Managing Complexity in Adventures

The information found here was originally compiled by HRMatthew back on the Sporum. It has been archived here so future creators can continue to benefit from it.

There is no sight more frustrating, more disappointing, more agitating than this. Indeed, this is perhaps one of the main reasons why people are frustrated with, and perhaps leave (gasp!) Spore despite the wondrous capabilities of GA. How preposterous, I say to them, as I have gathered many tricks to mitigate this issue! 

Approximate complexity values of different things

For our purposes, power-ups, effects, sounds, and such have negligible effect. They still take up complexity, but so little that it is not necessary to calculate their value. Of course, it’s best to lay them out as early as you can. 

One complexity dot equals the following: 

90 Disguised Blue Gates of 1 Model 
36 Buildings of 1 Model 
42 Vehicles of 1 Model 
42 Creatures of 1 Model 
90 Adventure Objects of 1 Model 

Of course, most people do not use just one model, but many. Unique models take up more complexity, so let’s see just how much. All of these also equal 1 Complexity Dot. 

44 Disguised Blue Gates of 1 Model and 43 of another Model (Adventure Objects also follow this trend) 
20 Creatures of 1 Model and 20 of another Model 
20 Vehicles of 1 Model and 20 of another Model 
17 Buildings of 1 Model and 17 of another 

As you can see, unique models have a considerable impact on complexity. The amount allowed for each model is around half of the number of just one model needed to make one complexity dot. It stands to reason then, that three unique models will only allow a little less than a third as well. Let’s see if this is the case. 

One complexity dot: 

11 Buildings of 1 model, and 11 of the two others (This is one less than a third of 36, or 12) 
29 Disguised Blue Gates of 1 Model, and 28 of the other two. (This is one and two less respectively than a third of 90, or 30). 

There’s definitely a predictable trend here. That said, we can assume that if you have 16 unique models, the maximum number allowed in the adventure for each model would be 1/16 of the “base” value, or how many of just one model are needed to equal one complexity dot. In the case of disguised blue gates, the maximum number that each 16 models would be allowed would be a little less than 6. 


It does seem that the complexity meter is fairly generous, at least to me it is. But why does it seem to fill up faster than my stomach when I go eat at Golden Corral? As you can see, the number of unique models has a huge impact on how many times it can occur in the adventure. I will not test combinations of these object types because that will take forever. But you can imagine how amateur adventure makers will fill up that meter quickly, with all of their models and such. Here are some basic conclusions. 

  • Buildings take up the most complexity, with only 36 models of one model allowed for one complexity dot. So, if you’re a person that makes walls, ceilings, etc. buildings, you will eat up the complexity fast. Same for if you are assembling a city with buildings. 
  • Disguised blue gates and adventure objects are by far the most efficient, with 90 required of one model to take up one complexity dot. 
  • Creatures and vehicles are, while not as costly as buildings, still very complexity intensive at 42 for one model to take up one dot. If you have a lot of creatures and vehicles, like in many war adventures, you will see that bar rising fast. 
  • Having many unique models occur many times will put a strain on your complexity meter. Especially if you use buildings a lot. 

What’s the solution?

Judging from our data, it is best that we not only use disguised blue gates as often as possible and buildings as seldom as possible, but also reduce the number of unique models required. Therefore, we can formulate the following complexity-reducing strategies: 

Use blue gates for props that occur many times, and buildings only for times when examining, destroying, etc. are necessary. It is important to note that if you run out of Gameplay item slots, it’s recommended to use buildings for props that occur the least and disguised blue gates the most.

For example, if you want to include a skyscraper to occur multiple times in your adventure, a hot dog stand distributed throughout your colony, or an armada of creepy vans parked in several alleyways, it’s best to make those props disguised gates. Here’s a palette from my latest adventure.

These props, with the exception of the disguised truck and blue machine thing at the bottom of the left column, occur many instances. Most of them have over 5 occurrences. Note their strange PNGs: this is because they are multiprops. But we’ll get to that later. Now, what should buildings be used for?

In the adventure, the Squawk Box is examined, the CEO Office Shelf is destroyed, and the rest are seldom present. These props only occur either once or two or three times; the one that occurs more is the Mansion 2nd floor prop, and that was because the vents at the top appear many times in the adventure for their animation. As you can see, you can “multiprop” buildings as well. 

Note that most of these are interior props. This is because I prefer to use buildings for interiors since the camera will not zoom out of the model like it would with a disguised blue gate interior. This hurts the immersion factor, something that my adventures are particularly skilled at delivering. But some interiors occur several times: why use buildings for them? I will discuss that in the third bullet point. But overall, buildings should only occur if they need to be interacted with in some way other than moving to them, and disguised gates should be used for everything else. They’re most effective for scenery objects, though. Buildings, however, do have those cool effects like the spinning windmill and such. It is your judgement whether or not this is essential for your adventure. 

Reduce unique models by making props that serve multiple purposes.

This is perhaps one of the most useful ways to both reduce complexity and save space in the limit 6 pages of prop types you have. This will most often occur in the Gameplay Objects palette since, if you follow my advice, you will use disguised gates more than buildings. This is not well known either, and is very agitating to do if you don’t have the Building Rotator mod. 

Most creators have objects like crates, benches, terminals, etc. basically props that, as stand-alone creations, do not take up much complexity in their respective editors. But a low complexity object and high complexity object take up the same amount of complexity in an adventure; it’s best then to use up all of that complexity for something. And that is for these multi-purpose props. Here are some in-editor examples.

The first two basically have many props rotated in various ways. They are designed such that if you submerge the entire prop into the ground such that only the “top” building is showing, rotating the entire prop 90 degrees will yield you a different building. 

The first prop however, has two laboratory objects on the bottom and top “slots.” This is because these laboratory objects were designed to be placed against a wall, so the wall would hide the other object inside. This allowed me to cram six props into one. This means that these multi-props, while they follow a general formula, must be tailored to the purpose of that prop, its locations in the adventure, and the level of detail you want. Keep in mind that in order to fit all these props, you’ll need to make them fairly small. And for those that desire quality, upscaling tiny objects may not look so pretty. Also you may want your props to be more detailed than what a multi-prop creation would allow each individual object. But compromises are necessary, and if you’re skilled enough in the editors they will not make that much of a difference. 

The last one does not consist of separate buildings, but one that has different facades. Basically, if you rotate it a certain way you will get a different building. The mess at the roof is actually a facade for a small, two story building in comparison to the multi-story facades along its sides. You can create some impressive skylines, like this with just one prop. The first picture is with the last prop in the list above, and the second picture is with the second prop and that last prop in the list above.

This can be done with interiors as well, especially if you don’t want to create unique models at all or have filled up your slots. You don’t need to rotate the additional thing on top of your interior, since you can just hide the interior itself in the ground.

You can create some pretty bizarre combinations, such as a lamppost and a set of rails, or even a fence, train station, and food stand all in one. But they save on complexity tremendously, as we’ve seen if we reduce the number of unique models. 

Keep in mind that these props are best fit for where you cannot see the ground beneath. This means that multiprops may not work very well in multi-story interiors without specialized creation, on platforms where you can see the bottom, or at the edges of cliffs. If they are absolutely necessary, design your adventure such that the player will not see the unsightly objects attached to your Frankenstein for a prop. 

Reduce unique models by making props that are more comprehensive and take up the entire complexity meter of their respective editors.

This is one of most common mistakes I see people make in regards to efficient complexity usage: making individual floor sections, wall sections, etc. Especially when they classify them as buildings! If you want to cram as much as you want in an adventure, you cannot do this. Instead you must make entire rooms or hallways that use up as much complexity in the editor as you can budge into it. Same with the budget. Here are some examples:

In the first picture, we see the interior of the bar that was used in Legacy of Sensenet with the ceiling removed for demonstrative purposes. Note that I did not make individual wall sections, the individual bar props, chairs, etc. They are all in one creation. It is imperative that you do this as much as possible in your adventure, unless you need to include a detailed prop that hopefully is a disguised gate multi-prop or the rare interactive building prop. 

In the second picture, we see the interior of one of the cavernous hallways in Those Who Were Left. Note here that I did not make the individual wall sections for the gigantic building: it is ALL in one creation. Note how I’ve tried to use up complexity and budget to its limits, with the wired interior walls, lights, and doors. I merely had to supersize this to make the gigantic interior section without using up so much complexity. There are some design problems when you use large props though, but I will cover that later. 

In the third picture, we see a portion of the organic recycling facility in Deleted! Note how I put the vats and walkway as part of the creation, not separate creations to be assembled. I also put many details in, such as the ceiling supports. 

In the fourth picture, we see a portion of the foyer in Legacy of Sensenet. Note that I have included a bookshelf, table, hat rack, crates, etc. They are integrated in the creation. 

In the final picture, we see the pod laboratory in Deleted! Note how I have made all six pods as part of the creation, and the wall detail. 


In short, if you want to reduce the rate at which your complexity is consumed, you must reduce the amount of unique models as well as high complexity objects such as creatures and buildings. Use them sparingly. Ask yourself: is this necessary for the story? Is this necessary for gameplay purposes? Keep in mind that these props were designed for the specific setting and story for my adventures. Your adventures may require some fine tuning to these strategies, should you use them. Also, it does take some skills and knowledge of the editor, such as what parts can be placed beyond the boundaries of the building editor.