Hollow Earth

Spore and the New Uncertainty of Uru


I don’t need to tell anyone who’s been in the community for the past few months what’s going on. Even after Cyan’s most recent announcement ideas and uncertainty about the future rule and you can find everything from ones so brilliant you wonder why these people aren’t employed by Cyan, to ones so poorly thought through you wonder if these people are employed at all. From the needlessly hopeful who dream of age writing through a Gahrohevtee simulator, to the needlessly cynical who drill the fact of Uru’s death into the community as if it were an act of God. And it’s true in any community that goes through the kinds of things Uru has. People will have varying opinions on what the future holds, what that future will look like, and if there’s a future at all. The community (which I sometimes refer to as the Near-sighted Juggernaut) has been waiting, albeit impatiently, for this news. Holding back for the time when they are free to create. Even in this state, however, we see a great deal of the future potential, the creativity and the devotion people have to the game. It’s a sign and a benchmark, I think, for the future. The ages currently being made and the code no doubt being developed behind the scenes (with NDAs, I’m sure) we see a taste of what might yet come. The problem I see is that the gaming landscape is about to change and Uru may not be ready for it.

Enter Spore, the “Massively-Single-Player” game as its creator Will Wright calls it. Those with a firm grasp of Myst’s history (or those, like me, who’ve played some of Mr. Wright’s other games) know that a small game of Mr. Wright’s named The Sims gained the title of the first game to unseat Myst from the top game sales. The Sims and other similar games in the Sim series ushered in a powerful gaming wave bringing scaled-down simulators in as a gaming design (think the hundred and one <blank> Tycoon games of the late ‘90s). What Mr. Wright is on the cusp of doing now is ushering in another, the rise of the Community-Created World iIn which other players can make content that gets randomly populated into your world. The question is not if this game will be a money machine, but how. Because it already is one of the most talked about games.

The how reaches to the core of what a future Uru could be and what the previous Uru wasn’t and that is “creativity”. The applications in which Uru could have utilized the creativity (or even just the spare time) of the community may be uncountable. From updating the site to story suggestions, assistance with code and community management Cyan kept itself largely to itself. This isn’t counting, you’ll notice, the more talked about forms of fan involvement (ages, clothing, Relto upgrades, etc.). This is also not saying that it was all in Cyan’s hands. Advertising and availability were among several problems caused by Gametap. And none of the problems were huge ones, but they came together to help people accentuate the bad and ignore the good that was in the game.

What needs to happen when Uru returns is a full-scale user created content system from a few months before the servers reopen. This is to allow people to make (or update pre-existing) content for the game’s re-opening. The last thing you want is the first month’s excuse to be “well we have to wait for the Writers to make some ages”. Look at Spore. As of this writing there are over 1.6 million species waiting for the full game coming out in September. Secondly, get a good quality content manager. I don’t want to have to download every age everyone’s written (or even every Cyan age). I remember when Uru was being re-vamped there were reports that there would be a new way of getting content. You would be able to keep bits of Cyan content you didn’t want off your computer by not going there (and, presumably, through a deletion service). I’m not sure what happened to that idea, but it’s essential that people have the choice over how much content they get.

Now, I’ve talked about Spore and how it will revolutionize gaming. And it no doubt will. Does this mean Uru can’t come back? Or that it’s doomed? No. Spore is ground-breaking, particularly in terms of data storage (a species in 23kb) but it is very limited. The creatures inherently look like cartoons or clay-mation and likely will be most popular for making toothy blobs. Will Uru be harmed by this, though? Absolutely. It’s a part, a section of the non-violent gaming community, which will at the least have their gaming time divided by this if they don’t choose Spore entirely. Uru can still return strong regardless of Spore. However, will we have a clean shot? A clear path upward? No. That was the chance Gametap gave us. From now on we have a big, powerful opponent who has beaten us before and isn’t able to be easily dismissed as a game promoting violence. From now on we will have to do some creative things to get noticed. But we will also be putting our future in the hands of the community, exactly where it can grow the most.

Originally published in Issue 15 of The Archiver

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Filed under: Gaming

2 Responses

  1. Tweek says:

    Not really interested in spore myself, in fact quite the opposite after hearing hype for so long it started becoming counterproductive.

    As for MO:UL/MO:RE I think I’ve about reached the end with that too. MO:UL was a bitter disappointment, and whilst some of the fan Ages are good I’m more interested in Cyan content.

    Aside from Tefoonetahn, I’m planning to just release my Age(s) for Uru Complete Chronicles.

    I’ll probably jump into MO:RE at first to finish some archiving I was doing but that’ll be about it.

    I don’t think Uru will ever be what it was supposed to be.

  2. amarez says:

    Spore was designed as a game where you design your creatures, and (I think) your cities, don’t know how that part works. That’s the gameplay. So, easy to use tools are part of the game design. It’s what Spore is all about. Uru’s tools are “after the fact”, and not part of the original design. I think that Uru tools will always be challenging to use. You can’t retool a game that’s all done and published (“wait, now it’s about making your own content!”) and expect easy to use tools to slot right into your game.

    Yes, Spore might be a competitor, because it looks like a wonderful, groundbreaking, easy to get into game. If it was me, I’d also look at the platform games as a competitor, particularly given a cooperative play component. I think Little Big Planet is going to be huge – looks like a really fun game.

    The online games out there are also competitors. I wouldn’t discount There and Second Life for creation and socialization, and the MMORPGS for story and game play. I’m getting very fond of Guild Wars. For big beautiful games with lots to explore, and a story, and people, and lots to do, I think you just can’t beat one of the MMORPGs out there. Guild Wars is big favorite of mine – I like the design, I really like the instancing, and I like how you can play by yourself.

    For all that – I submit to you that that none of the games are competitors, really. Uru will attract a small group of devoted fans, and a few of them will make ages. As long as Uru can keep their small group of devoted fans, it will be OK. I don’t think that the game community will grow, but I’m hoping it will “hold it’s own” – enough people will join to make up for the people that drop off. That’s how I see it. I don’t think it’s ever going to be bigger than it is now – even with new content. That’s my guess, but I have no crystal ball!

    And Uru is not going to come out with new content, to start. From what we’ve read, the game comes out first, as it was before the shutdown. Then later, new user created content comes out, in the form of new ages.

    I’ll be there in Uru, not a lot, but I’ll there.
    From mszv – amarez

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