Spore Creature Creator • Page 2

Ironically, not evolutionary: revolutionary.

But these are small fry - the biggest problems with the Creature Creator are those of expectations. From its initial announcement, people have been cementing their idea of how Spore should work. That the concept seemed so vague - what is it you do exactly? - that people have been spinning out their own concepts, and this is the first point where those beliefs are going to be confounded.

The problem is that while the game's capable of enormous variety, that variety is really solely aesthetic. You add a mouth, it can eat. If you add a jaw, no matter how much you change its dimensions, it'll bite at the same strength. Add more leg parts to add more speed. Add more armour parts to add more health. No matter whether one character is enormously fat with tiny stumpy arms and another is a spindly, long-limbed giant; as long as it's got the same claws at the end of its body, it'll strike as hard. If it's got the same number of legs, it'll move as fast. You don't get to do things like - say - play with novel limb lengths to create a creature with more range, or add muscle in areas to make a weapon stronger. This isn't robot wars. This is doodling a robot.

In other words, while the Spore Creature Creator lets you play god, it doesn't let you be god.

You can see why Maxis took this approach. The second you make every decision functional, you have two effects. Firstly, a whole load of novel-looking creatures would simply be impractical in-game - if you made something look cool, you were unlikely to be able to compete with a more efficiently-designed creature. Secondly, there would be certain optimum solutions to a problem. At best, this means that there'll be a universe full of creatures with a certain specific arm arrangement that proves terribly brutal. At worst, they'll be hyper-optimum solutions which bear no relation to anything in a conceivable life. I'm thinking of the Spore equivalent of the one-room houses in the Sims, which minimised floor-space so Sims could move from job to job with unrealistic efficiency. In the Sims, where you were on your own PC, that's no problem - your personal choice is your personal choice, and if you want to create a box, that's your call. But when your hyper-efficient yet not-creature-looking creatures are being shared across the internet, it's no good at all and...

3
An attempt to make something that actually looks like a real thing. This one's a horse.

Well, we've actually moved from talking about the Creature Creator to Spore proper - which, of course, we haven't played yet. That's the other odd part of the exercise - that while you can't actually see how Spore will play, you can see how it won't. Playing the Creator Creator sort of hints at the whole picture - normally, demos only show a selected fragment of the game. This is a little different - it actually shows one element of the game... but perfectly. (Though there's also vehicle, building and plant editors in the full game, so there's more than this.)

But being a teaser for the future Spore is actually only part of it. If you're buying from certain UK retailers (EA Store, GAME and Zavvi) it acts as a pre-order pack. But this is actually a fine object in and of itself, which is going to be played with by people who'd never normally play a traditional videogame. Because even if you were the sort who was expecting a design test rather than a design tool, you must not underestimate what an enormous achievement the procedurally generated animation of Spore is. In a real way, the characters you create in a couple of minutes' work are comparable to ones which are weeks of work in other games' animators. The genius is in how it makes almost everything transparently easy - take, for example, the .png files the game outputs. If you see one of them, you can just save it to your hard disk and the assorted meta-data to the object will allow you to import it into your game.

It absolutely re-democratises creativity in this way. As the number of successful total conversions drop in the mod scene, not least due to the effort in making even a single modern-tech model, this opens it right back up again. People can play. Is it worth a fiver? Completely. While it acts like a pre-order incentive, in actual fact, playing the Creature Creator, it absolutely justifies itself. Even if you never plan to play Spore, it's absolutely essential you play this.

9 /10

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About the author

Kieron Gillen

Kieron Gillen

Contributor

Kieron is one of the founders of the lovely Rock, Paper, Shotgun and nowadays writes comics for Marvel starring characters that even his mum has heard of.

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