A website. With stuff on it.
September 11th, 2008 at 11:53 am
Posted By: Jay
Posted in: Rambling

Ok. It doesn’t suck. But I’m not a happy bunny with it at the moment.

I actually started writing a mostly positive and enthusiastic review and was going to bitchslap some of the naysayers that seem determined to hate the game… but then Spore kindly corrupted my game saves and I can neither continue any of my five or six games on the go nor create a new one. I’ve lost somewhere around 60 or 70 hours of game play – I know this because it was several DAYS ago that I achieved my ’50 hours play’ badge.

It is also exhibiting numerous other bugs. Here’s a list in no particular order:

  • Crashing to desktop randomly. Looking at the resources, it seems to have a huge memory leak.
  • Won’t import most of the hundred something creatures I made in the Creature Creator before Spore came out. Those it will are listed as owned by Maxis, and not me.
  • Some of the creatures I’ve created in the full version show up on my Sporepedia page with no image at all, and some flat refuse to appear despite the fact the game insists they’re uploaded.
  • Some games just bug out… after sacrificing all my game saves to restart, the first game I played, EVERY creature I encountered in the Space stage were the same creature, but not affiliated with each other. Imagine how ridiculous this is gonna be? You are allied with the Deceptilow empire, the Deceptilow empire and the Deceptilow empire – but are at war with the Deceptilow empire and the Deceptilow empire.
  • Sometimes you’ll spend ages creating a vehicle, space ship or building that is still well under the complexity maximum and it’ll refuse to save it without telling you why. Basically at this point you have to start ripping off parts to see what it disagrees with.
  • Also, it doesn’t work with SLi at all, you have to disable one of your video cards, and it doesnt work with hardware acceleration and you have to disable your sound card down to software only.
  • There are other bugs I can’t think of atm but I’ll add em if and when I do :p

So at the moment, my enthusiasm for Spore is at an all time low. Which sucks, because I’ve had it on preorder since 2005, and salivated at every teaser video, screenshot and preview since. I have been so up for this game it’s unreal, so to have it and be currently hating it hurts!

Of course, the other factor is that it’s an EA product. Soooo, that means absolutely DIRE support from a bunch of morons. :/

So, putting aside for the moment that it’s a buggy piece of crap that I can no longer play, I’m still going to give a basic overview of my thoughts and experiences so far, which might not be quite so positive as they would have been now I’ve been forced to step away from the game and had time to reflect on it properly;

Cell Stage: Cute. Very cute! And quite difficult, really. But I guess when you’re no more than a shapeless lump of jello in a pond full of some fairly fearsome and spikey lumps of jello all fighting for the same food sources, life is going to be a bit tough. It’s also very short. You can play through it in under 8 minutes. I know this, because I have my ‘speed freak’ badge for doing just that. Essentially, your goal is to eat and not be eaten.

Eating food collects DNA points which, once you call a mate, can be used in the cell editor to add new parts to your evolving blob.

Eventually, you develop a brain and are invited to slap legs onto your blob and move onto dry land. Once you get that invite, collecting food no longer offers you any additional DNA points, so it’s not that open ended in that there is no point to continuing on, albeit to perhaps mop up any parts you haven’t collected for completeness. In theory you can play forever, but there is zero incentive to do so.

Creature Stage: I have mixed reactions. It’s arguably the most important stage of the game in terms of the evolution and direction you intend to take your creature on for the rest of the game, but it doesn’t work quite how I expected it to.

You see, the parts you use each have their own traits and abilities but those bonuses don’t stack, so you are only as good as the best part for that trait you have. And you’re forced to have certain parts in order to even progress.� This sucks. It means that a lot of people’s creatures are going to end up looking much the same, despite the almost unlimited variety you COULD produce with the versatile editor.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more vexed I am about the way that creature stage works.

It means that you just cannot progress with some creature types at all – you can never make a creature that you’re happy with for it’s looks, because there’s no way to ‘win’ the creature stage unless you can either ally or defeat enough species on the stage.

The further you go inland, the more evolved the species you meet, and the harder it is to impress or extinct them. Even if you systematically befriend or defeat all the easy, early stage creatures and amass enough DNA to evolve, you cannot remain true to your fluffy bunny design or whatever without having to compromise in some way to get the parts necessary; if you’re trying to be a pacifist, you absolutely MUST get all four abilities, because later stage creatures will demand all four or a combination of all four before they will ally with you.

It’s less critical if you are going all out attack on everything you meet assuming you have at least one attack, but then you have to consider that each time you use an attack there is a short recharge delay before you can use it again, so the chances of winning a fight are drastically reduced as you get one attack in per three or four from the rival creature that has far more moves than you do.

So you have to sacrifice your looks for functionality. Sure, you COULD revert back to your fluffy bunny design right at the end of creature stage, but that means you can’t be true to your evolution.

Is it a valid criticism? I suppose you could argue ‘well, if you want to survive, you have to adapt!’, but the problem I find with that is, as I mentioned before, all the interim stages of evolution between your first land creature and it’s final state before Tribal stage end up looking mostly the same, because you have to compromise on your feet, hands, mouth parts etc to get the traits needed to ‘win’ the level.

Besides, I don’t remember ever seeing a Discovery Channel documentary charting the evolution of fluffy bunnies from carnivorous fighting machines!

As for playing through the stage itself, it’s pretty fun, if you ignore how shallow it actually is. Many laugh out loud moments, and oozing cuteness all the way. The game play, beyond the actual creation and evolution of your creature, is pretty shallow. It comes down to button mashing fights to kill off your rivals or a sort of ‘simon says’ game for impressing your allies. Again, it’s all about earning DNA points by eating in order to build up your creature.

Once again, I found that there isn’t a lot of incentive to continuing in this stage unless you’re particularly enjoying yourself. Yes, you CAN this time earn more DNA – albeit at a vastly reduced rate – for continuing to eradicate and ally other species, but I found that my creature was already as complex as the game allows by the time I was able to move on anyway. Likely, though, you certainly won’t have every part you could by this stage, so if you want to hunt them all down for completeness, then I guess there is more game play to be had.

You need to be completely happy with your creature by the time you leave this stage, as it’s the last time you can make any physical changes.

Tribal Stage: Probably the least developed and potentially most pointless stage of the game, the nests of critters have now evolved into villages, and your goal is to ally or eradicate all the others. It’s not a lot different from creature stage in terms of game play; button mashing fights or a simon says game of playing didgeridoos, horns and maracas to impress other villages, and collecting enough food to buy your upgrades and support your tribe. The point, really, is that how you play through the tribal stage dictates your evolutionary path and the nature of your people in going on to the civ phase.

When you progress enough to enter Civ stage, there really is nothing left to do on Tribal stage, since everyone is either your ally or dead. Sure, if you want, you can carry on collecting food, dancing round the fire and exchanging gifts with your allies. But there’s no point to it, since the only thing you take with you from tribal stage is reputation.

Civ Stage: Frankly, you can play through this faster than you can tribal if you just go all out against each new city that pops up, and if you don’t do just that, it goes completely the other way and the other nations develop much faster than you can and it becomes very hard to dominate. Same goal as tribal, though this time you must dominate the entire planet. Again it’s just a means to an end and the only thing you actually get out of this phase is reputation again.

Space Stage: It is quite mind blowing how huge this is in scale. When you first leave your home planet and solar system and see the mass of stars around you, and then zoom out… and out… and out… you realise you are a teeny spec on the arm of a spiral galaxy which has many, many thousands of star systems, each of which usually has multiple planets, each of which supports its own set of creatures, plants and features which are doing their own thing; some are barely at the stage where they’ve grown legs, some are tribal stage and you can go watch them duke it out amongst their tribes like you did a few stages back, some are at civ stage, and yet more are right up there with you – or further along – and zipping around in space ships trying to conquer new worlds, make allies and enemies.

It made me chuckle the first time I saw the scope of it; bloody Settlers – Rise of an Empire has a cap on 200 npc villagers because it’s ‘too complex’ to do more (how is 200 people an Empire?!) … and Spore pulls off a few million that are each evolving in their own way.

One of the most criticised aspects of the Space stage is that it’s just not the sandbox we were lead to believe it was. You don’t get time to play around and experiment because every 10 seconds you’re called to some mission or disaster. When you finally do get some time, the darn planets around you have evolved to sentient life and you can no longer populate the systems without eradicating them.

Also, as soon as you start encountering other civilizations around you you start getting demands for cash tributes in the amount of tens of times what you are currently earning, and not delivering brings about war, so it gets exponentially worse as everyone around you starts beating the crap out of your planets. Which is pretty unfair anyway, because apparently you’re the only civilization that has an entire one ship. Seems everyone else can bring an invasion force to your planets but you have your one main star ship to defend, as well as building up your empire, trading spice, running missions and everything else you have to do.

In other words, the balance is way off. And it doesn’t much seem to matter how you come out of the other four stages as to how things go down in Space either. I’ve been everything from a religious herbivore to the nastiest warrior carnivore and it always pans out much the same.

If you do ever get to do ‘the full works’ on a planet, its very cool. You have to balance the atmosphere and temperature to be able to support life, the first tier of which helps stabilise the planet. When you bring the ecosystem even further into line, you can add a second and third tier of animals to bring it up to the perfect ‘T3′ type planet.

There are also a ton of other collectable tools that let you do cool stuff, such as painting the terrain, sky or sea, reshaping the land with one of various tool types like Gear Mountains or Chocolate Swirls. You can even designate a planet a creature sanctuary and keep a zoo there :)

One thing I found really cool, though actually I’ve seen a bunch of complaints about it on the Spore forums, is that I actually met my own species out in the galaxy! They were at a space faring stage themselves, but were based on an earlier iteration of my creature from creature stage and had evolved a different route, were a different color and wore different armor. And had no special affinity for allying with me… in fact they proved a very tough nut to crack. What made this especially neat was that during creature stage, I had encountered a UFO which had sucked up one of my pack members with its abduction beam and zipped off. Presumably to use my little creature to populate an ecosystem of their own somewhere just like you spend much of the space stage doing yourself. From there, it had obviously gone tribal, civ and space faring itself, but along a different path to me. Very darn clever!

I suppose the way to think about it is that everything up to the Space stage is essentially a giant character creator before the ‘real’ game begins. That might sound like a negative, but it’s really not. It’s very in depth if you think of it in those terms… but a bit shallow and pointless if you think of it in terms of four of five stages of a game :p

Like I said, there’s a lot that’s cool about Spore, but I don’t feel like elaborating much more atm since I can’t play it and it’s ruined everything I’ve done so far.

Oh, and of course a review of Spore wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the ridiculously draconian DRM system that it installs on your computer that gives you three installations ever before you have to go buy another copy. So bearing in mind I’ve already been told to reinstall it once by support, I’d already be down to one left. If I install it on my laptop, thats it… I may as well throw the DVD away. No wonder Spore is looking like it’ll be the most pirated game ever. The irony, eh?

And finally… despite the creature creator allowing multiple Spore accounts, and despite the Spore manual spelling out specifically that you can have multiple Spore accounts, it turns out you can actually only have one Spore account per activation key, meaning that no, you and your family can’t have your own games, you have to share one account. EA maintain it was a ‘misprint’. The rest of us call it misrepresentation.




12 Comments
  1. excellent article, thank you.

    Comment by quintal — September 17, 2008 @ 4:15 am

  2. Well, actually you can get more installation counts to your disk if you ask EA and/or maxis. Also, the a patch for spore makes ecodisasters, pirates coming to steal your spices, and raids less likely and slowed down on the space stage(Except on hard). I was okay with all the stages except the tribal stage, because all of the tribes hate you, and if you don’t give them presents they’re going to destroy your village. Whoa, I didn’t realize how much I was rambling on. :P

    Comment by FigNewtons — September 19, 2008 @ 2:39 am

  3. whoops, I made a typo. When I was blabbing on about the tribal stage, I wasn’t mad that I had to give them gifts, just mad you had to do them every five minutes. I was also disappointed in the tribal stage because it was literally impossible to raid another tribe without your tribe dieing out, and that all of the other tribes get better weapons, a grade two tent at the beginning, and that your hands were always full. I think of the tribal stage as more of a chore, rather than game.

    Comment by FigNewtons — September 19, 2008 @ 2:48 am

  4. very good review I am also dissapointed like you but am yet to discover any bugs, touch wood.
    I think the creature and cell stages have the best idea but are still epic fails as to what they could be. Far too short and no challenge at all, even on hard. No need for most of the games cool ideas, it all turns out the same anyway.
    Lets hope this game can be modded, the people would make a much better game than maxis ever could.

    Comment by rab NZ — September 22, 2008 @ 2:21 am

  5. I was so looking forward to this game. Bwarp. Installed it and 10 hours later gave up on trying to get it to go. All I got was the unhelpful “Cannot Connect to Internet to Verify” message. I completely disabled my security settings, disabled firewall, uninstalled, reinstalled, installed the patch, investigated using FireShark, got some mindless suggestions from support, spent hours searching the internet and tried every other method I could think of. I’m a software engineer, so if I can’t get it to go, I don’t know what chance most other people have. All I could figure in the end was that it was something to do with my on-board network card. Judging by what I see online, I am not the only one. Not impressed.

    Comment by CVS — September 24, 2008 @ 11:49 am

  6. rab NZ, Wright has stated that the engine has been made specifically to allow expansion. Modding should therefore be easy. Unfortunately, EA will probably, as always, release hundreds of expansion packs. Well, ‘least my Civilizations will be able to have IKEA stuff:)

    By the way, there’s a hidden Cell-editor where there’s 5 pages of parts, instructions: http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/genmessage.php?board=926714&topic=45414290

    Comment by Mr. TV — September 28, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

  7. one nit pick about that discovery channel quip, to be fair, fluffy bunnies are not a sentient world owning species either. a couple of species ruled earth in turn, us, the dinosaurs, maybe a few others. bunnies and baby seals are just meat.

    i do agree that parts should stack in creature creator. It’s really robs the game of a lot of strategy and limits possibilities.

    Comment by shepherd — September 29, 2008 @ 8:15 pm

  8. Hey dude, I was just reading about Spore and I had a lot of the feelings you did actually. I scored the game 51% on EverHYPE. But you really put it well all the issues of the game.

    See my HYPE/review:

    http://www.everhype.com/hyper/Michael?X=G333

    The graphics and gameplay just wasn’t up to par… Anyway you should totally sign up and HYPE Spore, if you come on add me as a friend.

    Mike

    Comment by Michael — October 15, 2008 @ 3:56 am

  9. I just wish I could get creature creator to run on one of the 4 computers we own.

    Comment by Wendell — October 18, 2008 @ 6:44 pm

  10. Spore definitely sucks, don’t be afraid to admit it – it’s a piece of crap game that will probably go down as the most over-hyped game ever.

    Comment by will hamlet — October 24, 2008 @ 8:17 pm

  11. Maxis had good ideas, but he didn’t focused on them, investing on the wrong things. He tried that spore will be free for doing everything you want, but the game lack of complication. like Rambling said, it is a shallow game. You have only two or three ways to playing the game (bad, middle, good), and it’s not matter which way you will choose – it will always repeat itself and there will be nothing new, challenging. it’s true that spore has many creatures, many creature parts, and many tools in space stage (and spore IS a beautiful game), but all the ‘many’s and cool stuff are from the same elements! like I said before, spore is repeating on the same things. what EA need to do in order to make spore a better game, is to make a strong connection between stages and add new stuff, and when i’m saying new stuff, the meaning is not more tools in space stage or something like that. the meaning is something purely new. also, making game options will add something, and will make the game more free (i’m NOT talking about the price).

    Comment by *censored* — July 22, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

  12. I bought spore recently thinking I was getting a creature game. Primarily thats what it advertises as but realisticly the only two creature stages are cell (what i think is the best in terms of funtionalit) and creature which is ok. Tribal and civilization modes are extremely lacking for reasons everyone here already knows. I havent explored the space age too much but from reading I only get one ship? So I dont really know if ill take any of my games past the creature stage now if that turns out to be true. They tried to make to many games in one, I want to play a civivilization game ill play one of the many civilizations if i want to play a space game ill play my Galactic Empires game. I wanted to play a creature game but got something else. The cell stage is the best part in my mind because it offers the most true to the design mechanics. For example placing spikes in the front vs the rear of your cell actually makes a difference and they protect different area and the effects stack its not just a plus one to charge like in creature mode. The other thing is as you evolve you get a bigger picture of the world around you. (as you evolve in creature mode your brain could let you use more objects instead of just sticks and shells)In creature mode everything is just statistics with a max of five, placement means nothing and since nothing stacks you have to have one or the other. I understand limiting things so they dont get ridiculus but the complexity cap does that wonderfully. In the demo i remember making a creature with a poision spitter on the tail for shooting enemies as they chase me. Now i realize thats impossible and what about making something with multiple shooters of well since the effects dont stack thats pointless too. There could be a lot more content to the creature part if theyd cut out the other stages and focus on the games said it would be. I wouldnt mind a tribal stage if it wasnt a stage and more of a transition, as in your pack grows larger you interact with the objects in your world and you return to you nest to find them building something. Or mabye they migrate into a cave? The other part of tribal and the rest of the game is it makes no difference what kind of creature i am. The fact that im so charming or i can shoot acid has no play. The reason humans have to use spears is because we have no natural weapons, my creature has a crapload of natural weapons a spear would actually be less efective. The only thing that does matter and makes it near a must have is wings. Overall i do like the game but if space isnt better than my actual space game im probly going to restart and just make creatures and not evolve till im bored then ill never play it again. If i had the tools or know how id make this a great game as its an excellent concept just lame game play.

    Comment by Jessika — January 10, 2011 @ 10:10 am

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