Will Wright’s GDC keynote demo of “Spore.”

At last year’s Game Developers Conference around about this time Will Wright gave a talk titled The Future of Content in Games which really set the attendees abuzz as he demoed an upcoming game he’s been working on called Spore. The game itself sounds incredible and has a number of people who have seen it describing it as “Sim Everything,” which, when you consider that Wright is the man behind SimCity and The Sims, is pretty appropriate.

The game starts you off as a single celled organism and then takes you through millions of years of Evolution in which you get to decide how your creature develops until eventually it becomes sentient and starts developing cultures and societies and cities and nations and worlds and eventually starts zooming around the galaxy. The amazing thing about the game is that all the content is generated procedurally by people playing the game. The game will connect over the Internet on occasion to download content created by other players which the computer will then control based on how those things were designed. So it’s not truly a multiplayer game in the sense that you’re playing it at the same time other people are, but it is in the sense that all the other stuff you come across will have been created by other owners of the game.

It’s hard to put your head around how this would work and it seems like it would be a real challenge to master the tools needed to generate all this content. At least until you see the game in action. Someone finally put up a video of Will’s talk and demonstration at last year’s GDC on Google Video so now you can see the game in action and how it works. Just click the play button below:

After seeing how this game works I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Keep in mind that this demonstration was from over a year ago and they’ve been working hard on the game since then. The only word on a release date is sometime in the third quarter of this year. It’s easy to see why the game won a boatload of “best of E3” awards last year. We’ll probably get a chance to see how things have come along since then at this year’s E3. Keep an eye out for this one.

21 thoughts on “Will Wright’s GDC keynote demo of “Spore.”

  1. Any backstory of why this clip is just surfacing again? I have the high quality version from over a year ago burned to DVD that I pass around at LAN’s and such. Just today alone your site marks the 6th site I’ve seen it on the front page of. I’m all for the publicity of a great game but why the explosion just now?

    I guess a reason could be because GDC is just around the corner again, but some major site had to have been the one to put this back in the spotlight last night or early this morning.

  2. I’d imagine the reason is simply because wherever it was available from originally wasn’t widely known. Word has it that you can get it from the GDC website if you register, but how many folks think to register at the GDC website?

    Kinda like those Danish cartoons that caused such a fuss recently even though they were originally published last fall.

  3. I like sofwate like this, but it seems a little bit of a re-hash of…


    … and hopelessly old-fashioned in its single-user mode of play.

    SimEarth, too, was fun, but for like one snowed-in-weekend, and then i went back to washing my floors and chasing my cats around the house.  That said, if this game allowed organisms (of the same level of evolution (read: “instances”)) to compete for resources (ala MMPORG), then that would be truly fun, and modern.

    Otherwise, it’s an interesting re-hash for a limited market the solitary-gamer.  Interacting with others is always more fun than sitting alone tweeking my organism that shall never meet another.


  4. Did you watch full video Rob or get bored during the theory lecture parts? 😀

    It’s much more than SimEarth… the only name I think that could fit it is SimGod or SimEverything. You literally design a species and have them populate an entire universe… Hundreds of thousands of actual persistant planets. This is the ultimate sandbox, a game Will has been dreaming of his whole life. Other people’s organisms, plants, houses, vehicles all by their own design are downloaded asynchronously by your client and added to your universe.

    /drooling all over

  5. Did you watch full video Rob or get bored during the theory lecture parts?

    No.  I’m American.  I can’t even sit still that long, never mind pay attention.  What is this thread about again??  Oh, yeah! … As i was saying, in the future everyone will play games in jumpsuits…  (Yes, of course i watched the whole piece.  I actually watched the *whole* thing.  I even googled the game.)

    Most of us here know games, and their dev environments, have progressed more than slightly since the advent of SimEarth in 1990.  That, i thought, would be understood.

    Here’s my point…
    People, more often than not, like to play together (and sometimes with eachother).  WoW, i would have thought, drove this home to the gaming industry.

    Additionally, in the confines of instances (where organisms of the same evolutionary level would compete for resources in a massivily large multi-player environment) this game would rock.

    I’m astonished, really, they are not bending over backwards to implement it.  Cause, if they don’t someone shall.

    (oops…sorry!  “WILL”)


  6. Not everyone

    a) has broadband access, so the market is not limitless
    b) likes multi player.

    I agree that this game has awesome potential for multiplayer, but why must every game cater to the MMPORG community?  Why can’t we have decent single player games?  WHERE THE HELL IS ZELDA… whoah, sorry, got a bit carried away there.  The point is, this game still looks incredible.

  7. and hopelessly old-fashioned in its single-user mode of play.

    That hasn’t deterred all the good folks playing SimCity, The Sims, Civilization, and what have you.

    SimEarth flopped because it was boring, plain and simple.

  8. I guess I get mad at the MMORPG crowd when they want everything to be MMO. They’re the same people who quickly dismissed Morrowind because it had no multiplayer and now are dismissing Oblivion. There’s a lot of developers who still cater to the singleplayer. And for that I am grateful.

    You explained your want of MMO features but not why you compared it to SimEarth… It’s not SimEarth it’s very different.

  9. As it turns out, Will’s talked about the design decision of making it a single versus multiplayer game in an interview with Gaming Steve last June:

    GS: So in the single-player is there actually going to be a point? Is it going to be like … well, I saw what you did in The Sims and then The Sims 2 there were goals and all you did was unhide them in The Sims 2.

    WW: Yeah.

    GS: Are you going to do something similar in Spore?

    WW: Well we are going to have several meta-goals at the space level that you know, depending upon how you play the game it’s going to actually attempt to steer your towards the powers that your earn. So if I play very altruistically I will find it that much easier to at the space game to conquer the galaxy. If I play very diplomatically at the space game it will be much easier for me to go around meeting new races, establishing relationships and alliances. I might build a federation like “Star Trek

  10. This is the first time I’ve watched this demo.

    And now I have to launder my shorts.

    I’m buying this game.  Absolutely.  Just the city building and creature building palettes alone could make the game a pretty endless source of amusement.

    Hmm.  Arenas.  I want to snatch critters from other player’s planets and then make them fight to the death in my arena.  I will be a dark and terrible space god!

    [evil laughter]

  11. Checking around the net for more info reveals that Will’s giving a couple more talks on game design using Spore as an example at this year’s GDC March 20-24. The more intriguing of the two talks for what it might reveal of Spore’s gameplay is titled Building Community Around Pollinated Content in Spore:

    Session Description
    When you fire up your copy of SPORE, that crazy three-headed, five-legged creature you see coming over the hill to attack your creature may have been created by another community member, or your best friend, or maybe someone you’ve never even heard of. The experience that the creature has in your game will become part of its recorded history as it gets downloaded and challenged by other players in the SPORE universe. Through in-game and web-based features, the person who created the creature can review and share its stats with friends and other community members building notoriety for both the creature and the creator.

    This session explores how user-created content in other Maxis products like SIMCITY and THE SIMS 2 created a different kind of online community, and how those lessons are being applied in the Pollinated Content System in SPORE. Specifically, we’ll look at how to tailor the system to appeal to both users who specialize in creating content and users who are more likely to download someone else’s creations.

    Idea Takeaway
    Attendees learn the history of shared content and community involvement in previous Maxis games and how those lessons are being incorporated into SPORE.

    Hopefully someone will video tape that one as well and it won’t take a year for it to surface on the net.

  12. “…multiplayer games bring their own set of problems with them thanks to a subclass of gamer known as the “griefer

  13. Not everyone who plays MMPORGs necessarily does so because they like interacting with other people, or because they don’t enjoy being alone. I play WoW on a semi-regular basis, but I almost always play on my own. Playing with random people is often irritating, and I don’t play frequently enough to have a set group to play with. Moreover, I generally can’t set aside the large chunks of playing time that are necessary for effective grouping. I do however like the feeling of playing in a populated world; I never really got into Morrowind, for example, because the playing experience often felt lonely to me. So a game set up like Spore appears to be would be the perfect compromise. I wouldn’t have to rely on the cooperation of other players in order to advance, but I would be able to indirectly interact with other people and feel some sense of community from dealing with other people’s creations. I know that my preferences may not be typical, but certainly on WoW at least there are plenty of people who prefer to solo, and who might feel the same way. I don’t think the growing popularity of MMORPGS necessarily implies an inverse interest in solo games. Anyway, I’m sure they’ll eventually add features to this so that you can play some sort of RTS against other people, similar to Warcraft.

  14. I’ve played every game genre under the sun in multiplayer and singleplayer. You say MMO will become the standard but I don’t think that will ever happen. People will always want singleplayer games. Look at it like reading a book. When you read a book do you get in a big group and take turns with everyone [elementary school aside]… No. I’ve been a huge fan of the adventure and story-driven genres of video games since I first found the key under the doormat in Maniac Mansion. And I’ve been a fan [though not to the degree of singplayer] of MMO’s since I first connected to Ultima Online and finally with WoW. They’ll continue to be seperate… MMO will not be the standard.

    I want to sit down to good story or sandbox and just have fun without the other kids reading slowly or destroying my sandcastle. There’s no need to compete, no drive to collect everything… Just me and my imagination and drive to have fun.

    Don’t get me wrong it’s fun to play with others as well but everyone needs alone time too. Just take my current daily game lineup for example of my well balanced diet:

    ES4:Oblivion [less than a month] :: Single Player Story
    Counter-Strike Source :: Competitive Multi-player
    World of Warcraft :: MMORPG

    In case you can’t tell I really take issue with the statement that “MMO’s will become the standard” … They will continue to be a strong genre but they will always be balanced with amazing single player games.

  15. i think MMPORG shall, in due time, be the standard

    What do you mean by standard?  The standard in all of gaming?  That’s a fairly ridiculous statement.  Some games don’t translate to multiplayer (Zelda, for example, or Prince of Persia).  And really, why should the industry limit itself to MMPORGs? 

    Because they encourage lone-wolfing

    And?  That’s a bad thing?  When I play a game, it’s usually a single player game.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have a social life.  In fact, one might make the case that the presence of MMPORGs creates a situation where people don’t have actual physical interaction with others, that there main way of interacting with other people is via games.  Is that healthy for a civilisation?  I know it’s an exaggeration, but “encouraging lone-wolfage” is no less so.

  16. I haven’t wanted a game as much as this one since I bought my Playstation just so I could Play Oddworld – Abe’s Odyssee. Color me an unhealthy anti-social lone wolf, but this is just my taste.

  17. I remember your first post on this game, Les. Having now seen this video…well, all I can say is that I actually experienced several moments where my jaw dropped and a tingling sensation ran up my spine. I just…oh man…I don’t know what to say…this looks so good. I’m going to tell everyone I know about this game and direct them to this video. I’ve dreamed about this, that’s all I can really say. Any word yet on the system requirements?

    BTW, I think the way they are approaching the single player with multiplayer benefits type of thing is absolutely perfect for a game like this, where improving your design skills seems to be the larger goal. If you can still test your design skills against other people’s (by downloading their designs and updating your version of the big sandbox in the sky) then I think that will work just fine. I don’t know. I’ll be pre-ordering this game for sure.

  18. Clearly this game is going to become most innovative game in years to come. After seeing all the useless expansions for the sims on stores shelves, I thought that Will Wright’s days as a creative game developer were over.

  19. (This is one of those times everyone should blindly accept what .rob says, if just for a moment.  Why?  cause i said so…;-] )

    Color me an unhealthy anti-social lone wolf, but this is just my taste.

    Actually, i’ve done some “other” research on this game.  I have it on plausibly good word from unknown sources in places of power power (ppp) that this has been funded by DARPA for just such purposes. 

    Who pre-ordered again ???


  20. There’s a select few people in this world who’s comments I blindly accept and, Rob, you ain’t one of them. That’s quite a claim you’re making there, but I’ll take it with an overabundance of salt unless you’ve got more to back it up than your assurances.


  21. In the right context I could actually see Rob’s claim being a legitimate experiment in computer science. Spore is an excellent example of code that puts the power of content development firmly in the users hands, without having to be a programmer.

    The only thing it’s missing now is an artificial user, and at which point the whole world would boom like bacteria in a petri dish. Picture similar notions put in place for agent-based firewalls.

    The trick is, content development in this case has to be in alignment with structural principles. Making creatures requires having something on par with the bones and joints we use to animate and model. Thus, there must be code that emulates the process of modelling and animating on a finite (preferrably very small) set of common principles. It’s a much more difficult task, I’d wager, to create a firewall in a similar fashion.

    But that would certainly be something the DoD would look into.

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