Author Topic: The Potential of Spore  (Read 29644 times)

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Offline Jaleho

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The Potential of Spore
« on: June 15, 2005, 06:36:37 pm »
INTRODUCTION

Let me preface this by saying Will Wright is a genious, and no matter how he decides to release Spore, I have absolutely no doubt that I'll lose ungodly amounts of sleep to it.

That being said, I want to address some issues I have with things he said in the GDC presentation and the Wired interview -- things that seem a little contradictory, and things that seem like there's a whole other potential of Spore that isn't being taken advantage of. A word of warning - this quickly turned into a very long essay, but hey, it's all just one guy's point of view, so you're all free to read, ignore, agree to, disagree to, respond to or disregard it.



Offline Jaleho

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Re: The Potential of Spore
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2005, 06:36:52 pm »
1. EXPONENTIAL GAMEPLAY

In 1958 William Higinbotham, an employee at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, invented an interactive oscilloscope display which allowed visitors to control a bouncing ball back and forth across a simulated table top with a net in the middle. When asked why he never applied for a patent for his game "Tennis For Two", he said, at the time, it didn't seem to be any more novel than the bouncing ball circuit in the instruction book.

Almost fifty years later, Will Wright and his team have created Spore, and when he says he wants to make it a "light gaming experience", I honestly fear he is underestimating the power of what they have managed to come up with.

Will starts his speech mentioning that players don't like artificial boundaries and that he is striving to create an open ended gaming experience. In a speech I watched from him a few years ago, he mentions that a player's first instinct is to push on the boundaries to see how far they can go. We see this in children all the time. What worries me is that, in his desire to take the "best 20%" of each game, how he is determining what that is. What Will thinks is the best 20% may not be what I or another player thinks is the best 20%, and by only focusing in on that part, I think he is involuntarily creating those boundaries he is trying so hard to avoid.

Anyone who has played a good old fashioned paper and pencil role playing game knows how this can happen. Even with the best dungeon master out there, the players will inevitably come up with something so outlandish that the rules, story or imagination of the DM simply don't know how to deal with it. The system is designed with limitations that ALWAYS fall short of a player's creativity. If a DM spends a week designing an intricate map of a castle which the players are meant to invade, Murphy's Law states the players are more than likely either going to summon a drago to blow the castle to bits in the first five minutes, or they will decide to skip the castle altogether and go get drunk in the tavern.

The advantage of procedural methods is that nobody has wasted time building the castle - the algorithm to make a castle is written, and if half the players decide never to investigate it, nothing is a total loss. The same algorithm can be modified to make the tavern and dragon stable as well, so eventually it will be useful. As for the other half of the players, they won't hit a barrier of an unexplorable castle on the landscape. It surprises me that despite the success of The Sims, it doesn't appear that you can design the interior or go inside any of the Spore buildings...

Will says that as a hardcore gamer, he doesn't have the time to invest in playing one game that many of the more complex games require - that sometimes, he prefers to simply pick up and play a quick and easy gameboy game. He wants Spore to be fun and easy to use for casual or harcore gamers - something with simple systems that provides instant feedback. It seems to me that putting 100% of Diablo or SimCity or Civ into Spore, and letting the PLAYER choose which 20% they want to focus on (and which 80% they are free to totally ignore), the game becomes more accesable to more people - it can meet even MORE interests. If the developers put a "Bejeweled" mini-game inside Spore, and a female gamer chooses to play ONLY that part, while a male gamer chooses to use pre-built tanks to wage war every time he plays rather than create anything, then the game has managed to meet BOTH of their desires through one game - and has the ability to do so much more... Imagine one game that every member of the family could find something they liked about it - creative or otherwise.

I play PC games like Black and White, Civilization and Thief. However, I never finish them. I don't like the structured tasks of B&W which tell me to do a specific thing in a specific way (or if I'm lucky, in one of TWO specific ways). I don't play Civilization after I get gunpowder, because at that point, the storytelling is lost to me, and it just becomes a "lets blow each other up" game. I never play Thief past the first level, because my favorite way to play is going against the advice of the game and making a frontal assault on the castle (which I successfully did once - getting the guards to chase me down an alley, where I picked them off one by one from below in the sewers... due to a bug in the "peeking around corners" animation, I succeded in reaching the switch to open the front gate. I piled up the guards' bodies in front of the gate, and from a shadowy corner, started picking off guards inside. What made it all worth it is when one of the enemies ran to the front gate yelling "Guards! Guards!" only to stop, look at the bodies, and say "Oh, Sh**" -- beep included. They had anticipated that I would do something like that, and it blew me away.).

I have a Game Cube, and only one game: Animal Crossing. At first I loved it -- I could do so many things! But eventually, I had done all the new things, and anything else they made me wait until a certain day to do was just repetition of something else with a new look to it. I still play it, for one reason: the pinball minigame. Yes, I put a mini-cd into my Nintendo Gamecube, log in, manuever my little 3D guy down the stairs of his house to the basement, walk over and click on the NES model, all to play the old NES pinball game. If I ever feel like fishing, I simply go out and fish, but it's all contained in one game. I can only imagine what I would do if the gameplay was really updatable, open-ended and customizable...

Offline Jaleho

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Re: The Potential of Spore
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2005, 06:37:08 pm »
2. EXPANDING GROWTH

Now, I'm not totally living in a pipe dream. I am completely aware of deadlines, budgets and simple programmer abilities. No matter what the community comes up with, there simply aren't enough resources for ANY developer to make the ultimate game. At least, not all at once, which is why I am an advocate FOR expansion packs.

In the Wired interview, Will implied that he was not interested in making Spore more advanced, but instead, taking parts out of it and making complete games out of the individual stages, repackaged for other platforms to expand interest in the technology. I think that's a great idea, both for business reasons, and to expand the popularity of the game elements to the people. But at some point, once the Spore empire is in place, it only makes sense to increase the power of what players can do with it - making Spore an ever-expanding tool with unlimited possibilites!

There are bound to be tons of ideas that aren't implemented by ship date, and it seems a shame to say that they will never be implemented - if the fans didn't already have story ideas that require those elements, they probably wouldn't have thought them up!Utilizing procedural methods, new tools could be added without worrying about content using them - thats what the players are for! Just because Maxis includes a "space fleet" tool doesn't mean they have to come up with ship designs or manuevers -- let the people who have been using the game for a year or more be your free beta testers and content developers!

Some ideas I had:

Spore: Culture Shock
Life in the petri dish has never been so exciting! Duke it out with the baddest viruses and bacteria this side of the tidepool! Be a parasite and invade the megafauna! Explore the dark and mysterious world of undersea vents or create deadly biological weapons to bring your enemies to their knees!
Coming Fall 2007

Spore: Wild World
It's survival of the fittest at its finest! Bounce, burrow and battle your way through generations of evolution! Trap, train and transform creatures into elite arena fighters! Comes with 80 new creature editor parts! Go wild!
Coming Fall 2008

Spore: Tribal Lands
The gang's all here! The villagers are restless and only YOU can satify their primal urges! Play ball with the sports editor! Ambush your enemies with arrows and boomerangs! Take control of your clan's leader and discover the skills to raise your people to civilization!
Coming Fall 2009

Spore: Big City
Bring the urban jungle to life! Control the city that never sleeps while you play casino games, drive around the streets in your custom vehicles, and watch your civilians day and night as they become elightened or corrupt! Build a floating island paradise, an underground labyrinth or even a castle in the sky! Rock the town tonight!
Coming Fall 2010

Spore: Nation States
Who will be the last nation standing in this global struggle for dominance? Set up diplomatic conferences, send spies to infiltrate your neighbor's government, or just blow them to kingdom come! Build your dream transformable mech that can travel over land, sea and air! Ambush an enemy weapons convoy or bring riches to the masses. Conquer the globe!
Coming Fall 2011

Spore: Worlds Apart
You can't get this adventure out of your system! The planets, moons and asteroids are yours to conquer! Develop astrology for primitive tribes, set up robotic mining colonies on distant rocky worlds, or take control of an entire battle fleet! The sky is no limit in this time of interplanetary exploration!
Coming Fall 2012

Spore: Galactic Alliance
Take your race beyond the stars! Beam down unsuspected on another world only to steal their livestock! Start a religion among impressionable natives who will worship you as their god! Unleash your mind control ray upon the defense populace! Explore a black hole! Go where no creature has gone before!
Coming Fall 2013

Seven new products, already layed out and named. A handful of programmers and a box cover designer and you have a new inflow of cash every year, and the players get more and more to do - how can someone get bored of a game that is always growing and changing according to THEIR interests?!

Imagine going into a game store. On the shelf are two products: another big name FPS and a Spore FPS expansion pack. With one, you get half a dozen guns and a couple dozen different enemies to use them on. You have a big map to run around on. You have a story that sounds like every other sci-fi story out there.

Or... you can get a game that features 10,000 player created weapons, each with their own abilities. A firearms editor to make your own for purchasing. Millions of potential creatures to fight off. An entire galaxy of worlds to explore, filled with cities of all shapes and sizes. Your own customized ship to visit them all in. Elements that will change and update every day for free. And a story that you write as you play.

To top it all off, everything you have ever created in Spore will still be accessible in this new game. If you get tired of shooting things, you can take a break and design your character's hideout, complete with the heads of your enemies.

Now, which would you buy? Would a shiny green suit of armor really be enough to convince you to buy a whole other product, when you already have your own universe sitting on your computer back home?

Offline Jaleho

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Re: The Potential of Spore
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2005, 06:37:25 pm »
3. FIRST-PERSON STORIES

There are a lot of games out there. Some are from a first-person viewpoint, while others have a wider scope, putting the player in a sort of "commander" role. The key thing is to remember one is not neccesarily better than the other. People prefer different types of gameplay - and some like both at different times.

Will states near the end of his talk that he "didn't want to put the player in the role of Luke Skywalker or Frodo Baggins," but rather "the role of George Lucas or J.R.R. Tolkein." It bothers me that for some reason, there seems to be a need for a game to pick only one of those. Will has already mixed genres like mad in Spore, why stop there?

What gets me is that less than an hour ago, he just introduced us to his experiences with "Moe". His own single character with which he got to explore, play with, and create his own story around. And yet, just as things start to get interesting in Spore, we lose that ability. We are taken out of the experience of picking up a spear and dancing around the campfire, or exploring a city we have created, or piloting a vehicle into battle. Althought we have created these things, we are stuck watching them rather than BEING them.

That's one of the big areas where I think Spore is missing out. Without Frodo or the other characters, we would be left watching a bunch of nameless elves, dwarves and hobbits running around the landscape. The personal touch would be gone.

Imagine someone combining Simcity and Grand Theft Auto into a single game where you had the ability to either zoom out and build the city, or zoom in and pick one character with which you could start a crime wave, or alternatively, ride your bike around town. All within one game.

Spore has that potential - the first person ability is already there in the early stages. We just lose it when the tribe begins. I would persuade the developers to do what they could to KEEP that first-person ability throughout the game -- if contacting other worlds via the UFO would make for an exciting story, just imagine what being able to beam down and interact with another race one-on-one could do.

Offline Jaleho

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Re: The Potential of Spore
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2005, 06:37:37 pm »
4. MAGELLAN VS. GOD

Will mentioned how much fun he had playing Myst, but how it must have been even more fun to have made it. Again, it seems a shame that a game has to be one or the other. Luckily, Spore is headed in the right direction -- but I'd like to see more. I'd like to see more advanced landscapes which can be explored - caves and forests that a player might not even know exist unless they go looking for them. I'd love to see new behaviors emerge that no one expected -- take the procedural animation even farther by having each race develop actions when you're not looking such as a unusual greeting or battle posture. Seeing two creatures exit a bar and start fighting, or vermin invading your towns. 3D artists all talk about "dirtying up" their models to make them more real, and I think unexpected elements in the game - things neither the player or even Will himself even knew would happen - only make it more real.

I call this desire to both create and discover the Magellan/God Complex - the desire to have complete control over how something is made, how it functions... to OWN it... yet, to also have the ability to explore what you created and find things you never knew you made, to have that sense of discovery that is lost if you are the one who made it.

I think Spore is going in the right direction, allowing the computer to adjust "sliders" for the NPCs just like the players do for their characters... I'd just like to see it taken to the extreme - being able to install the game, leave out any creature library, unhook from the internet, and let the system run, and see it evolve life and intelligence completely on its own. It could become a complete evolutionary simulator where the player/creator could step in at any time, make any changes they like or take total control, then step out and come back later to see just how things have turned out. This one seems to be halfway there already - I can't imagine it would be any more difficult than making the "free will" option in The Sims.

Offline Jaleho

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Re: The Potential of Spore
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2005, 06:37:54 pm »
5. THE CREATIVE FACTOR

There is another benefit of having more of the game computer controlled - some people just aren't creative, or don't think they are. Why else would so many games which consist of a player simply running around and shooting everything in sight be so popular? Sometimes, even the most creative of us just want to sit back and relax our minds without HAVING to create something.

Creativity has two sides: ability and interest. Just because someone is GOOD at creating new creatures and buildings doesn't mean they always want to, and even the most motivated young artist just may lack the skills to pull it off. I think having the system generate things automatically is helpful, as is making the editors easy to use.

However, some of us want even MORE power to create, and I'd love to see the "Artist in a box" taken to the extremes.

Some have mentioned creating "themed" worlds, where every plant and animal looks like part of a unique ecosystem rather than randomly selected and pollinated. An entire planet of various six-legged creatures who have evolved from a common six-legged ancestor. A planet where no creatures have eyes, or are all shades of blue, or made of crystal.

Player-created animations such as dances and hunting formations could be utilized. New bodyparts designed by scripters. Importing models to be analyzed, converted and used as new pieces by modelers who want more control over their designs. Camera controls. I would love to see someone use Spore someday to make film-quality movies.

Offline Jaleho

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Re: The Potential of Spore
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2005, 06:38:14 pm »
6. STORIES BEYOND THE GAME

Speaking of movies, I'm reminded of Peter Molyneux's new game "The Movies." (Seriously, if Peter, Will and Sid Meyer ever made a game, I think we would all voluntarily get plugs installed in the backs of our heads and spend the rest of our lives sleeping in a pod full of goo.. am I right?) In "The Movies" the player gets to run a movie studio, but they also get to make real movies with it.

If Will really wants players to be the author of their own stories, there needs to be something more in Spore.

Maybe it's as simple as a "book editor" in the game, where players can include screenshots and write up what happened in their village or town that day. Maybe events could be recorded and played back usign some advanced procedural motion recorder. I'm not sure what it is, but without some good way to record the story, they'll only exist in our memory, maybe in a forum post written to friends. But seeing as how we're still debating the first person/avatar/leader character idea, how well did you remember your last game of SimCity or Civ? All I remeber of any of my Civ games past an hour is "then the French attacked me again".

I've never played Neverwinter Nights, but I'm curious if some kind of "mission creator" could be included into Spore, where players could write adventures for others to play - and of course, the other players could chose whether or not they even see these mission options.

The big picture, however, would be how a player could take their Spore experience and turn it into something even more amazing - like a comic book or short film or sci-fi novel. Will's story about how "Treasure Island" was created was very inspiring to me as for what I could do with this game. However, I've read comments that the content we create will be owned by EA - in which case, we may be the author of our own story, but do we really own it? Could they claim I owe them profits because my movie uses city designs and characters I created while playing Spore? And does the possibility exist that EA could start harvesting the Spore databased to populate their other games with free content? Could I be walking down the store aisle and see something I created on the cover of a new EA game?

If we are really meant to OWN these stories, I'd like to know how the legal issues would be handled before I go designing characters I've used inthe past within this game. I want to know who owns the rights to the movies made in "The Movies" and how they can be used, or how we can avoid anything like the "Marvel/City of Heroes" fiasco -- I'm surprised American Greetings hasn't come down on Will with a lawsuit of some kind. How long before the owners of Pokemon shut down the Spore servers for the thousands of inevitable recreations?

Offline Jaleho

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Re: The Potential of Spore
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2005, 06:38:25 pm »
7. INDUSTRY CONFINEMENT

Will said he always wanted to break the "don't mix genres" rule. I think this game has the ability to be the first of a new type of genre - or even something that can't be called a computer game. Spore has the potential to be a totally new, all-encompassing form of media that combines film, gaming, telecommunications, scientific simulation, government reconnisance (think "There" and their request from the Pentagon), playgrounds for developing artificial intelligence, even utilizing the power of networked spare cpu cycles like Seti@home - benefitting the organization which inspired this game in the process.

I'm not expecting all these ideas to be implemented. Like I said, I'd be perfectly happy if none of them were, and Spore came out just like they have it planned. I really just ask that the possibility not be shut out - that the door for these ideas be left open so, at a future date, if and when Spore becomes the #1 game of all time, the developers will have the ability to go back and begin making it even better without having to start over from square one.

As much as I wish the Spore team would read this and really see the potential their creation has BEYOND the game industry, I'm just one guy with ideas. Will said his imagination was the biggest bottleneck to Spore - the belief that something like this was possible. All I need is for someone out there, someday, to see that the things I've listed above are just as possible. Spore is an idea many of us have had for years, and we're excited someone like Will Wright had the vision to make it a reality. Maybe someday the ideas I've listed above will be just as much a aprt of that reality, whether through Spore, or something more.

Personally, I'd rather see them happen next year, but I'm greedy like that. :)

Offline Oviraptor

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Re: The Potential of Spore
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2005, 07:02:10 pm »
Wow. Very interesting essay. (I mean that in a sincere way)

All I can say is we've got over a year left before the game is released, so who knows what they can do in that time.

Offline Jaleho

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Re: The Potential of Spore
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2005, 07:34:30 pm »
Wow. Very interesting essay. (I mean that in a sincere way)

All I can say is we've got over a year left before the game is released, so who knows what they can do in that time.

Exactly, this is all in responce to one video presentation and a wired article. I'm sure there will be plenty more to talk about as we see it develop. Just figured I'd get my initial thoughts written down. :)

Offline Golgrig

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Re: The Potential of Spore
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2005, 07:35:55 pm »
*Sticky*- just a suggestion steve

this is exactly the kind of ideas next generation gaming needs

it sounds like the kind of thing the internet was to communications during the 90's
"6.4 Um's per minute" or "The Speed of Wright

An adventurer in the land of who gives a ****

The idea is to mix one ingredient that will burn very fast with a second ingredient that will supply enough oxygen for that burning. This burns so fast, it's an explosion.

Offline Silver_Kiwi

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Re: The Potential of Spore
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2005, 08:19:09 pm »
I like the ideas you have regarding stories. Some method, any game-supported method really, to share my stories with others would be just fantastic.
Regaring copyrights and the like, I seriously doubt that to be a problem. Either the servers will be screened for stuff like that, or there won't be a problem.
As long as they don't provide copyright creatures on the cd, whats the legal problem?
I suppose it could be argue that Spore offers the ability to create copy right items...but so does a piece of paper, a pencil, or any 3d modeling program on the market. As long as the player creates it, whats the problem???

And didn't marvel lose their lawsuit over city of heros? Hmm, maybe I'm thinking of someting else....
Silver_Kiwi

Offline DevilMachine

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Re: The Potential of Spore
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2005, 08:33:08 pm »
I must admit that i didnt read the entire thing, I just skimmed through it.
But what if Spore is a huge flop? It probably won't be, but there is always that possibility.

I believe that this game could easily become one of those games where you pick it up, play it, get board or stuck and never pick it up again.
Let the flaming begin....

Offline Jaleho

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Re: The Potential of Spore
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2005, 09:18:59 pm »
And didn't marvel lose their lawsuit over city of heros? Hmm, maybe I'm thinking of someting else....

Yeah, but it was still a hassle I'd rather not see Maxis have to deal with. I'm surprised marvel never came after The Sims for all the super hero skins

Offline Jaleho

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Re: The Potential of Spore
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2005, 09:25:49 pm »
But what if Spore is a huge flop? It probably won't be, but there is always that possibility.
I believe that this game could easily become one of those games where you pick it up, play it, get board or stuck and never pick it up again.

It's a very good possibility, which is why I want to make sure it is put together in a successful way. The TECHNOLOGY is way too important to the gaming industry as a whole to be lost on bad marketing or poor public opinion. For the sake of the possibilities, either Spore NEEDS to succeed, or someone else needs to tkae the concept and technology and come out with the next benchmark for computer games using it.

I have to believe procedural methods are the solution to the madness of content cost that is overtaking the industry. I mean, I'm an artist, and even I can see it's going overboard. If they're going to be spending millions on a game, they need to just go ahead and make movies instead. Software is a whole other media than film, and they need to take advantage of the abilities of software, mainly, the ability for it to calculate events on its own and change them live in response to player actions. Another shoot-em-up FPS or football game that costs millions and provides nothing new and I'm going to go nuts.