Despite low concurrent user numbers, CCP’s ongoing support for its VR sports game Sparc (2017) has been mostly smooth sailing in the years following the studio’s 2017 decision to shelve VR. However after both its North American and European servers went dark late last month, Sparc’s future wasn’t exactly certain. Now, CCP has announced they’ve fixed the issue, and have finally revived servers after the game’s extended, unplanned downtime.
Update (November 10th, 2020): CCP announced that Sparc is back in business starting today. The team managing the game further confirmed this with players on the game’s Discord.
“Wow its been so long its crazy, super happy though to finally tell you guys that both EU and US servers are online and accepting connections,” the studio’s marketing specialist ‘CCP Alpha’.
The article detailing the game’s extended downtime follows below:
Original Article (November 5th, 2020): Sparc is like a sci-fi version of racquetball-meets-fencing, offering fast-paced 1v1 matches in a futuristic court. Created by the same studio behind MMORPG EVE: Online, it was well positioned to become an early VR esports success, but faltered due to low concurrent player numbers—a problem that still plagues more recent multiplayer VR games.
Despite stepping away from VR, Sparc wasn’t completely forsaken by CCP though; its only substantive update, arriving in mid-2019, brought in a few long-time user requests, including quick play and both custom and ranked matches. The game has also benefitted from free weekends on Steam in effort to usher in new players. Still, it clearly didn’t do enough to keep large numbers of players coming back for more.
The question arises why CCP hasn’t simply pulled the plug on the ailing multiplayer, especially since its servers have been shut off multiple times last month, with the most recent extended shutdown happening on the NA servers starting on October 24th. Four days later, the EU servers went dark, indefinitely putting a complete halt to the game’s main draw.
And while there’s still no clear answer why Sparc hasn’t given in to ‘the long sleep’ like PSVR exclusives RIGS or Starblood Arena, it has managed to attract a dedicated group of hardcore players who are still fighting for the game—something that’s taken on more importance as a social outlet during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of those hardcore players, who goes by the Twitter handle ‘Dr. Oolong’, sums up the community’s feelings about sporadically losing access to the game. We’ve strung a few tweets together and edited for continuity. You can catch the full Twitter thread here.
For a game that has no built in friend system, and has cross play between PSVR, Oculus, and Steam, the fact that you can log on and recognize players (and have them recognize you) speaks volumes about the game’s community, especially during COVID.
So, when the servers unexpectedly went down around the 5th of October, people flocked to the official discord and unofficial Facebook pages to figure out what was up. For many of those people, they feared losing a social outlet as well as the game.
I started playing the game almost a year ago. In the past year, the community has become really interconnected. Players develop reputations. You recognize people, you keep up with them. You get to know a tiny bit about their life outside the game. If the game dies, that dies too.
The team maintaining Sparc says they’re currently working on a fix, with the first acknowledgement going out October 28th when the EU servers went down. A second acknowledgement was sent out yesterday:
Sorry for the wait, we are still working on getting #SparcVR’s service up and running again. We'll let you know once we have an update to share.
— Sparc (@PlaySparc) November 4, 2020
On the game’s Discord server (invite link), the team reports that servers are running fine, however they are somehow incapable of “communicating with the outside world.”
And yet, Sparc is still actively on sale across Steam, the Oculus Store for Rift, and the PlayStation Store for PSVR. It’s also currently being featured in a PlayStation Store sale going through the 21st of November, which puts the game to only $10—an alluring price for a game that promises cross-platform multiplayer.
We’ve contacted the Sparc team for an update on its server fix, and will report back when/if we have confirmation. In the meantime, we’d suggest holding off on buying Sparc, because let’s face it: an online game without servers is like owning a Quest 2 without a Facebook account. Pretty much useless.