Spore Hardware Performance Guide

Spore doesn’t take much of a computer to run, but owners of less powerful systems might want to check out what they can do to improve performance.

Maxis games generally aren't as hardware-intensive as, say, a Crysis or Call of Duty 4. The company's previous blockbuster hits include such games as Sim City and The Sims--both run well on rudimentary computers, often functioning happily with onboard video adapters. Spore, Maxis' latest creation, is no exception. All the game really requires is a video card that's capable of Shader Model 2.0. To put things into perspective, we're up to Shader Model 4.0 in today's video cards. The first Shader Model 2.0-compatible cards, such as the GeForce FX and Radeon 9000 series, both came out five years ago. Intel's GMA950, an onboard video adapter found on many laptops, will work just fine with Spore (unless you have an older MacBook). But quite often, minimum specifications don't lead to ideal or even desirable results when it comes to games. We decided to put Spore through the gauntlet to figure out just how small you can go on the hardware and still have a great gaming experience.

We found it difficult to find an in-game test sequence that could represent the whole game because Spore has several mini-stages, which are quite different. The cell stage has no other counterpart visually, but the space stage is an even greater departure from the land-bound tribal and civilization stages. Zooming in and out of planet views incurs the biggest loading hiccups, but we didn't want to base our test on a single 2-second zoom. In the end, we found that the creature stage provided an accurate representation of the game, and it also seemed the most taxing overall, especially when we had several models onscreen. Our test consisted of spinning around the nesting area for 30 seconds.

Spore has a built-in frame limiter that automatically caps off at 30 frames per second. Excess power clearly won't come in handy here. There's a good chance that the game will stay at a solid 30 frames per second if you have a PC built in the past two years and you don't go crazy on the resolution settings. We found that having a consistent 20 to 25 frames per second was more than enough to have a good time.

Settings
Spore doesn't need much for hardware but if you're going to run the game on an older computer there's a few settings that you'll want to dial back.

Video Cards
Newer GPUs won't have any problem running Spore, but older cards might struggle. We tested 20 cards from the past and present to help you decide how much is enough.

CPU
We broke out our Intel Core 2s, AMD Phenoms, and Pentium 4s to see how the game scales on older processors. We found that Spore doesn't seem to care about processing power and could probably run off the computational power of a graphing calculator.

Memory
Spore is equally ambivalent about RAM--the game is happy with any amount. We tested the game with 1GB, 2GBs, and 3GBs of RAM. Even the 512MBs of RAM on our minimum spec machine ran Spore without a hitch.

Systems

Spore's minimum requirements are a paltry 2.0GHz Pentium 4, 512MBs of RAM, and a video card with 128MBs of RAM that supports Shader Model 2.0. For our video card, we chose the GeForce 6800 256MBs. That's the least powerful AGP card we had left in our hardware cabinet. The system ran the game quite well after we lowered the resolution and dropped down to medium quality. Our mid-range and high-end systems are simply overkill for Spore. Pretty much any computer with a marginally decent video card can run Spore quite well.

System Setup:

High-End System: Intel Core2 QX9650, eVGA 780i, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit SP1. Graphics Card: GeForce 9800 GTX, beta Nvidia ForceWare 175.19.

Mid-Range System: Intel Core2 Duo E6600 2.4GHz, eVGA 680i, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit SP1. Graphics Card: GeForce 8800 GT, beta Nvidia ForceWare 175.19.

Minimum System: Intel Pentium 4 2.0GHz, Asus P4C800, 512MB Corsair XMS Memory, Seagate 160GB 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2. Graphics Card: GeForce 6800, Nvidia Forceware 175.19.

Settings

Most modern video cards are capable of running Spore with the highest image quality settings. To actually test the effects of the various settings we had to use an older GeForce 7600 GT. If you have a weaker video card, consider lowering the resolution to recoup a considerable amount of performance. Outside of lowering the resolution, ditching shadows will also yield a few additional frames. Shadows eat up a lot of performance, and the game's charm doesn't suffer greatly without them. If you find your computer struggling, you can lower the graphic effects to squeeze out a few more frames. However, dropping the graphic effects too low will make the game look quite barren.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel Core 2 Duo X6800, eVGA 680i, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista SP1. Graphics Card: GeForce 7600 GT, Nvidia ForceWare 175.19.

Graphics Comparison

Quality Settings

High Medium Low


Shadows

High Medium Low


Graphic Effects

High Medium Low

Video Cards

Spore only needs a smidgen of graphics power to keep the frame rate pegged at a solid 30. A more powerful video card will really only be useful for increasing the resolution. Even then, you don't need to spend a whole lot to run the game with maximum settings on a 30-inch LCD. The game has a built-in 30-frame-per-second frame limit, so buying the best video card on the market won't necessarily improve the look or the performance of the game. Budget cards will provide more of a challenge but will still run the game fine if you're willing to sacrifice a few image quality settings.

System Setup: Intel Core2 X6800, eVGA 680i SLI, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit SP1. Graphics Cards: GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB, GeForce 9600 GT 256MB, GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB, GeForce 8800 GT 512MB, GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB, GeForce 7900 GS 256MB, GeForce 7600 GT 256MB, GeForce 6800 128MB, GeForce 6600 GT, GeForce 6200, Radeon HD 4870, Radeon HD 4850, Radeon HD 3870 512MB, Radeon HD 3850 512MB, Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB, Radeon HD 2600 Pro 256MB, Radeon HD 2400 Pro, Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB, Radeon X1300. Graphics Drivers: beta Nvidia ForceWare 175.19, ATI Catalyst 8.8

CPU

If it hasn't been made abundantly clear, Spore will run on practically any CPU rated at or above the minimum specifications. Don't bother upgrading to a quad-core CPU, much less a dual-core. Our prehistoric Pentium 4 ran the game just as well as our more advanced processors.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel Core 2 Duo 6600, Intel Core2 E6320, Intel Pentium 4 3.8GHz, AMD Phenom X4 9600, AMD Phenom X3 8750, eVGA 680I, Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit SP1. Graphics Card: GeForce 8800 GT, Nvidia ForceWare 175.19.

Memory

We saw on the first page of the feature that our minimum test system loaded with 512MBs of RAM, Windows XP, and a 2.0GHz Pentium 4 also didn't demonstrate any adverse effects related to RAM deficiencies. Spore managed to run just fine on Windows Vista with a paltry 1GB of RAM, and adding extra memory didn't seem to add any extra performance. Going light on the memory didn't incur any long load times or excessive hard-drive churning.

System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, eVGA 680i SLI, 3GB Corsair XMS Memory (2GBx2), 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 1GB Corsair XMS Memory (512MBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit. Graphics Card: GeForce 8800 GT, Nvidia ForceWare 175.19.

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Discussion

133 comments
danc_20
danc_20

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

pium
pium

@Nintendoguy325 Me the same thing :)

pium
pium

i have windows 95, and a monocromatic graphic card and runs well

AkroyVenslaka
AkroyVenslaka

Spore runs perfectly fine on my cheapo laptop, but of course it is much better on a nice desktop. Cell stage was amazingly different with good graphics. The translucent effects are done very well.

DamageIncM
DamageIncM

Hm, I don't see the point of a Performance Guide for Spore, as it's overall a fairly light game. Most people, even the more "casual" and kids would probably have a computer that can run it. OK, sure some people have older computers that still carry an older videocard which can cause some performance-issues. But apart from that it shouldn't be too hard to get it to play. Also, as they said in the guide, it's not like you couldn't play with a bit lower framerate, it's not like in a shooter or anything like that. Besides, as said, the framerate is limited to 30fps anyway. Which by the way I find majorly annoying in Spore. They probably do it to get this slight dramatic or perhaps "movie" effect. As the line between the smooth and "slow"-like is right around 35-40 fps, while some games can already be quite smooth at 30 or slightly more. But I think it's really unnecessary in Spore and even ugly, it REALLY makes it feel like a slow game. A free framerate or maybe up to 35-40-50 or 100 would have been much nicer.

ace62394
ace62394

@longcatnap: Laptops aren't usually a good choice for gaming, as I found out...

longcatnap
longcatnap

my laptop is an hp Go 7600 and it will not play the game. very disappointing! don't trust the article if you own an hp laptop.

marcosa73
marcosa73

well, interesting article, I am running a P4 1.8g processor, with a 6600 GT, 1gig ram, not many new releases I can actually consider, good to see I should be able to run Spore on Med settings and it run good. If you say I need an upgrade well, I just did lol, swapped my 6200 for a 6600 GT, what a difference! My P4 is about 7 years old and still kicking.

markopolo1970
markopolo1970

UNfortuneately there are some bugs in the game that affect some peoples graphics loading times and overall performance. Go check out the offical site forums and you will hear of people waiting between 3 - 15 minutes for creature graphics to load on planets in space mode. This seems to have got slightly worse after the recent official patch too.

sgtdrog
sgtdrog

You can add 1 gb of ram and a video card for under $150. I Put a 6600 (256Mb) and a gig of ram in my mom's old comp for about $90 (shipped) and my little bro plays Spore with no hiccups. (think he is using low res and medium settings) as far as macs go... they weren't made to game, they were made to look pretty and do "light task", but that's true of most laptops. My Asus Eee runs Spore, but not great. (For those who don't know Eee is a "ultra portable" laptop [8.9″ x 6.5″ x 0.82″]. specs are 900 mhz CPU, 2gb ddr2 ram, 20gb SS hard drive, and integrated Intel graphics with 128 mb dedicated)If THAT can run it then there is no excuse to have a comp that can't run spore effectively. O_o

karloss99
karloss99

Well, I got GF6200 and only bad thing about performance is in space stage, when it takes some time to fully load colonies (hellish-time on homeworlds). And yes I AM running on full min. Other is 512 RAM, 3.06 GHz Intel Pentium 4 and HUGE (donno if it helps) page file.

dragoncamo
dragoncamo

will a 2.5 ghz processor 512 ram and 5500 geforce ddr with 256 ram run spore?

Thom_D
Thom_D

I am running the game on an AMD Duron 1.2 Ghz, nVidia GeForce 7300 GT 512 MB video card, ALS4000 sound card, 2 GB Ram, 350 GB HD. Shadows are set at medium, all other settings are set at high. In Creature Stage it runs very smoothly. There are some gitters when an Epic is on screen with a lot of other creatures, but other than that it runs fine.

sal_gado
sal_gado

I don't think a performance guide about Core 2's or Phenoms or 8-series GeForces is helpfull, since this is such a light game. A guide about the GF6200 or a Celeron/Sempron would be much more useful, since these are the components that strugle to play it. I'm actually playing it on an Athlon 64 3000 and a GF6150 onboard just fine! Please, if possible, make this guide more lower spec (most computers out there are low-spec anyway).

Starsunderchs
Starsunderchs

[quote] We broke out our Intel Core 2s, AMD Phenoms, and Pentium 4s to see how the game scales on older processors. We found that Spore doesn't seem to care about processing power and could probably run off the computational power of a graphing calculator. [/quote] LOL!

Vandlyn
Vandlyn

I am loving this game! Thanks for the Performance Guide, Sarju. I hope there will be an EP in a few months, one that expands on each section of the game. I found myself at the end of the cell stage, being prompted to evolve, and I really just wanted to keep playing that stage. As far as the space stage goes, it's rather annoying to keep being called back to the home planet just as soon as you start a mission somewhere else. These events are simply occurring far too frequently. I also look forward to more types of grasper's, feet, and split hooves! I can't believe they forgot the llama hooves! LOL

frankok
frankok

I love your design and layout on this site, but if I could suggest something: please provide a link back to the actual game. In this case; Spore. I can't find a link to the game in question ANYWHERE(!!).

awakendjay
awakendjay

to quote jason19 "i got that games now dort in play in more so was good went get lest part off games suck now why dort paly in more and way good games kids so keed i get keid may like it tell you lest part see why isay sucki can build better use all comment fors on plands notinto do in spce lvl so in you have to do missson to bouw up it i thnks havd done im sad ruis games fast now i thnks went me to bay games work more that come been games put more work on spce lvl" ...... I think I just found out the secrets of the universe after reading the above....and that is to, stay far far away from drugs

jason19
jason19

i got that games now dort in play in more so was good went get lest part off games suck now why dort paly in more and way good games kids so keed i get keid may like it tell you lest part see why isay sucki can build better use all comment fors on plands notinto do in spce lvl so in you have to do missson to bouw up it i thnks havd done im sad ruis games fast now i thnks went me to bay games work more that come been games put more work on spce lvl

akafresh
akafresh

@ videogamr49 well if you like the os just buy a pc for a couple $1000 less with the same parts in it that the mac has and install leopard. and it doesnt have to be dell just build it your self and make it look have ever you want. hell make it look like an apple pc. all it will do is save you money. but i guess its your choice.

mharley1226
mharley1226

every time i go to new planets my spies gets attcked try balonga wars very fun game

TinGoose
TinGoose

I've tried this game but didn't like but.....it runs smoothly on my old AMD XP2000+ with a 6800 Nvidia Ultra! No biggy ;-)

videogamr49
videogamr49

@akafresh: The MacBook only uses an integrated video chipset, of course it isn't going to run at ultra high settings. First off, the person might have set everything at medium and everything at high both times and realized that it doesn't run. If certain things were set on low, certain things set on medium, and turn down the resolution, I'm sure the game would look fairly well and run smoothly; however, I don't own a Macbook and I can't test out what will and will not work. Second, a MacBook isn't branded as a gaming machine so I wouldn't expect Spore to run too well on it than compared with a high-end gaming computer. Third, you can't base your conclusion with only one input from each side. Finally, Macs are very well capable machines. Sure they might be slightly overpriced, but you are paying for the brand. I would much rather have an Apple brand computer versus a Dell brand at the same Tech specs. I don't care if I pay more for an Apple computer, I'd much rather use the Mac OS than use Windows.

Atomic1977
Atomic1977

The game runs pretty well on my new computer and all I have is on board ati Radeon 3200hd graphics. I have my settings as low as the game takes and it still looks good.

akafresh
akafresh

You people with your Mac's. If you knew anything about computers you would see that Mac's are WAY over priced for what you get inside. For example: read user review: king-kill33 Posted Sep 12, 2008 4:57 am GMT ive got the latest model macbook, 2.4ghz, 2gb ram etc... and spore cant run on high settings or even medium, the game looks downright ugly, and if i turn the graphical effects up above low it lags like hell =[ vs. mysteriousminds Posted Sep 12, 2008 9:47 am GMT @ friedweasel the computer i'm on now has an amd athlon xp 2.0 Ghz, 256 mb DDR 400 ram, and a 5200FX on windows xp. it runs spore at around 20+ frames most of the time at a low resolution ( actually good cause you can put it in a window and multitask) on medium settings. although sometimes it can be unresponsive for a minute or so, and it takes easily over two minutes at the best of times to fully paint a creature. but overall for a system that is below most the minimum requirements for even this game, i'd say it runs extremely well considering. there you go brand new mac vs. comp with parts from 2001 and the comp plays it better. I do hear macs are good for video editing tho, but i dont see how.

tokay411
tokay411

yeah i got my Macbook May 2007, and Spore wont run. :(

HellsAngel2c
HellsAngel2c

mine works fine up to the civilisation stage. The it starts chugging away and making groaning noises. I really gotta clean up my disk space... O_o

klugenbeel
klugenbeel

Spore runs very well on my iMac on full settings.

JMC987
JMC987

The game runs flawlessly on my computer, but good read none the less.

Ahiru-San
Ahiru-San

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

Ahiru-San
Ahiru-San

The fact the creature creator runs well doesn't mean the full game will run - in my computer it (the creature creator, and the in-game creator/cell level) runs smoothly with max settings. But in the creature/tribal phase it simply can't run with the shader settings on med/high. The only thing that keeps the frame rate low in my computer is the lightning effects (using ati X1600 256mb, core 2 duo 2.33, 2gb ram).

kingmickey2
kingmickey2

My sad, sad 6200. Too bad its a PCI.

Nintendoguy325
Nintendoguy325

Stupid pixel shader. It's the only thing stopping me from playing

cupcake12
cupcake12

I think i need to get a new video card or something, it keeps freezing when i go to new planets

iamtheanger
iamtheanger

if your're not sure about your computer's abillity to run spore than download the free creature creator trial and see if it will run. mine ran ok so next weekend and pooping down to the shops to get it

iamtheanger
iamtheanger

if your're not sure about your computer's abillity to run spore than download the free creature creator trial and see if it will run. mine ran ok so next weekend and pooping down to the shops to get it

km1498
km1498

Cool to see this game can run on low end pc's like mine, I may actually get this now.

Marka1700
Marka1700

I should be able to run it with my 7800GS then. Just my AMD 3500+ the will hold things back probably.

abr_alex
abr_alex

GeForce 6200 sucks hard :)

randomperson2k3
randomperson2k3

Well I must be living in the early 90s, because I bought a brand new HP laptop this summer and I seriously doubt it could run Spore. Yes, very depressing...

typeRseries
typeRseries

if u cant run this game then ur pretty much still living in the early 90s

typeRseries
typeRseries

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

XxxSakamotoxxX
XxxSakamotoxxX

I need to improve my Video card xD plus fro those of you hate spore...well if you hate it you hate it, none of us really care on your opinion

BPE-Groovy
BPE-Groovy

I played and beat this game yesterday (it's too short for the price...), it's funny with a good system. I tried it on my brothers PC, and it was really boring with low settings (you don't see even your enemies sometimes -.-)

real-guitarhero
real-guitarhero

hm... like the graphics and everything but i dont think the game itself is that great

johneese
johneese

spore is so effin awesome. i can run everything maxed out on a P4, 1 gig ram and a nvidia 8600 gt. @ 1440 x 900

killertrumpet92
killertrumpet92

Game looks great going to get it in a couple days, Realy hope my year old laptop can handle it