Project Spark is the most intriguing game Microsoft brought to E3, because it really isn't a game at all-it's a toolbox for making your own games and sharing them with others.
Microsoft has been building it in secret for the past two years, and the demo in which we just took part is a surprisingly extensive creation tool that's so simple it's almost indistinguishable from a generic third-person fantasy game.
According to Microsoft engineer Saxs Persson, Project Spark is designed to "give everyone the thrill of making games" by gently walking new players through the steps of creating a simple action-adventure game.
Players can always start from scratch with a blank world or play a pre-designed game that someone else has created but, during our demo, Persson walked us through several different ways to create and play at the same time.
Load up a new game, and Project Spark presents you with a blank world superimposed with random world types: Arctic, Desert, and so forth.
We chose Arctic and the game then asked us what time of day our world exists in-morning, evening, or afternoon-suggesting that worlds created in Project Spark will not change time dynamically. You probably could rig your world up to switch between times of day based on triggers, such as when a player achieves an objective or uses an object.
Adding simple scripts like that is easy; Project Spark lets you stop playing any time to adjust basic game design elements; what the A button does, where the player's health bar appears on screen, or when other characters in the world follow the player's character.
You can design your own scripts using commands like IF, WHEN, and DO to create games where creatures DO go to sleep in their homes WHEN the time of day switches to night IF the player has rebuilt their village.
Our demo defaulted to a medieval fantasy setting-presumably more assets will be released as downloadable content for Project Spark, which will be free to play on Xbox 360, Windows 8 and Xbox One.
The game narrator prodded us to pick a structure where our quest would start-a tavern, a farm, a windmill and so forth-and a hero type. Our guide created a ranger from a tiny farm, and we set off to greet a randomly generated needy neighbor, accepting her quest to recover a valuable potion from a vicious monster.
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