CCP Fanfest 2017 Hands-On With 'Sparc': The First Virtual Reality Sport

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I attended CCP Fanfest in Reykjavik, Iceland, over the weekend to celebrate all things EVE Online. CCP Games is only known for their one main spaceship simulator, but wants to branch out into something entirely different. At the convention, I got to try a prototype for Sparc, a virtual reality experience that’s more of a sport than a video game.

In Sparc, two players stand in a virtual hallway similar to the disc throwing games of Tron . The goal of the game is to score more points than your opponent by hurtling a small energy ball and tagging your opponents with it. Players can protect themselves by blocking shots with their fists or with a shield attached to their hand. The shield breaks after one hit and recharges whenever you throw a new ball, forcing you to think when’s the right time to use protection.

Body, ball and hand positions are key to winning games in Sparc. Behind your avatar is a giant glowing cube, that if hit by an opposing ball will increase the speed of their projectiles. Each time you hit that cube, you gain more speed, stacking up indefinitely. A ball that’s hit your enemies’ square five times moves like a speedball thrown by a Major League Baseball pitcher. The square adds a sense of depth to the game: do you block your zone to end your opponent’s combos or do you move out of the way to dodge their attacks?

You can curve the ball by throwing it with a flick of your wrist to try and catch your opponent off guard. When playing on the Oculus Rift, the ball actually felt like it had weight and moved depending on how I controlled my body. I’m used to VR games focusing on hand and finger movements to immerse you into the game, yet Sparc is something else entirely.

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I love Sparc but I hate promotional material. Photo: CCP

I played three games of Sparc and by game number two I was really into it. It was easy for me to weave in and out of the center of the game area to dodge attacks, but then the balls got faster and faster. By the end of the third game I was drenched in sweat, Sparc did what my mother was never able to do: get me to play a sport.

I believe that virtual reality in video games is just a gimmick. A quick way for a publisher to create something new without having to innovate interesting game play. There are a few exceptions to the rule, I loved Giant Cop and Rick And Morty: Virtual Rick-ality, but most of the time I’m ready to get bored to tears when I have to do another VR demo. Sparc was the first game I played that made VR a core component of its game play, the game couldn’t exist in any other medium.

There’s no set release date for Sparc yet, but it will be coming to all virtual reality sets sometime in the near future.

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