I have now spent a fair bit of time in and about the systems of Project Spark, I was a Beta tester and have been dabbling in the system since launch, so I guess it’s time for me to tell you what I think of it. Project Spark has been in the beta phase for a while now as Team Dakota and Microsoft tested how the community went about working in the intuitive environment that surrounds you in the game. In fact I would not call Project Spark a game as such, but an engine for you to create games, much like Unreal or Unity. We can all still hear echoes of Microsoft’s promise to make every Xbox user a developer, or rather make every Xbox a development kit, well project Spark is a development kit. Maybe a rudimentary one in certain ways but a development kit made for the masses, one that can have you creating your own games in under an hour, with many options for you to get as creative and imaginative as you wish, depending on how much money or micro-transactions you are willing to spend. We all know nothing is free, and although Project Spark is free to a certain degree, to get the most from the available props, characters and environments, you will need to spend some cash.

Buying the retail version will give you the starter pack and open up a lot more options to you for populating your game world. Starting out in the Story mode or the Crossroads mode will aid to familiarise you in the world of Project Spark. Crossroads is probably the best, as it sets up a unique world and storyline, for you to change and customise as you play, allowing you to get to grips with a few of the options available to budding game designers. This is where I spent most of my early days in Project Spark, as I tried to learn about what it could achieve. Graphically your games will not be up to AAA standard, but are good enough to introduce you to the world of game development. Once you have had enough of making easy choices and editing the text boxes in Crossroads, it will be time to jump into Creation mode, and this is where the magic happens in Project Spark. You are free to mould, build and design your world as you wish, using the tools available, and of course depending on what enemies, props and other trinkets you have splashed out on. The main magic in Project Spark is the environment and props, everything can be assigned a brain. These brains are what control all elements of your game, from making enemies appear when you get close to a certain object, right up to the little birds, squirrels and other wildlife you have populating your world.

With a list of available brains to choose from, it seems an easy job to assign them to certain things, such as enemies, and it is. The difficulty starts to appear when you want things to do operations that you have no available brain for, therefore you must make a brain. Making brains in Project Spark is handled by what is known as Kode, just another name for code, but in a simplified manner. There is a “When” side and a “Do” side for you to edit, so for example “when” player is seen by object A, “do” make enemy appear. Simple as it may sound, it’s actually quite difficult to achieve in practice, as you must select the correct actions, in the correct sequence to make anything happen. This area of game development may be simplified somewhat in Project Spark, but by no means is it simple. However do not be put off by this, as not doing the correct thing in here will not break or crash the game, it simply won’t work and you will have to go back and reconfigure your brain again until it does work. Once working I suggest you save all your brains to the list for future use on projects. Youtube is probably your best source of information on configuring brains, as the tutorials in Project Spark are limited and pretty useless when it comes to achieving anything more than a blank world with some enemies.

You can create and play your creations in multiplayer in Project Spark, and creating a multiplayer game can be rewarding in it’s own way. It is also probably the most creative way to make a game, as two brains are way better than one when it comes to ideas, and helping each other out is tremendous fun. My suggestion to new users of the title, is not to expect too much from it at the beginning, Project Spark requires a certain degree of time and effort in order to reap its benefits, if anything it will definitely dissolve the notion in your head that game development is easy, even on the lowest of levels. With the community putting up new games daily on the servers for you to play and vote on, it creates an industry between fellow players, as you can pay a little and remix their game, essentially editing it to your own liking, and post it back up. This also allows you to get a glimpse of how certain events and brains have been created, and serves as a sort of reference guide for you to use along your own journey towards becoming famous in the gaming industry.

There is a lot to Project Spark as a title, considering that it is a whole development suite rolled into quite a small package. It creates a world of possibilities and imagination that has been sadly lacking from consoles since their arrival on the gaming scene. PC users have always had tools such as this at hand, and that, is what makes Project Spark so important. It may not be producing stunning and awesome worlds at the moment, but it is growing all the time, and will in time, get better, as will the offerings available to play from other users. You have to think of Project Spark as an experiment, not a game that you are going to spend twenty hours running and gunning in, and leave it on the shelf to gather dust. This title requires time and effort, and if you have neither the will or desire to put those in, then this definitely is not where you cash should go. If you are someone that has a true passion for gaming and wants the world to see and play creations that you have poured hours of toil into, then jump head first into Project Spark, the rest of you will have to wait until Call Of Duty releases the next update.