Set for release this fall, the Wii version of EA's universe-creating "Spore" is designed for adventure and a heavy use of motion control.
Few games have transitioned from the PC to the Wii. There is no "World of Warcraft" Wii, no "Company of Heroes" Wii, not even -- yet -- a "Peggle" Wii. But EA has been trying, first with "MySims" for Nintendo's home system and, coming this fall, "Spore Hero."
New parts, new controls.
EA has shed almost no light on "Spore Hero" since announcing it in January as part of the 2009 line-up of "Spore" spin-offs. MTV Multiplayer can change that today.
Last month in Las Vegas, I met with the general manager for EA's "Spore" and "Sims" studio, Lucy Bradshaw, who talked to me, among other things, about how "Spore" for the Wii is taking shape.
Bradshaw said that this "Spore" for the Wii was built from the ground up. She described a game comprised of a significantly beefed-up version of "Spore"'s creature stage, served with a heavy helping of motion control.
The game brings the PC game's full creature editor and procedural animation system, enabling gamers to assemble their beasts from a Potato-Head's worth of parts. The mouse-driven interface of the editing tools in the PC game turns into a pointer-driven interface for the Wii.
Players have direct control of the lifeform they are shaping. Adding parts to the creature adds new motion-controlled maneuvers customized to the player's creature. New parts, new controls. "That's really fun to take advantage of," Bradshaw said. "With the controls of the mouse, it's point and click and you do feel a distance. Now we're in there and it's just really fun as you gain new abilities." She suggested that dancing and singing were just some classic "Spore" behaviors that would be more fun driven by a Wii remote than by the click of a computer mouse.
"When you see the game, you'll go, 'Oh yeah, that's definitely a Nintendo Wii game.'"
The PC "Spore" started in the primordial ooze of its Cell stage, graduating to a primitive 3D action game in the Creature stage before evolving into strategic Tribe, City and Space stages. Bradshaw said that this game, which won't connect to the PC version, operates in just that creature slice but still presents an expansive evolution-based experience. "Your planet that you've lived on has had a catastrophic event and you're essentially plummeting to a new planet on the tail of a meteor," she explained. "You arrive there and you start encountering new creatures. This is a new planet that you've got to make as your own. So you start in a series of quests and adventures in a kind of open world that you can take at your own pace. You start encountering other creatures and can interact with them in either combat or social [ways], but you can also do things on their behalf."
Some quests help the player's creature evolve. Others, called Evolutionary Quests, require your creature to meet the needs of other species and guide those beast's evolution. So you'll be shaping not just your species but a menagerie of planetary lifeforms. Gaining an ability for your own creature, like jump, might allow access to otherwise unreachable areas. In that regard, exploration of the terrain is encouraged in ways that "Spore" PC did not. Said Bradshaw, "We've brought in action quests [consisting] of games that you play in the overall landscape of the creature that really do take advantage of those evolutionary steps that you've taken."
While no screenshots have been released of the game yet, Bradshaw described a cheerful experience that suits Nintendo's image. "This is very playful," she said, explaining why the game wasn't slated for, say, the PlayStation 3. "It takes advantage of the controls explicitly. And even stylistically, when you see the game, you'll go, 'Oh yeah, that's definitely a Nintendo Wii game.'" As for the controls, she said that the team is "taking a look" at the Motion Plus option for even better Wii motion-sensitivity than what is available directly out of the box.
This Wii debut for "Spore" is sounding to be more like an action-adventure driven by the changing shape of life than the cell-to-stars skip through evolution that the original "Spore" was.
"Spore Hero" is one of the many Wii titles from EA, which has pledged to back Nintendo's console in 2009 in ways that could rival even the house of Mario itself. It is slated for a fall release, alongside "Spore Hero Arena," a companion game for the Nintendo DS.