by Adam Rosenberg
A video popped up on YouTube about a week ago revealing the first tidbits of a collaborative effort between the “Robot Chicken” writing team and “Spore” creator Maxis. Now the word is officially out: when “Spore’s” first gameplay-enhancing expansion pack, “Galactic Adventures,” hits shelves on June 23, it will come packing – among other things, of course – 10 adventures which were conceived and written by the “Robot Chicken” team.
Let’s back up for a minute and talk about “Galactic Adventures.” In case you didn’t know, the expansion pack will add a considerable amount of depth to the game’s virtually endless Space phase. The pack will introduce a new concept to “Spore”: adventures. Using an entirely new and surprisingly robust set of editing tools, players will be able to build Space phase missions set on the surfaces of the galaxy’s many planets.
The first step is to create your very own Space Captain, an avatar which will serve as your instrument in exploring planetary surfaces. Along with the Space Captain comes an entirely new level-based accessory system, and an automatically recharging energy meter to manage the use of those accessories. Set across eight categories, four ranks per category, players will select a different upgrade for each experience level earned (to a maximum of 10). Upgrades come in a variety of forms, including melee and ranged weapons, flight-enabled jump packs, shields and more.
The adventures themselves are best understood through the lens of the expansion pack’s built-in creator. The range of tools available to players is a little bit staggering. There’s a full suite of terraforming tools and the typically limitless number of buildings, vehicles, plants and animals to drop wherever you like. Living creatures can be programmed with AI scripts, all laid out on easy-to-understand menus. An advanced AI menu even allows for logic-based commands, such as “don’t attack unless attacked” or “remain peaceful unless the player is holding Item X.”
In addition, the editing tools will also offer a number of gameplay-enhancing objects for players to use. Power-ups, environmental indicators (such as fog), fourth wall-breaking floating arrows and even that old standby, exploding barrels, all fall into this category.
The most intriguing of these items is the teleporter. A given adventure can span as many as eight multi-objective acts, but all of the action is restricted to the surface of a single planet. With the teleporter, which can be disguised as any object, adventure creators can essentially “trick” players into believing they’ve traveled to a distant, inaccessible location, such as the interior of an orbiting ship or a bunker located deep beneath the surface.
Of course, your imagination is the only real limit here. One example, from the “Robot Chicken” team, disguises a teleporter as a snow globe. Stepping into it transports your captain to a snowy landscape inhabited by boulder-sized rolling snowman heads and exploding penguins. Editor-created boundaries form a circle around the area, giving the impression that your Captain has been miniaturized and transported into the snowglobe. Really, he’s just been moved to a different, walled-in portion of the planet.
The editor is robust enough to offer a virtually endless set of possibilities. Our short demo ran through a variety of adventure scenarios: sneaking onto a mothership to blow it up, rescuing a kidnapped ice princess from a castle (part of the aforementioned snow globe adventure), a puzzle involving a set of color-coded doors/keycards, an old-fashioned foot race (complete with jump pads and speed power-ups) and even an exploding barrel-powered calculator.
Arriving as part of “Galactic Adventures” – as well as in an update to “Spore” vanilla – is an all-new Sporecast-like Maxis feed. The developer will be able to use this to push officially created (and presumably free, since there’s no model for microtransactions built into the game) adventures out to players.
Getting back to the “Robot Chicken” news, now you have a good idea of what those lunatics have to work with as they create their 10 packed-in adventures. It may not be the “Spore”-meets-“Robot Chicken” TV series that some of us had been hoping for, but this is a cool way to launch the expansion pack nonetheless. The aim with “Galactic Adventures” is to give the game’s somewhat slow-paced, lengthy Space phase a new lease on life. The “Robot Chicken” content is then there (in part) to illustrate just how far would-be creators can take their ideas. Which is to say: to poo and beyond.