Thursday, September 25, 2008

Semi-Intelligent Design

Thanks in no small part to Bear and Walter Jon Williams, I am now playing Spore. It's a pretty fun game. the graphics are good, the sound quality good, and if the depth isn't really there until you hit the galactic civilization, there is a lot of investment in your creation.

Funny thing, Spore has got to be the biggest elevated finger to Intelligent Design and Creationist that has ever been placed in public media. In the initial stage (above), you start out as a fairly simple organism, swimming around in the primeval soup with all the other simple organisms. You swim, eat, find special DNA prizes, and if successful, reproduce into something with more advantages. It was here that my little guys acquired their defining trait that becomes useless at later stages, but I never removed them. Their back spikes. And thus, the Spiketagenet was born.

At the end of the Cell stage, you acquire legs, start running around on land. You get to assemble yourself a herd/pack, and then make friends or meals of the rest of the indigenous wildlife. I chose 'herbivore' and stuck to it. I've been playing a lot of games about killing people recently, and decided I wanted to be more constructive. It's during this stage that the Spiketagenet changed the most, from a four-legged critter to something bipedal. the duck bill was the first mouth I was offered, and I started to like them. The back spikes are completely useless at this point, but I got sentimentally attached to them (they'll never use chairs).

There's a fair amount of messing around with the DNA to get the creature to do what you want. Some feet have stealth, others allow you to charge. Some hands have claws for fighting, some are better at gathering fruit. And there's a nice amount of variability as to size and splay of feet.

In the end, you get a creature that you have built, and I think that's a big thing for me. Here's this thing I have created, guided through the water to its first faltering steps onto land, watched its relatives get sucked up into UFOs (which I later did when I got space drive), adapted to different conditions, and created in an image I thought was interesting and useful. But as he shows his back, you can still see those vestigial spikes, from when the species was a swimming group of cells in the ocean. The eyes on tentacles have been something from its earliest stages, too. Not that this seems to affect how they work in space, but it's kind of cool to look at them and have all that history. I think that makes each creation endearing. I'll find out when I start again.

I also notice that on my first run, I'm staying pretty anthropomorphic. Two legs, two eyes, and even if it doesn't have a head, it still has a pretty human face. Maybe next time, I'll make a race of omnivorous space-faring octopoids.

So, Spore gets a couple of prehensile thumbs up from me.

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