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Kest

Spore

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I just started playing this a few days ago. I'm just starting the civilization stage, and haven't tried the space stage yet. Is it just me, or is the cell stage the best part of the game? Here are my biggest positive/negative impressions: Cell stage: + Placement of parts anywhere on cell body + Placement and size of parts actually influence player's real-time usability + Real-time strategy to chase, position, and orient your cell to attack and defend + Direct control of cell - other than the mating call, no interface action buttons + Effective strategies are completely relative to the structure and layout of your cell + NPC enemy cell layouts dictate how you need to approach them + DNA feels like gold, since each unit can work toward amping up your cell, and every part can make a big difference + The same part can be added several times to your cell to boost that ability + Fluid and unpredictable environment - you have to stay on your toes - It ends too soon, and DNA stops registering with food Creature stage: + Placement of parts anywhere on creature body - Placement and size of parts seem to influence animations only - Strategy that could be executed from a menu (impress three of those, kill five of those) - Indirect control - player clicks buttons, game engine does things - Strategies are barely influenced by the layout of your creature - only the level of each action-skill (dance, sing, bite) seems to matter - The primary gameplay of interacting with creatures is predictable, simplistic, and robotic - Overwhelming amounts of DNA can be collected, and it doesn't seem to help much - Each NPC creature layout has very little to do with anything other than looks - Running around an unsophisticated landscape collecting hundreds of bones to find new creature parts + Giant/epic creatures to kill Tribal stage: - Clothing is trivial - just serves to stat up character actions - Placement of clothing has no influence at all - The gameplay/strategy to ally or destroy one tribe is virtually identical to all others - Species traits has very little to do with anything Civilization stage: - The layout and placement of vehicle and building parts is trivial and unimportant. Laying each stat-boosting part on the ground is fine I started losing interest about here and started a new game to play the cell stage again. Then I did it again, and again. I plan to play the rest of it some day, but probably not soon. This is all based on opinion, and I'm curious to see what other people think about the game. Especially about the cell stage. That part is so cool. I would have loved to see the game totally devote its content efforts there.

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Your summary seems to be the general consensus of most people who were expecting an actual *game* to go along with those nifty creation tools.

The cell stage is cool, the creature stage is OK as a stripped-down action RPG, and the tribal and civ stages are worthless.

The space stage is a different game entirely, and it's worth playing. It does have several glaring flaws which detract from its enjoyability, and it lacks depth, but it doesn't feel like a minigame.

I'm not sure how much farther they could have gone with the cell stage, though. It should have been a bit longer to really let you finish developing your creature, but could they have made an entire game out of it? I don't see how.

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Original post by drakostar
I'm not sure how much farther they could have gone with the cell stage, though. It should have been a bit longer to really let you finish developing your creature, but could they have made an entire game out of it? I don't see how.

Even if not with that specific theme, I would love to see the general concept as a full game. It reminded me of Star Control battles, except it allowed for full player creativity, and all of that creativity directly influenced the gameplay. That's a rare combination.

I'd like to see a 3D space ship game, where the free-style 3D location and size of individual thrusters change the way your ship moves and handles. The cannon positions change the way you need to fly and orient yourself near enemies, and influence the backward velocity on your ship (put them on the back to speed up while firing). The location and angle of view ports could change fog of war distance at certain angles. The list could go on and on with some imaginative thinking. The result would be incredibly fun. At least for me.

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Original post by Kest
Is it just me, or is the cell stage the best part of the game? Here are my biggest positive/negative impressions:


Nope, it's not just you; the cell stage is definitely the best part of the game.

The space stage could have been so much better; it has so much potential, but it ruins it by being unplayably annoying. Every ten seconds you have to zip to the opposite end of the galaxy to save some planet from ecological disaster or prevent pirates or aggressive neighbouring species (who basically cheat) from killing your colonies, leaving no time to actually explore the galaxy and play with the toys at your disposal. It doesn't help that these missions aren't really that interesting to begin with; they rapidly become chores, and they take up ALL your time. Not fun at all.

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I just recently tried out Spore as well (user name is Trazoi if anyone wants to share stuff). I too have only got as far as the Civilization stage in my first play-through (I'll be playing it some more in a few days once I've got some other things sorted out). My play so far has been shaped by me playing an almost completely pacifistic race of wren-like creatures who generally have to run away from nearly everything.

In general, I agree that the cell stage was probably the best in terms of raw gameplay mechanics. It was chaotic, the cell components were more crucial, plus it just looked freaking cool.

I actually enjoyed the Creature stage a lot; I treated it as a stage for very slowly adapting my blobby cell creature into something more advanced. My first generation was just the cell with a pair of legs crudely tacked on, but I made it an unwritten rule I could only do a few minor changes every new generation - so my blob "evolved" slowly into a bird creature with arms. My main gripe is that I've just found out that Spore saved every single evolution stage of my bird and stuck it in the Sporepedia, so there's a dozen or so partially evolved things running around under my name.

The Tribal stage was a bit too simple and short for what could have been a great stage. I really liked seeing a small family of my birds running and flying around. And I actually enjoyed playing dress-up with them, because with a headdress they looked adorable. But the mechanics for winning that stage seemed pretty simple.

The Civilization stage I've only got about half-way through. I'm a bit miffed that I'm not playing against other species anymore; it was interesting to see what other people had done, plus the rival nations are just plain not looking like how my race of birds would behave in my mind. Plus at this stage it doesn't matter one jot about their biology save for how they acted in all the prior stages.

Overall Spore is roughly the sort of game I expected once I heard more detail about the different stages - essentially a bunch of mini-game toys loosely tacked together. The Creature Creator is the standout part - the creatures animate very nicely. That's also why I'm annoyed in the Civ stage how it becomes more irrelevant.

I am also a bit disappointed that Will Wright, one of the designers I most admire, wasn't able to pull Spore off. My current impression is that it's a bunch of interesting toys but with a better focus on a single unifying element it could have been much more. But it seems to have fallen to the common design trap of thinking that globbing a whole grab bag of features makes a great game, whereas experience has shown that it usually just makes a mess.

I'm planning on writing a review article on this in a month or so in my journal here once I've played the game a bit more.

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Just wait till you get to the 'oh so fun' space stage where you can't go anywhere without a planet summoning you because they're being attacked or because there's a looming ecological disaster that they're too lazy to sort out themselves.

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Original post by Trapper Zoid
My first generation was just the cell with a pair of legs crudely tacked on, but I made it an unwritten rule I could only do a few minor changes every new generation - so my blob "evolved" slowly into a bird creature with arms.

I did the same thing. It felt like it should have been designed that way. It should have cost DNA to make *any* type of change, including changing color, or adjusting the locations of already existing parts. But given that the locations and colors of parts didn't really influence anything, the gameplay would have needed revamped a little for it to make sense.

At the very least, there should have been some type of bonus or goal that could be achieved by restraining the amount of changes per generation. The way it stands, you could remain a green monster blob with spikes until the very end of the creature stage, then completely change into a cute furry pink rabbit on the last day. It sort of makes the in-between stages meaningless.

Even worse, it promotes the strategy of transforming to perform a specific task, then transforming back to do something else. Need to kill an epic creature? Transform into a monster with fangs and claws. Need to make friends? Dump the weapons and add some cute feathers.

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The Creature Creator is the standout part - the creatures animate very nicely.

It's more than that. It's absolutely incredible. I have no idea how they pulled off such great animation and emotional expressions with user constructed creatures. You can bend the legs all over the place in the editor, and they still look mostly correct when they walk. That technology would be a huge asset to any game. Why build a limited number of NPC monsters for a typical RPG when you can randomly generate unique ones on the fly that all behave and animate correctly? You could even play around with having generations of creatures automatically and randomly evolving over time.

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Original post by Kest
It's more than that. It's absolutely incredible. I have no idea how they pulled off such great animation and emotional expressions with user constructed creatures. You can bend the legs all over the place in the editor, and they still look mostly correct when they walk. That technology would be a huge asset to any game. Why build a limited number of NPC monsters for a typical RPG when you can randomly generate unique ones on the fly that all behave and animate correctly? You could even play around with having generations of creatures automatically and randomly evolving over time.

That's why I consider Spore an absolute must-play game for everyone at GameDev.net - it's a fascinating piece of software to study. If the game is actually fun to play, well, that's a irrelevant bonus. [grin]

Back to your original question - I do think the cell stage has potential for ideas for 2D games. A lot of my ideas are based on 2D space combat that play in my mind somewhat similar to the cell stage; maybe not quite as frantickly, but similar. I might have a look at how the cell creation makes a difference to how the game plays a bit closer later on.

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Original post by Trapper Zoid
I might have a look at how the cell creation makes a difference to how the game plays a bit closer later on.

Here are a few of the things I remember:

- There's no limit to speed. You can sacrifice any other parts to obtain more.
- Having extra mouths allows you to eat creatures who are trying to eat you from the side or behind. If nothing else, carnivore mouths will deflect attacks from other carnivore mouths.
- Adding spikes on the front allows ramming attacks, but adding them on the side or in between other vital parts provides deflection defense. Having many spread out spikes is just like a shield (except against shock or poison attacks).
- Trying to stab a predator with a side-mounted spike is tricky and strategic. You have to turn just as they approach.
- Making your cell body thin reduces the space you have for parts, but allows you to squeeze in between enemy defenses.

The speed part *locations* don't really seem to impact the type of mobility or handling your cell has. I didn't play around much with jets, though. Adding a jet on the side should cause your cell to propel sideways, but I'm not sure if it does.

It's not so much the game itself, but the gameplay type that impresses me so much about the cell stage.

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Original post by Kest
It's more than that. It's absolutely incredible. I have no idea how they pulled off such great animation and emotional expressions with user constructed creatures. You can bend the legs all over the place in the editor, and they still look mostly correct when they walk. That technology would be a huge asset to any game. Why build a limited number of NPC monsters for a typical RPG when you can randomly generate unique ones on the fly that all behave and animate correctly? You could even play around with having generations of creatures automatically and randomly evolving over time.



I'm pretty sure they used the Euphoria engine by NaturalMotion for the animations. Check it out here: www.naturalmotion.com/euphoria.htm

If only I had the money to use that in my own projects.

An yeah on subject of the thread.. I played Spore for about 4 hours. The cell stage is the best, after that the layout of your creature is pretty worthless and gets boring pretty quick. I only got to the tribal stage before I had enough.

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