D.I.C.E. 07: Spore is not all Wright

Will Wright brings his team of designers to talk about the challenges of making a complex game simple, letting users feel smart, and Care Bears fighting Klingons.

LAS VEGAS--Conceptualizing a complicated game is simple. Just ask Maxis' Will Wright. The mind behind the upcoming PC game Spore has oodles of ideas on how to make a game deep, layered, and complex. However, translating those ideas into actual gameplay is a whole other task.

But if that were all there is to making a game as rich as Spore, there would be thousands of Will Wrights and thousands of Spores, Sims, and Sim Citys.

Spore: eight games in one.

The real trick, Wright explained, is making a complex game easy to play. This was the subject of Will Wright's presentation at the D.I.C.E. Summit this afternoon in Las Vegas, which was given to a packed house in the Green Valley Ranch's Grand Ballroom.

Wright was accompanied by four main components of the Spore team and about two million slides, which served to both inform and entertain. The four team members--Ocean Quigley, Chaim Gingold, Jenna Chalmers, and Alex Hutchinson--gave the vast majority of the presentation, each describing their experience with their roles in development.

It was an unusual sight to see Wright not alone in the spotlight, but it was also very telling. While Wright is the lead designer of the game, the multiple facets of the game that make up Spore are overseen by Quigley, Gingold, Chalmers, and Hutchinson. And with the frequent reference to "toys" and friendly ribbing, it was almost like watching Santa Claus moderate his elves.

Wright sat at a computer on the right side of the stage, controlling the breakneck speed of the slides whirring by on a large screen on the back of the stage, while his four coworkers sat in folding chairs in the center of the stage, each taking turns talking.

A brief introduction by Wright revealed that creating Spore was not a simple straight line. Developing what Wright had in mind for the game called on a flood of ideas and approaches. In fact, only about 10 percent of the ideas that were seriously considered for the game will actually end up in the final version.

Quigley and his flock of fantastic, yet believable, creatures.

Quigley led off by talking about creating the game's creatures, textures, buildings, vehicles, planets, and objects. Because the game's content is created by users, assembling the building blocks of what will later become creatures is more than a simple process of taking concept art and blowing it out into a 3D model.

"In this game we have to make the parts so that the players can make stuff, and we have to make the systems to give them an illusion of competence," Quigley said without a hint of sarcasm. He also had the difficult problem of making believable, yet fantastic, creatures look and move correctly.

The same problems applied to the buildings, vehicles, and planets--each made with a library of deforming parts. But in the end, it was the desire to make a game that wasn't limited that drove the group.

After a slide came up showing an X-Wing from Star Wars, Wright said that they can't ship the game with Star Trek's Enterprise in it, but they want the user to be able to build it.

"It's pretty satisfying to fly around in your X-Wing and blow up The Enterprise," said Quigley.

"You can have an interstellar war between the Care Bears and the Klingons," said Wright, to a chorus of laughter.

Spore: the happiest place on Earth.

Gingold, a former intern of Wright's, spoke next about his involvement with the object editors in Spore. Much of the design of the editors was done by reverse-engineering toys. He asked himself what made these toys fun and how that could be incorporated into user-friendly editors.

Several prototype editors were created for the game, and at their core they took care of one task--attaching limbs to bodies, texturing skins, and so forth. But they all had one thing in common; they all had to be incredibly user-friendly, yet retain the complexity the designers intended.

When testing the editors, Gingold lived by the mantra "If you don't notice that it sucks, then it must be good."

Chalmers was up next, talking about the outer-space portion of the game, which Wright says is "where the game really opens up." He wasn't joking.

Several slides showed almost an endless number of ideas for the space portion of the game, including colonization, combat, worship, missions, and more, all of which were referred to as "metagames." Each game appears as though it could be an individual game itself, and Chalmers' ideas could be summed up in one word: ambitious.

Chalmers simplified space travel and space relations.

Her portion was an inside peek into how a game was structured, from beginning to end. She started with asking her team what they would want to do if they could go into space (among the answers: blow s*** up, abduct, leave your mark) and then went about fleshing out each option to near ridiculous proportions, all wonderfully illustrated with flowcharts on slides.

However, the lesson learned was that too much open-endedness can be a bad thing and that sometimes some favorite ideas have to get the axe in order to make the overall game that much better.

Last up was Hutchinson, who lead the design of Spore's overall gameplay. "We challenged one of the core rules of game design: Don't mix genres."

But that's exactly where Hutchinson sees Spore at its strongest. When gamers go from the cellular level to the creature level to the tribal level and onward to outer-space exploration, it's aimed to give gamers the feeling of the power of 10 by pulling their perspective further and further out.

This slide just about sums it up...sort of.

"Games usually succeed by saying once you learn something, it sticks. You stick with this piece of information...we're going to add more information to that," said Hutchinson. "Whereas we're saying, 'Yeah 50 percent of what you learned sticks; the other 50 you don't need to worry about [as you progress].'"

After countless slides and enough information to change one's hat size, Wright closed up the presentation with, "There is a trend of games to be less complicated...which is almost at odds with this game. But I think there's a balance you can achieve [between deep games and pick-up-and-play games], but it takes a lot of exploration."

[For a different take on D.I.C.E. 2007, take a look at the GameSpot News Blog, containing interviews with Myst Online's Rand Miller and Lord British himself, NCsoft exec producer Richard Garriott.]

Written By

Want the latest news about Spore Creatures?

Spore Creatures

Spore Creatures

Follow

Discussion

281 comments
azone12
azone12

i wonder if you can make simpsons

dillsmckay
dillsmckay

second half 2007, yes, the last option is a terrain editor. there is also a fauna editor, ufo editor, creature editor, building editor and vehicle editor

Kyokask
Kyokask

This game looks awesome i cant wait to create a race of giant half ant half chicken creatures

ValiantDarkness
ValiantDarkness

This game looks like, from all that I have seen, that it's going to be great. This not giving an exact release date is killing me though. I'm hoping it's this year...But sometimes the greatest games need more time.

Villerainamo
Villerainamo

If this game wont have massive scale space combat and interstellar war, I dont think that it can grab my interest longer than a week or two.

cliffo1992
cliffo1992

I can make one of my fantasy worlds! Yay! I wonder if they'll make it possible to design the actual world, like put your own mountains, lakes, rivers, etc in. we r not sure wat the last editor is, the landscape or sumthing

Kirvee
Kirvee

I can make one of my fantasy worlds! Yay! I wonder if they'll make it possible to design the actual world, like put your own mountains, lakes, rivers, etc in. That'd be cool. *wonders briefly if she could intern with a game designer*

LinKuei_warrior
LinKuei_warrior

this sounds cool.starting a race of creatures i create,build their society,then when i feel like it...i can go to war with another planet or something!itll be like futurama;ill declare war on the Giant b@lls

Talnar85
Talnar85

I agree with LoweSox I would also love to hear more on the topic than whats here in this article.

LoweSox
LoweSox

Are there transcripts or videos of these presentations anywhere? There was a complete lack of substance in this news piece, GameSpot. I know I'm not the only one who cares just as much (if not more) about game making than about games. I'd like to hear more about all this "information," and see a few of these "2 million" slides.

The_AI
The_AI

'Watch Spore totally bomb lol' I'm contemplating quoting that in my sig for future ownage.

dimos222
dimos222

I really expect much from this game... I hope it is as good as it it seems !

desolation00
desolation00

I agree with PenguinIzzy and some of the other folks who've posted here. This reminds me alot of Peter Molyneaux's work with games like Black and White. Very ambitious design that may be dissapointing when it comes out, just because it isn't everything everyone imagined. Thankfully, Wright has a history of providing very fun games from his ambitious early designs. I won't be buying this game the moment it comes out, for the fact that it is such a high-risk of being only good instead of ground-breaking. Here's hoping...

Floms
Floms

i dont like that name for a game but sound preety good

Damien225
Damien225

no, no, no, I don't want to be the one to say this... ok, fine... AN X-WING COULDN'T BLOW UP THE ENTERPRISE P.S., Spore looks OK

Shinobuno_da
Shinobuno_da

Sounds good. I'm thinking of upgrade for my PC.

PiMacleod_basic
PiMacleod_basic

...this is going to be amazing. The 36 minute video was great and was one of the biggest reasons I'm buying a new computer in about a month... ...i should say 'building the computer myself'. That's more accurate.

The_AI
The_AI

Fnustle You aren't playing this game? Your loss. At this point, there's not a snowball's chance in hell that this game will suck. If it does, I'll never buy any of Will's games again. This game is pretty much going to shut all you naysayers up!

theKSMM
theKSMM

Will Wright is a genius, and it sounds like he has other geniuses on his team with him. Developers should be paying Wright to tap his brain and teach him the elements of design that create compelling games which are easy-to-play.

makemeweak
makemeweak

I'm going to create a civilization of worms. Or worms with monkey arms. Whatever.

MM-07
MM-07

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

Dilley122
Dilley122

MY GOD MAN GEARS OF WAR WAS EXCELLENT DIDNT LIVE UP TO THE HYPE? OMG this game is going to be great AND GEARS OF WAR WAS AWSOME

BassOfSpades93
BassOfSpades93

This is pretty cool. I doubted they'd release any information of epic proportions here (water creatures in or out?), but I liked seeing the people behind Spore. I'm off to the Spore forums here. Let's see what they've got to say.

iron_zealot7531
iron_zealot7531

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Dill-Man
Dill-Man

hehe people are so afraid of hype i have a feeling this game is going to be awesome though, unlike *cough* gears of war, it might live up to the hype

kuldain
kuldain

I think this game sounds awesome. The fact that you can make anything you can think of come to life (barring a few explict things like anatomy I bet) is impressive. I definitely want to see what they have planned for the DS too, maybe sending in or downloading creatures/structures via wi-fi?

WmRedwine
WmRedwine

it blows my mind to see how many people think this game will be bad. There is no telling whether or not any one person will like or dislike the game, but the QUALITY of the game should be way up there. I get giddy every time I think about this game. It's like LEGOs or Play-Doh that comes to life after you've put it together! How can you not be excited about that?

Namicar88
Namicar88

If you guys go into the forums for this game you will see alot of ppl have thought out everything. If this game is a let down then there will be a riot demanding will's head on a pike because they have been working on this game for about 6 years.

paleo_dragon
paleo_dragon

THIS WILL BE THE BEST GAME EVER MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Valaggar
Valaggar

You're all a bit strange about system requirements. It's not SO complex, and, with a good engine... think about Supreme Commander. And... I'm feeling that they're dropping too much features. Perhaps they save them for expansions.

thenear1send
thenear1send

I agree with you cherrybomb257, Im getting an odd feeling this game isnt going to be anything like i imaged it last year when it was presented...

crimped
crimped

I am looking forward to this game. I hope it lives up to the hype and it don't require you to have 2Gb of RAM to run it smoothly.

cherrybomb257
cherrybomb257

I have a strong feeling this will be a letdown.

PenguinIzzy
PenguinIzzy

Remember when Peter Molyneux was promising back 4 years ago that the game Black & White was going to change everything? And when it didn't, gamers wanted Molyneux's head on a platter. Well, I do believe in Will Wright. Sure, the game is ambitious, but I think it will be fun and entertaining enough even if it doesn't meet all of its goals (which it simply won't because of the limitation in technology.)

ebgamesnake112
ebgamesnake112

I must admit, i'm buying a new computer just to play this game. i mean i need one anyways, but it's a deffinate plus to be able to play this game.

aoi23
aoi23

I'm very interested in this game, but I'm worried that it's trying to do too much and might flop. Hope I'm wrong.

BrokenRemains
BrokenRemains

i think this game is going to be out in may or june because it says Q2 2007 quarter 2 2007 if u didn't know what that meant

callie789456
callie789456

I think i have one of the best questions ever... WHAT WILL THE TECH SPECS BE ABOUT? WINDOWS VISTA? 3.0GHZ OR HIGHER? 70,000gb REQUIRED? I NEED TA KNOW! XD

Alcotamaysees
Alcotamaysees

With all the things this game looks to do, it's feels really weird knowing it's coming out in a matter of months.

Miracle_Air
Miracle_Air

Anyone else think that Will Wright kinda looks like that serial killer Craig from Reno 911? Just randomly posting my thoughts...

AFWorm
AFWorm

Very interesting. Maybe a new genre? We'll see...

Foppe
Foppe

I will make my creatures look like Enterprise, and they will travel in a big Picard vehicle.

LessThanMike
LessThanMike

That slide was the most confusing thing i've ever seen....it gave me a headache

anarchicgoth
anarchicgoth

this game should be cool Wright makes good games- then again i hope its not all hype