ZAM Checks Out Darkspore Day at Maxis Studios

Senior Staff Writer Chris "Pwyff" Tom was invited to Maxis Studios to play some Darkspore and kick some butt at PvP.

When I first heard about Darkspore earlier this year, like many others I was a bit skeptical about the whole affair. While it was exciting to hear about the Spore creature creator being used for an action MMO, it did feel a bit weird knowing that it was Maxis at the helm; a company known almost entirely for its work on games like SimCity, The Sims and, lest we forget, SimAnt. After my first preview of the game, back in February, however, most of my fears were alleviated. While there was certainly some room for improvement - and what game doesn't have that - I was impressed to see that, at its core, Darkspore was a real winner.

Well, now with launch day just around the corner on April 26, alongside Darkspore's open beta just kicking off, Maxis decided to invite a few members of the press to its studio to show us what they've done with Darkspore thus far, and what we should all be looking forward to in this great game.

We kicked off our day (henceforth dubbed "Darkspore Day") like most developer studio visits, with a tour of Maxis' lofty, open-space facilities. Instead of a sit-down presentation, however, the morning was spent visiting with different developers, with each of them giving brief mini-presentations on what they do. It was great to see that the enthusiasm was still running high, even with launch day so near. Executive Producer Michael Perry also noted the different approach Maxis has taken with the development of Darkspore has really helped, including staging a large number of closed betas, as well as pushing back the release date of Darkspore by a month. As a result of this "open door" policy, Maxis has been able to really listen to their player's needs, and I instantly noticed at least a dozen new features that were added due to feedback.

While I won't go over any of the basic game mechanics again here, I will note the big changes implemented since I last set hands on the game back in February. First, an objective system has been put in place for each level, with players being able to achieve little mini-objectives for a level, like destroying a certain amount of objects, or collecting crystals that drop randomly from enemies. Fulfilling these objectives adds to your rewards, and while this certainly wasn't a game-breaking change, it was just one of many little additions that give Darkspore a level of polish that is rarely seen in a modern game.

Beyond that, I also got to witness a little bit of Darkspore's endgame content, in the form of world 15-4. Where most players complained about the general ease of the game for the first few worlds, allow me to confirm that the game does get significantly harder as you progress. If you decide to make your way to these levels, you'll probably need to make sure that your squad is optimized to do so. Finally, another new feature added is the concept of the "star level" where, if players find themselves running out of levels to chain (as in, they reach the end of the game but want to keep chaining), they will have the option of playing a "star level," which is just an earlier level, but one that has been artificially increased in difficulty. It's a fun little addition for those who just want to keep upping their challenge.

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# Apr 16 2011 at 11:55 AM Rating: Decent
494 posts
Nice write-up. I've been following the game for some time though I hadn't played it until the open beta started. My main concern with Maxis games these days is how heavy their EA chains are (using Westwood as a reference). But they've allowed delays and actually listened to feedback during development. Hopefully this more hands-off approach produces a great game on release which would encourage EA to allow more leeway in the future.

I've read there are a few major bugs lingering concerning game freezes. I have not experienced them myself. My only annoyance with the game is the required internet connection, though that's the standard for EA games now.

What was your opinion of the game's stability and bugs? Do you think it is ready for release?
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