Project Spark is strange; a liquid hive beneath your feet, an alien horizon in the distance – It all starts with a blank canvas, a play-ground of nothing-ness, where an idea is all you need to raise a world and craft your game.
The world and aesthetic of Spark is a concoction of early Albion and a sober Dr. Suess – stylized, ethereal and whimsical, you begin to paint and shape an infinite world of rivers, hills, snow-capped mountains and deserts. With a nifty set of exceedingly flexible tools you are able to populate, define and customize the intricacies of your vision. May it be your player, friends, foes, structures or objects; large and small- Spark’s palette and tools unleash endless possibilities; lego-esque game-making mechanics that enable the player to truly invent.
“Brains behind the Curtains”
Everything in Project Spark has, or can have a Brain – that’s how your game functions, that’s how you give meaning to your world. These brains follow a visual coding language called Kodu which lets you chain the When’s and Do’s together to bring your game to life. And while this might seem complex, in reality it is anything but that; the game already provides you with a vast number of presets for everything you’ll ever need. You can easily customize or remix these codes to your suiting or even do things the old fashioned way – from scratch, making your experience as easy as you want it to be. On how the game itself is designed, Spark runs wonderfully – UI’s are simple, intuitive and helpful; one can test their game on the fly with just the press of a button, switching between modes is instant and you can just rewind your actions to undo. It all works effortlessly. And much like the Kodu language it uses, it has immense potential to be a great teaching medium for classrooms, and basic education for aspiring programmers.
Killer App?: Project Spark also happens to be the one true game where the “multiple screen experience” seems relevant (at least to me) – It’s reassuring that you can pop it open anywhere, on your surface, or on your console and dive straight in from where you left off – no compromises whatsoever and this is a great example of how the Windows Ecosystem plans on working together in the future. With a community at its core, the game will let you play, edit, share between and link to other player worlds. It also goes on to add a few clever Kinect features that let you record audio and behavioral data into the game.
…But the true charm of Project Spark is not in the power of its tools, it’s the approach which gives the player the freedom of storytelling. It is not confined to one genre; it can be anything you want it to be.
Sometimes I sneak in and join Team Dakota’s twitch broadcast, sit back with a cup of tea, light a cigarette or two and just shut off from the world for the rest of the stream. It’s satisfying to see a game of such great ambitions work so flawlessly – the simple joy that comes from seeing your, or someone else’s vision come to life in a matter of minutes.
The Game-maker genre is not new. Having similar but not so similar aspirations as The Sims, Minecraft and LittleBigPlanet in terms of create-build-experience, I feel Team Dakota has managed to come out leaps and bounds ahead with Project Spark; where other world creation games have adopted to the one basic three-step process Spark thrives for more and successfully fills the gaps between the three modes of play – It has depth it has infinite depth, and it has freedom limited to only one’s imagination.
The Question is not “Can it Do That?” it’s “What Cant it do!?”
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