Project Spark’s Soren Hannibal “Backwards Compatibility Our Biggest Concern”

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At least someone is thinking about backwards compatibility! Team Dakota‘s Soren Hannibal spoke at length about Project Spark during his GDC Next panel. He spoke at length about Team Dakota’s goals when bringing Project Spark to the Xbox One and other platforms. The first bit of information I found particularly appealing was the studio’s target for a closed Beta. Hannibal mentioned that Team Dakota had just shut down the Project Spark Alpha servers today. they did this in preparation for a Beta launch within an estimated two-week period. Soren touched on the teams many goals with “Backwards compatibility being our biggest concern (priority)” with multiplayer functionality coming in at a close second. Team Dakota’s goal is to make your creations “Run forever in the future, unchanged.” They’ll hopefully be able to deliver on this goal with a few different methods. Through a combination of deprecation and duplication, Soren is hoping that necessary changes and tweaking on the developer side won’t break your archived creations.

Basically Team Dakota is looking to split feature updates by duplicating code paths and offering updated features to new builds while letting the deprecated (old) code remain unsullied. As Hannibal put it, “It’s a tremendous undertaking, but it’s something we want to deliver on.” Another method of creating cross-platform compatibility is through the use of platform tiers. This PC-like scaling ability (ex. low-ultra graphics settings) will allow users to downscale polygon counts and computations to make their creations compatible on other platforms than the Xbox One. Along with the scaling, the team is working hard to offer applicable control remapping for use with gamepads, keyboard & mouse, and even touch devices. Thus far they’ve successfully tested a basic six button gamepad layout (analogs and the four main face buttons) remapped to mouse & keyboard.

Team Dakota is also putting enormous resources into a multiplayer mode. This feature would utilize a Lockstep play mode. Which doesn’t provide the lag-free online experience we see in games like Halo. It doesn’t use predictive net code as a base, what it does do very well is ensure user experiences remain consistent. Hannibal stated Lockstep was, “Not the best solution for ANY game, but it works for us.”

Hannibal hopes that through the use of Project Spark’s approachable creation tools, and it’s determination of offering true backwards compatibility across platforms that the title will see a significant amount of shelf life. We’ll have more from the Q&A session later today, including more of the team’s goals with the project and some insight into it’s upcoming community aspects and creation tools.

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Dylan Zellmer

Dylan splits time between games journalism, designing video games, and playing them. Outside of his deep involvement in the games industry, he enjoys It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Shameless, A Song of Ice and Fire, fitness, and family.
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