Local company creates new game sensation


"Spore" is a videogame. But it is also part YouTube and part motion picture. In its first 2 weeks, it sold more than a million copies -- at nearly $60 million, that's a box office gross greater than half the movies released this year.

Imagine a project where more than 100 people spend three years working with characters and special effects and lots of editing, all followed by reviews and box office numbers. Sounds like the movies. Except that the people in this room in Emeryville aren't stuck on some god-forsaken location for months at a time. And they get to enjoy way more caffeinated energy drinks!

They created "Spore" in the Emeryville studios of Maxis, home of "The Sims", one of the most successful games of all time.

"We have a really good mix." says Morgan Roarty, Senior Producer for Electronic Arts, the parent of Maxis. "We have a lot of old school Maxis folks who worked on 'The Sims'. A lot of the people came in as interns and got hired the following year. They all love games. So, it's a really interesting team, very passionate."

The YouTube part is user-generated content. In Spore, you create your own creature, tweaking eyes and adjusting limbs. As your creature earns points in the form of DNA, it evolves on its own. You can even have it mate with others of its own species. Later, in a galaxy of planets online, you watch your own spore encounter critters created by other players around the globe. You can sing Kumbaia with their creatures. Or you can devour them. (Just like real life!)

By the way, real life briefly intruded in the form of a class action suit in Northern California, by some consumers upset with the copy restriction software installed along with the program. The publisher has since increased the number of copies a user is allowed.

But, already, Spore is well on its way to becoming a phenomenon. So, how are the team celebrating? They're not. They're still working on the program.

"You reach a point," laughs Roarty, "where you're just spent working on it. And you just want it to be over. And then, when it's over, you're like, 'Arghhh! You know, there are so many other things I want to put into it!'" For more on this, check out the official site.

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