Project Spark for Xbox One

Project Spark for Xbox One lets you create the game

LOS ANGELES—Project Spark from Microsoft Studios is an adventure game where players place items and monsters onto the open-world digital canvas, animate them with behaviors, and then share their game worlds and stories with the community. Project Spark, demoed Monday at E3, is designed to bring game creation to the masses: making up a cool game is part of the game itself.

The Project Spark demo started with a voice command, spoken to the Xbox One’s Kinect by presenter Dave McCarthy: “Spark, show me rivers.”

The flat, grassy plain suddenly became inundated with rushing water. McCarthy continued: “now add mountains,” then “show the arctic, and now woodlands,” and the terrain transformed before our eyes, in real time.

As McCarthy called out terrain types, Project Spark began to craft the game world. Once he settled on "woodlands," it was time to flesh out the world's details using a Surface tablet running Windows 8.

Using a Microsoft Surface tablet running Windows 8, SmartGlass integration let him add more details to the woodland environment, quickly sketching in roads and adding miscellaneous objects, towns, and non-player characters (NPCs) anywhere he liked.

Brain power

Everything in Project Spark has a “brain,” which lets you add behaviors to objects. In one example, a rock was assigned the pet behavior, which resulted in it hopping about behind the player avatar. Then the rock was given the spider brain, and it began attacking enemies—goblins, in this case—in an effort defend its master.

Now that our rock has a brain, he's no longer a rock, but a loyal pet.

Monday’s presenters worked together to craft the world, a tantalizing prospect for budding game designers who fancy a bit of cooperation. We saw them sketch out a basic environment in just a couple of minutes. Whatever you create can be shared online for other players to add to and remix.

By the end of the demonstration (which jumped ahead to show us the results of three days of tinkering), the town we’d seen was being attacked by a goblin horde, the player characters were soaring about hurling fireballs, and that humble pet rock had transformed into a hardened fighting robot.

Project Spark at E3
After a few days of tinkering, the Project Spark game world we saw built before our eyes is under attack, and our pet rock is all grown up.

Tentative bottom line

Color me smitten. I’ve long been a fan of creation-centric games like LittleBigPlanet, and the idea of coding-free game development tools in general. And Project Spark in particular looks to scratch an itch felt by creative types the world over.

The SmartGlass integration does give me pause though—what if you don’t have a SmartGlass-capable device? Stay tuned. Until then, check out the preview trailer and let us know what you think.

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