New Xbox One title is available in beta, allows a wide variety of user created scenarios

User generated worlds and games aren't exactly a new idea.  Sony Corp.'s (TYO:6758) PlayStation saw Enterbrain's cult hit RPG Maker from Enterbrain (a game which had a Japan-only release on Nintendo Comp., Ltd.'s (TYO:7974) Super Famicom).  This tradition was continued with the 2008 release of LittleBigPlanet, a Sony-published PlayStation 3 title from Media Molecule.  And most recently Swedish programmer Markus "Notch" Persson and his company Mojang gave the world Minecraft in 2009.

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is looking to channel all of these stars of the make-your-own-game genre with a brand new Xbox One app called "Project Spark".  Just released in beta form, Project Spark puts you in charge of developing your own game which can shape up to be a platformer, a first person shooter, or even a tower defense game.

Winning over existing indie developers -- and creating new ones -- has been a key focus of Microsoft's with the launch of the Xbox One, headlined by the ID@Xbox program, which gave some lucky indie devs early access to dev-kit hardware.  Another key focus of Microsoft's is unifying its Windows and Xbox ecosystems, into a single cloud in which most of the apps are cross-platform.

Project Spark embodies both of those trends.  While it is initially only available on Windows 8.1 in beta, it will soon be rolled out to the Xbox One.  There's no word on a Windows RT release.  Given the poor sales of Windows on ARM and the rumor that Microsoft is leaning towards replacing Windows RT (8.1) with Windows Phone 8.1 early next year, this isn't terribly surprising.

The game-cum-dev-kit offers customizable characters and playscapes, with a base style reminds of adventure titles like Legend of Zelda or Ratchet & Clank.  Users can customize the game to their taste making it grittier (think war or survival horror) or more light-hearted (cartoonish platformers or adventure games).  The game also features a relatively deep-looking scripting system, which allows users to create unique interactions for every character and object in the environment.

Project Spark

You can offer a variety of control schemes for your creations, including Kinect motion control, keyboard/mouse, SmartGlass (using your Windows Phone as a controller), and, of course, the stock Xbox One controller.

The game is region-restricted and at first glance doesn't appear to be currently available via Windows Store in North America.  However, The Verge reports that developers and interested gamers can visit the Project Spark homepage to cast their hat in the ring.  If Microsoft accepts you, you should get a code which you can use to unlock the beta in the Windows Store, scoring early access.

Sources: Microsoft [Project Spark homepage], [Project Spark YouTube channel], The Verge

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