Yesterday saw the release of Spore
, Will Wright's long-in-development evolution sim first revealed during GDC 2005. An ambitious project, it has seen considerable investment by publisher Electronic Arts -- and great commercial success is expected of it.
But despite the fact that the game's development was something of an unknown quantity, hinging on uncommon procedural, dynamic systems, senior producer Morgan Roarty tells Gamasutra the game is "pretty close" to Will Wright's original vision, even if actually getting it out the door required the team to eventually say, "This is good enough!"
"I think if you actually go back and look at the GDC '05 [demo], we're not that far off," Roarty says. He points out that some early elements that were displayed, such as an underwater stage, ended up being cut from the final game. Other features, such as the Sporepedia in-game content catalog, were conceived later. "We're talking about maybe doing a side by side montage" of the original demo and the shipping product, he notes.
Despite the fairly on-target final result, the team had to take a considerably different path than is typical within the traditionally deadline-driven publisher. "EA's classical process is you do a technical design where you figure out all the parts you gotta build, figure out how much rough time it's gonna take," he explains. "Spore
was always challenging, because there was always one more thing, and it was just easy to fill in and add. [It was] this iterative process as we went."
That "one more thing" mentality meant that, at a certain point, the team had to recognize that development could not continue indefinitely. "EA's been very patient with the game," Roarty says. "As strange as it might sound, it definitely is a game that could continue. If there wasn't a time we needed to ship it, we could continue to make it. ...It was hard to say, 'No no no, that's it! We gotta stop! This is good enough!"
One of the challenges during the development process, which was notoriously extended, was finding team members who were actually capable of working within the demands of Spore
's unusual structure, which relies on user-generated content. "A procedural animator doesn't exist in the EA knowledge [base]," Roarty laughs. "Traditional animators are like, 'What? I don't get to see what I'm animating? I have to animate in this weird tool? Animate hypothetically?'"
That meant that team growth was less explosive than one might expect -- it ended up with a total of 92 developers, 14 of whom are testers. "The outside perception is that we're this huge team working on it for three years," Roarty says. "It started really small, and we were careful where we added. It was a good team, really passionate."