A few weeks ago, I saw Create, one of the newest - and still unfinished - games from EA, makers of Madden, The Sims and Dead Space. My signature swore me to temporary silence that ends now.
What I saw of Create looked, at first, like derivative creativity. Here was a game set in two dimensions full of materials and options for manipulating interactive scenery, all of which reminded me of Media Molecule's PlayStation 3 gem LittleBigPlanet. The game, as it was presented to me, was full of challenge levels that required contraption-based solutions - for example, get this thing on this side of the screen's terrain over some chasms and over to the other side, or help this balloon rise through this spiky chute without it being popped. That seemed straight out of 5th Cell's Scribblenauts.
That might be the depth of your understanding based on today's official unveiling of the game.
There's an added idea in Create that I saw during a live demo of the game in New York that could make the game stand out: The game notices and reacts to the type of creator or thinker that you are.
The key is in this concept image of the so-called Create helix which will represent, in each copy of the game, how a user thinks. As a Create developer showed me a few of the game's challenges, he noted that we could solve each one in a myriad of ways. You pull from a vast repository of virtual objects and creatures - balloons, monsters, planks, trees, etc - and place them in a level, creating your own Rube Goldberg-style contraption. You unpause the scene, set the world in motion and see what happens. If you're the kind of person how solves the challenge with as few items as possible, then the strand of your Helix that represents logic and efficiency may grow. If you tend to use a lot of objects and tend not to repeat them, then the creativity strand might extend. The game will recognise if you are detail-minded and place objects precisely, will notice if you add a lot of decoration and liveliness to your scenes or if you just slap things together.
Some challenges will have a par limitation, others will encourage you to use a lot of objects (which is why you see points bursting in some Create images from each new object that gets used in a challenge). But you can also create freely in the game's title screen which is a customisable environment too. At that title screen, the Create developer showed me how he could change the lighting, move the clouds, paint layers, stamp stickers and drop object and creature alike into the environment. Again, the game would notice how we do things and give us some feedback.
The worst thing I saw about Create was that it seemed stiff at its first showing. Even the trailer released today shows a game world full of items and objects that look real and without the charm of a nearby LBP Sackboy to make the scene more jolly.
The Create game is supposed to launch this November for the PlayStation 3, Wii, XBox 360, PC and Mac (the first two with support for wand-style control thanks to the PS3 Move and Wii Remote). That release date is sooner than I expected. The game appears to be a solid virtual toolbox full of items and set to work with good virtual physics. But it could use a jolt of personality of some sort. If it gets that and succeeds, then the way it tracks our imaginations could be a fascinating stand-out feature that further separates Create from its obvious gaming forebears.