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Posts Tagged ‘spore’

SporeDay: New mission plus contest

Posted by ballightning on September 10, 2009

Sorry about the late post, i have been working very hard on my portfolio website for school, please check it out! For this weeks SporeDay, Maxis released a new mission called The Metamorphosis. Give MaxisKate, the creator, feedback over at the official forums.

Maxis have also created a Metamorphosis challange for creators. Head over to the official forums for more.

Challenge Details
If you played the latest Maxis adventure, The Metamorphosis, you may have noticed that a disturbing transformation has taken place.

In the Metamorphosis Challenge, make your own transformation with at least three creations that illustrate three stages of a creature’s life!

Not sure what to make? Your creations can represent a realistic earthly creature’s metamorphosis, such as a caterpillar/pupa/butterfly, or you can invent your own twisted alien metamorphosis.

Example Creations:


What will the challenge winner get?

A chance to be featured on Spore.com!

We’ll post our favorite submissions here, then YOU get to vote for which one is your top pick! The winner may be featured if it meets our criteria for featured creations.

• It must not have any parent authored by a different creator.
• It must not have any offensive creation in its lineage (any parent or child creations).
• It must not have any links or references to other sites in the submission’s tags, name, or description

Submissions that do not meet the above criteria will not be considered for the poll

How to Enter:
• Create three or more creatures in the creature editor. Publish these with the tag MCMorphChallenge.
• Add all creations in your metamorphosis series to a SporeCast tagged with MCMorphChallenge.
• Optional: Post screenshots and links here on the forum

Rules:
• All creations in your Sporecast entry must be made by you.
• Your creations must be made in the creature/accessory editors.
• You can submit as many Sporecasts as you like with as many creations as you like. Remember that each Sporecast should only contain representations of one species.
• All submissions must be in by 11:00am PDT 10/8

Challenge FAQ

Q: Does it have to fit into the bizarre bug-like stages of larva-pupa-adult, or could it be more of a child-adult-weakened adult? I’ve already made a few evolutionary creations that go through the insect cycle, and I kinda want to do something different than the obvious. – jwmd2
A: As with most of these challenges, we aren’t strict with how you interpret the challenge prompt. As long as you explain your more off-kilter entries in the description, they will be considered.

Q: Are finalists chosen based on looks or description? – Westonro
A: Maxis looks at all elements of the creation when choosing finalists. Obviously, the overall aesthetic weighs heavily, but a clever name and description can tip the scales in your favor. Keep in mind that when we post finalists, we do not include the description, however a link will direct others to the Sporepedia where they can view it. It’s up to other players to click the link when they are voting to read the complete description.

Q: Can entries be made in the accessory editors? – Westonro
A: Yes. The accessory editors can be used to enhance your creatures.

Posted in Spore Contests, SporeDay | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Editorial: Spore GA, success or failure?

Posted by ballightning on September 2, 2009

Welcome to the first Sporedum Editorial! This is a new section where I will put up my thoughts about events and issues in the world of Spore, I hope you enjoy and commenting is most appreciated! We are looking for people who wish to write about events in the spore community so if you are interested please comment below! Please help Sporedum by submitting our post to Digg and Stumble Upon.

It has now been 2 months since the release of the popular first expansion to spore, Galactic Adventures, and in this time, plenty has been said on its merits, and where it failed. Spore Galactic Adventures was built to revive the dream that was partially lost in Spore, by not only enhancing the space stage through the addition of adventures, but allowing players to create their own missions for thousands of others to play.

The lead up to Spore Galactic Adventures was rather large for an expansion, with Maxis teaming up with Robot Chicken to create some exclusive adventures which have become very popular. Another key factor in the run up to the release was the Adventure Camp, which helped, along with the Robot Chicken adventures, to hype Galactic Adventures up to being a game making engine, one which could rejuvenate Spore, and give it the much needed kick it needed.

Yet although the editor in Galactic Adventures was a breakthrough for the fact that it provided a simple yet effective way of creating missions, it did not fix the main concerns people had with the original Spore game. Galactic Adventures was more of a separate game which was occasionally intertwined with the core Spore gameplay, this does not make it bad, but it does not address the problems with Spore.

Connection Problems

Spore was a game which had too much to fill. You can always argue that it was made to be ‘cute’, and to a degree this was true, however the real problem with Spore was that it was trying to do so many different things that no game had done before, and put them all together. This is never a good strategy to go with, and led to the different elements in the game feeling like they didn’t fit in. Spore also had the problem of lacking actual connecting content, yes there was hours of gameplay, and endless creations to make, yet the gameplay in each minigame was quick, painful and in all but a few instances boring. For example in the tribal stage, you win in about 15 minutes on the hardest setting. The lack of connecting also detracts from the more positive elements of the game, and in addition the limited choices you have in each stage hardly effect what happens in the next stage.

The space stage was considered the most fleshed out part of Spore, with a whole galaxy waiting to be conquered, however these tasks quickly became boring, with missions which became extremely repetitive and battles rather boring. Since space stage was the most talked about, Maxis decided after light consultation with the Spore community to start creating an expansion where players could create their own missions to beam down to a planet for others to play. The idea for Galactic Adventures was born.

Galactic Adventure Ideas

The main idea behind the expansion is to allow more interesting missions for people to play as they explore the Spore galaxy, and the ability to create these missions for others to play. One of the most trumpeted aspects of Galactic Adventures was the adventure creator, and in all respects it is one of the best simple game making tool. However for many members of the Spore community, the adventure creation tool was not enough, and did not allow many of the adventures that they envisaged.

Many users had planned on creating epic sagas, with character dependant storylines similar to what can be done in editors like Oblivion and NeverwinterNights. However many critical elements were missing from Galactic Adventures. One feature which was sorely missing was mission and conversation trees, which is a standard part to creating any interactive RPG. Without this, it left the adventures lacking the crucial element of interaction. The main other feature which was missing was scripts, or the ability to have at least simple interactions between characters in the story.

Nonetheless the ability to create adventures which are engaging and interactive is within Galactic Adventures grasp. As shown by some amazing adventures (Whom God Destroys), Galactic Adventures does have the capacity to entertain.

Simple Problems

Yet wasn’t Galactic Adventures built to improve the space stage gameplay, and remove the repetitiveness of missions? Maxis made it so that while playing you could get any mission which did not have a locked captain. That means any mission, no matter how bad. If you had a perfect world and everyone put their time into making their missions, most of the missions would be enjoyable and worth playing.

Yet this is not the case. Often you come across adventures which can’t be won or have no plot and have a simple goal. These can be very frustrating, and the only way to fix this is to make Spore only download buddy adventures, however this will often mean you have access to only hundreds of adventures, in contrast to the hundreds of thousands of adventures out there.

Maxis could have provided a few simple steps to fix these problems. The most basic one would have been to make all creators ‘play’ there adventure beforehand with a basic captain for adventures where you choose your captain. Also they could have allowed players to choose what sort of adventures they can download by choosing how complex they can be, for example i could choose to not have missions which had fewer than 2 goals in them download automatically.

While there are many faults in Galactic Adventures, it can be agreed that Maxis have gone out of their way to create a vast and expansive game which allows the creation of player made gameplay.

Did it fail or succeed?

I’ll leave that up to you, except to say that in the eyes of Maxis, a top 10 ranking last month has made sure that Spore will continue for many years to come.

Posted in Galactic Adventure, Spore News, Sporedum News | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

EA Maxis-Spore Hit with Layoffs

Posted by ballightning on August 27, 2009

The Maxis headquarters in Redwood, California have been the host of the latest job cuts as the gaming industry faces the global recession. In the home place of spore today, Maxis have confirmed that members of the spore team have been layed off.

“Often in the video game industry, the size of a studio fluctuates in response to business conditions. In this case, EA has taken action to reduce the workforce at Maxis as we focus the business and focus Maxis,” an EA spokesperson told IGN.

EA is still fully backing Spore, mentioning some of its upcoming titles.

“EA remains fully committed to SPORE and other IP within Maxis, with games planned for launch in the next few months, including Spore Hero, coming to the Wii for the first time, and Spore Hero Arena on the DS. All eligible employees will receive severance and outplacement assistance.” 

EA wouldn’t comment on how many employees were let go, however.

Posted in EA News, Maxis News, Spore News | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Spore Screenshot Challenge

Posted by ballightning on August 22, 2009

MaxisCactus has posted the latest Spore challenge, this time its a screenshot adventure challange! If you have any questions, head over to the official thread and post in there.

Shutterbugs get ready. Load up your Galactic Adventures game and take a screenshot of an incredible scene you’ve created in the Spore Screenshot Challenge!

Post your screenshot, along with a link to the adventure here to enter.

What will the challenge winner get?

A chance to be featured on Spore.com!

We’ll post our favorite submissions here, then YOU get to vote for which one is your top pick! The winner may be featured if it meets our criteria for featured creations.

• The adventure must be originally created by you. No other authors are allowed in the lineage.
• It must not contain any creation with an offensive creation in its lineage (any parent or child creations).
• It must not contain any creation with any links or references to other sites in the submission’s tags, name, or description

Submissions that do not meet the above criteria will not be considered for the poll.

Rules:
• Your image should show off a cool scene you’ve created with Galactic Adventures
• To submit, publish and tag your adventure with mcscreenshotchallenge, and post a link to it here along with your screenshot
• You can submit as many screenshots of as many of your own adventures as you like
• Adventures can contain creations by other players
• All submissions must be in by 11:00am PDT Sept 17th 2009

Resources:
How to post an image on the Sporum
Check out this thread for some gorgeous screenshot inspiration.
How to use the adventureLook filters

Tips:
• If you normally run your game at low or mid range graphics settings, consider maxing them temporarily while you take your screenshot.

FAQ:
Q: Can it be an old adventure? Something I’ve already made?
A: Yes. Don’t forget to add the tag mcscreenshotchallenge to it, though.

Q: Does the screenshot have to be from a published adventure?
A: Yes, part of the rules state that you must publish and post a link to the adventure.

Q: Can the adventure just be built for the screenshot, or should it also be fun to play?
A: While the focus of this challenge is to create an amazing screenshot, we will pay some attention to how fun the adventures are when narrowing down the finalists, so put some fun gameplay in there, too.

Also, don’t forget that you can always revise your entry up until the contest deadline. For example, you can build your scene and even publish your adventure now, but then go back and revise the gameplay so that it’s more fun later. You have a whole month for this challenge. Just don’t forget to update your link post if you publish a revised version later down the line.

Q: What happens if the adventure I use is already featured?
A: Adventures that are already featured won’t be featured again… so use a fresh adventure!

Q: Can we use stylefilters/adventurelook/a combination of the two?
You’re encouraged to use the adventureLook cheat in your adventure.
See this guide for adventureLook info.

The styleFilter cheat is not recommended for use in adventures. Use it at your own risk, but this cheat was not created for adventures and may cause publishing issues. If you must use it, I recommend that you back up and publish a version of your adventure before using this cheat.

Q: Can we use Photoshop or other image editing programs to doctor up our screenshots?
No. The screenshot must be an unedited capture straight from the game.

Q: Can we have two screenshots from the same adventure?
Yes. Only one will be chosen as the winner, but post as many as you like.

Q: What are the minimum dimensions of the screenshot?
The screenshot must be 800 x 600 pixels or larger.

Posted in Spore Contests | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

SporeDay: Interview with Audio Recording Engineer Chris Seifert

Posted by ballightning on August 14, 2009

Ask Questions over at the official spore forums!

This is your chance to interview an audio engineer from Maxis!

Chris Seifert has been a member of the Spore Sound Design Team for the past two years. Prior to that, he’s been an audio recording engineer for Maxis projects dating back to the Sims original expansion packs. His primary focus is on VO and Creature sounds, but he also helps with music and SFX. Some of his favorite contributions to Spore include the Alien languages in the space stage and Epic creature voices.

On Galactic Adventures, Chris worked on all of the creature voices, including the Epics, which had to have an entire language created which conveyed a wide range of emotions from happy to sad to angry.

About the Interview

Ask Chris about his job, about what it takes to be an audio engineer in the gaming industry, or about specific technical questions you have about sound art just by posting your questions here on the thread.

Any question you asked will be considered, but finalist questions will be chosen based on relevance to his contributions at Maxis.

Submit your questions by 8/18/09 and we’ll choose the finalist questions for you to vote on. The top voted questions will be answered by Chris.

Previous interviews:
Ask Maxis with Chris Hecker
Ask Maxis with Kate Compton and John Cimino

Posted in Spore Community, SporeDay | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Apollo 11 Adventure Screenshots

Posted by ballightning on August 14, 2009

Check out some of Maxis’s favorite adventures from the Apollo 11 adventure competition!

Apollo 11 Adventure Screenshots
Check out images of some of our favorite moments from playing your adventures!

Click the images below to open the adventure in Sporepedia.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Spore Contests | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Spore meets ‘The Sims’ with Spore Creature Keeper!

Posted by ballightning on August 10, 2009

Finally some news about the mysterious new spore game for PC, Spore Creature Keeper! Thanks to Discovery Spore for the find of this video.

Posted in Spore Creature Keeper | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Web Sporepedia filter & MPN Top 4 updates!

Posted by ballightning on August 8, 2009

Many people have been complaining about the current MPN system, which showed adventures along with all other creations and due to the large amount of Clark and Stanley adventures appearing in it there was nearly no other creations. Now Maxis has fixed this by introducing a new MPN section on your spore page which only shows adventuers, and leaving the old one to only show stuff creating in the original spore game, they have also added a filter to the main MPN page which means you can now look at only the top rated vehicles, or the top rated adventures.

Sporepedia Filter & MPN Top 4 Updates!

We’ve made a small change to the Sporepedia view that will give you more control over the content you want to view.

You will now also be able to view MPN, featured, and other views of creations sans adventures if you choose by selecting the Spore Creations filter.

Try it out!

We’ve also added a Top 4 MPN Adventures pod to the MySpore page so you can view these seperately from the Spore Creation top 4.

I hope you enjoy these new changes and find that it’s now easier to find top quality creations.

-MaxisCactus

Posted in Spore News, Sporepedia | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Guide to exporting Spore Creatures into Blender

Posted by ballightning on August 6, 2009

Eochaid1701 from the official forums has found a way to use different file formats to create a fully rendered creature into Blender through the use of the Collada exporter from spore.

Trying to get your Spore creatures into Blender? This is where I will put the known Blender methods in one easy spot for your convenience. Thanks to scozdawg, KCDJedi, MaxisEditorDan, MaxisCHecker, and everyone else for helping find all this.

Changing Formats

What:
Blender cannot support Collada 1.4.1 reliably yet, so a different format is needed.* There have been two main methods for doing this, the Wavefront .obj and the 3DS Max .3ds.

.obj format gives you (mostly) working textures, but no rig. Recommended for textured renders, especially where a lot of the body is visible.
.3ds gives you the rig and textures on the parts, but no body textures. Recommended for procedurally-textured renders, where the UV’s don’t matter.
Research is pending to combine the methods and get the best of both worlds.

* Caveman79 was able to modify the base files for the Collada importer to get a successful model. In my experience, this merely broke the importer permanently and it will require reinstallation to fix it. His method is here: http://forum.spore.com/jforum/posts/list/285/37155.page

How:
1. Download the .fbx converter here: http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/item?siteID=123112&id=10775855. There is a different version for each OS, so be sure to pick the right one.
2. Put the .dae file from Spore into the left-hand pane by dragging or using the menus. Don’t change anything on the right-hand pane. Click the convert button in the bottom-right.
3. Put the .fbx file the program just gave you into the left panel in place of the .dae.
4. In the “Destination Format” menu, select either .3ds or .obj.
5. Click the convert button again. Done.

Getting the file into Blender

What:
You can’t just open a file other than a .blend file in Blender. You must import your creature and create a .blend.

How:
1. Open Blender.
2. Select the cube with the right mouse button (RMB) and press X to delete it.
3. Go to the “file” menu and choose “Import.” Then pick whichever file format you chose in the conversion.
4. Navigate to the file and select it. Deselect “Load UI” on the bottom of the pane.
5. Click “Import” and answer the popup window.
For .obj the following options should be selected:
NGons as FGons, Lines as Edges, Keep Vert Order
For .3ds, use defaults.

Fixing the model up

What:
The model is there, but there is still some stuff to do to make it render well. At any time during the following, you may select Render/Render current frame to see why we do what we do.

How:
1. The model is laying face-down, so type ry-90 and hit return. R means “Rotate,” Y specifies which axis to rotate on, and -90 is the number of degrees.
2. All of the polygons are explicitly visible. Look in the lower tab and notice the button with the square on it. Select it if it isn’t selected. This gives you the mesh editing tabs. (You may return here at any time by clicking the aforementioned button) In the “Link and Materials” tab, select “Set Smooth” (the “H” may be cut off so it says “Set Smoot”). Now your model looks like it does in-game. This step made Blender give you four times the number of normals per vertex, making each face round instead of flat.
3. Render the creation to see how you’ve done. It should be facing to the left of the frame and be smooth-looking.
4. Read on to find out how to handle the textures.

Applying the materials

What:
Your model is still a default gray color, because your material didn’t come through. Now we’re going to reassemble the material. This is the most complex step, and will likely get you nowhere with a .3ds file.

How:
1. In the “Editing” pane, look where it says “1 Mat 1” Click “New” underneath that. This gives you a new material.
2. Select the lower-panel button with the gray sphere. This gives you the “materials” tabs.
3. Go to the far right tab. In the vertical row of rectangles, select the top one. This creates a new texture for the material.
4. Select the “Map input” tab. Select “UV.” This tells Blender to apply the texture according to the UV layout the game included with the creature. “Orco” simply drops the texture over the creature like a blanket – not cool.
5. Click the leopard print button to get the textures tabs.
6. Select the newest “Tex” box from the stack of rectangles (like the one from before, but wider). Under the “Texture Type” chooser next to it, select “Image.”
7. In the “Image” tab, click “Load” and pick one of your texture maps. (you should have three per critter: Name_specular.tga, Name_normal.tga, and Name_diffuse.tga) For the diffuse map, look in the “Map Image” tab and deselect “UseAlpha.”
8. Go back to the “Material” pane using the button with the red sphere on it.
9. Select the “Map to” tab. “Col” should be selected. You want different options here for each map . For the diffuse map, leave “Col” selected. For the normal map, deselect “col” (Very important) and select “Nor.” For the specular map, deselect “col” (Very important) and select “Csp.”
10. Repeat steps 3-9 for both of the other maps.
11. Return to the “Editing” tab. Press the “tab” key. This puts the mesh in Edit mode, where you can see and deal with all the vertices. Press “a” to select all.
12. Click the “Assign” button in the lower pane.

You should now be ready for non-posed renders.

Posted in Spore Community | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Spore Galactic Adventures User Upload Challenge 4 – Epic size your Adventure!

Posted by ballightning on August 5, 2009

Spore Galactic Adventures allows you to create any kind of adventure, big or small. But this week, the challenge is to create an adventure that is bigger than big. So big, that its EPIC!

Create your most epic adventure yet in Galactic Adventures. The adventure could be epic in story, scale or scope!

Once you have created your adventure, make an EPIC video trailer for the mission and post it as a video response to show everyone what a cool adventure youve made. Make sure to note the name of the mission in your video so people can find it in Sporepedia!

And dont forget to check out last weeks best user challenge video, LuminarNightblades Galactic Adventure tribute to SimAnt:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-p79zu…

Stay tuned for the next YouTube video challenge….


Helpful Technical Information:

To participate in our challenge enter your video as a video response to this one. Here’s how to create a video file to upload manually:

-To capture video in Spore Galactic Adventures, click V to begin video capture and V to end video capture

– Your video will be posted in the “Movies” folder which is located in your “My Spore Creations” directory

– Post your finished video as a video response to this video by clicking “Post a Video Response” in the video response section to the left

Posted in Galactic Adventure, Spore Contests | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

SporeDay: Interview with artists Kate Compton and John Cimino – Answers

Posted by ballightning on August 5, 2009

MaxisCactus has posted the answers from the Interview with Kate Compton and John Cimino, enjoy!

Thanks for submitting and voting on your top questions! John and Kate sat down to share their thoughts on the questions you came up with. Read their answers below.

Q: What was your motivation for working as videogame designers? – Cartoonworks, Irlydontknow, Perryplatypus
John: Well, when I first decided to go to art school to become an animator my motivation was all about storytelling. I had always really enjoyed drawing and I loved the thought of making my own short animated films. After working in the industry for a few years as a more traditional 2-D animator I wanted to make the leap into 3-D. An opportunity came up to work with one of my good friends Bob King who was the art director for the Sims games at the time so I jumped on it. When I started at Maxis I was on the Sims for a few months when the opportunity to work on Spore was presented to me. The team was very small and the game had barely even started, but when Will and Ocean described it to me I was blown away by the scope and ambition. I was especially intrigued by the ability to design my own avatar and have him take over a planet. This game has been so much fun to work on that I’ve been here ever since and I’m very happy that Galactic Adventures has given me the chance to help design something that enables people to create both games and make little short films!

Q: Could you describe a typical day in your job? – CrazyShyness
John: Hmmm, A typical day for me at spore? One of the things I love about working on this game is that my job constantly changes. One day I’ll be animating a creature swinging an axe, the next I’ll be designing icons in flash, and then the next I’ll be creating some concept art or animation for a future project. On especially awesome days my job is to simply to make cool content for the game. Typically though, I come to work, sit at my desk, and churn out animation files. Once I’ve finished one of them I’ll test it on multiple creatures to see how it generalizes, test it in game and then check it into our pipeline to be hooked up. Our office is a pretty fun place to work, on Fridays for instance we all stop work at 4:30, head down to the common area to mingle, eat pizza and play video games. Not a bad gig.

Q: What makes a good Technical Artist? – Rulycar
Kate: A good sense of timing, being able to look at a real-world effect and break it down into its components. Take a look at any explosion (I find youtube is a good source). What color is the smoke? Does it fade from black to white as it rises? Does it throw out flaming shrapnel or just sparks? Is there a fireball and how long does it last. Every type of explosion is different, so if you’re making an exploding oil barrel, it should look different than a grenade explosion. I love going to pyrotechnic festivals like Burning Man or the Oakland fire festival, because I get new ideas every time (next time, more green fire!).

Q: What makes a good Animator? – Rulycar
John: A very good question with no easy answer. I recommend you read “The Illusion of Life” by Disney masters Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas which is probably the greatest book ever written about animation. It says that to become great you need to incorporate the 12 principles of animation. If you can master the 12 principles below and incorporate them into all of your animation you will definitely be very, very, good.

1. Squash and Stretch – the ability to give a sense of weight and flexibility to objects.
2. Anticipation – the ability to prepare the audience for an action, and to make the action appear more realistic.
3. Staging – the ability to direct the audience’s attention, and make it clear what is of greatest importance in a scene; what is happening, and what is about to happen.
4. Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose – “Straight ahead action” means drawing out a scene frame by frame from beginning to end, while “pose to pose” involves starting with drawing a few, key frames, and then filling in the intervals later.
5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action – These closely related techniques help render movement more realistic, and give the impression that characters follow the laws of physics. “Follow through” means that separate parts of a body will continue moving after the character has stopped. “Overlapping action” is when a character changes direction, and parts of the body continue in the direction he was previously going.
6. Slow In and Slow Out – The movement of the human body, and most other objects, needs time to accelerate and slow down. For this reason, an animation looks more realistic if it has more frames near the beginning and end of a movement, and fewer in the middle.
7. Arcs – Most human and animal actions occur along an arched trajectory and animation should reproduce these movements for greater realism
8. Secondary Action – Adding secondary actions to the main action gives a scene more life, and can help to support the main action. A person walking can simultaneously swing his arms or keep them in his pockets, he can speak or whistle, or he can express emotions through facial expressions. The important thing about secondary actions is that they emphasize, rather than take attention away from the main action.
9. Timing – in reality refers to two different concepts: physical timing and theatrical timing. It is essential both to the physical realism, as well as to the storytelling of the animation, that the timing is right.
10. Exaggeration – is an effect especially useful for animation, as perfect imitation of reality can look static and dull in cartoons.
11. Solid Drawing – The principle of solid — or good — drawing, really means that the same principles apply to an animator as to an academic artist. The drawer has to understand the basics of anatomy, composition, weight, balance, light and shadow etc.
12. Appeal – in an animated character corresponds to what would be called charisma in an actor. A character who is appealing is not necessarily sympathetic — villains or monsters can also be appealing — the important thing is that the viewer feels the character is real and interesting.

As far as I am concerned the best way to master these principles is to practice, practice, practice. I recommend drawing all the time. Another great way to learn is to film yourself acting out a scene and then watch it frame by frame to see how the motion is broken down.

Q: Do you have any tips for manipulating animations based on body shape / parts positioning in the creature editor? (We already know about the centipede /camel type animations) – GoodGame
John: No, as far as I know there are no other hidden animation quirks like the poly-pod technique. For those of you who don’t know if you have a creature with 7 legs or more you can change its gait by adding and subtracting detail parts. When you do this the characters will choose from one of 5 different walks including the camel and centipede as was mentioned. Whenever I make a creature I tend to try and build something that will animate the smoothest. I find a normal biped creature who is slightly lurched forward with a bit of a hunched back works the best. I also encourage people to make sure that their creature appears well balanced in order to get the most bang for your buck. One way to check this is to look at your creature from the side and try to imagine him holding that pose for an hour. If it looks like he’d be uncomfortable doing so it might be a good idea to readjust his feet so that they are centered under the bulk of the character’s weight.

Q: Do you have any tips for getting more precision out of the shapes in the creature creator? Do you use special scripts/computer accessories when you ‘draw’ into the creator? – GoodGame
Kate: Nope! No special magic! We use the same tools as you guys. I do have one tip that I like to use, especially for humans and equine shapes. When I attach legs, I’ll scroll down the vertebra that they’re attached to until it’s as small as possible. This helps the legs sink into the body, rather than looking pasted on, and it creates a more natural looking hip.

Q: Kate, your creations in the building editor are amazing. I have not figured out how to rotate the base pieces and I believe it would be a lot easier to make props, buildings, and eggplants if I knew how. How do you do this? – cHoKo
Kate: It takes a little bit of effort to work around the system. I have to place a connector block, and then place a base piece on top of it. Then you can rotate the connector block and the base will rotate with it. If you drag the base piece off, it’ll keep its new tilt. Make sure it has the orientation you want before you drag it off: after it’s off the connector piece, you can’t tilt it anymore.

Q: When creating your Adventures, what are the steps and processes that worked best for you to put your storyboards into action? – (Example: Did you create the Acts, Goals and creature AI first, then build the environments around it or environment first
John: When it’s my own adventure that I’m making from scratch I prefer to get the basic story sorted out in my head then flush out the details as I’m building the environment. I find as I’m setting the landscape of the adventure, designing buildings, and creating characters, ideas start to present themselves and influence the story. I try not to get too detailed with all the polish items until I like the game play. That way it’s easier to change everything if need be. Once the adventure is working and fun, I do a polish pass where I add lots of visual effects, shrubbery, waterfalls, sound effects, and music. For the Robot Chicken adventures I was working off of a script so the process was a little different. A level designer would build in all the Acts and AI with very basic placeholder creatures and environments. Once it was working well they’d hand it over to us artists and we’d do an art pass to make everything a bit prettier.

Q: When you made the adventures with the producers of Robot Chicken what were your opinions on their ideas? – Cartoonworks
Kate: I realized that a lot of their humor was about the use of profanity, violence of some sort and puns. We couldn’t let them use profanity, so they doubled down on the other two. After we finished the first version of each adventure, we asked them to give us some more “inspect” text for all of the objects, and they really went crazy with the punning. I love puns, so I was happy. My favorite is the “Apes of Wrath” line at the end of Bloody Sundae.

Q: How exactly was the cube planet made? Do you have a planet editor that’s separate from the adventure editor where one day you made a cube? – 20147024
Kate: The cube planet was made in the original terrain editor which was used for the space planet. It was made like the Earth, moon, and Mars planets, in that I had to make a special cube-map (one big texture), rather than making it out of individual stamps like most of the planets. I had to do a bit of geometry to get the exact right shape.

Q: Would you be supportive of Glass Paints? – E25dusk
Kate: I think it’s a really neat idea and would make some really neat buildings. Unfortunately, it’s just not something that most computers could support in real-time. Graphics cards can render a scene really fast when they can ignore any geometry that’s behind some other part of a scene, like a tree behind a house. If any part of that house can be transparent or translucent, it has to draw the tree as well. That’s an oversimplified answer, but it really does make a difference, and it’s one of the reasons that you see transparency so sparingly used in games. When you’re rendering in Maya or Blender, taking that extra time doesn’t matter, so when you render the Collada exports, you can give them really nice crystalline rendering.

A: Kate, will dungeons of spore EVER actually be released?? Please??? – Picarius
Kate: I keep putting in a few hours here and there on it in my scarce spare time at work. Unfortunately, as with most for-fun projects, it’s really hard to get the dedication (and the week of uninterrupted work-time) to get it to a finished state. I’m glad that I had such a hard original deadline because it gave me something to work towards. So the short answer is no, but the long answer is….maybe, but don’t hold your breath.

Q: Have either of you doodled anything recently? If it’s not related to upcoming Spore-goodness, mind giving us a peek? – kaploy9

On the left are two pages of Kate’s meeting notes. On the right are some cards from a cupcake card game she’s developing just for fun.

Q: When you’re practicing drawing you’re supposed to sketch from real life. Or so I was taught. How do you practice making things move realistically? – Coryn
John: Yes, that is very true, drawing from real life is extremely important in learning how to draw more realistically. When I was in college I would go to life drawing sessions as often as possible and now that I’m in the industry I still try and sketch whenever I can to help polish my skills. One break through I had as a student comes to mind. When you’re trying to draw more realistically try not to think of what your drawing as line but as areas of dark and light. I recommend getting some gray drawing paper and some soft black and white colored pencils. Try and recreate what you see by using the gray of the paper as the mid-tone, adding shadows and highlights with your pencils. Sometimes we add lines to our drawings that are more representative of what we see rather than what is actually there. I found that if you avoid abstract lines and instead softly draw in different patches of light and dark it makes it much easier to create more realistic drawings very quickly. I hope that’s helpful!

Q: What inspired you to invent Clark and Stanley? Were you surprised they became the iconic aliens that they are today? Cimino will you make another Clark and Stanley adventure? – wretlind, Coryn
John: Ah yes, the infamous Clark and Stanley. I must say, I was very surprised and flattered to see how popular they became. It never really crossed my mind that players would try to make their own versions of C and S, but now that I look back it makes sense. Those adventures are super easy to make and can be highly satisfying. What inspired me? Hmmm. If I had to think of one source it would have to be the web series “Happy Tree Friends.” Before I worked at Maxis I spent a few years animating those cuddly animals getting slaughtered on a daily basis. I suppose creating cute characters getting killed now comes naturally to me. The original Clark and Stanley was actually one of a handful of test adventures created to show Robot Chicken the types of things they could do with GA. My producer Kip asked a few of us artists and designers to put together some adventures to pitch to Seth Green and the gang down in LA. I thought it would be cool to show them that you can make funny little short comic strip style adventures that have very little game play. So I started brainstorming and then remembered a few weeks before that I had made a test adventure that had a meteor crashing onto a planet. The effect was somewhat amusing so I decided to implement that into a quick and funny sketch. That’s when I came up with the idea of the “Clark and Stanley Go Stargazing” adventure. Everyone at Maxis seemed to enjoy it so I went ahead and created “Clark and Stanley Go Camping” and “Clark and Stanley Go swimming.” If you’re sick of seeing hundreds of Clark and Stanley adventure clones clogging up the Sporepedia, I apologize! Will I make more? Anything is possible.

Q: Have you seen the “famous” (infamous) creatures of the Sporum? (hug monster, Fibea, Susan, etc.) – Zstar20
John: Haha. Yes, I have seen the hug monster. He has a cute and creepiness that reminds me a lot of the infamous Pedo-bear. I think with Galactic Adventures players will have even more opportunities to make their creatures famous or infamous, as the case may be. The ability to frame a story around your character gives you a great chance to make your creature something people can truly identify with. I look forward to seeing many more creatures who, like Clark and Stanley, get so overexposed people start to hate their guts. 

Q: I’ve seen all of the maxis-made creatures, and I certainly don’t mean this in a way to offend. But how come y’all never make creatures that stand out like a body with glowing heycorns or a massive beast covered completely in knurldowns? – Conswella
Kate: I made most of my creatures right before Creature Creator shipped, and so we didn’t know what the creator was capable of. A lot of the most striking creations are made with techniques that you guys invented. Now, when I make creatures, they’re usually to go in a mission, so I need background creatures that don’t stand out. Sometimes, though, I do use techniques I learned from Sporepedia creations. For example, I made the bill in the How a Bill Becomes a Law adventure out of Shellshards, after the 1950s robot show how to use them to make square shapes.
We also tend not to make creatures or buildings that max out the complexity meter. I think this is due to the training that we get as programmers and artists: more polygons is BAD! BAD! BAD! This gets hammered into us over and over, and at least for me, gives me a vague sense of uneasiness whenever I max out the complexity.

Q: Do you two plan to make more Maxis adventures? – VelociBlade
John: I’m somewhat busy working on my next project at Maxis right now but my producer did mention that they might want me to make some more adventures. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to go back to GA and make a few more. They are so much fun to create!

Kate: I do. I really enjoyed making my series of educational adventures, Protein Synthesis and How a Bill Becomes a Law. I have a few ideas for more, like an adaptation of The Old Man and the Sea, and Plato’s Cave.

Q: Where do you see Spore in 5 years? – Domflame
John: I’m not sure I can answer that completely without giving stuff away. But in five years I would expect Spore to still be taking advantage of the massive amount of player creativity that is out there just waiting to be harnessed. Ambiguous enough for you? 

Interview Details:

Kate Compton is an associate technical artist at Maxis. Some of her contributions to the project include creating the effects in Galactic Adventures, sculpting the core Spore and Galactic Adventures planets (including the cube), and designing the original Spoffit.

She also teamed up with Robot Chicken to help create the Bloody Sundae adventure, and made the Dungeons of Spore April Fool’s game.

Some of her other Adventures include How A Bill Becomes a Law and Protein Synthesis. Her notable creations include the Obama and other US Election 08 Candidates, and the Alex Trebek UFO.

John Cimino is a lead animator at Maxis. He’s was responsible for designing and creating all of the animation for the advanced emotional behaviors in Galactic Adventures. He designed the creature parts for Spore and Creepy and Cute, many of the rigblocks in the Building creator, and many of the Spore objects, such as huts, tools, and found objects.

He also designed the achievement icons and the creator play mode animations.

Some of his adventures include the original Clark and Stanley adventures, Welcome to Dancetopia,Robots vs Dragons, and he contributed on The Meaningless Turtle as well as several Robot Chicken adventures.

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Spore Galactic Adventures Review: andPOP

Posted by ballightning on August 3, 2009

Another rather belated Spore Galactic Adventures review, and andPOP gave it a overall positive result.

SPORE:  Galactic Adventures is an expansion that will kill a few hours at a time, whenever you feel like it. I think that’s an important distinction to make – the difference between your immersion in a truly epic game that you have to really pull yourself away from, and a game that is easy to break away from, but is still fun to play for hours at a time.  Through it’s simple interface for play and very in-depth character(creature) creation process, it can be a pleasant diversion whether you’re more into the gaming itself, or (like me) you enjoy playing around with how bizarre a creature you can make, or how human you can evolve it.

The game begins at the level of a single-celled organism, and you evolve your creature (I named my creature Lepreclops, after my two favourite mythological beasts) from an amoeba-like blob to a sentient, spacefaring species.  The funny thing is that even at the point of civilization I found that my creature still seemed animalistic to me, which bothered me a bit.  The progression of the stages goes from simple and fleeting (like the amoeba-stages) to the more engaging and complex (like spacefaring eras).

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Spore Galactic Adventures Review: TechOut

Posted by ballightning on August 2, 2009

Evolving my race into space was a threshold moment in Spore for me until I discovered that instead of a galaxy of fun, there was little to do once I had actually gotten there. Arriving at the center of the galaxy proved to be a temporary injection of excitement because afterwards, I found myself back to running the same spice routes and while drawing from the same, tiny glass of mind numbing activities.

So it was with some anticipation that I loaded up the expansion pack, Galactic Adventures, hoping to see if it could help reinvent what could have been the best part of the game. The good news is that it adds a fun wrinkle to the daily grind of spice running and planet hopping while allowing you to run wild with your own ideas. The bad news is that it also has a few holes in its heat shield..

A word of warning: if you’ve purchased the downloadable version of Spore from EA which doesn’t require a CD but pick up Galactic Adventures from retail, you’ll need Adventures’ CD in the drive to run the game. It’s a bizarre DRM decision because I also have Red Alert 3, also from EA and on DVD, yet after authenticating it online, I no longer needed it to fight Tim Curry. So why not do the same with Galactic Adventures, especially given its heavy emphasis on online connectivity?

One of Galactic Adventures’ biggest changes to the game is the captain. With the captain, you can beam into adventures and engage in a variety of activities whether it is to solve puzzles or fight monsters. The captain is essentially you, your avatar from which you will experience the galaxy at large, so if you’ve missed walking around on the surface, you’ll get to do it again and do more than run away from enemy tribes or epic creatures. With new toys in place, now you can fire pulse blasts and wield electrified blades to make the most out of the future once your captain proves capable enough.

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Spore Galactic Adventures Review – CNET

Posted by ballightning on August 1, 2009

A rather belated review, CNET has given Spore Galactic Adventures a highly positive rating of 80%, and recommend buying it.

Some expansion packs offer more of the same, but Spore Galactic Adventures is not one of them. In fact, it adds an entirely new facet of gameplay to the original game’s space stage: adventures that beam your captain onto a planetary surface and send you on a short series of quests. The expansion comes with plenty of such adventures, and there are already developer-commissioned adventures ready to download for free. However, if you enjoyed making your own creatures and buildings in the original Spore, you’ll probably also get into the expansion’s adventure creation capabilities, which offer imaginative players a set of fantastic tools to express their creativity. Like all of Spore’s creation tools, the adventure creator is robust, though learning its intricacies takes some time. There are some nagging issues scattered throughout this otherwise excellent package. However, the new adventures and tools bring the charms of the creature stage into the space stage, and a levelling-up mechanic for your captain results in a welcome sense of progression.

The new adventures are accessible on their own via an in-game menu, but they work better when integrated into Spore’s space phase. Adventure missions are available along with other mission types, and when you take one, you fly to the target planet and beam onto its surface. Adventures are somewhat akin to Spore’s creature phase: you manoeuvre your space captain about and have access to movement, social and attack abilities as you do in the earlier phase. However, adventures are generally short and focus on role-playing-game-like tasks. These include talking to other creatures, fetching them items, attacking and befriending them, protecting them from harm, and so on. You can also take a crew member (or two or three), whom you can recruit from your allies in the space stage. It may be simple, but it’s also charming and engaging, thanks to the hysterical sound effects and appealing visual style. The game’s best built-in adventures have you accomplishing tasks from learning how bills become laws in a cuteSchoolhouse Rock! spoof to getting a band back together just in time for its big concert. Some of them aren’t quite as good, and a few are a little buggy, such as a Godzilla-themed adventure in which pathfinding issues may force you to exit. However, adventures give the space stage welcome charisma and variety, which are qualities the game needed more of in that portion.

If you were into Spore’s crafting elements, you now have a new, extensive and incredibly robust tool set at your disposal: the adventure creator. Warning: there’s a much bigger learning curve here than in any of Spore’s other creation tools. However, if you take the time to experiment with it, you’ll find that this exciting tool set offers incredible possibilities to players with an imagination. The ways you can customise the planet alone are astounding. Using the extensive terraforming and atmospheric options, you can mould the environments as you see fit. Populate the world with creatures of your own or download what you need from other players; create themed villages and drop in any building you can find or make; throw in special effects, music and objects. Then, use behavioural buttons and sliders to make them act and interact as you like and give them dialogue. Drag and drop goals onto each, separate the adventure into acts, and soon you’ll have an adventure to call your own. Before, you got to play as God and architect; now, you get to play as game designer too.

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Spore Patch 1.05.1

Posted by ballightning on July 29, 2009

Maxis have quickly released a patch to address some of the serious issues with patch 1.5. More info.

Patch 5.1 has been released to correct two major issues that were introduced with patch 5.

• Object orientation near water or lava can appear incorrectly when Playing or Testing an Adventure.
• Fixes a crash in the Building Creator when holding CTRL or Shift and moving a part.

Get the patch notes here

Patch 5.1 FAQ

Q: Buildings or gameplay objects in my adventure were rotated off axis with patch 5. I haven’t edited the adventure since installing patch 5. Will my adventure now be fixed?
A: Yes.

Q: Buildings or gameplay objects in my adventure were rotated off axis with patch 5. I tried to fix it after patching and the latest version of my adventure was saved after installing patch 5. What does this mean for my adventure?
A: Any version you saved after installing patch 5 will may now have incorrectly oriented buildings/objects near water. To correct the issue, open your adventure in edit mode after installing patch 5.1 and fix the angle of these objects.

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