EA's Creative Experiment

EA's Creative Experiment
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

October 8th 2010 at 2:00PM

We breakdown EA's abstract create-'em-up

Be it cutesy Sackpeople making 2D contraptions or the web’s more recent mining addiction, players just can’t seem to get enough of DIY game making.

Fine tuning an easy to use tool set for creative players is now a major feature, from Joe Danger to StarCraft II. With a clear statement of intent, EA’s aptly named Create is all about letting your imagination run wild.

It’s not easy to describe Create. A piston here, a sprocket there, things going whizz-bang. It was pitched to us as being just like the 2003 Honda ‘cog’ ad, where various car parts trigger a chain of events. That analogy proved to be accurate as producer Justin Manning demonstrated.

The game is being developed by EA Bright Light, the publisher’s family game developer responsible for Hasbro Family Game Night, Harry Potter and the upcoming Spare Parts.

“We wanted to express creativity visually,” said Manning, a natural place to start when explaining the initial design. A number of themed backgrounds exist, such as a spaceport and fairground, since “faced with a blank canvas, nobody knows what to do.” The artistic should find there fix early on with a selection of paint and shading tools.

Fundamentally, Create is a tool set with tasks designed to introduce you to each of its many objects and causes. The original brief for the game was a means for parents to spend time with their kids in the creative space. The problem is tool sets aren’t much fun unless you have things to do with them.

To make use of the 200+ items available, Bright Light has come up with four game types to suit causal players and those who have a bit more patience. All of these are based on the idea of objects in a physics-based chain reaction.

“We created challenges, not puzzles. Puzzles are logical, one-shot, you see the solution and you never come back. Challenges are a bit more open. You bring your creativity and your thoughts to it and you solve it your way,” said Manning.

Yet there’s no denying that the objective is to use your noodle to solve a series of ‘puzzling’ circuits - trial and error is mandatory. You’re tasked with getting an object from one spot to another, and can choose variations, like using a limited amount of items or attempting to score the highest point score. Manning said EA’s QA team, who complete most games in less than 10 hours, took 70 hours to ace the challenges in Create.

Once players tire of the pre-built challenges, then they can design, share and remix creations themselves. If the tool set proves to be a hit with users, then user-generated content may allow Create to reach its full potential.

In the PS3 demo we witnessed, the point-and-click nature of PlayStation Move made manipulating objects much simpler than using analog sticks, which demand steady fingers. On the subject of what Move brings to Create, Manning said: “It’s more intuitive to use a pointing device... a lot less buttons is always good for young kids and parents.”

Its abstract visuals will delight its target audience, though this creative experiment looks destine to be a title you have to play before you fully understand its workings.