No Man’s Sky was finally released after years of hype and news. That means countless worlds to be explored in the game, with countless alien races to encounter. And all after years of development and so many doubts that the game would ever be released. Those following the games industry from at least 2006 will pick up some similar vibes to one of the most hyped games of the 2000s, EA and Maxis’ Spore.
And indeed, Maxis' Spore, which released 2008, received eerily similar hype to what No Man's Sky collected. Spore mouthpiece and mastermind of the game Will Wright promised gamers a lot when discussing the massive game. You'd explore the evolution from single cells to outer space, with dynamic mechanics and creation tools full of possibilities. Instead, we got a game that was certainly decent but didn't live up to the hype. Its evolutionary stages were repetitive and restrictive up until the Space Stage, which still felt like a drag. It became the most pirated game of 2008 partially due to fan outcry over EA's controversial DRM, and while the sales were good, it wasn't next The Sims, leaving Spore an abandoned franchise for EA.
But hey, at least we got some fantastic fan creations. While many found the actual gameplay of Spore to be repetitive and uninteresting, its creator tools were spectacular. This led to an awesome community crafting dozens of fantastic creatures, buildings, and spaceships. Its Galactic Adventures expansion pack took that community even further -- now the community could create all sorts of levels. In their heyday, you could likely search any real or fictional object in the game's servers, and find 10 brilliant takes on them by creators.
EA still owns the Maxis brand and still pumps out The Sims releases on PC and tablets every year. Now that so much time has passed since Spore's debut, it's finally time for EA to give it another shot. Here's why:
More Creative Possibilities
Spore was filled with options, and yet there were still limits. Firstly, the complexity meter on each creature prevented players from publishing creations containing a certain number of parts. Given how much faster consumer PCs have gotten since its launch, it doesn't seem unreasonable to raise the creation limit now.
Beyond that, there were specific items that the original didn't let you create. Those without the rare Bot Parts Pack couldn't create a cyborg creature. It wasn't possible to create a water creature either. And you couldn't make a proper male and female counterpart to your original species. Anything the parts didn't allow, you couldn't do.
These are limits that don't necessarily need to exist anymore. Given the time and resources available to developers today, we could see far deeper creation choices in a future Spore than we saw before.
Fixing The Original's Issues
The issues with Spore's gameplay primarily related to sections between the Creature Stage and the Space Stage. The Tribal Stage and the Civilization Stage were both bland clones of other genres beyond simulation. They were essentially a repetition of either fighting or allying with other aliens, with extremely basic mechanics. And yet, it was required to play them to unlock different Archetypes for the actually interesting Space Stage.
Even the Space Stage was relatively dull after all that grinding. While it was much more varied in terms of aliens met and objectives, it eventually felt repetitive and slow. This was primarily because after a certain point, the player couldn't advance much further, making the tasks of forming allies, defeating enemies, and terraforming planets much slower than it should've been.
The repetition is essentially the reason Spore didn't do as well as it could've. There just wasn't enough variety in areas. As promising as the unreleased Aquatic Stage and City Stage looked, they mightn't have added much more. If a sequel fixed this, it could be the smash hit Spore deserved to be.
Spore Still Has An Audience
Despite being old, with not nearly the community it once had, Spore is still selling on Steam. The Sporum is still active. The Spore servers are still active (if not nearly as much as in their heyday). The SporeWiki is still active, with its own interactive universe using in-game creations.
Beyond Spore, many Spore-like games are continuing to gain traction. The exploration and meeting of alien races in Stellaris and No Man's Sky are definitely reminiscent of what was seen in Spore, showing the audience is still out there.
And consider that Spore was viewed by critics as an average game that was released in 2008. It still has an audience in 2016. EA would be crazy not to seriously consider taking a look at that audience. It's wishful thinking, but maybe No Man's Sky could make them reconsider it?
Possibilities Beyond PC
Several Spore spinoffs, such as Spore Creatures, were released outside of the PC landscape and forgotten about. But they showed that EA knew Spore had plenty of potential outside the PC.
Consoles of today would be much better at handling a game like Spore. We could very easily see an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 port of the game that could work perfectly well. And wouldn't exploration of the varied alien landscapes be great in VR on all three platforms?
What's more likely is that a Spore spinoff made for tablets could be just as, if not more, successful than a direct Spore sequel for PCs and/or consoles. It'd work for a younger generation which largely game on tablet and would likely enjoy the creature creator. This could be made really well, or it could be handled in a way that doesn't sit well with the current player base. The mobile spinoffs of The Sims and SimCity have been based on free-to-play models that, while enjoyed by mobile gamers, most of the standard player bases weren't fond of.
But with so many options in front of EA for such a (in)famous franchise, it's worth giving one more shot in the next year. Please, EA, give Spore one more shot.