We already know that Will Wright's next megagame Spore will feature a ton of customization tools and gameplay, given that you take an entire species through its evolutionary paces. What we're only starting to get a handle on are the community aspects of the game, which seem to have just as much depth and complexity as everything else on offer in the Spore universe.
In our last hands-on with the game, we talked about some of the community tools that are being built into the game, but during a Spore-specific GDC '08 session yesterday, game producer Caryl Shaw outlined much more of the upcoming title's social side. Sharing content and viewing other people's creations will be a big part of the game when it ships, with Spore borrowing heavily from the social-networking scene for some of its ideas.
Most of the in-game community features will be centered on the Sporepedia, the Spore database that will keep track of all the things the user has encountered during the game. In addition to hosting the player's own creatures and other creations, the Sporepedia will be the central depository for browsing content created by other Spore users. This can include people on that particular gamer's friends list (yes, Spore will let you track your friends who also have the game), content from developer Maxis, and all the other weird and wacky stuff from the greater community. Of course, if you don't want to be inundated with content from strangers, Spore will give you the ability to block out content from other users. You'll also be able to leave comments and ratings on others' creations, as well as "ban" content from any individual you may find distasteful. Shaw says that Maxis will eventually ban some users outright if enough people find their uploads objectionable.
Of course, if you're open to seeing what the rest of the community has on offer, there's still the hassle of sorting out the trash from the treasure among what will undoubtedly be thousands of new creations every week. Maxis has already thought ahead in this regard, and Shaw said the developer will be introducing a sophisticated quality-management system that will make sure only the best offerings are highlighted in the Sporepedia. This quality system will go beyond merely measuring user ratings of a particular object, and will apparently include other factors such as the age of an asset, the number of feed counts it has been added to (such as Sporecasts), the rating of other assets by the same user, the amount of time taken to build that particular asset in the Spore tools, and more.
Maxis also wants players to take their Spore experiences outside of the game, and has built in several features that will somehow link the creatures you create inside the game with the wider world. Widgets will be created to keep track of updates in Spore while you're not in the game. You'll also be able to take screenshots and send them to friends (complete with comic-book-style captions), and the game will come with a built-in video tool that links directly to popular video-sharing site YouTube should you want to upload footage of your virtual species doing something interesting. You can also take animated .gifs of your creatures for use as avatars in other sites and forums. And Maxis is also planning on having a retail model through which you can order T-shirts and mugs with a picture of your favorite created species.
Spore will be released on September 7 in North America and September 5 in Europe.