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In Space, Nobody Can See You Dance

I haven’t written about Spore here yet, because I don’t feel I’ve played enough to write about it. I want to get to the Space stage with at least two creatures before I start thinking about it out loud, and I want to get at least semi-familiar with the Space stage. Since I forgot to back up my savegame before reinstalling my machine over the weekend, it’ll be a while.

Selenis SelenisBut today I gave a presentation about Spore in class. The course is Digital Theory and Analysis, and today’s class was about interactive narratives, specifically hypertext novels (which are boring) and computer games (which make life worth living). In my preparations last night, I’d made a paper full of notes for my presentation, laying out models for explaining game systems (specifically Marc LeBlanc’s MDA model (PDF format)) and different types of linearity.

As it turns out, my presentation was to be at the end of a 3 hour lecture, and our teacher Kjetil had covered about half of what I wanted to say about linearity. I had originally planned to start out by outlining a rough model of a game system as a circle encompassing various mechanics that interacted with each other and the player, creating dynamics. Then I would use Deus Ex to demonstrate first micro-interactivity (moving around, pulling out a gun, shooting, picking up ammo, using a medkit) and then macro-interactivity (shooting Lebedev, quickloading, shooting Anna Navarre, and demonstrating how the game reacts).

The ExtractorAfter that, I would proceed to talk about meta-interactivity (using editing tools to change either the circle or the mechanics in it) by showing off UnrealEd and inevitably a bit of TNM. Finally I would use Spore to show how efforts are being made to integrate many of these editing tools into the games themselves and making them user friendly enough for regular players.

But sensing that all of this would take 30-40 minutes at least (I only had 15 minutes) and that the last thing people wanted was more computer game theory, I opted instead to quickly show UnrealEd to give everybody an idea of how complicated and hostile professional editing tools are, and then spend my 10 minutes goofing around in Spore’s creature creator.

Which turned out to be the popular choice. First I showed them the simple creature creator, moulding a shapeless blob into the semblance of a living creature. Then I showed them and explained Sporepedia, by which they seemed impressed, and then I went back to the more complicated creature creator to goof around while I took questions – and there turned out to be a surprising amount of questions about the game. From the amount of smiles among the crowd, I think it’s fair to call the presentation a success, and I was especially pleased at the laughter when I made my improvised monster cower in fear or dance the hippity-hop.

KjetilIn the end, I had a rather ugly orange thing with no eyes (pictured right). I asked the class what I should call it, and somebody shouted “Kjetil”. Everybody laughed as I typed that in and saved my new creation.

Posted in Games, Personal.

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6 Responses

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  1. EER says

    Does Kjetil mean anything?
    And if you’re in a game design course … how does not everyone already have played spore?!

  2. Jonas says

    I mentioned in a previous paragraph that our teacher is called Kjetil :)
    He seemed to find it highly amusing as well, though!

    It’s not a game design course, it’s a digital aesthetics course, so it’s about computer media in general even extending to how digital aesthetics have spread to other media. Fortunately for game obsessives like myself, however, Kjetil is a game researcher himself, so the course has a strong emphasis on computer games.

    It’s kinda funny to hear him almost sort of apologize for placing such a strong emphasis on games, though. He always seems to feel the need to explain why games are relevant to the course, being at the cutting edge of much digital design. Sometimes I just want to tell him it’s okay, he doesn’t have to be ashamed that he really likes game studies :P

  3. EER says

    Ah yes, I must have missed that :)

    Btw, your selenis selenis creature lives on in my game, I think I’m going to destroy a tribal planet this weekend. What’s interesting is that I tend not to wage war against one of my own created species like the Daycees, because I like my creations. Other peoples creations … well, I kill them if necessary. With my uber laser(tm).

    Space phase has a learning curve much like a brick wall, luckily I found the secret to surviving -> trade, no war and no allies. I’m friends with everyone now, but have no allies because they’d only bother me with colonies that are under attack. Let the others fight, I’ll build my empire on trading :D

  4. Jonas says

    Hahah yeah when I made Felis Maximus on my laptop (an ultimately failed experiment in modelling a big cat), I ran into Selenis Selenis in the creature stage as well, which was pretty entertaining. The damn things were too hard to charm though, so I never managed to make them like me completely :(

    I agree the learning “curve” of the space stage is less like a curve and more like a big concrete wall topped with electrified barbed wire and adorned by mounted Tesla coils and automatic gun turrets. I didn’t manage to get myself completely stuck before my savegame died, but I appreciate your hint about allies, I’ll keep that in mind.

    I really want to see what’s at the center of the universe! Also, I’ve heard rumours Earth is actually in the game :o

  5. EER says

    Once you get the hang of the charm game, it’s rather easy actually as you may judge by me having the ‘Everybody’s BFF’ award ;)

    The trick is that the opposing creature wants you to do what they do, e.g. they dance, you should dance. Even if you have level 4 singing and only lvl 2 dancing, dancing would win. Once I got that, I invested in the other social skills as well and could win almost any argument (until I ran into an EPIC beast that killed my crew and almost me).

    I heard the same rumors about earth, but I’m not sure I feel like browsing like 1M star systems to see if I can find it ;)

  6. Jonas says

    Yeah I know EER, but at that point I didn’t have enough DNA to upgrade my non-hostile abilities higher than they were, and I couldn’t for the life of me isolate one of the Selenis. You see, if you have 3 guys in your pack and you’re trying to charm a single creature, you’ll get an enormous boost, but unfortunately it works the other way around as well, and those damn Selenis really stuck together!

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