PAX East 2014: The Spark of Something New

Project Spark has been in beta for a short period of time on the Xbox One, and the team from Microsoft has brought the work in progress to PAX East 2014. Designed as a visually driven rapid game prototype creator and construction framework, it has the promise of bringing a huge selection of user created games to Microsoft platforms outside of the formal publishing and ID@Xbox programs (with over 10,000 entries already available in the beta).

Demonstrated at the show by community member Brian (who I saw churn out countless demos throughout the weekend), it already seems like a fairly refined toolset that works with a combination of pre-built core assets, attachable behaviors and special effects that link together seamlessly. Basic versions of games such as Goat Simulator came together from a blank template within a few minutes, and the presenter mentioned that creators with coding experience can get lower level access to the underlying code as well.

Based on the demo (I’m opting to try the beta at home rather than wait in line at the show), Project Spark is a robust abstraction on top of a flexible and quickly rendering modular engine.

Terms such as When and Do substitute for programming logic such as if statements, and visually approximate functions in a manner similar to MIT’s Scratch or many other user customization tools. If Microsoft decides to commit to frequent content updates of engine optimizations, new tools and dedicated marketplace curation, Project Spark could be one of their sleeper hits in 2014.

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