The Sims experiences have appealed strongly to a female contingent, more so than pretty much anything else. Do you think this is going to have that same appeal, or is this a more masculine game? It felt that way to me.
When you look at the theme of it it at first might seem kind of science-y. But the approach we've taken is to be very playful with the entire universe. A good example of that is the creatures. And in fact we found that with The Sims even, what women especially seemed to enjoy was the creative aspects of it, being able to make things that were theirs, then being able to share them and build stories around them, et cetera. I think the creature editor just by itself is going to have a huge appeal to female players as an aesthetic artistic expression of what they want to do. The fact that they can make something very elaborate in the game and then show it to other people and trade it with everybody, and in fact trading it is like automatic now, whereas before you'd have to put it up on a web site and the other people would come and download it and put it in the right folder and all this, now it will just be totally automatic. And anybody else playing the game might come across the cool creature you made and be able to bookmark you, get more stuff from you and give you positive feedback about what you created. So I think Spore is going to feel like a much more elaborate creative palette than The Sims did, and it´s a matter of making the environment of creatures and evolution and traveling in space not seem off-putting or too science-y but make it feel like a very natural narrative environment, where I naturally want to tell a story in these worlds. Because I think the storytelling is the other important aspect. Once I make stuff in the game, I want to now use that stuff to basically play out a story, and then share that story with other people.
How do your experiences get shared with other people?
We're still working on aspects of the narrative side of that. Like in Sims 2â€ in Sims 1 we had this thing where you could create a storybook. In Sims 2 we had that plus we had this thing where you can create a movie. And we're going to have something like that, that we're still in the design process on right now, but some way you can share your narratives. But right off the bat, the content you make can be shared. In The Sims, we saw that in fact much more people were sharing content â€ you know, characters, furniture, houses, lots â€ than were sharing stories, so content was really the main thing they wanted to share. In Spore, the tools are more and more powerful than they were in The Sims, so the next step is, now, how do we take those things and use them to build a narrative. And we want every level to feel narrative-rich, so there are hundreds or thousands of potential stories on every level that I might choose to play out during the game.
Let's talk about the content sharing system, since that's one of the coolest things in the game. Can you explain how that works?
Every time the player makes something in the game â€ creature, building, vehicle, planet, whatever, it gets sent to our servers automatically, a compressed representation of it. As other players are playing the game we need to populate their game with other creatures around them in the evolution game, other cities around them in the civilization game, other planets and races and aliens in the space game, and those are actually coming from our server and were created by other players. so there's an infinite variety of NPCs that I can encounter in the game that are continually being made by the other players as they play. And whenever I encounter this content I actually end up building a little card deck in the game that we call Sporepedia, there's a little card to represent every piece of content, every creature, every building, every vehicle, and I can see who made that. I can see what its stats are. I can bookmark that person if I like their stuff and have their stuffâ€ like I can find my best friend and say make sure my best friend's stuff comes into my game, so I encounter their worlds first. So it's almost what we were seeing people do with The Sims, where they would go browse web sites looking for cool stuff and then download it, except we kind of burn it all into the gameplay. I don't have to leave the game, put it in my folder, go browse the web â€ it's now part of the gameplay experience.
And you mentioned you can actually give feedback to the person who created whatever the thing is?
We're going to have different feedback mechanisms. One of the things we're going to be doing continually is rating the most popular content, so when you make a creature you're going to be able to go to what we call the metaverse report and get a sense of what is your creature's popularity ranking relative to other people's creatures. And if you're not on the Net, we will still have a large database of stuff on your disk that it will draw from instead, so it's not required, but it's pretty simple turning it on.
Well that's, to my eye at least, potentially the coolest part of the game.
Looking at things like Pokemon and Neopets, and how much people kind of identify with these creatures, and they didn't even create them â€ they trained them or gave them some stats or whatever â€ but it was always Pikachu or whatever. In this case I want people to feel like they are Pokemon designers, Neopet designers, or Pixar designers, and the range of creatures is pretty astounding.
But you're not looking at an economy where people sell what they've created, like in Second Life?
Well, those economies that develop â€ there's no way for us to prevent them, first of all. If there's a reason for it to exist, as an external economy, they can always go do it on eBay, so I'm not saying we can prevent this from happening. There probably will be some sort of economy that we haven't quite figured out, where the most popular creature, or person, get some sort of reward, and we're not quite sure what form that reward will take yet.
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