A captive audience of game creators went totally gaga over LittleBigPlanet at March's Game Developers Conference... but that's not terribly surprising, as it's ostensibly a game about game development. It's certainly a fresh concept: You (and up to three friends) converge online to design and play side-scrolling platformer levels in real time. From its cuddly customizable avatars to its promise of a YouTube-style community, the whole thing feels remarkably original. But will the average gamer be as enamored with this quirky toolkit when Sony drops an interactive demo later this year? We cornered Media Molecule Senior Producer Pete Wilson for the scoop on this wacky new gaming concept...
EGM: Since we aren't all game developers, will you include some type of in-game hint system so our creations don't suck?
Pete Wilson: Actually, you'll be introduced to the creation tools just by playing the premade levels. We call it creativity by stealth -- you won't even notice it but, after playing LBP for a while, you'll probably be pretty good at making stuff. You definitely don't need to be a game developer to make stuff in LBP -- there is no separate editor for example; you just create everything very physically using your character, in-game. And we want to keep the creation systems very simple so that users aren't daunted by the prospect of making a level. Because we know that, although people do like to create stuff, we don't want anything as complex as a Quake level editor.
EGM: That GDC demo stage wasn't terribly long ... how complex can our user-created levels be?
PW: Well, in terms of scope, you're currently only seeing a hint at what's possible. The true scope is, in my opinion, truly mind-blowing. Right now, using only the simple in-game tools, our guys are creating the most fantastic levels. Not just with lots of platforms and tough jumps, but with plenty of weird and wonderful objects combined together, multiple paths, and even multiple exits. It's all about creativity: All you need is something as simple as a pivot joint, a spring, or a piston, and then people can combine objects to create all kinds of new machines that totally alter the flow of the stage. The designers are showing that with a little creativity the opportunities are endless.
EGM: Will there be any limitations placed on what pictures you can import as stickers, or will this become LittlePornPlanet?
PW: This definitely will not become LittlePornPlanet. LBP is all about a community and we have features -- such as peer review and level rating -- that will make all the good stuff "bubble to the top." We also have a number of feedback systems in place -- both to help players filter whilst choosing what to play, as well as for all the usual grief reporting, moderation, and blacklisting.
EGM: What about enemies? Can we put beasties in our levels?
PW: It's funny -- I don't think we've actually mentioned this previously, but yes, we will certainly have enemies in the game; I think that's a fundamental part of good gameplay. They will range from little robots that simply roam from left to right to spectacularly complex beasts that pose quite a challenge. We've recently built this big, huge giant, and, as with other objects in the game, he's composed entirely of materials that you wouldn't expect. He's quite intimidating, and shows the possibility of what the designers can create.
EGM: How will the users' levels be sorted? Can we avoid crappy ones?
PW: We'll be announcing the details later, but we'll support many kinds of search that allow you to "drill down" and find the right levels for you.
EGM: Can you even play singleplayer? And if so will levels change or be limited in some way?
PW: Yes! The single-player experience is great fun. We're building our levels so they can be enjoyed alone or with friends. You're rewarded for playing together, and some side quests will require ninjalike skills to complete without friends. You can play singleplayer through online downloaded user-created levels, too.
EGM: How will LBP take advantage of the Sixaxis controller's motionsensing abilities?
PW: We've got something in there called "acting." You can take direct control of your character's body language -- both arms, facial expressions, and head -- by tilting the Sixaxis. We love how this allows a kind of unique nonverbal communication that really helps when you're playing together.
EGM: How will LBP work with Sony's upcoming Home online community for PS3?
PW: It's still too early for us to comment on that, but ever since we first met the Home team, we've been bouncing some pretty cool ideas around. Because both Home and LBP can evolve over time, I'm sure we'll find lots of ways to work together.