EVERYONE has a book in them – or so the saying goes. Could there be a video game in there too? We might soon find out. Project Spark – a game for the Xbox One and Windows 8 PCs, which Microsoft showed off at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, last week – will provide a digital playpen in which gamers can get together to create and share games of their own.Project Spark is just the highest profile product in a host of tools that are fuelling the ambitions of a new breed of passionate players who want to make the leap from merely participating to designing the worlds they play in.Far from being hardcore programmers, these gamers tend to be amateurs who come to the table with very little experience of writing computer code.
Tools such as Game Maker, Flixel, RPG Maker and Twine – a tool for making interactive fiction – now let budding developers start making games by dragging objects about in a graphical interface or simply by writing text."The barrier to entry for game development has been demolished," says games developer Christer Kaitila. "These are exciting times for an emerging art – the gates have been flung wide open."Though it started as a niche hobby, DIY game design is set to go mainstream. Microsoft's Project Spark aims to turn the making of games itself into a game. Players are given a fully configurable world that can be moulded with gestures recognised by Kinect – mountains are sculpted and valleys scooped out with a swipe of the hand. Buildings, characters and objects of almost any kind can be added via graphical interfaces.
Once it is all in place, users can devise simple scripts that give their creations programmed behaviours. One demo of the game showed how a rock, for example, could be turned into a faithful sidekick by adding a few short commands.Early testers have already created a wide variety of games, from block-matching puzzle games to side-scrollers, top-down shooters, and 3D first-person adventures – many of them recreations of existing games. Project Spark makes this level of creativity accessible by hiding hundreds of lines of code beneath the interfaces that are second nature to gamers.This is my favorite:Crushing and grinding agreement to ‘end mill liner duopoly’