From Cells to Celestials

From Cells to Celestials

The Concept

At its core, Spore lets players create and nurture creatures, build communities and relationships, and advance a tribe until it's capable of traveling to other parts of the world and, eventually, throughout deep space. Consider it hands-on evolution, where you not only can customize how the creature looks and walks and also shape the civilization's buildings and vehicles but, more importantly, also guide your being's behaviors, which will decide its fate.
From Cells to Celestials

Spore is divided into six main phases, mirroring the evolution of life on Earth. The first is the "Tidepool" phase, where players control a microorganism by navigating through a pond, fighting and consuming other cells in a primal survival of the fittest. Absorb the mass, traits, and abilities of your prey as you evolve and, eventually, venture out onto dry land for the first time. This second "Creature" phase lets you explore your environment, hunt for food, and perhaps mate with other critters to produce offspring. The "Tribal" phase is next, as you care for a budding civilization instead of a sole creature by helping them build shelter, provide food en masse, and protect their homes. The fourth "City" phase evolves your small tribe with crude tools into a thriving city with advanced architecture and technology. After this, it's time for the "Civilization" phase, where your residents begin to master vehicles and can set out to interact with other civilizations on the planet – be it for diplomatic reasons or warmongering (and, of course, each decision leads to its own unique consequences). The sixth and final "Space" phase, as the name suggests, lets you visit other worlds in the galaxy to perform various missions that range from peaceful relationships with ETs to the terraforming and colonization of new planets and moons.

Editing, Community Features

Just as players of The Sims enjoy fooling around with the built-in editor to create a unique family, Spore lets you fully customize the look of your creatures with hundreds of drag-and-drop objects, ranging from facial features and sensory organs to arms and legs to body shape, texture, and color. For example, one gamer might create a red, bulbous spiderlike organism with huge teeth to rip the flesh off others, while another might design a slender yellow-and-blue striped mammal that prefers soft vegetation. In other words, the physical attributes you choose for your creatures will directly affect how they walk, what they hunt, and how they survive. If only Darwin were alive today to see this. The infinite variety in creature creation means no two games will look or play the same.

Because no man is an island (or spore, for that matter), players who reach the space-travel phase will in fact visit planets populated by other Spore players, all stored on Electronic Arts' servers. Your in-game Sporepedia will also provide info and insight into the creatures you've met and worlds you've visited. You can "bookmark" your favorite places to visit or view a YouTube-like Top 10 list of most popular worlds to visit. Unlike most other computer games, including The Sims, this new content won't be downloaded from Web sites and imported into the game – instead, it'll all be handled seamlessly within the game world itself, so you'll never have to leave to visit thousands of other worlds.

The Technology

While the minimum system requirements have not yet been confirmed, hands-on time with the game has left me speechless. Imagine ascending up from your small city – by rolling your finger on the computer mouse's middle scroll wheel – and then zooming out to reveal the entire planet, where you can see other civilizations. Then, players can zoom out even farther to see the entire solar system to plot a course for your UFO. And what "God sim" would be complete without being able to zoom out even more to travel to other galaxies – and then pull back farther out to the universe level? No wonder Wright mentioned inspiration was drawn from the famously geeky short film "Powers of Ten" (1977), with the couple lying on a picnic blanket in Chicago and the camera moving farther and farther away, increasing the distance by a power of 10 every 10 seconds.

Graphically, Spore offers highly detailed creatures and vehicles, each moving fluidly about the huge and interactive environments. The game's audio is equally impressive with organiclike creature sounds and environmental noises not unlike what you'd hear in a National Geographic video. Additionally, Electronic Arts just announced a Nintendo DS version of Spore for mobile megalomaniacs.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle