Spore Galactic Adventures Hands-On - A Quickie Adventure Plus Editing Tool Updates

The expansion pack for Spore will let you create and play through custom adventures that you can edit, save, and share with friends. We take it for a spin.

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At a recent Electronic Arts press event, we had a chance to take an updated look at Galactic Adventures, the upcoming expansion pack for last year's evolutionary-simulator-plus-monster-creator Spore. The add-on will offer piles of new ways to customize your creepy, crawly critters, including new parts to graft onto your creatures, as well as 32 new abilities, eight new combat powers, and eight new social options.

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The expansion will also clean up some of the editing interfaces, especially at the planetary view, and will add an adventure editing tool that will let you create your very own multipart adventures that can each be up to eight acts long. The adventure editor is planned to come packed with at least 1,500 prefabricated content pieces, from creature characters to monsters to buildings, which can be taken from the standard building editor and expanded greatly in the adventure editor, such that a small chateau can be reworked into a huge, stony dungeon.

Because the adventures are focused around a single creature's exploits (not on the gradual evolution and interstellar propagation of one species across the universe, like in the original game), Galactic Adventures will let you take control of a "captain" character, a critter with various statistics and parts (ranging from a sharp, bitey beak to a strap-on missile launcher) that can remain persistent in your Sporepedia (Spore's huge in-game library that catalogs all your created content). Certain adventures can be crafted to let you use your own captain characters, though meticulous adventure crafters may choose to hard-code their own custom captain character that must be used for that adventure. Adventures can take several different ultimate goals, such as all-out combat, item collection, and more. We played through an item collection mission and also watched a demonstration of a combat mission, as well as a demonstration of the adventure editing tools, which have expanded greatly since we last saw them.

The collection mission let us choose a custom captain from our Sporepedia, and thankfully, many powerful heroes were available to play (heroes can advance to a maximum level of 10). We chose a tough customer with a jetpack to go on a treasure hunt for a golden llama idol (longtime fans of Maxis' other games, The Sims and SimCity, will get the reference and the joke), which was hidden in a ruined temple. In order to reveal the location of this wondrous treasure, our captain was required to collect several bundles of blue crystals scattered on the ground and guarded by enemies. These enemies included giant spiders and other creepy, crawly critters, as well as a gigantic (and invulnerable) boss monster guarding the llama itself. Fortunately, our hero was tough enough to soak up the attacks of lower-level enemies and make a mad dash for the crystals and the llama before hightailing it out of there with his jetpack. Just like in the original Spore, in Galactic Adventures you'll use the W, A, S, and D keys to move your character while using your mouse to rotate your view and aim, though you can lock on to individual enemies to target them should you decide to fight.

The combat adventure we watched was crafted to allow only that adventure's prebuilt captain character to play, and it required us to take a space-armor-wearing, jet-pack-flying alien captain through a teleporter to take out an alien mothership. This mission was described to us by a commanding officer character who stood right in front of us just as we began our mission and who debriefed us in a letterboxed cinematic sequence. We watched our alien hero fly behind enemy lines and do battle with alien boss monsters using various combat abilities that were hotkeyed to keyboard numbers 1 through 4 (you can also bind an ability to your mouse's left button, then left-click your mouse to repeatedly attack your targetted enemy for a more Diablo-like experience). After dispatching the guards and hopping through a teleporter, our heroic captain ended up on board the enemy mothership, dispatched the guards and final boss monster, blasted the reactor, and then scrambled to safety to beat the countdown clock before the mothership went up with him inside.

All these components--the enemies and their abilities and behavior, the layout of the maps, the size and shape and look of the buildings, the cinematic cutscenes, the countdown clock, and every last line of dialogue--were hand-built by a designer at Maxis, and the studio expects that enterprising users will do as good as or better than the Maxis designer once the expansion ships. We took an updated look at the adventure editor, which seems extremely powerful, packed to the gills with content, and also pretty easy to use. Maxis estimates that truly enterprising users may want to take a weekend or so to create polished content, but even younger users should be able to dive in and create adventures relatively quickly.

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We watched a demonstration as a Maxis staffer quickly started building a new adventure by selecting a planet from the prebuilt list, paging through different biomes (such as arctic or grassland), before settling on a desert-like planet inhabited by walking anthropomorphic banana people (and aggressive, hungry monkey people). After selecting the world and zooming in on a section to start our adventure, we watched as a banana-like alien was dragged and dropped instantly onto the planet and given marching orders to patrol a limited area. Then, an evil monkey alien was dropped right behind the banana alien and set to "aggressive" behavior to attack it so that the immediately obvious objective would be to defend the banana creature. Which we did, instantly, by switching the in-progress map to "on" to test it, and then we jumped back out to continue editing. To add additional challenge, a few other monkey aliens were dropped onto the planet and made to be huge, and hugely strong, boss monsters with a simple roll of the mousewheel, which will make your critters both bigger and automatically tougher as they scale higher in size. Even though you'll be able to do a lot with the tools, Galactic Adventures' editing kit seems like it should be remarkably easy to use. The expansion is scheduled to ship in June.

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