Maxis' Will Wright • Page 3

Spore, The Sims and what lies ahead.

Eurogamer: With Spore, as someone who grew up loving space and sci-fi and wanted to be an astronaut, you've finally gone there with videogames...

Will Wright: Virtually, yeah!

Eurogamer: Are you going to sign up to one of the commercial space flights? Maybe hitch a ride on John Carmack's rocket?

Will Wright: Oh, I might; I'll think about it. I would certainly consider it.

Eurogamer: Is that still very much an ambition you'd like to fulfil?

Will Wright: I think it would be interesting to go into space for a little bit; at the same time I've thought about it enough to realise that you're basically going to be in a tin can, and depending on whether it's sub-orbital, or orbital, how much you can actually enjoy the experience...

Eurogamer: It could be a massive letdown?

Will Wright: I kind of doubt it would be a massive letdown. Just the experience of knowing you'd been there is interesting. But also if you think about a sub-orbital flight, you're really just going 60 miles in that direction, and if you imagine going 60 miles sideways, it's not that far really. The view would be really nice for a little while at sub-orbital - orbital sounds a lot more exciting to some degree.

Eurogamer: Spore was originally dubbed 'Sim Everything'. So what's next? Obviously there will be other things related to Spore, but then do you undertake another project of this scale, or something smaller and more manageable?

Will Wright: There are a lot of other projects waiting in the wings that I've been doing early research on that when Spore ships I'm going to sit back, take a deep breath, and look at these projects and consider which ones to dive into.

Eurogamer: With the success of Creature Creator, are you interested in creating just prototypes, throwing them out there and seeing what happens without putting a vast world behind them?

Will Wright: Yeah, there's a lot to be said for backroom garage development, ground-up social stuff as well. I kind of like the idea of having a range of projects, some of them very short term, maybe one very long term - it's nice to have things a little out of cycle.

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Wright is a big fan of Advance Wars, apparently. Correct.

Eurogamer: What games have you played in the last year that you've enjoyed?

Will Wright: I played the last GTA a fair amount, which I enjoyed a lot. I've always liked Advance Wars on my DS; I've been playing a lot of Wii games as well. I just got the Balance Board and started playing some of those games.

The Wii is really very much about this visceral connection to the action, and really it's the bandwidth of the Wii that really excites me. When you look at most games consoles and even computers, we have a huge amount of output in terms of the graphics and the data coming out, but we have a tiny little straw of data going in, which is your mouse co-ordinates and the keyboard presses.

The Wii, the way it's reading the controller, you actually have a lot more bandwidth. It's still a straw, but it's a big straw - and for me that's the really interesting part about the Wii.

Eurogamer: There are sound business reasons for releasing games on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but do those systems excite you creatively?

Will Wright: I think they have their advantages. The graphics power of those things is probably the chief attraction of them. It used to be that games consoles had all these limitations compared to computers: no hard drive storage, low-res displays, no connectivity. And one by one they've either knocked down or at least equalised most of those advantages, so I see the creative opportunity on the major consoles like PS3 and 360 being roughly similar to the PC space right now.

Eurogamer: As someone who is seen as operating at the cutting-edge of games design, what would be your best guess be looking 10 years ahead at what the games we'll be playing will be like, and the platforms we'll be playing them on?

Will Wright: I think we'll probably have games that are even more diversely arrayed across different platforms. We're seeing a lot of games on cell phones, small handheld portables, plus the big home systems, web-based games.

I think you'll start seeing games that are structured to be playable on all these things - wherever you are you can play the same game, some aspect of it, whatever platform is available to you. I think the free movement and creation of content is going to be a big, big aspect of games at that point. I think also we're at the point now - and we're doing this with Spore a little bit - where the computer can learn a tremendous amount about the player by observing what they do, what they're good at, what they enjoy, and restructuring the game around you. In some sense, have the game self-design to fit you, and to a point where your game feels very unique, almost a reflection of your personality. My game, which might have started out as the same game, has evolved to fit me like a glove.

Those type of trends are much more exciting to me than better graphics, which is typically what people think about.

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Wright uses the deadly f-word (not that one, franchise) to describe Spore's future, but he will be moving on to new things.

Eurogamer: With Spore, what would you hope; what do you believe will be its lasting impact on gaming?

Will Wright: I've been trying to think about Spore less as a product and more as a franchise or brand, looking at moving it in all possible directions. Whereas The Sims we kept expanding vertically, we kept selling expansion packs to the same customers over and over, I think Spore we want to expand horizontally; we want to say what other kinds of experiences, activities, formats, media can we bring Spore out. And at that point you have to say, what does the brand mean?

And that's where we've been thinking about Spore - as this brand that's the intersection of creativity and science. Science is an inherently interesting thing: a lot of the time it's not presented that interestingly. If you look at documentaries on cable television - if you're into that science it's kind of fun to watch. And there's some pretty good science shows for kids, but aren't that many fast-paced, really intelligent, very visual things for adults that feel like entertainment. That's kind of the direction I want Spore to move in.

Eurogamer: Finally, it's been a long road for Spore - looking at your original idea for what it might become, how does that match up now?

Will Wright: It's actually surprisingly close to what we were initially talking about. There are a couple of areas that ended up in there we didn't expect to be so developed. The social networking side where you can build Sporecasts, subscribe to buddy lists and stuff like that.

I think a few narrow areas, like the procedural music Brian Eno brought in for us, from the very beginning I didn't think we'd have that. But then also at every single game level, the last level of depth that we added to almost every level of the game was a little bit deeper... I didn't really expect every level to be so deep; I expected them to be a little more light and superficial in terms of the game genres.

Will Wright is co-founder and chief designer at Maxis. Spore is due out for PC, Mac, mobile and DS on 5th September.

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