Penis monsters and crap DRM. That's what Spore has become best known for. But all that could change this year, thanks to a potentially amazing piece of DLC called Galactic Adventures.
Essentially LittleBigPlanet in 3D, the package consists of a simple-to-use yet very powerful set of drag-and-drop game design tools which will allow players to create their own scripted action-adventure games out of the millions of assets already available in the online Sporepedia. It will also come with brand new items for the creature editor, including - Yes! - proper weapons and even tech such as rocket packs.
Those adventures can then be uploaded and will become available in other players' games. The idea is that you'll trawl through space, find a planet holding an adventure, and then beam down a landing party and play through it. Sound too good to be true? Not a word of it.
From what we've seen of the design tools, they're scarily potent, allowing the creation of almost any kind of game you can dream up without any technical knowledge requirements whatsoever. If you ask us, it's exactly what the space stage of Spore should have been in the first place, and if things turn out as well as they currently look like they will, this will change the face of Spore, and maybe user-generated content, completely.
To explain all of the features we've seen would make this a very long and very dull preview, so instead we've decided to give you worked examples of the sort of things we're already dreaming of making, and how Galactic Adventures could make them possible. Read on, and then tell us what you're going to make.
Left 4 Dead
One of the things we were most impressed with during our demo was the versatility and ease with which the AI of "cast" creatures - that is, those making up your adventure's characters and enemies - can be programmed.
They can be set to target any other monster or group of monsters, and even better, you can tweak their behaviour and awareness, giving them different default approaches such as aimless wandering, patroling certain areas and tracking prey. It's even possible to alter the proximity at which they become aware of other creatures and the player. What is all of this leading to? Zombies.
From what we've seen, all it should take is a few clicks and the adjustment of some slide-bar controls to - memory permitting - unleash mobs of slavering zombies upon any player unlucky enough to trigger their brain-lust. So that's our plan. Build an enclosed city map out of architectural Sporepedia assets with a linear but branching path to safety, and load it up with wandering zombie creatures who will swarm after the player on sight. Given that we'll be able to mask creature visibility until certain criteria are fulfilled, we could even set up some nasty ambushes. Then it's just a lone Spore fighting through street after street of the living dead to safety. Or an untimely death.
User-generated content and Mario. They go together like Jelly Babies and Pringles (seriously, try it). But while we've been crushed to death under the weight of tributes to the plumber's 2D legacy in LittleBigPlanet lately, Spore has the potential to push the cloning to the N64 and beyond.
We know we're never going to be able to recreate something on the scale of Super Mario Galaxy, however frustrating the planet-based setting might make that, but with full control over our planet's geology, colouring and flora via a series of simple slider controls, we should be able to create a pretty good approximation of the Mushroom Kingdom.
By manipulating the planet's hills, cliffs, water and architecture, some fairly faithful environments should be possible (provided you use your imagination a bit), and the best part? Probably realising that we'd want to get straight on with the IP demolition, Spore: GA's developers have included bouncy jump pads to allow actual 3D platforming. Okay, so an automated Spore springer won't be as precise as hitting an A button, but with some of these guys thrown in, we'd be willing to suspend disbelief.