What’s your best estimate of how long it would have taken a typically-sized team of artists at Maxis to create 500,000 creatures?
Well our team of about 100 had created about 15,000 assets in our database in the last 6 months of development. But that was using our next-gen Spore editors as well. Using traditional tools like most game developers (Maya, 3d Max) it would typically take a professional artist a couple of days to make a Spore-like creature. A large art team might have as many as 50 artists working on a project so to create 500K creatures that team would have taken about 55 years.
Will Wright has a lot to say on creating Spore Creatures. You can catch an interview with Will and N’Gai from Newsweek on how players are a key role for the game by creating custom content.