At this year's EA Winter showcase, we got our first proper look at Darkspore. We hadn't seen or heard much about the game until now, but we liked what we saw. Speaking to Executive Producer Mike Perry, we also got a better picture as to what this game is about.
Strategy Informer:So, for those who may not know much about Darkspore, can you sum it up for us?
Mike Perry:Darkspore is an action RPG, we built it using the technology from Spore which lets us do deep customization and upgrades but it's not Spore, it's not a sequel or an expansion. As an action/RPG, it's definitely a game about loot. Loot in Darkspore is about building a collection of characters, and we've got a lot of different characters in the game you can collect, they'll have their own unique sets of abilities. You'll build that collection and then you'll collect parts to upgrade that collection. Parts have stats, and that's how you boost the gearscore of a character. But because it's using the tech from Spore, you get put those parts wherever you want to, so everyone who plays this game is going to have a completely unique looking and unique stats based collection of characters.
The game has both solo and co-op, it's the same mode through-out so you can play in either. The game really comes to life with co-op as there's some special abilities there, and it's for up to four players. We also have PvP, in which you can use the same collection of characters that you have in the single-player, in the PvP matches. Our match-makings system knows about that, it knows the gearscore of your characters and tries to match them up with similar gear scores, but also it looks at your player skill, your kill/death ratio, etc...
Strategy Informer:What's the context of this game in terms of the single-player? Who ARE you in Darkspore?
Mike Perry: We've got a fiction that in the game you are a Progenitor, and Progenitors are masters of science and DNA. So you're able to create these creatures called genetic heroes that have these abilities so that they fight the forces of the Darkspore. The Darkspore are a mutant genetic strain controlled by something called E-DNA, and it has spread throughout the Galaxy. And the only way to defeat the Darkspore is to build up your army of genetic heroes and fight them yourself. You play directly as the creatures in game though, you're never present.
Strategy Informer:So, coming essentially from Spore, what was the inspiration behind Darkspore? Why do it?
Mike Perry: When we built Spore, we looked at that as a huge for us simply because of the amount of tech that we had to create just to make things function. And we saw that tech and started to watch some posts on the Spore forums and other forums, and we thought about what we could do to apply this tech to another kind of game. We did a lot of prototypes of different game-types and it became obvious almost immediately that an action/RPG was a great area for the customization technology, as we wouldn't have to limit players to certain slots like traditional RPGs. We just started to go very quickly form there, we got our mechanics right first and we've been building a game from there ever since.
Strategy Informer:These collectable character, can you create them from scratch like you could create your race in Spore?
Mike Perry: In this game the collectable are a lot more inspired by things like card games, so Magic: The Gathering. So each character you collect in Darkspore has their own name and back-story, and their own unique abilities and looks. So they come pre-made to a certain extent, but the way you upgrade them is that you take them into the Spore-editor that we've built into the game, and you customize them in like thousands of different ways. So you don't start from scratch, you start with these basic characters, but you can customise them to your heart's content.
Strategy Informer:The great thing about PC gaming is that it's traditionally always being been able to handle larger online groups then the consoles have - why limit Darkspore to only four people then?
Mike Perry: That's a good question: because the depths of characters is so... it has a ton of variety, right? We're letting people create different squads, with different characters, every character has three or four unique abilities. That's a lot of abilities to look at and to try and remember all at once, and we felt that two vs. two in an arena was a great way for players to be able to recognise their opponents very quickly, recognise the player strategies as they swap, and keep an eye on that all at once. That said, we are going to support this game post launch - this is an online game and we're building an online community so there's a lot of opportunity for us in the future to expand this in a number of ways.
Strategy Informer:So you said Darkspore and Spore were separate franchises - there's going to be no cross over between the two?
Mike Perry: That's right, there's no cross over, with one exception. The enemy NPC's in the game are also built using the Spore tools. And what we've done is allow the existing Spore community to create the enemy NPC's for Darkspore, and we're doing that right now on darkspore.com and spore.com, and what we're doing is telling people what type of enemy it is, what's its name, what abilities it has etc... and just letting them go wild. We curate that, we choose what ones we think are best, and the top of the list get's their NPC's in the game.
Strategy Informer:Are there going to be leaderboards or competitions with the online mode?
Mike Perry: Absolutely, PvP is definitely a leaderboard-based system. We also have the co-op gameplay in the campaign. And we'll give people XP and Gearscore as they go through that, but you fight in PvP to go up in the leaderboards.
Strategy Informer: The single player is very dynamic and unique. How much average game-time could a person get out of it? What's the de facto 'end game' for the single-player mode?
Mike Perry: That's a great question because there really is no end point with a game that has so many different kinds of loot. Now, we have a fixed number of characters you can collect, but the amount of parts to them is nearly infinite. We've got a system that can generate hundreds of thousands, if not millions of different loot combinations, so you could continually play this game over and over again to grind that loot. The campaign though does have a mission end, and we do tell a story as you play through a linear set of planets, and after you finish the last one you'll see an outro movie and a conclusion movie, but as you unlock those planets you can keep going back to them and continue to play them. The game just expands itself as you continue to play through.
So, a bit of an overview on Darkspore for you. We'll admit, this game does look interesting. We doubt it's going to take the world by storm, but there are worse things than simply making an enjoyable game. Don't forget to check out our preview for further impressions!