This time we cover the future of the game, what Wright is doing next … and what he thinks of my idea for “Spore 2” — a game comprised of user-generated gameplay. He didn’t laugh off my idea. In fact, he offered a tantalizing take on it.
Here’s our conversation:
Multiplayer: How do you see “Spore” evolving or developing as a franchise? Should people assume this will follow a “Sims”-like track with expansions followed by significant sequels? Or is this something you feel is more standalone as a platform?
“We might … flesh out existing stages more thoroughly to make a stage deeper or for more of a gamer audience.”
Will Wright: We’re going to be extending “Spore” maybe more horizontally than “The Sims” where the “Sims” was being sold to the same customers over and over who had the game. I think with “Spore” we have a lot of opportunities that are broader where we can create other games around the editors, for instance, or take certain levels in the game and put them on other platforms. With “Spore” we’ll be looking at a wider range of expansion possibilities than “The Sims.” A lot of these may not even be things for people who didn’t buy the PC game, like downloading the creature creator.
Multiplayer: Would you also be injecting, say, a new stage in between the existing stages? Is that what you think this design enables?
Wright: I’m not sure we would add a new stage, but we might add into existing stages things we left out for whatever reason — or flesh out existing stages more thoroughly to make a stage deeper or for more of a gamer audience. I think one thing is, whenever possible, we want to make all these things content-compatible [across multiple platforms].
Multiplayer: You mentioned that “Spore” is a way to marshal the creativity of millions of players and channel it in an interesting and specific way. What you and the team have enabled people to do is to create avatars, basically, creatures. Is the next step of this to have them create gameplay? I already see elsewhere in the Maxis studio the “Sims Carnival” as a way of democratizing the development of gameplay. Is that the trajectory that this is on?
“[User-generated gameplay is] something I would love to do if we could think of a good way to do it.”
Wright: We’ve experimented with that for years, actually. Maxis had a product called Kilk & Play where people could design their own games. We were experimenting with “The Sims” with the internal AI tool called Edith, giving that out to classrooms to let people try to create “Sims” objects and stuff. It’s a tricky path to go down. Programming was one of those things where either you give them a complete machine and they can do a lot of stuff or you really dumb it down, in which case, all the stuff looks the same. It’s something I would love to do if we could think of a good way to do it. I spent a lot of time studying people’s attempts to do this, primarily people in the educational community like … Ken Perlin, who has a project in that direction right now. But that’s something that’s a lot harder than it sounds.
Multiplayer: Well, “Spore” is also something that was probably a lot harder to make than it sounds. If figured if anybody’s up to the task…
Wright: Well, I can see things going in that direction. It would depend on a lot of advances being made. I’ve been keeping up with advances exactly in that area in the last 20 years. I’m pretty aware of what can be done and can’t be done in that area. It would be a cool path to go down.
Multiplayer: I was wondering, while playing “Spore” if “Spore 2” would be not just me creating my creatures but creating the gameplay of evolution or something like that.
Wright: Yeah, and without getting too specific, it’s easy to give players a parametric system. It’s much trickier to give them an algorithmic system.
Multiplayer: What do you mean by that?
“What I’m working on right now is pretty grandiose.”
Wright: Parametric means you’re changing weights and variables around an existing behavior engine. When you program the Sim’s personality and then they go off and behave differently because of the way you set the personality modifiers, that’s parametric. That’s different of getting down to the fundamental algorithmic level where you have branching and levels…
Multiplayer: Right. Creating the gameplay that actually happens. Changing topics, many years ago you were thinking of “Spore.” Is your mind still on “Spore” or do you already have new projects in your mind that you’re ready to hatch?
Wright: I’ve got a couple of new ones I’m doing early work on, but they’re not ready to be talked about yet.
Multiplayer: If people are following the trajectory [of your career] should they assume that the next thing you’re doing is somehow grander than this? You were doing city life and then went to something arguably more quotidian but advanced in going from the dynamics of city life in “Sim City” to social dynamics with “The Sims.”
Wright: Well, actually I went from “Sim City” to “Sim Earth.”
Multiplayer: True. I’m oversimplifying. I’m only focusing on the big tentpole ones people talk about. You have fluctuated. But with “Spore” being the grandest, can we assume the next thing you do will be even grander than “Spore”? Or is your appetite now moving toward smaller things?
Wright: I don’t know. What I’m working on right now is pretty grandiose.
Multiplayer: That’s good to hear.
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