Spore designer offers post-mortem on project, team was essentially making five games at once

Tuesday, 1 October 2013 09:13 GMT By Dave Cook

Spore designer Soren Johnson has reflected on the game’s five-year anniversary over on his blog. The post discusses what went wrong with the game, and how its lofty ambitions perhaps grew too vast for the team. It’s an interesting reflection on the polarising strategy game.

In the blog, Johnson explains that the Maxis team was essentially making five games at once to flesh out each of Spore’s five distinct play phases. In his mind, it was too much.

He recalled, “Spore’s biggest issues was that the play at each stage was fairly shallow because the team was making five games at once. (At one point, Will described each of the game’s five stages as light versions of classics – cell is like Pac-Man, creature is Diablo, tribe is Populous, civilization is Civilization, and space is Masters of Orion.) However, making five different games at once is a bad idea; making one good game is usually hard enough.

“Each of the five stages had different controls, different interfaces, different nouns, different verbs, different goals, and so on. Some effort was made, of course, to share ideas and elements across stages; however, the compromises involved often watered down what was supposed to make each stage distinct in the first place.

“For example, each stage required a friendly means of engaging with other entities; in the creature stage, this mechanic became dancing for other creatures to make friends while, in the civilization stage, this mechanic translated into attacking other cities with music instead of bullets.

“Neither mechanic was the best idea for its own individual stage, and the justification was high-level consistency. Thus, the powers of ten idea put the team in a state of perpetual compromise where every major decision had to be considered according to its effect across all five stages.”

Johnson adds however, that the procedural content concept was novel for its time and was rich in gameplay opportunities, but that ultimately, the broad ideas failed to gel.

Check out the blog for more insight. It’s a cracking read if you played Spore back in the day.

What did you think of the game?

Via Polygon.