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Spore Aftershocks

September 8th, 2008 by Troy Goodfellow · 16 Comments · Electronic Arts, Maxis, Media

I was going to write a bit about the confusing world of Spore as seen through the gaming media, but, as of this morning, it looks like I’ll be reviewing it. So, I regret reading as much as I have about the game, from Seth Schiesel’s distinction between toy and game (a familiar distinction the gaming audience, but novel to their mainstream audience) to Thierry Nguyen’s respectful commentary on Spore as an avenue of expression to Tom Chick’s difficulty in finding anything to praise in the game at all.

I had no doubt that Spore would be a very divisive game. It’s experimental in a way that few games have been in a long time, and the last game to aspire to such heights, Black & White, was critically applauded until a few critics and most fans pointed out that it was innovative but pointless a few hours in. And this year has already seen backlash against the overpraise of Grand Theft Auto 4 and Metal Gear Solid 4. Not that the game journalism beat is all of a sudden immune from hype and overenthusiasm; but people have been waiting to take Will Wright down ever since Spore was first delayed. Of course, with a game this Capital I Important – blanket coverage on a number of sites – even an average or good review will seem like a slam by some people. And it may only be good and not great. I haven’t played enough to know who is right.

One of my friends who’s been playing it for a while has been alternately complaining about how shallow the game was and how he is wondering if he is being too curmudgeonly and thinking that maybe he is missing something. “So mixed, you can’t decide” how you feel is how he put it. So the review will be a challenge.



16 Comments so far ↓

  • Bill Abner

    You didn’t have to accept the assignment you know. ;)

  • Alan Au

    I think it was Kieron Gillen who warned that the games doesn’t click until roughly the 10-hour mark, which I guess makes it the anti-Black & White.

  • Troy

    “You didn’t have to accept the assignment you know. ”

    And pass up a chance to be paid to opine on the Most Important Game Ever Made?

    Alan, I think that most reviewers of Black and White put a lot of time into the game but were blinded by the suspicion that they were “supposed” to like it, that if they didn’t something was wrong with them. You see an echo of some of this in some Braid coverage. I don’t think that time spent with a game is necessarily an indicator of whether or not things will click. Spore will click for some people after three hours, for some after ten, for some never.

  • SwiftRanger

    It clicked with me right from the start, been playing it for four days now despite many missed chances and severe misbalancing at the latter stage. Just don’t look at the stages or at the editors as full games, only the Space stage comes quite close to that.

  • edosan

    Maybe I’m ADD or something, but Will Wright’s games have never done much for me. I appreciate that they’re well-made, but since they’re just very well-made sandboxes, I get bored with them really quickly.

  • Troy

    Will Wright is a toymaker; both SimCity and the Sims – his biggest and best works – became more like games once he turned over design to other people.

    So I can totally understand people not finding his toys entertaining.

    Me? I think The Sims is brilliant.

  • Cautiously Pessimistic

    I’m definitely grooving on it right now. What kind of staying power it has will be interesting. I definitely agree that the game can be broken down into pre- and post-Space stage. I think it’ll definitely get more play for allowing folks to skip to the Space stage, rather than forcing them to play the other stages first.

  • Krupo

    You can skip straight ot Space? Good to know if the early stages grow tiring.

    The main things holding me back from rushing out and getting it are:
    1. The alleged EA’s arse SecuROM protection methodologies :(
    2. the suspicion that 20 expansion packs will come out… making it tempting to just wait for the big fancy GOLD EDITION with all the first 2 or 4 expansions.

    Plus by then the bugs will be ironed out… hmm… decisions.

  • Krupo

    OMG, Tom Chick is such a jerk! :p

  • tatertot18

    I hadn’t even thought of expansions!! WHEN!!! I need them!

    As someone who has been eagerly awaiting this game for the past 3 years I’ve tried not to get my hopes up too much. I think back to my biggest letdown, MOO3, and try to not get myself worked up to that level again.

    As for Spore, I’m on my 2nd game already as my vacation fell over the release date…and I am enjoying it. I’ve found that the more I try to savour the experience, designing the buildings in detail instead of slapping together a few blocks, the more I’m finding it to be rewarding. I hate the thought of some half-assed building or vehicle showing up on someone else’s game with my name attached to it.

    Wow, that was a lot of rambling, sorry!

  • Thomas Kiley

    It is difficult to describe. On the one hand, I love designing stuff and I get a buzz thinking about all the cool stuff. But on the other, none of the stages are perfect. Also, you can skip stages, but only after you have played through once.

    Currently posting impressions of the stages on my blog (thkgamereview.blogspot.com) but I still haven’t made any final decisions.

  • James Allen

    I forsee five (at least) expansion packs for Spore, one for each stage of the game. I suspect that some “advanced” (or at least more complicated) features were intentionally left out of the game so that they could save them for plentiful $30 expansions. Why make $50 when you can make $200 on the same game?

  • Jimmy A. Brown

    I was very excited when Spore was first announced and have been anticipating its release. From things I have read, indications are that Electronic Arts will deny me the pleasure of playing it by continuing to use their DRM scheme. It’s getting pretty old; I have missed Bioshock and Mass Effect, and now I miss another great game.

  • Neil

    Every stage except Space lacks the depth of a finished game, and Space is frustrating beyond belief in its tendency to interrupt you with chores while you are doing something fun.

    For me, the novelty doesn’t make up for it, and its appeal will only go downhill as it wears off.

  • Neil

    I’d just like to add that the Sims was originally very similar in its tendency to make you drop what you are doing and attend to some chore dictated by the odious meters. You’d be a slave to the meters a large percentage of the time instead of having the liberating “play with dolls” experience that formed the foundation of the game’s appeal.

    The expansions (designed by different people) smoothed out this problem a great deal.

  • Eduardo Gabrieloff

    I am almost positive there will be a plant editor in the near future. Seeing as how you can scan plants, and that they all have a creator’s name on there, just screams “coming soon.”
    I just hope it’s free.