The Evolution Of Spore

Spore, the computer game that allows you to create and evolve a universe of creatures, is finally available. The game's primary designer, Will Wright, is also the creator of the Sims series.

However, as Wright himself notes, there were others who went before him. One specific inspiration came from the 1965 story The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age; matchless writer Stanislaw Lem wrote about the kingdom in a box:

"... you gave him a whole civilization to rule and have dominion over forever?"

"You must be joking!" Trurl exclaimed. "Really, the whole kingdom fits into a box three feet by two by two and a half ... it's only a model..."
(Read much more about Lem's kingdom in a box)

Before that, in the 1940's, mathematician John Von Neumann (with the help of his friend Stanislaw Ulam) came up with the idea of cellular automata, a two-dimensional system for a kind of artificial life.

This work was the basis for a popular 1970's computer program (also popular with computer programmers and teachers) called the Game of Life. Using basic rules, simple "organisms" (mathematical shapes) could evolve or progress individually or in competition.

From the 1930's, Spore borrows on the idea of terraforming, the make-over of a world to fit the needs of a particular species.

Spore also draws heavily on the work of computer graphics artist (and software creator) Karl Sims, who in the 1990's demonstrated how animations could be used to evolve movement. "Organisms" created of basic geometrical shapes solve the problem of locomotion (see the Evolved Virtual Creatures video below).

(Karl Sims evolved virtual creatures video)

Spore takes these ideas and adds an interface that allows you, an untutored and unskilled biped, to create a world.

(Spore video)

Read more about The Science of Spore and some of Spore's technical problems on roll-out. Be sure to take a look at the animations on Karl Sims' website. Thanks to Moira for the tip and some references.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/11/2008)

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