Spore: Hands-on Preview

Written by Joe Martin

February 13, 2008 | 07:59

Tags: #evolution #exclusive #hands-on #preview #sandbox #simulation #spore #the-sims #will-wright #wil-wright

Companies: #electronic-arts #maxis

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Before we delve deeply into the well of never-ending gameplay that Spore claims to offer, we should talk about the Pollination System that Spore uses to keep the game full of brand new content at all times. Pollinated content is something that Electronic Arts and Maxis have tried to show off before at Leipzig, but felt that it was misunderstood by journalists and misrepresented to fans.

It also happens to be one of the coolest and most interesting things about the game on both a technical and casual level as it’s the system by which Spore is creating a whole new genre – Massively Online Singleplayer.

Yeah, that seems like a contradiction. Bear with us and let us explain.

Every time a player starts a game in Spore they’re given a new planet. The planet is the same every time and serves as little more than a blank slate for the creatures to play on.

Except, it isn’t always the same and, although the landscape is always basically the same, the types of other animals and vegetation are actually sourced from other Spore players. Their content spills over into your game to keep things fun and perpetually new but, in order to accommodate to casual gamers and those who don’t actually want to play multiplayer, those players aren’t actually in control of their content.

Spore: Hands-on Preview Pollinated Content
Sporecasts make the game endlessly replayable

EA calls the technology behind this idea a Sporecast and revealed to us how it ties into a huge and previously unseen social network behind Spore.

The best way to describe exactly how Sporecasts work is by example; so imagine that you’ve just booted up the game and named your planet. You’ve gone straight to the second level of the game—the creature phase—and you’re running around like a madman. Now, the basic planet is always the same – you’ll have the same hills, the same continents and so forth. What is different is everything else; animals, vegetation, allies and enemies for your race. These are all taken from the Sporecasts of other players.

This works both ways and as you create new races and aliens they too will be downloaded via the Sporepedia by other players.

Sporepedia is the framework around which all of Spore is built. At its most basic level it’s little more than a catalogue of free content and a help-desk through which players can get tips and guides. Delve a little further though and Sporepedia becomes much more and players can start to take advantage of the social networking tools held within.

Each player in the game has a page on the Sporepedia and it’s possible to browse through by using any number of filters and tags to see a specific player. From that page you can send messages to that player, see what Sporecasts they have created and so on and so forth. You can even monitor their popularity and see what achievements they’ve unlocked in the campaign game.

Spore: Hands-on Preview Pollinated Content
Pollinated content can be automatically or manually downloaded

The game will automatically download suitable Sporecasts if you’ve not selected ones and the content is designed so that the community itself can decide what is and isn’t appropriate for players. At any time though players can access the Sporepedia and download either whole Sporecasts, which are composed of many pieces of content, or specific pieces which they like.

So, say for example that I wanted my new world to be heavily Mango-themed. All I would need to do is open the Sporepedia whilst playing, search for Mango Sporecasts and download them. The computer will then litter my universe with Mangoes – or the fruit of my choice. Alternatively, I can decide I want just one specific Mango and place that in my world myself.

The social networking elements in Spore do look truly stunning and already there’s a wealth of content available from the testers and developers – everything from flying toilets to animals that look like letters! Amazingly the whole process is specially compressed too and an entire Sporecase will only weigh in at 8KB, meaning that even the most pathetic of rigs won’t have to worry about space restrictions.
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