Don't be surprised to see LittleBigPlanet score big time when we make our "Game of the Show" awards later this week. Best described as a social game creation experience, LittleBigPlanet left us pleasantly surprised with its charming personality and incredibly intuitive design mechanics.
At GDC, the team at Media Molecule wanted to showcase the "play" element of the game. The cooperative physics-based platforming had everyone talking at the show. For E3, the team has prepared a "creation" demo for us to partake in.
Up to four players (either online or off) can join in on a creation session. Making a level and its elements happens within the game's regular environment, allowing all participants to play whilst designing the level. For example, while one developer was creating a staircase, I decided to drag Chris Grant's stunned avatar, as it flailed around helplessly. Adorable? Yes. Afterwards, we saw a few blocks being created, and we were able to play with them from the moment they appeared in the game world. The instant gratification, we're reminded, allows level designers to fully understand what works and what doesn't from the moment it's made.
The interface used for creating and editing elements is surprisingly simple. By pressing Square, a pop-up menu appears that allows players to add stickers, add pre-made elements, add mechanics, and more. Within a few button clicks, a wooden box can be created. The analog sticks are used to rotate the box, and make it as large or as small as the designer wants. Within seconds, the box can be created and placed within the world. From that moment onwards, other players are free to add their own stickers, textures that add personality to the in-game materials. Placing stickers and other objects is equally as intuitive, with the analog sticks used to resize and reposition each element. For an added touch of personalization, we've been told that players can also add their own photos to the game's textures list.
More complicated objects can be made by simply combining multiple objects. Truly abstract shapes can be created through the combination of objects that are created by a variety of materials. For the ambitious, pegs, bolts, wheels, and gears, can call be added to objects, allowing players to create mechanized objects. We saw a makeshift dinosaur created in less than a minute. Wow.
Already, the designers at Media Molecule have come up with some mind-blowing creations with the same in-game tools that we'll be using at the game's release. One level they designed had players grabbing onto a series of vertical swings to climb a mountain. The momentum from each swing launched players up into the sky, where they must catch another swing, on a perpetual journey to the top.
There's too much to love about LittleBigPlanet, and we're willing to bet that casual players will love playing LittleBigPlanet when it comes out later this year. Media Molecule promised that a public beta will grant players an early taste of the game, giving them a chance to not only play the game, but create their own content for the game as well. They've hinted at some exciting partnerships with other Sony first-partner developers, all of which seem keen on creating their own LittleBigPlanet modifications. We wouldn't be surprised to see items, themes and levels based on Ratchet & Clank, or Heavenly Sword appear in the game.
Although we've been praising the game for the past few paragraphs, it's difficult to truly convey how fun the game really is. No video demonstration, nor write-up can effectively portray the creative potential that's hidden away in LittleBigPlanet. Hopefully, it won't be too long before a public beta begins: we'd love to see what the Joystiq community can create.