4thofeleven: (Default)
Had the urge to reread some H.P. Lovecraft stories recently - man, I love the ambiguous ending of The Shadow over Innsmouth - after spending the whole story building up the Deep Ones as unspeakable inhuman abominations, the narrative ends with the narrator rejecting suicide in favour of joining his alien kin, to ‘dwell amidst wonder and glory forever’…

Anyway, it caught my attention that The Shadow Out of Time, rather unusually for Lovecraft, actually gives a fairly detailed description of the Great Race. On the other hand, I’m not that good at interpreting written descriptions, so I wasn’t left with much of a sense of what they’re actually meant to look like. So, I fired up the Spore Creature Creator to try and create one of my own.

Virtually everything except the colour is from the story – including the flower things on its head. It’s pretty cute for a Lovercraftian beast, no? But, I guess they’re more terrifying in the original story, where they’re constantly at work on their evil plan to… well, gather historical information and scientific data.

I think people in the 1930s just had a lower tolerance for ‘terror’ than people today…

4thofeleven: (Default)
So, been playing a fair bit, and the flaws really start to show after a few days. The problem, I think, is that no single stage is polished enough to work as an entertaining game on its own, and five mediocre games don’t add up to a single good one.


Space looses its charm after a few pirate raids. For some reason, your personal spaceship is the only one your species will build, meaning every time you head out into the void to explore, pirates start raiding your colonies, ecological disasters break out everywhere, and militaristic aliens start sending armadas to annex your homeworld. Fundamentally, the game doesn’t seem to be sure what the player should be doing – am I the galactic overlord, coordinating defences, strategy and colonisation empire-wide? The scale of the galaxy and the amount of colonial micromanagement seem to indicate so, but then why can’t I build fleets and defence forces, and why is there no way to compare the status of all my colonies, and why can I only expand the colony my starship is currently physically at? Or am I meant to be a bold explorer, commanding my own ship, making first contact, negotiating with the aliens I meet and dealing with local problems? The focus on a single starship seems to say so, as does the mission concept and hauling cargo – but then shouldn’t I only be expected to respond to enemy forces in the area I’m exploring, not every crisis in the entire galaxy? It ends up feeling like the bastard offspring of Master of Orion and Star Control, with none of the depth of either and no thought put into how the different game play of each should be integrated with each other.

Creature mode, which was meant to be the focus of the game, seems very simplistic compared to the preview videos and screenshots. Shape and design of your creature doesn’t really affect its behaviour or actions; as long as you chose the Level 4 Bite mouth, it’s the ultimate predator, even if you decided to put that mouth somewhere where it has no possibility of actually eating anything with it. There’s no reason to ever build anything but a biped – extra limbs don’t give any advantage. There’s no ecology to speak of; you generally won’t encounter other creatures away from their nests, and it’s simple enough to completely exterminate your fellow species – which is actually an encouraged goal! Because, as we all know, the ultimate goal of any predator is to wipe out its food supply. Your creature gets special bonuses if it’s a carnivore, herbivore or omnivore, which carry over to later stages – but there’s no way to make your species a pack hunter or a scavenger or a herd animal; decisions which surely should affect its tribal culture far more than simply what it eats…

In general, there just plain aren’t enough interesting decisions going on in the game; the last important decision you’ll end up making is whether to be a herbivore or a carnivore – and you make that in the cell stage! In SimCity or The Sims, there’s a real sense of achievement when you get your city or family working the way you want – because there’s so many options, but you’ve got to balance things right to end up with the result you want. But in Spore, it wasn’t exciting leading my little blob-creature from a single cell to an interstellar empire – because, hell, what else was I going to do? What else could I have done? No matter what you create, or what you want to achieve, you’re going to end up with roughly the same game and the same result each time.

It’s a real shame, because I haven’t been excited about a new game in a long time – but Spore’s no SimCity or Civilization – it’s closer to Black and White or Master of Orion 3… Maybe not that bad, but not a classic by any stretch…

4thofeleven: (Default)
Hey! Australia finally gets something before the rest of the world – Spore showed up here in shops a few days before the official release date!

So – Spore. One of the most hyped games of the last few years. How’s it hold up? )


4thofeleven: (Default)
The Spore creature creator demo is officially going to be released on Tuesday, but there's already a copy online at a few places - I downloaded a copy here - it's about 200 MB, and a fairly slow connection, probably because everyone's trying to get it. There's probably a few torrents of it floating around too...

It's a lot of fun! The demo doesn't include many of the parts the full game's going to have - you're pretty much limited to carnivore mouths and insect mandibles for mouths, but it's pretty impressive how many different creatures you can make quickly... I'll admit I'm skeptical as to whether the full game will be able to live up to the hype, but even if it doesn't, the creature editor's a great little toy to muck about with.

Here's one of my first attempts... Cute little critter, yes?

Sort of a humanoid crocodile type thing, with little fins and four arms.

The bulb on the end of this one's head is a poison spit attack object - I imagine this guy's a swamp dweller who lurks in wait before using the spit attack to paralyse any prey that wanders past...

Meanwhile, someone's created a fairly decent Gungan and put it on YouTube....


4thofeleven: (Default)
David Newgreen

August 2017

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