Spore is a 2008 multi-genre single-player god game developed by Maxis and designed by Will Wright, released for Windows and Mac OS X. Covering many genres including action, real-time strategy, and role-playing games (RPG), Spore allows a player to control the development of a species from its beginnings as a microscopic organism, through development as an intelligent and social creature, to interstellar exploration as a spacefaring culture. It has drawn wide attention for its massive scope, and its use of open-ended gameplay and procedural generation. Throughout each stage, players are able to use various creators to produce content for their games. These are then automatically uploaded to the online Sporepedia and are accessible by other players for download.
Spore was released after several delays to generally favorable reviews. Praise was given for the fact that the game allowed players to create practically any creature, vehicle and building. However, Spore was criticized for its gameplay which was seen as shallow by many reviewers; GameSpot remarked: "Individual gameplay elements are extremely simple". Controversy surrounded Spore for SecuROM, its DRM software, which can potentially open the user's computer to security risks.
Spore allows the player to develop a species from a microscopic organism to its evolution into a complex animal, its emergence as a social, intelligent being, to its mastery of the planet and then finally to its ascension into space, where it interacts with alien species across the galaxy. Throughout the game, the player's perspective and species change dramatically.
The game is broken up into distinct "stages". The outcome of one phase affects the initial conditions and leveling facing the player in the next. Each phase exhibits its own style of play, and has been described by the developers as ten times more complicated than its preceding phase. Phases often feature optional missions; when the player completes a mission, they are granted a bonus, such as a new ability or money. If all of a player's creations are completely destroyed at some point, the species will be respawned at its nearest colony or at the beginning of the phase.
Unlike many other Maxis games, Spore has a primary win condition, which is obtained by reaching a supermassive black hole placed at the center of the galaxy and receiving a "Staff of Life". However, the player may continue to play after any goal has been achieved. The first four phases of the game, if the player uses the editors only minimally, will take up to 15 hours to complete, but can take as little as one or two hours. Note that there is no time limit for any stage: the player may stay in a single stage as long as s/he wishes, and progress to the next stage when ready. At the end of each phase, the player's actions cause their creature to be assigned a characteristic. Each phase has three characteristics, usually based on how aggressively or peacefully the phase was played. Characteristics determine how the creature will start the next phase and give it abilities that can be used later in the game.
Spore is a game that is separated into stages, each stage presenting a different type of experience with different goals to achieve. The five stages are the Cell stage, the Creature stage, the Tribal stage, the Civilization stage, and the Space stage. Once the primary objective is completed, the player has the option to advance to the next stage, or to continue playing the current stage.
The cell stage (sometimes referred to as the tide pool, cellular, or microbial stage) is the very first stage in the game, and begins with a cinematic explanation of how the player's cell got onto the planet through the scientific concept of panspermia, with a meteor crashing into the ocean of a planet and breaking apart, revealing a single-celled organism. The player guides this simple microbe around in a 3D environment on a single 2D plane, reminiscent of Flow, where it must deal with fluid dynamics and predators, while eating meat chunks or plants. The player may choose whether the creature is an herbivore or carnivore prior to starting the stage. The player can find "meteor bits" (apparently from the aforementioned panspermic meteor) to find parts such as mouths or fins to upgrade their creature. Once the microbe has found a part, the player can call a mate to enter the editor, in which they can modify the shape and abilities of the microbe by spending "DNA points" earned by eating organisms in the stage.
The cell's eating habits in the Cell stage directly influence its diet in the Creature Stage, and only mouths appropriate to the diet (Herbivore, Carnivore, or Omnivore) established in the Cell stage will become available in the Creature stage. Once the player decides to progress to the next stage, the creature editor appears, prompting the user to add legs before the shift to land. The Creature editor differs in that it gives the player the ability to make major changes to the creature's body shape and length, and place parts in three-dimensional space instead of a top-down view as in the Cell editor.
In the Creature stage, the player creates their own land creature intended to live on a single continent. If the player attempts to swim to another island, an unidentified monster eats the player, and the player is warned not to come again. The biosphere contains a variety of animal species which carnivorous and omnivorous creatures can hunt for food, and fruit-bearing plants intended for herbivores and omnivores. The player creature's Hunger becomes a measured stat as well as its Health in this stage; depletion of the Hunger meter results in Health depletion and eventual death of the player creature unless food is eaten.
In the Creature stage, the player has a home nest where members of their own species are located. The nest is where the player respawns following death, and acts as a recovery point for lost HP. Other species' nests are spread throughout the continent. While interacting with them, the player can choose to be social or aggressive; how the player interacts with other creatures will affect their opinion of the player's species. For instance, by mimicking their social behaviors (singing, dancing etc.), NPC creatures will eventually consider the player an ally, but if the player harms members of their species, they will flee or become aggressive upon sighting them. Epic creatures, which are aggressive, rare creatures more than twenty times the player's height, feature prominently in the Creature stage.
Progress in the Creature stage is determined by the player's decisions on whether to befriend or attack other species, and to which degree; these decisions will affect the abilities of the player's species in subsequent stages of the game. Successful socialization and hunting attempts will gain varying amounts of DNA Points, which may be spent on many new body parts. Placing new parts in the Creature editor comes at the expense of DNA points; more expensive parts will further upgrade the player creature's abilities for either method of interaction, as well as secondary abilities such as flight, speed or boosted health. After the player is finished editing, a newly evolved generation of creatures will be present in the home nest as the player's creature hatches. As the player's creature befriends or hunts more creatures, its intelligence and size increases until it is able to form a tribe.
After the brain of the player's species evolves sufficiently, the species may enter the tribal stage. The species' design becomes permanent, and the player sheds control of an individual creature in favor of the entire tribe group, as the game focuses on the birth of division of labor for the species. The player is given a hut, a group of fully evolved creatures, as well as two of six possible Consequence Abilities, unlocked depending on the species' behavior in the previous phases. This is only possible if the player played the previous stages; if the player started directly from the Galaxy Screen, they are locked.
Gameplay during this stage is styled as an RTS. Rather than controlling one creature, the player now controls an entire tribe and can give them commands such as gathering food, attacking other tribes or simply moving to a certain location. The player may give the tribe tools such as weapons, musical instruments, and healing or food-gathering implements. Food now replaces "DNA points" as the player's currency, and can be spent on structures and additional tribe members, or used to appease other tribes. Tribe members also gain the option to wear clothes, the editing of which replaces the Creature Editor in the 'Tribal Outfitter'.
Combat can be made more effective with weapons like stone axes, spears, and torches. For socializing, a player can obtain musical instruments: wooden horns, maracas and didgeridoos. Miscellaneous tools can be used for fishing and gathering food and for healing tribe members. All tools, however, require a specialized tool shack, which costs food to build. Tribe members can also gather food, an essential concept
The diet choice that the player made in prior stages, whether herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore, determines what food the tribe can gather and eat. Animals can be hunted for meat, and fish or seaweed can be speared for food. Fruit is gathered from trees and bushes, and players can also domesticate animals for eggs, which all diet types can eat. Any foreign animals in the player's pack in the Creature stage are automatically added to the tribe as farm animals. Epic creatures may threaten nests or tribes. Allied tribes will occasionally bring the player gifts of food. Players can steal food from other tribes (though it angers them), and dead tribes may be pillaged for their food.
There are five other tribes that appear along with the player's tribe. For every tribe befriended or destroyed, a piece of a totem pole is built, which may increase the population limit of the player's tribe or grant access to new tools and clothes. When all five tribes are allied or conquered, the player may move forward to the Civilization stage.
The events of Tribal Stage have left the player's tribe the dominant species of the planet, but the species itself has now fragmented into many separate nations. The player retains control of a single nation with one city. The goal in the civilization phase is to gain control of the entire planet, and it is left to the player to decide whether to conquer it using military force, diplomacy, or religious influence. Two new editors (the building and vehicle editors) are used to create city buildings and vehicles. The player can place three types of buildings (House, Factory, and Entertainment) around the City Hall (which can also be customized) and may build up to 3 types of vehicles (sea, land and air) at each city. These vehicles serve military, economic or religious purposes. The main unit of currency is "Sporebucks", which is used to purchase vehicles and buildings. To earn income, players can capture spice geysers and set up spice derricks at their locations, conduct trade, or build factories.
In constructing vehicles and buildings, as with most real-time strategy games, there is a capacity limit; building houses will increase the cap, and constructing various buildings adjacent to one another will provide a productivity bonus or deficit.
The presence of other nations requires the player to continue expanding their empire using military force, propaganda or simply buying out cities. Players can choose their method of global domination depending on the types of cities they own. Military states grow solely by attacking other cities. Nations with a religious trait construct special missionary units that convert other cities via religious propaganda. Likewise, economic states communicate solely by trade and have no weapons (except for defensive Turrets). If the player's nation captures a city of a different type, they can choose to have the city retain its original type if they wish. Players of all three ideological paths can eventually use a superweapon, which requires a large number of cities and Sporebucks, but gives the player a significant advantage over rival nations. Aside from enemy nations, Epic creatures may threaten individual cities.
The space stage provides new goals and paths as the player's species begins to spread through the galaxy. The game adopts the principle of mediocrity, as there are numerous forms of life scattered throughout the galaxy.
The player controls a single starship, built at the beginning of the Space Stage. The player can travel by clicking on other planets and moons and stars, though each jump costs energy. Later in the game, the player can purchase a wormhole key which enables them to travel through black holes, offering instant transportation to a sister black hole. There are around 500,000 planets in the game's galaxy orbiting around 100,000 stars (including Earth and its star, Sol).
Players can make contact with other space-faring civilizations, or "empires", which sport many different personalities and worldviews, ranging from diplomatic and polite species willing to ally, to distrustful, fanatical empires more willing to wage war. Completing missions for an empire improves the player's relationship with them, as does trading and assisting in fending off attacks. When the player has become allied with an empire, they can ask certain favors of the empire. If the player becomes enemies with an empire, they will send a small fleet of ships to attack the player's ship as soon as they enter their territory.
One of the main goals in the Space Stage is for the player to push their way toward a supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center, which introduces the game's final antagonists, the Grox, a unique species of cybernetic aliens with a powerful empire of 2400 systems surrounding the core. Completing this mission rewards the player with the Staff of Life.
User-generated content is a major feature of Spore; there are eighteen different editors (some unique to a phase). All have the same general UI and controls for positioning, scaling and coloring parts, whether for the creation of a creature, or for a building or vehicle. The Creature editor, for example, allows the player to take what looks like a lump of clay with a spine and mold it into a creature. Once the torso is shaped, the player can add parts such as legs, arms, feet, hands, noses, eyes, and mouths. Many of these parts affect the creature's abilities (speed, strength, diet, etc.), while some parts are purely decorative. Once the creature is formed, it can be painted using a large number of textures, overlays, colors, and patterns, which are procedurally applied depending on the topology of the creature. The only required feature is the mouth. All other parts are optional; for example, creatures without legs will slither on the ground like a slug or an inchworm, and creatures without arms will be unable to pick up objects.
There are two new editors seen in the new expansion Spore: Galactic Adventures: these include the captain editor (also called the captain outfitter) and the adventure creator, which enables terraforming and placing objects freely on adventure planets.