So the eternal war between “casual” and “hardcore” rages on, with Spore as its current battleground. Actually, I should amend that statement: the hardcore continues its war against the casuals, while most of the casuals don’t even know the hardcore exists.

I was really surprised at the low scores I was seeing for Spore before release. They made me kind of nervous…had Will finally dropped the ball?

But of course I did not allow them to deter me from purchasing the game myself (Galactic Edition, of course).

In the end, reviewers are hardcore. Most of the reviewers who played the game dinged it for its ease and lack of depth. I guess they were expecting the Tribe stage to be as deep as Rise of Nations and the World stage to be as deep as Civ IV and the Space stage to be as deep as Galactic Civilizations II. The problem is that Will wants people to be able to progress through each stage to the next one without too much trouble. He doesn’t want people to get to a stage and realize that they either just don’t like it or can’t do it. Because he knows that’s a shelf-level event. Thus each stage (up to Space) is designed to be an interesting experience, but not a particularly challenging game. This is very, very “casual” thinking.

And then, as if to clear up any doubt as to what kind of game Spore is, Will gave an interview to MTV’s Multiplayer Blog, where he said, “We were very focused, if anything, on making a game for more casual players. ‘Spore’ has more depth than, let’s say, ‘The Sims’ did. But we looked at the Metacritic scores for ‘Sims 2’, which was around 90, and something like ‘Half-Life’, which was 97, and we decided — quite a while back — that we would rather have the Metacritic and sales of ‘Sims 2’ than the Metacritic and sales of ‘Half-Life.'”

A lot of people have taken this as a ding against Valve, but it’s not really. Half-Life 2 was a very successful game. Very successful. And it sold about one-tenth as many copies as The Sims 2 and its expansion packs.

Wright has figured out that he can both make great games and make a metric asston of money simply by appealing to a wider audience. This was obvious with The Sims, but was far less so during the development of Spore. The high-pitched whine you are hearing is the “hardcore” faction realizing that a game they assumed would be “for them” isn’t.

Will Wright has created the ultimate casual game.

That costs $50 and requires a pretty hot computer to play.

It’s this schizophrenia that is driving everybody crazy.

(So how do I like it? Well, being firmly mid-core, I am thoroughly enjoying it. I’m currently at the Tribal stage. I can’t wait to get to World stage and see how Will has simplified Civilization. Of course, the game still has plenty of time to kick me in the Mean Bean Machine, but I kind of doubt that it will.)