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Posted by Brad
You can craft entire planets and cover them with cities for your adventures to take place in.
Despite some ups and downs from one evolutionary phase to the next, I had a lot of fun playing through Spore--but I never really felt the urge to play through it more than once. The enormous range of creations players have uploaded to the Sporepedia database--now at a ludicrous 65 million and counting--is a testament to the depth and accessibility of the game's editing tools. But putting together weird creatures never struck me as a satisfying end in itself, and moreover, Spore is the same every time you go through it, no matter how crazy the life forms you meet. So what's the point of these millions of creations if they don't truly add anything new to the way you play?

Maxis intends to answer that question soon with Galactic Adventures, the first expansion for Spore that will give purpose to all those creatures, vehicles, and buildings people have crafted. During a developer-driven demo of the add-on, Galactic Adventures struck me as a mash-up of existing concepts, with a quest-based structure similar to the one in World of Warcraft, and the sort of crowd-driven creative engine that powers games like LittleBigPlanet.

Of course, Spore already had a mass-creativity thing going on with its creature editor, but the new editing tools in Galactic Adventures will let you create new quests, or "adventures," that you can actually play. You can then upload your adventures to the Sporepedia for others to play, too. It's more than a little reminiscent of LBP's library of user-made levels that you can download and play, but Galactic Adventures' quest editor looks deep enough to let you create a surprisingly broad range of missions with different sorts of objectives.

Maxis is actually including a full planet editor in the expansion that exposes all the features the team used to create the original game's worlds. So before you start making an adventure, you can create an entire planet where it will take place. Via sliders and menus, you can set climate type (a lava world, for instance, or a forest-covered one), raise and lower the ocean level, deform the terrain, and lay down infrastructure like roads.

When you get down to making an adventure, it can be broken up in up to five acts, and the goals you set can be related to fighting other creatures, socializing with them, collecting objects, exploring territories, and so on. And as you'd expect, you can pull literally any of those millions of creations in the Sporepedia into your adventure. This is where the database's Web 2.0-style tagging system will really come in handy. If you need a castle for the adventure you're making, for instance, you can search for "castle" and filter down to all the creations tagged with that specific word.

What happens in this alien kingdom? That's for you to decide.
Once you've got life forms and such in there, you can then tweak and toggle pretty much every conceivable variable on a per-unit basis. That includes allegiance to other creatures, aggressive/neutral/passive behavior, size, health, patrolling pattern, awareness radius (how far away the unit can see other units), and more. These variables actually take the creature's design into account, too. The initial awareness radius, for instance, is determined by the number and size of the creature's eyes.

It seems like it might be possible to construct a reasonably robust and involved narrative if you want to put the time in. You can set all those behavioral variables to change based on various triggers or at the beginning of a new act, and you can also give each creature its own set of dialogue that it will spout at predetermined points. There are other triggers and events based on things like proximity that you can set up. For instance, the game will ship with a ton of music and ambient sound effects that you can drop into your quest. You could drop a positional sound trigger for waves crashing and seagulls squawking near the shoreline, or have a particular song kick in as you enter a town you've constructed.

This is where the World of Warcraft comparison comes in. One of Maxis' designers created a quick sample quest where a creature asked you to go find and return its flask, and then the creature spoke some new lines when you completed that task. How many similar fetch quests do you remember doing in WOW? But you often didn't mind, because Blizzard's designers put a lot of narrative context and neat little scripted events into those quests that made them feel more alive. I see the same potential for that kind of thing here.

If you'd rather just play adventures where you kill stuff, Maxis has your back there, too. They've added a ton of new items that you can slap onto your existing creatures--or, again, any other creature in the Sporepedia--that add specific  combat- and movement-specific abilities. Jump jets and jet packs will let you hover and fly. A stealth helmet will let you cloak. A wrist-mounted energy blade similar to the one in Halo will give you a stronger melee attack, while the missile finger has, well, obvious applications.

All these items are subject to dynamic property tweaks in the creature editor, based on where you put them and how big you make them. If you make the energy blade huge, for instance, you'll get a giant, slow attack that does a ton of damage. If you make it smaller, it'll be quicker but do less damage. There's a new energy meter that governs your use of all the new technology, so that giant energy blade might drain the entire meter with one attack, while the smaller one wouldn't use as much, so you could be darting around with your jump jets at the same time.

If you just want to kill stuff, there are new high-tech gadgets for doing that, too.
If you're wondering how these quests actually play, it looks like the gameplay will be similar to what you saw in the original Spore's creature phase, with a third-person camera angle and buttons that map to the abilities you have, based on the equipment and gear your creature is using.

Maxis will ship Galactic Adventures with a bunch of pre-made adventures broken up into different categories like story, quest, puzzle, maze, collection, and so on. You'll earn points for all the missions you complete that will go onto a rating on your profile, and you can also earn gold, silver, and bronze medals for finishing a particular quest with the fastest times and scores. But you can also lose those medals when someone else comes along and beats your score.

You can quick-play your way through Maxis- and user-created adventures from Spore's main menu if you want, but adventures will also automatically populate the space phase of the main Spore game as well. Remember how weird creatures created by your friends showed up as you were playing through Spore? Their adventures will do the same thing. The way you'll access them is when you meet new species as you explore space. In the original game, all those races had work for you to do--and that work always consisted of one of a very few activities, like scanning the life forms on a given planet, or finding a particular artifact in a specific star system. Now, user-created adventures will take the place of many of those rote tasks. And if you're flying around the galaxy with ally ships, the occupants of those ships will also beam down with you to the planet's surface and help you out. These allies can have different abilities than yours, too, so you could focus your character on combat while your helper beefed up their healing skills, for instance.

It certainly looks like Maxis has come up with some smart ways in Galactic Adventures to let you use--and extend--the millions of creations populating the Sporepedia. I'm a tad wary, because--as with LittleBigPlanet--the quality of the experience will largely be subject to the creativity and hard work that members of the community are willing to put in. But if some of the amazing and surprising creations already in the database are any indication, there's still plenty of that creativity to go around.

Staff
Posted by grainger
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

This actually sounds like a solid expansion pack.  I was a little worried Maxis would churn these out by the handful, but this isn't too bad.  More variation on the early-to-mid game sequences would really lengthen the life of the game, but as it is, I use it primarily for the creature and building creators.

Moderator
Posted by Yit

Too bad spore is perty lame to begin with. Meh.

Posted by Bellum

That's awesome. Maybe these expansion packs will actually bring some life into the Spore Galaxy.

Posted by Waffles13

Any word on pricing or release? Even a quarter?

Posted by igl

It's not a annoying bad game, it's just not much of a game. meh.

Posted by Rio

I think its all just a little too late for me.  Spore was a fair disappointment and I dont see myself going back to it.  It wasnt a bad game it just wasnt what I was looking forward too.

Edited by Branthog

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Posted by SuperMooseman

You know, I wasn't thinking about getting the expansion, but this has changed my view on it. The potential is there, let's hope it lives up to it.

Posted by Snail

I'm affraid I might have to buy this one.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

Sounds like a nice expansion, but I wonder how many people are still playing, given the complaints I've heard.

Posted by RagingLion

I'm still tootling around in Spore now and then but kind of lost my momentum for reaching the centre of the galaxy since there isn't so much variation in the space phase once you're set and I'm not completely sucked into the world.  This sounds like it could be just what I need.

Also, nice write-up Brad.  I read the Gamespot one earlier but got more content out of this and a better understanding of what the expansion will actually play like.

Posted by killdave

Such a let down this game was.

A BIGGER let down that I couldnt trade it in ^^^^^

Edited by Death_Burnout

Well im glad that it takes place in the space stage, otherwise i would of thought it was the dumbest expansion ever.

Personally this isn't what i was hoping for when they announced a space add-on. But who knows, i'll have to wait and see it in action first.

Posted by TomA

Awesome!I I ADORE Spore!!!

Posted by TheJadeAngel

I wasn't a big fan of the game myself but i did appreciate the innovative tools and evolution process .  The game itself is a great idea and maybe this expansion will give it what it lacked the first time which for my mind was a purpose other than mating to evolve .

Posted by Blazer74

I was pretty underwhelmed with Spore. Its concept was great and I think had the team been allowed to do it as it was originally presented it would have been. After playing I got thew impression that the marketing guys had a huge hand in how the game turned out. If you played Will Wirghts games befor ethey are never as bumbed down as this felt and I feel it was not the original intention  and that is one of the bigger problems with gaming today. It has become so much less of how can we make a great game that is fun but also challenging to well how can we make it sell the most copies possible. The answer of course is design it so the idiot mainstream can play it.

Posted by lilarchie232

I was weary about getting spore but this expansion sounds pretty bomb, so I think I'll get it now.

Posted by John1912

I dont care what they do to the game, they arent getting my money again.  Spore was a HUGE let down.  Im not paying for what I should have had the first time to keep the "game" from being utterly shallow.  Looks like this is the next Sims, non stop expansions to milk us all dry...

Edited by AndrewB

I for one love Spore, but I'm not entirely sold on this expansion just yet. First, I want to see just how entertaining these quests turn out to be. At least it sounds like it will allow you the gameplay from the creature stage (albeit with super powered technology) in the space stage; which sounds pretty awesome because there are times when I feel like going planetside as just one creature again, and the only way to do that now is to start a whole new game.

However, while these quests replace or at least support the more mundane stuff from the game sans-expansion, I can't help but feel concerned that I'll just be playing different, but equally mundane quests from that different perspective. The term "fetch quest" always makes me cringe, just about as much as "escort mission."

Posted by dsplayer1010

THIS is what I wanted from Spore in the first place

Posted by TomServo

I really think this is awesome, you can set up your own narative as well as your own creatures, you can truly make your own universe this way.

Posted by makari

Silly Maxis designer, don't they know that you can't get Ye Flask?

Posted by waza

spore might be good when it will have 4~6 expansions out

i'm sure maxis is working on fixing that problem before 2010 approaches

Posted by Phetz

I'm excited. At the very least it'll give me an excuse to blow the dust off Spore and get to playing it again. I really hope they give creature and civ stages some love, though. They need it much more than the space stage, IMO.

Posted by twosided

Dude, I wish I had a "missle finger."  The ladies would love it.

Posted by TheIneffableBob

This actually looks cool.

Posted by theuncannygiraffe

Cool! I must admit I enjoyed Spore, but never really had any call to go back to it. Until now! XD

Posted by TheMagicalLeprechaun

I'll probably get it; friends still come over to play Spore, so why not?

Posted by EricWinholt

This sounds better than great. I absolutely cannot wait for this to come out, or for Maxis to at least let us know when it's coming out. Hunting for artifacts was my favorite part of Spore, and this expansion makes it seem like people will be able to set up some pretty elaborate archeology missions :)

Posted by Contra

Finally.  Some of the stuff we wanted from the begining. 

More editors, and better, much more varied quests.

Edited by Stromko

A lot of these features (like the planet editor, and being able to beam down from your spaceship) were supposed to be in the original Spore. It seems those who criticized DLC were right when it came to Spore, sooner or later someone would ship an incomplete and deeply flawed game, just to make the expansions necessary, bilking their best customers out of hundreds of dollars just so they could get something close to a complete vision of what the game should have been in the first place.

On the other hand, maybe having released an incomplete (or 'beta') game to the public, they'll build on critical and player feedback and make these features better. Who knows (although if I base my expectations off the Sims series, I expect nothing but disappointment). Personally I was hoping for more gameplay depth out in space, being able to build my own fleets, trade ships, fighter-crafts or raise armies, so one can finally get some use out of the Vehicle, Outfitter, and Creature editor in later Phases. It sounds like they want me to pay 30$ for just 1/3rd of what it'd take to make a "Complete Space Phase", and since they're going to alienate their customers and ship these to a smaller and smaller group over time, they'll be lowering budgets over time and probably never complete enough expansion packs to make the complete game they were promising in the first place.

Letting the creativity feed back into gameplay more is what I'd like to see, that seems more what it's missing. I know they don't want to limit artistic freedom just for gameplay's sake, but they already do for pointless reasons (not letting you unlock and use ANY mouthpart you want in Creature phase for instance), and there's still major aesthetic gaps like how Civilization vehicles don't fire the correct projectiles in 2/3rds of cases, nor do they fire them in the correct trajectory or number. It seems like that should be fixed in a patch, maybe it already has been (haven't looked), but I won't hold my breath.

It seems a shame they are developing such narrowly focused expansions that barely plug the gaps in the game, it's such a broad game design that they could probably get 12 expansions out of it even if each one was massive and crucial.

Posted by headcase

I felt kinda ripped off with my original purchase, so maybe if this somehow ended up on my computer at no cost, it'd make up for it.

Posted by Media_Master

haven't gotten spore yet

Posted by confinedbread

I liked spore, but it didn't amaze me like it should have. In my opinion, I will not buy any expansion pack that doesn't include a solid 8-9 more hours of gameplay, and tesla tanks.

Posted by Rowr

Spore can go to hell and die.

Posted by Lind_L_Taylor

It's amazing what they did with Spore.  From what it sounds like, the original Spore release was EA selling the foundation of a game, only that it allowed the players to put in the pieces.  After the pieces have been created, now various games can be put on top of it.  It's almost like EA has leveraged the game playing community to build a free MMO for them.  I'd probably play Spore if I wasn't enraptured with Fallout 3 (140 hours & counting).