The LittleBigPlanet breakdown session was a little different than most. We've been seeing the game at every trade show since it was revealed at GDC 2007. As a result, the session took a more informal Q&A approach, rather than a showcase for the game's features.
Those present – producer Pete Smith and interface designer Jim Unwin – did start off by volunteering some information: Firstly, the game is finished and pretty much ready to go. The European release date has been finalized as October 29th, with other regions to be confirmed later. Barring unforeseen circumstances there's no reason at all why this game shouldn't ship in time.
We were also told that when LittleBigPlanet was first shown at GDC, Media Molecule had only about five members. As much as the presentation at GDC was a glimpse into the PS3's future, it was also a hiring pitch. Media Molecule was looking for new members in order to work on this incredibly ambitious project. The level shown at GDC was the entirety of LittleBigPlanet up until that point. In fact, they hadn't even finalized the name until a few days before.
As a result of this, the game has been developed in the public eye, which is why it feels like it's taken so long to release. Normally, you won't see a game revealed until much later in the production process. Smith confirmed that there are plans for paid-for and free downloadable content, but bemoaned the rumors and speculation flying around about things like allowing people to charge for their levels. "We don't know that stuff ourselves, yet. We're going to be listening to the community once the game comes out, to see what you want."
The game has a global server, allowing you to share your level creations with people anywhere in the world, and you'll play co-operatively in the same way. 50 trophies are included with LittleBigPlanet and, as if to tease us further, Unwin scrolled through them, just to make sure we got the picture.
Could you clarify for us whether image importing into LittleBigPlanet is only via the PlayStation Eye? Or are there other methods?
At the moment it's only possible with the PlayStation Eye, but other methods could be patched in later. There's so much stuff we want to put in this game, but if we add all of it before launch, it's never going to come out. So there's a lot of stuff that we've had to delay. We say delay, and not cut, because that's exactly what we mean. This game was made to have content patched in later.
Of course, if you take a look at the list of stickers and other content available in the Create mode -- [at this point Unwin scrolls through the scarily long list] -- you'll see that there's plenty of stuff to keep your creative side happy for now. Obviously this won't all be available at the start of the game, that would be overwhelming. You'll earn this stuff as you play through.
Are there limits to how much you can put in a level?
There's a thermometer in the Create mode which shows how complex your level is. This is just a rough estimation and we've only ever seen it maxed out once and that was here, at Leipzig. One guy kept a level open for an entire day while groups of German press rotated in and more content was added. By the end of the day it was maxed out, but none of our levels, the ones on the game disc, even come close.
Are you going to be moderating the content of levels? This is quite likely to happen, especially when you allow use of the PlayStation Eye to take pictures.
We'll be using a similar model to SingStar. There'll be user moderation, so people can flag different levels if they find content abusive. The thing about the PlayStation Network, as opposed to the internet in general, is that you're never truly anonymous. You've signed up to the service and have to log in to post levels, so we've got information on you.
We could brick someone's PS3. I mean, that's an extreme example, but we have the ability to do that. Mostly, though, your level will be removed and, if you repeatedly offend, you could get banned from the service.
How many levels will be on the disc?
Around 50-ish. There'll be an interlinking story, too, so it's not just a random selection of levels. About the first half of the game is one long tutorial, introducing you to all the gameplay mechanics in the game.
Will there be any levels that require the Create mode to get to the end?
No, not to beat the level. Though there are levels where using the create mode will allow you to access hidden areas. The Create mode will have its own set of tutorials to get you used to it.
How long does the game take to complete, if you just focus on completing the developer-made levels?
It takes me [Jim Unwin, interface designer] about 12 hours to complete all the levels, and I've been developing the game for the past however-many months. So expect it to take a bit longer than that.