SAN FRANCISCO--Electronic Arts said Wednesday that it plans this summer to release an all-new, stand-alone version of Spore for kids.
The new game, which will allow multiple children to play together in a very Spore-like universe, will be called Creature Keeper, said Lucy Bradshaw, the general manager of EA's Emeryville, Calif.-based Maxis studio, which created Spore.
In addition, at its "State of the Universe" event here, EA also unveiled plans for Galactic Adventures, the first expansion to Spore. It is planned for a spring release and will feature a set of new tools for the massive space stage of the hit evolution game that, in addition to the existing "play," "create," and "share" tools, will let players choose to create their own adventures in space.
And EA topped off its set of announcements by saying that it expects to release all-new versions of Spore for the Nintendo Wii and DS game consoles, titled Spore Hero and Spore Hero Arena, respectively.
The announcements were the first EA has made that showcase the video game giant's future plans for Spore, a game that it has clearly invested huge resources in. The game, from legendary designer Will Wright, tasks players with navigating five distinct stages--cell, creature, tribe, civilization and space. Though it has sold fairly well, some have argued that it hasn't lived up to its advance billing, particularly because it was years in the works. Also, the game was originally released with a version of digital rights management that limited the number of installs consumers could have. Many people resisted the DRM restrictions, and late last year, EA removed them.
However, either because of the DRM or in spite of it, Spore became one of the most pirated games of 2008.
Now, with Creature Keeper, EA and Maxis hope they can attract a much younger audience to the Spore universe. Unlike the original game, the kids version will allow multi-player play. It does not require Spore to play, but it will allow kids to import creatures from the original game. It will be released for PC and Mac, just as the original game was.
The idea, said Bradshaw, is to give kids an easier way to experience the fun and exploration of Spore, and to do so with other friends.
"They can invite friends over," Bradshaw said, "and have play dates with their creatures."
With the Galactic Adventures expansion (see video below), meanwhile, EA is attempting to address one of the biggest criticisms of the main space stage of Spore: That players could not directly interact with the worlds they encountered during their interstellar journeys. Instead, they would be restricted to flying above any planets they found along the way.
Now, however, they will be able to beam down to new planets. More important, however, may be that Maxis is making available to Spore players a set of planetary adventure creation tools they've previously only had in-house.
Among other things, the expansion offers players terra-forming tools, making it possible to build all-new planets from scratch, and populate them with all manner of buildings, creatures, rivers and other geographical features. Players can choose any creation from the 65 million item-strong, player-created Sporepedia, the official Spore social media system.
Bradshaw said that the tools that will be available in Galactic Adventures were not ones that were originally planned to be included in Spore. Nor was the expansion long in the works, she said. Instead, she explained, the team at Maxis saw the ways that people were playing Spore and listened to requests from players to have more interaction and control over the space stage.
While EA isn't talking about total sales figures for Spore at this point, Bradshaw did say that to date, there have been more than 65 million creations uploaded to Sporepedia, and more than 6 million downloads of the Creature Creator, a tool that allows people to make their own Spore creatures without owning the full game.