More Spore: An interview with Thomas Vu

Written by Joe Martin

February 14, 2008 | 07:57

Tags: #directx-10 #dx10 #events #evolution #female #girl #interview #probing #sandbox #sim #spore #the-sims #will-wright #woman

Companies: #electronic-arts #maxis

BT: You mentioned evolution before. Do you see Spore as being an educational game or is it pure entertainment?

TV: Well, my personal opinion is that it’s entertainment. Take it as you will. We’re not trying to make a statement against creationism or any of that sort of stuff, not at all.

BT: Have you had any opposition from Creationist movements at all?

TV: Very, very little. Pretty much I don’t even know of any. In the end we’re making a game and even as an evolutionary-based game it’s only very loosely based on the science.

BT: The structure of the game though and the way players continue to grow and grow, moving upwards through levels seems a little disjointed perhaps. Do you see the game more as a whole, single game or as lots of minigames on a single topic?

TV: For the gamers and as they play it, although we still have a lot to polish and get the flows and transitions right, the intent is to have it viewed as one large game. To get the full experience it has to be viewed that way. We’re making it for the gamers who want to play it as one whole.

More Spore: An interview with Thomas Vu Creationism and Challenges
Surprisingly, Spore has faced little opposition from creationists

But we also realise that for the casual players not everyone wants to play an RTS or an RPG. Not everyone likes those genres and we really use those elements sometimes. So, we really open it up and really make it a universe in a box. You can play wherever you want to focus your attention.

BT: So that’s why you can jump in at a specific evolutionary stage?

TV: Exactly. By doing that you don’t get the achievements and the special content though.

BT: The really big and tough to answer question is; Spore is a massive game and – wait, how long has it been in development now? I’ve heard as long as ten years!

TV: Ha, Will Wright was toying with the idea a long, long time ago. It’s hard to say how long it’s been in development though. There are so many stages and prototypes and it’s been a case of four or five guys working for three or four years. I’d say we really ramped it up a notch in the last one and a half years though. That’s when we started getting the meat of it done. Before it was mostly just a concept and really rough.

More Spore: An interview with Thomas Vu Creationism and Challenges
Once your race has grown advanced enough, it can leap to the stars!

BT: So, even in that last year and a half, Spore is such a massive game that it must have been tough to comprehend. How do you even begin to approach a game of this size and scope?

TV: You know, it’s weird. I worked on The Sims 2 and that was a really massive game too, but it was a known quantity. People understood the rules of how to make it. With Spore it was really difficult because there are no rules. We write the rules up.

Our approach was that we had certain things we knew we wanted to do. We knew we wanted to have the pollination system and we knew that creativity was the glue that held the game together. Each of the games needed to be very accessible, but also very deep. The game also needed to tell the story of the player’s creature. Every phase had to feel like a new level beyond the previous and there needed to be a constant sense of growth.

Those were the main ideas behind it and, eventually; universe in a box. We have a lot of small teams working in parallel and it was very communication heavy, but when one team made a change it needed to be known to everyone.

BT: Sounds tough.

TV: Well, making an RTS on its own is tough. But making five separate games on one topic and stringing them together…there are a lot of challenges. Just look at the controls – the way an avatar’s camera controls is very different to how an RTS camera controls.
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