Spore producer Caryl Shaw gave a talk at GDC concerning the mechanics and evolution of the user-generated content in the highly anticipated Will Wright designed Spore.
Answering the question that was likely on many minds at the very start of her talk, Shaw again confirmed that Spore will be “shipping on September 5th, and a couple of days earlier in Europe” due to it’s larger PC market.
Moving on to the specifics of her role, Shaw said that she has “been working for a little over 3 years on the pollinated content feature.” She began by discussing how the system was first envisioned, and has been presented before. What the team described as “the massively single player game” was originally conceived as 100% under the hood, with little visibility to the content-sharing aside from what would be available on the Spore website.
A system they designed for this invisible sharing was an aesthetic matching system. It would look at what the player designed, and would upload other user content that shared a similar aesthetic into their galaxy, with limited control for this feature in the game. “Essentially, we thought we knew what was best for [the player].”
Giving an example of how successful the system was working, she showed a photo of a city created exclusively by the aesthetic system of Tetris block like structures, all culled from different beta testers.
“So one day, a light bulb went off... so many assets were being created by the team, what we wanted to do was organize it,” she said, which led to the idea of giving the player a way to organize their content, which led to the creation of a front end organizer.
This brought about a different set of goals for content sharing, “To encourage content discovery, reward achievements... expose the best stuff... [and] give the player the ability to manage their content. We know we want to build a community around the content.”
With the goals stated, Shaw then launched a demo of the game to show off the ways in which content sharing has been streamlined in Spore. In the game every new piece of user generated content creates a “card” which will let you know who created it, and what else they’ve created. From here it is loaded into the “Sporepedia”, the crux of content sharing.
Every card itself is a PNG file of roughly 30kbs. It has the image and general information of the content, and can be e-mailed. What is so unique, is that the actual game data for that object is contained in the PNG file itself, creating an effortless means of sharing content both through the Spore server and e-mail/websites. User-created music will be saved using the same PNG system, but will not be stored or uploaded via the Spore server because of “copyright concerns.”
The Sporepedia itself allows for multitudes of organization options, including seeing “buddy” created content, filtering by object, a one-click ban option for any objectionable content, and the ability to join or create Sporecasts.
These are themed groupings of content, that could be based on a single user’s content, or a general style that will be updated automatically at game launch. All content received from the Spore servers will be added to the game without the need to restart.
Along the social networking aspect of all this, is the ability to create movies in-game that can be automatically uploaded to Youtube from the game’s UI.
Though the demo focused mostly on the user-sharing aspect of the game, from what was seen the game is in a very polished and stable state. The heavy-focus on personalizing and sharing the content of the player’s experience has expanded the scope of the game from a sim game with a galaxy wide focus, to one of personal expression and creativity within that galaxy.