Electronic Arts is taking yet another step into the social realm this week with a brand new Facebook title, Spore Islands, developed by the EA studio, Maxis. Already, we have seen the efforts the console developer has put into social games, virtual goods, and so on through miscellaneous social features in a handful of its mainstream titles, virtual goods transactions, and freemium play. Now, such lessons are being applied to its Spore universe.
Spore, the PC game, not the Facebook app, already has social elements, allowing users to connect to other players’ universes and incorporate their races into your worlds. This, in turn, would allow interaction with the different player species based on how each race was evolved, and it is this same concept that hinges together Spore Islands, except the Facebook app has a much more social focus.
Players begin by selecting the type of environment their island should be, followed by a simple creature creation screen that allows them to pick a different physical attributes such as mouth, eyes, body, legs, etc. Sadly, the level of customization is nowhere near as enticing as the full game, but it’s still not too bad, all things considered.
Each physical feature also has survival attributes associated with it such as ferocity, speed, stamina, and so one. This makes the player choices a little deeper as the best looking creation may not be the most efficient one when it comes to Darwinism.
Once a creature is born, it appears along with two other, randomly generated, “wild” creatures, and the evolution game begins. The primary currency in Spore Islands is, well, DNA (which is generated passively every couple of hours, but is also purchasable). By clicking on the “Evolve” button, players can redistribute a creature’s statistics to make it faster, sturdier, add abilities, and more. In order to discover just what stats are needed, there is actually a feature that allows you to observe how your island’s residents interact.
This view actually works like a science observation, putting the player in a top down view that automatically plays out all the happenings on your island. From here, you can see how long your creature lives, how many times it gives birth, how it hunts, and so on. Each time you observe, you earn points that can be used to open new creature slots so you can make more creations, as well as move yourself up in the leaderboards.
As is to be expected of Maxis games (they are the developers behind The Sims, after all), Spore Islands really is a nice and well made app. If there is any one complaint, it is that the customization was one of the most fun elements in the original game. Nonetheless, Maxis does do their best to circumvent the limitation by adding a few new concepts such as nifty hats and animations (at the cost of DNA), in an attempt to create greater personalization.
It remains to be seen if users will want to play this lighter version of the PC game. As with any social game, the challenge now is to continue improving the game based on how users respond to it.