Review: Spore Creature Editor (Trial Version)

19 Jun

By Duncan Saunders

I don’t write reviews very often. As a guy who would rather pick apart basic game play mechanics I’m not really interested in all the other parts of the package. Except that after getting my hands on a trial copy of the Spore Creature Creator, I decided I had to write this because the Spore Creature Creator is the first of its kind. It doesn’t have mechanics, because it’s not really a game. It does however, harness that legendary substance called ‘fun’ that everyone is trying to inject into their games.

The editor is split into three sections. Build, Paint and Test. In Build you shape your spine and torso and then drag and drop arms, legs, eyes, noses or whatever else onto it. In paint you select colors and textures for a Base, Coat and Detail which layer up using some clever splatter generation to create your creatures pelt. Finally in Test Run you can try some animations and take glamor photos and video to share.

The interface is simple to get to grips with. You click a tab, pick a part, drag and drop it where you want it on your creation. Adjusting somethings shape is a simple task of clicking it to select and then yanking on various arrows and circles. Growing and shrinking is done through the scroll button. Within about ten minutes you will figure it out, after an hour you’ll be pushing some of the boundaries in the editor (I found to my delight you can delete the hands off of arm parts and stick other parts on, like mouths). With in two hours it will all be second nature. The biggest trade off in the interface is that parts are automatically mirrored, meaning you can’t make Asymmetrical creatures, but everything takes less work and thus has a nearly negligible risk of actually looking bad.

Yes, there is this thing called the DNA budget and skills that your creature inherits from the parts you put on it, but the open canvas feel of the creator means it doesn’t at all shape what you want to create. The DNA budget is huge and I’ve yet to use over half of it without maxing out complexity. With skills I sometimes look at what abilities my creature got after I built it, but it’s never so obtrusive I feel like I have to use a certain ‘look’ of part to get the right technical abilities. If that is what floats your boat there is certainly enough freedom in the system to build the ‘perfect’ creature and a few hundred thousand variants on it’s look.

On average I can get the shape of my creature in about 10-15 minutes. It’s a little more tricky to pick the right colors and patterns in paint to get a good look for your critter. Primarily because it’s hard to gauge how colors and shape are going to work on the weird and wonderful shape you have made, and which colors are going to work well. This is compounded by it taking about thirty seconds to generate the texture on my low tech 2Ghz single core processor, making it frustrating when you have to repeatedly tweak a pelt scheme out to get the right look.

Speaking of my low end computer, it’s an impressive feat in itself that the Spore Creature Editor runs at all on my laptops on board graphics card with no lag. The self same laptop that lags trying to play some Flash games. It would be too much to hope the same of the whole of Spore. None the less it’s incredible that it ran so smoothly considering the complex procedural work the editor must have been cranking out.

The only big let down of Creature Creator had to be it’s Online Sharing. Having gotten my demo early I waited eagerly a few days to try it out only to be disappointed by how poorly featured it was. Yes there is a big on line database of creatures, but it’s really hard to connect with other creators to share content. The process of downloading someone else’s creation isn’t even integrated into the Spore application, you have to do it through a browser and then go back into Spore. There is a simplistic keyword search for finding creatures on the Sporepedia, but no way of filtering what is being shown and new additions are coming in like a tidal wave. I’m waiting with baited breath for the Facebook App so I can network with other Spore Creature Creators, because the supplied service just doesn’t cut it. All the other parts of sharing, pictures, animated avatars and You Tube integration are hardly worth mentioning because the work so smoothly in comparison to the actual creature data sharing.

After playing with this will you want to run out an buy Spore? Absolutely, unless you are some kind of heartless killing machine. Everything you create breaths life and personality from the moment you add something to the torso. They jump for joy when they get legs, Eyes blink in amazement as they see for the first time. Every creature you make will ooze personality. When you enter test drive it smoothly transitions into a sandbox, idling looking around when not being ordered to scamper around on your command. When you spawn in a couple of baby version of your creature and parent and child react to each other it’s hard to not feel some level of attachment. You are going to want to travel on the whole journey of your creations life. Not just the tiny section of it you can glimpse through Creature Creator.

Get your own copy of the Creature Creator here.

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One Response to “Review: Spore Creature Editor (Trial Version)”

  1. zethicus June 23, 2008 at 4:19 am #

    I just tried it too, I’m loving it =).

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