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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Videogame Connoisseur

Will Wright, creator of The Sims, SimEarth, SimLife, SimCopter, SimAnt, and the Godfather of dozens of other games, has been pimping Spore to the public since 2005. Most of the time when a game is in development for over three years people either forget about it and lose interest or are concerned about its final quality (see Daikatana for example). However, Will Wright can literally do no wrong, and if by some chance he does (*cough*SimsOnline*cough*), he is immediately forgiven by all. When Spore was first announced (Spore was just a working title) the game was more commonly known as SimEverything.

The idea behind Spore is simple. You start with a single celled organism, guide its evolution from tiny aquatic life form to dominant land-based species. You then guide it from tribal society to the dominant civilization, culminating in the exploration of the galaxy and beyond. You start by controlling a single member of the species. Every time you mate with another member you go to a creature creation screen (the “Spore Creature Creator” was released months in advance as a promotional gimmick). In the “Creature Creator” you can mold your specie’s torso and add different arms, legs, hands, feet, natural weapons and defenses, eyes, ears, mouths, noses, and decorative parts to create an animal that looks however you want. Nevertheless, to add all these parts you have to find them in the game either in the skeletons of other species or by befriending other species, so your tailor-made creation won’t come easy.

The game is divided into five distinct phases: the Cell Stage, the Creature Stage, the Tribal Stage, the Civilization Stage, and the Space Stage. In the Cell Stage you control a single celled life form and your goal is to collect other genetic traits (body parts). You choose whether you want to be a carnivore or an herbivore (you can become an omnivore later in this stage) and you can redesign your creature by mating anytime you wish. After you collect enough body parts (either by eating other species with them or finding them in the shards of a meteor which kick-started life on the planet) you evolve legs and move onto the surface. At this point you’re in the Creature Stage and you advance by either destroying other species or befriending them until your species is established and you enter into the Tribal Stage. In the Tribal Stage you can no longer evolve; instead you develop a village and seek to become the dominant species either by befriending other species or conquering them until you create a civilization. In the fourth stage, the Civilization Stage, your goal is to unite your species under a single banner. After you accomplish this you can build a spaceship and fly through space exploring the galaxy that, in my opinion, is a rather open ended mode.

Spore is genius, but it’s not what I expected. You spend most of the game controlling a single member of your species; I was hoping for more of a “God” experience, where how you made your creatures (i.e. what parts you used) would dictate their behavior. Rather, you simply made the creatures, evolved them at certain points and mainly watched how it unfolded. Don’t get me wrong; Spore is still a really great game. Probably the best part of the game is the Creature Creator. You are only limited by the tools provided and your imagination can go wild. I must admit that my first attempt ended up looking like a cross between a cat and an ape, and was very violent and religious. The paths you take, whether a carnivore or an herbivore, friendly or killer, diplomatic or conqueror, during the different stages determines the traits your species will have and what kind of abilities you will gain later in the game. If you’re a carnivore that kills all competition and conquers neighboring villages, you’re going to be a pretty savage race; in that effect, all your actions in the game do count.

If there was anything I’d change about the game, it would be to take away everything after the Tribal Stage; have the species ‘evolve’ (let the player modify the species) at certain points in the game and once the species hits the Tribal Stage, have the player more or less sit back and watch how it plays out. It really feels like there are too many games in one here. Still, it is a very good game and I hope Maxis releases expansion packs with more body parts in the future.