'Sparc' Hands-On Impressions: CCP's Amazing 'Project Arena' Gets Set For Release

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At last year’s GDC, developer CCP Games showed off Project Arena, a game iDigitalTimes said was “the most immersed I have felt in VR yet.” This year, the game returns, all cleaned up and with a new name. Sparc is here, and it is looking to be the first virtual sport created for VR headsets.

Sparc is sort of like TRON’s disc game, with two players standing in a virtual hallway, shooting balls back and forth at each other. Players either have to block the balls shot by opponents, or physically duck out of the way of the incoming projectiles. At the same time, players must also be sending their own balls down the hallway to hit their opponent.

Morgan Godat, executive producer at CCP Games Atlanta, talked to iDigi about all the changes made since the last time we played Sparc, including the new look, release date, and what it’s like making a brand-new sport.

While a few things have been changed since last time, like the disc being swapped out for a ball, the biggest change is the user avatars. Instead of playing a character, the goal is to make it feel like the avatar is just an extension of the player.

“It’s less a game where I’m inhabiting a champion, a character with a name,” Godat said. “This is meant to be you. We’re trying to play up the sports aspect of it so it’s not super science-fictiony. It’s still science-fictiony, but the goal is not meant to be super futuristic, it’s supposed to be tomorrow’s sport.”

Of course, a sport is nothing without people who want to watch it. With this in mind, CCP has designed Sparc around spectators. “Spectating has been a core for this game since Day 1. There’s a ton of sports out there that haven’t taken off because they aren’t spectator friendly,” said Godat.

Godat also knows he is going to need fans in order for Sparc to be successful, just like any other sport. “Just to be clear, eSports are made by the fans. When people tell me they’re making an eSport, that’s the same thing as saying you’re making a video that will go viral,” he said. “High five and best of luck, but that’s decided by your fans. The core of an eSport is that you have a fanbase that is willing to give time and energy to your game to the extent that other people are going to run tournaments.”

Godat and the team at CCP also know that to have a successful sport, a game needs to perfectly nail whatever it is trying to do. This means there isn’t much variety in Sparc, but that’s not a bad thing. A great example is with Rainbow Six Siege. Normally, an online shooter with only one game mode would be laughed out of the market, however Siege nails it’s one mode so well, anything else wouldn’t feel like it would fit in.

Similarly, Sparc’s Brawl mode is the true highlight that CCP wants to really make feel right.

“Right now we’re really focused on Brawl,” Godat said. “When it comes to game modes, the thing that’s most important to us is that they fit in.”

That’s not to say other modes aren’t coming or aren’t going to be included, but those extra modes will need to feel like they belong first.

Sparc doesn’t have a release date as of yet, but CCP is aiming to get the sport into the hands of gamers by the end of the year. There is also no platform exclusivity, so this will be coming to Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and even the PSVR. Cross-platform play has been teased, and a demo given featured a game with one player wearing a Vive and another wearing a Rift, but nothing official has been announced at this time.

So what do you think? Are you interested in virtual sports coming along with virtual reality? Do you want to try your hand at Sparc? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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