It’s Time For Spore 2

Trees that grow from seeds you plant? Easy. 18 quintillion planets? Whatever. If you want to talk about videogames’ most ambitious endeavors, there’s only one contender for the top spot. Spore, released in 2008, let players control a species they created from single cell organism all the way through to becoming space explorers. That included designing everything from the huts you lived in during the tribe stage, to the spaceships you used to careen around the galaxy near the game’s conclusion. Most importantly, it let you craft exactly what kind of weirdo you’d be taking to the stars, whether six-limbed, beady-eyed monstrosities or fleshky daleks or Homer Simpson, and then it populated your world with everyone else’s creations automatically, so that each planet was filled with delightful, handmade surprises.

Spore was a marvel. It’s crying out for a sequel.

It’s crying out for a sequel, of course, because the original was not perfect.

I don’t think that’s understatement, despite the hype at the time resulting in a massive disappointment for many. Spore was not a terrible game. It wasn’t a bad game. Its issue was that, in trying to do so much, much of what it did was shallow.

The game is split neatly into five different stages: Cell, Creature, Tribe, Civilization, and Space. Cell plays out like a slightly clunky version of flOw, as you gobble food, avoid larger creatures, and eventually level up enough that you can crawl onto land. At this point, you have a certain number of points which you can spend to append eyes, legs, and arms onto your creature, and then steer them as an individual around a planet surface. Hunt, make friends, find a mate, and follow a few objectives and eventually you’ll enter the tribal stage, where you start living in small villages. Then there’s the Civilization stage, which plays like a really empty, cutdown version of Sid Meier’s Civilization. And then you’re off into space, where much of the real meat of the game resides – hidden behind an enormous difficulty spike I never overcame.

Most of these stages end up feeling like ticking boxes: doing the things you need to do in order to get to the next stage, with little spark between the systems to make how you get there very interesting. You can aim to be an aggressive creature or a peaceful, friendly creature, for example, but there are limits to how far you can go in either direction and little consequence in the long run. Worse, the relative brevity of many of these modes makes the creative tools feel redundant. Why bother customising your huts with your own species-appropriate designs if, in an hour or two, you’ll move into a new stage and never see them again?

Yet the sum is more than the parts, mostly due to the ability to subscribe to curated lists of creatures created by other users. Tick a few boxes – on a list of someone’s favourite creatures, and a list of the best creatures inspired by TV shows, and so on – and your world will then be populated by wondrous species. It inevitably leads to a planet (and eventually a galaxy) populated by creatures more interesting than anything procedural generation can yet generate.

I had tens of hours of fun with Spore, but I’m not here to argue in its defense. Instead, for what I’m arguing, the flaws and people’s disappointment don’t matter.

Spore is exactly the kind of game that deserves a sequel: one with a bold, ambitious concept that excited people but with an execution that ultimately fell short. That’s okay! Bold, ambitious ideas often fail the first time someone tries to turn them into reality. We should try again, this time standing on the shoulders of all the technological and conceptual work already accomplished in order to focus on the things that didn’t work last time.

Maxis have been absorbed further into EA, but their game remains. Spore was recently discounted on Steam and, as a result, there are 1,168 people playing it right now. Except… That’s not quite right. Looking back through that Steam Charts page, there are always people playing Spore. “If you want to play a game where you can create a giant testicle that rules over the universe then this is the game for you,” begins a user review posted by someone yesterday who has played the game for 65 hours. It’s time to create a second game where you can do that.

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Captain Narol says:

    I had quite some fun with Spore despise its flaws, but only the cell phase and the space phase were really interesting to be honest.

    Spore 2 would be a nice thing if it’s not a collection of ill-divised mini-games like the first one and the evolution of your creature has a real effect on the next evolutionary phases. Give us some real ecology with a chain food and a realistic AI and half the job is already done !

    Even better, add real genetics and mutations, like in the “Creatures” serie !

  2. Premium User Badge

    Haldurson says:

    I agree that Spore tried desperately to do far too much at a time. I wonder if it would have done better had it been split apart into separate but connected game packages. The last section of it seems in some ways to be a precursor to No Man’s Sky, with some of the same problems that that game has. Again, it was never ‘bad’. There just wasn’t enough of it.

  3. Premium User Badge

    shoptroll says:

    I would love to see a Spore 2 and would like to subscribe to your newsletter Graham.

    I suspect the main reason it’ll never happen is that EA has never managed to convert any of Maxis’ properties into a recurring revenue stream like The Sims and its expansion packs. Every single other Maxis game has had a well-received release and likely an underperforming expansion and support for the title is unceremoniously dropped within a year.

    But man, a Spore sequel which addresses the shortcomings of the original game? That would be something.

    • Premium User Badge

      Captain Narol says:

      Indeed, I doubt there will ever be a Spore 2 as long as EA detains the brand licence so I have absolutely no hope it will ever happens…

  4. trashbat says:

    Let me be the first to stick the ur-whinger’s flag in the ground and say: Spore 2 is nothing like they promised in the trailer(s)! Steam refunds for all and then burn the village!

  5. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    I never really got beyond the point of creating a massive penis-shaped monster and watching him lurch around on dry land for a few minutes. I had no idea there was much game beyond the “carnivore” decision point.

  6. Freud says:

    While it feels wrong to be critical about ambition, most games that are overly ambitious tend to fall flat on their faces. Especially games that are dependent on game systems working well to be enjoyable.

    Games like Witcher 3, which is insanely ambitious, had a developer that knew what they were good at and just made a lot of the stuff they were good at. If they had tried to squeeze in 10 minigames with collectibles instead of just Gwent, it would have been bad design. Same with GTA5. Rockstar know what they are good at and make a lot of that.

    A Spore 2 could work, but it’s an extremely hard game to pull off with that scale and scope and so many game systems that have to work.

    • Graham Smith says:

      The Witcher 1 was just as ambitious and was, in large part, garbage. The Witcher 2 was much better, The Witcher 3 much better still. CD Projekt Red did bite off more than they could chew, they just had three goes at… the plate?

      • Someoldguy says:

        That’s a pretty harsh take on Witcher 1. PCG liked it enough to give it 90%: “The Witcher is a fantastic RPG, and an amazing achievement for first-time Polish developer CD Projekt.” despite the slightly tacky card collecting. I far preferred it – especially the combat controls – to Witcher 2.

        With Will Wright having departed EA and Spore not being a megamillion franchise like the Sims, I suspect they simply won’t have the enthusiasm for having another go at such an ambitious project where the whole shebang can be spoiled by a botched or lackluster phase. Or a modern SimEarth, more’s the pity.

      • sneetch says:

        I doubt think so Graham, they didn’t start off trying to make the Witcher 3 and fail twice, they made three different games, all of which are good.

        The problem with the first were more problems with having a low budget than ability.

        • KingFunk says:

          True to some degree, but not entirely, at least from my subjective point of view. The main thing that stopped me progressing through TW1 both times I tried was boredom with the timing-based combat system. Now TW2 and TW3 don’t have superb combat systems and it’s not something that normally puts me off (as a TES fan) but for that game it did. However, this is all about design choices, which are not so much limited by budget, except in terms of iteration potential. The combat in TW3 looks the best with dismemberment and slow-mo etc, but actually I felt that the system in TW2 created a more direct feeling of engagement so I probably preferred that.

          Also, doors. I can’t remember, but maybe TW1 handled doors better than the other two, which is a bit weird.

          EDIT: for typos and also to point out that clearly budget made a big difference for TW3 in terms of world-building and content, which is frankly of proportions INSANIA.

  7. Neurotic says:

    I love Spore, but have had terrible, hair-pulling difficulties getting it going on Win 7 x64. A modern update or sequel would be aces.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Strange, IIRC I originally got it on XP, but did try it on this PC and it is a Win7 64bit one… it worked fine.

    • JackMultiple says: recently released a DRM-free version for modern OS on their website. I wonder if that would work for you?

      Hmmm… it looks like they only sell The Spore Collection for about $30 currently. But it does say it supports Win XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10. Maybe wait for a sale. I think I paid about $10 on sale.

  8. A Wanderer says:

    Speaking of ambitious games, you know what other game would absolutely need a sequel (and sadly will probably never have one) ?
    No Man’s Sky.
    I’m absolutely serious.
    Come at me.

  9. andycheese says:

    Spore was fun, but any sequel would have to… evolve!

  10. wyrm4701 says:

    As interesting as Spore was, I’m not sure a sequel would be anything but another disappointment. It’s that funny example of a game failing because it was pretty much as the developers intended it to be, not because it was too ambitious in scope. Or so it is according to some article somewhere detailing the ideological conflict that saw ‘shallow and cute’ win out over the more interesting systems originally advertised. I sadly don’t see EA attempting anything with Spore that wouldn’t be another attempt at a Sims-scale money siphon.

  11. Inex says:

    Spore is a marvel. I never completed it though. Always got bored exploring space and terraforming planets.

  12. Kestrel says:

    I seem to remember being super disappointed in the end game. It was so limited that most of the designing and creative elements that made the earlier stages fun were no longer accessible. Instead you’re just zipping about planets performing some repetitive tasks.

    Despite that, yes, a sequel would be welcome. It’s hard to see how a major studio pulls the trigger on it though. I’d think they’d play it safe and produce another Battlefield sequel.

  13. BluePencil says:

    I remember seeing early videos of the creature creator and I knew I just had to have this game. Bear in mind that, by this point, I hadn’t encountered Steam and I had about three PC games in total. My machine then didn’t have the spec to run Spore so I pretty much bought a new PC just because I wanted to play Spore (although, admittedly, my PC was probably reaching obsolescence provided I wanted to play further games of the period).

    And I did adore the creature creator. OK, yeah, I think I only ever played it through once to the space bit. But I still admire the creature creator. I wouldn’t be too fussed about a Spore sequel but I am saddened that nobody (tell me if I’m wrong) has picked up that creature creation aspect and run with it.

  14. draglikepull says:

    Spore was great. I had a blast playing it. I’m a big fan of games that involve considerable customisation and the ability to interact with the creations of others. Little Big Planet 1 & 2 are both great for this. It’s too bad the “massively single player” concept never took off.

    • brucethemoose says:

      “It’s too bad the “massively single player” concept never took off.”

      Due in no small part to Spore itself.

      Other devs saw the reception, and ignored the potential of the genre.

  15. bandertroll says:

    Just EA. If they go for sequel, it’s will be Sims-like horrific dlc-and-dlc-and-dlc model.

  16. rapchee says:

    perhaps not a sequel, but paradox should put a dev team on a completely unrelated game, called agamete. or seed.

    • Tom89 says:

      Amen. Spore was a disappointment because Maxis was already succumbing to that EA mentality in big way- promising the universe (literally) and delivering a very shallow game. A Fanservice clone which added in some of the missing content would be more than welcome…

  17. InternetBatman says:

    This! A thousand times this. I was in college when it came out, scrambling for money. I still bought it immediately after playing the demo. My now wife and I spent dozens of hours playing it, and my roommate spent hundreds with his now wife. It’s a great game. It also had more diversity than any other procedural game I’ve ever played because of the ability to import hundreds of thousands of user generated creatures.

    I would like to see a pair of Spore sequels released simultaneously. One could be civilization and space mode modeled after Zigfrak (tribe mode sucked). The other could be an expanded creature mode. The two games could import random events from each other. Maybe a ship crashing or abducting species. Maybe invasive species added from another planet. Maybe terraforming.

    But yes, it’s high time for another Spore.

  18. brucethemoose says:

    How many you RPSers have played Galactic Adventures?

    I see people commenting on the monotony of the Space Stage, but see nothing the ground adventure expansion… That’s perhaps my favorite part of the game. It gave the various editors some purpose, and people actually made some really interesting scenarios with it.

  19. Spinkick says:

    They already made this, its called no mans sky.

  20. PancakeWizard says:

    I would like to have seen them gut the galactic part of the game and turn it into an Elite-style game with the same cutesy look, procedural planets, perspective and creature maker.

    All the complicated stuff was already there.

  21. daniangione says:

    Yes, yes, yes! YES! So much yes for this post!

    We really – really – need a Spore 2. For me, Spore’s greatest problem was coming a couple of years ahead of its time. I mean, advance a few years from Spore and the technology and new stuff, capabilities and browser/games interactions (Sporepedia was horrible) we started to have would’ve been wonderful. Nowadays, with workshops and data-streamings and all the things and the tech we have, a new Spore could break the universe. Literally.

    For me, Spore redeemed itself with the Galactic Adventures expansion which was pretty cool. It’s a time of my life I loved and I’m afraid I’m never getting it back (so much nostalgia!) and possibly my most successful endeavour in life (lol… I was a relatively well-known creator, most notably for the Blood Crystals, The Big Boss and The Rebellion of the Hive adventures) and I’d go all in for a Spore 2.

    ALL IN.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    Spore was probably a fun game, but I was so disappointed at how it was completely and utterly unlike Will Wright’s that I could never enjoy it or give it a real chance. The marvel of procedural mechanics and design that actually affects how things work. The somewhat brutal looking physical attacks and eating of other animals. All that was just replaced with a system based around cosmetic creature design that affected nothing with all actual creature abilities gotten by collecting the +5 arms of attack. In the end the animal phase of the game played more like WoW than it did the original demo that was shown.

  23. Chiron says:

    Please just give me a Sim Earth remake

  24. bozkan says:

    Just registered to website in order to commend here and up the thumbs ! Spore was one of the most marvellous, innovator game among all of the video games. Thus it must at least have a sequel since many people already waiting for it since 2008. You have one pre-order here EA, Please give us the real game we are waiting for <3

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