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We made a game in only 20 minutes with Microsoft's Project Spark

Alex Wawro | June 13, 2013
Microsoft guided us through a beta version of its upcoming game creation tool behind closed doors at E3 2013.

Project Spark paused again and asked us to create a boss monster hideout in the world, then to draw a quest path from the boss to our hero. The game will automatically flatten and sculpt the world to make the path traversable, sprinkling random enemies and side quests in along the way.

The combat we saw during our Project Spark demo was very simple. Enemies charged mindlessly forward while our hero hacked and slashed them to death.

Once we had a basic game in place, our guide picked up his gamepad and started off on his newly-created quest. At multiple points along the way, he paused the game to switch back into creation mode to edit enemies and adjust their behavior, their size, and even how physics would-or would not-affect them.

No matter what you're playing in Spark, you can pause at a moment's notice and edit the game to your heart's content. If you edit something made by someone else (Microsoft or another player), you'll get credit for remixing the item-the original creator will also retain credit for the work.

You can remix and combine almost anything in Spark: worlds, items, creatures, or A.I. scripts. When you remix something a new version is created separate from the original, which could lead to some really interesting development in the marketplace as different players build upon each other's work.

During our demo, we saw a giant robot built out of tree pieces and a working musical keyboard that could generate its own backing tracks, record itself, and play the song back. The keyboard was built with repurposed in-game assets, including wooden columns laid on their side and tinted white and black to make giant keys that the player can jump on.

Players can edit props in the world to make them interactive, allowing bonfires to trigger time changes or work benches to trigger crafting minigames.

Amazing user-created items like these are still rare, and the lion's share of games built with Project Spark is likely to be incredibly simplistic. Our fantasy game took twenty minutes to create and looked the part, with sparsely populated tundra, ridiculously dumb enemies, and stilted, boring dialogue.

But almost everything can be edited, leaving me hopeful that a small percentage of dedicated players are going to sink hundreds of hours into crafting beautiful games from the wealth of raw materials on hand. Those masterpieces can be shared on the Project Spark marketplace so that everyone can play them, remix them, and maybe even pay for them.

Microsoft isn't talking about how the economics will work: whether players will be able to charge for their creations, or what they'll pay for downloadable content down the road.

But Project Spark is powerful enough to let talented players create amazing things. Allowing them to make a little money off their work would go a long way towards seeding the community with dedicated creators.


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