Saturday, September 13, 2008

Spore Spreads

One of the most talked about game has been the recently release Spore. A game where players create characters and set them lose in worlds where they are allowed to evolve. Perhaps a gamers' blend of intelligent design and evolution.

Not being a gamer myself, I doubt that I will play the game myself, but the interest the game's "evolution" component has me intrigued.

The next-generation software earned it a discussion on NPR's Science Friday show. Host Joe Palka spoke with evolutionary biologists and the game's creators. While they focused on the possibility of encouraging gamers to learn to think about their relation with the world around them via their characters, the substance of the idea seemed a bit thin.  More sales pitch than revolution.

While science fans geek out over the integration of sophisticated evolutionary modeling programs with mass-marketed consumer software, the real question is: do people enjoy it?

The Washington Post's tech columnist, Mike Musgrove, reports that reviews of the gameplay are mixed, but that the game maker's anti-piracy efforts have set off the strongest opinions. Musgrove says players generally enjoy the game, but that it fell short of other games it appeared to borrow ideas from, such as the famous SimCity, which Spore's creators also designed.

Cult of Mac writer Leigh McMullen also gave it mixed reviews; enjoyable, but didn't have the hook other games of its ilk such as World of Warcraft, Civilization and Sims.

Players who enjoy the strategy/role-playing genre of games are, unsurprisingly, demanding. Someone willing to involve themselves in a game that can potentially become a "second life" are looking for a lot.

The aspect of integrating software that allows game characters to evolve is not new. While the creators of Spore have brought new code to the process, the basics remain the same. 

Three years in the making, the game has landed with a lot of news, but time will tell if it can compete; not only with World of Warcraft and the others, but the creators own classic SimCity.

- Murphy

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