'Spore: Galactic Adventures'

by Adam Rosenberg

A video popped up on YouTube about a week ago revealing the first tidbits of a collaborative effort between the “Robot Chicken” writing team and “Spore” creator Maxis. Now the word is officially out: when “Spore’s” first gameplay-enhancing expansion pack, “Galactic Adventures,” hits shelves on June 23, it will come packing – among other things, of course – 10 adventures which were conceived and written by the “Robot Chicken” team.

Let’s back up for a minute and talk about “Galactic Adventures.” In case you didn’t know, the expansion pack will add a considerable amount of depth to the game’s virtually endless Space phase. The pack will introduce a new concept to “Spore”: adventures. Using an entirely new and surprisingly robust set of editing tools, players will be able to build Space phase missions set on the surfaces of the galaxy’s many planets. Read More...

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Set for release this fall, the Wii version of EA's universe-creating "Spore" is designed for adventure and a heavy use of motion control. Read More...

While Stephen and Tracey are running around the New York Comic Con show floor and taking in the nerdy sights, the rest of us have to live vicariously through them, a process made easier with photos. Read More...

'Spore Creatures' DSLast month, during a C-SPAN appearance, Entertainment Software Association president Michael Gallagher named the games he likes playing  -- and showed love for a DS game almost no one talks about. Read More...

EA tried a lot of new games this year. What did the head of the company think of them?

Here's EA CEO John Riccitiello speaking on an investors conference call today to report lower-than-expected revenue for the company's financial year. A financial analyst asked Riccitiello what he thought of EA's 2008 original games:

"We're very pleased with a lot of our new franchises this year. We think 'Spore' has established a strong base for being an ongoing franchise. We think the same of 'MySims.' 'Dead Space' looks like a long-term big winner for us. We expect 'Warhammer' will continue to perform very, very well, it's life measured in multiples of years, not multiples of months. 'Mirror's Edge' is one that was very strongly reviewed. That one's going to go forward, we'll probably look at some issues around the design to make sure a strong [intellectual property] is married with strong business. …

"We did manage to put quality and innovation on the board in 2008 and we're very proud of that. Many times what happens with a new intellectual property is the first edition doesn't generate the units that subsequent editions can generate. And I would argue that in this particular year the consumer might have been more reticent to take risks than they otherwise might be. It was a very crowded holiday.

"I think we've established value for EA and value in our franchises and things we can build on for the future."

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If you'd like Electronic Arts-branded versions of Barack Obama, John McCain, Joe Biden or Sarah Palin as spaceships in your "Spore" world, you're in luck.

There are plenty of political creations in the Sporepedia, but Electronic Arts and Maxis have gone and created their own for users.

In their "Spore" profiles, Obama and Biden are rated with a smiley and listed as a "flourishing species," while McCain and Palin have a frown and are tagged as "endangered species." What's that say about "Spore" users?

In a note sent to gaming press, EA encouraged users to hop into the Sporepedia and vote for their favorites. "Who knows, you just might see Obama firing 'YesYouCannons' around the galaxy, or witness firsthand John McCain being 'mavericky,'" reads the note.

To see a much larger image of the candidates in "Spore" and some truly bizarre user-created alternatives to each of them, keep reading.

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'Spore'In a press release to report quarterly earnings today, Electronic Arts announced that its PC game "Spore" sold "nearly" two million copies in its first three weeks of release.

That's positive news for a company that otherwise had to announce today that it was cutting six percent of its work force. Kotaku reports that that figure amounts to 600 jobs. EA's release claims that the cuts will save the company $50 million.

Company CEO John Riccitiello noted that game sales had slowed in October, but promised a brighter future. "Longer term, we are very bullish on the game sector overall and on EA in particular," he said in the quarterly release. "The industry is growing double-digits on the strength of three new game consoles and increases in the number of homes with broadband internet connections. EA is well positioned to benefit from these technology drivers due to the strength of our creative studios and our broad collection of game properties--from 'The Sims,' to 'Spore' and 'Madden NFL,' to 'Warhammer Online.'"

For the full press release, go to EA's investors site.

Even though I have yet to play "Spore" outside of the creature creator, I continue getting notifications my "Spore" creature is popular on YouTube.

My creature, whose name I don't remember, is currently at 43,600 views.

Not only that, but 120 people have commented on the creature and two other YouTube users have posted video responses. What are these people thinking??

One user said, "thats looks like my dog walking backwards." Another said, "maybe there's not intelligent life out there after all."

But it doesn't seem like my "Spore" creature is alone. Several related videos have similar view numbers -- some of them even toppling out at over 100,000.

I didn't think my creature was interesting, but since YouTube e-mails me almost once a day that someone new has commented, I must have done something right. Or "Spore"'s YouTube community is more vibrant than I thought.

How are your "Spore" creations doing on YouTube?

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'Spore'Reading through today's notes regarding the latest "Spore" patch, I thought the most interesting change was the introduction of cube-shaped planets.

Then I reached the last line.

An Achievement that had rewarded gamers who had created problematic content has been removed from the game. This Achievement, called "Bad Baby," had been given to people who were sharing content that was offensive enough to get them banned. (A "Spore" wiki explains it.)

Let that one sink in. An Achievement for violating the rules of content-sharing. When's the last time you heard of a game rewarding players for bannable behavior?

Well, they're not doing it any more.

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'Rock Band 2'If "Rock Band" isn't the best role-playing game of the year, then I might have to nominate "Little Big Planet" for that award. Or "Guitar Hero." Or "Spore."

Many years ago, words started to fail fans of video games. Three words, in particular, that seem to be doing a poor job describing the games they are attached to are "Role Playing Game."

Or maybe the games are failing the words, because the games that everyone else calls RPGs -- the "Final Fantasy"s and "Oblivion"s and "The World Ends With You"s aren't making me feel like I'm playing a role nearly as well as the games I mentioned up top.

"Little Big Planet" is a role-playing game? Allow me to explain:

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