A few months ago, swept up in the hype and excitement of the game creating game ‘Project Spark’, I asked the question “will Project Spark actually be free?“. It was a simple question based on my distaste for micro-transactions and founded on the news that Project Spark will be heavily influenced by the payment system. After quite some deliberation, I came to the conclusion that it could end up costing the gamer an arm and a leg. But you can read it for yourself if you’d like. You do have eyes, after all. So why am I readdressing the issue? You might ask. Well I shall tell you, it’s because I’ve been playing the Project Spark beta. I’ve had the chance to give it a relatively decent go and, whilst this won’t really be my thoughts on the beta itself, I will drop in a bit about the game experience here and there whilst sticking to the theme of micro-transactions.
I often feel that, with micro-transactions, you only really get the shell of the game and if you want the real goodies, you’ll have to fork out for it. Now, I understand that people will say, “but you don’t have to pay for the micro-transactions, they’re not forcing you!”. And in a way you would be right, person who disagrees with me. But I would much rather pay a one off fee of £50 for my game and get everything in one package, than spend little and often to get the most out of a “free” game. Clearly, I’m far too greedy for my own good. I know that some people will agree with me, though I’m sure that many will not. I understand that developers need to finance the game somehow, but I would much rather pay up-front, for a fixed price – even if micro-transactions might work out cheaper in the long run. There hasn’t been a single free-to-play game that has convinced me to spend out on micro-transactions thus far, but I could see Project Spark being the first.
In fairness to the game, there is an absolute multitude of things that you can do and create without having to spend any money. You can pretty much build whatever you can imagine in the free game, (providing that what you’re imagining sticks to the free content), and you can even play other people’s created content. If, however, you’re like me and you have much grander visions than a game world covered in grassy / snowy / sandy mountains surrounded by grassy / snowy / sandy fields, you’ll probably be itching to purchase some of the added content. And boy is there a lot of added content. You can really do some incredible things with the game, with the ability to create anything from a Space Invaders remake to a Fable like adventure … provided that you’re aware of the possibility that you could get to a rather significant part of the creation process, only to find out that your dream character, or his weapon of choice, is going to cost you a few bob to purchase. For me, when it comes to creating things, I don’t like my ‘creative juices’ to be impeded by the fear of the micro-transaction. Fear’s a strong word … nagging annoyance, maybe? To be honest, ‘creative juices’ is a pretty strong word too, and if you watched my first Twitch stream of the Project Spark beta that I recorded a few days back, you’d see why.
The game itself is incredible. The depth that you can go down to is immense, and very little of the actual building process is impeded by the micro-transaction feature. The overall mechanics of the game are untouched, and I applaud Team Dakota for doing that. The only place that you’ll find an extra cost is in the design elements of your game-world. Here you can find a list of the DLC packs that are already available / will be available for Project Spark, as well as their cost in tokens. You can earn the credits by playing the game, through creating worlds and playing other people’s content. Tokens, however, have to be purchased. I’m not entirely sure how many credits you earn for doing various activities, but I can tell you that saving credits to purchase the added content will take you a fair while. What’s worse is that, should you fork out on added content, say the Zombie based dlc pack, and you create a world by using it, you then limit that game to players who also have the same pack. I think that’s a real shame. Unless you pay for ‘Spark Time’, of course, which will cost you 2,000 credits or 100 tokens. When I first started playing, 1,000 tokens will cost you £6.99 (though this could change) and, apparently, one days worth of playing Project Spark will earn you 100 tokens. So, if you want to be able to do anything and everything, it could set you back a fair chunk. But if you’re quite content with creating at your own pace with a slightly limited design pallet, you’ll adore Project Spark.
Once I’ve had the chance to give it a really good go and I’ve created a few different game worlds, I’ll write a real first impressions of the beta. I can tell you now though, it’s going to be quite something, micro-transactions or no micro-transactions. I don’t think Project Spark is going to change my opinion of micro-transactions. I think that the whole system of payment just isn’t for some people, and that will never really change. I can see that Project Spark will eventually crack me however, and I’ll end up begrudgingly spending here and there on things I’d like to create. For now though, I’m focusing my energy on getting to grips with the mechanics and the basics of creating a game. Trust me when I say that it isn’t easy, but it really is worth it.
I will be Twitch streaming the beta on and off, so make sure to check out our Twitch channel if you want to watch me fail at building my own game. We’ll post the link on our Facebook page / Twitter account whenever we’re live streaming, so make sure to visit us there. I’ve also got three beta codes to give away to people, so hit us up on our social media profiles (or ask me whilst I’m on Twitch) and I’ll drop you a code!