May 11, 2006 11:51 AM PDT

Robin Williams yucks it up for 'Spore'

LOS ANGELES--Question: What do you get when you cross one of the funniest actors of our time with the latest creation from one of our most celebrated video game designers?

Answer: Robin Williams showing up unexpectedly at E3 and acting as a guinea pig to demonstrate the ease of use of Maxis genius Will Wright's latest masterpiece, "Spore."

Wright is the game designer who created, among other things, "SimCity" and "The Sims," one of the best-selling PC games of all time. "Spore" is sometimes jokingly referred to as "Sim Everything," because it tasks players with creating basic sporelike creatures, evolving them into small communities of similar creatures, then into cities, whole planets and ultimately, the colonization of planets in outer space.

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The core of "Spore" is its character creator, which Wright says gives players the ability to build creatures in minutes that in the past would have taken professional game designers a couple of days.

At a Wired Magazine party here Wednesday night to celebrate the magazine's recent games issue, Wright, who guest-edited the issue, gave a terrific demonstration of the game, which is slated for a 2007 release. To demonstrate just how easy the creature editor is, he asked someone from the audience to come onstage to try it out.

Maybe "someone who played an alien in a TV series," Wright said to huge laughter, as Williams, the star of the '70s sitcom "Mork & Mindy" materialized from the crowd.

Quickly, Williams began playing around with the editor, adopting one of his patented alter ego accents, in this case a faux Spanish accent he seemed to drop in and out of.

More and more arms
He began to build a tall creature with a great deal of flexibility in forward and backward movement.

"This is a creature that can kiss its own (butt)," Williams deadpanned.

As the creature developed, Williams gave it more and more arms. In the end, it had three full sets of arms and a very long nose to complement its tall, thin torso and short, squat legs.

"I'm putting together a creature that would make Darwin say, 'Hey, I'm not taking acid ever again,'" Williams joked.

Referring to the creature's giant nose, Williams cracked, "This is basically a creature that can do coke from a mile away."

Finally, he was done building the creature and said it was time to move on to game play.

Williams moved into the game play section of "Spore" and his creature materialized in the middle of a lush green landscape. On its squat legs, it waddled around to great laughter from the audience. Its nose was so big and heavy that it hung down like an elephant's trunk.

And that was about it for Williams' trial. But he had brought a brand-new spore to life in less than five minutes, and while it might not have been the most successful that was possible in the game, it made clear how simple the creature editor was. And the audience ate it up.

Later, as everyone waited for drinks at the event's hosted bar, it became clear that Williams was playing one more game many E3 attendees often play--wearing someone else's E3 badge.

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Celebrity at E3
While I am glad that Mr. Williams showed up to support what is a landmark achievement in online games, E3 is a convention for developers by developers.

I think that Mr. Wright should stick to promoting his game with its spectrum appeal and charm.
Posted by Merodoc (1 comment )
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