By: Quinn Potter
Project Spark is an open-ended sandbox game from Microsoft. If you enjoy Minecraft, you might want to check out this new world where you will be building entirely new characters and worlds limited only by your imagination.
To start your journey through Project Spark, there are a few basic commands to master. The controls are well-placed and easy to use. The basic menu is fairly compact, so it’s easy to navigate and get your world up and running for a first draft. As you get into the details of creating your characters and/or world, there are more controls to master — which will take a little quality time.
Clean lines, good colors, good depth of field and nice computer-generated graphics give you a solid foundation for building worlds. In general, the colors are brighter in Project Spark than Minecraft, and the graphics aren’t pixilated. Also, in Minecraft, you have big cubes or blocks to place, while Project Spark gives you a curved, polished world to build and play in.
It’s hard to talk about the graphics and sound without getting into the meat of the game. This type of game depends on you to program it, so you can adjust almost any variable. For example, if you put a follow camera on your character and walk into a tight space, the frame rate might get a little glitch.
The quick fix is to simply program something else to make this stop. In fact, the fix for almost everything is to simply revise the program and create something else. If you don’t like having a field of a thousand small flowers, program a field with one ginormous flower — both will work.
Audio works the same way as the graphics. You can choose from some basic options that are provided, manipulate those options, upload audio recorded from your Kinect microphone, or even try motion-capture with the Kinect camera to upload actions for your characters.
The world of Project Spark is quite huge — almost endless, actually — so if you’re confused about where to start, watch a tutorial video or search on YouTube to get a tour of someone else’s world.
If you’d prefer to jump right in, you have two options: start from scratch or create a world. If you start from scratch, you start in “edit” mode in a completely flat, blank space with a white island surrounded by water. From here, you can place props (people, characters), build features (houses), paint objects, change the biome (geography), etc. Build up the layers of your gaming environment by going to the props menu, selecting an object, and placing it where you want it. You control everything with “when” and “do” commands, based on Microsoft’s programming language Kodu, which is similar to Snap or Scratch.
If you choose “create a world,” the program will give you a basic foundation to build on. It’s kind of like having a cake mix to work with instead of making a whole cake from scratch. In “create a world,” you’re going to be given a mix of basic ingredients and can build from there. This is a good option for younger players or for those who want a short cut to build a finished project.
From the main menu, you can also choose to play in someone else’s world. Search for specific worlds by name or go to a recommended world based on previous choices. Like YouTube, you can see the top-rated worlds that received the most recent interest. When you finish playing in someone else’s world, you can like/dislike your experience.
Rating other worlds is just one way to earn credits. There are many other ways as well, such as by building, using certain tools, leveling up, or having others play in a world you created. To use your credits, go to the shop and check out the individual objects or packs of objects you can buy to enhance your world. You can also buy extra “save” slots in the shop so you can continue building additional worlds. If you don’t want to take the time to earn credits, you can buy things the old fashioned way (cold hard bitcoin).
Project Spark is the kind of game where you get out what you put into it. You’re essentially pulling back the curtain to meet the Wizard of Oz — and you are the wizard! You get a free toolbox to make your own world, but it’s going to take some time to master the skills you need.
It’s colorful, fun, and highly addictive for the creative types. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself neglecting those Minecraft zombies as you become more immersed in Project Spark. It gives you more control over more variables and gives you a more polished playing environment when you are done.