GC '07: Spore Impressions

We meet with EA behind closed doors to check out a playable version of Will Wright's evolutionary life-form simulation game.

by

LEIPZIG, Germany--Earlier today during a meeting with Electronic Arts, we had an opportunity to sit in on a 30-minute presentation of Spore. Currently scheduled for release in the Spring of 2008, the life-simulation game from The Sims creator Will Wright is purportedly already far enough along in development that it can be played from start to finish. If you've been keeping up to date with Spore since it was announced in 2005, you'll know that the game is divided up into five distinct levels. In case you're not familiar with them, here's a quick rundown of what you'll be doing in each level:

Level 1: The "Cell" portion of Spore will see you assuming the role of a single-celled organism for around 30 minutes. Your goal will simply be to swim around and eat other organisms and, in doing so, enhance your DNA.

Level 2: The "Creature" phase will see you crawling out of the water onto land for the first time. When you get there you'll need to evolve your creature through either aggressive or social interactions with other creatures, through eating various meats and fruits, and using the game's powerful creature design tools.

Level 3: After getting the population of your new species to a certain size you'll enter the "Tribe" phase of the game, which takes the form of a somewhat simplistic real-time strategy game. As a tribe, your main goal will simply be to grow, which you can achieve through procreation or by recruiting creatures from other tribes by befriending or going to war with them.

Level 4: Once your tribe reaches a certain size--the required population appeared to be 15 in the version of the game we were shown--you'll enter the "Civilization" level. Although your creatures can no longer evolve at this point, you'll have the freedom to design buildings, vehicles, and such using tools similar to those with which you designed your creature. Interactions with other groups of creatures will become more complex at this stage, since you'll gain access to strategies such as diplomacy and cultural conversion.

Level 5: "Space" is the final frontier as far as Spore is concerned, and after winning the evolutionary race on your start planet, it'll be time to take to the stars in search of new ones to colonize or conquer. Along the way you'll encounter other species every bit as advanced as your own, and you'll have the option to trade with them, go to war with them, or simply do your best to ignore them.

Today's presentation focused on levels 2 and 3, so the first thing we got to see was a number of organisms identical to the player's crawling onto the land. The brief, in-engine cutscene that followed showed a pair of the organisms mating and then, when an egg appeared on the ground just a few moments later, we got to see the creature editor in action. The creature editor is a deceptively powerful tool that you'll use to determine the path of your species' evolution.

The abomination of nature that we saw created from scratch started out with a spine that the player was able to pull into just about any shape imaginable just by grabbing different parts of it with the mouse and pulling them around. The body of flesh surrounding the spine appeared to be every bit as easy to manipulate as the skeleton beneath, turning from skinny into bulbous and back again in seconds. Next, limbs were added. You'll have the freedom to add as many arms and legs to the body you've created as you see fit (within reason), and each of them can be manipulated in the same way as the body. Legs can be inverted, arms can be extended so that they drag along the ground--you really can do just about anything you want to them. Some of your creations might end up looking less than feasible, but Spore's own Mother Nature will animate them convincingly regardless. That's a bold claim, and it's not one that we heard from EA--it's based purely on what we saw for ourselves today.

What else did we see? The creature created during our presentation had four legs, two of which were inverted. It had two arms, it had spikes on its knees, its eyes were on what we would've assumed was the chest, and its mouth (beak, actually) was positioned high above its torso at the end of a long neck. In short, it looked like nothing we've ever seen before, but as our presentation progressed we got to see the ungodly creation walk, run, dance, sing, fight, and even re-enact a famous scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey by tossing a piece of wood up into the air in slow motion while orchestral music played in the background.

The gameplay in level two will see you assuming the role of a lone creature on a planet inhabited by up to 15 other species--all of which will have been created by other players, even though Spore doesn't feature multiplayer support per se. When encountering new creatures you'll want to interact with them so that you can earn DNA points and unlock new body parts to spend them on. Initially, your only option for befriending other creatures will be to sing to them, but as you evolve you'll learn to dance and make gestures such as waving. Your combat abilities will also be very limited initially and, as you might expect, the moves available to you will be determined in part by factors such as how many limbs you've given your creature. As you add new parts to your creature you'll find that many of them either afford you new abilities or enhance existing ones.

Another very important part of your creature's design, at least from an aesthetic point of view, will be its coloration. We didn't get to see the coloring tools in action for very long, but it's clear that will be large number of different colors, markings and patterns to choose from. Furthermore, you'll be able to layer different visual effects on top of each other to create a unique look, and we noticed later in the game that when tribes appoint an alpha male, said creature invariably becomes bigger than the rest of the group and exhibits much more vibrant coloring.

One of the most important abilities you'll learn as you walk around the planet on your own is the mating call, which can be used to locate or attract potential partners for procreation. You'll also learn to make friends with other creatures form different species, and if they agree to join your "posse" when you invite them to, they'll follow you around and do their best to help you out the next time you're in combat or attempting to impress another creature. To get a friend into your posse you'll first need to impress three members of its species, and when you get three friends in your posse you'll progress to level three.

As we mentioned earlier, the "Tribe" stage of your evolution will take the form of a somewhat simplistic real-time strategy game. You'll have a base, you'll send creatures out to obtain supplies--by foraging for fruit, hunting, or fishing--and you'll inevitably have to interact with other tribes at some point. During our presentation we watched one tribe try to befriend another by taking them gifts of food. That didn't work out on this occasion, so we then got to see a battle between two tribes, which was resolved when the attacking tribe managed to destroy the defenders' main hut. Any enemies that hadn't already been killed surrendered and joined the attacking tribe at that point, more than making up for the warriors who had fallen in the conflict.

By growing your tribe and stockpiling food you'll gain access to more advanced weapons, tools, and structures. Primitive clubs will become axes, for example, and one of the first buildings that we saw added to the tribe's camp as they evolved was a healing tent. Another neat feature that we saw in action during the tribe level was the option to create different outfits for your creatures that they'll wear when performing certain actions. Garments such as helmets and loincloths didn't appear to afford the creatures wearing them any attribute bonuses or anything, but when combined with the costume-like warpaint option, they certainly made it easy to tell which creatures were doing what.

When the tribe was 15-strong (our presenter was cheating to speed up the process quite considerably), level three came to an end. Before leaving the presentation room we were treated to a brief look at level four, "Civilization." You'll get to design buildings and land, sea, and air vehicles using tools very similar to those that are used for creatures. We saw a building that looked like some kind of monument, we saw futuristic-looking buggies, and we even saw a small squadron of military aircraft approaching what was presumably an enemy settlement. It could hardly have been further removed from the lone exploration of an island inhabited by colorful creatures that we'd witnessed earlier, and when the presentation came to an end it was hard not to be impressed by the scope and sheer scale of Will Wright's vision.

After being told that we'd get to play Spore for ourselves today it was, of course, more than a little disappointing to sit through a presentation instead. Spore still ranks as one of the highlights of day one at the 2007 Leipzig Games Convention, though, and we really can't wait to bring you more information just as soon as it becomes available.

Discussion

196 comments
7121984
7121984

Wow... this game's gonna take ALL of your time!

seansoutar
seansoutar

I've been waiting for this game for over a year now. I just want to say that if its bad I'm going to be reall really angry.

SirAnthmanard
SirAnthmanard

I have been waiting for this game forever.... if it turns out to be a crappy game im gonna be pissed

athenian29
athenian29

Looks good. I gotta check this out sometime.

Adversary16
Adversary16

I hope it'll be as great as it is now when it comes out! I mean, they did remove some cool features.

HadrianII
HadrianII

does anyone know where i can a video of the spore demo from GC '07. They have of E3 '06 but only a stripped down one of GC '07 that wasn't made by gamespot. you can tell because it has german subtitles.

demi_veritaz
demi_veritaz

This looks worthwhile. If it ends up balanced and a good play, I will probably get it. Online play could be interesting, if they decide to go in that direction as well. I doubt they will, though.

eater445
eater445

if only they could tell us the system req.

PETERAKO
PETERAKO

some info now to those who are compelitely ignorant. over 500.000 systems with a total of 4 or less planets each. and the best part: 79 years of non stop gameplay. easily the biggest game ever.

PETERAKO
PETERAKO

the game requirements won't be as high as you think people. as for the creature i got in mind, it will definetly some thing epic.

thewarggoath
thewarggoath

Spring 2008?? I must upgrade my comp really...If they actually succes making this the ultimate god game then my days will be spent...In Spore! And yes, I will be making those Hell creatures killing everyone on their path :D

TheGreatGameGod
TheGreatGameGod

thank god that i got the Quad Core... all i need to upgrade is the GFX Card and more RAM Vista is better guys....and even better when its x64.... only x64 can take full advantage of 4 GB RAM read this article about x64 64-bit: More than just the RAM Don't forget to read all the pages if you have time so i think my crappy days are gonna go after a month cauz by then i'll have a good gaming pc.....because i've ordered the CM S1 CPU cooling.....so when i get that i just have to enable the DOT of my motherboard and then its gonna auto Over Clock the CPU and the GPU hehe right now i'm running : Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600, MSI P35 Platinum Combo, 2 x 1 GB Transend 800fsb RAM, 2 x 250 GB Seagate HDD, MSI 7600 GT OC Edition 256 DDR3, 19' Wide LCD TFT With 2ms ViewSonic, Lite On DVD-RW x20, Wire Less Keyboard and Mouse, Windows Vista Ultimate x64, CM Stacker 830 Black only 2 fans right now and after few days its gonna be : Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 ( over clocked to 2.8 + ), CM S1 Liquid CPU Cooling, MSI P35 Platinum Combo ( DOT Enabled), 4 x 1 GB Transend 800fsb RAM, 3 x 250 GB Seagate HDD, MSI NX8800 GTX Ultra OC Edition 768 DDR3, 19' Wide LCD TFT With 2ms ViewSonic, Lite On DVD-RW x20, Wire Less Keyboard and Mouse, Windows Vista Ultimate x64, CM Stacker 830 Black With 7 Fans so i think i can say that i finally have a good gaming pc

martin95
martin95

l love what l've seen on this game and the creature editer looks awsome! l cannot wait till this game comes out l hope that you can make all sorts of creatures small, big,tall ,insect like ,flying,ugly sorta look and death like it should be very fun then.Well thats what l think atleast.

mabele
mabele

I think it looks awesome, i have been nearly everywhere i could read some thing new about it. i think it could be cool if it was possible to make flying creatures, but it will unbalance the game, i think.

mysteriousminds
mysteriousminds

this would be awesome but only cause if i actually got it everyone would be making species of cute little green things with yellow spots and 4 eyes and i would make a race of 20 story high black death creatures from the gates of hell that start destroying any creatures that come close to them by wreaking devastation upon their cities with their massive dagger tipped fingers and eating their internal organs before spitting their barley alive bodies into the vacuum of space MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA >=] pity it will be rated pg or something...

NuZZ01
NuZZ01

Graphics are pretty decent... Must say. If it uses DX10 which is a bit unlikely then that will be even better. But yes, they are not **** They just look a bit weird because we have old 2 year pics, some recent, but still in game everything looks alot better.

Kaldoran
Kaldoran

The way they keep moving the dates, I'd put $20 on seeing Duke Nukem Forever before Spore.

matok30
matok30

WOW - the new pictures looks realy nice - the graphics are brushed, soften and it looks realy cute. I can only think of maybe more variation within the species - they don't all have to have the exact same size either as they grow or as adults and their blue or red dots or stripes or whatever (their species make-over) could maybe variate just slightly - sort of giving each of them a bit of individuality. Maybe one could differientiate between the creatures sexes. What about domestication and harvesting of less developed animals besides agriculture and some funny wild life running about. Put in some unexpected natural disasters or another invironmental impact that the creatures have to accommodate into in an evolutionary sense and I realy could not think of a more worthy game. Anyway, I am now sure that at least the sequel will be almost perfect. I cannot wait to try this game out.

kickyourq
kickyourq

omfg i want this game so baddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd~~~~~~~~~~~~~!

Kerm1122
Kerm1122

I agree grapics arent everything, besides we dont all have 6000$ computers

runejedi
runejedi

lol grapchics wow is geforce 5700 recommended and 9 million play that , if the gameplay's good the graphics mean nothing.

Edcase
Edcase

Everyone keeps saying about the graphics not being so good, but from what ive read about the game i think the strong game play and immence fun people can have from building there own creature, buildings, vehicles, spaceships and relations with other species will be enough so that the graphics are forgotten about while your playing.

Bczican015
Bczican015

If its from will wright. Its probobly revolutionary and extremely fun. Based on the revolutionary games hes done in the past. Ill keep my eye on it.

dark-zazo
dark-zazo

I'm sure that Spore is going to be more successful than all other sim games. Nevertheless if they don’t improve on the graphics quality I’m afraid that this game wont be as good as we hope it will.

stefan90
stefan90

nice i hope soo that u can run this game on week compiuter!

matok30
matok30

a brilliant idea - but what will come out of it might be a flop - a strange combination of natural evolution and intelligent (or less intelligent) design - it could work if combined with a degree of funtionality and an environmental factor that the creatures have to respond to and why not differientiate the worlds, their size, atmosphere and geological make-up - yes, why not have creatures who live under water or under the ground. I still think the graphics looks horrible, horrible, horrible - i am hoping for a positive surprice when they release new pictures - it is about time.

greater_bird
greater_bird

My only concern about this game is that expectations will be so high they'll be impossible to meet... Otherwise I love the concept and can't wait to get a chance to design my own weirdo creatures, and see what happens to them throughout their evolution.

oreille
oreille

If I had a computer good enough, I would definitely be buying this game. So sad....

FlaminUmpalumpa
FlaminUmpalumpa

Xuljester, EA having a hand in it all shouldn't be troubling. EA knows what Will Wright is capable of doing, so they won't interfere. And I have never played a game that Will made that was a bug fest. You also can't choose to buy a game or not based on a beta. Because beta's are almost always a bug fest.

Xuljester
Xuljester

The game sounds awesome, but the mention of EA having a hand in it all is still troubling. We won't be mucking through a bugfest, will we? Are we going to end up with 5 $50 expansions and 10 $25 boosters? I can't wait to play this, but I don't think I'm going to put down a good $50 on something that may or may not work on my computer as it should. Give me a demo that installs and plays and requires everything the full game ought to, that way I can properly determine how it'll work on my computer, rather than a tuned down demo with a timelimit or something such.

nickythenewt21
nickythenewt21

I'm so getting this game. Especially sense you can recreate that 2001 scene!

Questlove711
Questlove711

This game looks worth it just to create your own monsters alone.

martin95
martin95

l really like this game its got good sound and graph i think and the monsters things u can make look extremely cool!

Fable_Lord
Fable_Lord

i really want to play this game asap :D i think this game will be verry good, but the sale of this game will not be so big like the sims franchise.

705H1R0
705H1R0

Yes, it's like the sims in that it's a simulation of life. The similarities end there. Oh, and it's designed by the same guy. Speaking of which, Will Wright is a genious and there's NO WAY this game will flop. You can take that to the bank.

PackersRock
PackersRock

Please don't flop, Please don't flop, Please don't flop, Please don't flop, Please don't flop, Please don't flop, Please don't flop, Please don't flop, Please don't flop, Please don't flop, Please don't flop, Please don't flop, Please don't flop, Please don't flop, Please don't flop, Please don't flop. That's all I have to say about this game. I really want it to be as mindblowing as it sounds.

madmoose7
madmoose7

When i first heard about SPORE i was thinking of getting it ,but now that i'v seen the graphics its really ruined it for me.They just look to cartoon like for my taste.

Videogameboye
Videogameboye

Spore has great potential. It could be awesome...even revolutionary....or it could flop...(I hope for the former of course)

thatguy0130
thatguy0130

the game is designed towards the fans of the sims I would think. It sounds as though it has good potential. Its like the sims except for a whole species. I will watch for more on this before I make a commitment though.

Sunrie
Sunrie

This sounds really repetitive and boring the more I read about it. Honestly, only those who can find something fun about The Sims games will enjoy this. I'll have to stay away.

jayjayd
jayjayd

I can't wait for this!

drollia
drollia

The replayablity of this title sounds amazing. I am pretty excited to check this game out

Goliathvv
Goliathvv

I hope it lives up to its promises...

Allicrombie
Allicrombie moderator moderator

think Ithok means EVO: the search for eden, and yep, that was an awesome game that not many people played