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

Tuesday, 1st 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.

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4 Comments

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  1. TheWulf

    As a novelty I loved it — and I felt it got so much better with Galactic Adventures. The only really lacking part of Spore, originally, was the space stage. It was what the others were leading up to, and it was supposed to be the meat of the game, but before Galactic Adventures, there wasn’t much meat on that bone.

    With Galactic Adventures, though, I still go back to play it. In fact, only six or so months back I played through it again. I love the large amount of content that Galactic Adventures brought to the table, and a lot of it was enjoyable.

    Most of all though, I loved that the design of the game was limited to my imagination, rather than someone else’s. So I had some truly bizarre creatures and dwellings, and stories for all of them. It was fun sitting down with notepad and plotting out a species before I even started the game — thinking on their biology, their nature as animals, and how differently their culture might evolve given those variables.

    So I’d write a brief-ish history of the species, as it were, then I’d run with that and I’d use that as my inspiration for their visuals, and the visuals of their cities, vehicles, and eventually, space ships.

    I think Spore is a game where what you get out of it has much to do with how much you’re willing to put into it. It’s a creative person’s game.

    #1 10 months ago
  2. GrimRita

    Shame the game failed to deliver on it’s promises. But that creation tool saw some very outrageous creations indeed!

    #2 10 months ago
  3. silkvg247

    Hmm Maxis.. maxis. You know.. they could use the best part of spore (alien creation) and make the Sims: Spore. Alien Sims. That would rock.

    Then at least all the effort they clearly put into the creature side of the game isn’t wasted.

    #3 10 months ago
  4. TheWulf

    @3

    I like you. You have the best ideas. And I can’t help but agree with this, because that would be utterly amazing. I’m just sitting here now and thinking of what they could do with those feature sets, and the fun shenanigans they could pull with good AI. I suppose it’d be somewhere between Sims and the Creatures games, which doesn’t seem like a bad mix at all.

    #4 10 months ago