The debate about how to create emotional investment in games is an ongoing one, but legendary Spore designer Will Wright believes that letting users create their own content and characters is the key to creating that connection with players.
In a new interview with Level Up, Wright explains why letting users create their own Spore creatures was so key to the experience:
You never really hear game players telling each other about the cool cut-scene they saw in the games they are playing but they're always talking about the cool unique things they discovered to do on their own. By focusing on giving the players narrative freedom the game becomes more immersive and they show a much higher degree of ownership and authorship over the experience.
Wright said there've been 500,000 user-generated creatures made using Spore's creature creator. No small sum. In fact, guess how long it would have taken Maxis to make that many all by themselves?
Using traditional tools like most game developers (Maya, 3d Max) it would typically take a professional artist a couple of days to make a Spore-like creature. A large art team might have as many as 50 artists working on a project so to create 500K creatures that team would have taken about 55 years.