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Maxis' Will Wright

Spore, The Sims and what lies ahead.

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Image credit: Eurogamer

You can tell a lot about someone by what's on their desk, and Will Wright is no exception. He may have sold over 100 million copies of The Sims alone, but there's no solid gold plaque adorning his office door; instead there's a simple EA-branded sheet of A4, with his name printed across, that tells you you're in the right place.

Inside are the great passions of Wright's life: on the far wall a signed, framed poster of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey; on the whiteboard above his desk, printed images of galaxies and a hastily-scribbled graph; on his monitor, the latest build of Spore, which he's been fastidiously testing; by his computer, a toy model of a space craft.

Wright enjoys building palpable models in his spare time; by day it's the virtual building blocks of SimCity and The Sims that have made him one of the most important figures in videogames development.

Spore could well be the most complicated model ever constructed in the name of interactive entertainment: not for nothing was it originally known as 'Sim Everything', depicting the evolution of life from single-celled organism to galaxy-hopping civilisation.

Over the next few days, Eurogamer will be bringing you everything you ever wanted to know about Spore, with in-depth looks at the PC and DS versions, interviews with key team members - starting with Wright today - and a special behind-the-scenes look at the project on Eurogamer TV.

But we'll start the week with the man himself. Sitting comfortably in his office, we caught up with Wright earlier this month, a few days after he wowed the crowd at Comic-Con in San Diego, where he gave us his typically considered thoughts on life, the universe, and everything in-between. Watch the highlights on video or head further down for the full transcript.

EurogamerI saw you talk at Comic-Con last week (watch the full presentation on Eurogamer TV). Did you enjoy that, speaking to consumers rather than the usual industry audience?
Will Wright

Oh, that was an easy crowd [laughs], just because I'm one of those people; so it's kind of easy to talk to people like that.

EurogamerYou talked a lot about your own personal interest in science-fiction. One of the phrases you used was, "aliens triangulate what it means to be human". A lot of sci-fi is concerned with that, with an exploration of the human condition. Would you say that with Spore, although its characters and world are essentially alien, it resonates because it is ultimately a human parable?
Will Wright

Definitely, because I think if you're going through the same story of evolution, an intelligent civilisation, and then eventually out into space, that we've gone through, but you're seeing it from an alien's point of view, it almost gives you a better perspective on what it means to be human.

I think in some ways it's a way of stepping back from humanity and getting a broader sense of our journey.

If we did believe in God, we'd want it to be this guy.
EurogamerDo you believe in God?
Will Wright

I'd probably be best described as an atheist. I'm open to the idea that there is some creator somewhere. I can almost envision humans one day being able to create a micro-universe. That's not to say we could ever interact with it, but it could be that the physics equations for a singularity are the same as for the Big Bang, which is that black holes in our universe could in fact be embedded universes that we will never be able to contact or get information from.

But if I can imagine that humans might one day have that power to create these universes, there's no reason why some other intelligence above us created ours. That's not to say that was the original designer, or the designer at all - maybe it was just an accident.

So at that level I'm open to the idea that our universe was created; but probably there's not a guy with a long white beard looking at everything we do, just personally those are my beliefs. [With Spore] we didn't want to go too far down that path: we leave the whole creation of the universe question open. 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.

EurogamerYou describe yourself as an atheist; take the so-called militant atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, who see faith uniformly as a bad, negative and dangerous thing. Do you see it more benignly, even if you don't necessarily believe?
Will Wright

Oh, I definitely see it more benignly. I see a lot of benefit and danger in religion like anything[...] 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.

And most of the atheists were very tolerant as well. I didn't expect to hit hot buttons on the atheist side as much; I expected it on the religious side. 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!

We have a number of team members that are pretty religious. 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.