Project Spark

Microsoft Demonstrates The Tools Of Project Spark
by Dan Ryckert on Nov 06, 2013 at 05:00 AM
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Team Dakota
Rating: Everyone 10+
Platform: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC

When Microsoft demonstrated Project Spark at E3 this year, they had a matter of minutes to show off one of the more complex creation tools seen in console gaming. I recently had a chance to see a more extensive demo of the game’s World Wizard creation mode, and came away impressed with the wide array of customization available.

Developer Team Dakota was reluctant to make any mention of a built-in story mode of any sort, but the tools I saw in the demo should guarantee some unique gameplay experiences made by Xbox One gamers. Comparisons to LittleBigPlanet are inevitable with such a community-focused game, but Project Spark may offer gamers even more freedom when it comes to making their own vision come to life.

Upon opening the World Wizard, you can assign a blanket genre to your creation. The three I saw were first-person shooter, third-person brawler, and isometric brawler, although the X button will shuffle and reveal other options. After customizing your player character’s appearance, the option to alter the game world itself opens up. A simple sculpt tool makes it possible to add mountains and hills, or switch to erode mode if you want to create valleys and craters. Modification tools make it easy to paint different terrain over the land if you want a snowy or grassy look for your game.

Above: See the game in action at Gamescom 

Once you’ve modified the world itself, you can start populating it by switching over to the prop menu. Here, you can start placing a variety of allies and enemies, and each of their AI programs can be modified extensively using the brain gallery. Default brains are available if you want generic behavior patterns, but almost any aspect can be tailored to your liking. If you want to create a healer type enemy, you can select the exact health bar percentage his allies have to reach before he automatically begins healing his fellow soldiers.

Modifying your own character’s abilities is simple as well, and the tools allow for some crazy skills. I watched as a Team Dakota developer used Kinect to record his own body performing a Street Fighter-like fireball motion, and then applied it to a new skill that he created. This skill involved hitting the LB button to automatically turn enemies’ brains into those of birds. With the press of LB, the player character performed the recorded motion and several goblin-like enemies suddenly took off into the sky.

Even with an extended demo of Project Spark, I feel that there will be a ton that gamers need to learn in order to get the most out of these extensive tools. The interface seems as user-friendly as possible considering how deep the creation mode gets, so I’m hoping that players can start making their own worlds without having to go through hours of tutorials. They’ll be able to get a head start on this mode when the beta launches on Xbox One in early 2014.