Darkspore germinating at Comic-Con

Comic-Con 2010: Maxis crew spills the details on key game aspects of its sci-fi action-RPG follow-up to Spore.

Who was there: Maxis lead producer Thomas Vu, along with Michael Arsers, Paul Sottosanti, Lauren McHugh, Luke Harrington, and Casey Weaver.

What they talked about: The trio of lead developers was on hand to properly unveil Darkspore. EA had debuted the action-role-playing game at its studio showcase earlier this week, but the hour-long Comic-Con panel was the publisher's first chance to show its latest effort to the gaming public and go into the project in depth.

A plasma sentinel is pretty intimidating, even in its base form.

Vu began the presentation by explaining where the idea for the game came from. "Ultimately what we wanted to do was make cool characters with the Spore creator and beat each other in the face," Vu said.

The basic gameplay is a sci-fi action role-playing game, but players will have to focus on acquiring a stable of new creatures and then implementing squad-based tactics in the way they use them. As in other action RPGs, boss battles, loot collection, and co-op play will also play a role.

Carrington, whose previous experience at Wizards of the Coast had him designing Magic: The Gathering features, explained how he looked to the collectible card game's color system as a way to balance creature types in Darkspore. He accomplished that by implementing five different genesis types of monsters: bio, necro, plasma, cyber, and quantum. Each type has its own color and visual effects so players can tell at a glance what type an enemy creature is.

He also went into some of the abilities of each monster type. Bio specializes in healing, poisoning, and growing stronger. Plasma uses energy and lightning attacks, while necro deals in the supernatural and undeath, with an emphasis on attacks that damage over time. Cyber monsters have homing attacks and area-of-effect attacks, as well as the ability to lay traps. Quantum monsters are teleporting specialists with the ability to "blink" around the battlefield quickly.

There are also three hero classes: ravager, sentinel, and tempest. They likewise have their own specialties, with sentinels acting like "tank" characters in other games and tempests akin to mages who specialize in projectile attacks. Each hero class also has its own abilities; for instance, the plasma sentinel bears both lightning and plasma attacks that do burning and shocking damage to enemies. In some recorded demo footage, the devs showed that the plasma sentinel also has extra powers, such as a meteor strike that calls in a hailstorm of rocks at the player's command and a plasma shield that burns any foes within a certain range.

Players will also be able to switch on the fly to other members of their squad. The video showed the player switching to a quantum ravager and then to a bio tempest. Even if a member of the squad isn't actively being played, one of its abilities can still be used by the active creature, allowing players to mix and match teams to find the best combination of powers.

As for enemies, the developers have created a handful of tiers for foes. Minions have a single special ability and typically seek to overwhelm with numbers, while lieutenants are a bit beefier, have multiple abilities, and can often buff minions or otherwise make them more effective. The remaining types are agents and bosses, with the latter often summoning the lesser enemies for assistance in combat.

The game will play by a set of rules to determine which enemies to throw at the player and when--an AI director of sorts. The developers showed off a few different approaches to the same sequence, where a player's subsequent trips to the same areas result in harder enemies. The goal is so that players never play the same section the same way twice.

That same variety is a point of emphasis for the worlds of Darkspore. The team showed off concept art and in-game screens of a few different areas. Two specific areas shown off in detail were a planet of eternal darkness, Nocturna, and Zelem's Nexus, a drifting collection of space hulks, asteroids, and other debris. Each planet will have a story behind it, and the environmental objects will be unique to that area.

The loot system was given special attention in the panel. Sottosanti showed off a plasma sentinel at three different stages of play with three different sets of stats to demonstrate how distinct characters could be made. The final iteration of the plasma sentinel was nearly unrecognizable as the same character.

All of the standard loot will work with a "suffix" system that actually is indicated by a prefix. Each basic item will boost a stat, while "rarified" and "purified" versions will not only increase that boost, but will also add a second stat boost at random. In addition, there will be unique weapons that the developers specifically tune with a certain combination of stat effects.

While the creature editor is based off of that introduced in Spore, it has of course been altered for use in a sci-fi action RPG. Instead of starting from scratch, players will work from a hero's "base shape." Creatures will have a handful of slots into which players can equip their stat-altering items, and there are also another six "flare" slots that are there simply to let players customize the look of their creatures. Once they get that equipment, players will be able to rotate, scale, and otherwise adjust the accoutrements to their liking before sticking them on the character.

The panel didn't go into the cooperative modes in depth, but it did drop a tidbit of info on the single-player mode. The game's campaign will incorporate a risk-versus-reward mechanic, where players who beat the level are given the choice to "cash out" and take a reward or continue on and face a harder challenge for more and better loot. Of course, if they don't complete that challenge, the original reward loot is lost.

Quote/takeaway: "This is not a sequel to Spore. It's not an expansion pack. It's a brand-new game."--Thomas Vu

[Editor's Note: GameSpot had previously stated that BioWare was providing writing assistance for the game; however, the team has actually brought on writer Malcom Azania, who previously worked on Mass Effect 2, to be part of the Maxis team full-time. GameSpot regrets the error.]

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32 comments
SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

If it's an all new game, why does it need the Spore name then? Just saying that you can proclaim it's originality all you want Mr Vu, but then when you slap another well known name on something, be prepared for criticism.

ThePurpleBubble
ThePurpleBubble

@Rivenearth Not EA, exactly - Bioware. Considering this is an action-RPG, Bioware's assistance would turn this from an awesome game into a game of raw epicness. It really does look great - the loot-crazed gameplay of an action-RPG fuzed with the character advancement of Spore? Count me in.

DiscGuru101
DiscGuru101

p.s. The screen shots look confusing...

Rivenearth
Rivenearth

Spore was and still is a good game if you take it for what it is. Just like Sims before it, it started with an idea of building rather than an actual game. This looks like it takes the tools and base from Spore, changes the mood, and resets it for an entirely different feel. It looks more like they made it as a game and not exactly a showcase for their wonderful creation system. Keep it up Maxis (Screw off EA.)

gimlifn
gimlifn

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

albert2006xp
albert2006xp

I was very excited about this game until i saw that characters will have a "base shape" :( so you can't create everything you want.They probably did this because of the millions of idiots who would only create penises >.>

jumpy46
jumpy46

I won't pre-order this, but I will be watching it and waiting for a review.

hellgothx145
hellgothx145

yes, now i can make a darker and more sinister cute little creature to take over the galaxy muhahahahahahaha! XD

Toysoldier34
Toysoldier34

So is this an RPG that plays similar to MMORPGs that uses the creature creator from spore? Maybe.

lightwarrior179
lightwarrior179

Not really sure how this one will be turning out until we see more of the action-RPG gameplay.Seems more like a forced idea to me at the moment.

strayfies
strayfies

This might actually be worth a glance. Though, as it bears the Spore name, I'll be looking before buying this time.

parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

Though, I'm glad EA's showing PC users some love.

parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

@Gladestone1 Because it's essentially Diablo with lab mutants. I'm not saying it can't be fun, that part I'll wait to see about (and like any other game, I hope it turns out well). It's just non-gameplay bits just seem incredibly lame. [URL=http://www.darkspore.com/overview.php]What we have now[/URL] essentially amounts to the magical world of "E-DNA". It's like a fantasy game under the guise of a pseudo-Sci-Fi setting. It would have been much cooler just to take the Sci-Fi route, and have players make their own alien races that don't use genetic magic of some kind (but technology instead), or just go with a fantasy setting, and then it would make sense to have people calling down meteor showers and so on. Instead, we have space monsters made out of "E-DNA", created by the "Crogenitors". And you play as some rebel trying to fight their... I don't know... Genetic influence or something. I can definitely see myself buying this though, if it turns out to be a stupidly fun game. Nothing wrong with those, as long as I can have a good time with it.

TJORLY
TJORLY

Looks pretty good. I'll definitely give it a try.

DanGleeSack
DanGleeSack

il look out for it, looks like it could be fun

tmax4
tmax4

Agreed, this is essentially a new ip, which seems rare these days in the games industry.

golgo28
golgo28

i have to say i am intreaged by this game.

psx_warrior
psx_warrior

I loved Spore. Guess I'm one of the five people that really liked it. I'm looking forward to this game.

frerich
frerich

Seeing that they are geting some help from BioWare, and that they have a set goal in mind as opposed to Spore's "SimEverything" approch, I'm a little more positive about this game than I was before. Only time will tell though.

KaBo0m
KaBo0m

im still confused why they even want "spore" in the game after all the hate that game got

Seto_Akari
Seto_Akari

I think it will be good with the help from Bioware.

Gladestone1
Gladestone1

@parrot of adun How does this look dumb..Looks better than spore..Well so far any how..Just dont trust lucy bradshaw..She is the one who had her hands on spore an simcity societies..Thats the only thing that could kill this game.. Im following this than see what the reviews say at least im interestedl..For years people cried that ea didnt try out new ips..Here we are they are adding some thing new to the table.Least there trying to make new games..Few of there games have panned out some like spore havent..Its a action rpg ill give it a shot..Since there is nothing new in this genre until diablo 3 comes along..Action rpgs have been stale of late no originality..Least it looks original..

SoundsBien
SoundsBien

I agreed with some of the comments that this didn't look great. But once they said that they had help from Bioware I started to get excited. Maxis customization with Bioware epicness? sounds amazing!

korol_i_shut
korol_i_shut

i'll keep my eyes on this one, i'm guarded though, it will need high player reviews for me to get it after paying for spore

tmax4
tmax4

Glad they are finally using that tech to make a game. This is looking great!

parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

I , as though DNA is unique to artificially engineered beings).

AirWolfe591
AirWolfe591

I'm gonna continue to watch as this goes on, it seems cool, but I was hoping to create my own hero creatures to use in battle instead of premade ones. I'm hoping that they have enough variety in the loot models and that they try and do a randomized loot dropping system, sort of like Borderlands.

soulfulDAGGER
soulfulDAGGER

Spore is a great game. Can't wait for this one!