Sunday, November 2, 2008

Spore Revisited: Why Can’t we all just Get Along?

In the beginning (what a way to start a review about being God), Spore was supposed to be the next big thing in video gaming, hyped to no end as it was the creation of the Sims creator. For what he was trying to create, would have been completely wonderful. The problem is, that as of this review, with the updates that I had, the game is flawed by certain necessary and predictable assumptions that the designers made about the people that would be playing it.

When I left off last time, I had just finished the Animal stage. The feeling of truly being a part of this species of animal, as if they had somehow come from some part of my subconscious, held through the Tribal stage as well. In this part, I had the ability to sing and dance my way through negotiating peace with the other tribes. I tried, at all times, to be friendly to those around me, killing only those who wouldn't listen to my songs or be impressed by the rain showers or fireworks I had. Oh, and the epic monster I killed at the end because I wanted to. :)

Once I got to the Civilization mode (which is basically exactly like Civilization IV), I loved the idea of creating my own buildings, making them as I would want them, from some vague architectural design known only to the beings I had created. But then, as I started interacting with the other cities (which were of the same civilization as me), I found that there was no way of interacting with them except to take them over. As a peaceful tribe with the ability to make it rain, the computer gave me, as my only recourse, the role of a religious authoritarian society. I had gone from peaceful negotiator to Iranian dictatorship, and I didn't like it.

The assumption that they made was that the people playing the game would feel more satisfied by destroying people or taking them over than they would co-existing in a mutual world. Trade, conversations, etc... all were impossible to do with the programming that the designers had made. Sure, there are ways you could become that, if you had done certain things earlier in the game, but living a peaceful existence, and knowing certain acts of magic or faith, does not necessarily make the desire to take over other places with that faith. Well, and this brings up a certain irony, that most Christian faiths throughout history have thought exactly that, that religion only is justified when it is spread to as many people as possible. This goes to my Libertarian ideas of religion, where my beliefs, my relationship with God is my own, and it is not my responsibility to spread those beliefs to other people. We each travel our own roads.

But I digress... So the designers made what would be a remarkable game into a clone of Civilization or Warcraft 3, both of which I've played and become bored with because it makes it so that the only way you can survive is by killing and taking over your enemies. There's no story involved. And I can't create my own story (or History, as it were.) On Spore, it was almost that way, but the designers of the game took that away from me when they closed the openness of the game at the Civilization level. Perhaps one day I will return to play it, to see what the Space level is like, but for right now, I want to play something else where I can determine my fate without the guidance of trigger-happy programmers. I've got my eye on Fable, which has been out for a while, but I now have a computer that will run it. I think I'll be playing that next, as well as Ricochet and Bejeweled 2 Deluxe just for mind-numbing repetitiveness and visual stimulation. :)

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