Electronic Arts' much anticipated evolution game, Spore hits store shelves Sunday in North America, and for those that have been on the project since the beginning, it has been a long road from concept to completion.
The game's creator, Will Wright, who is famous for previous games like SimCity and The Sims said recently that the game has been seven years in the making, meaning the project was getting under way not long after The Sims launched and became the best-selling PC game of all time.
Wright has talked at length about how Spore's origins lie in the SETI project and other flights of his fancy.
"The original concept was sort of a toy galaxy you could fly around and explore," Wright told me last month. "As we thought about, it became apparent that evolution was a very important component. Some of the very first prototypes involved how you would move around and visualize the galaxy."
In the highly anticipated lead-up to the Spore's release from EA studio Maxis, in Emeryville, Calif., almost all the attention has been on the game itself or on its Creature Creator, which gives users an easy and sophisticated way to create complex beasts and which was made available in June as a free download.
But for many people, an equally exciting element has been the series of prototypes available for free download on the Spore Web site, each of which provides a look at the origins of a small piece of the larger game.
In fact, the prototypes were a crucial part of making Spore a reality. For example, since the procedural animation of the creatures in the game is one of its most-heralded elements, it's notable that before the system was ever built into the game, it started as a prototype.
"The earliest prototypes were making strange topology creatures and seeing if we could teach the computer to make them move plausibly, and later, show emotion and behavior," Wright said. "We had to find out whether the project was doable or not, or if some part of it wasn't doable, where we have to scale it back."
The first programmer on the Spore team was a Maxis veteran named Jason Shankel. Prior to joining Wright on his evolution project, he'd been working on a project known as SimMars, which was essentially a Mars terraforming game that was supported financially by NASA before the plug was finally pulled. … Read more