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Not A Departure: The Genesis Of Darkspore
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Not A Departure: The Genesis Of Darkspore

September 6, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

Lucy Bradshaw was saying something to the effect of, "This isn't an extension of Spore." But, come on. It has "Spore" in the title.

MP: Well, Darkspore is its own game. No question about it. It's not Spore. It's not an expansion pack, and it's not the sequel to Spore either. It is its own game.

Now, we are really using the technology from Spore to build this, and so having Spore in the name is an homage to that technology. It's very visible in the editor.

But Darkspore is absolutely its own game. It has its own fiction. The darkspore are the enemies, the bad guys that you fight in the game. For us, the title of the game is representative of what the game is.

You hired a designer from Wizards of the Coast to work on this game, right?

MP: That's right. Paul Sottosanti.

How did that come about?

MP: We've built our team out of people who have a lot of experience both at Maxis working on Spore and other Sim games, and people from outside. We heard from Paul after he left Wizards of the Coast, and he's just an ideal fit for our team.

When we were doing the initial designs of the game, we were definitely inspired by Magic and Pokémon -- the Pokémon card game -- and we felt that having somebody with a depth of experience in card gaming matched perfectly with what we're trying to do, because this is a game about collectible heroes in the same way that Magic has got collectible cards.

And it's a game where min/max-ing even the smallest amount with the stats can be key in succeeding while designing the game. And that's exactly the experience that Paul had with what he did in Magic. So, that skill set dropped in one-to-one with the systems he needed to do with us.

How big is the team on this?

MP: We're a team under 40 people. It's a very small team. It lets everybody on the team be creative contributors to the game. Even though on paper we have traditional roles -- producers, designers, programmers, and artists -- the reality is that almost everybody contributes to the game design in some form or another.

The team is made out of a lot of hardcore gamers. The people who you met during your demo earlier -- if you logged into League of Legends tonight at 3 AM, you'll probably find them. [laughs]

It's great to have a small team because we can be very fast and get a lot of turnaround and creativity.

Is this game Maxis' main focus right now?

MP: Right now, our main focus is making Darkspore the best game it can be.

Did you have multiple projects incubating that you picked from to pitch to EA? One reason I ask is that, ever since The Sims, Maxis' products have been very much of a particular type. This must seem like quite a departure from EA's perspective as well as from an outsider's perspective.

MP: Right. You know, I think that in looking at where we ended up after we delivered Spore, that game is just the craziest, giant-est game ever, right? We looked at that, and with the technology that we created out of that game, we made some prototypes. We just said, "Let's try some things out."

Really, it's the same group that did a variety of prototypes on Darkspore that led us to the action RPG genre that we have on Darkspore now. The prototypes became fun really quickly, and as we started to play them out, it really wasn't a hard sell to let EA know that this was a great idea and that it's the right way to take the technology from Spore.

It's just crystal clear. You see the editors, you see what you can do, you've got character customization, and you drop it in. It's got familiar pick-up-and-play mouse-based mechanics. Everyone just did a forehead slap and said, "My god. This is exactly what we should be doing with this technology." So, we've had a ton of support from EA. This is exactly the right game for us to be making.

Even if they're on board for the game design, do you think there's any concern about going against type for your audience? This seems like much more of a "gamer's game," whereas Maxis has generally played to a more expanded audience.

MP: Right. And it is a gamer's game. No doubt about it. In a lot of ways, it's a game that's being made by gamers, because that's what the team is like. It is going to be new audience for us, to try to track the action RPG players, but at the same time, we are bringing forward the Spore community as well.

There are a lot of Spore players who are interested in online gameplay. And if you read the Spore forums, there are a lot of players who have been asking for more depth, especially in the creature game -- more things to do. I think this delivers exactly what those players are asking for. You can take a creature and do a lot more than just simulate.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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