Spore for Newbies!

EDIT – This article was written in March, but is a great place to start if you aren’t familiar with Spore!*

So, either you put down Spore for more action heavy titles, like I did, or you just lost it in the shuffle of holiday releases when it debuted last September.  So why should you care about Spore anymore?  I’ll tell you why, Spore has been reinvigorated and there are some truly exciting things expanding the Spore Universe.

For those who missed Spore, stop reading this and google ‘Spore Galactic Edition’.  You can now find the Galactic Edition for under $40, when it was released at a price of $79.99.   In the Galactic Edition you get a hard plastic case, a 100 page booklet, a 128 page hardcover art book, making of Spore DVD, a DVD of the National Geographic Special ‘How To Build a Better Being’ with Spore creator Will Wright and an exclusive poster.  If you haven’t been Sporned yet, here’s the quick synopsis.  Maxis Sim-everything creator Will Wright has created Spore—a game where you start your life cycle as a single celled organism and evolve your creature through 5 life-cycles discovering new parts/abilities and shaping the behavioral alignment of your race over time, culminating in the conquering of galaxies.  The game loosely fits the RTS genre, but you won’t find the depth of your favorite RTS titles here-it’s definitely RTS-Lite, but it’s still quite fun.  Maxis, in a beautiful stroke of genius, released the Spore Creature Creator last July-three months prior to the release of the full game.  The internet responded with an astounding some 8 million user created creatures uploaded before the games September launch.  All of your creations—yours or the ones you have downloaded from others—could then be imported into the full game.  It’s a fantastic game that Maxis is obviously going to continue to support, and I’ll tell you why.  Not to mention, Spore is one of those PC titles that scales back to older cards fairly well(only requiring a 128MB pixel shader 2.0 video card).  The art-style lends well to older GPU, it’s more cartoony and doesn’t rely on ultra-realism to sell the graphics.

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As I stated, Spore may have gotten lost last fall when it came out, not partially without blame being cast on it’s terrible DRM that made waves more so than the game’s reviews after it’s September ‘08 launch.  Fast forward to now, we have some great patches, a new expansion and a whopper of an expansion due out this Spring drawing comparisons to Sony’s Little Big Planet.  As of this writing, Spore has seen it’s third patch which not only has added all of the previous updates but also adds 24 new exoskeleton limbs-both arms and legs-for use in the game.  FREE!  That’s my idea of continued support Maxis!  I know this may sound silly, or trivial to some, but let me take a moment and point something out.  For those familiar with the game, the creature creator allows you to use DNA points that you accumulate throughout the game to outfit your creature with eyes, hands, feet, arms, legs, mouths, etc.  Early on in the game, with few points available, it is easy to use the new exoskeleton pieces because there is no separate charge for legs and feet or arms and hands when attaching them.  All the exoskeleton pieces already have hands and feet attached, so you won’t get some of the bonuses available, but if you don’t have the DNA points to spare it can help you out quite a bit.  If you do want to add hands or feet to the exoskeleton pieces you get refunded 20 DNA points for the unused hands or feet.

In addition to new pieces added by the patch, there was an expansion of sorts, that seemed to fly below the radar.  Last November Spore added a Creepy and Cute parts pack.  The pack retails for $19.99 and adds 60 new body parts, 36 new paint scripts, 2 creature editor backgrounds, 12 paint themes and 24 new test drive animations.  All of the parts and additions are themed with a cute or creepy theme in mind, hence the title, so now you can make your creatures more cartoony or more vicious.  Also, the backgrounds have one each creepy/cute as well as 12 each for the new animations.  I personally think it’s worth it, I lost interest in Spore last year diving into more action-heavy titles, and now with the new parts from the third patch and the parts pack I have completely been sucked back into the game.  It adds a little more variation, although if I had to voice one complaint, it’s that there is still a precious few high attribute pieces to use.  This kind of numbs the effect of the creature creator when some of the parts would look great on my creature, but add only low level features as opposed to the few high level parts that everyone will be adding to their creature losing the variety factor.  Although, if you want my tip, use the best parts to get you through the creature phase, and then before you enter the next stage jump back into the creature creator and make the creature anyway you want—-your attribute points don’t count for much after this phase, now do they?

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Finally, another highly anticipated expansion pack is coming our way on June 23rd, title Spore : Galactic Adventures.  The fifth and final stage of Spore showcased your custom race traveling through space and conquering other planets in attempt to rule the galaxy.  Galactic Adventures will further this portion of the game by giving you full 3D support of a fire team, similar to an away team from Star Trek, as you beam down to planet surfaces with new missions and objectives.  The game will feature “dozens” of Maxis created missions for you to play, and it will add 32 new accessories like laser guns, jet packs and missile launchers to outfit your space characters with.  The crown jewel of this pack though is the feature that will allow you—the gamer—to design your own missions from the ground up and share them online.  Think full 3D support Little Big Planet on crack!  Maxis says that they are trying to make sure that everything is a simple drag and drop and you are in playing, and I have to say after having hands on with all of the content creation features of Spore, if anyone can make this happen Maxis can.  I think that this title has just been propelled to the must pick up release title list, at least for me it has.  Spore already has a pretty high re-playability factor being able to replay the full game, or just your favorite stages individually.  New content both online and created by yourself also adds to the replay value, but this just blows the lid wide open.  There are already collections of themed Spore creatures available online—Star Wars, Pokemon, Star Trek, Metroid, Mario, you name it.  Now you and everyone else on the internet will be able to take all of that content—totaling over 102 MILLION creatures, buildings and vehicles available on the Sporepedia right now and throw it into custom 3D enabled missions(109,153,929 as of this writing*edit 6/29/09*).  I am literally wiping drool off my keyboard as I write this article, I can’t wait to see how this takes off.  This seems to have all the aroma of Sim Copter, but with much more usefulness and tantalizing features for the player.  Why are you still reading this?  Go out and get prepped by getting into Spore now!

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