For Will Wright, story time is all the time

In South by Southwest keynote, legendary game designer explains his high-velocity approach to telling stories and shows off Spore. Images: Will Wright talks 'Spore' at SWSX

AUSTIN, Texas--Legendary game designer Will Wright looks at the world as somewhat of a simulation, where many things cascade into the next, creating a causal chain of events.

"Story, really, is following one causal chain and presenting that to the viewer," said Wright, designer of games like The Sims, SimCity and Electronic Arts' forthcoming Spore, in his keynote speech at South by Southwest Interactive here on Tuesday. In his hour onstage, Wright spelled out--in a coffee-fueled frenzy--his personal view of interactive storytelling.

The talk ended with a new demonstration of Spore, which, while similar to the version EA has shown for about two years, appeared to be much more streamlined, with more developed graphics and slightly more developed gameplay.

Wright led the crowd through his usual demonstration of the Spore creature editor, which allows players to quickly build fantastical little animals in mere moments. He is particularly fond of how fast players can color their new creations.

"We've taken something that would take a texture artist a couple days," Wright said as he automatically filled in the colors on a new Spore creature, "and reduced it to a couple hundred milliseconds."

Wright also explained that to him and his Spore colleagues, the game--which is expected sometime in the second half of 2007--is akin to a very elaborate Montessori toy. He said that because of the scientific theories it is based on--such as Powers of 10 and SETI@home--and because the game is designed, to some extent, to predict what would make the game world more interesting, it is in fact an elaborate philosophy tool.

"You walk away thinking about the meaning of life," he said. "How did we get here?"

Will WrightWill Wright

He also showed how artificial societies in Spore can be quickly turned into representations of human behavior.

For example, he showed how, by dropping a monolith into a populated area, he created a religious icon. The next thing that happened was that the local creatures quickly began worshipping the monolith.

Wright used the rest of the demo to showcase additional features of Spore, some of which had not been seen before. Those included the ability to change climates, quickly raising the temperature of an area on a planet so seas recede or even disappear altogether.

He then joked that Spore could be a sequel to the Al Gore documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, as he melted a planet with his cloud ray.

Essentially, he argued, Spore can give players a toy version of evolution.

Earlier, Wright had started his keynote by showing pictures from the Hubble space telescope, "one of my favorite robots of all time."

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