A long time ago, in a galaxy not too far from here, Lindsay Gold brought up the game of "Spore" which is to be released by Electronic Arts in the fourth quarter of this year. I thought that I'd continue that conversation with a new post and a couple of new links. A quick review: Spore is a computer game modeled on evolution, except that there is human interaction. You guide a "spore" (yes, I know that the term is inaccurate) through evolution. As you go along, you can add features to yourself, and your technology progresses as well. You can even acheive space flight! So for those of you interested, here are a couple links: The Official Site A Google Video of gameplay As for me, I'm really excited for this game to come out, especially to see how much free will they've actually implemented (aka, what happens when you're idle?) and how well they have implemented it. In the Sims, if you know the cheat codes, you can actually adjust the percentage of free will. It will be interesting to see if they've included that sort of mechanism in spore. Perhaps it's because of a gaming class I took last year, but I'm continually obsessed with the community of World of Warcraft, even though I've never actually played the game. Different phenomena have emerged from the game, the most recent of which was the disease factor. During one part of the gameplay, players could be infected with a disease which could be passed to nearby players. The disease then became a weapon because infected players would band together to attack people with the disease instead of their broadswords. It's also become a forum for social issues. I however have been wondering what the connections were between the players in the "real world;" what connects them outside of the game? Would we see a pattern in those networks? Would there even be a network, or is the only thing that connects them a passion for MMORPGs? I find these online communities fascinating, especially when people interact on such an artificial level as players in a game. Has anyone else noticed other phenomena in such communities?


DavidRosen's picture

I am not convinced at all that there is a significant amount of emergent activity in Spore. There is a lot of talk in the gaming press about the "evolution" in Spore and so on, but it is not really evolution at all! If you watch the video, it shows that as time passes you gain "evolution points" which allow you to change your creature by adding limbs or increasing its speed. That does not sound like evolution to me. It sounds more like intelligent design, which is essentially the opposite of emergence.
julia_ferraioli's picture

Of course it isn't real emergence! I posted those links so that people who were interested in the earlier post could follow up on it. However, that is also why I am interested to see what the system does when people are not directing it. Does it then go and do things on its own? Is it possible to play the game simply by letting it run without any human interaction whatsoever?
JoshCarp's picture

Right, the design of creatures in Spore is entirely controlled by the player. The way creatures move and interact with the environment, though, can't be directly controlled--those behaviors come from the interaction of the player's design and the game's physics engine, which actually looks pretty impressive. Once the game moves to the social stage (like a standard RTS), dozens or hundreds of the creatures that the player has designed begin to interact socially. The quality of those interactions might be affected by the creatures' design, and that relationship might be unpredictable, at least from the early stages of the game. More interesting than all this is the potential for interaction among players. The game world will be populated with lots of flora and fauna, but these won't be Starcraft-style doodads or neutral creatures. When I play Spore, my world will be filled with creatures drawn from countless other players' worlds. My creature will hunt and be hunted by other players' creatures under the computer's control. I think the interactions that come from this kind of system are potentially very complex and hard to predict. Procedural generation of terrain and computer-controlled creatures seems neat and possibly interesting, too. A friend of mine recently blogged on the topic. An excerpt follows: "Spore’s worlds and creatures are procedurally generated. I previously wrote about procedurally generated environments, but I’ve never seen anything like this before. You can create creatures by combining many different parts, each of which has functionality. You can also reshape and mold parts as if they were clay. Then, the system analyzes the morphological structure of your newly created creature and figures out how it might move — how it should walk, fight, eat, mate, and more. The generated movements are plausible and visually pleasing. No motion capture or hand-animation required."