The next evolution in gaming is upon us. From the mind of Will Wright, the creator of The Sims, comes SPORE, an epic journey that takes you from the origin and evolution of life through the development of civilization and technology and eventually all the way into the deepest reaches of outer space.
WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!
I'm Morgan Roarty, and I'm the executive producer for Spore.
WP: Tell us a little bit about the concept behind Spore: Galactic Adventures. It looks like it's one part level editor, one part standalone mission. How does it really fit in with the Spore universe?
MR: Galactic Adventures was an idea that we came up with when we were looking at all the content that was getting created in Spore and really looking back and giving players more opportunities to use that content. As of tonight, I think we're up to over 67 million pieces of content. So the idea that came is how do we give players' stuff meaningful creativity with that content? Yes, it is part level editor, so any content that you find in the Spore universe, you can use in your own missions and adventures. Plus, any of those missions that you create or the community creates are available for Space game, so we're giving you a new powerful editor plus a whole bunch of additional gameplay in space. The new missions kick in about master batch two, so about an hour into Space game, you're going to start to get these "beam down to the planet" adventures, which are completely new.
WP: In a lot of games, level editors are free. What would you say to the people who ask, "Why do I have to buy an expansion to get a level editor? Shouldn't something like that come with the game itself or be made available as a free download?"
MR: I don't have a great answer for that. I would just say that it's a really powerful editor. We put a lot of time and effort into it, and it is an expansion pack. We've added a ton of new things in it, and I just think, looking at the business, it just didn't seem like something that we could give away for free. We have given away free limbs — in our second patch, we gave out a bunch of insect limbs — and we've given out a whole bunch of widgets on the Web site, but this is big enough where we're going to have to charge for it. It's a pretty powerful editor.
WP: What kind of content comes with it? Is it just a bunch of sample missions, or are there actually full-fledged missions that come prepaid so if you don't want to play around with the level editor, you can get the expansion and start playing right away?
MR: The number's variable right now, but we're going to give about 16-plus missions that we create, with good archetype and good templates for players, so about 16 Maxis-made missions and then we're going to add about the same, about 16-plus of these quick-play missions, again, another good set of examples. But as you saw with Spore, we had a million assets in the first 10 hours. With this tool, we're hoping that there are going to be so many missions in the first weekend that it's never going to be an issue of people finding stuff to play.
There's a whole rating system behind the missions, so the better missions get rated up. We're hoping that the rating system holds up and you're going to be able to see all the best of the best content, all the best of the best missions.
WP: Can you tell us a little bit about the concept behind the rating system? Realistically, whenever there is that much user-created content, about 90 percent of it is throwaway and 10 percent of it is awesome, but finding that 10 percent is the challenge. How are you guys going to go about it so that the user doesn't have to spend his time downloading mission after mission only to find that they're boring?
MR: It's all about the rating system. Every time you play the mission, you give it a rating, and we've seen it on the content side; if you go to Spore.com, all the good content bubbles up to featured content. Again, if you're a really good guy who makes creatures out there, the most fame you'd get is featured content on Spore.com. That's the only way you're going to see your hard work and labor. These missions are a whole new avenue to show off your content. We've already proven with featured content that it's going to bubble to the top, so I don't see a problem with being able to see the good stuff and not be exposed to the bad stuff.
WP: Let's talk about flexibility in missions. There's a lot of talk about "missions," but what really can you do in a mission? Is it just point A to point B? Can you go full-on RPG? Can you get action? Fighting? What can a player really make with this level creator?
MR: A whole variety. I mean, story missions, collectible missions, a lot of the classic find the golden key, destroy the red dragon missions. You can have up to five goals in a mission across five acts, so 25 different goals in a mission spread out across five different acts. You can combine a lot of these. The first part of your mission could be a puzzle mission to find the golden key, and then the story can kick in. So all the classic archetype missions are going to be available in any combination.
WP: You mentioned the red dragon, which brings up one of the features that would make Beavis and Butthead proud. You've now added fire-breathing to the expansion. Are there any other creature abilities that have been added into the expansion?
MR: We've added … I think there are about 32 different new abilities. Some of the cooler ones are the jump jet, the hover part, you can add flaming sword, the pulse blaster, a lightning strike sword — a whole variety of new parts that you can put on your creature to help you and aid you in these missions, so a whole bunch of new abilities.
WP: I understand in the sound department, you guys have not only used custom sounds created for Spore, but you've reached into the EA back catalog and pulled sounds from a lot of other games and made them available. What are some of the familiar sounds that players will be able to use to enhance their missions?
MR: We're really proud of this feature. We have everything in there from alarms to doors slamming to ancient kingdom. If you made a big castle, you could have ancient kingdom sounds. Bebop, screams, plus we have a bunch of random notes, so one of the fun adventures that the sound guy made to show it off is, he made a long fence and put different notes, and as you walked down the fence, it played "Mary Had a Little Lamb." I know it's goofy, but I mean, you can vary the pitch of the sounds and the radius of them, so it's just one more layer of customization to your missions. You make this really great castle set, and what's better than to drop in an ancient kingdom-sounding vibe as you enter it?
WP: How do you pull in other players' creations into the expansion and then essentially republish your mission? Can I go ahead and make a mission with creatures that you've created and published on Sporepedia, and maybe buildings that, say, Amanda has made and republish that mission myself? How does that work?
MR: Any of the 67 million [creatures] are fair game. You can go to Spore.com, where there are a ton of Sporecasts, so people have made groupings of content. Honestly, this is just a great value for that, so if you've grouped a bunch of castle pieces of sci-fi pieces, those are an easy way to get at the content, and then you can subscribe to those Sporecasts and then you could easily get after them, but any content is fair game. I think that gives more back to the higher-end content creators because that's more ways to make their content more well-known. Anything's fair game, you can use anybody's content.
WP: Speaking of content, how do you plan on handling copyright issues? I know it's something that LittleBigPlanet and Sony have been dealing with. Obviously, with Spore, you could create creatures that looked like something else, but now you've actually got missions, if someone has Star Wars creatures that they created and makes a Star Wars mission, where do you start drawing the line? How do you guys plan on policing that to ensure that EA doesn't run afoul of the line?
MR: With any of the content in the game, we work on a notify-and-remove basis. We haven't had a problem to my knowledge. We've actually gotten some nice notes from people who appreciate that their IPs are living on somewhere else. You can search for all the common IPs out of the 67 million and maybe get 2,000 or 3,000 of the more common things. I don't personally expect it to be a problem. I think some people are going to pay homage to some of the great different levels from some of the great games, and we shall see, but I don't see it being a problem.
WP: Finally, Spore fans are starting to take on their creatures with machinima. What expansions or extensions to the camera controls have you added in to the expansion pack to make it easier for users to create their own videos?
MR: I personally think that this is going to open up a whole new window. By being able to customize the planet any way you want, to set your stage for your production, and then to have an editor where you can drag in any asset in any order and place them anywhere you want, I think it's just going to be great for those types of creators. They can basically make their set, which you had to fumble around in the core game to get that working correctly, so this is a whole other way for people to be able to do that. I expect people to make a lot more YouTube movies and their own little fiction and stories, and this is just an easier way through these missions, these different acts, for people to tell their story of the things they created.
WP: Is there anything about the game and expansion pack that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?
MR: We're very proud of the editor, which is very powerful. I think it's important to note that these missions are available in Space game and they're going to extend the gameplay in Space game. We're very excited about it. It's one of those things where we had other ideas for the expansion pack, and we kept looking at all that great content that people have been creating, and we think this is a great first step to getting meaningful creativity out of this content that people have created.
Spore is currently available worldwide, with the Galactic Adventures expansion expected March 31, 2009.