August 15, 2008

“˜Sims’ Creator Launches New Science Game

A new video game called "Spore," the result of a four year collaboration between video game designer Will Wright and a group of scientists, is teaching players evolutionary biology. 

Wright is the designer of the most successful video game ever, The Sims, a franchise that lets players build the homes and lives of virtual characters.  The game became a best seller for Electronic Arts and has a unique appeal to women.

However, with Spore, Wright has made a life creation simulator where players can invoke various creatures from DNA, and then guide their evolution towards the creation of unique aliens, planets and spacecraft.

"Spore was very much inspired by many different types of sciences," Wright told Reuters, citing fields such as chemistry, physics, sociology, biology and astronomy.

"We spent a lot of time meeting a lot of scientists very early on in developing this game to find out what areas would be interesting to bring into the game."

Spore was designed as a cross-media franchise, Wright said, and will be heading to consoles in the future.  An iPhone game comes along with the September 7 launch, and with a National Geographic HD documentary on the science behind the game.

Wright said he consulted with many scientists about evolutionary biology during creation of the game.

"We're using Spore as a nexus for explaining these theories on evolutionary biology," he said.

As part of the game's development, Wright worked with the SETI Program (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), with the goal of using Spore as part of SETI's educational outreach initiative to introduce astrobiology to high school students.

Only two weeks after the public release in June of the $10 "Spore Creature Creator" editor, over 2 million creatures had been uploaded to the Spore universe, a number Wright said would have taken his team 50 years to develop.

"Millions of people contribute content like planets, buildings and creatures to your game, but it's not real-time," said Wright.

"You're seeing copies of people's stuff, so you can go and up blow up a planet and you haven't ruined their experience."

Spore's virtual universe will be consistently updated with new user-generated content, which will then be incorporated into the single-player game experience.  It's something Wright refers to as a "massively single-player online experience," since it permits players to communicate online while playing out unique evolutionary escapades.

Wright is already investigating new ways to utilize the user-generated content.

"We're exploring using these databases to populate other games, where we might have all of the vehicles from the vehicle editor used in a different game under the Spore umbrella that's a very different experience than Spore," he said.


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