Project Spark Thread 3.0

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#1 Posted by CarnageHeart (18316 posts) -

A lot of Project Spark previews (based on half hour play sessions) hit the net yesterday. Its clearly a powerful, flexible toolset though some of the previews indicate that the Kinect's motion capture leaves something to be desired. *Shrugs* Still, I expect that the community will come up with some amazing games. If/whenever I get an Xbone this will be one of the first games I play.

"Our game is about you making whatever you want to make," said executive producer Saxs Persson. "It's the perfect application for Kinect, where you go in and you can make your own rendition of Macbeth, or your terrible jokes, or just making obscene gestures while jumping up and down. It's entirely up to you."

Naturally, this being Kinect, it's far from perfect. As Persson says, you won't be able to simulate a complex 3D fighting game in Project Spark. But it is a whole lot better than anything we've seen before.

"We can capture your full body, your face, your hands, your eyebrows, your voice, and apply it to any character in the game," he said. "It works."


This is where things got really interesting. I was instructed to spawn in some fellow humans, mortal enemies of the goblins. I did so, and then watched from a nearby crag as the two forces did battle. The humans won handily. Time to give the goblins some help.

Help came by literally going into the AI “brains” of the goblins and editing their behavior to make them more powerful. More specifically, it meant designating some goblins as healers, who would protect the others when the going get tough. This required delving into the game’s simple, icon-based programming language, which is a joy to behold. I’m far from a programmer, but even I could follow along as I was being instructed: go into the goblin brain menu, add a line that says (here I’m paraphrasing) “when” “nearby goblin” “has low health” “cast” “healing spell” “on nearby goblin.” Each of these phrases was represented by a chunky, recognizable icon. Compared to lines and lines of code, it’s elegant, colorful, and easy to tell at a glance what everything refers to. So easy, in fact, that a child could use it. Again, more on this later.


Using the Kinect camera, I could record my own pose and voice-over and then assign the resulting animations to my healer. After I saved my animation, I assigned it to my healer so that he would perform my handmade animation every time he mended my wounds. This sounded like a good idea, but in actuality, it looked pretty awkward, and the Kinect didn't respond to any physical subtleties. At least my healer did what he was supposed to do, following me around and giving me a boost when I needed it. I also tweaked the teams, so that goblins would be on one team and fighters on the other, and then stood back to watch them fight each other while I marveled at my own ingenuity.

Here's a link to an interesting interview which predates the press event.

"I think one key factor is that [those] all are titles that deliver a game first and editing tools second," Hannibal said. "They all ship with a lot of pre-made levels within the genre they focus on, and they prioritize playing before creating, and as a consequence, a very low percentage of users really create. I think we are different because for us, creation is the core of our experience. We try to make creating fun and not intimidating, and we make it possible to engage yourself at the depth you desire, so it's not a 'one-size-fits-all' design."

When Hannibal says Project Spark is a set of editing tools first and a game second, it can be taken quite literally. The project has its roots in the Kodu Game Lab, a Microsoft game creation tool released on Xbox Live Indie Games in 2009. The $5 program let players create simple 3D games where they could use simple "if-then" statements to wire up AI behaviors with the help of cute pictures. But Hannibal said where Kodu was a small project bootstrapped by a handful of people, Project Spark is taking the idea and putting a proper team and the full weight of Microsoft behind it.

#2 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (13790 posts) -

is this thing really going free to play ? I don't do monthly payments (whats why I don't have gold membership), I'm the "its mine" kind of guy ! So yeah, no FTP for me.

#3 Posted by CarnageHeart (18316 posts) -

@Lulu_Lulu: The designers haven't gone into detail about how they intend to make money, but they have stated it will be free to play. Also, MS has stated you won't need XBL Gold to play it online.

#4 Posted by Areez (6278 posts) -


Very interesting read.... I am very excited about the prospects of this game...

#5 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (13790 posts) -

hmmm. They better get their act right, or else its Disney Infinity For me. :( ya I'm not happy about it either.

#6 Posted by dvader654 (44751 posts) -

GS preview says its amazing to create but boring to play. Hopefully the gameplay holds up.

#7 Edited by shellcase86 (1934 posts) -

Not surprised Kinect mo-cap doesn't work as advertised. Otherwise, looks like a great title. Wish it came to PS4.

#8 Edited by CarnageHeart (18316 posts) -

@dvader654: I took that with a grain of salt since it sounds like the only thing the previewer played was the level he cobbled together within the half hour the team gave him to explore the tools and make a level.

#9 Edited by CarnageHeart (18316 posts) -

@Lulu_Lulu said:

hmmm. They better get their act right, or else its Disney Infinity For me. :( ya I'm not happy about it either.

I thought about Disney Infinity, but the $75 pricetag and the fact that one can only buy pogs (which contain costumes and suchlike) randomly (meaning if you're desperate to find one particular thing for your daughters you might wind up buying pogs repeatedly until you get lucky) scared me off. My kids wanted it when they saw it (more for Wreck-it Ralph than anything) but I told them it wasn't happening. Still, while I haven't read much about player creations post-launch, based on what I saw prior to launch its a powerful toolset.

If you're getting a PS4 you might want to give Sound Shapes (which is hitting the PS4 at launch) a shot. Its a 2D indie game where items and their actions are synced to the music (everything onscreen generates its own notes). I am a tinkerer, not a creator so I of course have done nothing, but the levels it includes are quite good and the community has come up with some really insane levels.

Last but not least, there is a still unnamed Play Create Share game from Media Molecule (of LBP fame) in the pipeline. They only showed off the tiniest bit of it, but one can carve and animate puppets and then sync their animations to the Move controller (Media Molecule's love of the Move seems to be the only reason Sony has made the PS4 B/C with it).

#10 Edited by Hyndorikus (13 posts) -

That sounds interesting. Wait who said it would be completely free?

#11 Posted by CarnageHeart (18316 posts) -



However, you should keep in mind that FTP and completely free are different things. I suspect that the designers will follow the LBP model (charging creators for some of the toolsets, textures and objects) though Team Dakota has declined to go into specifics.