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Spore spawns free creature-builder

Fans of Spore can now create unique creatures through a free Web-based game. With Spore Creature Creator 2-D, anyone can design an alien.

One of the coolest features for Spore gamers is the ability to create their own creatures. Now, anyone can assemble aliens through a new site set up by Electronic Arts.

Spore Creature Creator 2-D, released Wednesday, lets you conjure up and animate your own creatures using an assortment of eyes, arms, feet, horns, and various unidentifiable body parts.

Produced by EA's Maxis studio, the Flash-based game starts with a large egg cracking open to reveal a simple alien body that you mold online like a lump of clay. Thin, fat, long, or short--you devise your creature's basic shape. Then it's time to build your baby with the right parts.

The Spider
The Spider Electronic Arts

Choosing from such categories as mouths, limbs, and graspers, just drag your favorite body parts onto your creature to evolve it from a formless blob into a fully-functioning whatever. The game helps you along, directing you to drop the parts in all the right places. You can bend and resize many of the parts, giving your creature big eyes and a small mouth or long legs and stubby feet. You can also add a splash of paint by choosing from a wide palette of colors.

As you develop your creation, it takes on life by showing off its animated parts, such as a mouth that opens and closes, eyes that blink, and graspers that try to grasp. If you're in a hostile mood, you can even add weapons, like the Problem-Solvent that sprays solvent, the Hockitlauncher that spits out water, or the Phlegmthrower that shoots, uh, well, you get the idea.

If you need a helping hand, you don't have to build your creature from scratch. Spore Creature Creator 2-D lets you tap into the Sporepedia, an online gallery of creatures designed by Maxis developers and other Spore gamers. Simply load one of the pre-existing creatures and then tweak it to assemble a totally new organism.

Once you're done, it's time to name and describe your creature. You can then take it for a workout in the Creature Trainer arena, where you move it around the screen to catch bouncing balls with its mouth, hands, or other parts.

The Chamelon
The Chamelon Electronic Arts

If you're proud of your new creation, you can e-mail a postcard image of it to a friend or save it as a PNG file for your own picture gallery or Web site.

A variety of Spore masterpieces are viewable at the Sporepedia Web site. And for all you budding Spore artists, Maxis is offering a Creature Creator challenge. Recreate one of your favorite Spore creatures using Creature Creator 2-D for a chance to be featured on

Caryl Shaw, a senior producer at Maxis who helped bring Spore Creature Creator 2-D to life, told me the game came about because Maxis wanted to make Spore more accessible and let anyone with a Web browser experience the same creativity that Spore gamers enjoy. As one of the most popular features of Spore, the Creature Creator seemed a natural.

The Yak
The Yak Electronic Arts

"An engineer at Maxis figured out how to import the body parts into Flash and animate them," said Shaw. "We did a bunch of prototypes using ragdoll physics (a type of animation where bodies flop, fall, and collide around the screen without impacting muscles or joints). We then started working with an external development house called Silvertree Media who took our prototypes and turned it into the game."

Maxis is looking at ways to enhance the game, but for now the goal was to get it online so people could start playing it right away. "We like to get things out to the public and see what people like and want they want to do and then develop new features from that," said Shaw.

To try out the game early on, the Maxis staffers devised their own creations. They were rather average creatures just for testing purposes. "Then we gave it to someone with a bit more artistic flair," said Shaw. "And she came up with some really cool, cool creatures that pushed the boundaries. That's what I'm most excited about now--to see what people make with it."

I took Spore Creature Creator 2-D for a spin to create my own creature, carefully constructing it with the right parts. About 20 minutes later a new lifeform was born. I was quite proud of my creation until my wife, the physical therapist, came along and mentioned that it looked cool but wasn't anatomically correct. Oh, well. Back to the online drawing board.

My cool creature, but apparently not anatomically correct Electronic Arts