June 28, 2008

Of Creatures and Planets

Spore's Creature Creator seems to be a big hit. It is 'only' a game but it actually has a lot of potential to teach science. On the other hand, it could also use a bit of science to make the art of designing creatures a bit more challenging than just the parameters of limbs and skin tones.
See, everybody knows that creature physiology depends much on it's environment. On a grander scale, a creature's appearance and characteristics are directly influenced by its home planet.
For example: A terrestrial exoplanet that has a lesser surface gravity than earth might turn up animals that are tall and skinny - as how Martian beings (if any!) would probably look like - because the surface gravity of Mars is only 38% of Earth's gravity. While a massive rocky planet that has ten times more surface gravity would produce juggernaut-like or hulk-like beings with massive bones, powerful muscles or strong exoskeletons. Jovian planets might turn up jello-like creatures - the sort that might look like a mix between stingrays and jellyfish.
Now, since creatures in the Spore game are supposed evolve and to battle it out with other creatures from other planets (come September when the Spore universe finally launches), it seems logical that planet characteristics must be a major component of the game, unless in-game technology supersedes planetary factors such as anti-gravity beams or radiation shields.
The timing of Spore is perfect, with regards to the deluge of exoplanets and so-called "Super-Earths" that are being discovered monthly. So I wonder if Will Wright will ever come up with a "Spore Planet Creator" or perhaps a "Planet Plugin" for the Creature Creator to affect the appearance of creatures, based upon the characteristics of planets.
It's not a bad start for Spore, though. In fact, it's awesome! The creatures are cute and lovable. My se7en-year-old son became engrossed with the creatures he created, which we shared up on Sporepedia.
I named my creature Gravitor - he lives on a planet with 20g (20 times the earth's gravity) hence, he's a bit flattened and needs an extra pair of powerful legs to add support to the length of his body.
Overall, I'm very happy about the concept of this game. It's a great way to integrate Exoplanetary Science, Astrobiology and Gaming. Kudos to Will wright and his legion of game developers.