I’m home now! I wrote two articles while on the plane. I was going to edit the other post but decided to just make a new one. This article will be about our tour of Maxis and our day.
This statue appeared to be paper mache and was in the front area.
First thing on the agenda was a tour of the office provided by our community manager, Maxis Cactus. We were allowed to photograph the office itself but not the people unless they said it was okay.
We all snapped photos of everything we could, absorbing everything Spore. It was almost overwhelming. One thing I noticed right away was the amount of Spore creatures everywhere.
Little and big figurines lined shelves and desks including the famous Willosaur. Posters hung all over the walls with creatures and concept art.
The studio/office was smaller than I expected. When I toured EA last year it was so large that I expected almost the same thing. Maxis is a much smaller company with a more intimate setting. Though quite a few of the team were on vacation, the amount of actual office cubicles seemed less than I expected. It impresses me more the amount of work they did to produce Spore now that I see how many people were involved. These are a very talented group of people and very dedicated and proud of their game.
This desk belongs to Maxis Kate, the one who made my Mallen in the Spore game for the web page.
I asked Lucy Bradshaw at one point if they were ever disappointed in the negative comments they must read on the forums and she said yes but they were committed to a quality product and they hoped when it was done, the reaction would be good.
The tour continued to another building next door and we traveled up to the sixth floor to more offices and cubicles.
I found this interesting; one of the desk had a pile of pennies that were stacked like a pyramid.
On this floor was Will Wright’s office. He has a great view with lots of windows and his office looks a bit cluttered like mine.
Outside his office was a large control panel from a Russian space station. One of the many collectibles that he buys and shares with his staff. One member of our group could actually read Russian and translated some of it to the surprise of Maxis Cactus.
Demo with Caryl Shaw
We went into a conference room while in the main building and sat around a table with Caryl Shaw. She had the game going and showed us a demonstration of game play in the cell stage.
Watching cell stage was fun but we wanted to see more of the space stage, so she typed in an uber-awesome cheat code (ctrl+shift+ c = cheat window >levels -unlock) and unlocked all the stages so we could go to space stage. She made the comment that she wasn’t around when the codes were put in the game so they ended up not having very funny names.
To start the game she selected a planet and named it. On the galaxy screen there were about 5 empty planets to choose from. Once she entered the space stage, she chose a creature, a cactus made by Hydro.
At this point you can also choose a theme for your adventure by choosing to use buddies or sporecast to gather creatures then she chose a difficulty level. She suggested we all choose easy when we played. Last she chose a space ship that looked like an aquarium made by Maxis Cactus and some buildings. We took on a mission and went to meet other planets. Inside the basic ship is a radar scanner and abduction beam. If you played the game from the beginning, you would have more skills and options then if you jump into another phase. She also suggested you use a mouse wheel not a pad.
Welcome to Space
During this mission, we scanned a planet and triggered it’s defenses and it started shooting at us so we had to get away. She then went into the editor and put some fun parts on the cactus like a hat. There are many choices for hats and clothes. She also explained why the procedural texture for creatures is so different than the other editors. Because the creature animates, it had to reflect shading. The game keeps track of planets we visit and she made note that there were 3000 pieces of flora. The game also decides your predators and prey based on what your creature needs to be challenging.
The voice they had for him was hilarious. There is so much you can do in the space phase, it was incredible. We also learned that there are many achievements you can earn throughout the game as well as badges for your playable character. Caryl earned the Captain badge by playing during our demo.
After the demo we went back to the first building and they had lunch available.
It was Greek food, very tasty and different. We ate and drank lemonade then it was time for the real fun part.
While we ate, we were shown the only complete Galactic Edition of Spore. It was in a hard textured white box and contained a poster, a book and some extra DVD’s.
This is a solid and well made game box, nothing flimsy and if you like collectibles, you should definitely get a copy. He passed it around the room and we got to take a good look at it.
After lunch we got to play the game. They had tables set up in a room with laptops and headphones. We each got a computer and were able to log on with our user name so all our creatures went to our Sporepedia page.
We were not allowed to photograph our game play but we are allowed to share it. I’ll tell you about my game play experience in another article, I mostly want to focus on the day at Maxis here. We played for about 3 hours and none of us were ready to stop. We all played differently, I started at cell and worked my way up to the end of creature. Hydro did tribal and space. Just when I reached tribal, our time was up and I had to stop. After playing we were really excited about the game and had a ton of questions.
They must have anticipated this as they had a panel of developers for us to do a question and answer session. There were five of them including Chris Hecker and Lucy Bradshaw. At several times they laughed and wondered if the office was bugged as some of the questions contained information they wondered how we knew like the fact that they had gummy creatures and chocolate creatures made once. I had three pages of questions but I didn’t ask but a few, most of the answers I figured out during the game play or when someone else asked.
One of my questions regarded epic creatures. I had one show up randomly in my game, I’m not sure what triggered it but it was my silly teapot of all things. I was attacking a creature for food and it attacked me from behind. It was huge!! They indicated there would be many fun and unexpected moments during game play and I experienced a few. Another was what seemed like an earth quake, the ground shook and meteors fell from the sky and the creatures looked scared but I didn’t see anything. One of my other questions was about the game installation, though you can install on three computers, you can only have one user account. Caryl said this was because of piracy and as much as they hate to do it, they need to do it.
The day ended with a huge delivery of pizza. Every Friday afternoon they have pizza, cupcakes and beer and sort of have a relaxed party and meal together. Though a lot of people continued to work with pizza at their desk, some sat and played video games on a big TV while other stood around and talked. Maxis Kate thoughtfully made cupcakes. She also made candy pieces to look like creature parts so we got to make a cup cake creature for dessert.
Meeting Maxis Kate was so cool for me because she is the one who made my Mallen creature in the game when it was on the main website. She did such a good job on it and I got to thank her in person.
Me and Maxis Kate
This was my cupcake, it was very yummy!
When we were done eating, Maxis Cactus gave us some gift bags with some really cool swag and then walked us back to the hotel.
We got a large poster of our favorite creature with our names, a copy of Spore Creatue Creator signed by Will Wright, a Spore T-shirt, a bumper sticker and a disk with the high-res photo of our creature, the one used for the poster.
Upon returning to the hotel, we all hung out in the lobby while the cars came one by one to take people to the airport. There were two of us left who stayed another night. I stayed up late trying to get photos organized and something posted but I eventually got too tired. I wrote this on the airplane going home and I’m now getting to post it.
Thank you Maxis for the opportunity to visit the studio and meet all of you and for allowing me to play the game. I’m so excited I don’t know how I’m going to stand that next two weeks. This game is going to be huge!! Be sure to read the next article about the game play.