LittleBigPlanet 2 level designing workshops were held last weekend with the developers of the game, which saw two gamers winning a challenge to create an Irish-themed level.
The original puzzle platforming game allowed players to design their own stages and share them across the PlayStation Network to the LittleBigPlanet community. The game was critically acclaimed and has developed a strong following.
In the sequel, this feature has been improved, as it not only lets gamers customise levels, but it allows them to create entire games of various genres
Media Molecule developers flew over last weekend to help selected LittleBigPlanet fans get started in developing brand new levels for the sequel.
The tools implemented in the new game have proven to be quite powerful with Media Molecule themselves used them to create levels for the Play mode of the game.
“Mark (Stephenson, level designer), would be sitting there with a Dualshock controller in his hand building stuff,” said James Spafford of Media Molecule, recalling the development of the game.
“That way, whenever they came across a problem and needed a tool for it, it would be made and then they’d say ‘this is too difficult’ and then someone would make easier.
“If we had made the game with a different tool, it just wouldn’t have been the same. It wouldn’t have that same power behind it,” he said.
User generated content
Many of the levels created by players of the last game and during the beta stages of the sequel have impressed Media Molecule. They found that the longer the game was out, the more capable gamers became at designing levels, meaning more impressive user generated content.
“It’s great coming in in the morning when you hear someone say ‘you see this guy, he’s done this’ and everyone crowds around a computer. We’d have about 40 people in the office crowded around one computer,” said Mark Stephenson.
“And then everyone starts asking ‘how the hell did they do that,’” added Tom Kiss of Media Molecule.
Two gamers who impressed the team this weekend were Craig Johnston and Conor Soltan. Both won a challenge to create an Irish-themed LittleBigPlanet level, with Johnston winning the over 18s category and Soltan winning the under 18s.
21-year-old Johnston’s level, called Hynopig, featured Taoiseach Brian Cowen attempting to brainwash Sackboy with deadly consequences.
15-year-old Soltan’s level was based on a stereotypical Irish scene, featuring Fergal the leprechaun. The player arrives in Ireland and departs the Rainbow Station on the Rainbow train. However, they discover that “The Field” is raining explosive fireballs. Sackboy must activate a fireball shield to save it. As thanks Fergal grants a wish – for Brian Cowen and other politicians in the Dáil to be thrown out and for Media Molecule to take over the government in Ireland.
Aspiring level designers
Looking at the two levels, one thing is clear. Well, apart from a general dislike for Brian Cowen. The ability to design levels and games as the player sees fit is quite a feat. Media Molecule even saw LittleBigPlanet level creators find jobs in the gaming industry thanks to this level of imagination.
“A few of the famous creators I know email me asking me for advice, as they had three companies asking them to work with them,” said Stephenson.
Spafford notes that the game could open up a new future for those who have never had access to game designing tools before.
"It’s a springboard for people changing their career paths, people realising that they have a knack for something they didn’t have access to before, they found a taste for it through the game,” said Spafford.
And with the fact that levels can be shared across the PlayStation Network, players can get their level designs to a wider audience. To Media Molecule, the community-based nature of the game is the most important aspect of the title.
“We love the collaborative nature of the game, if someone’s good at art and someone’s good at logic, they’d come together and make something amazing,” said Spafford.
“It’s really exciting to work on a game that’s had such massive support from its players,” added Kiss.