By Jennifer Tan Reuters SINGAPORE -- Jet-powered cars, aliens, moon colonies and robots. To many, this is the stuff of science fiction. But for Electronic Arts Inc creative guru Will Wright, they represent some of his most obsessive pursuits and the seeds of inspiration for his hotly anticipated video game, Spore. Launching Sept. 7, Spore allows players to create empires and civilizations across galaxies, populated by creatures, buildings and spaceships. Atlanta-born Wright, a bespectacled, mop-haired alien obsessive who builds robots for research purposes, said Spore was inspired by the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program. "I believe there are other intelligences out there, and the closest is several galaxies away," said Wright, 48, who grew up building model cars and dreaming of space travel. The launch of Spore comes at a critical time for loss-making EA, which is battling Activision Blizzard Inc. for preeminence in the fast-growing $28 billion-a-year video games market. Evan Wilson, analyst with Pacific Crest Securities, describes 2009 as a "do-or-die year" for EA. Though the consequences of Spore's failure for EA are uppermost in analysts' minds, Wright is widely seen as up to the task. A seminal figure in the games industry, observers tend to reach for superlatives when they assess his importance to the company. "Will is the Albert Einstein of the gaming business -- no one else is pushing boundaries like he is," said Geoff Keighley, the host of GameTrailers TV, a specialist web-based video games review. "He is right up there with Shigeru Miyamoto in terms of his contributions to the gaming industry," Keighley added, referring to Nintendo Co Ltd's legendary games designer who created many of the firm's smash hits like Donkey Kong. Wright developed his blockbuster game The Sims while at Maxis, the company he co-founded and sold to EA in 1997. The Sims, where players create home environments in which characters did mundane tasks like cooking and moving furniture, surpassed expectations and went on to sell over 100 million copies. Version 3 is in the pipeline and it, along with Spore, is among a raft of new games seen as critical to EA's future as it struggles with tepid sales and flagging interest from gamers. There are no guarantees, as Wright knows to his cost. His most striking flop was The Sims Online, a multi-player version of The Sims that never caught on and was shut earlier this month. "He clearly didn't understand what makes those kinds of games work well, so The Sims Online was a pretty serious failure," said Timothy Burke, a cultural historian at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Spore itself has not been without its share of challenges. First announced in 2005, it was originally slated for launch in 2007. Spore's strong pedigree bodes well for sales, says Colin Sebastian, analyst at Lazard Capital Markets in San Francisco, though he acknowledges it is not yet clear if Spore will see Wright reproducing his best form. "It's too early to say if Wright is a one-hit wonder," he added.
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By Agence France-Presse LOS ANGELES --The "Spore" alien population is exploding, boding well for the September launch of the latest brainchild of computer game legend Will Wright. Electronic Arts-owned Maxis Studio released "creature creator" software last month in the hope that aspiring Spore players would bring a population of aliens to life in time for the game's premier. The response astounded even Wright, maker of the world's top-selling computer game "The Sims." "I was really hoping we'd get 100,000 creatures by September and a million by the end of the year," Wright said Monday while demonstrating Spore on the eve of the Electronic Entertainment Expo video game trade show in Los Angeles. "We hit 100K in 22 hours and a million by the end of the first week. The numbers are just blowing us away," Wright said. A week ago, the number of creatures in the Spore database exceeded the number of known species on Earth. "It took them 18 days to reach the number of creatures on Earth and, by some accounts, it took God six days," joked Wright during a presentation onstage at the vintage Orpheum Theater. Spore lets people dictate the genetic development of animated characters in a mock universe. “You are given this God-like power,” Wright told AFP in a recent interview at his Maxis office in Emeryville, California. "You can create ecosystems, biospheres ... We try to make it real science,” he said. Players start as microscopic life forms competing for survival in primordial ooze and work their way onto land, where they evolve into creatures that build civilizations and rocket into space. Creatures can be made to have scales, fins, wings, claws, extra appendages, additional eyes, or body parts in unexpected places. The online game's programming gives characters artificial intelligence and figures out how they should walk, laugh, dance, fight or do other things based on what they look like. Creatures pass on virtual genes to their progeny and build civilizations with cities, governments and economies. In a computer game first, Spore worlds will be inhabited by aliens made by players instead of professional video game programmers.