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Topics - Jennifer Reitz

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Spore: General / Space stage IS broken.
« on: September 13, 2008, 01:30:04 pm »
Space stage is broken. It desperately needs to be fixed. Here is why, and how.

Immediately after leaving my starsystem, a call came from a part of the galaxy I had not even begun to approach.

It was an empire demanding an impossible sum of Spucks that I could not pay, in order to avoid war. Extortion.

Almost immediately, wave after relentless wave of that empire besieged my homeworld, and because I had no weapons of any power, I died 24 times, my cities reduced to only four by bombers wiping them from the map - and no means exists that I can find to replace a lost homeworld city.

I had to flee my homeworld - as long as I do not return, apparently it still stands. When I died in space from a random pirate raid, I respawned on my homeworld, right in the middle of the continuing siege of my planet, and by the time I left, two more cities had been lost.

Now I dare not return, and I dare not die, the game is barely enjoyable at all, and the only way I can play it is to constantly use the cheat menu to add 'MoreMoney' over and over to pay off the constant barrage of calls from empires that want to extort money in exchange for not attacking me.

I cannot explore, or even just enjoy the scenery, because my lone colony, the only one I was able to build after I left, is constantly being raided by pirates. Fortunately the empire that originally attacked has not found me yet.

The early game was marked by gentle play. I could make friends and explore, and this was the pattern set.

The moment I entered space, I have been constantly under attack, purely because I was not wealthy enough to pay off the bullies that surround me, and my only recourse is to cheat constantly. This is not fun, and it is an abrupt change from the flow of the game up to this point.

Spore is broken in the space stage - make no mistake. Perhaps not for every player, but it is broken, and it needs, desperately, to be fixed.

I play a gentle, nonviolent race, and all I wanted was to explore the galaxy in peace, and all I did was to leave my world. Once.

This is not the way space should play out.

It is not the pattern set by the previous stages. It is a broken situation. Constant siege and no recourse but to cheat to avoid total annihilation is not good gameplay. It would not be tolerated in any other game, it is intolerable in Spore.

How this can be fixed:

There must be a subroutine that deals with the amount of attacks the player will endure, the number of extortion calls, the degree of the violence directed towards the player. Nerf that subroutine.

Better still, directly alter the 'player is attacked' setting in relation to how the player has played the previous stages - you keep a timeline already, use it. If the player is peaceful and nonviolent, virtually shut off the extortion calls, the random raids, and the sudden wars from nowhere. Let the peaceful player... play.

Let the space stage progress naturally from the previous stages, rather than become an abrupt nightmare where the player is instantly overwhelmed by constant violence.

Any game that literally cannot be played without cheats is broken.

Any game that teaches the player one thing (say that peacefulness works) and suddenly contradicts itself (constant barrage and loss of cities, constant war whatever one does) is broken.

Space isn't fun. The game was fun up till now, but the space stage, supposedly the crowning glory of the game, is misery.

I came in peace, but I end up in a blackened crater, through no fault of my own.

The only action I did to provoke endless, impossible to win war, was to leave my planet and answer one innocent call from the stars. That is not right, and it should not happen. The empire I face is larger that I can even measure. It has infinite resources, I have a blackened world and one colony. The situation is impossible.

This can be fixed, and it needs to be fixed, and it should be fixed.

A game that isn't fun in the end stage, will be remembered as not being fun.

It doesn't matter that this does not happen to every player. It matters that it happens at all.

MAXIS: fix space. Fix it immediately, fix it now, because the future of your franchise is at stake; I am not the only player suffering this problem and if I did not count myself a moderately hard core player (24 tries before I left my homeworld forever), I would have given up on Spore. I would not be surprised if many do give up on the game once they reach space.

This is not good for anyone, it is not good for your bottom line.

That is why this needs to be addressed.

Spore: General / Heroes Of Taelis
« on: September 09, 2008, 04:44:16 pm »
I made a little comic about my experiences with the Creature Stage of Spore. I'd like to share it with you:

Spore: General / An Open Plea to the Maxis Team
« on: June 30, 2008, 12:34:55 am »
I know that the Maxis team occasionally reads this forum; I wish to make a formal plea -

Please leave the vanishing limb 'bug' intact. By this, I mean the exploit of the editor where it is possible to make invisible limbs, yet retain parts floating in space.

It clearly is a bug, but it is also a feature. A wonderful feature. It is useful, and it is valuable.

I draw comics online. My stories are about alien universes with carefully reasoned, alien physical laws. One thing I deal with are beings, creatures, from higher dimensions, entities that can only be seen in our space as cross-sections of their higher dimensional selves.

A bit like Abbott's 'Flatland', really.

I have managed to make one of my hyperspace creatures in the Creature Creator. I am very happy about this, and I see in the power to do this only great things for others as well, with no downside. It is a wonderment that adds to Spore, and takes nothing away.

My creature is a Krawlni, one of a race of enigmatic beings that exist only partially in three-dimensional space. My creation of them in Spore is thus:


Here is one in one of my comics:

The method I used to create my Krawlni is simple; one but shrinks the spine of a creature to two segments of the smallest size possible, then add limbs to one end exclusively, such that they attach precisely to the terminus of the spine and nowhere else. The limbs must also be positioned far from any contact with the body. Then, one expands a spine segment to maximum size with the mouse wheel, and when it is maximally large, and if no limb or part intersects the body thus expanded, whiz the mouse wheel very, very fast to shrink the enlarged spine segment down to the smallest possible size once again. It helps to have a mouse with a fast, weighted, rapid wheel.

If done quickly enough during the shrinking of the spine, and if no part ever intersects the body mass, the result is invisible limbs, yet visible feet, hands, eyes, mouths, and so forth, hanging in space.

This results in the precise visual effect of a creature that exists as a cross-section of a higher-dimensional shape. The circles made by the fingertips of an unseen hand pressing down on the plane of Flatland.

Please, it is not a bug, it is a feature.

That is oft said as a joke, but in this case, I press that it is true. So many things are possible with the power to make limbs invisible.

And because this trick is hidden unless known, you need not worry about it confusing the average user. It cannot detract from their experience, for unless a user cares to learn it, it is not even an issue to them.

Consider it an advanced trick, at the very least a perfectly harmless exploit that adds to the fun.

This matters to me because I value higher dimensional notions, but it is still useful to any who wish to play with it. People could make many characters that lack limbs, from Rayman to Homestar Runner, or create otherwise impossible wonders that are only possible if parts of the method of construction can be hidden. Indeed some already are doing just this, which is how I learned the trick.

Yes, fixing bugs is important to a solid product.

But sometimes, I beg you at Maxis, sometimes an apparent bug is actually, truly a feature in disguise. Sometimes serendipity provides wonders.

I plead with you - permit this one bug, this one small exploit, to remain uncorrected, if you possibly can.

It is useful and good.

Thank you for listening.

Jennifer Diane Reitz

Spore: Sporepedia Exchange / Jennifer's Jenniverse
« on: June 17, 2008, 10:59:18 pm »
These are my Spore Creature Creator creations:
(My stuff is under JenniferReitz in the Sporepedia)

Rubber Monsters 001 - In my childhood these rubber monsters were my bestest friends. These creatures formed a team that explored the stars in my imagination.

Rubber Monsters 002 - In my childhood these rubber monsters were my bestest friends. This one was the best friend of 001 Aardpanilo

Rubber Monsters 003 - In my childhood these rubber monsters were my bestest friends. This one was the clever girl of the bunch.

Rubber Monsters 004 - In my childhood these rubber monsters were my bestest friends. This one was the witty tough guy of the team.


Bloobok -Native animal of the universe of Pastel. Sometimes kept as pets.
Source:Pastel Defender Heliotrope

Jellese -Sapient organocrystalline being, native to the Tryslmaistan universe.
Construction note: Abilities can be given without disturbing design by using them as decoration - for example, the specular lighting in the eye-strips is actually an ability-granting (spit) part rotated upside down and used for an entirely different purpose!
Source:Unicorn Jelly

Uni -A Unicorn Jelly, improbable creature born under mysterious circumstances. Loyal, but dangerous.
Construction note: Stats can be increased dramatically by hiding miniaturized components under other parts. Uni has amazing stats, all because of multiple parts shrunken, then hidden under the horn, or inside the tail!
Source:Unicorn Jelly

Malvician -Evolved, sapient plant entity suspicious of animal life. From my first completed graphic novel at age 11.


Burangidaeni -Dropped into Tryslmaistan by Hypercosmic Rain, the Burangidaeni are friendly, but very alien.
Construction note: Fluidity of motion can only be obtained by chopping up arms or legs to use instead of relying on the spine. The spine is often stiff, and will not coil, wiggle, or move freely. This creature would not walk fluidly if I had used the spine, the actual spine has been reduced to the minimum. It's all legs!
Source:Unicorn Jelly

Aealian -Creative, gentle species that yearns for the stars.

Kaywai -A mutant conical Jellese that is friendly and often helpful, it just wants to make people happy.

Spore: General / Taking Creatures Seriously
« on: June 13, 2008, 09:48:18 pm »
There has been some talk about things that most folks here do not really want to have to deal with. Creatures that are obscene, creatures  that are poorly made with no real effort, and of course, creatures with very bad names. Poor names. Stupid names.

Several forumites have put it as "finding the Sporepedia full of 'Bob's" - creatures named boring things like ordinary names, or leet-speak, or   other such names that pretty much destroy any hope of immersion during play. What could be more disappointing than finding some interesting creature on some alien world, only to find out that it is named "U-R-Poo" or whatever?

But even for someone dedicated to at least trying to make their creatures seem plausible, or at least a bit clever, it can sometimes be difficult to come up with a truly good name. Yes, the editor has a random name generator, but it is nice to be able to actually choose a good name oneself.

I have some tools that can help.

First off is using Latin. Latin is the proper means of taxonomic nomenclature for animal species already, and it is easy to do - at least if you make use of the University of Notre Dame Latin dictionary:

Half-way down the page is the Latin Wordlist and Grammar Aid. Just enter an English word for some quality that describes your creature, and you will get the closest Latin word. Slap those words together. For example, 'Big monster' would be 'Bibo' plus 'Monstro' or 'Monstrum'. You get 'Bibomonstrum' as a name. Yes, this is slap-dash Latin that cares nothing for proper tenses or grammar, but it sounds good, it looks good, and it works. For a game, that's doing pretty darn good.

Another great tool is The Phrontistery, a site dedicated to just plain awesome words. You can spend hours just perusing the catalog of obscure words just for the sheer joy of it at this place. And you can definitely come up with an excellent name for a creature.

Especially if you use my third tool, creating portmanteaus.

A portmanteau is a word made by dividing up other words and then slapping them together to make a new, original, nonsense word. The best bit is that this new nonsense word actually still conveys information - it can be understood.

The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, AKA Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice In Wonderland used this technique constantly. Some of his portmanteaus have actually entered the english language as legitimate words, simply because they were so popular.

For example, you have probably heard the word 'slythy', as in 'slythy toves' at some point, from the poem 'Jabberwocky'. The word 'Slythy' is a portmanteau of 'slippery' and 'writhe'. It sounds very snake-like.

You can make the best names ever, just by making portmanteaus. The secret is to find two words that describe your creature and break them up, then paste them together again as one word.

For example, let's say your creature is both 'large' and 'purple'. You could take the part 'pur' from 'purple' and the part 'arge' from 'large', and have the word 'purparge'. Maybe your creature is also a grunting plant-monster with a blossom on it. Take, say, the 'G' from 'grunting' and the 'ossom' from 'blossom', and you have a 'Grossom'. Put the two names together, and your creature could be the 'Purparge Grossom', which is a pretty darn cool name. It sounds like something from Squaresoft. No wonder... they sometimes do this too.

All you need do is just try to think of a couple of good words that describe your creature, and play around for a few seconds with cutting them up and pasting them together to make a good sounding portmanteau. Anyone can do it. And you could even do it with the other two tools, Latin and obscure words, as well.

The result will be original names that sound good and are not dumb - far from it, they will be very clever indeed. By bothering with this, you can make naming your creature part of the joy of making it. A good name is priceless.

I would also offer that filling in a description of your creature, as though it were an entry in a textbook, would be a great idea too. It just adds so much.

These are my suggestions on trying to take your creature-making a little more seriously, for the benefit of, well, having extra-amazing creatures overall.

Spore: General / Getting ready for the editor, and Spore
« on: May 27, 2008, 11:05:12 pm »
I find myself putting more thought into what I will do with the editor, as it draws near, and in Spore overall in September. One thing I have done is go back over my old notebooks and re-examine some of my many old creatures and life-forms developed in years -and decades- past, with the thought that Spore will finally allow me to actually do something interesting with them!

Here is one example, drawn from a species I invented back in 1978 or so, called the Faerni, who hail from a planet called Taelis. I decided to re-imagine them specifically for Spore, and the result I recently posted as a wednesday filler on my own comic site. I thought I might let you see it too.

What I found interesting in doing this is that the limitations of Spore, as we have heard about them, have forced me to redesign many elements of my Faerni so that that there is a real possibility of being able to make them in the game. Making those changes to fit Spore engages new creativity on my part - something as simple as the fact that all cities in Spore apparently need to be round, walled, and filled with very separate, discrete buildings instantly demands appropriate architectural changes. That Spore cannot seem to permit fur, and may not permit hair, demands new thought on everything from evolutionary history to social structure. Form begets function in Nature, the mirror of the rule of technology, where function begets form.

I don't know how closely I can make my old Faerni friends in Spore, but doing this has made me consider them again, and that alone is a boon to me. Will Wright wanted Spore to engender creativity, and I think that it is already doing that for people, even before it has been released! It certainly is having an effect on me.

How about you? Anyone else digging through their old sketchbooks to resurrect inventions for use in Spore, only to find that doing this forces new creativity?

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