Saturday, November 23, 2013

Project Spark: Inspiring a New Generation of Developers

In this article, aspiring game designer Trae Bailey describes Project Spark, a game intended to help others easily create games for Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Windows 8. 

Game development has been a life-long goal for many game enthusiasts since the birth of the gaming industry. The problem is, with each passing year, that dream has been complicated due to the rapidly increasing standards of video games. However, with the recent proliferation of indie game development, many more individuals have decided to pursue their passion for game development. The good news does not end there; in attempts to inspire more individuals, a game has been created that allows users to create other games.

Team Dakota (under Microsoft Studios) is developing Project Spark, a game that functions as an extremely user-friendly game development toolkit, for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Windows 8. Project Spark essentially demolishes the barriers for entry to the game development process by eliminating the need for entering code that may seem esoteric to the aspiring developer and allowing for more intuitive creation. In other words, the game allows users to shape their creations like they would a sandcastle; if a mistake is made it can quickly be demolished, changed, or built over.

Project Spark showcases quite a bit of very interesting features that aim to transform a living room or bedroom into a small indie game studio. Features such as the ‘Brain’ system and the Kinect support help to make this a reality. The former functions like Game Maker, but with more specific drag&drop behaviors for various objects, characters, weapons, or other props in the world. The Kinect support allows users to implement voice acting (ex. narration, dialogue, ambient sounds) or utilize the device as a motion capture camera (ex. animation, cinematic, etc.) in attempts to provide a more complete experience for their game. .

Worlds created with Project Spark can be as large as 5x5km and can be shared and revamped by other users many different times. This allows for collaboration on a massive scale when factoring in the many potential developers that might use this powerful tool. New genres, styles, practices, and other game development methods can be explored without the fear of wasting thousands or millions of dollars to do so; the game is free-to-play with the option for purchasable DLC for extra features. .

The implications are very promising; many talented individuals and those with untapped technical experience can showcase their ideas to the world and, in turn, many others around the world may iterate on that idea. The game focuses on streamlining the process so that game development is intuitive and fun; in addition to this, users are able to actively playtest newly added features on the fly while others are actively editing the world around them. The platform could be of use for publishers and developers alike after the game’s release date (TBD).

Project Spark grants users the luxury of creating games without the technical boundaries of traditional game development. There are many possibilities for this tool, but the most imminent seems to be what the game industry can gain from it. What innovative game design concepts will be explored or created? Will any of the creations have relevance in comparison to AAA developers or top indie developers? Inevitably, the final outcome is dependent on the many potential Project Spark users and their different ideas and perspectives. .

Trae Bailey is an aspiring game designer with much ambition and high hopes for the gaming industry. He has been an avid consumer of video games since the age of four and aspires to develop creative video games that will hopefully inspire future generations of developers.


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