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Why Spore Is Special 77

Posted by Zonk
from the omgreleasenow dept.
The New York Times is running a long piece by Steven Johnson, author of "Everything Bad Is Good For You." In 'The Long Zoom', Johnson describes just what is so special about Will Wright's Spore . From the article: "Despite the fictions, many of the themes of Spore are immensely valuable ones, particularly in an age of environmental crisis: the fragility of life, the connection between micro- and macro- scales, the complex networks of ecosystems and food webs, the impact of new technology on social systems. Spore's players will get to experience firsthand how choices made on a local scale -- a single creature's decision to, say, adopt an omnivorous lifestyle -- can end up having global repercussions. They will detect similarities between one level of the game and another, the complex balancing act of global trade mirroring the complex balancing act of building a sustainable environment. And traveling through a simulated universe, from cells to constellations, will, ideally, make them more curious about the real-world universe they already inhabit -- and show them that they have the power to shape that universe as well."
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Why Spore Is Special

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  • by HappySqurriel (1010623) on Monday October 09, 2006 @02:43PM (#16367641)
    "Despite the fictions, many of the themes of Spore are immensely valuable ones, particularly in an age of environmental crisis: the fragility of life, the connection between micro- and macro- scales, the complex networks of ecosystems and food webs, the impact of new technology on social systems. Spore's players will get to experience firsthand how choices made on a local scale -- a single creature's decision to, say, adopt an omnivorous lifestyle -- can end up having global repercussions. They will detect similarities between one level of the game and another, the complex balancing act of global trade mirroring the complex balancing act of building a sustainable environment. And traveling through a simulated universe, from cells to constellations, will, ideally, make them more curious about the real-world universe they already inhabit -- and show them that they have the power to shape that universe as well."

    With such simple, easy to obtain, objective like that I'm sure they will have absolutely no problem living up to people's expectations. After all claiming a compeletly open gameplay experience was easily obtained by Diakatana, and Black and White certainly lived up to people's expectations of a trainable, inteligent agent.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by KDR_11k (778916)
      Yes except the difference between Peter Molyneaux and Will Wright is that Molyneaux claims, Wright delivers.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MindStalker (22827)
        Wright never claimed such things this guy claims though. I'm doubting things like industrial global warming will not be simulated to the degree this guy implies. He is setting the bar higher than Wright or any Spore advertising has attempted.
      • Kinda funny thing to say in the context of talking about Black & White (a released game) vs Spore (a game that is beginning to look like vaporware amidst its hype).
        • by KDR_11k (778916)
          I don't think anyone doubted that Spore will get released, what people doubt is that it'll live up to expectations. Black & White failed badly in that respect.
        • Well... Better to be late than to suck. Or, as Miyamoto put it: "A delayed game is eventually good, but a bad game is bad forever."
          (Well, I'm not sure he said it, but the quote is generally attributed to him).

          • by TheLink (130905)
            Duke Nukem Forever!!!
            • by LKM (227954)

              I'm not sure which answer I should go with:

              1. Just you wait! It's gonna be so good, it'll be the end of gaming.
              2. Duke Nukem isn't late. It's late, killed, deceased, zombified and dead. It's dead! It's not late, it's dead! DEAD!!!
    • by Sulka (4250)
      With such simple, easy to obtain, objective like that I'm sure they will have absolutely no problem living up to people's expectations.

      Hell yeah. I was in the GDC keynote this year and I recall that by that time they had already created over 400 prototypes for the simulation models in the game. 400 for crying out loud! What I gathered is what they're trying to achieve is anything but simple. If they were just creating a simulation then sure, it'd be "easy" to create one. But making a game that's based on a
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nEoN nOoDlE (27594)
      But it's WILL WRIGHT! If there's any game designer that can solve all the problems of the world, open people's eyes to changing environmental structures, cure world hunger and make people stop fighting and be nice to each other it's the creator of The Sims.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Yeah, right. First thing I did with that game was trap people in a room to let them die in a pool of their own filth.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > Black and White certainly lived up to people's expectations of a trainable, inteligent agent.

      Actually, the creature in Black and White far exceeded my expectations. Unfortunately the rest of the game stunk.
    • This isn't hype; this is speculation on the available philosophical themes that can be derived from the game.

      You don't have to actively participate or subscribe to the philosophical implications of the game for them to be valid.

  • Ok, I admit that the premise is working on me I've heard about this thing so much my brain just screams to play it...but come on already when is this thing gonna get delivered! Its approaching DNF proportions of Ok great, but where the hell is it!
    • by geekster (87252)
      June 1, 2007 [gamespot.com] according to Gamespot. I belive it's been on schedule so far?
      • by Flame0001 (818040)
        Never trust game sites like Gamespot for release info. Search for a direct developer quote or something official, because websites tend to want to set a date in stone just to pacify the crowds.
        • by geekster (87252)
          Well, they do have games where the release date is "To Be Announced". But I still think the comparison with DNF is unfair since I don't believe Spore has slipped any date yet.
  • Or... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 09, 2006 @02:51PM (#16367757)
    And traveling through a simulated universe, from cells to constellations, will, ideally, make them more curious about the real-world universe they already inhabit -- and show them that they have the power to shape that universe as well.
    ... or it'll keep them glued to their computers because it's much more conveniently fun than "the real world."
  • Just curious.
    • by Mishotaki (957104)
      I think they should be running out of money to produce DNF, 10 years and 20-30 persons on it...
      Means a couple millions easily.. And still no game out... That's a HUGE budget!
  • Get Real... (Score:3, Funny)

    by XenoPhage (242134) on Monday October 09, 2006 @02:53PM (#16367787) Homepage
    And traveling through a simulated universe, from cells to constellations, will, ideally, make them more curious about the real-world universe they already inhabit -- and show them that they have the power to shape that universe as well.

    Yeah.. sure.. Let's get real..

    Spore looks really cool and I'll be more than happy to play it for a few hours (assuming it truly is as engaging as it looks), but the first thing going through my mind was now "Wow, this has taught me that I can shape the universe," but something more along the lines of "Whoa.. I wonder if I can make a creature that kills everything on sight."

    Hrm.. maybe there is something to this video games promotes violence thing...
  • Come on enough with the hype. Now Spore has the power to enlighten the masses to everything from global trade to the wonders of life, and allow us simpletons to grasp the scope and scale of all existance. This may be the greatest game ever created, past, present, or future, but the hype is up to biblical purportions.
    • Given all that it will do, I am going to have to proclaim Spore to be "the Segway of Video Games"!
  • I call bollocks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Captain Splendid (673276) <capsplendid&gmail,com> on Monday October 09, 2006 @02:56PM (#16367821) Homepage Journal
    I'm as optimistic as the next guy, but to think a videogame will make us more aware and caring about our environment is just pure shit. We have a plethora of other mediums all telling us this and we're still not listening, what makes him think a game can do it?
    • by rblum (211213)
      In a nutshell: Interactivity.

      You'll actually be able to *see* how small choices can completely screw you over. It's a much different type of learning than just watching a documentary, hearing a speech, or reading a book.

      Do I know if *Spore* can do that? No. I haven't seen the thing except as hypeware. But it has the potential to do it. That's where the advantage of video games as a medium lies. Which is why the flood of FPS/GTA games is getting tedious. We've got a marvellous medium on hand, but we just can
      • by mypalmike (454265)
        In a nutshell: Interactivity.

        Exactly. For instance, think about the tactics and strategies that you learn from RTSG's and other war simulations. Troop formations, ratios of artillery/infantry/support units in an assault, effective defensive positions, etc. Someone who is really good at C&C would certainly be able to carry some of their game experience into a job as a war planner. Similarly, urban combat tactics learned in countless hours of counterstrike are directly applicable in real world scenari
    • I hate to be sappy, but I think there's a point to games that make people think about the real world. Hopefully Spore will make people think about Mother Earth, the Solar System and the Universe, the same way The Sims makes people think about their Mum, Family and Society.

      Here is a message about The Sims titled "No other game has done this... [google.com]", posted in April 2000 (one month after The Sims was released) in the alt.family-names.sims newsgroup (the Sims fans took over the alt.family-names.sims, newsgroup

      • by UltraAyla (828879)
        this isn't to be meanspirited, because I think you're making an excellent point, but what you said made me think of future postings from people playing spore talking about how they ran out of evolution points and it made them realize just how much they love their right arm.
      • One of the intentions of SimEarth [wikipedia.org] was to get people thinking in this way too, given the concept of 'Gaia' within the simulation.
        • It's hard to know, when you're dealing with something like this, to guage the effects.

          But I have a hunch (based in my own experience) that SimEarth "worked," and I have a hunch that Spore will work, [wikia.com] as well.

          I've been exploring a model of the "mass mind" called "Causal Layered Analysis." [communitywiki.org] It makes sense to me. Spore would rest somewhere between "Worldview / Discourse Analysis," and "Myth / Metaphore Analysis," since it largely works unconsciously.
  • I've been waiting a long time for a game that lets me create creatures.

    I played Star Wars Galaxies and i was a bioengineer for a while, creating critters such as a bearded jax (basically a housecat) that could spit acid and was immune to fire. I told myself I'd eventually go back to SWG and play my bioengineer again, but they went and DELETED the class.

    Spore looks to be pretty fun though, and I can't wait to play around with the critter creator.
  • by tygerstripes (832644) on Monday October 09, 2006 @03:00PM (#16367893)
    What amazes me about Spore (quite apart from it looking like a FANTASTIC game) is that it seems to have developed so rapidly, to be able to demonstrate such deep quality so soon, to have such enthusiastic support from all corners. There are many games that have managed one or two of the above, but how many manage all three?

    I'm pretty sure this will be out next year, and will be one of those games that forevermore gets mentioned in the biannual "best games in history" articles that somehow get posted. And I'll probably agree.
    • by Yfrwlf (998822)
      Unless, of course, it turns out to suck. It's not even out yet. How much were you paid? :P Not to be a troll but that's a little overboard. Maybe you are new to the game industry, but good graphics and an interesting concept doesn't mean good gameplay, or more importantly, fun to play. It just means good graphics. You can say "ooh good graphics" but not "ooh good game" before you've even played it, that's insane. (Unless the graphics is pre-rendered, like some still is though less now days, or complet
      • You should definitely take a look at the talk Will Wright gave [google.com] at the GDC - while it's probable that it hadn't all been tied together by that point, he played the game for you there & then, with the occasional gaff & things not going according to plan. With the sheer level of user customisation and content creation, there's no way it could be pre-rendered or scripted. That's actually what his talk was about (apart from being a showcase) - the importance of user-created content and flexibility, of de
    • by mgblst (80109)
      What amazed me is the exact opposite (ok, not the exact opposite really), the fact that they have developed it so far, and NOT released it yet. They are actually waiting until it is finished to release it.
  • Spore has all the appearance of an amazing single player game. Single being the opertune word. Single player games are great, but they are by definition limited. The only possible competition is between the player, and the PC. The reward level is greatly reduced.

    Think about it, how many (geeks) people talk about the great fight they had in Morrowind? Compare that to the number of people who boast about frags and kill:death ratios, complete with dramatic reinactment.

    Spore will do well, I'm planning on buying
    • by geekster (87252)
      I believe there is some form of multiplayer in other players inhabiting other planets.
      • by xenoarch (817676)
        Actually no its not multiplayer. But what you create in the game can be packed very small and sent to a cetral database. The game will also keep track of your playstyle and that will be saved too. So when you get to the galactic phase the universe will be populated by creatures and civilizations other people made.

        So you won't be playing against others just against what others have made.

        The first couple of weeks maybe a little boring while enough people make the civilzations to populate the galaxy. But maybe
        • by geekster (87252)
          Ok, I see. I guess this keeps people from overtaking other players planets while they're still at a low stage of evolution.
    • by tarun713 (782737)
      I'm actually glad it is not a multiplayer game. I enjoy being able to go at my own pace rather than trying to outdo some millions of random people, most of which have far more time than me to play the game. I don't mind if a multiplayer aspect is thrown in, as long as the primary focus of the game is single player.
    • And millions of people have felt so limited by the Sims so far, right? The "limited nature" of Animal Crossing kept my fiance playing it for well over a year. And she's, at best, a casual gamer.
      • by RingDev (879105)
        I did. And there are a couple million other players in the world that they could likely tap as well.

        -Rick
    • by wedgewu (701989)
      How do you define failure?

      I think it's safe to mention that The Sims was far from being a failure, and it was a single-player only game. While eventually they took it online, I don't believe that they had nearly as many online subscribers as offline players. What does that tell you about multiplayer?

      The Sims franchise still sells like crazy. Failure? I think not.

      • by RingDev (879105)
        Failure of a game? The ability to keep me entertained until I get my money's worth out of it. I wasn't trying to imply (as most people have apparently read) that the GAME was a failure, but that there is an ELEMENT of the game that will fail (in my eyes). That element being the social aspect.

        -Rick
    • Okay, I know that statement (see parent) wasn't overflowing with band-wagonism, but Off Topic?!? WTF, the article is about why the author thinks Spore is special, and my statement is about why I think it is not as special as it could be.

      Because my post was not on the "I want to feltch Spore's crack while giving it a reach around with a happy ending" level of fanboyism it gets tagged as off topic? If you're going to mod, mod well. Overrated, Flamebait, something...

      -Rick
      • I think you meant 'felch', without the 't'. ;) And actually moderating the hype is a big problem for us on Spore. We're just trying to make a cool game on a fresh concept that gets people thinking and playing a bit differently. It's actually harmful for us if the hypoe gets cranked up too far - it makes people want to hate the game before it's even released, or have unreasonably high expectations. Alex.
        • by kalidasa (577403)
          Then I've got bad news for you, Alex. I haven't played any video game in over a year: in my life, I've bought perhaps 10 or 12 video games (going back to my old Intellivision, but including SimEarth, SimCity, and The Sims), and *I'm* planning on buying Spore at release. That's hype.
  • Dear Will Wright,

    Don't be that jackass that hypes his game, Will Wright. We saw it with Romero, We see it with Molyneux, we see it over and over, but Will, you and Sid Meier are rocks, we can expect good games from you. It's true you falter a bit, Civ 3 wasn't great, Sims got too many expansions, though the final ones were good, but don't become the new industry asshole.

    We already want your game, but trying to over sell it and falling short is the worse thing you can do. Just deliver us the best game you
    • In your post-post-script, make sure you remind Will Wright what he had to do with Civilization 3. (of course Sid and Will have worked together on projects before, but not Civ 3; and I know you also mentioned Sid in the same sentence, but the letter is directed towards Will, and not Cid; but I digress from my cleverly disguised pointing out your error reply)
      • by kinglink (195330)
        I actually knew that Will didn't work on Civ 3, but I was pointing out both him and Sid have had missteps, but they never over hyped their games like some who have already been named, and some who need not be named because I can't think of them right now :)
  • "Despite the fictions, many of the themes of Spore are immensely valuable ones, particularly in an age of environmental crisis: the fragility of life, the connection between micro- and macro- scales, the complex networks of ecosystems and food webs, the impact of new technology on social systems. Spore's players will get to experience firsthand how choices made on a local scale -- a single creature's decision to, say, adopt an omnivorous lifestyle -- can end up having global repercussions. They will detect

  • Firsthand? (Score:4, Informative)

    by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Monday October 09, 2006 @03:49PM (#16368685) Journal
    Spore's players will get to experience firsthand how choices made on a local scale -- a single creature's decision to, say, adopt an omnivorous lifestyle -- can end up having global repercussions.
    No they won't. Spore is...um...for want of a better word, fiction. The dynamics of the game have been tweaked to behave this way. There's no 'firsthand' experience of 'global repercussions'. If a bunch of major polluting companies decided to release an ecological game in which the effects of any decision were always purely local could we expect Fox News to report how players could experience, firsthand, the robustness of nature against human interference?

    Now if spore was built as an accurate simulation based on parameters measured out in nature, maybe one could argue that we were experiencing 'firsthand'. Otherwise this is just nonsense.

    • by PaulMorel (962396)

      Wow, you entirely missed the point, but decided to post your nescience anyway.

      When he says that you will be able to experience global repercussions firsthand, he means that Spore will present an immediate representation of the kinds of crazy things that can happen globally as a result of local actions.

      In other words, where it's kind of hard to see how an earthquake in North Korea can result (for instance) storms in Peru (I made this up). It is much easier to see these kinds of things in the enclosed

      • Nobody can accurately map out the processes of nature with the technology we have now
        Exactly. Talk about missing the point. Any such processes illustrated in a game are completely made up and bear no necessary relation to reality at all. It might make for a fun game, but there's no 'firsthand' about it.
        • I think the "firsthand" is referring to the immediacy of interactive experience.

          Instead of telling you how a story plays out, you actually get to play in the role.

          Now, granted, it is a story, and a fiction.

          But fictions basically move the world and cause interesting things to happen.

          That's my understanding, at least.
  • You may be wondering why Steven Johnson is writing about Spore. The answer is that he wrote one of the best books ever written about swarm intelligence, Emergence [amazon.com].

    For a para-scientific book, it is very deep. It goes over the entire history of swarm intelligence and really explains how local actions can have global consequences. It is also incredibly fluid and easy to read.

    In short, you are not a true computer-geek until you have read it, so check it out.

  • Ugh. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Canthros (5769) on Monday October 09, 2006 @05:02PM (#16369927)
    Spore could make me into a tree-hugging hippy? ... this is supposed to make me excited about the game?
    • There's every possibility you could walk away from a session of Spore as a Fukuyama-quoting, Hegel-worshipping neocon. To quote the article:

      Once you successfully pass from the "clash of civilizations" stage to the "end of history," the game grants you that ultimate in Hegelian rewards: a spaceship.

      So let me get this straight ... Hegel wrote space opera? Serves me right for never having had the stamina to read him through to the end.

      I'm pretty sure Marx's Communist Manifesto doesn't end with any spaceship

    • by gstoddart (321705)
      Spore could make me into a tree-hugging hippy? ... this is supposed to make me excited about the game?

      Absolutely. Because when you've become a tree-hugging hippy, you're that much closer to getting the freaky tree-hugging hippy chicks. And, there's gold in them thar hills. =)

      Cheers
      • by Night Goat (18437)
        Absolutely. Because when you've become a tree-hugging hippy, you're that much closer to getting the freaky tree-hugging hippy chicks. And, there's gold in them thar hills.

        Well, gold and lice.
    • Spore could make me into a tree-hugging hippy? ... this is supposed to make me excited about the game?

      Ah, no. In your case, it's supposed to make the REST of us excited about the game.

      If only there was a weapon of mass enlightenment... sigh.
      • by Canthros (5769)
        This weapon of mass enlightenment, that's some hippy approach to solar power, right?

        Seriously, give me a break. The only thing that seems to make the folks here feel better about themselves more than seeing socialists win an election is being able to shake their heads at us poor benighted dopes who think that maybe, just maybe the frigging global warming alarmists aren't necessarily right. Spare me the self-righteousness.

        Some touchy-feely crap about how a video game might make me more in tune with Mother Ea
        • "Strike me down, and I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

          But you see, your way of thought is to strike down all foes, ideological, political, or even just those who like one show more than another.

          And whether you believe in planning for our grandchildren and their grandchildren or not, and whether you believe in civility and tolerance or not, history's greatest atrocities have always come from the way of thinking that *you* espouse, not the way of thinking that I embrace.

          All th
  • "Despite the fictions, many of the themes of Spore are immensely valuable ones, particularly in an age of environmental crisis: the fragility of life, the connection between micro- and macro- scales, the complex networks of ecosystems and food webs, the impact of new technology on social systems

    I wonder if the "civilization level" unit of Spore studies the immeasurably more immensly valuable theme of massive governmental intrusion into a freedom-based economy and how it leads to far more miserable lives for

  • What if Spore shows us that short term local concerns are more important than long term global concerns, that ecosystems are highly robust and there is little that can be done to disrupt them, and the proper way to solve all of our problems is by massive unprovoked violence? What if a highly militarist, highly aggressive and genicidal society with no goal other than destroying others turns out to be the most effective strategy in the game?

    Are people willing to say, unconditionally, that Spore is a simulatio
  • Hippies Go Home! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ectal (949842) *
    I don't think Will Wright is trying to make a statement about the Earth Goddess or the fragility of life or whatever. I remember some interview where he talked about how much fun it is to blow up planets in Spore. Maybe there's a P.C. option switch that allows you to change your UFO's weapon so that it distributes tofu and peace pamphlets to aggressive planets, but I doubt it. This game seems to be as much about the fun of destruction as the fun of creation.

    All Sims games have had that. Who hasn't hit earth

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