Here at Gamescom -- as you might expect -- you're gonna see a lot of games. Not all of them are finished, but even the beta versions come with complex worlds, and shiny new physics engines. Amongst all of these creations, jostling for our attention, was something a little different. Something we heard about back at E3 initially, and something we've been itching to see in action ever since -- Project Spark. We made sure we got to have a look at how it works, and some of the new features. So, click past the break if you want to know too.
It's likely that even the most casual of gamers has, at some point, thought how cool it might be to build their own game. So, it's no surprise that something like Project Spark is capturing people's imaginations. We got to see a real "world" being built on the fly, complete with characters, bad guys and game mechanics. Oh, and some of that reported Kinect motion and voice recording, too.
The basic game-world building tools seem wonderfully simple to use. We watched as our hosts drew platforms and rock faces as is painting with a brush. Adding environmental trappings was just as simple. Whether you want your world to be harsh desert, lush jungle or a combination of everything in between, you have the power. Likewise, there are tools for smoothing off or ruggedizing the surface for added realism / style.
As you might imagine, building a game is pretty simple. You can drop in monsters, opponents and so on with ease. Adding logic is also painless, thankfully. The appropriate menu shows you a list of control combinations in icon form (such as thumbstick + direction =) and you simply add the desired action -- in this case, move. This same pick-and-choose style menu system has everything you want to create your game, and that includes geographical features, character powers, game dynamics, behaviors and more.
Up to this point, this mechanism might sound like a "sim" game in and of itself, and that's not entirely unwarranted, but it's a few of the Xbox One specific features that elevate this up from competent game designer, to a genuinely creative tool. Those features are the motion tracking and facial recognition utilities.
Using the new HD Kinect, Project Spark lets you record motion sequences that you can then overlay onto your chracters, whether they be gargoyles or assassins. This goes even further when you add in some facial movements or voice recordings. In practise, this worked really well. Our demonstrator went in full-bore with an ogre like stomping motion, complete with gruesome facial moves, and seconds later the onscreen beast was doing just the same. You can even record in a sequence, and watch it run back in real time, while you adjust the loop length and in / out points to get the menacing stride just right.
Within just a few short moments, we'd gone from flat island, to textured, multi-environment game space with opponents, game strategy and special powers. This, combined with Xbox One's Kinect input enhancements instantly makes this an even more compelling option. Naturally, you can share your creations, co-operate on projects over the cloud and create worlds as large as you want. The worlds you create do technically have a maximum size, but they can then be stitched together for seamless transitions, so there's plenty of space for your creativity to spill out. You have to provide the spark though. Check the video below to see the Kinect recording in action.