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Oh Project Spark Beta, Why Are You Windows-8-Only?

Microsoft’s PC gaming track record has become turgidly tarnished in recent years, but I must admit that Project Spark looks and sounds extremely enticing. It’s a game and world creation and exploration tool – an infernal imagination engine to dive into whether you want to craft games of multiple genres, play other people’s whimsical wonderments/abominations, or something in between. Basically, think PS3 sidescrollamabob LittleBigPlanet but much more versatile, or Garry’s Mod without all of G-Man’s notoriously, er, charming faces. But of course, the soon-to-enter-beta experiment is a Microsoft product, so it’s Windows-8-only. Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

Full disclosure: one of my machines runs Windows 8. It happens to be a Surface Pro 2 (thanks for the recommendation, Alec), but still: my point is that I’m not speaking from a place of blind rage here. I actually – gasp, riots in the streets, everything on fire – like some of the functionality Windows 8 brings to touch-enabled devices. It’s just an unnecessary, inner-calm-killing hassle on desktop machines. I have no desire to install it on my main PC, which is purring along quite happily with Windows 7, thank you very much.

I suppose, though, that Project Spark is at least making use of some of Microsoft’s interconnected Win8/Xbone/SmartGlass/other dumb names Metro ecosystem. For instance, you can self-capture all animations and dialogue for an NPC using Kinect. That’s all there is to it, too. Just roll camera, leap and flail like an idiot, and then point to whichever troll or robot or whale you’d like to claim puppeteer-ship over. It’s a pretty cool idea, and just a single example of copious “oh, why did no one think of that before?” simplifications of common game creation issues.

But still, Microsoft could just lift the arbitrary limits on all of that stuff too. A few updates later, we’d all be on equal-ish footing. It’d take some work, sure, but it’s far from impossible. It doesn’t have to be this way at all. It just is. Urrrrrgh.

Anyway… oh, right. There is some News here. Project Spark’s closed PC beta is officially underway, and you can sign up for a chance to join right through here. If you’re running Windows 8, I don’t see any reason not to. It will, at the very least, be decently interesting, I imagine. Did anybody here make the initial round of invites?

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Nathan Grayson

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