As a simulation of evolution from single-cell organism to space-faring civilisation, Will Wright feared his latest creation, Spore, would draw criticism from religious groups. But so far, the game's creator has revealed, the portrayal of religion in the game has only drawn the ire of angry non-believers.
Wright told Eurogamer: "I think our bigger fear was that we didn't want to offend any religious people; but looking at the discussion that unfolded from this thing, what we had was a good, sizeable group of players that we might call militant atheists, and the rest of the players seemed very tolerant, including all of the religious players."
Life in Spore is created according to the theory of panspermia - which hypothesises that it has been seeded on Earth from elsewhere in the universe. But it's the mere presence of religion in the game's civilisation stage that has raised hackles amongst some in the gaming community.
"I didn't expect to hit hot buttons on the atheist side as much; I expected it on the religious side," Wright revealed. "But so far I've had no critical feedback at all from anybody who is religious feeling that we were misrepresenting religion or it was bad to represent religion in the game. It was really the atheists."
He added that early objections from team members enabled the studio to iron out any potential areas of conflict early on.
"We have a number of team members that are pretty religious," he continued. "And so in design, on the team, in our small, little microcosm of players out there, we tried our best to make sure we weren't overtly offending any religious people, but yet we wanted to include the idea, the concept of religion in the game."
Wright, however, who described himself as an "atheist", insisted that with Spore he was not trying to pronounce on the issue one way or the other:
"We didn't want to go too far down that path: we leave the whole creation of the universe question open," he said. "Obviously as the player you're coming in and playing something like a god, directing the evolution of a species, but we never really state who you the player are."
Spore is due out on PC and DS on 5th September. You can read the full interview with Wright on Eurogamer today.