EA's Spore makes gamers the creators

The SPORE creature created by Kai Ryssdal and GamePro Editorial Director George Jones in the Marketplace studios.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

KAI RYSSDAL: The center of the video gaming universe is here in Los Angeles right now. Anybody who's anyone is at the E3 conference this week, including a guy named Will Wright. Wright's the mastermind behind one of the most popular online games ever. The Sims, it's called. But it came out eight years ago, and die-hard gamers have been waiting for the follow-up ever since. In an already big year for games, Wright's newest creation is set to be released next month by Electronic Arts. George Jones is with GamePro Media. George, thanks for coming in.

GEORGE JONES: Thanks for having me.

RYSSDAL: All right. I have to ask you about what I'm told is the big thing this year. So, we've had "Grand Theft Auto" and we've had all the rest of those. And then there's this thing called . . . Spore? Help me understand that.

JONES: So Spore is, you know, it's kind of like a life simulator -- I mean, at its very core. You start the game as a single-cell organism. And the goal is to reproduce, asexually, so . . .

RYSSDAL: And that takes all the fun out of it. But, anyway.

JONES: Yeah, it's not that fun. It gets more fun later. So then you go from a single-cell organism to a creature. And then you go from a creature to a society of creatures. And then you go from a society of creatures to an interplanetary society that, you know, spans galaxies.

RYSSDAL: So, you get to be God, basically.

JONES: Yeah, it's pretty trippy. There's nothing like it.

RYSSDAL: So, it launches in September, but EA has released this sort of precursor game, I guess, called "Creature Creator" -- do I have that right?

JONES: Yeah, it's the "Creature Creator," and it released, I guess, three or four weeks ago to a considerable amount of hoopla. It basically allows you to create your creature. It's pretty interesting.

RYSSDAL: You have it here. We have a laptop in the studio. We're going to fire this thing up -- the "Creature Creator" and try to make it make some sense.

JONES: OK. I'll run it and then you can give me your creative input. How's that sound?

RYSSDAL: Alright. Perfect. So, what are we looking at?

JONES: So, the first thing you see is this kind of blob. I just call it like a nascent blob.

RYSSDAL: And it truly is. It's a formless little . . .

JONES: It's a formless thing. What it does is, it has a vertebrae. So, we can take the vertebrae and we can move it. We can shape it. We can . . .

RYSSDAL: And we can pull the neck up, as you're doing.

JONES: Yep, and you can elongate it. Then you can take a series of different heads and mouths, and we can put it on there. So, which one of these do you like?

RYSSDAL: Uh, that one right there.

JONES: This one?

RYSSDAL: Yeah.

JONES: Alright.

RYSSDAL: So, it actually looks a little bit like, uh, it's called the Croc Head. It's a little bit of a crocodile, elongated, snapping jaw kind of thing.

JONES: Yep. And we can also put eyes. So, maybe we'll do some eyes first.

RYSSDAL: Get some scary-looking eye. That one right there. The lizard eye on the crocodile.

JONES: You can go one eye or two.

RYSSDAL: Three. I want three eyes.

JONES: Uh....

RYSSDAL: Can you do three eyes? Come on!

JONES: I'm not sure you can.

RYSSDAL: If I'm gonna play God, I want three eyes.

JONES: Hah-hah!

RYSSDAL: So we get our creature fully created and formed. And, as of right now, there's nothing we can do with it, gamewise, right?

JONES: That's exactly right.

RYSSDAL: OK, but in September when Spore launches, this will be our . . . the Genesis creature for us, right? We'll start and we'll go from there.

JONES: Yeah.

RYSSDAL: Let me ask you this, though. How is EA going to make money with people playing around with these creatures?

JONES: So, I asked Lucy this specifically . . .

RYSSDAL: Lucy is . . .

JONES: She's the general manager at EA's Electronic Arts / Maxis studio, who's making this game. She told me that initial sales will account for, you know, probably, a lot of revenue right up front. But then what EA has learned -- and they learned this with The Sims, which is, you know, the previous game in this kind of category -- is that after the game's released, you can make a fortune by selling add-on packs and add-on content that . . .

RYSSDAL: So, like, new territories and . . .

JONES: New territories. New kind of parts of creatures. New themes. New worlds. And, you know, the cost of that content is small, you know, so it'll be . . .

RYSSDAL: Sure. Sure.

JONES: . . . it'll be maybe $20.

RYSSDAL: What about this as compared to other creation games? Why is this one special?

JONES: There's really two or three key reasons. And I think the first is this notion that you're going from a single-cell organism to a space-fairing people. It is wild. But I think more importantly than that, this game has an interesting online presence. So, the creatures you create, they go into other people's games.

RYSSDAL: Hmmm.

JONES: He has this thing called procedural gaming thing. So it's . . . We create this creature. We have it in our game. It's automatically uploaded to this kind of universe of other creatures. So, when my civilization goes into space, we're going to encounter your creature that you just built. No one's ever done anything like this -- the fact that you could actually kind of participate in this big, kind of multiplayer experience without actively participating in it is very unique.

RYSSDAL: George Jones is the editorial director at GamePro Media. George, thanks a lot for coming in.

JONES: Thank you for having me.

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