I finally got my hands on the trial version of the Spore Creature Creator. Full version is apparently out tomorrow and will cost you $10, and the trial is said to include about 25% of the critter parts.
First things first… messing with this toy is awfully fun. It’ll take you about 10 seconds to learn the basics of building creatures, and not much longer to figure out all the controls. The Creator is (or will be soon) available for Windows or OS X and you really owe it to yourself to give the trial a go.
All that said, now I’m going to be Mr. Negative, since there’s plenty of positive press about this toy. My biggest disappointment so far (and this is based on the trial, perhaps the full version offers more options) is how generally similar all the creatures turn out. At first glance you’ll say I’m nuts, but look at them for a few moments and you’ll see all the lines tend to be pretty similar.
Maybe its because the artists haven’t gotten the hang of things, but I think the problem comes down to the limitations of the tool. The basic body shape tends to be a blob with a single spine. Always a single spine, you can’t fork it or have a dual-spined creature. Each vertebrae can be enlarged or shrunk in order to shape your ‘blob’ but there are limits to this. You can’t taper the end of the spine into a whip-like tail, for instance.
Also, there is no concept of a discrete head. Instead, you create a head by swelling up the end of the spine, then sticking on a mouth/snout selection and adding eyes, ears, horns or whatever to the head-blob. But this means you can’t make, for instance, a wedge-shaped head. At least I haven’t figured out how to. It’s going to be round or cylindrical.
Now in all fairness, considering that whatever you create will animate, dance, be happy, sad, roar, punch or sumo wrestle at the touch of a button, it’s still pretty darned impressive. It would, I suppose, be quite a challenge to programatically extend these animations to a 2 spined creature with an ovoid gap in the middle of its body, or an upright octopod with a head, 12 tentacles and no body.
But I’m a greedy SOB and I still want more. Hopefully the full version will have a better selection of tails, horns and so forth.
In the meantime, we can watch the Cant (half cow, half ant, all attitude) dance.