Jan 15, 2008

Playing with Spore’s electronic clay nearly a year ago, we were struck by just how complete the character creation tools were. Spore’s remit, to take a species from microbe to UFO, may be massive but back then it felt ready, and real. Stretching out flesh, bolting on limbs, arranging faces - it all worked.

Then, nothing. The game went back into development. New hires (Soren Johnson, the lead designer of Civilization 4 was the last high-profile addition), and no news pointed to a game in trouble. It’s understandable. Spore offers six stages of life to play with: beginning as a microbe, you’ll swim around in primordial soup, dodging other microbes. Eating other nasties accrues DNA points, which, once you’ve reached a certain ‘score,’ enable you to access the first creature editor. Graft on a face, legs and teeth to your microbial stain, and you’re able to leave the sea.

This new phase has a similar goal: eat, but don’t be eaten. This time, though, you’re searching for a mate. Once an egg is laid, you’ll have to fend off scavengers. With a baby in tow, you’ll want to form packs and increase the size of your clan. Then it’s time for the tribal phase.

Once your creature has found friends, you’re no longer directing individuals: you now have an entire clan to play with. Arming your tribe with spears and clubs, you’ll go out and beat up or befriend your neighbours. Breed 20 tribesmen, and you’ll become a civilisation.

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