We've all seen screen shots and video of Spore's 3D character design. There seem to be limitless options provoking endless gameplay.
But what not many people know about Spore is that the experience lasts just five hours before you are done with a majority of the game's features. Yeah, from all of that cute character creation to the large scale city dynamics, it's over pretty quick.
"I waited in line, where's the ride?" "The line is the ride." So where is the ride in Spore? Four of the five stages, which Crecente recently detailed more than I will here, are done shortly after they begin. As soon as you get used to walking, you are founding a society. And as soon as you get used to conquering other societies, you get the fuck off the planet.
The effect is like watching highlights from the history of Maxis, a sort of Will Wright Cliffsnotes™ version—everything you may have missed from Sim Earth, Sim City and The Sims in an afternoon. But simultaneously, it seems like Maxis has cut out the very heart of what makes these games "Sim" titles: the actual time spent...Simming.
On-planet RTS elements like vehicle battles and defense towers are simplified to what looks like a casual RTS—if such a genre exists—resembling less the metaphorical game of paper, scissors rock while leaning toward the more literal interpretation.
The payoff, therefore, needs to be the fifth level of Spore: space. It's here where players will spend hours 6-infinity conquering civilisations on a planetary scale, with each planet comprised of single player campaigns from players around the globe.
While we know that in space there will be missions to complete, I don't think that Maxis is showing anything about it at GC '07 other than a few scraps of video.
So there are two ways Spore could fold out.
1. We've all been duped. The first four levels are but an homage to what's been done, with the fifth level starting the real game, William Wright's unsung opus to be revealed in full in the coming months...the real Spore.
2. Spore kinda blows.