SDCC '08 - Will Wright & The Spore Panel

SDCC 08: Will Wright & Spore

If veteran game designer Will Wright (SimCity, The Sims) had even the slightest bit of anxiety about presenting for the first time in San Diego, he didn’t show it as he spoke nonstop for the entire hour about his new game, Spore.

Wright, after greeting everyone, which was responded to by a friendly “Hi, Will” from his fans in the large, nearly filled central hall, launched directly into his personal love for science fiction’s ability to hold a mirror up to humanity through the use of robots and aliens as human analogies.

He then addressed the negative image that video games get in the mass media by commenting how past technologies, that were born out of high ideals then normalized through mass consumption and finally coming out the other side as art. He gave as an example a story of a man so engrossed by a new technology that he rudely ignored the people around him, that tech was a book being read by a 14th century monk

Coming around full circle from a comparison of castaways of Gilligan’s Island to the seven deadly sins:

Pride = The Professor

Envy = Mary Ann (of Ginger)

Sloth = Gilligan

Lust = Ginger

Greed = The Millionaire

Gluttony = His Wife (as in conspicuous consumption)

Wrath = The Skipper

He then linked his philosophy of game design and love for user generated content to the response received to the Spore Creature Creator released on the Web just a couple weeks ago (a basic toolset is free, $10 buys a more expansive one). The Spore team expected 100,000 new life forms from players to populate their database before the game’s full release in November, but players achieved that number in just three hours. After a week, there was a million and in just over two weeks, 2.1+ million. A number that Wright reported is more then the number of species that exist on planet Earth, calculating that if God created the Earth in seven days, Spore gamers hold 38% of that power.

Launching the game on the giant projector, he first showed off the “Civilization Stage,” one of the last chapters in the game that plays like a combination of Civilization and SimCity. In it, he demonstrated that there is more then one way to conquer your homeworld, for example his game’s ‘mercantile’ approach (he had aided his race in their evolution form single cell organisms, to land walking herbivores in previous stages). By offering bribes and launching special attacks that consist of propaganda blimps that fly over enemy city’s dropping leaflets and playing rock music. All during the demo Wright described the deep level of customization as things such as the buildings, the weapons and even the background music can be edited to personalize the experience.

Fast forwarding to the “Space Stage,” Wright built a custom spacecraft in a matter of moments, and was able to use it to zoom out from the planet level view to a view of the local solar system. In this stage, the game shifts to colonization and exploration as you meet other races and expand your reach. A demo of a planet-busting bomb annihilating an allied world drew the biggest applause, Wright then let everyone know that the software would slowly turn the leftover rubble into an asteroid belt.

To finish, Wright zoomed out to show hundreds of stars in the local cluster, each with their own systems of planets, all of which can be reached (each even have their ecologies that can be meddled with to breed new life, or destroy it) and then zoomed again to show that he was just in one small section of the spiral arm of a complete Milky Way galaxy. A sight that drew audible gasps and applause from the audience.

Wright then showed his appreciation of the communities enthusiasm for Spore and noted a collaboration with Mashon.com where players could create their own comics using their Spore creations and their world.

In lieu of Q and A session, Wright then game a short lecture about the founder of modern rocketry, Werner Von Braun that while a bit out of place, was entertaining and informative, as any man’s life would be who knew Hitler, Disney and John F. Kennedy personally.

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