Spore
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God games have been around since the likes of the mighty Populous, but never before have you been able to create whatever creature your imagination can conjure up and then take it through its evolution. Spore aims to do just that. When you trim away the amalgamation of game types that Spore comprises you will see that its unique hook revolves around the Creature Creator, which has now been released as a taster before the main game arrives in a few months. Already, hundreds of thousands of creatures have been uploaded to the Spore website for all to see. The power of this creation system is best displayed by the likeness most of these creatures show to famous characters; Homer J is a popular one to clone.

The Creature Creator is actually the second phase within the game. To get to the point where you can cackle insanely and cry ‘It’s alive!’ there is a 2D mini game to complete. As a mere twinkle in your eye you will swim your microbe around in gloop devouring all the DNA points you can find. By spending these DNA points you convert your microbe into a tadpole until you can eventually wriggle or crawl out on to land. Your fledgling abomination travels the lands where other player designed creatures and content can be found. The world your creature finds itself in will be constantly populated and balanced according to your creatures strengths. Your aim is to reproduce, avoid predators and eat food to build up DNA points.

Once reproduction has been achieved an egg will be placed in the care of the player, which must be protected from hungry predators until it hatches. Before an egg hatches the player can use the creature creator to spend DNA points allocating new physical aspects to the unborn creature, like limbs or eyes. Body parts are found throughout the world during the hunt for food and then added to the Creature Creator. Once an egg hatches, player control shifts to the new and improved creature. Each time this happens the creature’s brain evolves until eventually the third phase will begin.

Individual creatures are no longer controlled during this phase and the collective tribe’s welfare becomes the player’s primary concern. If you recall the Settlers Series and its style of game play this phase will adopt something similar. Roles can be allocated to various tribe members making them soldiers or farmers and so on. As the tribe grows it may use its military to gain influence over neighbouring tribes or opt for more peaceful tactics. The members of the player’s tribe will begin to display mannerisms best suited to the style of play until they are gesturing aggressively or lounging around playing a lute while idle.

Once a suitable amount of regional control is obtained a statue is erected to commemorate the achievement and the creature’s tribes develop into a civilisation. Buildings and vehicles can now be designed but will be capped to prevent over production. It will play similar to a RTS where Spice becomes the unit of currency and ‘influence’ of neighbouring settlements is still the key objective. As the technology levels advance the player will gain access to more interesting vehicles that will travel on land, sea, air and even underwater until the fourth phase comes to a close and the final phase opens up with space travel.

Before long the funky little creature that crawled out of the ooze is whizzing through space in flying saucers and terrorizing new worlds. The huge sandbox designed for the endgame will let it be possible to terraform and then colonise any of the few billions of planets the game has mapped in its living galaxy. New creatures can be found, then bred with other creatures and then dropped on planets to gauge compatibility, or interstellar war can unfold with other advanced nations, or artefacts are discovered or the player can opt to begin the cycle again by choosing one of the planets and adding the next microbe to its creative goo to see how the next creature plays out.

Now, to me, all that sounds something like three and a half games. Industries do that, you know: “We can’t make our processors (graphics cards or whatever) go any faster and the competition is catching up. I know, we will just cram another processor into the box and we got twice as much to sell.”
But this seems to be a winning formula and I’m not going to complain. Give me more for my wonga, I say.

And this is why the game has been in development for many years and even had an original due date of somewhere in the second half of ‘07. Understanding the mammoth task on their hands and with a steady stream of cash flowing in from EA (Spore’s mastermind, Will Wright, being responsible for the cash cow known as The Sims) they dropped that release date and we are now only a couple of months away from the more likely September 5th 2008 launch. (September 7th 2008 if you are in the US)