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Gaming Steve Interview with Will Wright 2005

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This was an interview done following E3 2005 by Gaming Steve of Gamingsteve.com.

SporeWiki has taken the liberty of inserting wikilinks to concepts discussed in the interview or inserting small notes within the interview. All SporeWiki notes will be italicized. For the untouched version of the interview, see Gaming Steve Interview with Will Wright 2005/Source

Gaming Steve: So can you actually create a creature without a spine?

Will Wright: No no…

GS: Cause some people [on the Forums] are like "can you create an octopus or a squid"?

WW: Oh, you will have tentacles.

GS: But you have to have a spine? It has to be a vertebrate?

WW: You can actually … see I can take the spine, and if I grab the ends of it, I can actually shorten it, extremely short so I can make [makes the spine just one backbone in size] like this can be my entire spine here. So if I was going do an octopus I would probably be something like this [makes a very small round body]. I would shorten these quite a bit so, and right now we don't have the tools for it, so I would basically have the head of an octopus and under the arms and legs palette it would be something like tentacles which have many, many bones. You know they drag out here and kind of rotate into whatever positions we wanted. So yeah, you should be able to do something that looks kind of looks like an octopus. So if we roughly cheat right now, what should I do with those [places arms on the body] what should I do is shorten the bones. If I shorten them ya know I get artificial network, so in fact with tentacles you get something that could live in the water. [Works on the legs] So we’re trying to make some that looks like a hexapod.

GS: So do they have to be meat eaters? Can they be meat eaters or can they be herbivores? Or do they have to hunt and kill?

WW: Oh no, no, depending upon the mouth that you buy you are making them either herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore.

GS: Oh really?

WW: And also actually how you play them … you're kind of programming how social they are, you can develop very social behavior in which case they'll start living in herds, and they'll all protect each other. So ummm … [looks back at octopus] you can put feet on this ...

WW: I think I attempted an octopus. Before we have tentacles... ummm... let’s give him a...

Chris Trottier [Spore Designer]: How’s he going to eat?

WW: Well, where would … his mouth is actually on the bottom, right?

CT: Oh, you're making my creature!

WW: Where'd all my parts go? All my parts disappeared.

GS: So you said, I think I read, you could have water-based creatures, and so they're completely water-based, so when they go to other planets you have to build domes with water in them.

WW: Yeah, or they would probably terraform a planet by building an ocean, so they're looking for ocean planets.

GS: Oh, right.

WW: So we're going to have distributions of planets that are ocean or land based. So we're actually looking at creatures, that if you build a land-based creature the planets you come across are typically more land-based. It will actually bias the planets you come across to fit your species.

GS: So what about … are there weather conditions that in the game?

WW: We're going to have some weather, I'm not sure how much a part of the gameplay its going to really play. So here's my octopus … It’s not a very good octopus.

GS: Still it’s pretty good, for like, five minutes.

WW: Yeah.

CT: Now make him swim!

WW: Oh you're right, I should have him swim.

CT: You should put fins on there instead of feet.

WW: Okay, yeah, except all the parts are all invisible for some reason.

GS: So how does the skin texture work?

WW: Oh yeah.

GS: I know you didn't show that at the GDC.

WW: Oh yeah, we have that working in an external app, what happens is we have scripts, that actually analyze the creatures body, much like animation scripts do, and they paint the picture, they know where the backbone is they know where the belly is, and if you put like stripes, spots, fur, feathers, you can pick geometry as well. [To CT] We don't have any screenshots of like painted creatures?

CT: Screen shots of what?

GS: Cause people are wondering, like, if you get a feathery creature does it have different effects than one that has leathery skin? As opposed, is it just…

WW: We might have screenshots of this guy…

GS: Is it something that just looks pretty, like clothing, or does it actually effect the creature? Is it like the bone structure?

CT: We've gone back and forth on the skin, for a while we're thinking of having environmental effects so something allows you to…

WW: I think I showed this at GDC but this is another script along the same line. And so, and you can combine these scripts, so most of these are combinations of two or three scripts piled on top of each other and some of them can have really dense variety, we don't have any dense ones but normally, but you can have really furry looking hair, or you can have bird feathers all across it, it actually becomes geometry.

GS: I'll go quick and fast with the questions because we only have half an hour. I see clothing so are you going to be able to have clothing for your creatures, because you only saw naked creatures in the demo.

WW: That’s something we're still debating, in the tribal level, what the tools editors are going be, you're definitely going have a hut editor, umm, there’s a pretty good chance that we’re going have a … basically a dressing editor where you can accessorize your creatures. It’s not going be you know flowing cloth as it is helmets and hats, you know things you're going stick on them, like creature parts. So if we can do it, in the same creature editor, with parts, only where the creature parts work then yeah, I'll do that.

CT: What else?

GS: Alright, blow up stars. They wanted to know if there are ways to affect planets because you blow up the planet actually play blow up the star and destroy the whole system.

WW: I think so.

GS: A lot of people want to know about galactic war, “I want to know about galactic war”.

WW: Yeah.

GS: I think that’s a big question so...

WW: That actually is a simple thing for us to do. So that is really more of a game design question.

GS: The thing with that is … that’s another thing for game design because what prevents the computer from going around and blowing up your planets left and right?

WW: Oh you see, we control the computer so we can tell it not to do that. So we can allow you to eventually earn that weapon but not let the computer ever earn it. Or only if you blow up their star, and it’s a race … now they're really pissed off at you.

GS: I don't know if you're going do something like Civ does, where like, with nuclear weapons, it'll only do it at a certain level, they usually won't do a nuke weapon and if they do it affects the whole…

WW: I think the player has to opt in to interstellar war. And if they opt into it and they want to play an interstellar war….

GS: And then will the computer…

CT: It will have repercussions. Like if you take out a colony on one planet and they're allied with someone else then -- you'll hear from them.

GS: Yeah I get a lot … everyone's reading the boards and its like, "oh, I really want to know about"…

WW: Here's my octopus.

GS: Wow, that is very cool.

WW: Ha-ha!

GS: So ... stages, how does it handle when you have the stages in between, when it became a water based creature to a land based creature. It seemed to just sort of appear. Is there going be a cutscene or a transition or something?

WW: Why would you introduce to these things?

CT: Ah! I don't know how accurate these are Mr. Handout! Oh my god…

WW: [Presents GS with various design documents for the various stages of Spore] You can't take these. You can just look at them.

GS: Oh, that’s fine.

WW: This will give you some sense though?

GS: “Kidnap/Ransom”?

WW: Each level of the game you're setting some kind of aspect of the creature. Like in the creature mode, you're setting whether they're group or solo, so if they're herd creatures or very individual. In the tribal you're setting if whether they're emotional or logical. In the city one we're still kind of playing with and will still probably change. In the civ level you're basically setting diplomatic/imperial you know, diplomatic you're kind doing alliances with people you're fairly peaceful; imperialistic, you're conquering people. When you get to the space level, you're actually first are at … let me see which one is this, this is the overview of the space game where you're terraforming/colonizing and you're actually interacting with other creatures and making alliances. There's a terraforming … as you terraform, this is kind of the rough idea is that every planet has a “T Score” from zero to ten, “B Score”, which is a biosphere score, and a “P Score”, which is the population score of your colony. Depending where the planets are relative to the sun they can have maximum T Scores. So planets that are really far away or really close to the center can have very low T Scores and you can never terraform them, they’re very high. Other ones will be moderately useful, like T6. That’s going cap the B Score so if I actually get an atmosphere up to a T6, which is this range. At this point, plants will live, animals won't, and colonies will be fairly expensive still. And so, this is kind of the terraform/colonization game.

GS: Is this something that is shown to the player or is this hidden?

WW: Yes.

GS: Shown where? So they'll know like, "that’s a really good planet there." But that’s for that culture so if it’s water-based, T10 is a water planet, but for someone else that can be a T0.

WW: It’s the real estate value. So I look at a star, I look at a planet and I say, "oh, that’s a really great planet, I want that plane! Only there are already colonies there … I want to eradicate them so I can colonize it." Or it might be there's a really marginal one, and I kind of I end up losing money on it.

GS: So you showed like black holes, quasars, things like that?

WW: Yeah.

GS: Are those there just for fun? How do those affect the game? Or are you not sure yet?

WW: Well, I’m not sure how far we’ve gone down this path but we have already prototyped models for all these things. I can show you the prototypes here … we have a huge numbers of prototypes.

GS: I mean it was cool even when you just “went over them.” [with the mouse-cursor and they animated]

WW: Oh yeah. This is our prototype of a black hole and stuff. This is basically our general gravitational simulator. This is also how we would simulate the formation of new stars and planets. So basically I have this little world where … let’s see … there is actually space-time warpage here, that’s the grid showing. I can actually go in here and sculpt/drag space-time. Notice as I drag my cursor here I am actually gravitational tracking across time to form larger and larger maps and I can actually create a star in here. This is also how we might simulate a black hole. We can actually generate entire planetary systems from these tools right here.

CT: More questions!

WW: Yeah, we probably shouldn’t dive into this too much. This is also how we would build a nebula. So if I was interacting with nebula and wanted to initiate a gravitational collapse… But again this is stuff we prototyped, but we want a good simulation though. Now how much is actually going to be entered into the game, we’re not sure yet. You know, because there are other areas which have higher priority than this. But I do want these things to be a toy -- you want to grab hold of something. But I’m not sure if it’s going to quite that deep or not.

GS: So how many worlds are there per galaxy? Hundreds? A hundred thousand?

WW: Per galaxy?

GS: Yes, per galaxy.

WW: Oh, well, there will be probably well over a hundred thousand. I mean, far more than a player could ever visit. Which is why there is no point to having another galaxy. If there are going to be thousands of stars in a galaxy there is no way that one person in their lifetime could ever visit them all.

GS: I just wanted to know if you could, like, conquer the galaxy…

WW: Now consider like The Sims/The Sims 2 web site. How many houses or families are uploaded to The Sims 2?

Caryl Shaw [Producer]: A day?

WW: Or just total. How many do we have total?

CS: Uploaded or downloaded?

WW: Uploaded? I mean, how many to be totally have?

CS: We probably have around 70,000 Sims right now.

WW: Okay, so now those are Sims that people went and uploaded from the game. They said “I’m going to upload this”. This game is going to automatically be uploading stuff. The player isn’t going to have to be deciding to do this.

GS: So how is that going to work? A lot of people have been worried about that…

WW: That is an opt-in thing too. You can turn that off.

GS: People are worried that if they don’t have Internet connectivity how is it going to work?

CS: We can manage that, we do that in The Sims now. So that shouldn’t be that difficult to manage.

GS: So are you just going to have a massive library or will the computer going to be start enough that the AI can create new creatures, planets, so that you can keep playing…

WW: Well keep in mind that the content is extremely compressible. One of these creatures compresses down to around 1K. So since these things compress down to like 1K that means on your CD within one megabyte we can store thousands and thousands of creatures even if you’re not connected to the Internet. So we’re going to have a local database solution to everything. So if you have no Net connection you can still play the entire game, it’s just using the local database of content rather than getting off the Web. So it’s not network required.

GS: So that’s a big “no”… So how do you find out about, in other words, if you look at “Okay I know this guy, I’m playing with my friend and I want to see all of ‘Dave’s’ creatures,” is there a way for me to take my friend’s creatures and see his and vice versa?

WW: That’s a Caryl question.

CS: We are interested in being able to offer that, we think that people will really get into pride of ownership of creation and there is a certain amount of notoriety that comes along with participating … so that the good creators keep creating.

Lucy Bradshaw [Executive Producer]: That’s pretty cool.

WW: Yeah, you see my octopus?

GS: So the UFO

WW: Yeah.

GS: So that is creatable too?

WW: Yes. It’s in the vehicle editor.

GS: Wait, just so that I can write this down once and for all. You can make the creatures?

WW: Yeah.

GS: You can make the buildings?

WW: Yeah.

GS: You can make the vehicles?

WW: Yeah.

GS: You can make the UFO?

WW: Yeah. You can make the cities.

GS: You can make the cities.

WW: You can make the plants.

GS: A lot of people ask about that.

WW: That’s something that will be unlocked later. When you get to the UFO level one of the things you can research is genetic engineering. Once you get that you…

GS: Yeah, people are asking about that, they want to be able to take people and mutate them and change them.

WW: Yeah. Once you research genetic engineering you get the creature editor for free, you can build whatever you want, like this. You can also start engineering the plants, design whatever weird plants you want. One of the advantages of our editor is that is we can take whatever you design and take parametric variations of it So you design one tree and then it will do all the different varieties of that same tree – tall, short, curves…

GS: I was wondering about that because when you were building the cities, the different sections of the cities, it was working real well when you were adding to them.

WW: Yeah.

GS: Diplomacy, how will diplomacy work?

WW: [Will displays a document diagramming the diplomacy matrix] This is still kind of a fairly rough design … basically, depending upon your culture and their culture there is a matrix based upon these sliders… There is a three-dimensional matrix of how emotional or imperialistic social creatures might interact with these separate beings. And between that matrix it will basically come out that they are very arrogant towards you or they are very fearful of you and in fact you’ll need to build in this general region in order to have a stable relationship. You do actions with them before you actually even talk to them by giving them things or just doing things on their planet, but they might interpret these things as hostile. So I might give them a gift to make them less hostile depending upon their culture, I won’t know what these sliders are until I start interacting with them. Then once I establish communication then there is a very kind of bad translation where I get rough sense of what they’re saying that gets better over time.

GS: Oh, so you can’t even understand the language at first?

WW: Until I play the “Close Encounters” game with them successfully, then I invent a basis for a shared language. At that point they can start giving us missions or offering us things or offering us alliances and stuff.

GS: So in the single-player is there actually going to be a point? Is it going to be like … well, I saw what you did in The Sims and then The Sims 2 there were goals and all you did was unhide them in The Sims 2.

WW: Yeah.

GS: Are you going to do something similar in Spore?

WW: Well we are going to have several meta-goals at the space level that you know, depending upon how you play the game it’s going to actually attempt to steer your towards the powers that your earn. So if I play very altruistically I will find it that much easier to at the space game to conquer the galaxy. If I play very diplomatically at the space game it will be much easier for me to go around meeting new races, establishing relationships and alliances. I might build a federation like “Star Trek”. Or I might go play the “Uplift” game which is where I go to wild planet, drop a Monolith, and bring a creature to intelligence and go back and see what they built. I might want to play the “X-Files” game where I abduct alien creatures and collect them and cross-breed them or whatever. I might want to play “War of the Worlds” where I just go around and blow people up for the hell of it.

GS: Yeah, it seems that a lot of people want to play that one.

WW: Well that is why we basically want to keep it a single-player game, or a massively single-player, but because it’s single-player the player can still be the hero … can be the god and blow up things if they want without ruining anybody else’s experience. So we’re trying to get the best of both worlds.

GS: So the city types … you showed a really cool organic city and then there was the technology city, is there an “archetype” for the cities?

WW: We actually have this guy, Christian, who did a huge number of conceptual drawings for us and we are actually deconstructing these and basing the parts that we give the player – these are some world pictures – these are the type of worlds we want the players to be able to make in the editor.

CS: A bunch of them are hanging up on the walls too so you can see…

WW: Yeah, so if you take a look at some of these, these are conceptual drawings of the type of planets that we want players to be able to make.

CS: Like that one over there…

WW: Yeah, that one was the conceptual drawing for the organic city. Over here these are sort of like creatures, plants, and so … we are actually dealing with these things sort of at first conceptually and then deconstructing them and figuring out what kind of parts to give the player to able to build a world like this.

GS: So there is going to be “archetypes” or you’re not sure if there are going to be “archetypes”?

WW: Well, I’m not sure what you mean by “archetypes”.

GS: Well in other words are there going to be like ten “base-types” like maybe a technology, or an old technology, or an organic…

WW: No, we have in the building editor about a hundred blocks that you can mold, stretch out, and then combine in whatever format, you can mix and match them, they’ll adapt.

GS: So it’s freeform?

WW: Yes.

GS: It’s whatever you want it to be?

WW: But the collaborative filtering works like Amazon, so it looks at everything you ever bought or built and it says “what are some things that match your style?” So now it now offers those in the shopping catalog. So even when back at the creature level, once you’re building a creature, and you get to the city level, it will try to pick building with match the style of your creature based upon what other people put together. So in some sense the computer is learning to understand the player and customizing the game specifically for the player.

GS: So can you fly?

WW: Yes. You can build a flying creature but have to have…

GS: But can you have a flying society?

WW: Yes.

GS: Could you? Could you have cities in the sky?

WW: No, the cities … flying creatures still build on the ground. They just fly to move around.

CT: Did you give him a meteorite?

WW: No I didn’t.

GS: Oh is that the surprise?

WW: Here have a meteorite.

GS: I heard there is a surprise.

WW: Meteorite fragments from Arizona.

GS: [Will hands me a small meteorite fragment] Ooh. Very cool. So what about the resource types? What the heck are those little things up there?

WW: Oh those are just stand-ins.

GS: Oh no, on the top [pointing to the various bars on the upper left corner of the Spore screen].

WW: Oh like here?

GS: Yeah.

WW: Those are just stand-ins, but that’s about what the complexity of the interface is going to be. At every level we’re going to like three things that really matter. Like at the creature level it’s going to be your hunger, your energy, and your health. And that’s all the sliders you’ll really need. At the tribal level it will be population and food. So at every level we want to have just a very clear primary feedback which will be three sliders. How we looking at time?

CT: We’re getting there…

GS: So does it work … you become sentient, you have a tribe

WW: Yeah.

GS: And then are you competing against other creatures that are different species…

WW: No.

GS: Or is your species the dominant species?

WW: Yeah, when you bring a species to intelligence it is now the intelligent species. You are now competing against other cultures of your species. But at that point they start being culturally very diverse, so your guys might be peaceful and they’re warlike and you’re economic and they’re cultural…

GS: Alright, everyone asked it … you don’t have to give me an “official launch date”. Is it coming out this year?

WW: Fall. Fall '06. Thanks for coming by Steve. Sorry it was so rushed.

GS: Yeah, thanks again, I’m sure I’ll be seeing you at GDC as well as other places.

WW: Yeah. We’ll be reading your site.

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