But last night I discovered why part of Spore is as aggravating as it is. The problem comes in the Space stage, where you start getting attacked almost as soon as you start branching out and exploring. If it's not random attacks by pirates on your spice mines (think barbarians or partisan fighters in Civilization) then it's one of your rival empires who've decided to go to war with you because they don't like the color of your ship or something. Or they keep demanding you pay amounts of tribute that you just don't have.
I may have mentioned in an earlier
Well, as it turns out, the interruptions pretty much do happen every five minutes. There's been some reverse-engineering of some of the game content and as it turns out, a lot of the gameplay parameters are actually stored in a text file (and then packaged into a proprietary game package file format with other techical parameters). And lo and behold, here are the lines that reveal some interesting points:
property universeSimulatorPirateRaidFrequency 0x031e7620 float 600The float values at the end of each line are seconds. So judging from how the game's behaved, I've determined that this obstensibly means that every 10 minutes, there's a chance that pirates will attack you. And every five minutes, there's a chance that an enemy will attack, or an eco-disaster will happen, or there's a "happiness disaster" which probably involves one of your cities revolting, though I've never had that happen yet.
property universeSimulatorPirateRaidAllyFrequency 0x039620a6 float 600
ncy 0x0397a072 float 600
property universeSimulatorWarAttackFrequency 0x031e94b8 float 300
ncy 0x04f3b63f float 300
ncy 0x044881a3 float 300
Now the kicker is that this isn't a disaster selection table, either. The game doesn't go "ok, 5 minutes are up, let's see if something bad happens -- okay, something will, now let's see if it'll be an attack or an eco-disaster." No. Each of these disasters is on its own timer. So five minutes after you've defended your planet from Yet Another Attack From The Boojum Empire, the game goes "Let's see if we'll have Yet Another Attack..." Meanwhile, on another timer altogether, the game eventually goes "Ding! Time to see if we'll throw in an eco-disaster to shake things up."
This goes a long way towards explaining why the difficulty curve in Spore is so goddamned uneven. The cell stage is easy, the creature stage is a little difficult until you get the game mechanics down, the tribal and civilization stages are really easy due to their simplicity, and then you get to the space stage and YOU ARE DOOMED, DOOMED, DOOMED. This here, folks, is one hell of a design flaw. There's a chance it can be patched, or you can alter the values yourself if you've got the right tools, honestly, but it'd be nicer to wait for a patch.
I'm assuming there will be a patch, too. Will Wright said that one of his eventual goals with Spore was to make RTS and Civ-style games that even a casual Sims player could understand and enjoy. That's kind of why the tribal and civ stages of the game are so simplistic, apparently. So I can't wait to hear what these casual Sims players think about the constant Space attacks, and expect the reaction to prompt some kind of alteration to the gameplay parameters here.