Monday, September 08, 2008


And my quest for things to dislike about it.

Okay, I've played about thirty hours of Spore, now. It's very playable, definitely very good, and I'm sure you'll read (or have read) all about its wonders on other sites. On THIS site, I'm going to talk about the three things I don't like about Spore. (It's always three things...) Here they are, in ascending order of irritatingness.

1) The gameplay can be pretty obscure. At times, I didn't know how to do something and the timer was ticking away. New tribes are being added, space empires are expanding, and I'm sitting there going, "HOW DO I PLAY THE FLUTE?"

It's partially me, obviously, but I also find that progress and game dynamics are both really poorly marked. I've restarted several times, and each time I've slammed into some dynamic in the space age that I wasn't expecting that totally screwed up my game.

2) I'm disappointed that the aesthetic choices you make have no consequence. There is no difference between something with four legs and something with one leg: if they have the same foot, they both run as fast, dash as far, sprint as long.

One of the big things I was looking forward to was spending hours tweaking my monstrous limbs to do exactly what I wanted them to do as efficiently as possible. Instead, I find that it doesn't even matter where you put armor plate: a little nub on the left toe is as effective as coating your whole creature with it.

I was also hoping to do the same with vehicles, maybe even with buildings... but it's all... aesthetics only.

I think that's a serious weakness, although I can certainly understand why it is the way it is. However, given that you can get from amoeba to space age in about two hours, perhaps a little bit more of the player's time spent adjusting things would have served well.

Especially since there are lots of details you might not notice: tribesmen and townfolk will wander around and chat with each other. Did you notice? They sort of have a personality, but it's always rush rush rush.

3) Speaking of rush rush rush, to me, the worst part about this game that I've been eagerly playing for thirty hours in two days is this:

I wanted (and was expecting) to have a relaxed, explorer's space game. I wanted to explore the universe, see interesting new things.

Instead, I find that 99% of my time is taken up fighting fires, because evidently I'm the only sapient in the galaxy that can fire a gun. Even if you buy your cities all the turrets money can buy, even slam down a few $400,000 super-turrets, if you're not there, they just lose. This isn't to mention the thousands and thousands of "ecological crisis"es which could just as easily be solved by a guy with a gun in a helicopter. I'll buy you the helicopter.

The worst part is that you really can't spend any time exploring.

In my mind, I was picturing it: I would travel though space that was mostly empty. When I would stumble across a planet with life on it, it would be very interesting. I would spend an hour or so exploring the planet, seeing and interacting with the life forms, maybe taking samples.

Instead, I find that I'm hemmed in by dozens of rapidly expanding star empires, many of whom not only arbitrarily shoot at me while I explore, but actually invade my space for no reason at all. Oh, and I don't know if this happens to anyone else, but all the assaults from all pirates and civilizations are always launched simultaneously, which means that just as I get a call from a buddy begging for help, I get calls from three of my uselessly-fortified colonies, all being attacked by different people. (Or, best, I once had a pointless outpost invaded by pirates and three other races at the same time.)

It's gotten to the point where I find their homeworld, wander over, and let them shoot at me. "Hey, punching bag," they say, "those aren't bullets you're shooting."

"No," I reply, "they're atmospheric generators."

Then I stand back and watch their homeworld turn into Venus. "What? Only one of your cities has atmospheric shielding, and I just bombed it? Maybe now you'll leave me alone and I can go and search for turtles! I just want to find some turtles, maybe breed them for desired traits! Leave me alone!"

Sigh... even if I did have that kind of time, there's not much you can actually do with the animals. You can't even meet them face to face - no hunting expeditions, no petting zoo.

I am overwhelmed by a large amount of shallow content, when what I wanted was a small amount of deep content. Curses!

By the way, there is a distance limit: all you aspiring explorers, GET AWAY FROM YOUR PLANETS. No events will trigger if you're more than a certain distance away. (Although they'll often trigger as you're trying to leave.)

Unfortunately, you have to continually fill up on gasoline, so you'll eventually run out of cash. Especially since the cost of fuel seems to rise the further from home you get.

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