LOS ANGELES--Spore, the next game from famed game designer Will Wright, was one of our first stops at the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo. The game is being shown behind closed doors by Will Wright himself, who takes viewers on an interactive guided tour of some of the game's features. We've got in-depth coverage and video of this demonstration, which starts off on a small scale, with Wright controlling a single little creature, but eventually encompasses the planet, the solar system, and the entire galaxy--evidence to Spore's incredibly vast scope. Yet despite this almost overwhelming concept, this appears to be a simple and easy-to-get-into game by its nature, and nowhere was this more apparent than in the highly intuitive creature editor.
The creature editor lets you create all kinds of wildly different creatures by easily dragging and dropping parts, stretching and twisting them, and so on. You can paint your creature however you wish, give it any sort of skin texture you can think of, and take it for a little "test drive" by wandering around in a closed environment, testing its roar, and so forth. The game automatically knows how to animate your creature based on how you put it together. For example, if you give your creature four equine legs, you can logically expect it to gallop around like a horse, and indeed it will--we tested it out. Whether you give your creature two or four (or more) legs is up to you. You also add a mouth(s), eyes, arms, hands, tails, horns, and more.
This is all made simple using a fully 3D interface. Pieces logically stick together where you'd want joints to form, and depending on the types of parts you use to make your creature, its nature will be different. For example, you can create a docile plantlike creature with strong senses by means of its antennae, or you can create a brutish monstrosity with enormous apelike arms and pincers and spikes and things sticking out of it. We initially settled on something of a hybrid between the two of these. No matter how absurd we tried to make our creature, the results still looked at least vaguely interesting, if not a little disconcerting. Of course it's possible to save your creations, and one of the amazing things about Spore is that your creatures may populate other players' galaxies by means of its "pollinated content" system, which will automatically transfer player content to other players.
There's clearly a great deal of novelty to the creature editor, but how does it affect gameplay? Apparently, all the different parts available will have different ratings and costs and will only become unlocked as the player gradually advances through the creature game. So don't expect to be able to make a huge gorilla/T. rex hybrid right off the bat. In fact, it sounds like the creature editor itself may first need to be unlocked. Creatures are ultimately rated on what appear to be three primary stats: power, speed, and stealth. The different parts will affect these statistics and will also have different costs, forcing the player to make some tough choices in balancing the creature out. Then, you can just plop your critters into an existing ecosystem and watch the fur (or scales, or...) fly.
The creature editor does appear to have a few limitations, such as how it doesn't seem possible to make flying creatures, and creatures' gender doesn't seem to be clearly defined--oh, but don't you worry, the creatures do mate. But let's just say it isn't apparent as to which one wears the pants in the family.
During the demonstration, Will Wright noted that "pretty much everything that's in this game, there's an editor for." Today we got a chance to dabble with the creature editor for an eye-opening 15 minutes or so, but knowing that the game will also let us have similar control over buildings, cities, trees, vehicles, and even planets makes us anxious to see even more of what this game has to offer. Spore is scheduled for release in 2007. Look for GameSpot's full coverage of it from the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo.