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Will Wright favors Web 2.0-like community-driven game design

Posted by ballightning on April 3, 2009

Will Wright shared some of his secrets about Spore and the incorporation of the community in game design at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco today in conversation with Federated Media chief executive John Battelle


A game designer at Electronic Arts, Wright has created some of the best selling games of all time, including The Sims franchise, which has sold more than 100 million copies. He shared some of his secrets about the process — and how to incorporate users into game design — at the  in San Francisco today in conversation with Federated Media chief executive John Battelle.

Wright acknowledged that his latest game, Spore, wasn’t the blockbuster it was expected to be. Spore is a mult-dimensional game where you could start life as a single-cell animal, evolve into a creature, grow into a tribe and planet-wide civilization, and then take over the universe. Many people expected Spore to be one of the best-selling games of all time, given Wright’s track record, huge publicity that included a cover story on Wired magazine, and Wright’s seven-year journey to complete the game. .

But the game has sold in the low millions and it isn’t clear whether it will have any of the traction that The Sims did. (A new version, The Sims 3, will launch in June, more than nine years after the first game debuted.)

Wright said that hardcore gamers were disappointed with the lack of depth. But Wright said EA had designed the game to be akin to a toy, which is very accessible to a broader market of consumers but is really only appealing if it taps into as the player’s own imagination. The game includes sophisticated tools for creating characters, so much so that the fun part of the game is playing God. On that front, Wright believes the game was successful. Spore players have created more than 100 million creatures, objects, and vehicles which they share with the universe of Spore players.

To keep Spore interest high, EA is taking the assets and plans to build new Spore experiences. Lucy Bradshaw, who heads the Maxis studio that made Spore within EA, said that the community feedback changed the company’s plans for sequels to Spore. EA has several Spore spin-offs coming and it is releasing an applications programming interface to access the user-generated Spore content so that others can build applications around the database.

Spore the game is one instance of that data set,” Wright said. “The data set is the valuable part. I don’t want to be all-controlling on this data set. I want it to be the nexus of the community.”

In that sense, Battelle noted, Wright’s beliefs about game design are consistent with the idea of Web 2.0, where users drive the content. Wright also acknowledged that EA was forced to listen to the community regarding its “corporate decision” to include digital rights management (DRM) on Spore, which limited how many times a user could install the game on computers. He said EA was surprised by the outcry from angry users (who faced problems such as unsuccessful installs that used up their installation limits). EA has since rescinded the DRM by issuing a patch that essentially removes it.

Read the full article here


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