You can throw together pretty much anything using Project Spark, Team Dakota's free to play game creation toolset for Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows 8, but however ambitious your creation, you won't be able to sell it on. Or at least, not yet. Speaking to OXM at a preview event before the Xbox One's launch, executive producer Sax Persson took us through the whys and wherefores.
"We're not announcing anything to do with actually selling it," he began. "We have focused on first proving that you can make stuff that people really, really like, and then we can cross that bridge if we get that right.
"I think the pride of creation, whether you can sell it or not, is very real," Persson added. "Like, YouTube didn't become huge because it was a way to make money, but because people got a platform to show off how creative they were, right? If my cat video can beat your $20 million trailer for a Hollywood movie, because it's just more fun - that's our philosophy. Let's just get the broadest possible base we can of people creating, and let the community sort it out."
The base components of Project Spark are entirely free (no Gold subscription is required). You'll be able to acquire content packs using Spark Tokens that are bought with real money, or credits that are earned in the game. Another resource, "Spark Time", allows you to visit and play around in worlds that make use of content you don't own. Entries for Spark Tokens have been discovered on the Windows 8 Store, following the launch of the PC beta - $4.99 nets you 500 tokens, while $24.99 nets you 2500.
The Xbox Live Indie Games section is no more on Xbox One - Microsoft has now merged the Arcade channel into the general Games store, and will support self-publishing by way of the ID@Xbox program. Is it possible that Project Spark might effectively become XBLIG's successor, if creators are able to charge for their work?
"I think it's different," Persson protested. "Xbox Live Indie Games [was a platform for] professional game developers, and the people who are right at the precipice of being professional game developers. So we're still talking about a quarter of a percent, maybe of the total population. This is for the other people. This is for everybody else.
"It's like how YouTube didn't replace Hollywood movies - it's the same, there's the same thinking behind it," he went on. "We give people a platform that they can publish to, with no restrictions, and then - outside of things that are just inappropriate - we'll see what happens from there. That's very much what we're saying. But it's not a replacement for XBLIG - I think there are other avenues to accomplish that."
Here's Aoife's determinedly unimaginative take on Project Spark. Somebody fetch that lady a bit of blue-sky thinking.