RPS Verdict: Spore

We’ve all had a go at that Spore game, so it’s time to bang the hammer of judgment and sound great horns across the internet. Spore: What is it good for? Absolutely something.

Jim: Right, shall we discuss Spore? Everyone ready?
Kieron: Well, the trad way to start would be to say how much we’ve played, yeah? I’ve taken two races up into space, and reached the centre of the galaxy with one. A load of minor fiddling too, obviously.
Jim: I’ve played it through to the space stage a twice, and then a third time at the space stage as a start. I’ve probably spent as much time again the various editors.
Alec: I got an achievement the other day saying I’d spent 50 hours in space with a single species. This somewhat horrified me.
Jim: Blimey. Where is John, by the way?

Kieron: Alec is the best!
Alec: Those Grok are a bloody nuisance, I tell you.
Jim: Grox. Grok is something else. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grok
Alec: IT’S MY GAME AND I CAN CALL THEM WHAT I WANT. I’m going to call them Shit-Jims from now on. I hate those Shit-Jims. They’re bloody everywhere.
Kieron: Man, this has already gone off the rails.
Jim: It’s John’s fault for being late.
John: The phone rang! I’ve played much, much less. I’m at the tribal stage, and that’s as much as I’ve seen.
Kieron: Plus made some species, as I’ve killed some of yours. I mean I presume I’ve killed yours, really. I mean, given the chance, I would.
John: Yes – I’ve played with the Creature Creator LOADS. I’m hearing terrible stories of people slaughtering tribes of Brians. [John’s cartoon rabbit] In fact, on arriving on land for the first time, the first thing I saw was a dead Brian on the beach, which I was told to eat. Which was traumatising.
Kieron: Ouch.

Jim: Okay, so I’m going to lay out my thoughts a bit. I’ve really enjoyed Spore, but probably more so because my girlfriend enjoyed it too. As a game for me, a habitual gamer, I think it’s a bit forgettable, but she’s been really into it. She’s invested in the creation process far more than I have. And I think that’s down to the way it presents itself as a giant tutorial for games as a thing – she’s not an experienced gamer by any means, and it’s quite a different experience for her. The cute creatures coming to life seem to have much greater significance.
Kieron: The Girlfriend Test is the interesting one.
John: I don’t have a girlfriend, and thus find Spore to be a little bit empty. Like my girlfriend-less life.
Alec: My ex-girlfriend likes the creature creator. And also BREAKING MY HEART. But mostly the creature creator.
Jim: I think I would have enjoyed it anyway – I’ve enjoyed seeing other people’s creations enormously – but seeing the Mrs’ delight at it was just awesome.
Kieron: Jim – Yeah, as I said at length when it came out, the opening is really about easing yourself into the game and gaining affection for your ‘orrible things.
Jim: Yes, and the gaining affection thing is important. (And in the game.) You are bonding with your creature.
John: By “creature” do you mean Alec’s ex?
Kieron: We’re going to end up reviewing Alec’s ex if we’re not careful.
John: So this is possibly my big issue. I don’t understand the bonding process with the creature, now it’s transplanted into this practical realm. When I played the Creator, I immediately loved a lot of my bonkers creations, because at no point did I think about their skills or attacks, etc. I just made pretty. But transposed into the game, playing a carnivore, my “evolution” became a matter of pragmatism. I need more defence, more attack, bigger teeth… And so why I tried to style my creature how I wanted, I still felt like I was making some sterile decisions.
Kieron: Yeah – you talked about this a few days ago, and I found really interesting.
John: And then, because there is no evolution – because I can screw it up and start over at any point – I didn’t feel like I’d accomplished anything. So, well, meh to my creature.
Jim: I think that’s kind of interesting too, though. Some folks have spent hours balancing practical and pretty. Most of us have not done that on our first run through, and come away with a forgettable standard Spore creature.
Alec: Yeah. I think in your first run you’re far more about finding out about how the game works than having The Perfect Beast. And all that’s true, John. But you can skip that stage and jump straight to any other with the creature of your absolute choice and design. The creature stage is there to introduces the concepts of the long-game to an audience unfamiliar with it. I didn’t bond with my creation that much, actually. The beast I played all those hours with wasn’t one I was particularly fond of. I was far more taken with seeing how it all worked, that though the first four stages were largely tutorial, their systems remain in the space game, both spectating on other species and their concepts underlying what you’re up to in your spaceship.
Jim: I have to admit that I really enjoyed the creature stage. The kill/impress game was pretty pointless, but I enjoyed just wandering around encountering tribes of stormtrooper beasts.
Alec: The Creature stage is certainly the one most suited to long-term dicking about in, outside of Space.
Kieron: Both my play throughs have tended towards the practical – as in, I want the best moves and attacks for my chosen approach. But I’ve still ended up crafting little stories in my head about their odder choices of biology.
Alec: I can confidently say I never did that.
John: No. Nor me.
Kieron: And the interactions even, with other species. Throwing all these pieces in a pile and me thinking about how these things ended up like this… well, it prompts internal sparks. Like the dual-hands on my orangeinas and whatever.
Alec: It’s almost as if you have a degree in biology and are a comic book writer.
Kieron: This is something I said about Spore a while back, actually. I thought Spore could be a little like what Understand Comics is to Comics. As in something from the form which uses the form to explain the form.

Jim: Yes, the Tribe and Civ stages and Cell and Creature stages interlock as tutorials. Tutorials for Spore, and for gaming generally.
Alec: I think, despite what Kieron’s been talking to thingywotsit about, the Tribe and Civ games were made with an intention of being fairly chunky games in their own right. But they’re simply not. I’m never, ever going to play the Civ stage again.
Jim: The creature stage is something my girlfriend is returning to again and again, she’s kind of bored by the other stages, but the toyness of the creature stage appeals to her. She spends hours editing the beasts and then running them about.
Kieron: As a quick interjection, the collection of odd bits and pieces in the Creature stage also gives it a motivation to replay which the other two don’t have.
Jim: All of which is odd when you come to the space stage, which leaps off into a chasm of relative complexity. In fact I see this morning that the patch fixes up some of the problems with the Space Stage. Given how easy the rest of the game is, the space stage seems like a weird and daunting leap for beginner folk who would be lulled by the easy early game.
Kieron: Yeah. That’s when my argument re Understanding Comics falls to pieces – unless you argue that Elite is the apex of gaming, which I may do.
Alec: It’s a nice theory, Kieron, but I don’t agree it’s the case. I think the stages are just failed experiments and fudging, but they do function as a semi-useful tutorial for Space. Still, the jump is huge.
John: I don’t feel nearly as willing as many to give the game a pass for starting so horribly. The opening stage – it’s a Windows 95 screensaver you have to click on. I don’t understand why that was ever an okay way to begin the game.
Jim: I loved the cell stage, actually. I thought it was just right.
Kieron: Yeah, the cell stage was the most perfect of the four early stages.
Alec: Yeah, Cell is lovely.
John: But it wasn’t anything. I’m utterly bemused.
Alec: The only stage I actively dislike is Civ, even Tribe is fun for a certain degree of dicking about and exploration.
Kieron: Cell is also the one where your design skills actually matter, in a simple way. As in, choosing where your spikes or mouth go plays off to make a creature. Your currency is more limited, so you have to make tricky choices to make your creature work in a way you’d want them to.
Jim: The cell stage is so brief, so obviously a lesson in just moving the mouse around, that I couldn’t find a problem with it. But that links to the Girlfriend Test again – I could see it’s value, without actually giving that much of a crap about it. That said, I loved the way the scale zoomed out too – the long zoom thing – and the sense of threat from looming vast creatures.
Kieron: The Creature stage is more replayable, but the Cell stage is the most individually “perfect”.
Alec: And there’s that excellent foreshadowing – the giant creatures above you that seem impossibly fearsome, then suddenly you find yourself eating them.
Kieron: Remember that original promise in Spore? As in, zoom out zoom out zoom out… The Creature stage is the one that actually gets that feeling. The steps between the stages are two staged to actually get the impression of continuity, but the cell stage does it elegantly.
John: I’m still bemused. It does almost nothing, which appears to offer it elegance.
Kieron: It’s Pacman with character-design, John.
Alec: It’s simple and pretty and charming, and absolutely focuses you on you-as-creature. And it foreshadows every major concept in the game, with the exception of diplomacy. Oh dear, I’ve said “foreshadow” twice.
Jim: Three times now.
Kieron: Heh. We’re going to spend all our time debating the cell stage.
Jim: Okay, let’s talk about the tribe and civ stages a bit. Everyone has essentially ignored those stages in the commentary. My impression of general spore-chatter has been “ooh cell/creature… other stuff.. SPACE! A few people dwell on the Civ stuff for a bit, but not for long.
Alec: There’s a reason for that. Tribe and Civ are the stages where you’re thinking “uh-oh, is this it?” They last quite a long time, and you’re glad to be out of them.
Kieron: The problem with those stages is that your focus shifts. In the first two stages are you as a creature, and the space stage is you as a creature. The Civ and Tribe stages are you as a disembodied nothing.

Alec: I just went back to tribe for a third time, and it didn’t annoy me as much, actually.
Kieron: The tribe stage is my least favourite of all the stages – it just doesn’t seem to do anything.
John: The tribe stage annoyed me enough that I stopped playing, and haven’t had enough time to go back.
Kieron: It’s redeeming thing is you can burn through it very fast
Alec: I really like the music gags in it – the Rawhide herding music, the 60s hippy gift-giving music
Kieron: Yeah, they were cute.
Jim: I really enjoyed the Civ stage – the mix of trade and war, the weird religious propaganda projectors, the vehicle editors.
Alec: The religious projector is Civ’s only redeeming feature for me. The vehicle editors I can still get in Space.
Jim: What about the music? The music mixer is an amazingly cool feature! [Jim realises no one else cares about the awesomely cleverly city-music panel, but it’s ace!]
Kieron: But I wish they did more with stuff like the culturing animals – as it is, you just get enough food to max out your creatures and then turn them either all warriors or all musicians depending on your approach, and march them off.
Alec: I just found it really clumsy, and that economy/war/religion all played out pretty much the same way.
Kieron: The Civ Stage I prefer as a game to the tribal stage- but it tends to drag. Not because of the difficulty – the special attack you can win the game with when you collect enough money ensures that – but because you have to design all the vehicles. And that’s a lot of intense creativity it demands. Actually – mind if I segue into another concept quickly?
Alec: Only if you don’t say it like that.
Kieron: I have a heady-thinks. Mind if I talky-walk?
Kieron: I mentioned this in passing on the site, but wonder if anyone else feels it – Spore Anxiety. As in: wanting to press on with the game, but realising that all your creatures and vehicles are going to going to go out to all your friends. And so feeling compelled to make something at least SLIGHTLY interesting or with a design flourish just so you don’t lose face. It makes me oddly paranoid.
Alec: I think I shortcut the creativity by giving things funny names and hoping for the best.
Jim: There is something going on with that – I’ve definitely spent a lot more time on the spacecraft once i realised people were seeing them right away in their game. I’ve also felt a vague resentment when I got beat up in the space stage by someone’s worm-insect.
Alec: But certainly I saw Roburky’s Bear-in-a-box spaceship and thought “oh, fuck. I’d never even think of that. I’m no good at this.”
Kieron: Yeah. Frankly, Roburky is a genius for that.
Jim: His creations shame us all. Except the saxophone-creature guy, who is now building drum-kit cities for them to live in.

Kieron: You insecure at all, John? I mean, about Spore.
John: Nope. About everything else, but for Spore.
Kieron: You should be: your creatures are shit.
John: Well, if there’s anything I am okay at, it’s being creative. And I like showing off. So I like the idea of people seeing my stuff.
Alec: At what stage do we all get to accuse Walker of having no soul, by the way?
Jim: Christians don’t have souls: Fact.
John: Although if the creature I’ve played with so far gets shared, people will probably recognise how uninspired I felt by the game so far.
Kieron: You may actually like the nation stage then – you can end up having to make nine vehicles if you go all the routes.
Alec: But it’s an RTS! He’ll hate and fear it.
John: Yes – the prospect of a fun creator game getting turned into an RTS is what’s meaning I’ve not made any time for it.
Jim: So the fact that you didn’t bond with your creature is the main reason you’ve not enjoyed Spore so far?
Alec: Again – I didn’t bond with my creature, at all. Apart from the fact I’d called it ‘ Ian.’ And I love Spore.
Jim: I suspect you’re just not admitting your bond, Meer?
Alec: Oh, come on. You know how I get obsessed with stuff.
Jim: Anyway, let’s talk Space game. It’s a beautiful place, that Space. But I got stuck like a bastard on my first run.
Kieron: Yeah. Almost everyone runs into that wall, I think
Jim: (That’s being patched in the next patch, incidentally)
Alec: Space-balance is terribly broken, yes. There should be an option you get to choose going in, saying simply “do you want to be constantly bothered by interruptions from the other side of the galaxy, yes/no”
Jim: It made me go blind with rage. What’s interesting/annoying about that stage is that terraforming game is actually really appealing in a space-gardener way and you’ve almost no time to get on with that. My first game, I was trying to defend my colonies from constant attacks, because the two aggressors I’d met asked for ludicrous amounts not to start war. I did scream apoplexies to the wind.
Alec: Indeed. I had to reach the point where I had so many colonies that losing a few didn’t matter any more, just so I felt I had the time to dick about with terraforming.
Kieron: The terraforming is the most interesting single mechanic that’s novel to Spore, I think.
Alec: And it’s very much the Sims – you don’t get the chance to have fun with your character because it keeps needing to go to the toilet.
Jim: The bowel-movement being the destruction of an invading fleet.
Kieron: There’s something satisfying to balancing an eco-system…
Jim: Yes, the terraforming is a beautiful process too, seeing the trees appear, and the planet become more blue/green.
Alec: Yeah – it’s Peggle-esque rewards. That flash of green light and heavenly sound: you really feel like you’ve achieved something amazing.
Jim: I planted the wrong terraforming device on a planet yesterday and killed everything, it was horrifying.
Kieron: I also like throwing aliens around
Alec: I love that you can wipe out a Grox planet by terraforming it.
Jim: That stage needed to be less of a jump though, it’s massively complex compared to the rest of the game, and distinctly lacking in tutorial hand-holding.
Alec: Absolutely. There’s a reason our girlfriends will never play it. It’s ludicrously hardcore compared to the rest.

Jim: Which is a shame, because it could have been a genuinely joyous ascent.
Alec: And it’s not so much the lack of tutorial – I didn’t have that problem – as the constant demands for your attention. You can’t really explore and experiment in your own time. Which is the single most bafflingly design decision in the game.
Jim: Yes, you’re right. It’s the stage that needs to be more hands off, and it is, but there’s not time to fiddle.
Alec: We’ll give you everything, but won’t give you a chance to use it
Kieron: When I said Spore is basically a road to Space Rangers 2, I meant it in a dual edged way – as in, Space Rangers 2 is played at a state of panic and can be enormously punishing.
Jim: if Spore is some meta-commentary on evolution, it suggests our glorious future in space is going to be really tiring. Better to remain a herbivore.
Kieron: Heh. That’d be great.
Alec: There were moments when I flew over an Creature or Tribal planet and thought, “man, you guys have it easy”. In the same way I look at my cat alternately sleeping and eating and think “now that’s a life”.
Kieron: I crush those moments by abducting them and firing them into space.
Jim: So perhaps a future patch should pull out the competitive stuff in Space, and make an option for a pure exploration/terraform game?
Alec: There needs to be an option to just start with everything – all the terraforming tools too. It annoys me that I can’t colour a planet green until I find the green tool, and finding it is a matter of pure chance.
Kieron: I honestly dunno. I think there probably should be a cheat code to do so, but not actually an option. If that makes any sense. In the same way that the Sims has infinite money cheats if you just want all the fancy furniture.
Jim: I’d expected to do The Culture, and have absolutely power in space.
Alec: I appreciate the Pokemony collection first or second time around, but it approaches a point of impossibility, and I do want to go in once I’ve exhausted playing the game and do it again as a sandbox.
Jim: there are a bunch of cheat codes for that stuff actually, I’ve not looked at what they all do, although interestingly the new patch adds extra cheats.
Alec: It differs from Creature in that it’s fairly easy to find a Spit Level 5 part if you need one, but here you’ve got absolutely no way of finding a specific terraforming tool. I mean, even after 50 hours in space, I only had three different land-colour tools. I do love the animations of all that though – dropping giant colour-flares from space and seeing an entire planet redesigned in an instant
Jim: Okay, we’re hitting our text-attention span limit here, shall we wrap up? Any other things y’all want to add?

Kieron: I think we’ve covered all the biggies.
John: I want to add one thing: My opinions should be heavily coloured by the fact that I’ve not played enough of the game.
Alec: And that you have no soul.
John: But I think they are still relevant, as someone who has been put off by the beginnings. And when I’ve got World of Goo here to play… well.
Jim: Anyway! I did enjoy Spore enormously, but I doubt I’ll go back to it beyond perching on girlfriend’s shoulder. There’s not enough meat in the Space game to keep me interested.
Alec: I know I will.
Kieron: God knows if I will. I’m that perennial mayfly.
Jim: And I wonder if that will damage its trajectory long term – is the middle ground editing and lower stages enough to give it mass appeal?
Alec: I went back the other day to get one screenshot, and ended up coming out eight hours later.
Kieron: I suspect I’ll go back for any add-on packs. Depending on what route they take.
Alec: Yarp. The add-ons need to take you back to your creatures – something Simsy or Sim City, focusing on what your guys on your planets get up to seems entirely appropriate
Jim: They could even do creature adventures, like The Sims 2 add ons that are more story-based (like the island one)
Kieron: Pretty much any stage can be amped up – that’s the way I’d like the add on packs to go, rather than just Extra-tentacles.
Jim: Okay – verdicate! Would you buy Spore: It Has No Subtitle Which Is Strange These Days
Kieron: Yeah, I’d buy it.
Alec: BUY.
John: I’m going to hold my thumb sideways, teetering, at this point.
Alec: Complain at length, but definitely BUY.
Jim: BUY! If just to make girlfriend play PC games.

Our verdict: Mostly SALE!

Jim: Okay, thanks gents. What are you all going to do now we have verdict’d?
Kieron: I’m surprised you abstained John actually – I thought we were going to be split for the first time.
John: I’m abstaining really because I’ve not played enough of the game.
Alec: I’m going to try not to play any WAR, then inevitably end up playing WAR.
Kieron: I’m going to finish editing up this interview with Alex Hutchinson, Spore’s lead designer, we’re going to post on Monday.
Alec: I hear that guy has seven eyes and tentacles growing out of his ears.


  1. Mortal says:

    I’ve played Spore for a few hours now, and I’ve only played Cell and Creature stages – I love them, and I want to do them again and again. I’m afraid going on to the next stages won’t be as amusing as the first two, and I think Space is just too big for me. I know you can stay in Cell, but it would be great to be able to stay in the various substages of Cell, as well as not being forced to find a new tribe in Creature…

  2. Gap Gen says:

    I accidentally put a tree in orbit when I fired it at my ally’s ship instead of the ground.

  3. Seniath says:

    I wish I didn’t have a pile of work to do before 5, otherwise this would tide me over nicely till home time. Or at least get me that little bit closer.

  4. Dead Fish says:

    Have you ever thought about putting out the RPS Verdict in form of a… *gasp* podcast? That would be great. :)

  5. aldo says:

    I really enjoyed the Cell stage, myself. Reminded me of fl0w.

    Space is frustratingly tough, though – too many bloody wars going on.

  6. Alec Meer says:

    Dead FIsh: Time, complexity and money, sir. But mostly the money. Or lack thereof. One day, perhaps.

  7. Andrew says:

    I think I’m mostly with Alec regarding the stages – Civ stage is the one I have no time at all for, with Tribal shortly behind, but the personality in Tribal elevates it a bit.

  8. Ergates says:

    I find it hard to be creative when making creatures/vehicles.

    Maybe it’s my (long abandoned) biological sciences background, but when making creatures they all end up looking fairly practical (and indeed Earthling like). I go through the process thinking “If I were a creature I’d want my eyes here and mouth here and legs here”. I think I’m just too literal to get the most out of it.

    Also, after playing in space for a bit I’m starting to find it all a bit empty and pointless. Sure I could make more colonies, and explore further, but what would be the point? Normally I’m all for exploration (I spent hours/days in Morrowind/Oblivion just wandering around looking under rocks), but here it just doesn’t seem worth the effort.

  9. Sam says:

    I’ve only just started the Civ stage for the first time, and I must say that it was hard work getting through the Tribal stage to start it.
    Not that I don’t have issues with the Creature stage, but it’s a damn sight more interesting than the exceedingly limited and repetitive Tribal stage – you can’t even really make interesting outfits for your creatures in it.
    It’s almost like the developers themselves spent so much time playing the Creature (and Space?) stages that they forgot about the other stages themselves…

  10. Calabi says:

    I think you were to kind to it. I wont go into too much of a rant but. It really has nothing to do with evolution. The games before space are empty mini games with none of the Sims like emergent behaviour. In fact the AI throughout the game is extremely basic in all respects.

    I guess its an ok game, but I doubt it will be held up in gamers minds for the months to come.

  11. cyrenic says:

    I expect EA to monetize the soul right out of Spore through endless Expansion Packs and Add Ons.

  12. Bobsy says:

    A patch was released yesterday to address the fundamental problems with the space stage – that is, you end up constantly under attack and getting tired and frustrated – and it’s managed to make things a whole lot worse. I had a quick go at lunchtime and not only am I still under constant attack (from Roburky’s goddamn slug species) but now it doesn’t bother rendering any buildings, vehicles or spaceships. So I’m fighting a neverending horde of invisible ships, defending invisible cities. Also it crashes.

    I’m really angry at all of this because I KNOW I love this game, but I can’t play it at the moment. It is fundamentally broken and unplayable, but still a work of beauty.

  13. AbyssUK says:

    I was playing Spore.. then Steam released the xcom pack.. now I only play xcom on my quad core 4gig machine… why did I buy this again….

  14. Bobsy says:

    Also, Jim: the anthem editor is a huge pile of wee-wee disappointment, especially if you’re musically literate, like me. I could have forgiven the lack of proper notation and the inability to add rests, but being limited to 16 puny notes is awful. Also, with only one melody line harmony options are limited. Not impossible, but limited.

  15. manintheshack says:

    Spore for me was spellbinding and disappointing in equal measure. I’ll never forgive it for the inclusion of the Tribal Stage which is wholly w**k(not to mention the consistently mediocre gameplay). However, my girlfriend loves the earlier stages and the creators. It’s great to see someone who isn’t a gamer go into it with such excitement even if she does take hours making things ‘pretty’. No, really, HOURS.

  16. Ergates says:

    I couldn’t even work out how to add different length notes.

  17. Durbin says:

    I find these RPS verdicts to give me a far more informed idea on if I’ll like a game or not, rather than a traditional review.

    You guys should do more ;) and esp do Clear Sky, I’m still confused if I should buy or not :o but it’s only £17.99 on Play.com….argh i don’t knows!

  18. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Haven’t played Spore yet, since my PC died. Although I mucked around with the Creature Creator and even made a few critters. Nothing interesting ‘m afraid. In turn, any comments I make about the game may be inaccurate.

    What I get from Spore is not quite the Understanding Comics of videogames, but certainly the best example of what a videogame should be in the 21st century. The elegance in design; the casual and hardcore appeal; the technological aspect of procedural content and creature sharing; the ability to make communities as well as peer interaction, pressure and judgement the main focus of the game… There simply isn’t anything else like Spore and on a whole, I think it should be a template to how modern game design should go.

    Yet, on a related note, there is one thing that I’m quite ambivalent about in Spore. Kieron called it Spore Anxiety, which I feel won’t happen to me. Either I don’t have a soul like John or I’m coming from the wrong angle but… Here’s a comparison. As a cynic and a gamer who was, up until somewhat recently, fairly entrenched in discussing role-playing games, there was one theme of discussion that took quite a bit of my time. And that was about imagination, in the context of it being a substitute for actual gameplay elements.

    My daily habits of perusing assorted videogame forums led me into finding different perspectives on gaming, and one of these was that of gamers who often used their imagination in videogames to fill in the gaps or to produce consequences in role-playing games; in essence, when a designer or writer failed to provide context, they’d make their own – and then enjoy the game. In a way that goes hand in hand with Pen and Paper; but on electronic role-playing games, I found it patently stupid. If all you’re going to do is to substitute a faulty or non-existant game mechanic with your imagination, just “play” with Notepad.

    In a sense, I fear this might compromise Spore on a similar level. The most fun people seem to have with the game comes not from the different stages or their mechanics, but of seeing something you’ve imagined appear in the world. Granted, there is a key difference – Spore actually lets you design a creature and guide it, as opposed to a subgroup of people who imagine their role-playing in, say, Oblivion – but it’s not entirely off because apparently, there is that anxiety, concern or determination to focus not on an actual play mechanic (ie., guiding a creature or civilization) but on a meta mechanic of sorts (ie., recognition and appraisal of a creature by friends/other players). It’s kinda like a MySpace of videogames where the platform has potential, but everyone uses it to rate and be rated. It makes for a very interesting social experiment in terms of videogames but as a game itself, it might not be something that pulls me in.

  19. Jim Rossignol says:

    @Bobsy: file music thing under similar category as “Spore is disappointing if you’re a hardcore RTS player”.

  20. Joinn says:

    Am I the only one that found this game boring?

    Played it through to the space stage. Once there I spent a lot of time doing nothing exciting.

    Creature creation was the only thing that wasn’t a huge disappointment for me.

    My verdict (N) (N)

    * edit*
    Almost forgot, I thought this was going to be a kind of a meta-Civ, which it is in a way, just not a fun way (imo). I really would have liked to simulate creating a human and taking that all the way. I guess I’m just a human chauvinist.

    Hmm, in fact I like humans so much, that I even pretend to be one in real life…

  21. f!ngercut says:

    this is my first posting on this glorious website of yours. I just wanted to tell you guys, that my GF only fiddles around with the editor and doesn’t give a rats ass about the rest of the game.
    I tend to agree with her that the editor is the only good thin about spore. The rest of the game is more than shallow, it’s pointless! I’m aware that the game is meant for the casual gamer, but this game is so dumbed down, it’s even an insult to the casual gamer. This prejudice towards the casual gamer has lead us to such masterpieces of crapidity as “sim city: societies” and I believe that spore went into the same horrible direction.
    I’ve been waiting for this game a long time, but for me its a big disappointment (except for the brilliant editor). For example, where is the promised feature of being able to educate your creatures like in “black & white”. At one point in the game I picked up a shell from the beach and showed it to my tribe. The general desinterest I got from my fellow creatures made me realize how hollow this whole game concept really is.
    Except for the cell stage, which was really fun and psychedelic in it’s own way, the only other stage worth mentioning is the space age. But it is filled with so many annoying design errors that it’s more than a grind to see what happens at the end of the stage than fun. Even the end is rather disappointing, you become omnipotent and finally meet the grox only to realize that there is nothing meaningful left to do (cant’ befried the grox, can’t wage war against them etc…).
    Besides the constant nagging messages you get from the other side of the galaxy, terraforming is such a pain in the ass, it’s hardly worth doing it. Not only because the planets all look the same and a rather empty and boring to look at but also because once you planted an expensive terraforming device on the planet, you only got a couple of minutes to populate the surface before the planets drifts down into chaos. Then you have to do this tedious process two more times to reach a T3 rating.
    The whole game just feels sterile and it is even worse with the rather boring and empty cities. IT is almost as if the whole game just serves as a base for an endless number of future expansions that will eventually make this game playable at some time. But not untill you paid more money for expansions.

  22. Bobsy says:

    @Jim: Bah, BAH I say!

    Everyone knows that hardcore RTS players smell of poop and failiure while musicians are beautiful and witty and clever and funny. Clearly we need appeasing first.

    Also the Civ stage is apparently a bit more challenging now? I wouldn’t know, the patch has fucked my entire game up.

  23. Nimic says:

    I’m baffled by John’s seething hatred towards the Cell stage. I think it might actually be my favorite stage in the game. It’s a bit like Portal in the way that it doesn’t have to be incredibly long to be very very fun. Most disliked stage, definitely Tribe. It’s just so utterly dull, I found.

    The Civ stage.. well, honestly, I didn’t mind it. I wouldn’t like to spend very much longer in it, but that’s part of what makes it good, that I can play through it rather quickly if I set my mind to it.

    As for the Space stage, obviously I ran into the same issues as everyone else. Constantly having to go do something when I’m having fun exploring and/or terraforming. A litter later in the Space stage attacks wasn’t really an issue, as I had no enemies and I couldn’t care less about spice raids.

    As for the ‘end’ (Center of the Galaxy), I found that to be awfully corny. Though, I guess it would have been even worse if they tried something very serious with it.

  24. bubsy says:

    Alec: Absolutely. There’s a reason girlfriends will never play it. It’s ludicrously hardcore compared to the rest.

    Uh oh.

  25. Alec Meer says:

    Ack. That was supposed to be “our girlfriends” (in which I was including my ex).

  26. Calabi says:

    I agree with Diogo you have to use your imagination to play it, thats why I created these.

    A race of rocket men who built a rocket ship, and are going to find out if they can build a rocket planet.

    [/end shameless pimpage]

  27. Charlie says:

    Gotta say I found Spore to be dissapointing, though I do love my RTS’s. Also, I found Clear Sky to be better than the first one. Yeah it’s buggy but so was the original.

  28. SwiftRanger says:

    I like Spore and I like hardcore RTS’s as well, it’s all about expectations really. Civ and Tribes stages are completed so fast you don’t even bother about their missed potential.

  29. Hobbes says:

    “As in something from the form which uses the form to explain the form.”

    Quickly, get this man a spot on the Late Show. Or Front Row. Something like that.

  30. jtotoro says:

    u guys should so made a podcast with these reviews!

  31. Therlun says:

    Bobsy, you can add pauses by enlarging the circle around a note (mouse wheel).

    I really like the Verdicts… but all podcasts must die. Die!
    Considering them should be made a crime.

  32. Sam says:

    @SwiftRanger: are they? I certainly spent most of the Tribe stage bothering about its missed potential – starting with my first view of the outfit creator and the tiny (in comparison to the Creature creator) number of slots it had…

  33. Maximum Fish says:

    Yay! I grokked the grok joke! I get to be proud of myself for one hour. Heinlein rules (/ruled).

  34. Alex says:

    To go along with Jim’s wish to be the Culture, it’s like the game forces you to be like the Idirans. Every time you expand your holding of planets, you get more and more bogged down in just keeping all of them going.

    edit: am I the only one to have the game be incredibly unstable in the editors? Of the dozen or so crashes I’ve had, all but one have hit me while I was playing around with my designs. It’s made me so paranoid that I save about once a minute just so that I don’t lose my work (and you know you can never gets things exactly how you’d had them before).

  35. Ginger Yellow says:

    I’m pretty much with the consensus of RPSers.

    Basically, I enjoyed it enough on the first run through, but I’ve little desire to go back beyond to mess about in the creators.

    Cell was fun, particularly in the way your design choices have a tangible, logical impact rather than a statistical or move based one.
    Creature was cool for introducing you to the more flexible creator, but the pragmatic constraint of wanting to create a viable carnivore destroyed a lot of the pleasure of creativity.

    Tribal and Civ, nuff said.

    Space seemed impossibly hard at first, but after a few restarts I managed to get a workable strategy together, before just ploughing through the Grox to the centre of the galaxy. But even once you get over the initial hurdle, as you say, it seems to hide its strengths under a bushel by constantly sending you on those bloody quests when you just want to piss about and take advantage of your power.

  36. Alex says:

    Actually, I wish they’d dumped all the bits after the creature stage (including the space stage) and just focus on the cell to creature stages – focus on that part of evolution, possibly going further in a sequel.

    There’s just such a lot of stuff they could’ve done with those beginning stages.

  37. RichPowers says:

    EA should just bundle the editors and sell them for $20. I’d buy that.

  38. EyeMessiah says:

    Ah, girlfriends.

  39. terry says:

    Instead of a game, we got a framework to a game. And I don’t install .NET for the playability.

  40. Plopsworth says:

    So, does anyone else have any girlfriend-compatible game ideas to share?
    Here’s what worked with mine:

    The Sims 2, obviously.
    But actually she prefers the “Stories” expansion-standalone thingies since they come with actual plot-lines to resolve.

    The CSI games.
    Actually the two latest ones aren’t half bad. It helps that she likes the franchise. Pixel-hunting and fiddling with fingerprints and DNA in small puzzle spot-the-difference minigames with some degree of hand-holding is fun enough when tied together with semi-interesting whodunnit plots.

    Sid Meier’s Pirates!
    A perfect distraction game. Very rythm-actiony-like reflex testing that takes very little to get used to. Combine that with an excellent semi-arcadish naval combat minigame and a fun light turn-based wargame. Only the town sneaking game is a bit to difficult, which doesn’t matter to her, since she much prefers SMASHING THOSE FUCKING POMPOUS BASTARD GARRISONS INTO SUBMISSION!

    Traveller’s Tales’ Lego * games.
    Lightweight co-op in familiar pop-culture classics with anarchistic smashy-smashy action.

    Grim Fandango.
    This doesn’t require any explanation. Characters, setting, genre, narrative, puzzles, atmosphere. If you don’t even appreciate this game, you are DEAD to me. I kind of used it as a gaming litmus-test for compatibility.

    What didn’t work (all that well):

    Viva Pinata (I was surprised too).
    Too hand-held, too many constant interruptions whenever something pops up. Not enough freedom. Actually, this is the only one that doesn’t belong here since it didn’t last beyond a few sessions.

    Great premise. Not too hard. Just didn’t like all the incessant errand quests which just required running back and for from the extreme areas of the playing-field, the shoddy combat (play animation x, check collision detection, if yes, play animation y), and some of the weaker narrative elements. Also, although freedom of choice was arbritarily presented, it didn’t affect the narrative or the game really. Actually this could almost go into the former successful category as she did complete it, and it had some light-weight stealth bits which (I was impressed) she managed to complete on her own.

    Anno 1701: Actually, like Dreamfall, it semi-works.
    But it’s just a tad too complex managing colonies into profit making metropolises. With some effort, it could be among the former set, it’s just not as instantly playable as the rest. Still, she likes the relaxed pace, the general forgivingness of friendly AI’s. Maybe more of a dad game (Civ and Railroad Tycoon fanatic). Still, lots of fun as a complementary game to Pirates, and a fun enough sandboxy creative game building idyllic island paradises. Also it’s thematically quite similar to the excellent San Juan and Puerto Rico card/board-games.

    To try:
    Beyond Good & Evil
    Range of classic point & click games.

  41. Alex says:

    Plopsworth’s mention of Pirates! gave me an idea. The way the game let you choose the era you wanted to sail was an interesting way of changing the difficulty. It would be interesting if the ‘eon’ in which you achieve space flight would effect which types of civilizations controlled the galactic neighbourhood.

  42. chipp says:


  43. Funky Badger says:

    Deus Ex
    Gears of War
    Jedi Academy (she killed the Rancor, 3 times)
    Project Eden

  44. Gap Gen says:

    I want to make a game where galaxy evolution affects the civilisation you play. Something like Alastair Reynold’s stuff, where an upcoming galactic merger influences the actions of civilisations.

  45. Esha says:

    I’ve played it to the Space stage a couple of times, and right now I’m fiddling around in the Space stage and hoping the new patch will make things more balanced.

    Balanced as opposed to, you know; Our demands: Your entire economy, or we turn your house-globe into a shiny parking lot for our gun-bristlin’ warships of doom. Damn hippies.

    This is one thing that bothers me about the Space stage, why do I not have more weapons of mass mind-control? I have The Happy Device, and that’s greatly entertaining, but the Religious Projection Propoganda Device of the Civ stage promised so much more.

    The game would be so much more fun if I had a “We aren’t the aliens you’re looking to conquer, move along.” ability.

    I do love the happy things though, I could shoot Happy Day at cities all day. Dance puppets, dance!

    Of course, this is all great to give me some space here, as I’m sure that everyone else has taken two steps back.

    I admit though, my primary draw is found with the creation tools. I love to 3D model aswell, and I’ve toyed with sculpting, so it’s no surprise that I’m all over the design tools in Spore. And the fact that it allows people who are convinced they don’t have any artistic merit whatsoever to see that that’s not true. I love Spore for that.

    To state: My roomie has put together some absolutely brilliant bloody vehicles. His creatures aren’t quite as developed, having turned into the Homerians of planet D’oh (no, really), but the vehicles he made were absolutely golden. I hadn’t even considered creating a Star Wars-like landspeeder as a land vehicle, but he did… and he actually pulled it off with aplomb.

    Whereas I’m not that great with the vehicles, but I’m proud of my werewolves in top-hats. (And of my Blusym too, who’re all but forgotten these days, poor buggers.)

    link to eu.spore.com

  46. James O says:

    I’m definitely with Kieron on the Spore Anxiety, it’s easy to invent a lot of pressure for yourself to make something that looks interesting or uses a creative construction method to achieve some special look. Fortunately, you can un-share stuff on your Spore.com page without deleting it locally, so you can hold off on spreading your creations till you’re satisfied with them (is it really necessary to spam the Spore universe with all 30+ iterations of my creature over the course of it’s evolution?)

    I’m 100% with Esha on non-artists and Spore; as an artist in the game industry, it’s just great to see this giant toybox for the next generation to learn on – basically a giant digital Lego box, minus the sound of plastic pieces shuffling about in a big crate. This would have been the ultimate game for me when I was in elementary school; the creative empowerment of Spore is just really heartening to see.

    The Civ stage was definitely a brick wall for me, it just throws way too much editing at you at once. Four buildings plus a handful of vehicles, moreso if you want to use a different strategy? That’s a lot, especially when you consider that unlike the previous editors, you are no longer resource-bound – it seemed like you could make the most complex building/vehicle possible right off the bat, instead of gradually evolving it through iterations as in the cell and creature stage. Sure, you could just grab something off the Sporepedia, but that’s like using a level-skip cheat to get to the endgame; it almost defeats the purpose of playing. It’s also harder to want to invest a lot of effort making content for a fairly short stage – I can spend plenty of time making ships in GalCiv2 because there’s a lot more meat to the game I’ll be using them in. Plus, at the zoom level I spent the Civ stage at, I couldn’t see my vehicles at all anyhow.

    Anyhow, as long as people are showing off their creatures, I was pretty happy with how my space-faring Penguins came out.

  47. Esha says:

    Your Penguins are wonderful James. If I may though, I’d say they’re even better because they seem like Toucans to me. And a Toucan in a pink top-hat? I wholeheartedly approve. I’m not sure why, but the most enjoyable things for me lately in Spore have been taking animals and putting them in top-hats and making them look posh.

    Hopefully I’ll encounter your extraspatial Penguins/Toucans in my game, at which point I shall do my utmost to befriend them.

    We need to see more of this! Anyone who’s not afraid to do so, please post your creations!

    A year from now I’ll be known as the man who birthed the Spore Anxiety Pandemic, I’ve no doubt I’ll be left emotionally bankrupt by the guilt of it all.

  48. inle says:

    Alright, Dysonian Space Penguins!

  49. nemolom says:

    Playing through the different stages the first time was entertaining, but I’ve felt little drive to do it a second time – except for starting the civ stage just to see how my vehicles behaved.

    And, just like in Sims2, I will likely come back again and again just to play with the creators. Very few games have that kind of lasting appeal to me. MMO’s do lure me back from time to time, but that’s only when they offer new content. Sims2 didn’t have to do that for me to replay it, and Spore likely won’t either.

    I’m male by the way.

    I would give Spore a good score anyway, because it is such a different creature and because the game part did entertain me for quite a few hours. The longivety thing just ups the score.

  50. wyrmsine says:

    Spore seems like half of a game. Granted, it’s half of a fantastic game – I spent a good five hours in Cell and Creature stages. Tribe and Civ are just terrible though – great introductions to another type of game, but without enough meat to be anything but a tedious annoyance after (or during) the first run through. Space has problems. The first play, it’s really interesting. Horribly frustrating, but it keeps you on your toes and forces high-pressure play pretty much continually. Not sure if that’s what the designers intended… but the first run through, I got a lot of satisfaction out of beating it’s seeming impossibility. It forced me to look at things a little differently – the Space stage all but makes you give up, then the game keeps going. I am enjoying it, but I’m disappointed I paid so much for it – it’s replay value seems to have been hamstrung. Outside of the first two stages, everything else is a grind, and while my imagination fills in the gaps nicely, I can’t help but feel like this isn’t the game the designers actually created. There’s just too many holes in it.

    EtA: The Space mechanics are worth noting : I do like defeating an enemy with atmospheric tools, rendering a planet uninhabitable with the power of terraforming. Dropping a monolith on a primitive species, right next to an enemy, is pure gold when they finally evolve and take over the bastards that’ve been kicking their god-daddy around. It’s just that there’s too much weakness at the start -the player basically just grinds, without fear of death, all the way to the ubertools, then wins. For all the evolution and implied complexity in the system, the game is a straight line.

    @ Plopsworth: now I’d like to see a RPS Girlfriend Statistics post. Okay, not quite so gender based, but a look at the games our traditionally non-gamer friends have taken to while under the influence of personality. Or badgering. Sound like our GFs could have a good discussion on video games, based on the similarites/disparities of your list, that would be worthwhile. If only to figure out how to fix games like Spore…