Spore (2008 video game)

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Spore
Sporebox.jpg
Spore cover art
Developer(s) Maxis
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts
Designer(s) Will Wright
Composer(s) Brian Eno
Series Spore
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows[1]
Mac OS X, iPhone[1]
Release date(s) September 7, 2008[2][1]
Genre(s) God game, life simulation, real-time strategy
Mode(s) Single-player
Distribution Optical disc, download

Spore is a 2008 multi-genre single-player fantasy god game developed by Maxis and designed by Will Wright. The game was released for the Microsoft Windows and apple Macintosh operating systems in September 2008 as Spore. A special edition of the game, Spore: Galactic Edition, additionally includes a Making of Spore DVD video, How to Build a Better Being DVD video by National Geographic Channel, The Art of Spore hardback mini-book, a fold-out Spore poster and a 100-page Galactic Handbook published by Prima Games.[3] As part of its license, Electronic Arts released Spore Origins, an arcade-style game for mobile devices, and Spore Creatures, a light RPG for the Nintendo DS, Spore: Galactic Adventures, an expansion pack for the PC game, Spore Hero and Spore Hero Arena for the Wii and Nintendo DS respectively, is in the fall 2009 lineup, and Spore Creature Keeper were announced as part of the 2009 lineup, but was eventually cancelled.[4]

Covering many genres including action, real-time strategy, and role-playing games (RPG), Spore allows a player to control the development of a species from its beginnings as a microscopic organism, through development as an intelligent and social creature, to interstellar exploration as a spacefaring culture. It has drawn wide attention for its massive scope, and its use of open-ended gameplay and procedural generation. Throughout each stage, players are able to use various creators to produce content for their games. These can then be uploaded to the online Sporepedia and downloaded by other players.

Spore was released after several delays to generally favorable reviews. Praise was given for the fact that the game allowed players to create practically any creature, vehicle and building. However, Spore was criticized for its gameplay which was seen as shallow by many reviewers; GameSpot remarked: "Individual gameplay elements are extremely simple". Controversy surrounded Spore for SecuROM, its DRM software, which can potentially open the user's computer to security risks.

Gameplay[edit]

Spore allows the player to develop a species from a microscopic organism to its evolution into a complex animal, its emergence as a social, intelligent being, to its mastery of the planet and then finally to its ascension into space, where it interacts with alien species across the galaxy. Throughout the game, the player's perspective and species change dramatically.

The game is broken up into distinct yet consistent, dependent "stages". The outcome of one phase affects the initial conditions and leveling facing the player in the next. Each phase exhibits its own style of play, and has been described by the developers as ten times more complicated than its preceding phase. While players are able to spend as much time as they would want in each, it is possible to accelerate or skip phases altogether.[5][6] Some phases feature optional missions; when the player completes a mission, they are granted a bonus, such as a new ability or money. If all of a player's creations are completely destroyed at some point, the species will be respawned at its nearest colony or at the beginning of the phase.

Unlike many other Maxis games,[7] Spore has a primary win condition, which is obtained by reaching a supermassive black hole placed at the center of the galaxy and receiving a "Staff of Life". Another major achievement involves defeating or befriending the Grox, a cyborg species with a large empire guarding the core. However, the player may continue to play after any goal has been achieved.[8] There is a difficulty selector to each stage, allowing players to choose the difficulty for each part of the game.[6] Spore defaults to the easiest level.[9] The first four phases of the game, if the player uses the editors only minimally, will take up to 15 hours to complete, but can take as little as one or two hours.[10] Note that there is no time limit for any stage: the player may stay in a single stage as long as s/he wishes, and progress to the next stage when ready. At the end of each phase, the player's actions cause their creature to be assigned a characteristic. Each phase has three characteristics, usually based on how aggressively or peacefully the phase was played. Characteristics determine how the creature will start the next phase and give it abilities that can be used later in the game.

Stages[edit]

Spore is a game that is separated into stages, each stage presenting a different type of experience with different goals to obtain. The five stages are the Cell stage, the Creature stage, the Tribal stage, the Civilization stage, and the Space stage. In order to advance to the next stage of the game, players must complete the objective for each stage. Once completed, the player has the option to advance to the next stage, or to continue playing.

Cell stage[edit]

A screenshot of a near-final prototype cell stage. The monstrously large creatures in the background will come to the foreground as the player's organism slowly grows and evolves.

The cell stage (sometimes referred to as the tide pool, cellular, or microbial stage) is the very first stage in the game, and begins with a cinematic explanation for how the protagonist's cell got onto the planet through the scientific concept of panspermia, with a meteor crashing into the ocean of a planet and breaking apart, revealing a single-celled organism. The player guides this simple microbe around in a 3D environment on a single 2D plane, reminiscent of flow, where it must deal with fluid dynamics and predators, while eating meat chunks (from dead weaker microbes) or plants. The player may choose whether the creature is a herbivore or a carnivore prior to starting the stage.[11] Once the microbe has found a part, the player can call a mate to enter the editor, in which they can modify the shape and abilities of the microbe by spending "DNA points" earned throughout eating organisms in the stage. A player may choose to remove a part, which will refund the full price of DNA, or add more parts, despite the quantity he already has of them. The player may scale the parts of his cell, including the spinal cord, eyes, and mouth to personalize the look. The paint editor, accessible from the parts editor, also gives a variety of patterns and colors for a nice look.

As the game progresses it becomes possible to make creatures omnivorous as compared to just herbivorous or carnivorous, allowing them to eat both plant matter and smaller living cells by earning the proboscis mouth or by using both the herbivorous and carnivorous mouths together. The balance of what type of food is eaten (plant matter vs. meat bits) determines whether the creature will be a herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore for the following stages. Despite the given mouth, the food the player has eaten directly affects the types of mouths available for him in the creature stage. Parts are acquired by seeking out special "part tokens" from meteor fragments and other organisms, which provide new parts to use in the editor, including spikes, mouths or better propulsion mechanisms.[11][12] If the creature dies, the player restarts from wherever the creature last spawned.

The stage consists of five phases; every half-phase, the creature expands. As the microbe grows, objects that are in the background draw to the foreground, making enormous microbes that formerly lay harmless in the background a possible threat while simultaneously making smaller microbes too minuscule to notice for the player. Most creatures play a major role, and usually represent a threat. Even harmless herbivores can provide a challenge by stealing food if the player is also a herbivore. Carnivorous creatures will continually try to eat the player, or compete for food. If the player can eat flesh, then they can kill and consume other cells their size or, with smaller organisms, they can be swallowed up instantly. Larger, carnivorous cells will occasionally chase the player's cell and can be very dangerous. These larger cells can be killed, but only if the player's cell has weapon parts. They are difficult to kill with such a large amount of health, but If they do die, they still cannot be eaten, because a smaller cell's mouth can't penetrate their skin. Killing cells at around the player's creature size and larger will earn them new parts, if the killed cell has them, but will not earn any new abilities from smaller, easier to kill cells.

The cell's eating habits in the Cell Stage directly influence its diet in the Creature Stage, and only mouths appropriate to the diet (Herbivore, Carnivore, or Omnivore) established in the Cell stage will become available in the Creature Stage (however, diet restrictions can be overcome by swapping the cell's mouthpiece before entering the Creature phase, regardless of what diet is assigned to the creature). The ocean floor becomes more prominent as the player progresses, and once the player decides to progress to the next stage, the creature editor appears, prompting the user to add legs before the shift to land. The first creature editor is very limited, with only the unlocked cell parts (with new functions) and legs to be had, yet the color styles become more complex than before. When out of the water, a cutscene will appear in which the player's creature will call its own species to join it on land and then move to a nest where the creature stage will start.

Originally another stage, known as the "Aquatic Stage", involving sea life was after the cell stage but was edited out due to disk space and poor playability with three dimensions.[13]

Creature stage[edit]

At the beginning of the second stage in the game called the creature stage, the player creates his/her own land creature. At the very beginning it is similar to the cell stage as it uses the same parts, but one now has legs and arms (which are not necessary but greatly benefit the player). Also the shape of the creature becomes a 3D format instead of the cell stage's 2D format. The biosphere contains a variety of animal species, which carnivorous and omnivorous player creatures can hunt for food. There is also a range of plants, some of which bear fruit, a reliable food source for herbivores and omnivores. Environmental phenomena, as well as the creature's vital health and hunger meters, are always a concern and sometimes a challenge. One of the main problems is hunger. The player must always be wary of the food bar, which must be replenished every few minutes. Attempting to cross an ocean will lead to the player's death if he ventures into water that is too deep; a giant fish-like creature will quickly go to the player and eat the player.

In the creature stage the player has a home nest where the members of his own species are located. The nest is where the player respawns after dying or mating. The nest is the 'base of operations' for the creature and one should stay near the base for healing and mating. There are many other species in their nests that can be found across the Continent. While interacting with them, the player can choose to be friendly (or as the game refers to it: social) or to be aggressive. Most creatures work together in their nests and live with each other, just like the player's species. In their nests, a wide variety of things may be found besides the standard creature. There are Alpha creatures, which have higher health and stats, and babies, which have lower health and stats. There are also eggs, which may be destroyed for experience points, but will hatch eventually. Occasionally, instead of creatures there will be pulsating cocoons that will hatch into creatures after a while. How the player interacts with the nest will affect how they think of him. For instance, if the player decides to befriend the creatures, they will act friendly toward him and become allies to help him by following him around, but if player attacks and kills some of them, the nest will either get angry and frequently try to attack the player or develop a fear of the player and run away if the player gets close enough to interact or spends enough time near them.

The player can then decide whether to use social skills to befriend, or combat skills to hunt, these other species; these decisions will affect the abilities of the player's species in the subsequent stages of the game. Successful socialization and hunting attempts will gain varying amounts of DNA Points, the continued 'currency' of this stage. DNA points may be spent on many new body parts, which influence how the creature will perform when attacking other creatures or socializing with them . New body parts may be obtained and equipped by examining bone piles or fragmentary skeletons scattered throughout the landscape. Also, when a player defeats or befriends an "alpha" creature, he is given a part, albeit a part that doesn't always have better stats than previously acquired parts.

Interacting with other species progresses in the stage and also gives the player's creature the ability to form a pack, or posse, eventually containing up to three creatures. Any befriended creature may be added to an empty pack slot by making a successful socialization attempt after the species is your ally. Pack members will travel, socialize and fight alongside the player's creature, increasing the odds of befriending other creatures and of surviving combat. Pack members may heal at the home nest, or at the nests of allied or extinct species. This entire process can be done with the player's own species as the player can add his own creatures to the pack instead of trying to befriend other creatures as allies; this is excellent if the player wishes to focus only on either socializing or hunting other races.

Rogue creatures are solitary members of other species. They can be neutral or predominantly angry towards the player's creature, which is usually the result of the Rogue creature's feeding habits. Their most significant difference from normal creatures is that they require massively larger amounts of health than other creatures, making them harder to kill. They can be befriended, and are valuable pack members because of their excellent statistics. However, befriending them can be a difficult task. Either method will, however, lead to a large bonus of DNA.

Epic creatures are enormous creatures which appear randomly throughout the phase. They are always hostile, and cannot be befriended . They have 1000 health, and rarely 500 in which they are called "half-epics", and can kill most creatures with a single strike. Epics also have the ability to pick up other creatures and throw them over long distances, which usually results in death. As a result, epic creatures are almost impossible to kill during this stage and are often best avoided; during later stages they present a less serious threat. Killing one in this stage grants the 'epic killer' achievement.

As the player's creature befriends or hunts more of the other creatures, its intelligence increases. Eventually it will be ready for the subsequent Tribal stage; in these, only cultural evolution is possible and the Creature Editor is no longer available.[14]

To add new parts, the player's creature can mate with another member of his nest. Then, the creature creator pops up (similar to the one on entry to the creature stage when coming from the cell stage), and the player can add new parts to his creature, and take off old ones, earning a full refund on the DNA points used to purchase these parts. He can also mold the shape of his creature and color it differently using three coats of paint and texture, so that the new creature can look wholly different from the previous version. More expensive parts will upgrade the player's abilities for their method of interaction. After the player is finished editing, a newly evolved generation of creatures will appear with the new parts and form.

Occasionally, a random meteor shower may occur, in which relatively small meteors will shower over the landscape. These meteors can harm the player's creature and other creatures. Another random event is spaceships appearing in the sky, which can move about freely and will randomly abduct creatures using an abduction beam. However, the player's creature cannot be abducted.

Tribal stage[edit]

After the brain of the player's species evolves sufficiently, the species may enter the tribal stage. Physical development ceases, as does the player's exclusive control over an individual creature, as the game focuses on the birth of division of labor for the species.[15] The player is given a hut, a group of fully evolved creatures,[16] as well as two of six possible Consequence Abilities, unlocked depending on the species' behavior in the previous phases. This is only possible if the player played the previous stages; if the player started directly from the Galaxy Screen, they are locked.[17]

This stage begins with a humorous cutscene parodying 2001: A Space Odyssey, depicting the player's creature attempting to make fire using a stick tool, throwing it into the air, swaying as the stick comes down on its head, and finally succeeding. The game during this stage is similar to an RTS. Rather than controlling one creature, the player now controls an entire tribe and can give them commands, such as gathering food, attacking other tribes or simply moving to a certain location. The player may give the tribe tools such as weapons, musical instruments, and healing or food-gathering implements. Food now replaces "DNA points" as the player's currency, and can be spent on structures and additional tribe members, or used to appease other tribes. Creatures also gain the option to wear clothes, the editing of which replaces the Creature Editor in the 'Tribal Outfitter'.[16] If creatures of a different species were added to the player's pack in the Creature phase, they are now used as pets. Additional creatures may be domesticated in the Tribal phase, which provide eggs for food.[18] Contact with other tribes of the same species, or even different species, can take place in this stage. Creatures also "speak", most noticeably in a cutscene where the player advances to the civilization stage, with icons embedded in word balloons.

Tribe members are created by giving birth to babies (which costs ten food) and waiting for them to grow up, although the tribe can only support a certain number of members. After reaching maturity, they can do jobs like gather food, hunt animals, attack opposing tribes, and befriend other tribes. Combat can be made more effective with weapons like stone axes or throwing spears (for attacking units) and flaming torches (for destroying buildings). For socializing, a player can obtain musical instruments: wooden horns, maracas and didgeridoos for the tribe. Those are more essential than weapons, for other tribes will get annoyed if the creatures don't play music correctly (or at all). Also, miscellaneous tools can be used for fishing and gathering food, and for healing tribe members. All tools, however, require a specialized tool shack, which costs food to build. Tribe members can also gather food, an essential concept.

Creature stage mouths affect what kind of food they can gather and eat. For instance, herbivores cannot eat meat or fish (although they will fish for seaweed), and carnivores can't eat fruit. Obviously, omnivores have a slight advantage because they can eat anything, although they have to eat more food in order to be full. Animals can be hunted for meat, and fish can be speared for food. Fruit is gathered from trees and bushes, and players can also domesticate animals for eggs. Eggs can be eaten by carnivores, herbivores and omnivores, and can be taken from non-domesticated animals, but this angers them and causes them to instantly turn hostile. Herbivores can use fishing hotspots, but will get seaweed instead of fish. Any foreign animals belonging to the player's pack in creature stage are automatically added to the tribe as farm animals, but non-domesticated ones will sometimes sneak up and attempt to eat some of the player's food. Other tribes also can provide food for the player. An allied tribe will occasionally bring the player a gift (a basket of food tied with a large purple bow) to show their gratitude. Also, players can steal food from other tribes (though it angers them), and dead tribes may be pillaged for their food, if they had any.

The creatures' behaviors are affected by the way the player utilizes them. If a player uses them aggressively, their autonomic behavior will reflect that; conversely, if the player uses them peacefully, allying other tribes, their behavior will be more kind. Even their idle behavior will reflect this; warlike tribal members will practice combat while docile members will practice playing musical instruments and throw parties.

There are five other tribes that appear along with the player's tribe. 3 are aggressive, 2 are passive, and all 5 can either be destroyed or befriended. For every tribe befriended or destroyed, a piece of a totem pole is built, which may increase the population limit of the player's tribe or grant access to new tools and clothes. Depending on the means the tribe used to overtake the neighboring tribe—by forming an alliance or annihilating the tribe—the totem piece will either be a music-playing figure or an angry, axe-wielding figure. When the totem pole has five pieces, symbolizing the five foreign tribes, the player may move forward to the Civilization stage.[10][15]

Civilization stage[edit]

The Civilization stage focuses on the player developing many cities of three types; Economic, Military and Religious.

This stage begins with a cutscene showing a brainstorming between several members of the player's tribe about what they should do. One tribesman suggests the building of a city, another suggests the creation of vehicles, one reminds the gathering of the tribe's ideal, and another shouts "PIE!" The rest of the tribe are confused by this and the chief dismisses it, shouting town, ideal, vehicles. Fireworks then come from around the city hall.

The events of Tribal Stage have left the player's tribe the dominant species of the planet, but the species itself has now fragmented into many separate nations, similar to the way humanity now lives. The player retains control of a single nation with one city. The goal in the civilization phase is to gain control of the entire planet, and it is left to the player to decide whether to conquer it using military force, diplomacy, or religious influence. When entering the phase, the tribal camp is now a city. Two new editors (the building and vehicle editors) are used to create city buildings and vehicles. The player can place three types of buildings (House, Factory, and Entertainment) around the City Hall (which can also be customized) and may build up to 3 types of vehicles (sea, land and air). These vehicles can also serve military, economic or religious purposes. The main unit of currency is "Sporebucks", which is used to purchase vehicles and buildings. To earn income, players can capture spice geysers and set up spice derricks at their locations, conduct trade, or build factories (see below).

In constructing vehicles and buildings, as with most real-time strategy games, there is a capacity limit; building houses will increase the cap, and constructing various buildings adjacent to one another will provide a productivity bonus or deficit: for example, building an entertainment centre next to a house will provide happiness, but a factory will decrease happiness, though increase income. Putting an entertainment centre next to a factory defeats the purpose of the entertainment center, as it creates a red line of unhappiness. Like Civilization III and IV, the player's territory is marked with a colored border that increases as the player gains more power through militarism, influence or economic negotiations.[19]

For the first couple of minutes upon beginning the civilization stage, the player's nation is the only existing one on the planet, with one city. Tribes can still be found across the planet, and their members will all be of your species. These tribes may turn hostile towards your vehicles, and can be killed. The general goal at this point is to set up spice derricks at spice geysers to improve the nation's income and expand your territory. But soon other nations will form and will be looking at the same goal. Their existence means you will not be able to continue expanding your empire without using military force, propaganda or simply buying out cities. Players can choose to gain global domination depending on the types of cities they own. Military states grow solely by attacking other cities. Instead of military conquest, players with a religious trait construct special missionary units that convert other cities via religious propaganda.[20] Likewise, economic players communicate solely by trade and have no weapons (except for defensive Turrets). They also gain more money by trading. However, if the player's state captures a city of a different type, they can choose to have the city retain its original type if they wish.

Diplomacy also becomes more complex in the Civilization Stage. Aside from the aforementioned trading with other cities, players can improve relations with another nations by complimenting them, giving them gifts of money and fighting their enemies. Players can also form alliances with a rival civilization, and when the entire world has been conquered by both factions, the rival faction will join the player's.

Capturing cities is the key to Civilization stage. With more cities, players can support bigger armies or merchant fleets. An economic player can send trade ships and vehicles to the opponent's cities to trade with them, if they have a trade route. Each one will bring in a small profit, as well as swifter "buyout". After trading with a city for a while, the player can buy it. A military player can use vehicles armed with weapons to destroy buildings to lower morale, so the city eventually surrenders. In addition, a city will surrender faster if they are unhappy (i.e. if the city has few entertainment buildings and a lot of factories). The third strategy, religious domination, involves converting cities to the player's religion. Religious vehicles spread propaganda to cities via a gigantic hologram of a god in the species' image, but can be harmed and destroyed in the process, as enemies don't like their cities defecting. All three paths can eventually use a superweapon, which requires a large number of cities and Sporebucks, but will allow the player to conquer the world in one shot.

Epic creatures are also seen in the stage. They are much larger (perhaps meaning they too have evolved), with 3000 health, and will attack cities. Defense turrets will open fire at the epic creature the second it begins damaging the city. This will only draw the epic's attention to the turret, which will most likely be destroyed very quickly. The player will probably have to use a large amount of military force in order to defeat the epic creature. However, the player no longer needs to kill them, as they can be temporarily charmed and manipulated by religious vehicles. When the player has neutralized all the civilizations on the planet and decides to move on to the Space Stage, the spaceship editor appears.[21]

Space stage[edit]

In the Space stage, the player has access to a galactic map for interstellar travel.

The space stage provides new goals and paths as the player begins to spread through the galaxy. The game adopts the principle of mediocrity, as there are numerous forms of life scattered throughout the galaxy. The player may now terraform and colonize neighboring uninhabited planets with special tools. Although these tools start off as limited and very expensive one-use items, the player can later obtain limitless energy-based versions. Terraforming tools include a heat-ray which can create more favorable conditions on, for example, an ice planet. If left unchecked, this can cause oceans to rise, then eventually to evaporate and transform the world into a desert planet, followed by a molten rock in space (though since Heat Ray is a manual tool, this will only happen if the tool is left on).[22] There are four levels of planet quality, called T0, T1, T2, and T3; each subsequent level allows the player to place more cities and buildings on the planet. Plant and animal life are needed to support and stabilize an atmosphere by balancing the ecosystem. Terraforming can also be used as a weapon, sucking out the atmosphere or altering the temperature of a planet in order to kill the inhabitants without a pitched battle. This can be useful when dealing with planets that are T3 and have more than three cities on it. When lowering the terrascore cities will begin to be destroyed. For example, terraforming a T3 planet down to T2 will leave 2 cities on the planet. The ultimate terraforming tool is a technology called the Staff of Life, dubbed the 'Genesis device' prior to the game's release, which instantly can transform any planet into an ideal (T3) planet, complete with stable temperature and fully filled ecosystems, although it is limited to 42 uses.[23] Players may build colonies on the surface of an inhospitable planet to create bubbled cities, similar in function to self-sustaining arcologies. When establishing colonies on alien worlds, players have to take care of them as they would any other city and keep morale up.

The player may also abduct creatures and transport them to other planets to test a planet's habitability and to create ecosystems to stabilize a planet's atmosphere. The player may utilize various tools such as crop circles to interact with primitive lifeforms, or place a monolith (in the style of 2001: A Space Odyssey) on a planet, triggering evolution of intelligence. On some worlds, the player may also find strange "artifacts" with functions varying from planet terraforming tools to treasures which can be sold to other empires for a good price. Artifacts can be present on lifeless worlds and inhabited worlds, although taking them from planets occupied by sapient beings angers the inhabitants.

The player can encounter space pirates throughout the galaxy, which are hostile. The player's colonies will sometimes come under attack from pirate raids, and the player will be called upon to fight them off.

The player controls a single starship, built at the beginning of the Space Stage. The player can travel by clicking on other planets and moons and stars, though each jump costs a little bit of energy. By making more interstellar trips, the player can get upgraded jump drives that allow him to extend their jump range. However, near the center of the galaxy there lie denser star clusters, so the jump range is shortened as the player nears the core. Also, later in the game there is a wormhole key which enables the player to travel through black holes, offering instant transportation to a sister black hole. There are around 500,000 planets in the game's galaxy orbiting around 100,000 stars (including Earth and its star, Sol).

Players can make contact with other space-faring civilizations, called "empires", most of which contain species created by other players. This is a very important aspect of the game because almost half of the solar systems have other lifeforms already inhabiting them. The empires the player encounters can have different personalities. For example, the player may encounter a diplomatic empire who communicate politely, welcome the player's presence and are relatively easy to ally. However, the player may encounter a more unfriendly empire who doesn't trust the player and requires more in order to be pleased. If the player chooses to interact with them he can either befriend them or attack. If the player chose to interact with them he can be nice or rude while introducing himself which can add to them liking him or add negative points to how much they like him. Diplomacy in the Space Stage is the same as the Civilization Stage, but with the added option of doing missions, and using various devices on a planet's inhabitants. Completing missions for an empire improves the player's relationship with them, as does trading and assisting in fending off attacks. When the player has become allied with an empire, they can ask certain favors of the empire. For example, they can ask for a ship from their fleet to assist them in their travels. The player can even ask an allied empire to attack another empire, though a considerable sum of Sporebucks is usually demanded in return. Allied empires can sometimes ask favors of the player, which mainly includes helping to fight off attacks from other empires. If the player becomes enemies with an empire, they will send a small fleet of ships to attack the player's ship as soon as they enter their territory.

One of the main goals in the Space Stage is for the player to push their way toward a supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center. Completing this mission rewards the player with the previously mentioned Staff of Life while introducing the game's final antagonists, the Grox, a unique species of cybernetic aliens with a powerful empire of 2400 systems surrounding the core. The Grox have an extreme hate for everyone, and allying them is extremely hard, as they will attack whenever one enters one of their systems. If done, the player can receive the "Dancing with devils" badge, but all the empires will instantly become enemies. One mission the player can get is to find the Grox, another is to fight them (they are mostly based on The Borg of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Series).[24]

If Galactic Adventures is installed, the player may be given missions which involve travelling to planets, beaming down and completing Maxis-created, planetside 'adventures'. With this expansion, the player can also upgrade their Captain with weapons and accessories which assist in these adventures. The occupants of allied ships can also take part in these adventures.

Editors/creators[edit]

Tribal phase clothing editor.

User-generated content is a major feature of Spore;[25] there are eighteen different types of editors (some unique to a phase), including a music editor which allows players to create (but not share) songs to be used as a national anthem in the Civilization stages and above.[11] Will Wright has stated that in addition to being simple, all the editors will be as similar as possible so that skills learned are easily transferable from one editor to the next.

The editors start simply in the cellular phase and move to higher levels of complexity, acting as tutorials for progressive levels of gameplay. For example, the cell editor has nine choices and a two-dimensional environment while the creature editor has dozens of options and a 3D environment. The structure ranges from a spine and body model in the creature editor to more free-form editors for the buildings. You may make and edit as many creatures as desired from the 'galaxy' menu.

For example, the creature editor allows the player to take what looks like a lump of clay with a spine and mold it into a creature. Once one has molded the torso, the player can add parts such as legs, arms, feet, hands, noses, eyes, mouths, decorative elements, and a wide array of sensory organs. Many of these parts affect the creature's abilities (speed, strength, diet, etc.), while some parts are purely decorative. Once the creature is formed, it can be painted using a large number of textures, overlays, colors, and patterns, which are procedurally applied depending on the topology of the creature. The only required feature is the mouth, and the player cannot save their creature if it has no mouth, as it cannot do a mating call and find a mate, opening the creator in-game. All other parts are optional; for example, creatures without legs will slither on the ground like a slug or an inchworm, and creatures without arms will simply be unable to pick up objects in the Creature Stage (see above). Eyes are optional, though an eyeless creature can only "see" a short range around them. This range is in grey-scale.

Other editors are used for buildings and for vehicles. Eventually, players can even edit entire planets, using various in-game processes. Electronic Arts has promised new editors to be released after the game's release, such as a flora editor.[26] However, a beta flora editor and expanded cell editor are available in the game code and can be accessed by changing the target parameters for the shortcut executable. It is worth noting that the beta flora editor does not affect gameplay, as no creation can be used or uploaded.[27]

There are also simple means of creating visual media, such as a screenshot facility that captures the screen without the surrounding user-interface and a 640x480 video creator with a built-in YouTube upload service. Maxis has also partnered with a third party to provide a Spore-branded Comic Book Creator service, which was live at launch. All creations are placed inside the "Sporepedia". These creations can be viewed and downloaded by other players and vice versa. So far, over 170,000,000 creations have been shared.

There are two new editors seen in the new expansion Spore: Galactic Adventures: these include the captain editor (also called the captain outfitter) and the adventure creator, which enables terraforming and placing objects freely on special adventure planets. On July 21, 2009, Maxis released a patch for the game that allows players to create asymmetric creations without hacks. This feature applies to all the editors in the game. (This excludes any building editors, as they supported asymmetry before the patch.)[28]

Community[edit]

Spore's user community functionality includes a feature that is part of an agreement with YouTube granting players the ability to upload directly from within the game a YouTube video of their creatures' activity, and EA's creation of "The Spore YouTube Channel", which will showcase the most popular videos created this way.[29] In addition, some user-created content will be highlighted by Maxis at the official Spore site, and earn badges of recognition.[10] One of Spore's most social features is the Sporecast, an RSS feed that players can use to subscribe to the creations of any specific Spore player, allowing them to track their creations.[30] There is a toggle which allows the player to restrict what downloadable content will be allowed; choices include: "no user generated content", "official Maxis-approved content", "downloadable friend content", and "all user-created content".[10] Players can also ban any content in-game, at any time, and Maxis monitors content with notable numbers of player bans.

Spore API[edit]

Spore has also released an API (application programming interface) to allow developers to access data about player activity, the content they produce and their interactions with each other.[31] The Spore API is a collection of RESTful public web services that return data in xml format. In April 2009, the results of the Spore API Contest was concluded with winners building interactive visualizations, games, mobile applications and content navigation tools. The API also includes a Developers forum for people wishing to use all the creations people have made to create applications.[32]

Interplay[edit]

The game is referred to as a "massively single-player online game" and "asynchronous sharing."[33][34] Simultaneous multiplayer gaming is not a feature of Spore. The content that the player can create is uploaded automatically to a central database, cataloged and rated for quality (based on how many users have downloaded the object or creature in question), and then re-distributed to populate other players' games.[23] The data transmitted is very small — only a couple of kilobytes per item transmitted – due to procedural generation of material.

Via the in-game "MySpore Page", players receive statistics of how their creatures are faring in other players' games, which has been referred to as the "alternate realities of the Spore metaverse." The game reports to the player on how other players have interacted with him or her. For example, the game reports how many times other players have allied with the player's species. The personalities of user-created species are dependent on how the user played them.[35]

Players can share creations, chat, and roleplay in the Sporum, the game's internet forum hosted by Maxis.[36] Multiple sections allow forum users users to share creations and tips for the game, as well as roleplay.

Sporepedia[edit]

Sporepedia in-game.

The Sporepedia keeps track of nearly every gameplay experience, including the evolution of a creature by graphically displaying a timeline which shows how the creature incrementally changed over the eons; it also keeps track of the creature's achievements, both noteworthy and dubious, as a species.[11] The Sporepedia also keeps track of all the creatures, planets, vehicles and other content the player encounters over the course of a game. Players can upload their creations to Spore.com to be viewed by the public at the Sporepedia website. The ever-growing list of creations made by players is past the 100 million mark so far.

Procedural generation[edit]

Spore uses procedural generation extensively in relation to content pre-made by the developers. Wright mentioned in an interview given at E3 2006 that the information necessary to generate an entire creature would be only a couple of kilobytes, and went on to give the following analogy: "think of it as sharing the DNA template of a creature while the game, like a womb, builds the 'phenotypes' of the animal, which represent a few uploaded and downloaded freely and quickly from the Sporepedia online server. This allows users to asynchronously upload their creations and download other players' content, which enriches the experience of the game as more of its players progress in the game."

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 84.40%[47]
Metacritic 84%[48]
Review scores
Publication Score
1UP.com B+[37]
Eurogamer 9/10[42]
Game Informer 8.75/10
GamePro 4/5[43]
GameSpot 8.0/10[45]
GameSpy 4.5/5[44]
IGN 8.8/10[39]
PC Gamer UK 91%[40]
PC Gamer US 91%[41]
X-Play 5/5[38]
Wired 7/10[46]
Awards
Publication Award
BAVGA Best Technical Achievement

IGN Australia awarded Spore a 9.2 out of 10 score, saying, "It [Spore] will make you acknowledge just how far we’ve come, and just how far we have to go, and Spore will change the way you think about the universe we live in."[49] PC Gamer UK awarded the game a 91%, saying "Spore's triumph is painfully ironic. By setting out to instill a sense of wonderment at creation and the majesty of the universe, it's shown us that it's actually a lot more interesting to sit here at our computers and explore the contents of each other's brains."[40] In its 4.5 (of 5) -star review, GameSpy wrote "Spore is a technological triumph that introduces a whole new way of tapping into a bottomless well of content."[44]

Most of the criticism of Spore came from the lack of depth in the first four phases, summarized by Eurogamer's 9 of 10 review, which stated, "for all their mighty purpose, the first four phases of the game don't always play brilliantly, and they're too fleeting."[42] 1UP.com reasoned in its B+ graded review, "It's not a perfect game, but it's definitely one that any serious gamer should try."[37] GameSpot in its 8.0 of 10 review called Spore "a legitimately great game that will deliver hours of quality entertainment", but criticized the "individual gameplay elements [that] are extremely simple."[45] Jason Ocampo's IGN 8.8 of 10 review stated, "Maxis has made an impressive product that does so many incredible things" but added, "while Spore is an amazing product, it's just not quite an amazing game."[39]

The New York Times review of Spore mostly centered on lack of depth and quality of gameplay in the later phases of the game, stating that "most of the basic core play dynamics in Spore are unfortunately rather thin."[50] While a review in PC Gamer US stated that "it just isn't right to judge Spore in the context of so many of the other games we judge",[41] Zero Punctuation was also critical of the game, claiming it did not live up to the legacy of The Sims: "The chief failing of Spore is that it's trying to be five games, each one a shallow and cut down equivalent of another game, with the Civilization stage even going so far as to be named after the game it's bastardizing."[51]

Criticism has also emerged surrounding the stability of the game, with The Daily Telegraph stating: "The launch of Spore, the keenly anticipated computer game from the creators of The Sims, has been blighted by technical problems."[52] In an interview published by MTV, Spore designer Will Wright responded to early criticism that the phases of the game had been dumbed-down by explaining[53] "We were very focused, if anything, on making a game for more casual players. Spore has more depth than, let’s say, The Sims did. But we looked at the Metacritic scores for Sims 2, which was around ninety, and something like Half-Life, which was ninety-seven, and we decided — quite a while back — that we would rather have the Metacritic and sales of Sims 2 than the Metacritic and sales of Half-Life".

In its first three weeks on sale, the game sold 2 million copies, according to Electronic Arts.[54]

DRM controversy[edit]

For more details on this topic, see SecuROM.

Spore uses a modified version of the controversial digital rights management (DRM) software SecuROM as copy protection,[55][56][57][58] which requires authentication upon installation and when online access is used.[59] This system was announced after the originally planned system met opposition from the public, as it would have required authentication every ten days.[60] Additionally, EA released the game under a policy by which the product key of an individual copy of the game would only be authenticated on up to three computers.[61] In response to customer complaints, this limit was raised to five computers.[62] After the activation limit has been depleted, EA Customer Service will consider further activations on a case-by-case basis.[63] A survey conducted by EA revealed that only 14% have activated on more than 1 PC and less than 1% of users have tried to activate Spore on more than 3 PCs.[64]

By September 14, 2008 (ten days after the game's initial Australian release), 2,016 of 2,216 ratings on Amazon.com gave the game one out of five stars, most citing EA's implementation of DRM for the low ratings.[65] Electronic Arts cited SecuROM as a "standard for the industry", and Apple's iPod song DRM policy as justification for the control method.[66] Former Maxis developer Chris Harris labeled the DRM a "screw up" and a "totally avoidable disaster".[67]

The SecuROM software was not mentioned on the box, in the manual, or in the software license agreement. An EA spokesperson stated that "we don't disclose specifically which copy protection or digital rights management system we use [...] because EA typically uses one license agreement for all of its downloadable games, and different EA downloadable games may use different copy protection and digital rights management.”[68] A pirated version without the DRM was released two days before the initial Australian release,[69] making Spore the most pirated game of 2008.[65][70][71]

On September 22, 2008, a class action lawsuit was filed against EA, regarding the DRM in Spore, complaining about EA not disclosing the existence of SecuROM, and addressing how SecuROM runs with the nature of a rootkit, including how it remains on the hard drive even after Spore is uninstalled.[72][73][74] On October 14, 2008, a similar class action lawsuit was filed against EA for the inclusion of DRM software in the free demo version of the Creature Creator.[75]

EA began selling Spore without SecuROM on December 22, 2008 through Steam.[76] Furthermore, EA Games president Frank Gibeau announced that maximum install limit would be increased from 3 to 5 and that it would be possible to de-authorize and move installations to new machines, citing the need to adapt their policy to accommodate their legitimate customers.[77][78] EA has stated, "By running the de-authorization tool, a machine 'slot' will be freed up on the online Product Authorization server and can then be re-used by another machine. You can de-authorize at any time, even without uninstalling Spore, and free up that machine authorization. If you re-launch Spore on the same machine, the game will attempt to re-authorize. If you have not reached the machine limitation, the game will authorize and the machine will be re-authorized using up one of the five available machines." However, the de-authorization tool to do this is not available on the Mac platform.[79]

Scientific accuracy[edit]

The educational community has shown some interest in using Spore to teach students about evolution and biology.[80] However, the game's player-driven evolution mechanism differs from the theory of evolution in some key ways:

  • The different species that appear in Spore each have different ancestors, not shared ones, and the player's creature's "evolutionary" path is linear instead of branched: one species can only evolve into one other species, as opposed to into many related species.
  • In Spore, the player's creature evolves along a path towards intelligence, instead of evolving solely in response to random genetic changes and pressure from its environment. In real world evolution, there are many possible evolutionary pathways, and there is no endpoint except extinction.
  • In the real world, an organism's environment shapes its evolution by allowing some individuals to reproduce more and causing other individuals to die. In Spore, the only things shaping the way the creatures change over time are game statistics and "whatever the player thinks looks cool."[81]
  • In Spore, creatures have to collect new parts from other creatures or from skeletal remains in order to evolve those parts themselves. In reality, this does not occur, although in some cases organisms can appropriate the genes of other species. Bacteria and viruses can transfer genes from one species of macroscopic organism to another. However, this transfer is limited to single or occasionally multiple alleles; it never involves complex organs like mouths or limbs, as in Spore.

In October 2008, John Bohannon of Science magazine assembled a team to review the game's portrayal of evolution and other scientific concepts. Evolutionary biologists T. Ryan Gregory of the University of Guelph and Niles Elredge of the American Museum of Natural History reviewed the Cell and Creature stages. William Sims Bainbridge, a sociologist from the U.S. National Science Foundation, reviewed the Tribe and Civilization stages. NASA's Miles Smith reviewed the Space stage.[81] The Science team evaluated Spore on twenty-two subjects. The game's grades ranged from a single A in galactic structure and a B+ in sociology to Fs in mutation, sexual selection, natural selection, genetics, and genetic drift.[82] In addition, Yale evolutionary biologists Thomas Near and Thomas Prum found Spore fun to play and admired its ability to get people to think about evolutionary questions, but consider the game's evolutionary mechanism to be "severely messed up."[83]

According to Seed magazine, the original concept for Spore was more scientifically accurate than the version that was eventually released. It included more realistic artwork for the single-celled organisms and a rejection of faster-than-light travel as impossible. However, these were removed to make the game more friendly to casual users.[84] While Seed does not entirely reject Spore as a teaching tool, admiring its ability to show the user experimentation, observation, and scale, biological concepts did not fare so well:

The snag is that Spore didn't just jettison half its science — it replaced it with systems and ideas that run the risk of being actively misleading. Scientists brought in to evaluate the game for potential education projects recoiled as it became increasingly evident that the game broke many more scientific laws than it obeyed. Those unwilling to comment publicly speak privately of grave concerns about a game which seems to further the idea of intelligent design under the badge of science, and they bristle at its willingness to use words like "evolution" and "mutation" in entirely misleading ways.[84]

Will Wright argues that developers "put the player in the role of an intelligent designer,"[85] because of the lack of emotional engagement of early prototype focusing on mutation. Intelligent design advocate Michael Behe of Lehigh University reviewed the game and said that Spore "has nothing to do with real science or real evolution — neither Darwinian nor intelligent design,"[81] contradicting the argument that the game promotes intelligent design over evolution.

Licensing[edit]

Electronic Arts is using the Spore license to develop many related products, including console games and merchandising. Such licensing includes

Software[edit]

See Also Spore Creatures, Spore Origins, Spore: Galactic Adventures, Spore Creature Keeper, Spore Hero, Spore Hero Arena

Electronic Arts confirmed that Spore will be receiving post-release expansion packs.[86]

The Nintendo DS spinoff is titled Spore Creatures, focusing on the Creature phase. The game is a 2D/3D story-based role-playing game as the gamer plays a creature kidnapped by a UFO and forced to survive in a strange world, with elements of Nintendogs.[87] Another Spore title for the DS called Spore Hero Arena was released in 2009. Spore Origins is the mobile phone/iPhone[88]/iPod[89] spinoff of Spore, and as with the Nintendo DS version, focuses on a single phase of gameplay; in this case, the cell phase. The simplified game allows players to try to survive as a multicellular organism in a tide pool, similar to flow.[90] The iPhone version takes advantage of the device's touch capabilities and 3-axis accelerometer.[91]

A Wii spinoff of the game now known as Spore Hero has been mentioned by Will Wright several times, such as in his October 26, 2007 interview with The Guardian.[92] Buechner confirmed it, revealing that plans for a Wii version were underway, and that the game would be built from the ground up and would take advantage of the Wii Remote, stating, "We're not porting it over. You know, we're still so early in design and prototyping that I don't know where we're going to end up, so I don't want to lead you down one path. But suffice to say that it's being developed with the Wii controls and technology in mind."[93] Eventually, a spin-off under the title "Spore Hero" was announced, an adventure game built ground up for the Wii with a heavier focus on evolution, was announced."[94] The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Spore are still under consideration.[10][95] Frank Gibeau, president of Electronic Arts' Games Label announced that the publisher might use the underlying technology of Spore to develop electric software titles, such as action, real-time strategy, and role-playing games for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii.[96]

An expansion pack named Spore: Galactic Adventures was released on June 23, 2009. It allows the player's creature to beam onto planets, rather than using a hologram. It also adds an "Adventure Creator" which allows for the creation of missions and goals to share with the Spore community. Creatures can add new abilities, including weaponry, tanks, and crew members, as well as a section of the adventure creator that involves editing a planet and using 60 new flora parts.[28]

Spore: Creepy & Cute[edit]

Main article: Spore: Creepy & Cute

In late 2008, EA released the Creepy and Cute expansion pack, which includes new parts and color schemes for creature creation. Among the new parts were additional mouths and eyes, as well as "insect legs." The pack also included new test-drive animations and backgrounds.

Spore Bot Parts[edit]

As part of an EA promotion with Dr. Pepper in early 2010, 14 new robotic parts for Spore creatures were released in a new patch (1.06.0000) available only from the Dr. Pepper website. Codes found on certain bottles of Dr Pepper allow the player to redeem these parts, albeit only for the USA, excluding Maine. It was only available for Windows PC, and was eventually extended to Canadian residents. The promotion ended in late 2011.

The Spore Bot Parts Pack has caused controversy within the Spore community, because of many problems with the download and its exclusive nature.

Merchandising[edit]

There is an iTunes-style "Spore Store" built into the game, allowing players to purchase external Spore licensed merchandise, such as t-shirts, posters, and future Spore expansion packs.[86] There are also plans for the creation of a type of Spore collectible card game based on the Sporepedia cards of the creatures, buildings, vehicles, and planets that have been created by the players.[23] There are also indications of plans for the creation of customized creature figurines; some of those who designed their own creatures at E3 2006 later received 3D printed models of the creatures they created.[97] On December 18, 2008, it was announced that players could now turn their creations into 3D sculptures using Z Corporations 3D printing technology.[98]

The Spore Store also allows people to put their creatures on such items as T-shirts, mugs, and stickers.[99] The Spore team is working on a partnership with a comic creation software company to offer comic book versions of players' "Spore stories". Comic books with stylized pictures of various creatures, some whose creation has been shown in various presentations, can be seen on the walls of the Spore team's office.[100] The utility was revealed at the Comic-Con International: San Diego on July 24, 2008 as the Spore Comic Creator, which would utilize MashOn.com and its e-card software.[101]

Theatrical film[edit]

EA, 20th Century Fox, and AIG announced the development of a Spore film on October 1, 2009. The movie adaptation will be a CGI-animated film created by Blue Sky Studios. Chris Wedge, the director of Ice Age, Robots, and Epic is set to direct the upcoming film.[102] A release date for the film adaptation is currently unknown at this time.

Soundtrack[edit]

Cliff Martinez composed the main menu Galaxy theme track.[103] Brian Eno created the generative music together with Peter Chilvers and is credited for the ”spore compositions”.[103] "Solar System", "Timeline" and a few other tracks on Spore—"Religious Vehicle Editor", and "Sporepedia"—might[clarification needed] also be the work of Martinez.

Other games/expansion packs[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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