Spore: My View of the Elephant

A few weeks ago and with little fanfare, Spore turned five-years-old. The game was announced at GDC 2005 during Will Wright’s annual mind-blowing speech on whatever floats through his head. The initial concept – of a game in which the player evolves a species from cellular development to galactic dominion – generated an immense amount of hype, which the game struggled to fulfill upon its 2008 release. Spore received middling reviews from the gaming press, who found the gameplay weak and unfocused, and harsh criticism from the scientific press, who felt tricked by the promise of a game built from real science.

For myself, the time is now right to put down my own thoughts on Spore’s development – my memories of the project are still fresh, yet enough time has passed to ensure that criticism doesn’t impact active teams. I joined Spore in May 2007 for what ended up as the final 15 months of the project; however, the team started the game in 2000, which meant that I saw just 20% of the complete story.

Thus, my view of the game’s development is inevitably incomplete – bringing to mind the parable of the blind men and the elephant – and needs to be viewed from that perspective. I would welcome – indeed, encourage – other members of the Spore team to speak up on their own experiences with the project, especially if their perspectives differ from my own. Nonetheless, here are four lessons from my time with Spore.

1 – Don’t be afraid to challenge the initial vision

Ultimately, Spore was about two big ideas – powers of ten and procedural content. The first idea refers to the classic short film by American designers Charles and Ray Eames, which zooms in, by powers of ten, on a man and a woman until reaching quarks and then zooms out to the entire universe. This film inspired Will to create a game with similar radical shifts in scale, jumping from a cell to a creature, then to a tribe, then to a civilization, and finally to a space-faring empire.

The other idea – procedural content – was that all content in the game (such as creatures, vehicles, and buildings) could be represented with just a few kilobytes of data – which was, in Will’s words, “the DNA template of a creature while the game, like a womb, builds the ‘phenotypes‘ of the animal, which represent a few megabytes of texturing, animation, etc.” From this seed grew the powerful editors (which enabled some subversive creativity), procedural animation (which could truly handle anything), and content pollination (which shared the community’s best works).

When Will started developing the game, the core idea was powers of ten, reflected in the game’s original title, SimEverything, which promised a game at every zoom level. While prototyping that game, procedural content emerged as a way to fill the player’s universe, and that concept kept growing and expanding until it wasn’t clear anymore which concept was Spore’s big idea. A game can have two big ideas, of course, but the problem was that only one of these ideas was any good.

Spore’s biggest issue was that the play at each stage was fairly shallow because the team was making five games at once. (At one point, Will described each of the game’s five stages as light versions of classics – cell is like Pac-Man, creature is Diablo, tribe is Populous, civilization is Civilization, and space is Masters of Orion.) However, making five different games at once is a bad idea; making one good game is usually hard enough.

Each of the five stages had different controls, different interfaces, different nouns, different verbs, different goals, and so on. Some effort was made, of course, to share ideas and elements across stages; however, the compromises involved often watered down what was supposed to make each stage distinct in the first place. For example, each stage required a friendly means of engaging with other entities; in the creature stage, this mechanic became dancing for other creatures to make friends while, in the civilization stage, this mechanic translated into attacking other cities with music instead of bullets. Neither mechanic was the best idea for its own individual stage, and the justification was high-level consistency. Thus, the powers of ten idea put the team in a state of perpetual compromise where every major decision had to be considered according to its effect across all five stages.

On the other hand, procedural content was a genuinely interesting and fertile idea – one which was novel for the time, appropriate for a game about evolution, and rich with gameplay possibilities. The tragedy of Spore is that the team never re-evaluated its first big idea in comparison to its second one. Indeed, one of the problems with traditional, siloed game development is that initial assumptions are rarely challenged as the game is never exposed to the oxygen of actual player feedback.

Focus is an important asset for a team; if the game’s scope could have been reduced to just the biological stages (cell and creature), the team could have focused on fully exploring the intersection of procedural content and evolutionary gameplay. In the later, social stages, the editors served a mostly cosmetic role anyway, which pushed them to the background. Unfortunately, the best thing about powers of ten was that it sounded like a great idea, generating a huge amount of hype and press, so the die was cast at the 2005 reveal. What makes players buy a game, however, is often not the same thing as what actually makes them play it.

2 – Gameplay must support the theme

I have written before on the importance of a game’s theme matching its actual gameplay, and that the mechanics can easily subvert the intended meaning of a game, regardless of the designer’s stated goals. Indeed, I wrote about how this dissonance affected Spore:

The reception of Spore, a game sold with an evolutionary theme, provides a recent example. In the October 2008 issue of Science magazine, John Bohannon wrote the following about how the game delivered on the theme’s promise:

I’ve been playing Spore with a team of scientists, grading the game on each of its scientific themes. When it comes to biology, and particularly evolution, Spore failed miserably. According to the scientists, the problem isn’t just that Spore dumbs down the science or gets a few things wrong – it’s meant to be a game, after all – but rather, it gets most of biology badly, needlessly, and often bizarrely wrong.

The source of this dissonance is that, even though it was sold as such, Spore is not really a game about evolution. Spore is actually a game about creativity – the reason to play the game was to behold the wonder of other players’ imaginations as they used (and misused) the editors to create objects not imagined by the game’s designers – from musical instruments to fantastical creatures to dramatic scenes.

Spore didn’t need to be marketed or sold as a game about evolution, but since it was, players’ expectations had to be anticipated. Although one might not be surprised that the game was a disappointment to actual scientists, the crucial decision to limit the impact of the editor on gameplay ensured that players would not be able to experience the fantasy of evolution – that the editor would enable the creation of an infinite number of unique creatures, with behavior and performance dependent on player choice.

Of course, the editor enables an infinite number of visually distinct creatures, but the gameplay effects of the creature parts are unfortunately quite discrete. The feet components each carry with them a canned set of attributes – for example, Stubbtoe gives “Sprint 2,” “Dance 1,” and “Speed 2″ – regardless of the position of the foot, the length of the attached limb, or the shape of the body. Thus, the attributes of each creature is simply a summation of all the named body parts, and although the procedural animation guarantees that a many-limbed creature will walk convincingly, the player’s creativity in designing the creature’s shape has no impact on actual gameplay.

This disconnect stand in sharp contrast to the cell stage, which does deliver an editor with consequence. The exact position of each Proboscis, Flagella, and Cilia matters as the player-designed cell swims along, chomping prey while avoiding predators. Thus, the cell editor delivers actual gameplay that the creature editor does not, a key expectation for players.

How did the creature editor lose its bite? Obviously, the 3D world of the creature stage posed a greater challenge than the 2D world of the cell stage, but reducing the game’s scope to just the biological stages could have helped considerably. However, the root issue was a philosophical debate about the role of the editor in the game. Should the editor enable unparalleled aesthetic customization, at the expense of gameplay consequence, or should the game mechanics support every choice made by the player, even if that meant limiting the flexibility of the editor? Should Spore be an interactive art museum or a customizable video game?

The question is akin to asking if Spore is a game or a toy, which is, in fact, one question that got asked a lot during the game’s development, often without a clear answer. For players able to put imagination before gameplay, Spore is a magical experience; indeed, the game is at its best when played by ten-year-olds. However, for core gamers expecting a game about evolution (or, perhaps more accurately, a God-game about intelligent design), Spore fell short.

3 – The only prototype which matters is the game

One distinctive element of Spore’s development was a focus on prototypes to test out design ideas quickly and efficiently. Chris Hecker and Chaim Gingold gave a very well-received talk at GDC 2006 on this topic; they demonstrated one important prototype which proved that the creature editor could work, that editing a creature in 3D by pulling, prodding, and stretching various body parts was fun.

Generally speaking, prototyping is a great idea; the process saves time and money, focuses the developers on tangible problems, and suggests ideas that would never emerge from a design document. However, unless a prototype is meant to answer a very specific and relevant question – such as whether the creature editor will feel right – an over-abundance of prototypes can lead to a false sense of progression. 100 compelling yet limited prototypes are less likely to lead to a great game than a single playable one.

The team eventually posted fourteen prototypes for players to try out, and what is notable about the selection is how few of them had a meaningful impact on the final game. I do remember Gonzaga/SPUG being used by the creature team, but much of the game’s core design was still up in the air when I joined, with most of the old prototypes long forgotten. (The civilization stage, for example, was just a tech demo of a spherical world.) A game must be greater than the sum of its parts, and the gameplay systems can only be understood when they exist within one complete experience, regardless of the shortcomings of the current technology.

Sid describes this process as “finding the fun” as he is pulling and prodding his prototype into a playable game; however, he is working on a single prototype, which will eventually morph into the final game. For Civilization 4, I built the game on top of a cancelled RTS project, which allowed us to have a playable game working, using 2D billboards for art, within months. Jon Shafer prototyped Civilization 5 within the Civ4 codebase, only switching over to the new graphics engine when it was ready. Visitors to Blizzard are regularly shocked by how their games appear to be shippable years before release, which is how they balance the demands of AAA production with the importance of iterative game design. These fully playable “prototypes” signal the beginning of the most crucial part of game development – when the designers can change the game rapidly based on feedback from actual playthroughs, not disparate, standalone experiments.

Spore was not fully playable until, at best, the final year of the project. Shipping the game earlier was never an option, and shipping the game latter was politically and emotionally impossible because of the time and resources already invested in the preproduction process, which did not result in a playable game. Of course, many successful games are not fully playable until months before release, but they tend to be part of established genres or franchises; the fun was already found in previous versions, and the team simply needs to improve the core gameplay without ruining anything. Having an unplayable game until shortly before shipping is not ideal, of course, but some projects have very demanding time constraints.

Spore was given an eternity of development time, and – more importantly – was new, new, new, new, new. No game had ever been made like it, with such immense scope and without a familiar template, so the project had an immense amount of risk, which only grew greater as more and more money was spent without a fully playable prototype. Creating such a prototype for a project with as much technical innovation as Spore would have been no small feat (much of the procedural animation, for example, was not finished until the final stretch), but no other method exists to make a fun game from scratch.

4 – Team cohesion beats team quality

Of one thing I am quite certain, the Spore team was the most incredible collection of game developers I have ever seen. Their creativity, their leadership, their diversity, and their raw intellectual firepower was inspiring. Starting at the top, the game was led by Will Wright, a legendary designer, and Lucy Bradshaw, an admired veteran executive producer. Key members of the team have gone on to make notable contributions to the industry: Chris Hecker is the designer/programmer behind SpyParty; Alex Hutchinson was the Creative Director of Assassin’s Creed III; Jordan Maynard is the Creative Director of the iOS MOBA Solstice Arena; Brian Sharp is a Lead Engineer at Bungie; Caryl Shaw was an Executive Producer at ngmoco; Ocean Quigley, Stone Librande, and Andrew Wilmott were (respectively) the Creative Director, Lead Designer, Lead Architect on the new SimCity. Beyond that, companies like Valve, Double Fine, and Riot are full of Spore alumni.

The Spore team was an incredible collection of talent. It’s an old chestnut that the key to a successful project is an exceptional team, but a team cannot be measured by adding up the qualities of each individual member. Instead, a team should be measured by its cohesion – how well the members are able to align their goals, priorities, and talents. Unfortunately, the Spore team was chronically fractured, divided into factions which had completely different priorities for the project. One well-known divide was the cute-vs-science debate; the ‘cute’ team wanted a playful, emotionally engaging experience while the ‘science’ team wanted an accurate representation of how the universe worked. I joined the team after a compromise was struck, which attempted to combine cute mechanics with a scientific theme.

However, I witnessed a new divide among the team which was less well-known; as more core game developers (such as myself) were recruited to help finish the game, a cultural gap emerged between the newer ‘gameplay’ team and the older ‘Sim’ team. The former group (which went on to spearhead Darkspore) was primarily concerned with how Spore played as a game. Were the mechanics engaging? Did the player’s choices matter? Was the game replayable? In contrast, the ‘Sim’ team carried the traditional Maxis DNA and was more comfortable with Spore as a toy box. Could the players express themselves? Was sharing one’s creations with other players meaningful? Did the game spark the imagination?

These cultural divides ruined Spore’s chances to be a focused, cohesive experience. Spore could have worked either as a cute game or as a scientific one. It could have been a series of interesting decisions or the best set of magic crayons ever devised. Games design works best at the extremes, delivering a distinctive experience to a specific audience; making a game for everybody is the same thing as making a game for nobody. Moreover, there are thousands of ways to make a game about cosmic evolution or world history or modern combat or human relationships or even something as concrete as baseball; the trick is to pick the one that best matches the strength and passion of the team.

35 thoughts on “Spore: My View of the Elephant

  1. An excellent summary of Spore’s development – thanks for putting these words together, Soren. The closing point is a valid criticism of not just the last 15 months, but all three years of the full-production scope that brought me on board. Maxis recruited a lot of genius talent, but the team never came together to make one game – in a traditionally structured company like EA, it would have been the job of the Lead Designer (Will) to unify the team and set a consistent vision and gameplay language.

    I have tremendous respect for Will as a creative mind, but I think that the structure of Maxis doomed Spore from the start; Will’s talent has never been in wrangling other people’s egos and forcing a consensus. Bringing in so much new, outside talent also meant bringing in many new, outside opinions, and Spore never recovered from the lethal injection of too many competing ideas.

  2. @Henry “lethal injection of too many competing ideas” is an apt phrase. I had a sense that Will looked at this mashup as a positive with some sort of hands off, survival-of-the-fittest thing going on for all these ideas. The problem is that the heuristic for the best ideas completely depends on the top-level goal and intended audience, which was never clear.

  3. Let me give you a contrary outsider viewpoint. I think the Spore team are some of the most critical people of Spore. I thought it was a great game at launch and I think it is a great game now. It delivered a galaxy sprawling toy box of creativity and play at a about the same level of complexity as Sid Meier’s Pirates. I do not think there is much wrong with that. The only things missing for me is the Plant editor and full Mod support :)

  4. Ah, the memories! I want to echo Henry’s sentiment: great write-up of the trials and tribulations of Spore, Soren.

    I think it’s interesting to look back at The Demo from GDC 2005:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4ScRG_reIw

    It’s an amazing demo and really shows off the audacity of the whole concept–I’m still impressed that the game got off the ground at all. The video also highlights the gulf between a demo and a shippable product, and that A does not necessarily imply B.

    And while the plant editor never made it, we did get asymmetry (thanks checker!) and export to collada.

  5. Great write up Soren. I think your four points are right on. A fifth point I might add to the mix is Spore was a massive technical challenge and I think the folks making gameplay spent a lot of time working with/around technical problems as opposed to gameplay problems. And I’m not sure that could have been addressed more efficiently than it was. You address the failure of the ‘more prototypes’ solution in your discussion, and the converse solution of ‘develop tech in preproduction’ has similar pitfalls; tech without gameplay is equally useless.

    If it were up to me, I’d just chalk it up as a learning experience and get on with making Spore 2. Innovative products never really gel until version 3 right? ;)

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  7. Well spoken. Brings back great memories! Delays and crazy expectations aside, I thought the linear-style game progression was still great fun, though it did not fulfill the powers-of-ten vision and it interfered with the creative aesthetic (+1 attack, +2 dance etc.)

    I’d love to see another take on Spore, but as an online shared powers-of-ten galaxy sandbox. Many exciting design things come out of this… for one, sandbox-style fits better with what ended up being half the game in Spore 1.0: the editors/anim/pollination. The technical challenges were too great to do everything in a 1.0, but now that some of those are solved, worth a new take! Another natural fit: pollination… rather than the ‘massively single player’ style, integrate content discovery into the galaxy mechanics and editor. Intentionally fill a universe with these strange beautiful things. Every time you log on, things change slightly based on other people’s actions, stays alive.

    The thing that stands out about the standalone creature editor in particular was that it was instantly understood and engaging to people of ALL ages. This is a rare thing, not to be underestimated. I’m happy we spent that ‘extra’ (ahem) time to get the editors and animation system solid. Anim team caused delays and all, but the system is magic. That video you linked of the viking ship creature is a perfect example of the unpredictable beautiful mayhem these players can make.

    I had hoped the same for the Galactic Adventures expansion — flawed as it was too, giving players those tools made for this strange and beautiful fountain of creativity. But it turns out that game design is hard, and the leveling mechanic often supplanted players fun of simply exploring and playing with other people’s cool adventures.

    Anyway, thank you for the retrospective! (hi henry, dave, jeff!)

  8. Great retrospective, Soren. I joined the team about the same time you did and your experiences are a close mirror of my own. But even though the game didn’t live up to most gamer’s hyped up expectations, it has resonated powerfully with younger players.

    I remember that you once remarked, “We made the best kid’s game ever. Too bad we weren’t trying to make a kid’s game.”

    Unlike the older generation of gamers–who had already sunk hundreds of hours into Pac-Man, Diablo, Populous, Civ and MOO–most of these kids had never experienced Spore’s superior ancestors. Rather than feeling like they were playing a weak copy of something better, Spore appeared to them as a unique experience with endless possibilities.

    I give a lot of talks at schools about making video games for a career, and when the teenagers (who were around 10 years old when Spore came out) find out that I worked on Spore I am bombarded with the question, “Where is Spore 2?!” I wonder what influence those Spore-lovin’ kids will have 5 years from now when they start their careers in the game industry.

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  11. I have to disagree entirely with your first point, but agree that point 4 was behind the gameplay issues in Spore.

    I believe Spore’s problem was that the creative vision was not allowed to fully bloom, just ALMOST fully.

    Chris Hecker was brought in at the last minute to re-design the middle game, which ended up being a bad civ clone, but the previous parts and the space parts were and still are amazing. Because the city building part stood between the more free form procedural start and end games, the flow from one to the other was lost, and play ended up bein too fragmented.

    After seeing Will Wright talk about spore before it was released, the potential of being able to move along the axis of scale to achive gameplay objectives felt incredibly compelling to me, but this was roadblocked by wedging a standard RTS game between the more freeform parts.

    I felt a progression in the control schemes, game design motifs, and style, in everything but the RTS bit. It ruined it for me.

  12. Hi all – great to see so many comments from the team! I should add that I am now legitimately proud that the Spore is such a good kids game, which is no easy feat.

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  14. I always felt Galactic Adventures was a misunderstood product. It was really about taking all the other editors and wrapping one giant meta-editor around them. Making your own game was the heart of it. I’d like to think it inspired at least a few kids into game development careers.

    And all you Maxis alumni–come back, we miss you!

  15. I just felt like jumping in and saying hey to everyone. We’ve turned Soren’s blog into facebook. ;)

    I agree that the base failure to choose between toy and game with consequence was the core challenge. I sometimes still wake up in fright trying to solve the problem. It’s like those highschool nightmares where you’re in class only wearing your underpants.

    I think another challenge was the fact that there were too many moving parts: the goal of ‘innovation’ somewhere became ‘don’t do it liek anything that has come before’, so Will’s idea that each game was a simplified version of another existign design may even have worked if that was what had been built: but each games, through technical delays / challenges, the massive impact of the editors and a desire to never undercut their power with gameplay constraints, among other things, meant that we could never get enough traction.

    For me, the ideal version was one sim, msotly toy, that expanded as you zoomed out: so one game with five phases. The five games in one killed us, but we could never shake it because it sounded like it should be reasonable… it just wasn’t. Five games meant five control schemes, five types of internal logic, five rule sets, five reward systems etc etc which was strenuous for players and devs.

    Oh and Chris Fairclough, you’re confusing Checker with Soren. ;)

  16. hey maxoids!
    For me, I wish we had just focused on creature/cell game for that first release and spent time making it perfect…so many good ideas that we never had time to make.

    Maybe the SimCity we just made would have been the “city” game for Spore :0

    I really wanted more:
    -evolution by the simulator, including mutations
    -less dancing and musical crap/ more fighting, death, and procreation
    -creature morphology matters more than the sum of the parts in success or failure
    -crafting, and physics in the building and vehicle system determines success, not the sum of parts irrespective of where they are placed
    -the planets all looked very similar (we needed way more than 12? giant rock types
    20 tree types, and a bunch of heavily restricted planet height maps to make a convincing universe of diverse planets)

    which leads to my last point, we had a tiny art team!..we could have had a huge internal trough of content to draw on instead of relying so much on procedural art to do it all…
    So come on all of you, come back!! and lets get this thing right ;) as Jeff pointed out
    great games are only made on the 2nd or 3d version.

  17. Ooops.
    Thanks Alex.

    Stand by what I said though, any incongruity was not our gracious host’s fault I’m sure, he was hired to get the game out the door.

  18. Chris has been bizarrely and inappropriately blamed for Spore before, but this may be the first time he got blamed just for the Civ level! At any rate, any failings of that stage should fall upon me more than anyone else.

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  20. If only Spore 2 existed, one like the GDC 2005 Demo. Thousands would buy it. Just look at all the people who bought spore!

  21. Hi Guys,
    Awesome write up Soren.
    I was 16 the time the game came out. I remember it well, I pre-ordered the galactic edition which took me months to save up for.

    The game looked so awesome and when the creature creator came out it proved it was awesome. I had my parents, grand parents, friends etc. play it and they loved it. This is what i feel spore should of been more focused on. The creators and what functions each part has with the creature / spaceship / building.

    Once spore came out I finished the game (I know you can’t really finished it but I reached the centre of the galaxy) and then played around with the creators for a bit then became a little bored as the space age missions are rather repetitive. I then asked my mother if she would like to play it. Now she doesn’t usually play games but she played more spore then I ever did and I really never needed to explain anything to her about what to do. If you could somehow make spore a Facebook game i think it would be very, very popular.

    I still hope there is a chance of spore 2.0 as it is still a game with a fond place in my heart. I loved all the creatures you could create but i found that once you could do things with them it lost its appeal. Especially since you had to use parts you didn’t really like to improve its stats.

    Anyway I will stop my blabbering now but thought i would share my thoughts. Its so good hearing from some of the development team though of this crazy game.

    Regards,
    Luke

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  25. I just want to say that this was my favorite game between the ages of eleven (2008) and thirteen. It is really an excellent kids’ game, especially for creative/intelligent kids, who are rarely thought of by game developers. Although I don’t enjoy it as much at this age, I respect Spore for what it is.

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  27. Like so many, I was really hyped up by the notions of procedurally generated worlds and behaviours, as well as the idea that create design affected their abilities.

    With this I mean that long legs equal faster running, high arms would feature longer reach, but also make your creature more top-heavy, etc.

    I don’t know if the game I wanted could have been made in 2005, but I think it can be made today, computers are powerful enough, and with multi-core processing it should be possible to generate different complex systems simultaneously. (movement, balance, object manipulation, etc)

    Like so many, I spent hours playing with the editors (the most intuitive editors of any piece of software I have ever seen!) only to be completely underwhelmed when upon release I saw that it mattered very little how I designed my creature, as long as it had it’s parts. Creatures with legs and eyes in all directions would still move in the direction of their spine, creatures attacking other creatures would not use and abuse reach advantages or adapt strategies based on what weaponry its design provided it, but rather just exchange blows and let the +3 attack score do its work.

    In other words, it was a not the procedural evolution game that was advertised.

    I learned a lot from the Spore release, and for that I am grateful. These days, I don’t buy into hype any more, I’m weary when developers repeat talking points, I don’t expect more than is explicitly mentioned, and if something more is alluded to, I expect to find this feature to be bare-bones rather than an unexpected fleshed out bonus.
    I don’t generally pre-order games since this fiasco either.

    But, like many of the developers of spore who have replied here, clearly, we’re still looking for closure. I believe a game with the promise that spore had is still possible. Maybe you guys should get together and see if you could make it.

    Like me, I think you guys have probably learned a great deal, about scope, about focus, about motives and themes, and on the other side, about DRM, about hype, about teamwork.
    I think the same team today would probably do much better than in the past.

    I think a kickstarter for a game with spore’s promise would be a huge success.
    And ignore the latter phases of the game, focus on the evolution and interaction, I’m sure you’ll be golden. That’s what sold the game in the first place.

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  29. Hey, great writeup Soren. I was on the project before your time (Around 2004-2005) and I feel like you and I would have been on the same wavelength. I had the dubious distinction of being the first person on the team to voluntarily leave for anything else at EA. A lot of people thought I was crazy to leave the dream team, but I saw the rocks that Spore ended up crashing on even back then.

    I remember a discussion with Will where he said he expected players to play an hour of each level of those 5 editor-minigames (city was still in at that point) – and then play 35 hours of minigames in space. That pretty much destroyed any enthusiasm I had for it, because I could see the massive waste of effort being put in for what was essentially a long intro, because I could see how shallow an effect all the editor-based work was destined to have on the eventual space game, and because I saw that ultimately, it was a game that the people who got excited by the ideas thrown out in the demos were never going to enjoy.

    I think Alex has the right idea – it should never have been 5 different games with 5 different control schemes. And you are perfectly correct that there was never a cohesive vision. Everyone just assumed Will had it all working in his head, and that things would work out in the end. And Mike, I told Lucy as I was leaving just to ship cell and creature and make the rest expansions if she wanted to make money off the project.

    What amazes me about all of it was that the problems and fissures were so obvious in 2004, and yet somehow, it kept sailing forward on that course, year after year.

  30. This is a great write up of some of the faults of the game, thanks Soren. I was also disappointed that while the creativity in designing the creatures and buildings and units was endless, the meaningful mechanical differences were more rock-paper-scissors like.

    But as you point out, it was just such a tall order. I don’t fault the team for not being able to pull it off 100%, it was such a huge vision that it was so far beyond anything anyone had designed before.

    Thanks for the post!

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  32. Soren, thank you for writing this piece. Aside from being a fascinating insight into what happened with Spore, it came at just the right time to use as an example for a team I’m coaching on Agile development practices. Team cohesion, refining the vision, failing fast (which is hard to do without showing the real product), being strict about the customer persona for whom you’re designing the software…All salient points for people trying to understand about the building blocks of Agile.

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