There's no doubt that Will Wright's Spore is going to be one of the biggest titles of the year.
Spore was initially intended to be called Sim Everything, a working title that adequately describes the care and attention to detail Wright has promised to deliver at the September launch. Presumably the game is undergoing some last-minute tweaking, so to build up anticipation Electronic Arts will release the Spore Creature Creator on the 20th June.
Priced at just NZ$14.99, the Creature Creator is designed to introduce gamers to the complex Spore universe by allowing them to create any number of outlandish creatures, which can then be imported to the full retail version of Spore at a later date. There is no actual Spore gameplay included, but you can share your creatures amongst friends or even upload videos of them directly to YouTube.
At EA HQ, we fired up the Creature Creator and got stuck in. With a blank slate in the form of a limbless blob in the middle of the screen, we were tasked with choosing between 288 various body parts in a number of menus and attaching them to create the most outlandish animal possible. This process may seem daunting at first, but without even so much as a cursory glance at the instructions we managed the entire process with ease.
You can attach parts to your creature in pretty much any order, but for the sake of simplicity we stuck with the order in which the menus are presented, starting with the mouth. There's the choice between dozens of bizarre designs (some recognizable from the world around us, some you'd have to go back a few million years to find) and while we were tempted to use the "Handibles" due to their extreme pincer design, in the end we settled on a slightly more practical design called the "Pincernaut", which looked more like something you'd find on a wood lice.
Each body part you select has a cost - the monetary system is DNA points, and you start with 2000. Each item also has some kind of benefit for the host creature; just glancing at the mouth selection we could see attribute points for biting, spitting and singing, and further classification between herbivore, carnivore and omnivore. You can even hear the mating call! We were also pleased to find that the body parts stack, so you can actually combine two different mouths (for example) to get the benefits of both. We therefore duly stacked on the "Handibles" we'd reluctantly passed on previously.
Keeping this all under control is the Complexity Meter. Located at the top of the screen, it's a bar that measures the level of complexity your creature has achieved with each body part addition. You can really push the bar out here and have the wildest looking animal possible, but you might find when it comes time to add the legs or arms that you've run out of options.
After selecting the "Eyelien" eyes (+1 to charm bonus), "Panhear" ears (+2 to charm) and "Sporacles" nose (+1 to charm) our creature was starting to take shape. Simply dragging and dropping the body parts isn't the end of the creative process however; once they are affixed you can perform further surgery by selecting them and dragging the mouse to alter their size, angle and location, allowing for virtually limitless modification. Of particular note is the spine - included by default at the beginning of the creative process, it can be used to set the overall shape of your creature, including the posture and how the creature eventually moves.
Speaking of moving, we'd settled on the "Thighstrider" legs to give our new creature (who we'd affectionately named Frank) some ostrich characteristics, and the largest set of arms, the mighty "Gunnshow", so he'll be able to take a decent swing when the time comes. To the extremities of our new limbs we attached the "Ectoknight" feet and "Morepaw" claws, giving us a speed and strike boost.
As we still hadn't depleted our DNA points, nor had we reached the limit of complexity, we went shopping for a weapon and settled on the "SlimSlam Kablam", a kind of large mace that we attached as a stubby tail. In a stroke of pure genius, and realising the importance of sneaking up on your prey without being noticed, we attached wings vertically to Frank's head. Any American Indian tribes in the local vicinity won't stand a chance.