What’s new with Spark?

22 comments

Sadly, not much. As of this month, Spark is officially on hiatus. I can’t tell you what the future holds for Spark, because we don’t know ourselves. All I can tell you is the story that lead us here.

Spark was a very ambitious project for our small team. Our website describes a 2d/3d multiplayer native cross-platform non-programmer/programmer game engine with cloud capabilities that runs either as an application or on the browser. Add to that our AI, live collaboration features, a healthy asset store from launch-time, a project management system complete with Git and Slack integrations, and you’ll start seeing why Spark hasn’t been released yet, with just 1 programmer (me) on the team.

There were definitely some good and some bad turns we made during the last few years. For one, I’m very glad we didn’t crowdfund, because we’re stressed out as it is.  We wouldn’t need the burden of having taken your money to be adding to that. Also, I’m happy we communicated our vision to you guys, and you guys got it and kept on supporting us. We’ve stopped marketing Spark a long time ago, but somehow there’s still 10-20 new subscribers every single day, resonating with this idea of a non-programming engine that allows for so much flexibility. I’m not big on empty words, such as ‘we couldn’t have done this without you’, but it’s true that at the end it was you believing in it so strongly that has kept us going, kept us pushing forward for just one more day..

So, what went wrong.

Why would we plan out a project that we never had the resources to actually finish? I think, at some point, we thought our team would expand, we’d get two, three, even four more programmers on this. This never happened. Lots of time was wasted looking for accelerators, trying to raise funding, or self-sustain Spark ourselves. I’d say more than half of the development time for Spark was instead spent on either making presentations, creating tech demos or working on side-projects that somehow also involved Spark. But hiring someone full time in Greece is expensive and complicated, and having people to work remotely for short 2-3 months periods was out of the question. So we kept going like this, meanwhile trying to release an alpha, as tiny as possible, that would make even the simplest game.

But that’s easier said than done.

Game engines are complicated. A side-scroller platformer is VASTLY different than a top down shooter. Even the platformer genre has myriads of possibilities. Mario is a platformer, but so is Contra, and so is Braid and Limbo, each with hugely different mechanics. Do we limit you, making Spark a glorified level editor? Or do we give you choice, adding complexity to the project? And then there’s the matter of UX. Turns out, the easier a tool is to learn, the harder it is to make it. Every single button required enormous thought behind it. We liked the direction Spark has taken but it made an already ambitious project, even harder to make.

Tech-wise, there are currently some big problems that keep us from releasing whatever we already have for you to see. There’s some crashes here and there on the level editor. Spark currently only works on Chrome, and it’s still unoptimised and laggy. You could create a level, drag a character and add some behaviors, but that’s about it. UI for your game isn’t there. Sound/Music isn’t there. Main Screen, Win Screen, Level navigation aren’t there. The behaviors are still very limited to a Mario-like level, only with no brick breaking, no power-ups and very simple enemy movements. Meanwhile, the 2d rendering library that we used for Spark was a third party open source one that through the development of Spark had died out and hasn’t been maintained for 2 years. We had to switch to a different one, before adding new features to Spark.

Burn out and some advice

Somewhere in the middle of all this, the whole team burned out. Long hours, no money, and no finish line in sight will do that to you. So we had a meeting and decided it was time to take a break. Look after our lives a little bit, maybe get a job for a while, or just work on something else. It’s not a great feeling. Whatever engine you plan to work on for your next game, be mindful that no one is immune to failing. So take a step or two to protect yourself from being in this situation. Cut down your plans a bit, don’t go too crazy with your ideas and always try to have fun first. In the end, only if you have fun while doing what you love, can you say that the journey alone was worth it. And in our case, the journey was invaluable and so much fun. The bitterness is still there, but no one can deny how much we’ve learned from it and the good times of working on Spark.

I said in the beginning that we took some good turns and some bad turns. One of those bad turns was losing touch with our community. And I take full responsibility for that. I’m not exactly sure why that kept happening. It could be in part that I had nothing much to show/update you on, and in part that I dreaded those awful “when is it going to be out/where is my key/y no spark yet” questions. To be fair, the question itself is harmless. It’s the coming up with an answer that is stressful, especially when you have missed a couple of deadlines already. No one likes to break promises. Not even devs…

So, what happens now?

We’ll keep the Skype group alive for a while. Chat and answer questions. We did honestly want to help game devs because we know it’s hard, but we love making games so very much. So, even though we might not be able to help you with a game engine just yet, maybe we can give you a piece of advice or two. Tech, marketing, UX, we know stuff and we’ll be happy to help. However, we’ll be closing the website soon. We don’t want to give new people the false hope that Spark is actively being developed. Now, if we’ll ever open it up again, only time will tell. But for now, we have to say goodbye.

Sincerely,
Aris, Athina, Theodora

Aris KostakosWhat’s new with Spark?

22 comments

Join the conversation
  • David Klinc - May 21, 2017 reply

    make it opensource! we waited for 3 years now!

  • Thomas Dover - May 11, 2017 reply

    I was really happy that such an awesome game engine was going to be made. It really is a shame that the development has stopped. I know you guys tried your hardest, and that is why I saw a bright future in Spark Inspirations.
    As many other people have said, try and make Spark open source: we can assure you that we will make Spark something you can be proud of!

    Babbel Gaming - May 12, 2017 reply

    yeah, that’s my opinion

  • Raed - April 20, 2017 reply

    I believe that you made a huge effort, but you failed in giving a product. So here is my advise. Please consider it and read it very carefully. I will put it in points :
    1- Failure is one of the mile stones for success. Please check all success stories for Pinterest, Instagram founders and many others. Plus, the more success you are, the worst your criticism you get. You will be criticized anyway.
    2- All followers want to see something. Meaning to publish NOW your crashing product as Alpha or Beta. Do not be shy, all monster software firms has crashing apps or OSs. Windows for example has a history for 30 years of crashing and still in the success curve, even with huge competition of free OSs now, because customers depend on Windows and do not care about crashing.
    3- Money. Yes, the ugly word. We are in the era on crowd funding. Please use it NOW not tomorrow. Please check Simons Cat startup with funding, impressing.
    4- Marketeer, you need a marketeer to focus on tasks below ( in order):
    – Scheduling features and versions launching dates.
    – Creating and publishing marketing materials; videos, manuals, shows, gifts and press releases.
    – Collecting funds using almost all fund raising channels.

    That is enough for now. Stick to your dream.
    You may find similar products coming soon in the market that will follow you ideas and gain success. Once happened, you will ask your self “This success should have been mine”, but too late.
    Go act now please!

    CSF - April 27, 2017 reply

    Good advice. They should really do that

    Babbel Gaming - May 12, 2017 reply

    that’s a really good comment

  • Blackphantomscar - April 18, 2017 reply

    You did good guys, we’ll miss you!

  • pagie_ - April 18, 2017 reply

    Make it open source! It can become a community-made engine! The basis is there!

  • zipper9998 - April 16, 2017 reply

    MAKE IT OPEN SOURCE!!! at least then the project will not go to waste, spark could be a community developed engine!

  • mUSCLES - April 14, 2017 reply

    Sad to see you go.

    I propose you try making it an open source. The community loves spark and I am sure some developers would love to pick it up.

    We are happy you started this project.

  • Fernanda - April 12, 2017 reply

    The best part of Spark to me is that I got to know you guys, I learnt a lot about you. I wish you te best and thank you for everything. I think this was a hard decision to make but it’s the best.
    I hope you guys are good! and please let us know what you will do in the future 😀

    Cheers and hugs!
    Fer

  • Pavlos Kapsalis - April 12, 2017 reply

    It is always a sad day when you realize the dream you have has turned into a nightmare. But there are some good things that have come from the experience. You did it your way, you used as many resources as you could find to succeed and probably the most important you took a chance. I Hope the Spark dream remains a small flame and maybe one day it can return stronger than before.

    Ethan Gagni - April 16, 2017 reply

    Oh my fucking god, what the fuck are you doing? What is the essence of you making all the hype for this fucking project!

    Money is not a problem if you planned ahead before making this fucking project

    Unity is WAY BETTER,
    Game Maker is also WAY BETTER

    Both those are way better than your shit! Even Stencyl or Game Salad or Construct 2 is better than your garbage

    Waste of time

    Just stop developing!

    truth guy - April 17, 2017 reply

    Unity is broken and needs actual knowledge of coding
    GM is a fake game engine and its advertising in such a horrific way. Plus too expensive compared to every other engine including rpg maker.
    Stencyl is fake coding, game salad is on Mac, Construct wants money, and you are not a game developer.

  • George Karafotias - April 12, 2017 reply

    There is a good side: that you all have learnt many things about development, management, etc.
    So this experience would now make you a very valuable member in any existing team working in similar projects (probably not in Greece). And joining another team would be refreshing for you since you guys sound burnt-out, especially Aris who didn’t have any help in developing.
    Sincerely, hope all the best.

  • will - April 12, 2017 reply

    inspiration is an interesting thing, quilters get it, comedians get it, painters… people, heck dogs probably get it too. what I’m saying is through reading this update, you have inspired me to care and give a s**t about what I say I’m going to do in my life. when I hear a company with big aspirations is running out of business. I’s sad, but sometimes the things the workers write is truly inspiring, It isn’t just some poster that says believe, no, it has the hidden meaning and says so much more, all that is left I will say is thank you.

  • Tayty - April 11, 2017 reply

    Everything I’ve seen so far was very promising. You did an excellent job and it just looks amazing, so simple and powerful and you can be proud of yourselves. I’d definitely pay for it, if I’d even get “only” a beta. So maybe you might consider it? 🙂

  • G - April 11, 2017 reply

    As you know I work in an accelerator who is also a company builder / incubator and I’ve seen how fast you need to scale and how ruthlessly you need to do so in order to get just a basic mvp for an e commerce website. In your case you were building something vastly more complex and the problem there is finding not only simply web developers, but very good web developers. Finding them in Greece is the first challenge, paying them is the second. I’d say chances are close to zero; imagine startups with substantial funding (million) struggle to hire even junior web devs here in Berlin..
    There’s gonna be something else for sure!

  • WasifUltraGamer - April 11, 2017 reply

    That’s sad but can’t you release Spark as it is? I even made a forum post about it. Please reply!

    WasifUltraGamer - April 11, 2017 reply

    Ahem A.K.A. Boomz

  • nick - April 11, 2017 reply

    why you dont try crowdfunding? i believe there will be many people who wil be helped by spark

  • Fotis Balas - April 11, 2017 reply

    That’s sad. Spark came first in pcsteps.gr poll on which game engine you wish to read a full review (https://www.pcsteps.gr/116433-δημιουργία-παιχνιδιών-δωρεάν/#i-2). I wish your team every success in the future.

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