Forget Metacritic scores - the real test of Spore's popularity is how many people show up to their talk when Suda 51 is on a panel across the hall at the same time.
Doesn't help that he has a new game coming out, while Spore launched last year. Still, the online community for the game has been active — weekly challenges plus and upcoming API contest are what's going on there — and the first expansion, Galactic Adventures, is due out in June.
The house didn't fill up, but it was a pretty decent talk. In the first five minutes, Producer Caryl D. Shaw changed the name of the panel to something about her life story and used the opportunity to talk about Spore online development and her cat.
The big challenge of developing Spore for online stuff was knowing when to get the servers. The online side of the project first went into development in 2005 and Shaw bought the servers early. This turned out to be problematic since by the time the game launched last year, the servers were slightly outdated.
But ultimately, Shaw thinks it's good they started early. It got the Sporepedia off the ground without the servers crashing and set up a system of community management that grew up along with the community.
That system seems to be working fairly well; Shaw showed off the following spiffy stats for Spore's online performance since launch:
89,505,660 total uploads since June
1.5-2m uploads per week (1m per day the first week)
2.6m registered users
3500 new users a day
500-600k uniques a month to Spore.com
4.45 minutes (average time per visit)
5 - number of Web Engineers at Maxis (plus Ernie, the part-time database guy)
Her number one piece of advice to those handling online development for single-player games? "Whether you're on the game side or on the online side... don't hide from your customers," Shaw said. "Don't hide behind your desk, don't hide behind your email - get out into the community."
Oh, and more load testing. That's how you keep the servers from crashing on opening weekend.