Project Spark Dev Admits “We’re Scared” About What Users May Create

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Project Spark is a novel idea. It gives users the opportunity to create. Not only does it offer everyday gamers the opportunity to develop, the app can be accessed outside of the dreaded Xbox Live paywall. We’ve collected plenty more information about the project that we haven’t yet shared, and there’s no time like the present.

Project Spark is designed to be hyper approachable. It’s also being designed as a service rather than a one and done development method. Team Dakota is dedicated to regularly updating the service and making even more props, character models, and textures available to the community.

If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start once you boot the app up and take a look around, there’s a full spectrum of aides available to you. The goal is to hide the complexity and get you past the blank page as painlessly as possible. A wide range of wizards and low-level archetypes will be available. The option to utilize pre-made assemblies is another way of adding complexity to your world without actually having to code the functionality. An example given by Soren Hannibal, the technical director of Project Spark’s engine was a lever controlled door, or other triggered objects. Team Dakota is also pursuing the possibility of starter kits. Meaning you wouldn’t be starting with a blank canvas, but a themed world, possibly based on known IPs, characters, or props from Microsoft’s deep backlog of first party titles. It’s believed that once you’ve deployed your first character, no matter how minimal, that most of the obstacles like fear and misconception will literally become an afterthought.

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Team Dakota wants to create as open an environment as possible. That’s why there’s both guided creation for beginners and advanced tools for more experienced users. Ideally there should be different levels of engagement. On the outside, Project Spark will be a simple, powerful set of creation tools. But experienced users will also have access to the underlying logic. At the outset there’ll be an extensive brain gallery offered to users. This gives you the option of doing something silly like putting a bird’s brain in a squirrel to see what kind of shenanigans ensue. The logic behind reactions in the world of Project Spark is heavily simplified into an easily understandable when/do human language. For example, when X sees Y do Z. Add the fact that all default objects already have an AI built into them and you can see how Project Spark will cater to both the apprentice and journeyman.

So how does all this result in a mod driven community? By default mods are user-created content shared with a community. And Project Spark is looking to leverage several community-centric features to spawn a robust network of users that inhabit every part of the learning curve. First, they’re obviously pushing for collaboration. They want people to learn from each other, work together, and share their work. Team Dakota is looking to reward popular and highly rated contributors with community recognition and maybe something even more exciting in the future. Not sure you’re capable of creating an entire world? You don’t have to in order to be recognized. Focus on making a kickass prop or even wire the brain (AI) that the rest of the community can’t get enough of. The prospect of remixing other users creations is also in the process of implementation. Maybe an amazingly lush environment catches your eye and you know just the creatures and props to deploy to make it even more vibrant. The possibilities could become nearly as impressive as what PC modders have been enjoying all these years.

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One of the things that really stood out to me was Hannibal’s admission that the team harbored a good amount of fear in reference to the project. He reiterated several times throughout the talk that they literally have no idea what users are going to do with the tool once they have access to it. They’ve painstakingly attempted to forecast the future, but there’s only so much that a small team can account for. When the topic drifted to possible moderation practices Hannibal hilariously admitted, “We’re scared about letting you put in your own textures.” Hannibal and crew don’t want to heavily moderate the service since that would be against Project Spark’s core goal; letting users create. But there’s certain things that people do with freedom that are offensive, unruly, and even perverse.

Project Sparks’s possibilities are numerous, powerful, and frightening all in the same breath. One thing is for sure, people who have never tried their hand at level, character, or prop design are likely to do so in Project Spark. The fact that there’s no gold strings attached make the prospective audience exponentially larger. Who knows, maybe a skilled user could create the next Garry’s Mod or Black Mamba with Project Spark. Project Spark is letting console gamers enter uncharted territory and the results could be more amazing than we’re anticipating.

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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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  • Adam

    “Hannibal hilariously admitted, “We’re scared about letting you put in your own textures.””

    And this is why Project Spark may never become more than a gimmick. Allow the freedom to import your own custom 3d models and textures, and PS will be amazing.

    • Eli

      I think you’re missing the point because there are obviously ways around it to make your own props. They just don’t want to have to monitor a bunch of juvenile nerds making obscene things.

      • Tyler

        Honestly I have a desire to make things that are perverse and obscene and will do so with Spark. But since I am not a young child I won’t post them for other users until there is some rating functionality implemented and I can rate the things I make accordingly as Adult, Mature, NC17, etc…

        For Example I made a simple game in my first hour that asked my wife to go to the bedroom and do some inappropriate things. Not only did it add up to a good time it got her involved in the game and made her want to play it with me.

        That’s not even to mention some of the things that are possible with making your own animations through kinect. Like I said it should have full functionality with two simple limits,

        1) users can rate others creations and the average rating is used if higher than creators rating.

        Else

        2) use creators rating.