Spore Should Have Been One Game, Not Five, Says Former Designer

Spore Should Have Been One Game, Not Five, Says Former Designer

We can all agree that Spore didn’t turn out to be the opus everyone hoped it’d be. While over the years we’ve had some insight as to what happened behind the scenes, I’d say Soren Johnson’s recent critique really nails the game’s biggest issue — it tried to be too many things.

A few days ago, Johnson, now design director at Zynga, posted a very open and honest assessment of the problems behind Spore on Gamasutra. Spore was an ambitious project from Will Wright that was meant to blend procedurally-generated content with constantly-evolving gameplay. In some ways it succeeded, but mostly it was meet with bad reviews and disappointed gamers.

Johnson, who joined the Spore team during the last 15 months of development, covers a great many issues he felt affected the game, though the one that resonates with me is that the team tried to make many games, instead of one game. From the post:

Spore’s biggest issue was that the play at each stage was fairly shallow because the team was making five games at once. (At one point, Will described each of the game’s five stages as light versions of classics — cell is like Pac-Man, creature is Diablo, tribe is Populous, civilization is Civilization, and space is Masters of Orion.) However, making five different games at once is a bad idea; making one good game is usually hard enough.

Each of the five stages had different controls, different interfaces, different nouns, different verbs, different goals, and so on. Some effort was made, of course, to share ideas and elements across stages; however, the compromises involved often watered down what was supposed to make each stage distinct in the first place … Thus, the powers of ten idea put the team in a state of perpetual compromise where every major decision had to be considered according to its effect across all five stages.

What did you think of Spore? It might be a fun exercise to crack it open now, five years on and see how it’s stood the test of time. Sure, it’ll never have the legacy of a brand like SimCity, but could someone take its cauldron of ideas and create something terrific?

Spore: My View of the Elephant [Gamasutra]


  • Spore is still around? I thought that stopped being a thing like, 6 months after it was released

  • I actually thought Spore was pretty good and saying it should’ve focused on ‘one game instead of five’ seems like it would’ve defeated the purpose to me.

    I always thought The final Space/galaxy/whatever stage was huge and kinda fun but Tribal and Civilization were waaaay better yet tiny. I get that they expanded Space stage as much as possible because it was the final stage that everything was just leading up to but personally I would’ve preferred if it was much smaller and the earlier ones were fleshed out a bit more.

    Maybe not creature Stage…thought that was kinda dull to be honest lol

  • I actually spent a lot of hours on Spore, so by that definition I actually quite enjoyed it. That said, it had a lot of issues and could have been a lot better especially in the tribal / civ stages.

    In short I would buy Spore 2 in a heartbeat if they learned their lessons.

    • Sshh. EA is Listening. They are about to release a always online version where each evolution is a DLC and you can’t create an entire organism by yourself you have to play with 8 others.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!