Head on over to 1Up for an interview with Spore Programmer Soron Johnson. Mostly known for his work on Civilization IV, he jumped on the Spore team to change what it is today.
1UP: OK, so let’s back up a little bit. What was it about Spore that made you want to leave Firaxis? Was it working with Wright that appealed to you? Was it the game itself?
SJ: Yeah, both were pretty cool. I just felt like Spore was one of the few products that was trying to change the way games are made. I think the game industry is suffering from the size of teams. It’s hard to exactly put your finger on what that does to a project, but inevitably the ability to make the changes and iterations you need goes down when you have these 100-, 150-, 200-person teams. I mean, Spore is like a 100-person project, but it’s very much chopped up into smaller groups since there are all these different levels. And by and large, probably half of that increase in size in this industry has come from the need to create content. Especially from developers who don’t embrace the chance to randomize stuff, have random content. So it’s creating all the art and characters and stories and plots and all that stuff. I don’t know how companies like BioWare do it. It just kind of blows my mind. Developers like Firaxis believe if you have these pieces that fit together in different ways — a certain structure with cool random elements — that that’s where the game comes from. It can play out so many different ways. So a game like Pirates or Civ may not have a big, huge BioWare-style story, but, to me, that doesn’t really take advantage of what computers do best. And Spore seemed like a very interesting project to me because they were tackling this issue directly, saying, “What do you actually need in an art file?” We can have this huge explosion of content without a huge art team — it just seemed like a very, very interesting decision.