Thursday, September 11, 2008


I've been playing Spore for three days now, but I still don't have many impressions to share, because I'm still not sure what I think. It's very difficult to separate my expectations for a game that was in development for five years with the reality of how it actually plays.

It's also extremely difficult, extraordinarily difficult, to not let my image of Will Wright affect how I see the game. I'm still awed by Will Wright, and still feel that he is capable of brilliantly complex, mind-blowing game designs.

What I'm not sure, though, is if Will Wright still believes that. He did an interview with 1UP this week, and here's an excerpt:
When asked whether or not the game has been "dumbed down" to appeal to a more casual audience, Wright replies, "I'd say that's quite accurate.... We were very focused, if anything, on making a game for more casual players." He also admits "we would rather have the Metacritic and sales of Sims 2 than the Metacritic and sales of "Half-Life."

Oh, hell.

I thought Will Wright wanted to be Stanley Kubrick, but clearly, he wants to be Michael Bay, and we are all so much poorer for that.

Will Wright, or at least the guy who I thought in my mind was Will Wright, is not Will Wright anymore. Tarn Adams is Will Wright, and Dwarf Fortress is the kind of game I wish Will Wright would make (with graphics).

Instead, Will Wright appears to be desirous of capturing the Big Fish Games demographic, and again, I think we're all poorer for that.

A second note about Spore involves the rather remarkable protest concerning the DRM used in the game. What's remarkable, to me, is the level of organization that this protest seemed to have successfully harnessed. There are presently 2,133 reviews of Spore on Amazon, and the average rating, incredibly, is one star.

Even a casual reading of the comments quickly shows that this is, essentially, a DRM protest. And in many ways, I think this is somewhat of a landmark moment, because it clearly demonstrates that it's possible to organize people who are against copy protection into a coherent force.

Individual protest? Largely meaningless, and completely ineffective. Organized protest? Often seismic and very effective.

This is potentially the jumping off point for a discussion about the copy protection used by Spore, but in the big picture, I'm not sure it matters--or rather, it's not what matters most here. Since we can't return games for a refund, consumers have very little power when it comes to protesting what they feel is unfair treatment by publishers. Using Amazon as a mechanism to express their dissatisfaction is quite clever, really, and I think that publishers ever do remove copy protection, Spore will be mentioned as a turning point.

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