Team Dakota’s crossplatform toolset is problematic yet promising
Project Spark is a challenge to its developers. Designed to run on PC and consoles – and mobile and tablet via SmartGlass – its powerful creation tools have to be easy to both understand and use across a variety of input devices. It’s a challenge to players, too, who will ultimately define the value of those tools with their creations. The recently launched Windows 8 beta gives us a first look at how both parties are faring, and a chance to see how Team Dakota’s promising platform feels in the hands.
Early signs are positive, with a step-bystep tutorial doing a fine job of conveying the flexibility of Project Spark’s creation tools. After choosing a hero from the beta’s assortment of humans, goblins, fish and birds, we set about assigning our protagonist some behaviours. Dubbed ‘Kode’ statements – a nod to Project Spark’s progenitor, the kid- friendly programming platform Kodu – behaviours are split into two sides: When and Do. In just a few mouse clicks, we’ve told our hero to move in response to our WASD key presses, to jump when we press space, to melee attack when we left-click and to fling a fireball at a click of the right mouse button. We’ve also set up a thirdperson camera that follows the player, though we could have gone with firstperson, fixed or boom cameras, or told the viewpoint to track an enemy. And we’re never more than two clicks away from jumping into the world and testing it all out. We’re still looking at an empty blue world, though – the blank digital canvas to which developer Team Dakota has so frequently referred. This is a world in need of life and we’re only too happy to oblige. Using the Sculpt tool, we raise a hunk of land into a
Spark Power is easily the game’s most controversial element and risks splitting the community in two. Twenty-four hours of access costs 100 tokens – about 70p in real money – though it can also be bought with credits earned in-game.
Right now, player creations are, naturally, a little buggy, with one physics hiccough sending our hero spiralling high into the air and out of the gameworld. Ryse Son Of Spark proved relatively stable, though it’s hamstrung by rudimentary combat system.
Crossroads is a smart way of bridging the gap between creation and play, though its simplicity rather undermines the powerful platform on which it is built. Choices are simple and arbitrary: do you want to fight goblins, for instance, or rabid squirrels? It barely matters, since both battle in much the same way