What is Project Spark?/ I heard it was a Little Big Planet/Minecraft/Landmark/Mario Maker clone
Quite simply, Project Spark can be described as a free game which can make games. And while Little Big Planet, Minecraft and Landmark are all quality games, and Mario Maker looks neat, Project Spark is a different animal. Little Big Planet and Mario Maker are limited in scope, anything you can do in Little Big Planet or Mario Maker you can do in Spark, but you can do even more in Spark. Minecraft has some in common with the superficial view of create mode of Project Spark, but there are significant differences beyond that similarity. Landmark and Spark both use a voxel technology, but their aims are completely different.
Project Spark can make games from any genre, FPS, third person action adventure, jRPG, flight/driving simulator, side/top down scroller. It can even include cinematics/cut scenes for those who wish to do so. Everything coded in Spark is made with Kode tiles, a visual programming language based on [When] and [Do], essentially if and then statements for programmers. How hard it is to use depends largely on what you want to do, many things in the game have built in solutions to them, while there are a few genres which take a little more effort to produce. There are resources available for finding solutions to common areas of interest on this website in the tutorials section and forums, the official forums, and on youtube channels such as Mescads. Additionally, the Spark community is rather supporting, so I would strongly suggest to hang around, make friends and collaborate.
Free to Play? You mean Pay to Win- nuts to that!
Not quite so fast, there. While many Free to Play games do fall into the horrible realm of Pay to Win, Spark has gone out of their way to avoid being legitimately labeled as such.
To everyone, the following things are free:
Downloading Project Spark
Terrain sculpting tools
Kode used to program your levels in the game
Several sky art designs and world lightings
Customizing the World Settings on levels
Character Studio (customizing characters/props appearences)
Attachments (placing props and/or characters onto one another)
A music editor
Saving assemblies for future use
Uploading your levels for others to play (3 slots for simultaneous upload, can replace levels within the slots)
A large number of sounds, music tracks props, special effects, and critters
Several characters with several clothing choices
Play any uploaded levels for an unlimited amount of time
Access to Crossroads play mode
Using the Kinect to record custom animations/voicework
And likely much more that I am forgetting as I write this
If you wish, you can purchase themed content packs with either in game currency (Credits, silver coins icon) which are earned by using Project Spark (completing in game Challenges, or having other users download and/or upvote your shared levels) or by purchasing Tokens (gold bar icons in game) with real money. These content packs contain additional content which contain varying amounts of the following:
Character model skins/equipment
Sky art/world lighting
As you can see, these are essentially superficial skins, which are not required to make games, but may make them look nicer. Each content pack will range between 10,000 and 20,000 Credits, or $5 to $10 apiece. Just from Daily Challenges, users can earn ~1k Credits per day, and that is not including the Credits from Milestones, Goals or Leveling. You can find the list of currently released content packs and their... contents here http://projectspark.wikia.com/wiki/DLC_Packs
Users can choose to purchase "Spark Premium" in order to double the rate at which they gain Credits, as well as XP. XP essentially is a leveling system within Spark, and after each level, bonus Credits are awarded. So users with Spark Premium will earn Credits from leveling twice as fast, and twice as much per level, essentially being a 4x multiplier for that aspect. Longer duration Spark Premium also includes bonus upload slots. Additional upload slots may become available through other means in the future.
Just for the sake of reference, I own all of the presently released content packs, and I still have 115,213 Credits saved up. I have been playing since the start of closed beta, around 7 months ago. I have spent around $50 for content packs when I wanted to buy content packs upon their release and not having the Credits saved up at the time, but I could have easily saved for a week or so to have purchased them.
What Platforms is it on/Why isn't it on Win7?
Project Spark is currently in open beta for Win8.1 and Xbox One, upon release this fall, it will also be on Xbox 360. It is not on Win7 because Project Spark has its foundation on being cross platform between it's supported platforms. Win8, X1 and 360 have software which facilitated this, while Win7 lacks this software. Project Spark is created by Team Dakota, which by industry standards is a small team, and would have to redirect time/resources to building the Win7 cross platform support.
Windows 7 users who do not wish to switch to Win8.1 have several options to still gain access to Spark. The simplest option would be to purchase an X1, which recently released an option without the kinect for $400, or the model with the Kinect and some game for $500. Perspective users could also wait until Project Spark releases this fall and use thier Xbox 360's, which can be obtained for ~$100 if they do not already own one. Alternatively, Win7 users could install Win8 onto a second hard drive, and swap to the Win8.1 drive when they wish to use Spark- or set up a dual boot if they are technically inclined to do so.
Windows 9 has already been announced, and I strongly suspect that Spark will also be supported on that platform, so users who do not wish to use any of the above workarounds can stick to the 'every other Windows OS' rule of thumb and upgrade to Win9.
When does it come out? Does it have multiplayer games? Can you make games with other users? Can you link levels together? Can you make games that are sci fi and not just fantasy?
They announced at E3 that it would be released in Fall of 2014. By the time it releases, it will include multiplayer support for both playing and creating for 4 players online through Xbox Live (no Gold required), and levels will be able to be linked to one another. People have already made sci-fi themed games, and they will be releasing a new sci-fi theme called "Galaxies" before or upon release. As mentioned above, Project Spark is already available in open beta for Win8.1 and Xbox One, so you will not need to wait until release to use it.
Where can I get the Game? I cannot log in and/or am experiencing technical difficulties!
Project Spark can be downloaded via the Windows store on the PC, or on Xbox Live, just search for Project Spark.
I, Paradoxmoose, am a mostly harmless life long gaming enthusiast, raised on console, PC and tapletop gaming, having spent years playing Final Fantasies, Warhammer, Everquest, Diablos, Heroes of Might and Magics, Metroids, Mario Karts, Castlevanias, WoW, and Ogre Battles, as well as designing cards for the online card game elementsthegame.com .