Fans of “make your own damn game” world builders like Little Big Planet have likely been onboard Project Spark, Microsoft and Team Dakota’s epic game creation tool, for some time now. The Windows 8 version launched in December and has already racked up tons of beta testers. Now with the recent release of a beta version on Xbox One, awareness of the game is starting to build. We got a sneak peek of the Xbox One version recently and while it’s still early, it’s safe to say Project Spark is one of the few reasons so far for jumping on the next gen console train. Here are some reasons why Project Spark is the first must-have Xbox One app.
1. It’s extremely user-friendly.
Whether you use the Xbox One controller, touchscreen SmartGlass or a keyboard to create your gaming masterpiece, Project Spark is remarkably easy to jump right into. Pre-designed levels and characters help you get going, so you can dive right in and start building. Right off the bat you get to choose your environment, character, time of day, backgrounds and more. More advanced tutorials help you manipulate objects and introduce different types of gameplay. For a free game, there’s a lot to choose from in terms of characters, environments and other stuff. (Of course, you can pay for other goodies.) Uploading your game to the community and watching it get voted on and downloaded could prove to be pretty addictive.
2. There are already tons of games to play.
If the offerings so far are any indication, Project Spark could end up being one of the biggest collection of casual games around. Already there are tons of fantasy/adventure third person shooters and 2D platformers, such as an excellent jumping game we sampled that was like Strider set in a medieval castle. But lest you grow tired of all the homemade Link stand-ins, there’s plenty of variety to chose from. We also played a pretty fun pinball game that doubled as a small fanciful town. It was like shooting a giant ball through Hobbiton. You can also find racing games, puzzle games, fighting games and a True Detective sim. No, not really. Though someone will probably build one eventually.
3. Your PC and Xbox are connected.
If you’ve already started building games on your PC, you can continue them on XBox One. This sort of inter-connectivity is smart thinking on Microsoft’s part. It keeps the already burgeoning fan community flourishing and also lets you tweak your game on your work computer on company time. Take that, your boss!
4. The Kinect is your personal Pixar.
There’s been a bit of a backlash to Xbox’s insistence on making the Kinect happen. However, the wide range of motion that the Xbox One’s Kinect camera captures comes in handy here by helping you create animations and customized characters. So if you want to, say, record yourself performing the “Roger Rabbit” dance and then make an elf do it, well, today’s your lucky day…
5. There are already homages to other games.
Where Project Spark will truly shine, and get the most attention from the rest of the gaming world, will be in its fan tributes to other games. One enterprising fan made a spot-on update of Asteroids. And you’ve probably seen the epic Fable recreation above that’s been floating around the Internet. Once the floodgates open to more users, we can expect to see even more homages to gaming and pop culture favorites.
But what will happen when someone uses Project Spark to create, say, an amazingly detailed Game of Thrones adventure? The Microsoft reps we spoke to said they’re treating copyrighted material in the Project Spark community like YouTube — in other words, they’ll probably remove a game if a company sends a takedown notice. For now, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of fun and crazy games come from the Project Spark community. Feel free to run with our True Detective idea, guys.
Project Spark is out now in beta and free to play on Xbox One and Windows 8. The full version releases sometime in 2014.