In addition to the promise of a more powerful platform, the Xbox One also brings with it even stronger tools — tools that will accommodate a wealth of unique experiences. One of the most unique experiences headed to the Xbox One at launch is Project Spark, Microsoft‘s next-gen game creation title.
While the ideas present in Project Spark have been seen before — most obviously in Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet franchise — our E3 2013 eyes-on demo of the game highlighted the title’s potential. Needless to say, this may be the next great creation tool for a new generation.
Our E3 demo began with a brief overview of the game’s world shaping features, which allow players to first transform their blank landscape — create hills, valleys, mountains, and rivers — before laying down actual terrain. Once players start laying down terrain, Project Spark will determine how it should look.
For example, if a player chooses to cover a river-side area with grass, foliage that would be found near water sprouts up. And the further they move away for the river, the more varied the terrain becomes. Players can get more involved in their terrain, but the game will contextually place trees, shrubs, flowers based by default.
Players can also mix and match terrains, creating a landscape that best fits their imagination. The demo we saw the developer covering a cave with grass and moss before going over the cave’s peak with snow.
After establishing some basic, or more advanced, landscape types, players can then populate the area with characters, props, and other items. Our demo was focused on creating a homestead complete with a hero, a few birds, a single rock, and a troll enemy. For a basic idea of this portion check out the gameplay preview below:
After establishing some basic interactive elements, players can then go into each item’s “brain” and establish those items’ behaviors. These behaviors can be simple — like programming the birds to fly away every time something approaches — or more advanced, like programming specific interactions based on context.
However, if players don’t want to create their own “brains,” there will plenty of preset options available, some that ship with the game and others that will be player-created. The one we saw involved programming any character to fly away and then explode when something came near. It didn’t matter if it was a rock, a bird, or an enemy, the object would take flight and then burst into flames.
The demo didn’t go into too much detail regarding the full scope of Project Spark‘s tools for world customization, but we did see some pretty involved controls for physics, lighting, and movements. It looked like if someone was dedicated enough they could fine-tune every aspect of their game.
And that’s what Project Spark is at this point: a game maker. Microsoft’s goal is to create a tool set that allows players to craft experiences that speak to their sensibilities, and then share those experiences with other players. Much like LittleBigPlanet, the sky’s the limit when it comes to game creation possibilities, and Project Spark‘s tools are way more advanced than Media Molecule‘s.
The development team acknowledged that there will be some players who simply want to play rather than create, and they promised worthwhile content will be readily available.
It was also revealed that Project Spark will have a single player campaign, although that was all the devs were willing to say at this point. If we had to guess, we doubt the game won’t be called Project Spark when it ships, and that the creation tools will be framed around some short narrative experience.
Either way, what Microsoft had on display for a first look was mighty impressive. Game creation tools have come a long way over the course of this current generation, and they will only get better and more involved as we head into the next.
What did you think of the Project Spark demo during Microsoft’s E3 Press Briefing?
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