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Project Spark

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By acharris7709-03-2014
CrimsonE (editor)
Project Spark

The Defence

Developer:
Team Dakota
Publisher:
Microsoft Studios
Genre:
Adventure
Release Date:
TBA

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core i7
AMD equivalent
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce GT 640
AMD Radeon HD 8850
RAM:
8 GB
HDD:
2 GB
DirectX:
11

Project Spark is a world-creation game available on tablets and the Microsoft Store for Windows 8. It’s clear that the direction that Project Spark is headed in is one where your only limiting factor to what you can create is your imagination, but the game is still in the development process, so bear that in mind if you decide to go through with playing the early access version. These limitations brought along by the beta stage don’t diminish how enjoyable the game is in the least - in fact, it’s still quite a bit of fun to play around with. One of the best parts about the game, and one that sets it apart from a few other world-creation games, is the fact that once you’ve created a world, you have the opportunity to play in it. Unfortunately, the beta is only available to Windows 8.1 users, which is quite a limiting factor in regards to audience and exposure.

The opening sequence of Project Spark explains the goals of the game - to create and play in a sandbox world. This sequence showcases stunning, vibrant colours that are the hallmark of the game’s playable universe. After the intro sequence, you’re greeted with the main menu, which is set up in a simple, intuitive format. The options presented to you on the main menu are: play community-created content, computer generated content, or “create your own masterpiece”. The menu also includes a tutorial so that you can learn the basic mechanics of gameplay, including the mechanics for testing your creations and sharing them.

I wonder what silly behaviour should I add...

I wonder what silly behaviour should I add...

Project Spark cosies right in to its genre, making veterans of simulation games that allow you to world build right at home with fundamentals that are consistent with other games. The game starts you off with a small map and all the tools that you’ll need to start level building. The paint function allows you to place grass, trees, snow, and rivers. The editor also makes it easy to create mountains, which involves a simple process of dragging the cursor to where you want a mountain to be placed and using a series of sliders to adjust their the scale and intensity. Another useful feature in the UI is the progress bar located at the bottom of the screen, which allows you to fast forward or rewind time. Adjuster is really handy, as you can make changes to your world risk-free. If you create something and don’t like it, then you drag the bar to the left to go back and undo the change, or, if you decide you really do like it, you can drag it back to the right to keep it.

After designing the landscape to your liking, you get to choose what sorts of creatures and characters you want to live in your newly created world. These range from humanoid creatures such as Orcs, to animals like squirrels. Once a creature is placed in the world, you can alter their behaviour by using simple “If this...do this” commands. Essentially, with just a few clicks, you can create an Arctic squirrel that has the ability to throw fireballs around the world if you choose so. There are more detailed options available for those who are more comfortable with these sorts of mechanics, but they’re still great for people who are starting out and looking for some fun without a steep learning curve.

OMG, they got Flappy Birds!

OMG, they got Flappy Birds!

After you have completed building your level, you’re ready to walk around and explore it. This is done by using the typical third-person controls of WSAD and the mouse. Enemies can be added and programmed using the same mechanics as the character that you create. As far as special moves for your character are concerned, you can fight enemies in the world with double jump, roll, and a punching move. If you’re not great at designing new worlds, however, or want an unexpected adventure, you can play community-created content. Community-created content is already impressive, even though the game is in beta. One of the games that sticks out is a Flappy Bird clone made by one of the community members, which was a great rendition of the original with some twists of its own. While it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker, the simplistic graphics that the playable worlds are rendered in may not be in everyone’s taste. The plus side to this though, is that the specs needed to run them are quite low, which will widen the game’s market up a bit. I ran the beta using a Dual-Core I5 laptop with an HD 4000 graphic chip, and it ran smooth like butter.

Overall, Project Spark is an enjoyable experience, and very polished considering that it’s still in the beta stage. You may be restricted with the amount of stuff available to create a world, but it still gives you enough that with a creative mind, you can still get a whole lot of enjoyment out of it. Creative enough, and the worlds are more than just playable, but almost games in and of themselves. It will be interesting to see how the game progresses as it moves out of beta, as then we can see how its full capacity will be utilized by the already brilliant community of players.

Comments (3)
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Posts: 223

I can't speak for the PC version myself but the Xbox One version looks pretty good, but yeah there are a few flat texture problems and up close jaggies are quite prominent. But it is still a nice little "game" to unleash your imagination

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Posts: 1548

Is it just me or the game doesn't look too good on purely the technical side. All the screenshots seem very jagged and some assets look like flat sprites.

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Posts: 223

I've been playing the Xbox One beta for a fair amount of hours now and I'm really enjoying it. I find it to be very complex, so I'm constantly searching YouTube for tutorials. I've only created a small hub-like environment to do a bit of exploring and sight seeing (with a few enemies), but I will be hopefully be able to create a nice little RPG to spend my time with.