I've wanted to play Will Wright's next game, Spore, for years. I first wrote about Spore way back in February 2007, proudly and naively stating that "our wait will soon be over." Well, I was right if by "soon" I meant "in another year and a half." Spore has been in development since 2000, and it finally has a reliable release date: September 7, 2008. Let's hope the wait has been worth it.
Spore is a video game unlike any other. Following in the tradition of Wright's SimCity and The Sims, it's a "God Game" in which the player controls the lives of characters in a virtual world. But this time, you're not a city planner or operating a doll house -- you're literally playing God as an intelligent designer, creating and guiding an organism through stages of evolution and social progress. What's more, the technology behind the game breaks new ground, using generative mathematical processes to animate user creations and even create music on the fly. Neat stuff, this.
In the run-up to Spore's release, EA has released the Spore Creature Creator (including a free version). Using the Creature Creator, you can play with Spore's creator development environment to create your own beings. These creatures will then populate the actual Spore game world when the game ships (Spore downloads user-generated content in the background, populating worlds with creatures created by other users). Check out the free trial edition for a taste of the action; there's also a $10 full version available for purchase (the full version unlocks lots of additional creature parts, like different eyes, arms, legs, and so on).
Here's a demo of the Spore Creature Creator, showing exactly how it works:
There are various contests afoot related to the Creature Creator. There's a dance competition in which you capture video of your creature busting a move (the prize is a trip to the Smithsonian Institute!), and a celebrity Spore contest called SporeVote, in which fans vote on their favorite Spore creatures created by celebrities. (Note: the celebrities are a weird grab bag including MC Hammer, Peaches, Stan Lee, Margaret Cho, David Lynch, Carlos Santana, and _floss friend Mo Rocca.)
So get your preorder in and spend the next few months drooling over YouTube videos (I recommend The Science Behind Spore as a good starting place, then check out the videos linked here for deep catalog nerd stuff).