There's More to Spore than Will Wright
“Spore” and “Will Wright” go hand-in-hand, but the renowned game designer took a back seat today at the D.I.C.E. Summit to allow the game’s designers to talk about the challenges in making a game that’s all about creation.
The passion emitting from the designers translated into a 45-minute long blast of insight that encompassed nearly every facet of Spore’s development.
Wright introduced the four designers according to their design team personas. Designer and senior art director Ocean Quigley is “The Scientist,” Chaim Gingold is “The Toymaker,” Jenna Chalmers is “The Mastermind” and Alex Hutchinson is “The Cowboy.” (Wright called himself “The Traffic Cop.”)Much of the presentation focused on the challenges in creating such an open-ended game with so many options, while still making it accessible to the average Joe and Jane gamer. Wright revealed that Quigley often found himself at odds with the game’s target audience, calling the problem “Ocean versus the player.” With Spore’s extensive creature and vehicle editors the design team had to find out a way for anyone to become an art director. Quigley said that such a feat is inherently challenging because it’s like “art directing a million incompetents. … They don’t have good sense as to what makes a good character, so you have to put in all these techniques and tools, so when they do something, it looks good.”Wright and the team also illustrated the flexibility of the vehicle editor. Chalmers said that the designers actually did an in-house contest to see how close they could re-create the most popular sci-fi spaceships using the editor.Quigley added, “We have to do all these things that an artist would [normally] do manually.” The challenge was allowing the final user creation to be “a game asset—a rigged, animated game asset with all the things … that make it work.”The team also ran into other design challenges that arose because of the unique nature of Spore and its focus on evolution. Chalmers explained, “I think one of our other challenges that we’ve been debating for a long time with the editors is how to make a creature evolve to look intelligent—what makes a creature look like something that you are meant to ride on like a horse versus something that’s an intelligent creature?”The team jokingly said that the distinguishing factor would be “hats.”Gingold said that breaking down the process of creation from every angle has been key to designing the editors. “We wanted something fun to touch and play with,” he said. “A lot of that … was finding out how an artist does something, reverse-engineering their process and figuring out how to put that into a toy so that the player will have that technology.”