Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The Little Game That Would

Let me tell you a story. It's called "The little game that would". This little game would become the pet project of legendary game designer Will Wright. This little game would generate more hype than any other game in the last three years. This little game would be eight years in the making. This little game would promise more than it surely could ever deliver. This little game, is Spore.

Sim Everything. I laughed when I read that but it's what Spore was originally going to be called. Sim Everything. Well, I say that's what it was going to be called. It was working under that title in 2000. Eight years ago. That's a long development time, a one that even Valve can safely snigger at. But a long development time means nothing, it's the finished product that matters. All a long development time does is generate immense hype (something Spore did better than any other game to date). But that's not important.  Yesterday I discussed the last great game and Spore didn't even get a mention. Why was that? 

You know what, I was going to go into the history of Spore in detail but I'm not going to. I'm just going to to tell you my opinion in one word. Average.

Spore begins like a dream. It's everything you've ever hoped for. Colour, customisation, online features, a scale so big the human race is a mere blip on the screen. In fairness, it does remain exciting for a few hours. Maybe six or seven at the most, and that's if you take the first three stages slowly (they can be done in around two hours if your quick enough). 

It all went downhill for me when I hit the Civ stage. It became.... Repetitive. The tribal stage (third stage) sees you managing a small amount of tribesmen, befriending ,or beating the shit out of, the neighbours, while the Civ stage is that again but more tedious with added moustaches. The Civ stage feels like it was rushed, like it HAD to be there and no-one on the development team really cared for it. 

I hit the Civ stage on my sixth hour, and had finished it on the seventh. According to my timeline, I'd been in the Civ stage for 50,000 years . That's the thing about Spore. It's.... Confusing. Why is it it took me 25 minutes to evolve out of the gene pool? Why is it it took me 2 hours to discover fire? How come it took me an hour to discover how to build complex building structures? Why did it take me 20 minutes to discover space travel? I know this may seem like a weak argument, but It feels like the whole game is a limited experience, like it's nothing but filler until you hit the space stage. 

The Space stage however, differs from Spore so much it may as well be a completely different game. Firstly, it's huge. Secondly, IT NEVER ENDS! I swear, I've played the space stage for around 20 hours so far and I'm nowhere near the centre of the universe, never mind powerful enough to defeat the aliens that surround it. It's also very, very dull.

OK I've rambled a lot today. Let me summarise. Spore is limitless, yet limited. Flawless, yet Flawed. It could be the perfect game, but cannot. Why? Well that's the thing. I can't explain why. Spore lives up to the hype. You take a single celled organism, take through every stage of life from primordial soup to the centre of the galaxy, creating a scale no other game could achieve. Yet in some ways it doesn't live up to the hype thanks to some god awful design choices, such as the space and Civ stage (they could have been oh so much better).

Spore, in essence, is science. While gaming is religion. The two can never coexist. 

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