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Knees shouldn't go at that angle. What's he thinking? How many mouths? I mean, surely one is enough? And what the hell is that doing there!?"

Just a few of my notes, hastily scribbled in my Big Book of Leipzig notepad. I was sitting in a small room with Maxis VP Patrick Buechner, who was walking me through his personal Spore universe.

Spore is a sight to behold: a strategy game made up of a cluster of gaming styles that take you from a protozoan swimming in a primordial soup to the commander of a spaceship, all in about eight hours.

Patrick is master of his domain. He introduces me to his amoeba, a purple blob with big cute eyes squidging across a microscopic world. There's been a lot of evolving since Spore's initial showing in PCG 151. The world is sweeter, more childlike. Edges are bevelled and shiny. It glows like a kid's toy.
The little purple creature is collecting DNA points, which is the currency you spend in order to evolve. To do so, changes need to be made: even at the cellular level there are a lot of enemies swarming around, and with each stage of evolution there's some necessary tweaking to be done. Spore exists for this tweaking; Will Wright's vision is of a virtual Play-Dough, which is now a little clearer in how it works.

When you're editing anything in the game, you're given free reign over the structure. The initial plan of just dragging out shapes and forming bodies has been tempered slightly: now there are anchor points to pull around, which is how, following Patrick's creature's swift evolution from purple blob to many footed land-crawler, we ended up with knees at an acute angle three feet behind the body and a tail somewhere near

The DNA points collected in the level are your currency: body parts cost points and they all have their relative strengths and weaknesses. The overall power of your creatures is set here, so choosing better running feet over better jumping ones, or hands over claws, sets out the strengths. At the cellular level, faster swimming bits and teeth are all that's needed.

Spore's genius in allowing any permutation of creature to move around is still there. The aforementioned knees proved no problem, even though, after an evolutionary step, they'd result in a creature that's basically foodstuff for larger predators.

Not to worry: another trip to the editor and the little purple creature emerges with more appropriate knees.

When you progress to the land, your goal is to procreate and build up your tribe. It's tough up there - you have to be like a Star Trek captain and make first contact. The odd-kneed critter walks up to other species and initiates a conversation which, luckily, doesn't resolve itself with running away.

The other creature looks like a Futurama character's worst nightmare, but responds sweetly, echoing the same trilling. A successful contact is made and, more importantly, more DNA points are gained.

As you create a village, it's necessary to spread around a little. Soon that single point of contact's trying to woo whole tribes into its extended family. Sometimes it works, sometimes there's a ruckus. A friendly encounter will lead into a bigger village, then city building.

From Will Wright's grandiose idea there's finally a game emerging, one where violence and communication are central to success. It's as much about exploration, conquering and loving as it is creating. It's a game after all. Whoo!

 

Spore  - The Story
The next evolution in gaming is upon us. From the mind of Will Wright, the creator of The Sims, comes Spore, an epic journey that takes you from the origin and evolution of life through the development of civilization and technology and eventually all the way into the deepest reaches of outer space.

Begin your odyssey at the dawn of life as a simple microbe just trying to survive, then use the fun, intuitive Editors to evolve the creature from its microscopic origins into an intelligent, tool-using race. Guide your species as it builds (and the player designs) villages, buildings, cities, and vehicles. Along the way to becoming a global civilization you can choose whether to hunt or forage, attack or trade, be nice or play rough!

All the action takes place in a huge, lush world populated with creatures evolved by other players and shared over Spore's central servers. When it's ready, your one-time pond scum launches into space in its UFO on a grand voyage of discovery, planet forming, or destruct-ion! As you explore and play in this limitless universe of unique worlds, your personal Sporepedia tracks all the creatures you've met and places you've visited.

Features:

  • Take complete control of your creature's fate as you guide it through the following six evolutionary phases:
  • Tidepool phase: Fight with other creatures and consume them to adjust the form and abilities of your creature. It's survival of the fittest at the most microscopic level.
  • Creature phase: Venture onto dry land and help your creature learn and evolve with forays away from your safe haven. Carnivore or Herbivore? Social or Independent? The choice is yours.
  • Tribal phase: Instead of controlling an individual creature, you are now caring for an entire tribe of your genetic craftwork. Give them tools and guide their interactions as you slowly upgrade their state of existence.
  • City phase: Bring your creatures' race into a new golden era by building up the technology, architecture, and infrastructure of their city.
  • Civilization phase: Once your city is established, your creatures begin seeking out and interacting with other cultures. You can have them do so with an olive branch or a war cry-either way, the goal for your creatures is to unify the planet.
  • Space phase: The time has come to move on to other worlds in your solar system. Make first-contact, colonize, or terraform, then venture further to find other solar systems scattered throughout a magnificently rendered galaxy. A 'mission' structure provides new goals and paths to follow as you begin to spread through the universe.
  • A suite of flexible, intuitive creation tools leverages the creative imagination of the player. Creating an entire universe of creatures, plants, buildings, vehicles and planets has never been so easy or so fun. An infinite variety of design choices is just the beginning.
  • The world you explore is populated with creatures, plants, buildings and vehicles developed by other gamers and downloaded from a central database. The server chooses creatures and civilizations that best match your chosen environment, your experience level, and your creature's ability. In turn, your creatures are uploaded to the server to be shared with other gamers.
  • With procedural animation, your creatures and vehicles move based on how you construct them. They behave and interact based on your input and by their in-game encounters. That means there's no pre-determined path you must follow-the game evolves based on your decisions.
  • Wonder what another gamer was thinking when they created and evolved a creature? Uncover information about each creature's origin in the Sporepedia, yet another way to explore the truly endless universe of creative expression that is Spore.


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