Multiplayer: How To Cope With A 'Spore'-Less 2007

Electronic Arts says eagerly awaited PC game more likely for spring '08 release.

Electronic Arts announced Tuesday that the company's eagerly awaited PC game "Spore" won't come out in 2007 as expected. The company's CEO, John Riccitello, told analysts it's more likely to have a spring 2008 release.

That's a big blow to gamers who were anxious to play the latest project masterminded by "Sim City" and "Sims" creator Will Wright. It's a big delay even in a calendar year still primed for new installments of "Grand Theft Auto," "Halo," "Metal Gear Solid" and the "Super Mario" series. "Spore" will be a game about life itself, a player-driven simulation of interactive evolution, a medley of game styles that starts players with a single cell of life to control in the primordial ooze of a modified version of "Pac-Man" and brings them to the interstellar exploration of a violent alien-filled galaxy at its grandest far end. It could have been in our hands soon. But instead, we're left to wait.

Think about good delays only

There was a time when last Christmas' "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" was a 2005 game. Then one summer day, it suddenly was not (see "New 'Zelda' Delayed Until Early 2006 — At Least"). The game was reviewed well last year. Rockstar Games' "Bully" was once a 2005 game too, but it didn't come out until a year later (see "Rockstar Games' 'Bully' Won't Take Your Lunch Money Until '06"). Like "Zelda," it reviewed well. "Half-Life 2" was slated for late 2003, but it came out in late 2004, again to raves. A year's extra wait isn't all bad. Just don't say that in front of people who waited for "Daikatana" or "Superman Returns" — they may not agree.

Play games like it

When Nintendo postponed the late-1997 arrival of "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time" for a year (see a pattern?), the company swapped in a replacement game for the Nintendo 64 faithful: the November '07 "Diddy Kong Racing." It was almost a decade ago, but I don't remember a "Mario Kart" clone starring Donkey Kong's friend satisfying the urge I had to adventure through Hyrule. It was as if I had reached for an ice cream cone and was handed spaghetti. My appetite was better served by playing older "Zelda" games, which I would have done had I not sold my old systems to get my N64.

With no "Spore" at year's end, gamers will have to find replacements. No one game springs to mind, but the free online and PS3 versions of "flOw" certainly look as if they play like the primordial-ooze, "Pac-Man" part of the game. The obscure GameCube title "Cubivore" let players evolve a creature through several generations, allowing them to add one square appendage at a time through an extended cycle of life. A little two-square flopping thing could be evolved over an hour or so of play into a many-square thing that moved like a horse or butterfly or gorilla. There's also "Civilization," currently the world's most successful simulator of life's struggles on the planet. The undeniable difference, of course, is that the life forms of "Civilization" are people, whereas those of Wright's game are creatures with as many legs, eyes and green antennae as the player wants them to have.

Read more about it

Wright's work on "Spore" has been featured in lengthy, glowing reports in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and The Atlantic Monthly despite the game not being close to release. It's been covered all over hard-core gaming Web sites and magazines since Wright announced the game in March 2005. A year ago, I wrote about how it might upend players' concepts of what they own in the games they play (see "GameFile: 'Spore,' 'Lost' The Video Game, 'New Super Mario Brothers' & More"). In February, I filed an update about how the game is expected to play (see "Hints About 'Spore,' Pro-PS3 Arguments At DICE Video Game Conference"). There's plenty to read about "Spore," though that might increase the pain of delay.

I don't know of much else that can be done to soothe the burn "Spore"-watchers might have. If some other game-design team were working on a simulation of all life through all history, I'd recommend you play that instead. But no one else is, at least not for 2007. Sorry, you just have to wait. Maybe "Diddy Kong Racing" would make you feel better?

Didn't think so.

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