Friday, September 05, 2008

SporeLog 01

Spore - Omicron (7h)

Picked up spore collector's edition on Wednesday (someone broke the release date) and have been playing it solidly for the last 2 days. Too solid for blogging about it, or even sleeping for that matter.

I walked out of the shop smiling and actually caught myself giggling as I mulled over the possibilty of going straight home at lunchtime rather then heading back to work. I haven't been this excited about a release in ages. Spent a bit of time at lunch looking thorugh the "Art of Spore" book. Not as coffeetable-worthy as the WoW ones, but not too bad.

After a looong install and dinner, the game was ready. It had installed over top of the Spore creature creator directory and the starting interface managed to pick up my previous creations. Good ole' Mobysore.

Tide pool was great. I had read in the art book that they tried to portray the feeling of "something is always bigger than you". You may grow up past one species, but there's something else on the horizon. What is really clever is the use of focus (throughout the game actually). The tide pool is essentially a 2d world, but each "level" is layered below you so that the backdrop of one level may be the massive eye of a creature a couple of levels away; a warped watery vision of the future. This vision is intentionally unfocused so that you can distinguish what is really in the level and what is backdrop. Works well. Another cool thing is the food for herbivores. It starts off as gluggy green blobs floating randomly around, but after a few levels you come across green edible blobs surrounding a green structure. After porking through this great little find you advance up in size and now find out that the whole green structure is now edible, and that floating around you may brush up against those new green globs as part of an even larger structure. It took me a couple of levels to realize the simplicity and genious of this design. It's trees. Just like seeing the next few levels of opponents, the "trees" show the advancement of not only creatures, but of plant life into more complex structures. The tidal eddies take a little getting used to, but one the whole the tidepool level was great, if a little short (Portal short, doesn't outstay its welcome, leaves you on a high).

Onto the creature stage and it felt like home back in the creature creator. It was odd that lots of options were missing, but they come by collecting them from the world. Some are lying on the ground in bones, some as a reward for "dominating" other creatures. It's kind of funny looking back that it's like you're sifting throug the bones going "ohh, leg bone connected to the hip bone. I'll try that next evolution" or looking at a creature you've fought or tamed with a similar assimilation perspective. Befriending other creatures turned into a monkey see monkey do game and got a little boring, especially when it wasn't clear why you were failing sometimes. Trying to befriend a creature more advanced than you is impossible if they have siblings dancing with them. Finally I figured out that if you can get one by themselves and you have a couple of teammates you can easily seduce any animal that doesn't attack you on sight. Played through as a herbivore with only slight warlike tendancies so next time I might go all out carnivore on hard level. The biggest wow moment happened in the latter stages of creature mode when my migrating pack ran afoul of a massive ball of steel on legs! My Mark IV had been picked out of previous creations and brought into the game as an elite monster, 4 times higher than anything else and 10 times the hitpoints. I was laughing and showing Sandy about how glorious it was watching my current creature being gobbled up by another personal creation.

Tribal mode seemed to be a little hiccup on the journey to civilization. It melded in Ok in the grand story, but the game mechanics itself didn't really grab me. I was struggling more with the controls and interface rather than experiencing the content. Settler mode wasn't much different with a typical RTS-like feel without typical RTS controls (like group hotkey assignment). I spent more time designing the buildings and cars than playing the game, and altohugh it's kind of cool seeing the same UI being employed for vehicles and structures, I just wanted to get on with it.

Finally made it out to space with the Omicrons, but one of the missions burped and I couldn't save either so I think I quit out. Returning back to the planet and the game wanted me to restart at creature stage. Luckily it had registered that space stage was opened, so I started up another planet at space stage with Mobysore. Pity I didn't get to see him dance, but it was cool plonking him down on new planets.

Managed to save & sleep a couple of hours into space mode. Still feels a little clunky like civ mode, especially the constant zooming. if you click on the - or + signs it will do a near instant zoom out or in one level, so why not have a button to do the same ?