataloged and rated for quality, based on how many users have downloaded the object or creature in question, and then re-distributed to populate other players' games. The data transmitted will be very small — only a couple of kilobytes per item transmitted. This was due to procedural generation of material.
After reaching the Space stage, players can visit other planets, and interact with alien species, tribes, city-based civilizations and space-faring empires. Via the in-game "MySpore Page", players receive statistics of how their creatures are faring in other players' games, which has been referred to as the "alternate realities of the Spore metaverse." The game reports to the player on how other players interacted with them. The personalities of user-created species are dependent on how the user played them.
- Patch 1.01 tuned game difficulty, improved graphical effects, added new cheats, and fixed gameplay problems.
- Patch 1.02 fixed issues relating to gameplay controls, audio, planets' appearance, graphics, and removed the Bad Baby! achievement.
- Patch 1.03 added twenty-four exoskeleton parts, kept the server's copy of the player achievements in sync with the player's local achievements, and allowed the use of the Escape key to open the options menu in the main galaxy view.
- Patch 1.04 improved general performance, made all Grox planets reachable, and improved graphics.
- Patch 1.05 allowed asymmetry for creatures and vehicles, tuned gameplay difficulty, added a cheat that allowed exporting of creatures to the COLLADA format for use in Autodesk Maya, and made YouTube videos publish as public by default.
- Patch 1.05.0001 fixed objects' orientation near water or lava while testing an adventure and fixed a crash in the building editor when holding down Control and/or Shift keys while moving a creature part.
- Patch 1.06 is a Dr. Pepper exclusive patch with unknown fixes and 14 mechanical parts.
“User-created content has two extraordinary benefits. No. 1 is that when somebody makes a piece of content, they are so much more emotionally attached to it. It doesn't even matter if it's good or bad. If they made it, it's really cool, and they're totally interested in what happens to it. No. 2, players love trading and sharing and spreading this stuff around and having it come to them, and building up their worlds.”
The Sporepedia is a major part of the game. It keeps track of nearly every gameplay experience. Including the evolution of a creature by graphically displaying a timeline which shows how the creature incrementally changed over the eons; it also keeps track of the creature's achievements, both noteworthy and dubious, as a species.
The Sporepedia also keeps track of all the creatures, planets, vehicles and other content the player encounters over the course of a game. Players can also upload their creations to Spore.com to be viewed by the public at the Sporepedia website. Spore's user community functionality includes a feature that is part of an agreement with YouTube granting players the ability to upload directly from within the game a YouTube video of their creature's activity, and EA's creation of "The Spore YouTube Channel", which will showcase the most popular videos created this way. In addition, some user-created content will be highlighted by Maxis at the official Spore site, and earn achievements of recognition for their work. One of Spore's most social features is the Sporecast, an RSS feed that players can use to subscribe to the creations of any specific Spore player, allowing them to track their creations.
There is a toggle which allows the player to restrict what downloadable content will be allowed; choices include: "no user-generated content", "official Maxis-approved content", "downloadable friend content", and "all user-created content". Players can also ban any content in-game, at any time, and Maxis monitors content with notable numbers of player bans. The core of Spore's game-play revolves around user-created content. Players customize almost all aspects of their gaming experience using a series of editors in each of the Game stages. Users literally create their own content with which to populate their game world.
This was a technique used in The Sims and The Sims 2, by Maxis to allow players to expand on the limited amount of items which were included in the game. The logical progression of this idea is to allow the user to create everything; thus Spore was born. Allowing users to create their own content leads to a vastly increased replay value of the game, with the user able to take a different route every time they play the game. One of the major benefits of incorporating more user-created content into a game for the studio is lowered costs. For each piece of content that a user creates, the studio does not have to create that content themselves. This saves on effort, allowing the developers to concentrate on other areas. As a business model, it can, therefore, save on both time-based costs and staffing costs.
There is a difficulty selector for each stage, allowing players to choose the difficulty for each part of the game. Spore defaults to the easiest level. Note that there is no time limit for any stage: the player may stay in a single stage as long as they wish, and progress to the next stage when ready.
The Cell Stage is the first stage in the game (also known as the Tide Pool stage) and begins with a cinematic demonstrating the scientific concept of panspermia, with a meteor crashing into the ocean of a planet, which breaks, revealing a single-celled organism. The player begins playing as this simple microorganism moving on a 2D plane, giving the effect of living inside a petri dish or a droplet of water. The stage is similar to the game FlOw, where the cell must adapt and evolve to the fluid dynamics and predators inside the environment while feeding off weaker cells, aquatic plants, or both. Stages are notable for getting more complex in movement dynamics in each progressive stage, for example, the Creature stage is a 3D environment, and the Tribal stage after it frees the player from a single view and allows them to move about the world with an RTS style camera.
Before the game starts, the player must choose whether the creature is a herbivore or a carnivore prior to starting the stage, and then select their starting organism. The main goal of the cell stage is to collect DNA Points through eating leftovers, plants or other cells, and then finding a suitable mate to evolve the various traits that will help it to survive. The first editor of the game will then appear, the Cell Editor, which also operates in a two-dimensional plane, allowing the player to add parts such as eyes for sensory development, cellular flagella, cilia and water jets for movement, and defensive biological weapons such as poison and bio-electricity. New parts can be acquired through absorbing genetic material from either dead cells that possess those parts and abilities or meteor shards that still contain the DNA that formed the cell you are currently playing as. The player's cell will gradually grow larger and lose its transparency as it develops full organs, and soon the single cell will become a multi-celled organism, akin to the water flea or another tiny aquatic animal. After acquiring enough DNA, the cell will grow a simple brain. The player will then enter an exclusive editor, in a transition point between an aquatic organism and a land creature. This Early Creature editor contains all the cell parts you have collected, as well as three types of legs, complete with basic feet, and full access to all Creature stage paint jobs. The player's choice of diet in the Cell stage will determine the diet of your creatures in the Creature stage. Upon completion, the player's creature will swim to the surface to begin the next stage.
The Creature Stage is the next level of evolution for creatures in Spore. The Creature stage is a three-dimensional environment. However, the ground acts as a plane. This stage begins when your aquatic creature swims up to a beach on the surface, calling its brood mates, and leading them to a spot on the coast, where they build a nest. The Creature stage gets more advanced as the player evolves (at the beginning of the game, the creature stage is comparable to the Devonian period on Earth, but by the end, is comparable to the Cenozoic), and deals with various topics, such as environments and habitats, reproduction, migration, the necessities of organisms and diet, evolutionary niches (which the player may find) and various traits and adaptation strategies.
Based on your choice of diet in the Cell stage, your creature will either be a carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore. Carnivores will have to hunt for unhatched eggs or moving prey, or even scavenge from the remains of another creature's kill. Herbivores feed exclusively on a certain fruit, which grows on bushes around the planet. Omnivores can choose from all of the previous options to find the sustenance they need. The primary objective is to earn more DNA points by either hunting out species or developing cooperative relationships with these species.
An aggressive stance will reward a species with new nests to inhabit, less competition, and more room to propagate, while carnivores will also be given a bonus of fresh meat and unprotected eggs to feed on. A social stance will grant a species with useful relationships with other species, as your species may share nests with the other, and other creatures will also join your creature's pack to hunt, socialize and explore, and as a bonus, any creatures kept in your pack will be domesticated in the next stage. Particularly adaptable creatures may dabble in a bit of both, reacting according to the situation at hand, sharing the benefits of both. Your species will eventually evolve sapience through the experience granted by all by its efforts, as well as a pack mentality that allows them to interact more deeply with other creatures.
New parts are acquired through hunting out species and filling their niche, forming deep bonds with other species, or learning from the remains of long-gone creatures. These parts are important for adapting your species to its ecological niche, but the player is not actually required to evolve at all if their original, early form suits them just fine for survival, just as Earth's land snail has not changed at all since leaving the water and developing lungs. Cooperation and competition come into play in this stage, and the player's actions in this stage will influence the creature's archetype in the next stage (just as with diets in Cell stage).
The Tribal Stage deals with the independence of species, forming simple societies, and outcompeting other tribes with cooperation or domination. After the player's species has evolved sapience, the player gets a choice to enter the Tribal stage. The player can no longer evolve into new species, now is an RTS style game, which the player must look after the whole tribe.
Behavior affects the tribe a lot more in this stage. Tribe members are assigned roles such as fishing, gathering, or hunting. The creatures' behaviors are affected by the way the player utilizes them. If a player uses them aggressively, their autonomic behavior will reflect that; conversely, if the player uses them peacefully, allying other tribes, their behavior will show them being more kind and gentle. Even their idle behavior will reflect this; warlike tribe members will practice combat and bully each other, while docile members will practice using their instruments and throw parties.
There are five other tribes along with the player's, which can either be destroyed or befriended. Depending on the means the tribe used to overtake the neighboring tribe, by forming an alliance or invading the other, their actions will influence the archetype of the next stage.
Main article:Civilization Stage
The Civilization stage occurs after the player's tribe dominates all other species of their Homeworld, but the species itself has since fragmented into several nations, all in competition for a mineral resource known as 'spice', rather than food. The player has control of a single nation. The goal in the Civilization stage is to conquer or unite the entire planet, whether it be militarily, economically, religiously or through alliances.
First, the player must design the creature's technology, form its society, and build up its architecture, and then build vehicles to capture spice geysers. However, soon the player will come into competition with other nations, requiring him/her to adopt a stance, which is either military, economic, or religious. This stance will affect your society, technology, and relations with other nations. The main unit of currency is "Sporebucks", which replaces DNA points and food. Mining spice to be used in the city factories generates Sporebucks as income.
The Space stage provides new goals and paths to follow as the player begins to spread through the galaxy. It is the most expansive stage and is one that is never-ending.
It deals with various scientific and science fictional concepts, such as colonization, astrobiology, interaction with alien races, the galactic topography (how the astronomical phenomena and planets interact), terraforming and various missions. The main goal is to expand the player's empire to the Galactic Core, a super-massive black hole at the center of the galaxy. The stage is notable because the game evolves as well, the galaxy is ever changing and also what the player has done in previous stages ultimately winds up to this stage.
The Space stage is sometimes referred to as a sandbox, because the player gains near-complete control of everything, though, in the initial stages of the Space stage, the player inevitably must interact with other civilizations as in previous stages. It has been mentioned that the Space stage works on two axes: a horizontal axis (the ability to interact with many planets in a variety of different ways) and a vertical axis (the ability to revisit different stages of gameplay). Even when the player has reached the core, earned all the badges and achievements, the game continues because the player can use imagination and creativity to influence the game (such as having wars with the player's two empires), or playing a game without colonies for example.
User-generated content is a major feature of Spore; there are eighteen different types of editors (some unique to a stage), and even a music editor which allows players to create songs to be used as a national anthem in the Civilization stages and above. Will Wright has stated that in addition to being simple, all the editors will be as similar as possible so that skills learned are easily transferable from one editor to the next.
The editors start simply in the Cell stage and move to higher levels of complexity, acting as tutorials for progressive levels of gameplay. For example; the cell editor demonstrated so far has nine choices and a two-dimensional environment while the creature editor has dozens of options and a 3D environment. The structure ranges from a spine and body model in the creature editor to more free-form editors for the buildings.
For example, the creature editor allows the player to take what looks like a lump of clay with a spine and mold it into a creature. Once they have molded the torso, they can then add parts such as legs, arms, feet, hands, noses, eyes, mouths, decorative elements, and a wide array of sensory organs. Many of these parts affect the creature's abilities (speed, strength, diet, etc.), while some parts are purely decorative. Once the creature is formed, they can paint it using a large number of textures, overlays, colors, and patterns, which are procedurally applied depending on the topology of the creature. The only "required" feature is the mouth (otherwise, the creature will die from starvation). All other parts are optional; for example, creatures without legs will as said before, slither on the ground like a slug.
Other editors are used for buildings and for vehicles. Eventually, players can edit entire planets, using various in-game processes. Electronic Arts have promised new editors to be released after the game's release, such as a flora editor. However, a beta flora editor and expanded cell editor are available in the game code and can be accessed by changing the target parameters for the shortcut executable. It is worth noting that the beta flora editor does not affect gameplay, as the player cannot see their creations in the actual game. These creations cannot be shared online but this will likely change if the editor is made official.
There are also simple means of creating visual media: such as a screenshot facility that captures the screen without the surrounding user-interface; and a 640x480 video creator with a built-in YouTube upload service. Maxis has also partnered with a third-party to provide a Spore-branded Comic Book Creator service, which was live at launch.
- Flora Editor
There is also a mysterious "Flora Editor". It is said it will be released in further games. The game can be run differently so the Flora Editor can be used, but the editor is extremely glitchy.
An expansion or parts pack called the Spore Creepy & Cute Parts Pack was released on November 18, 2008. Similar to Stuff Packs for the Sims franchise, Creepy and Cute was not a full expansion pack but rather an item pack containing about 60 new body parts and color schemes for the creature creator.
An expansion pack, Spore Galactic Adventures was released on June 23, 2009, allowing the player to beam onto planets, rather than using a hologram, to participate in missions created by both Maxis, and other users. It adds a new editor, the Adventure Creator which allows for the creation of missions to share with the Spore community. Creatures can add new abilities, including weaponry, tanks, and crew members, as well as a section of the adventure creator that involves editing a planet and using 60 new flora parts. While Maxis often develops many expansion packs for their games, Spore Galactic Adventures was the only full expansion for Spore, with Maxis shifting towards the development of SimCity in 2013, and The Sims 4 in 2014.
- Spore's main innovation, the basis of its scope and customizability, is that Wright has moved into procedural generation of content.
- Spore borrows several ideas and concepts from science fiction and pseudoscience, including - but not limited to - the concept of Panspermia, anti-matter weaponry, alien worship and the commerce of Spice.
- At E3 2005, the game won the following Game Critics Awards: Best of Show, Best Original Game, Best PC Game, and Best Simulation Game.
- Answering a question about game-play, Wright said that "There are games that let their players feel like Luke Skywalker. I want players to feel like George Lucas." The game-play has been described to be a mixture of Pac-Man, Flow, Diablo, Mr. Potatohead, Clay, Populous, SimCity, Lego, Sid Meier's Civilization, Destroy All Humans, and Kid Pix at various stages of game-play.
- Maxis had approximately 70 developers working on Spore, most earning six-figure salaries. It took an estimated 30 million USD to develop the game.
- Spore does not require a disc after installation. However, the player needs the disc after installing Spore Galactic Adventures, unless Spore was downloaded directly onto your computer.
- EA Games has come under heavy criticism for its Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions with Spore as it may only be installed five (5) times on three (3) different machines (a reformatted machine counts as a different machine). After this limit is reached the game will no longer activate. Consumer groups have complained that this prevents people from really owning the game because they are effectively renting it from EA Games for a limited period of time. However, there is an official mod which "clears up" a machine - the De-Authorization Tool. For players without this tool, it is recommended that they never uninstall the game unless absolutely necessary.
- You will be able to find the latest Maxis created Spore videos - including the latest gameplay footage, interviews with the development team, behind the scenes footage from around the studio, and interviews with Will Wright himself! You can also find a library of user-created Spore Creature Creator videos to browse through. Official Spore Youtube Channel
- Spore was #20 on Time's list of the Greatest Inventions of 2008.
- Each stage in Spore can be compared to a particular period in Earth's history. Cell stage can be compared to the late Precambrian or early Cambrian, Creature stage can be compared to the Mesozoic and Cenozoic, the Tribal stage can be compared to the Pleistocene or early Holocene, Civilization stage can be compared to the current era, and Space stage can probably be compared to the near future.
In 2009, the Spore Evolves preview revealed a new distinct game for younger players called Spore Creature Keeper. The game was to be a mixture of Sims and Spore and players may be able to take care of creatures as pets, build their houses and even play online. Other than that, it is largely unknown what the gameplay will feature, and there has been little mention of it since the preview trailer. The game was eventually canceled after an unknown period of time.
Will Wright has mentioned the possibility of an MMO sometime in the future  and Lucy Bradshaw has hinted on the possibility of a Flora Editor expansion in the future too , however, the latter is unknown and highly speculative. The MMO Will Wright was referring to may have been Darkspore. However, this is unlikely, as Darkspore is only known to have limited multiplayer (restricted to single online player matches and co-op), and is not an MMO. It is a possibility that referring to Darkspore as an MMO may have simply been a mistake on Will's part.
It was announced in October 2009 that Electronic Arts had teamed up with Twentieth Century Fox to create a Spore movie, with animation produced by the now defunct Blue Sky Studios, directed by Chris Wedge. However, the movie entered into development hell for years, with little to no information being given as to the state of the film. Due to the shutdown of Blue Sky Studios on April 7th, 2021, the Spore film was likely finally cancelled entirely, after being stuck in development hell for 12 years.
“I'm always looking for unique worlds to go to in animation, from every perspective — visually, thematically and comedically — the world of Spore provides the potential to put something truly original on the screen.”
- - Chris Wedge.
It is unknown exactly how the Spore movie would have reflected on Spore's elements of freedom, vastness, creation, and imagination.
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