Tim Newsome-Ward & Darren Flowers Interview (Desktop Daydreams)

The Corridor
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Life after Kickstarter: Catching up with The Corridor

Around this time last year, I happened across a rather interesting indie horror game called The Corridor: On Behalf of the Dead. Developed by Bradford-based indie studio Desktop Daydreams, it’s a 3D first-person horror game coming to PC and Xbox One, and, if I may say so myself, I think it looks pretty damn cool.

You haven’t heard of it? Allow me to bring you up to speed. The game places you in the shoes of Ri Anderson, a Custodian (think a neurological Sherlock Holmes mixed with equal parts Judge Dredd and Inception‘s Dom Cobb and you’re on the right lines) who has to enter the mind of a suspected murderer and navigate through their various memories to get to the truth of a (probably rather grisly) murder case. This process of entering minds and poking about with their memories is facilitated with the use of a special program called The Corridor (think The Matrix‘s VR program, only with less gun-blasting lobby scenes and designer sunglasses and more creepy monsters and mind-bending madness). As the name might suggest, the program displays the suspect’s mind to the Custodian as a virtual corridor, which acts as a hub area from which the player accesses the various scattered memories of the subject. I say scattered, because the order in which they are accessed is randomised each playthrough. The player has to navigate their way through mysterious mental echoes to find important clues, avoid creatures and gradually build up a case of evidence in order to make a final judgement on the suspect at the climax of the game.

Sounds neat right? Intrigued by the game and its curious cognitive concepts, I previously spoke to the game’s Designer, Tim Newsome-Ward, on the eve of the game’s August 2014 Kickstarter campaign to find out more. Although the game generated positive media coverage, was selected for Steam Greenlight and picked up plenty of new fans along the way, in the end the project sadly didn’t reach its minimum funding goal. Since then we haven’t heard much from the Desktop Daydreamers, and to an outsider, it looked like the lights might have ultimately been switched off on The Corridor for good.

Thankfully, I can tell you right now that this is definitely not the case. I once again met with Tim and his colleague Darren Flowers, Desktop Daydream’s Creative Director, to talk about what’s new with The Corridor, and it sounds like things are very much full scream (sorry) ahead.

Pig Head

“It’s a been a tough road,” laughs Tim good-naturedly as he nurses a hot cup of coffee, “We’re still going strong even though we’ve had a rollercoaster ride at the beginning of this year.” It’s a bright sunny Bradford morning when I meet Tim and Darren, and in contrast to their pleasant and cheery company, the nice weather and the plush furnishings of Waterstones’ cafe, I’m about to learn just how dark and tough this rollercoaster ride through the harsh reality of indie development has been for the tiny two-person studio. I kick things off with a rather unsophisticated opening question; what happened next after the Kickstarter failed?

“We had to think positively,” Tim recalls. “Steam have given us the okay, so we thought look, let’s keep working on the game keep pushing as far as we can.” Their resolve to keep going in the face of adversity is even more impressive when it’s revealed that the team’s programmer left the project at the end of last year. “We got to Christmas, and then our coder Chris left, so we lost our technical side. As a designer I’m part technical and part arty, and Daz is full art on the creative side of things, so we just thought oh shit!” he laughs. “We’ve known Chris since university, and we mean no disrespect to him; he had other things to do and his own financial concerns to deal with. He had to move on. We still talk to him and he’s still interested in working with us at some point, but basically he couldn’t dedicate the time that we needed and that’s fair enough.”

Chris’ departure inexorably forced the team into the unenviable position of having to find a new programmer – fast. “Everything we’d done up to that point was just a prototype, there were no solid or fixed frameworks; everything was hashed together to get a playable idea down. What we really needed was someone who could come in and tackle the engineering side of things. Someone to come in, take the reins and tell us what we need to do from a tech standpoint. We were humming and hawing for ages, but eventually we just turned to the community to see if there was anyone who liked the idea. We set up a post on the Unity forums at the beginning of this year which contained a few screenshots and the basic premise of the game.”

Little did they know however, that their programming soulmate was just around the digital corner. “We got tons of replies from coders, so it took a while to sift through all these applications. Eventually, we contacted Tony Li from Pixel Crushers in the States – he’s been fantastic as he bought into the whole idea and just gets what we’re going for completely. There was just something about Tony that made you know he was going to deliver; he was very much to the point and he came across with a lot of confidence. He was really good because he just knew what we needed and was totally professional. We sent Tony the GDD (Game Design Document) and he read through it and said what would work and what wouldn’t. We actually ended up ripping out more or less everything we’d started with and started again from scratch.”

On top of the personnel setbacks, another big concern from a technical standpoint was the game’s engine. Up to this point, The Corridor had been developed using Unity 4, but the release of the shiny new Unity 5 engine in March 2015 posed an enticing, but costly temptation for Desktop Daydreams. “Unity 5 had just launched and we thought wow, that looks nice! We’d already built a lot of the game in Unity 4 by this point – we had about five or six full levels finished and looking nice with the physically based shading kit, so we set these up in another test project and started converting them over to Unity 5.”

The decision to move things over to the newly announced Unity 5 was a particularly agonising choice for Darren. “I went kicking and screaming into Unity 5!” he laughs. “I didn’t want to do it at all, because there’s only two of us tackling this side of the game, so to completely changeover from Unity 4 to 5 would be a lot of work. We’d both put so much time into the game already, but were at a point with Unity 4 where I think we’d pushed it to its limits.”

Nevertheless, as Darren explains to me their visual aims for the game, it certainly sounds like all the extra work that went into migrating the project over to Unity 5 was well worth the trouble. “The main thing we had to be sure of was that it would be visually acceptable. We’ve set ourselves quite a high mantle – we’re not skimping anywhere, and if there’s something that doesn’t look right then we do it again. At first, when opening what we’d already made in Unity 4 in the new engine, it didn’t quite have that ‘wow’ factor, despite all the new shaders, lighting and textures in there. Now though, there’s nothing of the original game left – we’ve rebuilt everything, and it all just looks totally different and so much better now. We’ve worked on levels where we’ve completed everything, and then decided it’s not good enough, so we scrap everything and start again. It can be quite tearful binning something that you’ve spent the past six months working on, but we’ve had to do it because we want the game to look and feel the best that it possibly can.”

Basically, we started the whole game again, and reassessed everything,” Tim adds.With the new lighting, everything has this new realistic look to it because of the new physically based shaders and stuff, it works really well. It feels a lot more in line with other games that are already out there, but it’s going to take more time yet. We’re getting to a point where in the next few days we’ll be at the Alpha stage, all the in-game systems and mechanics are present and working. We’ve still got to do a lot of work in terms of getting levels and memories working, and getting the actual gameplay of those levels up to scratch, but because all the base frameworks are in place that will be a lot easier now. Looking back, we’ve done the right thing moving to Unity 5 because we think that we’ve got a much better game now as a result.”

With a new programmer in place, and the migration from Unity 4 to 5 well underway, Desktop Daydreams’ next move was to seek out potential publishers. Tim and Darren reached out to Microsoft, specifically their ID@Xbox program, who were quick to help step in and support the game. “We thought about what we needed to do next and decided to approach Xbox One and the ID@Xbox team. Having been Greenlit on Steam gave us a bit of leverage, and Xbox shipped us through the ID@Xbox onboarding process really quickly. We’ve got the XDKs, they sent the kit out really fast. It was really surprising and nice because they wanted to see a bit of the game, some screenshots and what figures we’d got from Steam. They were really good and supportive – it was like wow, we’ve got some kit from Xbox, even though we haven’t really got anything solid to show yet! I think they just saw the idea, thought that it was good and decided to get us onboard.”

Understandably in light of the tumultuous events, the game’s release window has now been delayed to Spring 2016. “Originally, we were aiming to have the game out by Christmas of this year, but with all the setbacks with losing staff and upgrading to Unity 5, it’s pushed us over into next year. I think towards the first quarter of next year, around April-ish hopefully. It’s going to be another few months before we get to Beta, but once we’ve signed off on the Alpha and we’re happy with everything, the Beta will progress pretty quickly as it’ll just be a case of building levels, building the gameplay in those levels, getting the story working and then testing it all. Testing is a big phase though, so we’re thinking of trying a closed Beta. We would like to do an open Beta, but with the game being so story-focused, we don’t want the narrative to get out there and onto YouTube before the finished thing is actually out and ruin it for people. We might release some specific playthrough videos or small slices of trailer footage, but it’s tricky because of course we want people to play it, but we also don’t want to give away the story. When you’ve only really got two people working full-time on a game and you’re going for top quality on all parts of it, then it does take time. It’s all part of the cycle of development; it’s been hard work, but we’re getting there.”

“We’ve been working on this for so long, and we’ve had such a knockback with the changeover to Unity 5 – all those events have put us back at least six months or so at least – that we don’t want all the people who helped us get through Steam Greenlight to forget that we’re still bringing this game out,” Darren earnestly attests. “Hopefully the game will have matured a lot, and it’s now just about giving us the time to get the finished thing out. But hey, these things happen when you’re making your own game with basically just two people and no budget!”

Without a central office for the team to work out of, there’s also a pressing need to keep morale levels up amongst everyone on the team. As well as Tony, Tim and Darren also regularly collaborate with animator Andreea Lintaru, but due to both geographic and chronological concerns, it’s hard to find time when everybody is free to touch base. “I think for a team to successfully work virtually without an office, everyone needs to be self-disciplined and have that drive to get up and do what you need to do,” says Tim. “Otherwise, you’re going to lose motivation and it’s just not going to work. Thankfully though, the DIY attitude of indie development certainly seems to have focused the team’s ongoing efforts, and kept them a close-knit group. “We’ve been working on the game for over two years now. We’re such a small team for a project of this scope and we’ve got to do everything ourselves. It’s an exciting process, but in terms of finance we’re running on fumes really. It can be a strain at times, but that’s also part of the fun of it all; you can only rely on yourself to get everything done. Daz tackles the creative side of things and I do the design, Tony writes the code and Andy animates. It’s how it is, you’ve got to learn what you need to do and just get things done.”

Spider Man

With the main pieces of Desktop Daydreams’ story over the last year in place, our conversation moves onto more specific details about the state of The Corridor itself. As a story-heavy singleplayer horror game with a mixture of linear and non-linear parts, I’m keen to hear how they still plan to get these potentially conflicting narrative elements working together cohesively. “We want it to be different to your typical linear video game story even though you’ll play it linearly with junction points where you’ll be able to choose your path,” Tim tells me.

“We had an idea first that when the player moves through these memory booths, you’d end up in a completely random level, but we decided that to get it right it just wouldn’t be a practical thing for a team of our size to do. So instead we decided to come up with a set amount of levels and really, really polish them.”

Interestingly, Tim explains how they have looked to real world brain psychology for inspiration when designing the structure of these in-game memories. “How would you access the memories in somebody else’s mind? Would you randomly access these memories, or would they come to you in some sort of structure? Could you travel back through that mind again and go to a different memory? Thinking in terms of the science behind real life memory engrams, we don’t really know how they work or how they are stored in the brain, so we built that idea into the in-game science and lore of The Corridor. The game might give you two hatches to go through, each taking you different ways – so that concept plays into how this virtual mental corridor is structured. We came up with the idea to have these branching points where you have to make a choice, and then once you’ve played through a memory, you’ll go back to the main path.”

“As you choose your own path through the game, you might do or see something in a memory that might influence how you perceive the story, and your decision process might be completely different if you went another way. You are going into these different memories at various branching points, and although it might feel disjointed along the way, when you get to the end you’ll be able to look back and piece it all together.”

While we’re on the topic of jumping into people’s minds and rooting through their memories and whatnot, I ask how the process of integrating Oculus Rift support is going. Unfortunately, although the whole premise of The Corridor makes it an ideal fit for VR, sadly it sounds like things are still at an early stage here. We haven’t got any of the Oculus kits at the moment,” admits Tim, “but we’ve also not really been at the stage where we felt like we needed one just yet. It’s still something we really want to do though, because I think it adds to that feeling of immersion we want. We’ve been building the levels with a 60fps target in mind, so things have already been optimised a lot for VR. It’s a time consuming process, but we’re getting there.”

Aside from the general narrative concerns, another big challenge for the two developers is designing a horror game around the personal and mutable tastes of its players. “We’re trying to scare people – that’s our main aim really, but it’s such a subjective thing. What do you do exactly?” Darren muses.

“Creating a universal fear is a very hard thing to achieve,” adds Tim. “We’ve done a lot of research into different types of horror, and ultimately fear is a relative thing to each person. People take their own personal fears and experiences into the games they play. Jumpscares are probably going to be a scary factor for some people, but we don’t want to overuse them as a mechanic.”

“A lot of games rely purely on jumpscares, but I find that once I’ve had one or two thrown at me then I just quickly get used to them,” interjects Darren. “It’s about keeping that fear in the player throughout the game. We’re almost trying to get people frightened of themselves. They might walk into a room and see something and make a decision based on what they’ve seen. Later on, it might turn out that they made completely the wrong decision, and we might try to make that realisation a bit upsetting. We want people to be aware of what they’re doing within the game’s environments all the time. Getting that idea to work within a horror framework is quite hard.”

“That’s why a lot of horror games don’t work, because they probably don’t have that level of fear to them.” Tim reasons. “It’s all about getting that uneasy feeling of being somewhere you don’t ever really feel comfortable. Some horror games are largely about the combat and the blood etc., but for us I think the important word isn’t so much horror, but fear. One of our main points of reference which we always go back to is Silent Hill. That first game had that feeling of constant dread, you never really knew what was coming, you never felt safe at any time – that’s the atmosphere we’re aiming for. It’s not necessarily about being anxious of dying, but rather capturing that feeling of tension and discomfort and sustaining it throughout an entire game.”

Darren suggests that a crucial factor in effectively creating and sustaining anxiety in the player is the aesthetic design of the world. “A lot of that goes back to the environment design. For example, one of my favourite bits from the first Resident Evil is the part where you move the bookcase in the Dormitory and go down into this flooded chamber just before you reach Neptune’s Aqua Ring. The creepy music playing in the room before you get to the flooded lab was so effective and it just sent shivers up and down my spine. It’s about creating that sense of fear and eeriness and having it pervade throughout the game continuously; We’re trying to create similar moments and memories in The Corridor that will hopefully stick with players for a similarly long time.”

“I think above all, you’ve got to capture that feeling of the unknown, so we want the environments to be as diverse as possible. They might throw unexpected things your way, so it’s not just about what you’re seeing and what you feel, but also questioning the nature of the spaces that you’re in as well. Am I actually in this environment or is it something else? One minute you might be outside, one minute you might be in something very cartoony, but they’ve all got that element of horror running through them, that similar atmosphere of fear that we’re after. Silent Hill did it with the radio static; if you were near to a creature you’d get the static crackling through on the portable radio. You might not even be able to see what you were close to, but it still sent that shiver down your spine.”

Silent Hill has not only inspired the team artistically, but also in regard to what elements aren’t necessary for The Corridor – such as a combat system.

“The only thing I didn’t really gel with in the game was the combat. You’d find a creature and have to batter it to death with a dodgy stick! It just felt like it was taking something away from the mood for me,” Darren reasons.

That’s one of the reasons we didn’t want to put combat in The Corridor,” Tim affirms. “A full combat is not in the game because we’re trying to keep things true to the story of the game. The player’s character is attached to a machine that connects them to another person’s mind, and you’re entering their thoughts and walking through a virtually constructed representation of their memories to see what they’ve done and to find evidence of a potential crime. Would you really be there to fight things? Would you be there to shoot and kill? Your character is more of an observer, but would you still have to defend yourself from this other mind? We’ve gone through all these questions so many times! Thinking along those lines, we’ve come up with a scenario where you might come across a gun or weapon, but it might not be necessarily for shooting something or someone. If you fire off the gun, then you might actually just ruin the puzzle it was the solution to.”

Having said that, the team has experimented with the idea of a combat system to see how it could function. “We’ve temporarily got guns in the current game at the minute actually,” Tim reveals. “You can run round and shoot at stuff as part of a test mode we’ve built, and it is quite cool to have those weapons in there to see what combat in the game would be like. But we’ve got to be realistic and remember that to build an entire combat system with such a small team and to suitably balance the levels to accommodate combat would be a real strain on our already limited resources. It’s also a question of whether the game actually needs all this stuff?”

Darren jumps in right away to answer. “I don’t think it does. I remember playing Doom 3 for the first time and I was petrified. There was a time where I walked through a dark room and I could hear something breathing next to me, and when I got a tiny bit of light in there I could just see this bloke stood next to me! He didn’t do anything, but still, that moment was very creepy! The moment the combat started though I just lost interest in the game as it was not really what I wanted anymore. I really liked that emphasis on the fear element, I liked the uncomfortable feeling that you got from the characters and the environment.”

Angel Statue

I get a particularly insightful look into Tim and Darren’s different design philosophies when the topic of Konami’s cancelled P.T. comes up in our chat. Specifically, it’s talk of P.T.‘s metagame puzzles which sparks up an ongoing debate the two developers are still currently working through for their own game about how much help should be offered to the player in a game via the user interface. Darren wants to create a totally immersive experience in The Corridor, one that doesn’t overtly direct or influence the player by highlighting items or displaying textual hints whatsoever.

I like that feeling of total immersion where there’s just the barest minimum of UI elements present to guide the player. I like to know what I’m doing in a game without being explicitly told what I’m supposed to be doing. For example, if you see an item such as a book, if it’s part of the game you might be able to interact with it, if it’s not, you can’t. I don’t like it when you walk into a room and you’ve got two or three objects that you’re obviously supposed to interact with and they’re all shining brightly. Personally, I’d rather have those items not so directly indicated to the player,” he says.

On the other hand, Tim would prefer the UI to subtly call out important items and offer additional information to the player when necessary. “It’s about finding that balance. A lot of games will highlight important items in the game world, and we’re trying to work out what the best method is of calling out important items to the player. Do you highlight or put a glow around an item, do you change the cursor to a hand icon when it’s hovering over it? Do you put important items in more light, do you design that room in such a way that the items stand out? Do you make them aesthetically pleasing, or do you put a little red carpet running right up to each thing? There are good examples of this in games like Bioshock, where important primary narrative items had that golden glow to them, where secondary pickups like ammo and audio diaries had more of a subtle silvery shimmer. If you’re going for a totally immersive experience though, where the idea is to put the player into the game as if they were actually there, then you don’t want to have those sort of effects present. It’s a hard thing to get right!”

Darren suggests that a careful ‘less is more’ approach to the level and item design is vital for such a stripped down UI to work. “Basically it means that you’ve got to put less clutter in a room. If you put too many things in one area and people are searching absolutely everywhere, they will likely get bored, so the trick is to put less items into the environments but make them more meaningful and clear.

It’s fascinating to see how the two guys go back and forth on this tricky issue. Ultimately, they tell me that they’ve decided to go with a traditional UI and hint system, and give the players who want a hands-off experience the option to turn all UI hints off. “In The Corridor, we’re going to put the option in of being able to turn off visual hints in the user interface, so if you want you can play through without any overt visual feedback to guide you through the game,” elaborates Tim. “It’s been a point of contention, but some players will want that sort of fully immersive experience, while others will want more direction.”

“At the same time, we don’t want people to get totally stuck, to the point where it becomes frustrating. If the player has been working around for five hours and just can’t find the solution to a puzzle then you can just turn the hints back on again. I remember playing games like the original Tomb Raider, where I’d be looking for a missing cog puzzle piece for about four or five days! By that point I just didn’t want to play anymore, but then once I finally found the missing cog it was simply the best thing ever!” he laughs.

As we finish our coffees and our conversation draws to a close, Darren speaks about reconciling the contradictory schools of thought around what constitutes good indie game design. “I was reading something the other day on Facebook from Ga-Ma-Yo where one lad was giving some advice, which was basically when you make a game you need to make it for yourself. Then somebody else said no, that’s totally wrong, you need to make it for everybody! I think we’ve done a bit of both; we’ve made a game that we’d like to play but we’ve also tried to do a game that other people would really want to play as well.

Tim echoes his sentiment. “We have to be realistic. It’s bad to say it, but we’re running a business, we’re trying to make a living doing this, and you’ve got to consider the market. You’ve got to make something people want to play, something that people will want to pay money for. When you’re an indie developer, you’ve got to do something a little bit different to put yourself out there, and people will pay for quality. The good thing is that now we’ve got all the core mechanics working, it’s more a case of just building assets now and getting them all working correctly. The end product will hopefully be something that gamers will absolutely love to play.”

At the end of the day,” Darren laughs “we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t love gaming. It’d be great to get a game out there that we were involved in that people enjoy. But loads and loads of money would also be alright as well, I’ve got a wife and two small children to feed!”

Here’s hoping 2016 goes plain sailing for Desktop Daydreams. You can follow Tim and Darren’s progress over @desktopdaydream on Twitter, and keep an eye glued to their website and Steam Greenlight page for the latest updates.

Project Spark Tutorial – Making Your First Game

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Of Sparks and Squirrels

Have you ever wanted to build your very own game? Well, if you’ve got an Xbox One or PC, then a great place to start taking those first few adventurous steps into the game creation process is Project Spark. Developed by Team Dakota, Project Spark is essentially the Microsoft equivalent of Sony’s Little Big Planet series, with a healthy splash of Halo‘s Forge mode thrown in for good measure. In other words, the game is a free-form games builder that provides players with a simple palette of tools from which they can craft a surprisingly large variety of games and worlds to play in.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a game that mixes elements from both a futuristic sci-fi FPS’s multiplayer editing suite, and the wackiness and carefree creative abandon of a cute but world building game would be a total disaster. However, that’s not the case; Project Spark is one of the hidden gems on the Xbox One, and well worth a look if you’ve got some creative virtual muscles to flex. Whether you want to recreate your all-time favourite platformer in minute detail, indulge in some creative landscaping or create your very own gaming masterpiece from scratch, Project Spark is a great place for budding games developers to start tinkering away. You can even upload your creations so others can play through them, and likewise download other players’ content and remix it to your heart’s content.

The game originally launched in December of 2013 as an open beta on PC, but started to gain more momentum in March 2014 when it launched on Xbox One. At the time, Minecraft had yet to make the generational leap from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One, so Project Spark found itself in the rather fortuitous position of being the only major world-creation game on Microsoft’s new console.

Conker Project Spark

Since Minecraft’s release however, things have been rather quiet on the Project Spark front…so just why is it exactly that I’m writing about it over a year later? Well, the first part of Conker’s Big Reunion just released yesterday, that’s why. A sequel game of sorts to the N64’s Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Big Reunion is an episodic adventure set within Project Spark (as paid DLC) which stars everyone’s favourite boozy squirrel in a quest to pay off a rather hefty bar tab he’s steadily accrued.

While I have to say that, personally, I would have much preferred to get a complete brand new stand-alone Conker game, I’m just pleased that we’re getting more Conker content at all, even if it is delivered in a bit of a fiddly piecemeal fashion. Bad Fur Day was a much-loved game during the twilight years of the N64 (later re-released as Conker: Live & Reloaded on the original Xbox), so a continuation of the franchise will hopefully give fans a further incentive to go back to Spark if they’ve been away, or try it out for the first time.

What’s interesting about this IP crossover is that once you’ve finished romping around in the main Big Reunion content, you have the option to have a pop at making your own Conker game…well, at a price anyway. You see, Project Spark functions as a free-to-play title, albeit one that is rather heavy on microtransactions – you can download and start playing the game with the main creation toolset, but you’ll find that certain cosmetic items and features are locked behind pay walls. Yes, this does mean that unless you start shelling out cold hard cash for items other than the basic starting props, everything you make does tend to look a bit Fable-esque (whether you want it to or not), but the good news is that all the important features of the game are free. Besides, with some clever design and imagination, players have even found clever ways to turn the default cutesy artstyle and bright colour palettes into effective vehicles for horror games – check out the faithful recreation of P.T. by user SpawnN8NE for a good (and spooky) example.

So, if you wanting to specifically make your own particular nuanced recreation of The Great Mighty Poo boss battle from Bad Fur Day, then you’re going to have to pick up Conker DLC assests, roll up your sleeves and prepare to get your hands dirty. If, however, you’re just wanting to get stuck in to Project Spark and have a pop at making your own game, then I might just be able to help you out.

The following guide will show you how to make a very basic game in Project Spark on the Xbox One without spending a penny on extra aesthetics. We’re going to go through step-by-step how to make a simple 3D platforming game, with coins to collect and enemies to beat along the way to the goal. Okay, so let’s get started. To the main menu…and beyond!

A Whole New World

Once you’ve started the game up, and the flashy introduction sequence has finished, you should be faced with a menu that looks like this (Figure 1):

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Figure 1: The main menu screen.

Use the d-pad/left stick over the Create option and press A to select it. One thing to note here is that if this is your first time playing Project Spark, the menu items and your onscreen cursor may be faintly outlined and look like the display shown in Figure 2 below:

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Figure 2: Some of the icons can be quite faint and translucent at first, but once selected they become solid and opaque like in Figure 1 above.

Don’t worry; this just means that you haven’t ‘activated’ each option yet (the game’s way of awarding XP or experience points, which you can use to unlock new things). All you have to do is move your (unhelpfully faint) cursor to your desired choice press the A button to activate it; the selected choice will change to a bright green colour and a short verbal prompt from the in-game narrator will play. So if you can’t see where your cursor bracket is at first, don’t panic; press A and you’ll be able to see it turn green on whichever options it’s currently over.

Okay, so to recap, with the Create option highlighted, press the A button and you should now be whisked away to a screen that looks like this:

Figure 3: Select the far left option, Empty World and press the A button.

Figure 3: Select the far left option, Empty World and press the A button.

Move the cursor to the far left option, Empty World, and press A. This will generate a new world template for you to customise to your heart’s content. You should now see a screen that looks like this, complete with a small chap in a yellow shirt – this will be our playable character in the game, but before we get to him, let’s run through the basic cursor and camera controls, and two of the main creation tools. He’ll still be there waiting patiently for us, so there’s no rush, take your time!

Lights, Camera, Cursor

Figure 4: The yellow circular ball you see is the cursor - in this case, it is currently set on the Paint tool.

Figure 4: The yellow sphere you can see is the cursor – in this case, it is currently set on the PAINT tool.

The game will give you a quick tutorial on how to move and control the cursor and camera; the cursor is the big yellow sphere that’s currently around the character and is controlled with the left stick. The camera can be rotated using the right stick, or ‘orbited’ as the game likes to fancily put it, around your cursor so you can see what’s around your cursor at different angles. You can also zoom in and out with the camera by clicking in the right stick – there’s a close, medium and far setting, and you cycle through them in that order with each click. I’d recommend leaving the camera zoomed in close for the time being so you can clearly see what you’re doing, but go with whatever zoom setting works best for you.

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Figure 5: The right stick controls the camera angles and zoom level.

You can also control the height of the cursor by pressing X to make it go down, and alternatively you can press Y to make it go up. Nice and simple!

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Figure 6: The X and Y buttons control the height of the cursor; X goes down, Y goes up.

Have a go now at practising with the cursor and camera controls. Once you’re feeling ready and you’ve got these basic controls under your belt, we can start our game by making a nice big area of land to build it on.

At The Mountains Of Madness

Okay, so we can move the cursor around using the left stick, look at it from different angles using the right stick, and control its in-game height by using X to go lower and Y to go higher. Let’s use our newly acquired giant yellow cursor ball skills to make some mountains.

Press the A button – this will extend the PAINT tool side bar on the left hand side of the screen, to show that it is the currently selected choice. We will do some painting soon, don’t worry, but first we’re going to make some land to put our paint on. Press down on the d-pad/left stick once to highlight the SCULPT toolset, and press the A button on Expand option (the first option in the SCULPT menu).

Figure 7: Press the A button to extend the PAINT option from the left hand side of the screen...

Figure 7: Press the A button to extend the PAINT option from the left hand side of the screen…

Figure 8: ...and press down on the d-pad/left stick once to get to the SCULPT options - Expand will be the first highlighted choice.

Figure 8: …and press down on the d-pad/left stick once to get to the SCULPT options – Expand will be the first highlighted choice.

The cursor will now change to a clear circle with an orange outline, to show that we’re currently in the SCULPT toolset. Expand lets us use the cursor to raise the terrain within the reach of the cursor by holding the right trigger, and lower it using the left trigger. Holding the left bumper brings up the Expand edit menu, and you’ll see that you have a few more variables with which to tweak the Expand tool. Scale changes the size of the cursor’s area, Shape changes the shape of the cursor (you can choose a square shape or cylinder as different cursor shapes) and Intensity controls how subtle or extreme you want the change in terrain to be. You can move between these variables by continuing to keep the left bumper held and moving the d-pad/left stick right and left, and you can change the numerical value of each variable by keeping the left bumper held and moving the right stick up or down. Phew, that’s a lot of directions and button presses to learn, but here comes the fun part, trust me.

Press the right trigger to create a raised area of land; we want a fairly large area to use for our game, so I’d recommend tweaking the Expand tool’s edit menu settings to about 40% Scale and 80% Intensity. Don’t worry about our character in the yellow shirt, he’s a tough little fellow and will be fine if you move terrain around and under his feet. Pressing the left trigger lowers the land with the same settings that we set for Scale, Intensity etc. so you can create varying landscapes of your choice – mountains, valleys, canyons, you name it. Don’t forget you can click in the right stick to cycle through the three zoom modes so you can get a good look at your landscape at different distances to get a sense of its size and scale.

Keep on using Expand by pressing the right trigger until you have something that looks roughly like the picture below – for simplicity’s sake, let’s make a basic long strip of land on which to build our game. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be exactly like the picture below so feel free to use your imagination if you want to design a different landscape.

Figure 9: Make a nice big long strip of land - quite clearly the most mind-blowing shape ever conceived by professional landscapers.

Figure 9: Make a nice big long strip of land – quite clearly the most mind-blowing shape ever conceived by professional landscapers.

Also, don’t worry too much about mistakes – Project Spark allows you to quickly go back and undo any errors you’ve made by pressing the View button so you can quickly undo a wrong move. Whenever you make an action, a coloured bar will appear at the bottom of the screen to signify that you are taking an action. The colour of the bar signifies the type of actions you’re making; Orange signifies actions performed in SCULPT or PAINT, green represents actions made in BIOME (the topmost toolset, used for putting vegetation onto your created landscapes) and actions taken in the PROP toolset (used for putting items into your game world) appear as blue on the bar. We’re currently using the Expand tool which is part of the SCULPT toolset menu, so the bar is orange to match the orange SCULPT colour scheme.

You can keep pressing the View button each time you want to go back and undo your steps in reverse order, or can also hold the View button and move the right stick left and right to scrub backwards and forwards along the orange bar to edit out your mistakes instead. Once you’re happy with your newly created chunk of land, it’s time to get your paintbrushes ready as we’re going back to the PAINT tool next.

Painting & Decorating

Right then, we’ve got a nice big slab of land on our screens, now it’s time to slap a nice coat of paint on it…and by paint I mean a coat of lush green vegetation, not your regular tin of Dulux.

Press the A button and then press up on the d-pad/left stick to go back to the PAINT tool, and then press A again to select it. This will bring up the PAINT palette menu at the bottom of the screen, directly above the orange undo bar, and your screen should now look a little something like this.

Figure 10: The PAINT tool palette menu - note the middle box in Free Slots (the left most category) is selected as the current paint.

Figure 10: The PAINT tool palette menu – note the middle box in Free Slots (the left most category) is selected as the current paint.

Press right and left on the d-pad to select what sort of foliage-themed ‘paint’ you’d like using the little glowing white cursor in the paint menu, located just above the orange undo menu. For our example, let’s go with the nice grassy looking second paint choice in Free Slots, as indicated in Figure 10 above.

Like with the Expand tool, hold the right trigger and move the left stick to paint your strip of land a nice leafy green with the cursor. You can also bring up the edit menu for the PAINT tool by holding down the left bumper and tweaking the variables for the tool in the same way we did for Expand; with left bumper held down, move between the options by using left and right on the d-pad/ left stick, and increase/decrease the value of the selected option by pressing up or down on the right stick. Pressing left trigger will ‘unpaint’ an area, so you can revert any areas you aren’t happy with back to the default blue colour if you want.

You should now be the proud owner of a lovely green strip of land like the one in Figure 11 below. Again, not to worry if yours is slightly different; as Bob Ross often said, we don’t make mistakes, just happy accidents.

Figure 11: Note the paint selected for the path is the fourth choice in Temperate Woodland section of the PAINT palette.

Figure 11: Note the paint selected for the path is the fourth choice in Temperate Woodland section of the PAINT palette.

Before we move on, let’s paint a path from one end of the island to the other for our hero to travel on. Let’s select the fourth paint in Temperate Woodland as a nice rural-looking choice of path.

Your grassy island, complete with a weather-beaten path, should look something like Figure 12 below; again albeit with your own personal little quirks and artistic flourishes of course.

Figure 12: Your very own island, complete with grass and path.

Figure 12: Your very own island, complete with grass and path.

Prop Goes The Weasel

So, we’ve done some painting, let’s crack on with decorating the island with some props – items and objects that we can put in our game. Press A to bring up the side menu bar, and move down to the PROP toolset option, and select the first highlighted choice, Add & Edit Props, by pressing the A button. This will bring up the PROP tool’s palette menu, which will take the place of the PAINT palette menu at the bottom of the screen.

Figure 13: The Add & Edit Props tool allows you to... you guessed it, add & edit props!

Figure 13: The Add & Edit Props tool allows you to…you guessed it, add & edit props!

The Add & Edit Props tool allows you to add and tweak the props and items you want to place in your game, and it’s where you can start to customise the look and feel of your game. Before we move on, let’s move our character to the start of our path so he’ll be ready to set off on his quest. To do this, having selected Add & Edit Props with the A button, hover the cursor (now a small blue crosshair-like circle) over him, and press the right trigger. Now, moving the left stick, you can move your character to your desired placement spot – let’s stick him at the far left of our path; we’ll put some more items at the right end of the path, along with our goal.

Figure 14: Placing the character on the path. Note how the preview window at the top of the screen changes when you press B to place your character. This gives you an idea of how the game will immediately look to players from their perspective when they start playing.

Figure 14: Placing the player character on the path. Note how the preview window at the top of the screen changes when you press B to place your character. This gives you an idea of how the game will immediately look to players from their perspective when they start playing.

Once you’re happy with your character’s placement, first press the left trigger to snap your character to your freshly painted ground – this means that your hero won’t end up stuck in the ground when you start to play, which, let’s face it, wouldn’t be an awful lot of fun. Snapping your character to a surface, or any other object or prop, is just an easy way of getting the game to automatically attach the item you want to the desired surface you’re wanting them to stand on, in a single neat button press.

Once you’ve pressed left trigger to snap your character, press the B button to set the new position and drop your character into place. You’ll notice in Figure 14 above that when you press B to set your character’s position, the character preview window at the top of the screen will change to show the new starting position of the player when you play the game.

So our character is in place ready to start the game, let’s add in a nice big tree at the other end of our island as some pleasant scenery. We’re still in the Add & Edit Props tool, so simply press up on the d-pad to open up the prop gallery. The prop palette just displays a small selection of the most commonly used props here, not the full catalogue of goodies on offer in the gallery, so I’ll show you how to search in the full prop gallery screen (see Figure 15 below).

Figure 15: The Add & Edit Props gallery selection screen. Note that the top left green highlighted box shows that we're currently looking at a selection of props in the objects category.

Figure 15: The Add & Edit Props gallery selection screen. Note that the top left green highlighted box shows that we’re currently looking at a selection of props in the objects category.

Here, we can select objects, characters, effects and lots of other fascinating things to put in our game. All the props are divided up into different categories – you’ll see each category is highlighted in the top left corner with a symbol and matching text. To cycle through the different categories of props, first press up on the d-pad/left stick to move the cursor to the symbols at the top left of the screen, and then press left and right on the d-pad/left stick to move through them, using the A button to select the category you want.

We want a tree, which is in the object section, so as it’s the default category that loads up, you can just simply scroll through all the choices by pressing/holding right on the d-pad/left stick. However, as there’s quite a lot of objects to choose from, that would take quite a lot of time, so let’s do something quicker! Move the d-pad/left stick to the right and then up, so that the green cursor is over the search bar, the small blue rectangular box at the top right of the screen displaying the text Begin typing to search. Press the A button, and then use the virtual keyboard to enter the word ‘tree’ before pressing the Menu button to begin the search.

Figure 16: The search bar is a handy way to search for a specific prop.

Figure 16: The search bar is a handy way to search for a specific prop.

This will bring up all the objects that have been tagged as trees by the game. Let’s go with the majestic Woodland Tree – Old B as the tree of choice for our game, which can be seen below in Figure 17. Move the cursor over the tree and select it by pressing the A button.

Figure 17: We'll use this tree, 'Woodland Tree - Old B' as a prop in our game.

Figure 17: We’ll use the Woodland Tree – Old B as a prop in our game.

You’ll now see a massive blue outline of the tree in the game. Looks like we’ve picked a particularly epic tree! Using the left stick, move the tree to where you want to place it in the game – for our example, let’s put it at the far right of your island. We place the tree in a very similar manner to the way we placed our character – once you’re happy with its position, press the left trigger to snap the tree to the ground (the roots will disappear and be below the ground, but much like with trees in real life, that’s normal), but this time, press right trigger to put the tree into the game instead of the B button. The reason for this is that pressing the right trigger creates a new object from the selected prop, for example the tree we’ve just placed, from scratch. When we placed our character on the path, he already was in the game to start with, so rather than making another character by pressing right trigger, we pressed the B button to just set his new position instead.

Figure 18: Move the tree to where you want it to go...

Figure 18: Move the tree to where you want it to go…

Figure 19: ...press L to snap it to the ground...

Figure 19: …press L to snap it to the ground…

Figure 20: ...and press right trigger to place it in the game. Voila! You've just planted your first tree!

Figure 20: …and press right trigger to place it in the game. Voila! You’ve just planted your first tree!

Okay, so we’ve got a nice leafy tree in our game. Let’s add a few more things to the game and then we can play it – we’re nearly there now!

Money, Money, Money

All the classic video game characters were usually obsessed with a single thing back in the early 1990s – money. Mario has always been obsessed about grabbing as many coins as possible while stomping on Koopa Troopas, and Sonic was always on the hunt for golden rings (presumably to send off to Cash 4 Gold for a nice hefty sum, the cheeky swine), so we’ll go with the same age-old video game goal – collect the coins and get to the goal! First let’s put in some nice shiny golden coins for our character to collect.

Open up the Add & Edit Props tool’s gallery menu screen again by pressing up on the d-pad. This time, let’s go to the search bar and search for ‘coin’.

Once the search results have loaded, you should just have two choices of coin props available – a Coin and a Coin Pile. Let’s resist the urge to go for the Coin Pile (as tempting as it is) and press the A button to select the Coin.

Figure 21: Try your best to resist the coin pile...it's difficult I know.

Figure 21: Try your best to resist the Coin Pile…it’s difficult, I know.

Using the same steps we used to put the tree on our island, place a line of coins along the path up to the base of the tree for our hero to collect. Use left trigger to snap the coins to the ground, and press right trigger to place a coin on the current spot the cursor is on. If you hold left bumper, like we saw with EXPAND and PAINT earlier, you can bring up the edit menu for the current prop you’re holding. We can change size of the coins if we wish using Scale, and there are options to rotate them so you can choose which direction they face. Don’t worry too much about their direction though; like any good video game coin worth it’s money (sorry, had to get that one in there), they rotate on the spot so you can just focus on where you want to place them. If you make a mistake and place a coin in the wrong spot, don’t forget you can either undo it by pressing the view button, or you can hover the cursor over the offending coin, hold the left bumper and press the X button to delete it.

Figure 22: This looks just like the tale of Hansel and Gretel, only with cold hard cash instead of breadcrumbs.

Figure 22: This looks just like the story of Hansel and Gretel – only with cold hard cash instead of breadcrumbs.

Hoblin’ Goblins

We’re nearly ready to test our game, but first, let’s make things a bit more difficult for our character; we’ll give him some goblins to fight off along the way! These goblins will not be best pleased that the player will be trying to collect the coins we’ve just put down and will attack when the player gets too close!

Once you’re happy with your trail of coins, open up the Add & Edit Props gallery screen again by pressing up on the d-pad. The screen will still be displaying results for our earlier coin search, so first we need to go to the search bar again, press the A button to bring up the keyboard, and this time delete the word coin by pressing the X button, followed by the Menu button. This will clear the search results and let us search the full catalogue of props again. Move your cursor to the top left of the screen, and over the character tab (indicated by the silhouette of a head), pressing the A button to select it.

The character tab contains, surprise, surprise, a selection of characters you can put into your game. From here, you can choose characters both to play as, and also put other characters into your game for you to fight against/interact with. We’re going to be controlling the man with the yellow shirt already standing on our island, so let’s pick the green Shrek-like Goblin Bruiser as our enemy template by moving the green cursor over him and pressing the A button.

Figure 23: Meet the Goblin Bruiser; lover of coins, hater of adventurers in yellow shirts

Figure 23: Meet the Goblin Bruiser; lover of coins, hater of adventurers in yellow shirts.

You’ll now have the blue outline of the goblin as your cursor, just like when we placed the tree and the coins. Let’s place 3 goblins in the grass along our path; spread them out a bit so they don’t all bother you at once! I recommend putting one at the start near your character, one somewhere in the middle, and another at the far end near the tree. You’ll also want your goblins to be facing your character; we have to give the goblins a fighting chance after all. Move your first goblin to where you want it to go, and before you place it, hold down left bumper to bring up the edit menu for the goblin, move the cursor over Rotate Y (short for Y-axis) using the d-pad/left stick and then rotate the right stick so the green directional symbol that appears on the ground is facing your character.

Figure 24: Although the green symbol is a bit vague, if you line it up with the rough direction of your character it'll make the goblin face towards him.

Figure 24: Although the green symbol is a bit vague, if you line it up with the rough direction of your character it’ll make the goblin face towards him.

Remember once you’ve got your goblin in it’s desired spot and it’s facing the right way, do the usual routine of pressing left trigger to snap it to the ground, followed by right trigger to place it. Repeat this process for as many goblins as you want, and like I said earlier, three is probably a good number.

Figure 25: The goblins are ready and in position, time to test the game out!

Figure 25: The goblins are ready and in position – time to test the game out!

Once you’ve got your three goblins in place in the grass guarding their trail of coins on the path, let’s test out our game so far! Press the Menu button to bring up the pause screen. Here, you can see options to save your game, get in-game tutorials and, perhaps most importantly of all, test your game. Move the cursor over the Test option and press the A Button.

Figure 26: Test let's you leap straight into your game and test out how it's coming along.

Figure 26: Test lets you leap straight into your game and test out how it’s coming along.

Now you’re able to play and test out your very own game. Run along the path, collect the coins and get the goblins! The default pre-set controls for our yellow-clad hero are:

Button Function
A Jump
B Forward roll dodge
X Melee attack
Y Fireball attack (projectile)
Left Stick Move character
Right Stick Move Camera
Figure 27: Use the X button to perform a close-range melee attack. Take that!

Figure 27: Use the X button to perform a close-range melee attack. Take that!

As you move down the path collecting coins, and you start to get close to each goblin, they will come towards you to attack – which is why it’s a good idea to spread them out a bit, you don’t want all three angry goblins wandering over to hit you at once! Having said that, if you keep an eye on the red health meter in the top left of the screen, you’ll see that they don’t do very much damage, and if you mash the X button on each one you should be able to take them down very easily.

Figure 28: Pressing the Y button launches a fireball attack you can hit goblins with from afar. Endokuken!

Figure 28: Pressing the Y button launches a fireball attack you can hit goblins with from afar. Endokuken!

See how you feel about the placement of your coins and goblins – I had to test my map out a number of times as I had trouble placing the coins in a straight line (pretty basic I know, I settled for a gentle curve instead), and some of my goblins were a bit too far away from the path for my liking (those pesky creatures) so don’t worry if things aren’t how you like them at first – you can press start and then select Edit at any time to go back to the create screen, which is the screen we’ve been doing all of our, yep, yeah you guessed it, creating and editing in so far. Keep going back and forth between Test and Edit until you are happy with the layout of your game so far.

 Kode Talker

Figure 29: Goblins, coins and a tree, for as far as the eye can see.

Figure 29: Goblins, coins and a tree, for as far as the eye can see.

Let’s recap. We’ve made an island, we’ve painted it with grass and a path and we’ve planted a big tree for decoration. We’ve added coins to collect, goblins to bash and we’ve tried out our game using the Test function in the pause menu and gone back to tweak it using the Edit function in the pause menu. All that’s left to add for our 3D platformer masterpiece is a goal – an endpoint that marks the end of the game.

Once again, let’s look back to some of those original classic games from the NES and Megadrive era to guide our inspirations. What did Mario always find at the end of his levels? Aside from the disappointment of being greeted by yet another Toad and the news that the princess was in another castle, Mario would find a flagpole, so we’ll take a leaf (albeit not a super leaf from Super Mario Bros. 3 that would turn us into racoons) out of his book and use a flag as our end of level goal too!

Figure 30: Choose the village flag - it's basic, but free.

Figure 30: Choose the Village Flag – it’s basic, but free.

First of all, let’s put a flag of our own into the game. Again, to quickly recap, you can do this by pressing the A button to open the side menu, scrolling your cursor down using the d-pad/left stick to the PROP option and pressing the A button again to select the Add & Edit Props tool. Then, scroll your cursor up to the search bar and type in ‘flag’. We’ll use the Village Flag for our goal. Place the flag at the far end of the path, in front of the tree, like in Figure 31 below. Don’t forget the usual routine of snapping the flag using left trigger and placing it using right trigger.

Figure 31: X marks the spot...well, no actually, the flag does. My bad.

Figure 31: X marks the spot…well, no actually, the flag does. My bad.

Okay, so we have a flag to use as a goal, but what next? We have to open up the flag’s brain – yes, really! Don’t worry, it’s not a gooey pink brain I’m talking about; every object in Project Spark has an AI brain which can be programmed to do different things. In our case, we want to program our game to end once we touch the flag. Move your cursor over the flag, hold left bumper and press the Y button to bring up the Brain editor.

Figure 32: Time to open up this flag's brain for surgery...STAT!

Figure 32: Time to open up this flag’s brain for surgery…STAT!

If your blood turned to ice when you read the word program, don’t worry! Project Spark uses a system called ‘Koding’ (woah, the crazy spelling must mean it’s cool, or extremely violent) which lets you program without having to know how to write and read code. You just have to learn how to read Kode instead, but as you’ll see, it’s quite straightforward. All the Kode programing works like an ‘if-then’ statement – once you open the brain of a flag, you’ll see two boxes, a blue WHEN box, and a green DO box. The WHEN box is the the equivalent of if, and the DO is the equivalent of then:

WHEN these criteria are met, DO this action.

All of this sounds quite complicated I know, but in practice it becomes quite easy. First of all, we need to tell the flag when the player reaches it. Press the A button on the + symbol to the right of the WHEN box.

Figure 33: The brain editor screen, displaying the blank first page of the flag's brain. Let's fill it up with Kode.

Figure 33: The Brain editor screen, displaying the blank first page of the flag’s brain. Let’s fill it up with Kode.

Then go to Sensors  bump.

Figure 34: This first bit of Kode tells the flag to recognise when an object touches it.

Figure 34: This first bit of Kode tells the flag to recognise when an object touches it.

You’ll see that the bump criteria we’ve just been coding has appeared in the blue WHEN box. Next, click on the same blue + symbol again and this time go to ObjectsPlayer.

Figure 35: This new bit of Kode we've added means that the flag will now recognise when specifically the player touches it.

Figure 35: This new bit of Kode we’ve added means that the flag will now recognise when specifically the player touches it.

This line of Kode now means that when the player touches the flag, something happens. We want that something to be for the player to have won the game and for it to finish.

Now move across to the green + symbol on the DO box and press the A button.

Figure 36: Move the cursor across to the right and select the green DO + sign with the A button to start programing the DO response.

Figure 36: Move the cursor across to the right and select the green DO + sign with the A button to start programing the DO response.

Then, press right bumper to display the second page of brain options. Select Brainsswitch page.

Figure 37: The switch page instruction is the first step in telling the flag's brain what to do next.

Figure 37: The switch page instruction is the first step in telling the flag’s brain what to do next.

This means the game will stop running instructions on one page and will move to another once the player reaches the flag – in our case, the instructions for finishing the game. An object’s brain can only run one set of instructions at once – as Project Spark says itself in one of the tutorials:

“Switching Pages is like changing states; like going from being asleep to being awake. You can’t be both at once”.

Once we’ve finished contemplating Project Spark‘s philosophical musings on the finer technicalities of human sleep, we need to again press the A button on the green DO + symbol to tell the game which next page of Kode to switch to.

Press right bumper, select Brains, and then next page. Your first brain page of Kode should look now like this:

Figure 38: The next page instruction combined with the previous switch page command tells the flag's brain to move to a new brain page to start the game over sequence.

Figure 38: The next page instruction combined with the previous switch page command tells the flag’s brain to move to a new brain page to start the game over sequence.

From this screen, press right bumper to switch to the new brain page. You can see which page you’re currently on by looking at the numbers at the top of the screen just above and to the left of the blue search bar. On this new brain page, we’re going to tell the game what to do once the player reaches the flag.

This time, instead of editing the blue WHEN side first, scroll the cursor right to the green DO + symbol and press the A button to select it. We’re going to get the game to display a victory message when the player reaches the flag. Select AppearanceDisplaydisplay.

Figure 39: This first Kode instruction will tell the game to display something - but what?

Figure 39: This first Kode instruction will tell the game to display something – but what?

Selecting the green DO+ symbol again, go to Values Textnew text, and enter what text you want the player to see once they reach the flag – let’s go with ‘Congratulations!’ for our example. Press the Menu button once you’re happy with your text.

Figure 40: Enter your message and press Menu.

Figure 40: Enter your message and press Menu.

Your screen will now look like this:

Figure 41: This means the game will display our message - but where?

Figure 41: This means that the game will display our message – but where?

Now we need to tell the game where to display our text when the player touches the flag. Once again, on the same line, press the A button on the green DO + symbol and then select ModifersPositioning Screen Locationscreen centre (the button onscreen actually reads screen center, but I refuse to bow to the American spelling). Your screen will now look like this:

Figure 42: This line now means the game will display the text in the centre of the screen, but we're not quite done with it yet.

Figure 42: This line now means the game will display the text in the centre of the screen, but we’re not quite done with it yet.

We have one more modifier to add to this line of code, and that’s to tell the game what size font we want the game to display our victory message in. We want the text to be nice and big, so it’s a fitting testament to the player’s skill at successfully navigating the deadly goblin-infested path they’ve just battled their way along.

That’s right, once again select the green DO + symbol by pressing A and then go to Modifiers Font Sizex-large font. You will now have a screen that looks like this:

Figure 43: Ta-da! The full line of Kode now means that the game will display the text in the centre of the screen in extra-large font. That's this line done and dusted!

Figure 43: Ta-da! The full line of Kode now means that the game will display the text in the centre of the screen in extra-large font. That’s this line done and dusted!

That’s the first line of Kode completed on the second brain page for the flag – together with our flag’s first brain page, the game will now understand to display the victory message once the player touches the flag. We’re not done yet though, we’ve still got a few lines of Kode to put into this brain to get a nice flashy ending sequence working, but we’re close to our finished game.

Move the d-pad/left stick down to the second line of Kode and press the A button on the second DO + symbol to select it. You can easily keep track of which line of Kode you’re currently on by looking at which line the horizontal blue cursor is on.

Figure 44: Move your cursor down to the second green DO + and select it with the A button to start inputting the second line of Kode. Nearly there!

Figure 44: Move your cursor down to the second green DO + and select it with the A button to start inputting the second line of Kode. Nearly there!

Then select AppearanceDisplayfade.

Figure 45: This first Kode instruction in the second line tells the game screen to fade to black.

Figure 45: This first Kode instruction in the second line tells the game screen to fade to black.

Next, select the DO + symbol on the second line again, and this time go to Modifers Transition Time.

Figure 46: This second Kode instruction tells the game to perform the fade out gradually rather than instantly, but on it's own it won't work; we still need to tell the game how long this will take in seconds.

Figure 46: This second Kode instruction tells the game to perform the fade out gradually rather than instantly, but on it’s own it won’t work; we still need to tell the game how long this will take in seconds.

After that, select the DO + symbol once more for this line and go to Values Numbernew number. Now we need to enter a time value (in seconds) for the length of time we want the screen fade to take. Let’s enter a value of ‘3’ and then press the Menu button.

Figure 47: Type in how long you want the fade to black transition to be. 3 seconds is a good amount, not too long, not too short - the goldilocks number!

Figure 47: Type in how long you want the fade to black transition to be. 3 seconds is a good amount, not too long, not too short – the goldilocks number!

Your completed second line of Kode will now look like this:

Figure 48: These two completed lines of Kode tell the game to display our victory text in the centre of the screen, and at the same time gradually fade to black over the course of 3 seconds once the player reaches the flag. It's nearly done!

Figure 48: These two completed lines of Kode tell the game to display our victory text in the centre of the screen, and at the same time gradually fade to black over the course of 3 seconds once the player reaches the flag. It’s nearly done!

This full second line now means that the game will take 3 seconds to fade out to black once the player touches the flag. We’re very nearly done, trust me! There’s just one last line of Kode to input, and it’s to tell the game to actually finish once the player touches the flag.

Move the cursor down using the d-pad/left stick and start a third line of Kode by pressing the A button on the green DO + symbol. Again, the blue horizontal lines of the cursor show you which line of Kode you’re currently selecting, and each line of Kode is numbered on the far left. Once you’ve pressed the A button on the DO + symbol, go to AppearanceDisplaygame over. This instruction will tell the game to end, but we also need to delay the ending so we can have chance to read the victory text.

Figure 49: The game over instruction ends the game, but we want it to sync up with our fadeout. We need two more pieces of Kode to get it all working together nicely.

Figure 49: The game over instruction ends the game, but we want it to sync up with our fadeout. We need two more pieces of Kode to get it all working together nicely.

The second to last step (very nearly done, don’t worry) is to move the d-pad/left stick to the left and select the blue WHEN (still on the third line), press the A button to select the + sign and then go to Timing and Logiccountdown timer.

Figure 50: The countdown timer instruction will delay the game over so it doesn’t happen immediately when the player touches the flag. We still need to tell the game how long to delay the game over for.

Figure 50: The countdown timer instruction will delay the game over so it doesn’t happen immediately when the player touches the flag. We still need to tell the game how long to delay the game over for.

Finally, press the A button to select the WHEN + symbol one more time and then go to ValuesNumbernew number to enter a value for the end of game timer. Let’s go with 3 again, so enter it using the virtual keyboard and press the Menu button to complete the last bit of kode for your first game.

Figure 51: Once again, enter our favourite number and press Menu - that's it!

Figure 51: Once again, enter our favourite number and press Menu – that’s it!

Speaking of victory messages, congratulations! You’ve just successfully created your very first Project Spark game. The final page of code for the second page of your flag’s now swelling brain will look like this:

Figure 52:  The flag's complete second page of Kode for our game over ending sequence. Combined with the first brain page of our flag, the game will now end and fade to black whilst displaying the victory message 3 seconds after the player has touched the flag.

Figure 52: The flag’s complete second page of Kode for our game over ending sequence. Combined with the first brain page of our flag, the game will now end and fade to black whilst displaying the victory message 3 seconds after the player has touched the flag.

Don’t forget to save your map by pressing the Menu button and then Save, and then Save As to give your game a special name, and use Save + Share to upload your masterpiece onto the Project Spark servers so your friends can download and play your game too. Once you’re happy with your game and it’s saved, go to Exit, and then select Play, and away you go!

Figure 53: You're now the proud owner of the world's brainiest flag. Well done!

Figure 53: You’re now the proud owner of the world’s brainiest flag. Well done!

If you want to download the map I’ve created whilst making this guide to tweak it, remix it, or simply destroy it, then from Project Spark‘s main menu go to Play, then Community, and search for ‘Everybody Plays Tutorial Game’ in the search bar at the top right of the screen.

Figure 54: Time to set out on your adventure! Have fun and thump some goblins for me! Don't forget to share your creations with your friends and see what they think of your game.

Figure 54: Time to set out on your adventure! Have fun and thump some goblins for me! Don’t forget to share your creations with your friends and see what they think of your game.

The steps we’ve gone through in this guide to make your own basic game are really only the tip of the iceberg. The worlds and games available to download from other Project Spark creators show off some remarkable skill and ingenuity in their design, which makes them a great place to learn new tips and tricks for your own creations. There’s also in-game tutorials that will teach you how to build games similar to the one we’ve just created, as well as several others that will guide you through how to build many different types of games. New content, help, items, tools and other bits and pieces are regularly added to the game via regular updates, so you shouldn’t run out of things to do or make any time soon.

I hope that this guide was helpful in getting you up and running with making your first game; perhaps it’ll be the initial spark (get it?) of inspiration to get you making many, many more.

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