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. 'Sims' creator lets people play god in new computer game

by Staff Writers
Emeryville, CA (AFP) April 20, 2008
Computer buff Will Wright created a multi-billion-dollar franchise with "The Sims" video games that let people play at real life affairs such as dating, working and raising children.

Now from September, Wright will let people play god with his latest brainchild "Spore."

"The big hook with 'Spore' is that practically the entire game is user created," said Shane Satterfield, editor-in-chief at GameTrailers website. "'Spore' is really the first game that pretty much puts all the power in the hands of the player."

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.

"It is still probably the most interesting question for scientists and five-year-olds: What is life?" Wright said, giving AFP an advance peek at the game, which hits US and European markets in September.

"It starts out as single-cell organisms and then you are eventually flying around the galaxy exploring new worlds, meeting other creatures and creating federations."

"Spore" is marked by Wright's loves for biology, learning, science, and science fiction.

A microscope, a moon rover model and a necklace of magnetic nuggets are among the knickknacks in his office at Electronic Arts-owned Maxis in Emeryville, California.

"I see a lot of games with a science fiction back story, but that is different than having science as their DNA," Wright said.

Players dictate how their animated characters evolve. Creatures can 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.

For example, a creature given fangs will be more hostile than one with teeth for grazing.

"How they play the game has a lot to do with how they evolve their character," Write said. "My engineers have the tough job of figuring out how something will move before they get to see what it is."

Creatures pass on virtual genes to their progeny and build civilizations with cities, governments and economies.

"It is more of a social experiment," Wright said. "Science, economics, sociology, things like that are very fun to simulate in the computer."

In order to avoid what Wright sees as "inconsistencies" in online games in which characters interact in common virtual worlds, "Spore" provides players personal universes with copies of planets and creatures made by others.

The game culminates with what Wright describes as a "toy galaxy" for players to explore.

"We want players excited about creative, free-form play," Wright said. "Anyone can make the creative process part of the fun, much the way Lego is."

With the release of the original "Sims" title in early 2000, Wright lured women and other "casual gamers" into a video game market long considered a bastion of "hardcore gamers," mainly young men.

Electronic Arts announced this month it has sold more than 100 million copies of "The Sims", the world's best selling computer game.

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Are Humans Hardwired For Fairness
Washington DC (SPX) Apr 18, 2008
Is fairness simply a ruse, something we adopt only when we secretly see an advantage in it for ourselves? Many psychologists have in recent years moved away from this purely utilitarian view, dismissing it as too simplistic. Recent advances in both cognitive science and neuroscience now allow psychologists to approach this question in some different ways, and they are getting some intriguing results.

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