At E3 last year, we announced Project Spark – a game that lets you build and share your own games across Windows 8, Xbox One and Xbox 360.
Project Spark uses a visual programming language originally created by Microsoft Research called Kodu that is made specifically for creating games. As long as you have a wild imagination, it is super easy to build (or “kode”) your very own world and create your own story in Project Spark. You can then turn it into a game you can share out to the community for them to play.
When you start to build a world in Project Spark, you start with an empty canvas and begin building your world through various icons and panels that let you add and physically mold hills or mountains, create rivers or lakes, and add objects such as trees, rocks, even houses. That’s how the visual programming language works. You pick and choose what you want to put in your world and use tools to mold your world exactly how you want. You can see the world I am building in the above screenshot. Project Spark allows you to build (and play!) in a variety of ways using either mouse and keyboard, touch or an Xbox controller – depending on what device you are on. If you’re on a tablet, you can use touch. If you’re on an All-in-one PC, you can use your mouse and keyboard. And if you’re on an Xbox, you can use your Xbox controller.
There are all kinds of objects you can add into your world as you’re building it. And these objects can interact with the player and serve a purpose to the story for your game. Objects have “brains” with characteristics that you can alter to change their behaviors.
For my game, I am adding coins into my world that the player has to find as party of the story. For my first game, I decided to go with something basic: you find all the coins in the world. Check out my game “Koinfinder I” by clicking here (Project Spark beta required). Again, it’s really rough. I am still working on it.
Project Spark is very community-orientated. Once you share your game out for others to play, people in the community can “remix” your game and add things to it or even help you do things you don’t know how to do. For your game, you can see all the remixing people have done. People can also take elements from your game and add them to theirs!
The game I am building in Project Spark is very much a work-in-progress and shouldn’t be taken as a good example of what you can do with Project Spark (I’m still a Project Spark n00b). However, there are a few REALLY great examples of games created by the growing community I do want to share.
Oakvale: In less than 2 weeks, an 18-year old college student who goes by “MrXbob” recreated Fable’s Oakvale in Project Spark with no prior game-developing experience. MrXbob acts as a great ambassador for Project Spark by personally responding to comments on various blogs about his game and answering questions from others. Lionhead Studios, who develops Fable, was so impressed with MrXbob’s recreation in Project Spark that they sent him a Fable Anniversary branded Xbox 360! How cool is that? You can play his level by clicking here (Project Spark beta required).
Minecraft: Community member “AnAverageRecon” recreated Minecraft in Project Spark. You can play Minecraft: Project Spark Version by clicking here (Project Spark beta required).
The above two examples are only some of what the community has built. There is so much more!
Want to start building? Today, Project Spark is currently available as a beta for Windows 8. You can head on over to ProjectSpark.com to request a beta key. Once you have a beta key (beta keys are sent out every week to those who request them), download Project Spark from the Windows Store and put in your beta key. You can then begin building your own worlds and creating and sharing your own games. Those of you who have downloaded Project Spark from the Windows Store and opened it without a beta key – open Project Spark again as you most likely have been whitelisted and can now start building and playing as well! We’re whitelisting folks who download and try to use Project Spark on Windows 8.
The Xbox One beta for Project Spark is coming soon – however, there is no need to wait: start building in Project Spark on Windows 8 and whatever you build will also be available in Project Spark on the Xbox One!
For more on Project Spark from the Project Spark Team, I suggest reading these articles that all feature Q&A’s with the team:
Q&A with Team Dakota: The Power of Creation in Project Spark [Xbox Wire]
Project Spark is Microsoft’s attempt to capture the magic of a Minecraft-like sandbox [VentureBeat]
EXCLUSIVE: Q&A Session with Project Spark devs, Team Dakota [All Things Xbox]