The Fall of Spore

Posted on November 2, 2008  Comments (0)

image from Spore game

The hype for Spore as it was being developed was grand, and I was intrigued. Unfortunately the compromises I have read about have been disappointing. Seed has written about the development of the game in The Creation Simulation

This was Spore’s central problem: Could the game be both scientifically accurate and fun? The prototyping teams were becoming lost in their scientific interests.

Spore’s decision”‰—”‰to preserve the illusion of life at the expense of the actual facts of life”‰—”‰made for some substantial casualties. First to go in the cute-versus-science war were the extreme ends of the scale”‰—”‰galaxy formation and origins of life simulation”‰—”‰dismissed as being too abstract and dissipated. Next, small and then big laws were shattered and remade. Wright’s determination to represent faster-than-light travel as impossible crumbled in the face of making the spacefaring section of the game enjoyable. Evolution, despite his staunch Darwinism, became a massively telescoped process that depended on the external, deliberate interventions of the players. And so, instead of becoming the ultimate science project, Spore gradually became the ultimate game.

The snag is that Spore didn’t just jettison half its science”‰—”‰it replaced it with systems and ideas that run the risk of being actively misleading. Scientists brought in to evaluate the game for potential education projects recoiled as it became increasingly evident that the game broke many more scientific laws than it obeyed.

I can understand this process and even admit it might be the right choice for those involved. I am just disappointed we don’t have what was imagined (and hyped) early on – a great, fun, learning environment to enjoy and learn from.

The game has an amazingly low 1 1/2 star rating on Amazon with 3,121 reviews (I have never seen anything so popular so disliked on Amazon). Some of the disappointment is in the compromises made but I know a bunch is for the hated digital rights management DRM used by Spore.

Related: The Science Behind SporeProtein Folding “Game”Physics Simulation GameLego Learningposts on software

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