We have just a few more days until Spore hits the streets, and I couldn't be more excited! In preparation for the release, I got a chance to speak with Ocean Quigley, Spore's Art Director, about the making of the game, and all the challenges they faced while producing this trailblazing title. We also talked in depth about Spore's Creature Creator; the thing that allows you to mold and sculpt your creatures to life.
I'm assuming that you've already been toying around with it, because there are more than three million creatures created and submitted to the Sporepedia — Spore's answer to the encyclopedia!
Not surprisingly, with all the fun creatures, buildings, and planets you can make (and take over) in Spore, this game has been in development for quite some time. But you won't believe just how long it took to get made! Read on for my full interview!
So exactly how long have you been working on Spore?
A great long time! I started on it back in '99 after finishing up Sim City 3000, doing a few months of conceptual design with Will Wright (the creator of The Sims and Spore), then took a break to work on Sim City 4. So I've been noodling with it, well, geez, since back in the 20th century!
You must be totally relieved now that it's finished!
It's kind of hard to believe that we've come to the end of such a long development cycle. I've accumulated about six months of vacation, so I'm going to disappear for a while!
To check out the rest of my interview with Ocean, and why Spore will change the face of 3D modeling forever, just
Where did your career start? Did you always know that you wanted to get into video games?
I started out as an oil painter, but it's not too often that you get to be on the ground floor of a new medium like that has been done on computers. Oil painting has been around for centuries, and people have been painting on cave walls before that, so if you think about the opportunity to be in the thick of a formation of a new art form, those opportunities are really rare. With the explosion of computer power we've seen over the last few years or so, it's become possible to make no-holds-barred, straight up artwork. It's was obvious to me in the early '90s that I needed to be a part of this.
Coming from a fine arts background, was it hard for you to relinquish that control of what will be produced in the game by the players?
That was kind of interesting! Because you have to hold back a little bit. Usually, when you're an artist you say, "This is what I want this object to look like," and you sort of bang on it until it looks like what I want it to look like. But in Spore, I had to step back because how it works out will be up to the player. In Spore, you're really experiencing a new kind of artwork where it's made by the interactions of the player. It's not this static, inert object. It's a dynamic art form. It took years to figure out and get used to.
Spore's creation editor is similar to some professional 3D modeling programs out on the market. How do you think Spore's creation editor is better or different than those programs?
The main difference is that the professional programs like Maya don't make any assumptions about what you're doing, so you're working up from bits and pieces. If you wanted to make a creature, you may start with a cube, and then pull those shapes where you want them to be. Whereas in our Creature Editor, we've given a lot of thought about making creatures and how they are put together. So instead of starting with a triangle or cube, we give you the structure of creatures (spine, muscles) and they are just waiting to be sculpted. So really, you could make creatures, like, a thousand times faster in our editor than in other programs.
I get the feeling that Spore will spawn a whole new generation of 3D modelers and animators. Did you have that in mind when creating the game?
No question. It's such a wonderful experience to create things and bring them to life. But the barrier to enter the 3D modeling world is incredibly high — not only are the production tools really expensive, but they are really hard to use. So one of the things that I wanted to do was give that experience of creation — of what it's like to shape something and see it come to life and basically give tangible form to your imagination — to millions of people, not just the handful of artists that use these expensive programs.
I'd expect that Spore will be a gateway to thousands of visual artists, but also that professional modeling programs are going to have to learn from Spore's user interface. You're going to have these artists coming from Spore, and then into these higher level programs like Maya, and they will realize how awful they are to use.
You worked on The Sims, which has been hugely popular with the female gaming community. Did this fact have any impact on how you made Spore?
Yeah, no question. We have a lot of women in senior positions, and we wanted to make sure that we didn't just make something that would appeal to the guys on the team, so at every stage the art direction was critiqued by the women that were on the project. The final art direction that you see reflects the years of ideas we thought would appeal both to men and women.
Will you play Spore, or are you completely Spore-d out?
Yes, I will play, but I'm actually waiting for a release copy, just like everyone else! I've got a pretty good sense about what the play will be like, but I'm needing a little bit of a break so that I can play with fresh eyes. My kids are very excited to play it as well.
Do you play any other video games?
I like all kinds of games, but the only type that I really don't play are the World of Warcraft, or online games in general. I've got the kind of personality that I know it would just take over my life! It's good to know your limitations.