Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Spore may pollinate player made content

Three years after the initial announcement of Spore an official release date has finally been set. Things had been getting rough for the game with an extended timeline pushing its development cost much higher than EA would have liked. I'm sure if any other developer then Will Wright had been in charge of the game it would have been shelved last year. However, the legendary game designer has long had a habit of making fun games which are easily expandable. This works very well with EA's method of making expansion packs and sequels with only small variations to the original game. While gamers mostly hate the practice it does give EA the capitol to spend on off the wall projects like Spore.

The main reason why I'm covering a regular computer game on this blog is that Spore has some interesting game designs which could eventually be adapted into our favorite MMOs. The creature creator in Spore is basically an easy to use 3D modeler and shares some similarities with avatar creation in games like Second Life. Will Wright has basically designed the game so that a central server takes the creatures made by players and populates the game universe with them. So eventually when your race of bee people start moving onto new planets they'll run into races made by other players. Since the game uses a player's choices to determine personality, aggressiveness, and intelligence you'll sort of get a feeling for each race's creator.

This basic premise of attaching a game to object creation gets around a lot of issues that MMO fans have with sandbox worlds like Second Life. Spore could almost be seen as a test for player made content in modern video games. If it sells well perhaps we could see future MMOs experiment with more free form avatar or even NPC creation. Why be limited to a race designed by a game company when you could use a 3D modeler, some base attributes, and your imagination to come up with something much better? Some people might think that game licenses would have problems dealing with the introduction of thousands of unique creations but honestly we've all seen how lore can be stretched to meet a poorly imagined race (cough draenai).

Plus the ideas explored with the creature creator in Spore could also be adapted for several different areas in MMOs. A weapon and armor creator could easily be controlled by a game system dependent on the discovery of ancient scrolls. Work your way to the end of a medium difficulty dungeon and be rewarded with the knowledge on how to add a cool cross guard to your swords. The stats of items you create could be controlled by different types of tokens dropped off bosses with varying degrees of difficulty. It’s like how heroic bosses have primal nethers used for low level crafting epics but higher level crafting epics require raid bosses. It’s funny but if you look at World of Warcraft you'll notice they made huge advancements in accessibility and leveling but really use a sub-par crafting system. This unfortunately may have influenced many developers that crafting systems weren't really in need of improvement.

Anyways on September 7th if you go out and get a copy of Spore see how much you like the creature creator system and ask yourself if such a system could work for MMOs.

EA Announces Spore Release Date: Sept 7th, 2008


Anonymous said...

We are suppose to get the demo of the creature editor before the game is fully released so I recommend getting that at least...still no news when it will be out though maybe a month before release.

Relmstein said...

I just hope that the game elements are strong throughout all stages of Spore. While I like the idea of being able to create my own race of creatures I need some form of "play" besides just creation to keep me entertained.

I was a huge fan of the early SimCity type games but the more free form Sims never interested me.