Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Spore-22

Twenty-two is probably about the total number of hours (so far) that I've spent playing Spore or fiddling with the Creature Creator. I also felt like I was living a Catch-22 paradox this afternoon, when I ran into a crash-to-desktop bug several times. D and I have played our first creature up to the Space stage, but now every time our homeworld gets attacked (which is way too much--a different gripe, see below), after we fend off the invaders and try to save the game, CRASH.

Now there's probably bad code there, but there are also two big design flaws: no auto-save option anywhere in the game, and no way to save the game while you're in a planet's atmosphere. You have to go into orbit before you can save, which means switching view modes, and that's when the crash occurs. You can't save without going into orbit, you can't go into orbit without crashing the game. Grr. Arg.

The debugger in me is curious about what's actually causing this problem--one forum poster thought it might be a bloated graphics cache file, but further experiments disproved that hypothesis. Other suggested workarounds include turning all the graphics quality settings to LOW, or performing a very specific sequence of actions after an attack. None of them seems reliably successful.

The gamer in me is annoyed that EA might have rushed this thing to market and forced its biggest fans to become beta testers. I know it's a complex simulation and all, but Half-Life 2 and Portal never crashed on me once. Not once. Maybe I should just stick to waiting two or three years before trying a game, so I know my hardware will exceed the system requirements. Nuke the site from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

All that said, Spore really is a remarkable achievement. D and I still have problems with the twitchy camera and movement controls, and the Space stage requires way too much micro-management, but overall, it's amazing how much fun the game is. When it's not crashing.

~CKL
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