Project Spark Beta Impressions

Project Spark is a game I was eagerly waiting to play, or rather, make games on it so that others would be able to play stuff I make. Yes, It’s a game about making games, but is it only about making games? Not exactly. As Project Spark’s Wikipedia page puts it, It is a “digital canvas” which can be used to make games, movies or other experiences. How diverse can this engine… *ahem* game be, you ask? Well to put things into perspective, I recently played a game called Ryse: Son of Spark. It’s not entirely what you think it is, but rather just a gladiator arena combat game, or that’s what I’m calling it anyway.

Here are some screenshots from the game within a game.

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Naked guy hits, Naked guy scores!

Don’t be fooled by the “Kills: 1 Executions: 1″ I actually played the game for quite some time but took the screenshots as soon as I started because the idea of seeing a game like this inside Project Spark truly impressed me. When I started this game within a game, some controls were amiss, since the game was obviously made with a controller in mind and not a keyboard and mouse configuration, and because of that, making “executions” was more or less impossible. So I was wondering if I could manage to change or fix it somehow and shuddered in fear of how tough that would be since I’m not really a developer and have just started playing this a few days ago, yet to mess with any of the brain functions. But viola, I was able to fix it in a jiffy and the executions worked like a charm without me breaking any of the game’s other aspects. Messing with the game’s “coding” was relatively easy since the whole UI is very user-friendly.

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I won’t bother explaining what all of this means since the in-game tutorial is quite thorough with how things work and what you have to do to fine tune things to your liking. All you have to know however is that the entire thing is very user-friendly as stated before. It’s user-friendly enough that a non game developer like me was easily able to decipher things and make changes to the brain functions without much of hassle within a matter of minutes.

The level designing tools don’t lack behind either, they’re very user friendly as well since I was able to make a makeshift game world of my own in a matter of hours; and I don’t mean to honk my own horn or anything but I do have to say that the entire thing does look quite gorgeous. (It even includes a secret dungeon that you can enter via a secret entrance which is located in one of the mountains)

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Game designer Claude Jerome stated that the game is all about “sharing and playing with the community”. What does he mean by this though? He means that unlike Minecraft or LittleBigPlanet, Project Spark allows you to customize “the game down to the minutiae of the in-game object actions, which lets the players tell more individual stories.” meaning that player can also create events, like inter-character battles.

You like a game but you think you can do it better? You can even do that. There’s a thing called a remix option which allows you to tweak or change others games entirely and re-upload the whole thing for others to play your version of the game.  

The best part about the game is that it’s Free to play. However, free to play can usually discourage a lot people because free to play also means *Shudders*Micro-transactions. As you’ve probably predicted by now, yes, there are micro-transactions in the game as well but simmer down and hold your pitchforks for a while. The micro-transactions inside the game aren’t half bad because as far as I’ve seen, you can buy everything from the Project Spark marketplace using in-game money that you get for doing almost anything inside the game. When I say anything, I literally mean it. I got in-game money for playing games from the User Generated Content library. I even got quite a bit of in-game currency for doing random things while I was making my own game, like sculpting the land, painting the grass, placing content on my game world etc. While to me it seems like you can buy anything with in-game money, or “credits” as it is called in the Project Spark marketplace; it does take quite sometime to grind the amount required to buy the extra contents that’s available in the Project Spark store and you’ll most likely need the extra content if you want to make your own game, because the variety of content you get in the beginning, the ones you get for free and don’t have to pay anything for, is limited in my eyes. That being said, you can actually customize everything to a great degree, so if you’re unsatisfied with what you have, you can always make your own things instead of buying the extra content, but that requires more work. All in all though, the extra content is not necessary, that is, not unless you want to play all the UGC. If you want to play UGC that has premium or rather, extra content that you do not own, you’ll have to buy something called the “Spark Power”. It allows you to play games that have extra content in them. Spark Power can also be obtained for credits money and it works something like a World of Warcraft subscription. You can buy Spark Power for either a day or a month. Some content is even gated behind your level on Project Spark. I am currently level 3 and I doubt I’d be able to buy and use everything on the marketplace even with real money unless I level up my account first.

As you can see, the marketplace is far from done. What you're seeing now are bundle purchases and on the bottom right, you'll see the "Spark Power" item I was talking about. I can tell you that if I actually played this game enough, I'd easily be able to buy all these bundles with in game money, but I'd have to put in the time and effort to obtain them obviously, if I don't want to take the easy way out and buy them with real life money first that is.

As you can see, the marketplace is far from done. What you’re seeing now are bundle purchases and on the bottom right, you’ll see the “Spark Power” item I was talking about.
I can tell you that if I actually played this game enough, I’d easily be able to buy all these bundles with in-game currency, but I’d have to put in the time and effort to obtain them obviously, if I don’t want to take the easy way out and buy them with real money first that is.

Some ways you can earn in game currency, as well as XP to level up.

Some ways you can earn in-game currency, as well as XP to level up.

All in all, I was very impressed with my short experience with Project Spark, however, this was my initial impression of Project Spark, soon did I realize that my expectations were set quite low because the game-maker impressed me even further, as it included full-blown RPG games, small arcade games, first person shooters etc. At this point, I wouldn’t even be surprised to find Tetris somewhere in the User Generated Content library. The amount of possibilities that this game brings along with it is pretty much endless to say the least and definitely more so than what Minecraft or LittleBigPlanet offers, games that Project Spark is being compared with. I’ll write a full review on Project Spark when the game is officially released, for the moment however, I can already see myself spending hours in this piece of software, either making my own game(s) or getting lost in playing games made by others.

Project Spark comes out later this year on Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows 8.1. It’ll also be cross-platform compatible and hence user generated content from any of the three platforms will be available on whichever platform you decide to play the game on.

Written by: Aman Biswas

Aman has a radiant glow after he acquired the One Ring in Shadow of Mordor and now rules over the lands. Other than walking into Mordor, he's also into video games and writing about video games and does a lot of stuff related to video games.