The latest updates/additions to this post:
- 8/29/08 – Added link to Simphoni’s Demo video
- 8/26/08 – Added link to Sporeum’s video
- 8/26/08 – Added link to xSpore’s impression
- 8/25/08 – Added link to LadyM’s followup
- 8/25/08 – Added link to Simphoni’s podcast
- 8/24/08 – Added link to Sporeum’s impression
- 8/24/08 – Added link to Hooked on Spore’s Notes and Q&A
- 8/24/08 – Added Simphoni’s Sporepedia Discussion Video to videos
- 8/24/08 – Added link to SporeSite’s pictures
- 8/24/08 – Added link to SporeSite’s impressions
- 8/24/08 – Added link to Sporeum’s pictures
- 8/24/08 – Added video from xSpore in videos section
- 8/24/08 – Added link to Simphoni’s pictures
- 8/24/08 – Added link to Total Spore’s impression
- 8/24/08 – Finished adding my impressions of the event
- 8/24/08 – Uploaded my audio recording of the Maxis Interview
- 8/24/08 – Added link to Hydro’s gameplay experience
- 8/24/08 – Added links to Simphoni’s Journal and writeup
- 8/24/08 – Added links to LadyM’s Gameplay and Maxis Tour articles
- 8/23/08 – Added links to other fansite pictures, Q&A’s and Impressions
- 8/23/08 – Pictures from the event are now uploaded
- 8/23/08 – Added a short video of Caryl’s Spore demo
- 8/23/08 – Added the notes that I wrote down
- 8/23/08 – Added a list of all of the fansites who attended
- 8/23/08 – SporeProgram’s Q&A with the developers
- 8/21/08 – Pictures from Thursday Night added
This post is reserved for information from the Spore Community Event. I’ll constantly update it with my impressions on the game along with impressions from the other fan site owners that attended.
Click the image to read this post’s full entry, or click the link below!
Attending Site Representatives:
xDreamache – xSpore, Gary’s Spore Profile
Hydromancerx Sagan 4, SporeWiki, Hydromancer’s Spore Profile
Cyven – MySporePage, Jessica’s Spore Profile
rybolton Sporeum, Ryan’s Spore Profile
Kyle Neath – TotalSpore, Kyle’s Spore Profile
Judhudson – SporePrograms, Jud’s Spore Profile
Joel Pascual – Sporetube, Joe’s Spore Profile
LadyM – Gaming Steve, Sagan4, LadyM’s Spore Profile
Rexer – Simphoni, Rexer’s Spore Profile
Petreak – Sporesite, Petreak’s Spore Profile
Artistvrd – Hooked On Spore, Vinny’s Spore Profile
SporePrograms – Audio from the Maxis Interview
I recorded the Maxis Interview that we had as an MP3 file. You can listen to it yourself through the link below. It is 55 minutes and 25 second long and full of many questions, answers and jokes. Overall, it was a blast! I’ll write up a transcript of the full session and post it here soon!
Transcript from the Audio
I decided to not do the transcript. I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the spare time. The audio file is not that great to produce one. I spent an hour and all I had was 5 minutes worth or it written down! My apologies on this, hope the audio is good enough for you.
SporePrograms – Jud’s writeup on the Event
Where to begin…it’s difficult to contain all of my excitement from the event into this article, so be prepared for a long read.
— Thursday Night —
Let’s kick things off starting at Thursday night from the airport. After getting off of the plane at the San Francisco Airport, I ran into Merrie (LadyM from GamingSteve). We were suppose to meet at Charlotte, NC but she boarded the plane near the last minute after her flight was late and we didn’t get the chance to see each other. As we were heading to our limo to take us to our hotel we introduced ourselves and chatted for a brief moment before we were split up.
Once we made it to the hotel and things were situated (room key, bags put away), I went into the lobby to join a few of the other Spore Fansite owners. There, I was able to continue talking to LadyM along with Todd (Hydromancerx from Gaming Steve), Gary (xDreamache from xSpore), Patrick (Petreak from Gaming Steve) and Vinny (Artistvrd from Hooked on Spore). What a great bunch of people! Hydro drew LadyM a picture of Mallen, her most famous creature as a gift and gave it to her. We spent awhile chatting and after we came to the fact that most of us were hungry, we headed out to the streets for some grub.
While walking, we came up with a crazy idea to look for Maxis…but nobody knew where it was located. The Spore Posse walked a couple of blocks and decided it was best to give up and find a restaurant. Since it was a little late at night, we didn’t have much to choose from. We either had to pick from Denny’s or Burger King. Luckily we all came to a decision to head on over to BK.
Once we were done there (those double cheeseburgers are delicious!), we headed back to the hotel lobby. Most of everyone headed off to bed to catch up on some needed sleep shortly after, but I decided to stay up even later. Around 11 PM, another Spore fansite owner walked thru the door. Ryan (rybolton from Sporeum) greeted me and headed off to Denny’s for a bite to eat. Once I finished with my updates, I tried to hit the sack for some well-needed rest…but I couldn’t get to sleep. Not sure if it was the bed or if it was the fact that I’m going to Maxis that kept me awake. Each hour I looked at the clock and asked myself “Is it time yet?”.
— Friday Morning —
Well, after the 5th hour (5 AM), I had enough. Took my shower, cleaned up and headed down to the lobby to update the site. 3 hours later, the others came down for breakfast. While we ate, we were introduced to Rex (Rexer from Simphoni). To my surprise, it turns out there was another Alabama man in the group (he’s from Birmingham while I’m from Huntsville). Not only that, but Petreak was from Nashville, TN. With all of the southerners in the group, you can only imagine the southern jokes getting tossed around. Brace yourself, Rednecks with technology skills are coming to Maxis! 😛
Once we were done, back at the lobby we were greeted via the Spore Community Manager, MaxisCactus. I cannot say all of the nice things about her, it would make this article even longer than what it already is, but to sum her up in two words – pure awesome. She gathered the group and we begin the walk to the Maxis Studios.
— Into Willy Wright’s Chocolate Fact…er….Maxis Studios —
In her previous email, she stated that the headquarters were only 5 minutes way. For some reason…it felt like an hour way. Again, excitement is overtaking me. While walking, I did notice that I’m out of shape. Pretty sad that I was already exhausted halfway there but I managed to survive. Once we made it to the building, she led us down the hall (the building was of cool design with brick walls on the inside along with wooden beams, it gives it an old-timey design), took us in through the doors to where we were greeted…with the dreaded NDA’s. At least they took the time to give us our each personalized copy with one of our creations on it. Once we signed our souls over to EA (it’s a joke! lol) MaxisCactus took us on over to their gaming area setup where we sat down to enjoy some breakfast. Sadly, the group didn’t know that they had plans to provide us with such and we ate at the hotel. So it looks as if no-one wanted to touch their food 😛
— Maxis’ workstation tour —
After a few group shots of us sitting on the couches, we dropped off our bags in the Aquarium (our Spore playroom) to then proceed around the various offices and work spaces for a tour of the studio. I tried to snap as many pictures as my camera could hold. Heh, it’s a little difficult to describe the Maxis Studios…let me try to think of way. Okay, imagine a person living in their parents basement, multiply that person by 90, then take away the parents. Figures and posters were to be found everywhere giving each team member their own unique look. Throughout these figures, I saw that they had made a model of Will’s creature, the Willosaur from his 2005 demo. I even caught a glimpse of Mario on someone’s desk! Oh, and I also came across Indiana Jone’s hat. Looks as if he helped contributed to the game after his adventure in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls! One last note, each person had their own Spore lunchbox…and the old-school metal ones, not the cheaply plastic ones. I asked myself why don’t they sell these in stores! EA is looking to make money, I’ll purchase one! Many of the work spaces were empty due to the fact that everyone was on a well deserved vacation…I don’t blame them!
— Maxis’ Building #2 —
As I mentioned earlier, the Spore team houses around 90 people. They split the team up into 2 different buildings. We managed to squeeze everyone into a small elevator to arrive on the 6th floor of the second building. More workstations were to be found, and this building contains Will Wright’s office, along with the “Garage” where Caryl Shaw will demo the game later. We all gathered around Will’s office and snapped many photos. We also found out that Will loves to collect various objects. One of them was a huge Russian control panel from a Space Station. As we continued browsing, we saw a few posters that contained various designs of buildings and vehicles (Spongebob Squarepants!) along with a good sized lego wall display from MaxisDan. I wish I could of met him, I love Lego!
— The Demo —
For some reason, I found this to be laugh-out-loud worthy, but they actually had a room called “The Garage” where Caryl demoed the game for us. Most importantly, it had a garage door. Probably for looks but it would of been awesome if it was actually made to open like a functioning door. Caryl gathered us and we sat down to watch her demo the game. Basically we could tell her what we would like to see and she’d show us. We started off with the Cell Stage. Normally, it takes around 10 – 15 minutes to complete the stage, but it took a little longer since she was speaking to us at the same time.
We then asked if it was possible to see more of the Space stage. Using a cheat called “levels -unlock” (the cheats are dull due to the fact that she was gone on vacation and they were programmed while she was away). After clicking on the planet, all levels were made available for her to select. Picking the space stage, she was prompt to choose a character and a spaceship. She went with Hydro’s Killer Cactus and then for the vehicle she picked MaxisCactus’ Aquarium. The Cactus cruised around in Space for a bit until it reached a planet and was prompted to scan the surface. After scanning the surface, another race spotted and attacked us. Caryl flew away, but it’s possible to fight and destroy them. She hopped back into the clothing editor to give the Cactus a cool hat. So once she plopped a few things onto the creature, we jumped back into the space stage to watch her play around a bit more. She explained to us that the game has “Achievements” much like the Xbox 360 has for their games. She earned the Captain badge for completing the tutorial. Cheaters, be warned. Some cheats will cause you to not be able to earn achievements!
— LunchTime —
Lunchtime (11:30 AM) rolled around. We left the building to go outside for a chance to take a few pictures for the official Spore Site (which hopefully will be published). First, a group shot of everyone, then a shot of the SporeMasters from the official Spore Forums. Once we were done, we headed back to the first building for some food. While we were eating, Maxis presented the only copy of the Spore Galactic Edition. Man, this is one amazing collector box, you should of seen everyone’s eyes – they were huge! This isn’t a poorly designed collector’s edition, it was the real deal. The box was pretty heavy and was stuffed with a cool Spore poster (it would make a killer wallpaper), Indepth instruction manual, an Art book, and the Making of Spore DVD along with the National Geographic Spore Special DVD. Gimme, Gimme, Gimme! I’m picking this up at GameStop, it’ll be well worth the purchase! For pictures of the Galactic Edition, visit LadyM’s blog.
— My hands on experience with Spore —
Did I die and go to heaven? For 3 to 4 hours, it felt like it. How did they squeeze it all into one tiny DVD is beyond me. We were led back to the Aquarium where they had many computers setup with the game running. We were not allowed to take any pictures/videos of our time, and we are also not allowed to review the game (give it a score). But we did get permission to write our take from our game play. At first, I had a few problems trying to log-in using my account, which led me to play under a test account. Fortunately, Super Shaw (Caryl) came to the rescue to set my game up properly. You can view my creatures from my playtime on my Sporepedia page.
I had to kick things off with the Cell stage. I already typed in the code to unlock all of the stages, but the Cell stage was what I anticipated mostly. While you are a cell, you have to float around collecting various parts from either destroying cells with the part you are after or meteor chunks. You have a choice to be either a carnivore or an herbivore. I opted for the herbivore which led me to eating green food to grow my organism. The green food also represents DNA currency to help customize your creature. Once you collected enough, you will have the chance to call a mate to be taken to the Editor to furthur advance your creation. It wasn’t soon after that I was given the choice to grow legs and evolve to land. Even though you have that choice, you can still stay in the cell stage for as long as you would like, earning all of the parts to unlock an achievement. I was a bit sad to know it was short (20 minutes). I hope they will expand this stage in future expansion packs…That or release the Spore Origins from the iPhone over to PC. I love this stage and hope to have more! I know that once I get the game, I’m going to setup a ton of planets with this stage so I can hop into the game anytime I want.
I quickly left the game to checkout the next stage I wanted to watch, the Space Stage. Man, there is so much to do in this stage that I didn’t spend long in it in fear of not getting a chance of trying the other stages. In the Space stage, I picked my most favorite creature of my mule as a mini (Mini Luke Duke). I then had to pick my creature a vehicle and a building. I just hit the random button as I wanted to actually play the game.
When it first starts out, I am greeted with him on screen telling me what I need to do. The creatures have their own unique language much like Sims do (what would be the proper contex….Sporelish?). For some reason, the game generated a high pitch voice that I found to be a little irritating. The little guy told me how to use the tools that my UFO were equipped with (scanner, lasor beam) and sent me off to scan ruins of a civilization which had been destroyed. Once I scanned them, I came under attack much like Caryl did in her demo. Instead of running, I blew the turds away with my lasors. Take that! After my mission, I was prompted to take care of another mission, but I ignored it and flew around the galaxy. You are limited to where you can go by the radius of a circle that surrounds your ship. If you fly too far, you’ll have to recharge your ship via either paying another civilization or to head back to your home base to fill it for free. I wandered around the universe to then set up a colony on a planet filled with Red Spice. My little creatures were hard at work supplying me with Spice that I could sell to other civilizations for money. I had about 30 in my collection that I sold to another civilization. Well, after some time of exploring (I know I should of stuck with actually playing the game instead of flying and messing around), I jumped into the Civilization stage.
Once again, for the Civilization stage I picked my Mini Luke Duke creation. The little guys are so adorable when they are in the civilization stage. I didn’t experiment that much of the stage, but I did give my guys a vehicle to go create a mine around a red spice geyzer. While I was driving around in the vehicle learning how to operate it, I came across a huge epic monster and it crushed it. I had to purchase another one…My second vehicle made it to a land mine after running over and killing a few of my other creations (Mr. Spock). I think there were 7 of them and I killed 5 by accident. It was so hilarous to see the other 2 run away in shock and to look back. Poor guys, lol! After mining for awhile, I clicked on the Outfit editor for the Civilization stage to give the Luke mini’s a medallian around their neck as well as backpacks.
Jumping back into the Cell Stage, I rushed through it to arrive in the Creature Stage. I was just fooling around and came up with a green birdlike creation. Being the creative genius that I am, I named my creature “Something” (I are smart, remember?). Creature stage is very impressive. You start off finding a mate when you want to go into the creature editor. They do their funky love dance and plop down an egg in the nest. Once they do that, you are allowed into the editor to make changes to your creature. You do have to find parts for your creatures before you can use them. You discover parts in the creature stage by picking up fossil remains. I spent most of my time trying to collect as many as possible, discovering new creatures along the way. Keep in mind that the planets are huge, and that you’ll often come across another nest of your species to where you can create a new home for when your creature dies (I suppose it is a checkpoint). I didn’t spend too much time making friends, mostly enemies since it was easier to attack then to befriend. Of course, I also spent a lot of time dying. Speaking of dying, I came real close to getting killed by an Epic. It snuck from behind and swooped down on my creature. Luckily, he must of killed some other creature before mine, as it tossed me far away so I can make my escape!
As for the Tribe Stage, I didn’t get a chance to explore it as our time was now up. Overall, I didn’t want to budge…but I didn’t want to put up a fight so I complied to their wishes. One thing that did suck – nothing to do with the actual gameplay, but rather the headphones that I was wearing. They were hell on the ears. I had to play the game with them around my neck because it felt as if someone set off some dynamite in them. If you plan on playing the game using headphones, invest in some comfortable ones because your going to spend a ton of time with the game!
— Time for the Maxis Interview Q&A —
We then went back to the social gaming area where we were able to chat with the Maxis developers (5 of them) for a Question and Answer session. You can listen to the whole audio here of what was discussed, as well as find a transcript above in this post.
— TGIF —
Pizza time! How awesome of a company to supply pizza and beverages for everyone in the company? Not to mention, the fact that you can create your own creature cupcakes! I mingled around the studios chowing down on Pizza and created a cupcake. Even got to talk to a few other developers in the process. I met a cool person who’s name escapes me that works with the Webteam doing Java for the Spore site. He reminded me of a rocker type of guy. So to the rocker-java dude, pleasure to meet you. All in all, it was a very amazing event with a ton of cool people. The last thing that they did for us was give us all free gifts of a Spore T-shirt, bumper sticker, poster of our favorite creature from Zazzle, and a signed copy of the Creature Creator from Will Wright (he was in Asia at the time, so they were pre-autographed copies).
It was a pleasure to meet the Spore team, and I thank them for inviting them. Sometimes I begin to wonder about us “Fansite” owners. These people are just average folks – gamers – who helped design an awesome game – Spore. They are probably tired of seeing the game right now and just want to take a vacation. Yet they still make time for us smaller guys by giving us a sneak peek. I don’t think there are any words to show my appreciation on what they did. Inviting us to their workplace, spending the time showing us around, then hanging out to talk about anything we’d like. I wish I had more time…I only got to know the “Spore-side” of the team, but I wanted to get the chance to know the “average gamer” of each developer of the team. They have a pretty cool entertainment center hooked up with all of the consoles available for anyone to play. And while we were eating, a lot of them were gathered around playing a game on the 360. Don’t know the name, but it seemed pretty rad. I wished to myself that they were playing Guitar Hero so I could show them my mad skills…..on easy mode.
Oh well, I guess that will have to be for another day. But before I headed out, I had to ask MaxisCactus what was the poster she had hanging up. It looked like something right out of a zombie/monster game (Resident Evil came to mind). She told me it was from EA’s upcoming game called Dead Space. So, thanks to her, I now have another game to look forward too being a fan of the horror genre. 🙂
Videos from the Event
Recorded by Rexer of Simphoni
Spore Community Day video
Recorded by xSpore
3 short videos of the Spore demo by Caryl Shaw
Recorded by SporePrograms (my camera sucks, sorry :P)
SporeProgram’s Notes from the Event
Caryl Shaw gave us a demo and we were able to ask her a few questions as well as hear her insight from the game. Below are notes taken from the experience:
- DRM was mentioned at the beginning of the demo. There is pretty much nothing that can be done on the fact that EA is using SecuROM. Maxis knows we are upset with it, but it’s not something they can control. They are gamers just like us but have to follow policies, and DRM is one of them.
- The web team plans on editing the server to show what creatures belong to whom so content theft will be kept low. No idea when this takes effect, still in the planning stages.
- They plan to add API for Spore’s website, but they want to know how much their servers can handle when the game ships first before they take on this task.
- Gameplay wise, you will start the game with about half-a-dozen planets. Once you save a few of them, new planets will appear.
- To unlock all of the stages of the game, use the cheat: levels -unlock
- The voice in the Space Stage are randomly based, you cannot define the sex of the voice (male or female).
- Your UFO is equipped with a laser beam, scanning tool and abduction beam when you start the Space Stage.
- You can rename planets with a cheat code
- Half-a-million stars are estimated in the galaxy.
- Gas planets are useless. You can only view them, they are just for looks
- The developers don’t think there will be a huge modding community like The Sims 2 had, since the game ships with editors.
- You cannot make objects (creature parts or other parts) to build your creations, new parts will ship in expansions or stuff packs, possibly as downloads.
- They put a limit on the creature painting (not being able to paint creature’s parts) due to shading errors with the animation of creatures. They did not look right.
- The things that your UFO scans are put in your Sporepedia (not shared).
- There are 3,000 pieces of flora (plant life)
- Gliding made it in the game, but you cannot fly. You also cannot live in trees.
- The cute score stat means absolutely nothing.
- Spore was programmed mainly with C++ and used PD for the audio.
- Improvements for the online Sporepedia website includes the ability to add buddies, add Sporecasts, show your events and achievements and better search options.
SporeProgram’s Q&A for the Spore developers
A few of you sent in questions for me to ask the Spore team. I tried to use them all, but a few were missed (I apologize!). Below are the ones you sent in along with the team’s answers.
Q: Will user’s creations be grouped together in the galaxy?
A: This can be done with Sporecasts.
Q: The creatures that you create, can you encounter them as NPC’s in your own game?
A: Yes they can. However, if you play online and choose to use creatures from the Sporepedia, encountering them would be rare as creatures are pulled off of their (3 million creatures leaves a lot of random possibilities). However, if you choose to play offline, then only the creatures in your saved Sporepedia will populate the world, along with the pre-made Maxis creatures that ship with the game. You’ll have a better chance of seeing your creations off-line.
Q: You stated in your “Going Gold” press release that the internet is required to activate Spore. For those that live in rural areas is there an option to phone the activation in?
A: At this time, you WILL need to have an internet connection to activate Spore for the first time. Phone-ins for the activation are not possible, but if this problem becomes widespread, Maxis will see what they can do.
Q: Do you need EA Download Manager to update your game with the latest fixes and patches?
A: Yes, only the first creature creator patch will be released as a seperate .EXE file. The rest of the fixes and patches for the game is handled through the EA Download Manager.
Q: How will the game determine what level of advancement user-creator species are at? For example, if one player has 2 species on the Sporepedia, neither of which they have ever played in the game, will the game automatically make them a tribal, space stage, or other stage species when you encounter them in the galaxy? If so, is there such a designation random for all user-uploaded creatures or is there a specific system for doing this?
A: Yes, the creatures are randomly assigned different level advancements.
Q: In the newer videos, it seems that you can only have 1 land vehicle, 1 boat and 1 aircraft customized at a time….Is this the case?
A: Yes,you are assigned only 1 type of vehicle per specialty with 3 specialties to choose from (military, religious and economic).
Q: Will creatures without graspers and legs be able to survive in the creature phase and beyond? For example, how would a creature with no arms use tools, will they pick things up with their mouth instead?
A: Yes they will! Was difficult to animate this stunt but they pulled it off.
Information from the other Fan Sites
For me, even though getting the chance to play Spore was a blast, the biggest highlight of the day was meeting the various fansite owners and to have a chance to speak with them in person. In fact, two of them are only two hours away from me (Nashville, TN and Birmingham, AL)!
I would of never known this fact if I hadn’t of gotten the chance to meet them at this event. All of the fansite owners were a blast to hang out with, and that is what makes the Spore/Sims Community so great!
I’d like to share with you links to check out their information on the event:
xSpore – Video | Impressions
Hydromancerx (Gaming Steve member) – Pictures | Impressions | Information | Experience
MySporePage – Impressions
Sporeum- Pictures | Impressions | Video
Total Spore – Q&A | Pictures | Impressions
SporeTube – Coming Soon
LadyM (Gaming Steve member) – First Night | Experience | Pictures | Her Free Stuff | Maxis Tour | Gameplay | Followup
Simphoni – Q&A | Journal | Writeup | Pictures | Podcast | Demo Video
Sporesite – Impressions | Pictures
Hooked on Spore – Notes | Q&A
Pictures from Friday (hold mouse over image for caption)
Pictures from Thursday Night (hold mouse over image for caption)