Steggy, my first Spore creationA few years ago, I wrote a post detailing my personal gaming history, wherein I also looked ahead to the future at a computer game that was shaping up to be extremely interesting. That game was Spore (you should really go to their site and watch the introductory video). Under development for half a decade, it was finally released a little over a week ago. Of course, I went out and bought it immediately, and have spent way too much time enjoying it recently.

Basically, Spore delivers. From the purely creative elements involved in putting together your very own creatures, vehicles, buildings, or spaceships, to the very strategic ones involved in maintaining a galactic empire in a quest for the Ultimate Answer, to the delight and wonder that spark the imagination upon seeing a coherent, procedurally-generated universe, replete with stars and supernovae and black holes and UFOs and alien creatures and planets and… the list goes on.

I have to admit that there was some initial disappointment with the depth of gameplay at earlier levels (Spore is divided into Cell, Creature, Tribal, Civilization, and Space stages). The first three stages in particular felt too easy, and went by very quickly without much in the way of challenge. Once I hit the Space stage, however, all that changed. It seemed everything I’d learned about using Spore in the earlier stages was now a set of essential skills I needed to use with strategy and alacrity if I was to stay on the board. It took me probably 6 hours to get from the Cell stage to the Space stage, and I’ve spent at least that long in this last stage, without progressing that much closer to the center of the galaxy (which is the goal of Spore). Part of my challenge at the Space stage may be due to choices I made in earlier stages, though – I chose to be a very warlike civilization, which gave me certain benefits, but also made it much more likely that I would be attacked in the Space stage.

Well, there’s much more to say about a game that has innovated so greatly on technical and conceptual levels, but that’s all for now. You should check out the game yourself! It should run on any computer (Windows or Mac) with a decent graphics card. I’ll leave you with a set of creations from my current Spore game. Clearly, only a very special game could allow me to create such cool and unique models! And, if you’re a Spore player yourself, I believe you can download these images and import them directly into Spore to use them in your own games.

Tyraxin, my creature for this game (from planet Teraxius)

The city hall for the Civilization stage on Teraxius

The ground vehicle for the Tyraxin

The Tyraxin air vehicle

My spaceship!

Inspiration from Game Design

The list of bloggable topics on my mind is currently very long, and (I am thinking) very good. Prominent on said list are (a) a long discourse on spiritual discipline and its effects, and (b) an explication of a home-brewed, possibly-heretical theology of creation that Nick and I have been kicking around for a little while and are pretty enchanted by, which seeks to resolve intuitions of a good pre-fall state with what evolutionary history says about nature being “red in tooth and claw”–i.e., vicious and cruel–long before humans arrived on the scene. However, something I saw last night on digg inspired me to push these topics yet further back, and that was a demo for an upcoming game by Maxis (creators of all the Sim games–of which the early SimCity and SimCity 2000 were the most groundbreaking, in my opinion–incidentally, you can play SimCity Classic online here if you have a PC).

Now, I want to preface this whole entry with a bit of history, since to many of you it may come as a shock that for most of my life I have considered myself and been considered by others a “gamer”. If you want to skip the history and get to the point, scroll down to “The Reason for this Entry” below.

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Farewell, Azeroth!

After over a year of building characters and wandering around the World of Warcraft, I’ve decided to cancel my subscription. The trouble with these massively-multiplayer world-immersive games is layed out in the following set of claims:

  • A monthly subscription is expensive.
  • The game is designed in such a way that, after an initial phase, the entertainment it provides is exponentially related to the amount of time you put into it.
  • In order to get the maximum value out of the game, in terms of both money and entertainment, one is forced to play a lot.
  • Playing massively-multiplayer games a lot can be intrinsically unhealthy if in a person’s lifestyle it precludes other more important activites. It is also potentially addictive, and can be unhealthy in that way as well.

Now, I haven’t been playing in an unhealthy way–in fact, I haven’t been playing at all. My decision to quit is more a financial one, and also as a result of the dilemma above, which shows that to get the desired amount of entertainment, one must choose effectively to be unhealthy in some way.

That being said, my visits to Azeroth (the fantasy world in Warcraft) were indeed fun and provided many hours of enjoyment, particularly when I was able to play alongside my brother and sister. Such cooperative play was made all the more meaningful in virtue of the fact that I live across the country from them and had no real other way to hang out. I will retain many fond memories of our quests, guild drama, and laughing at the plethora of idiots that occupy any online community (but particularly gaming communities). So here’s to Telarian, Telariz, and Tsarmina!

Telarian and Telariz surveying the snow plains below Ironforge

Things I Like 10-2005

So that I will not be accused of only making lists of heavy and depressing stuff like doubts, here is installment #1 of “Things I Like”! I have put “10-2005” in the title, which implies but does not do anything like promise that this will be a monthly series. The list is not supposed to be particularly deep, so please do not feel injured that I do not mention our relationship, or Jesus, or anything like that. But do remember that I spend most of my days coding, and so a lot of this will be my inner nerd coming out. Here is the list, in no particular order:

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