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Will Wright at the Helm of SPORE

Company: Maxis
Product: SPORE

I had the absolute pleasure of hearing Will Wright speak at a keynote during the Interactive portion of SXSW in Austin, TX. I was up front in a room full of many of the who's who in gaming, and it was awesome to see the respect that many paid him. To see seasoned veterans turn into seething fan boys is an awesome spectacle. Even Warren Spector seemingly payed homage to him as he presented him with the board game Domination.

Originally, Will admitted that he had only intended to give his keynote on the subject of storytelling, but after a huge amount of pressure, he also had agreed to let us see SPORE. It was truly inspiring to hear his theories on how, through the use of the computer, we can actually get into adaptive stories, and away from the movie-esque, hard straight line we still continue to see today. I know the subject of Grand Theft Auto III and open ended gameplay sort of touch this now, where basically the player is creating his own story. This spoke more to very specific combinations and affect choices that can even be carefully randomized by the computer and never break continuity. But, alas you aren't here for that, you want the meat.

SPORE, that is what jumped up on the screen in beautiful white lettering on a black background. I have seen a few demo clips here and there, most from the last E3. Here we were with the master at the helm. Will started us off from, well the beginning. Literally, you were this tiny blip on the radar of existence crawling around in a fluid state. You really did get this slide on a microscope feeling as you moved around searching for food. The more you ate, the bigger you got; that simple. And, just milliseconds before the larger "thing" ate him, he jumped to the editor showing us the next stage of life.

The creature creation screen looked very simple and intuitive to use. Of course, with the guy who built it driving, it should. You have millions of possible permutations to look at. The program renders behavior real time as it analyzes your creation for movement and where the jointing is. So off we go into the new world as if we have just crawled on to the land and there we hunt for food, only to become dinner ourselves. This was surprising to Will as he admitted, "I wasn't supposed to do that."

He then guided us into outer space. From space you can explore your universe. His ship, though not infringing on IP, looked very much like something Gene Roddenberry would be proud of. He explained that once you had gotten to this point, it was pretty much anything goes. You were free to explore new worlds. He took us to one planet and interacted with an alien race. By dropping a Monolith, he actually raised their intelligence, thus impacting their evolution. Influence worlds and become their deity, or just hang out with the locals - it is all up to you. The power of the entire universe is in your hands. He made one statement on how far he wanted to see the creativity of his players go, and that was that at some point, it should be so diverse that you will see "Care Bears vs. Klingons" in a battle for planets.

If you have played a "God" game or some of his other games like The Sims, then hold on to your seat. This is the current God game of God games. Rising up from a Protozoic beginning to rampaging through the universe, terraforming planets and creating a universe... I am salivating here! Well you are just going to have to wait until October with me.

-WUMPUSJAGGER, GameVortex Communications
AKA Bryon Lloyd

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