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The Art of LittleBIGPlanet

By Mark and Kareen.

Interesting talk – user generated content, and other things. I’m not an artist, but I am impressed by the game, even though I suck at platformers :)

Content

Introduction by Steve Jackson!

Game. Game is an interesting term. Starting out Little Big Planet – the elevator pitch for it can’t be done even now, although a key phrase is impart – imparts people to make things with.

When starting on the visual style, looked at the hand made stuff, little kids and what they make, memories of blue peter and castles out of toilet rolls. The DIY art, using whatever you have to make something. Handmade things. Researching that area, investigating what you will get if you make a digital version of it.

It makes it familiar when you have the handmade relation. Unintimidating is the word that sums it up the most. Putting in random philosophical things it can be a bit scary, but something made out of toilet tubes is very safe.

It is instantly understandable having craft materials like wood and stickers and cardboard. Not just the visual style but it carried through to the whole game design really. Didn’t have a game design document at the start, but did have a process that was written down and turned into one 3/4th of the way through the project. Unless you’re doing a tried and tested model you can’t do the design document. If you explore new realms you have both a certain date to release and R&D to do. A big part of the design was collating the ideas from the entire team and cutting the ones that don’t work.

Didn’t have scripts – no scripting language, but there was sequenced events so there can be races and so forth.

There is a large amount of visual diversity. A lot of games previously were claustrophobic, wanted LBP to be expansive. Wanted to include everything, especially influenced by pop culture. A lot of worldwide art was added to the game as well. Starting with the concept art there was the need to see that people could put their own touch on it. Some early arguments over the concept art since usually you start with a text description, saying “What on earth is that?” – learnt the lesson now to listen to the artists now. It tested friendships a lot – but came up with a process to come through the disagreements.

In the end arguments came out into the videos that were created early on (yellow video) – took a day and a half to make but solved a lot of arguments. Everyone had something to look at and focus on.

Where do you setup a hand made world? You quickly got to the stage of ramps and objects. Where is it meant to be set? A studio or something? No, put it in these real world environments – like gardens. Ensuated the scale of the craft world.

Lots of made up places, and a really fast way to setup the scene. Handmade miniature world was what it was at that point. Never going to know what to expect until the game came out and could see the user-generated levels. They prove that the versatility works. Pick any one and you know it is Little Big Planet, even with widely different level designs. Even had calculators made in the game – extremely humbled by the levels, over a million published now.

There additionally was post support bug fixes. Lots of hectic changes and feedback and lots of levels which were very specific. Additionally there was moderation – common question is “how do you prevent people from exploiting” – open to self-expression but through art, science and design (joke about some other film copying something else which wasn’t considered IP infringement).

Added some things to the visual tec – texture layering, Depth of Field, Motion Blur as if from a handheld camera. Helps making it look even more miniature. Very high quality textures – made as 3d models, converted into a texture. Was really concious of the fact something needed to look it was made out of that material – digital imperfections – a paper mache tree for instance.

Animations also aimed at personality (didn’t note down anything much more here).

Had striking shapes chosen for the game. Did the examples before the tool – started together, feedback goes back then. The character too needed customisation on a blank canvas character (video of lots of characters), got to Sackboy. Needed to emote like an MSN character with emotions, and grab, jump and move too. Lots of customisation allowed.

(Skipped over the user interface being hand drawn too).

It is more jamming in a band rather then being a conductor – all the users contributing to the experience so it is like having the biggest development team. Have even hired 2 people from the community to work on the game :)

Questions

Q – What is the cost of servers? What about the percentage sales from the game and from addons?

It costs a lot to support the servers even if they are Sony’s. It is more an experiment of ways to service the community – DLC is one way, another is patches, and empowering the community with tools too. The money made from DLC is not much compared to the sales of the game. It might well be different for other games. Nurturing the community to be happy has an indirect effect – almost a permanent advertisement for the game. There is potential form a business point of view to make a lot of money from DLC.

Q – How do you conceptualise the player?

You have a wide variety – calculator level makers, to website-like levels, to marriage proposal guy, to the normal platforming levels. A wide range of demographics.

Was a aim to please ourselves generally, don’t really see the point in just building something for someone else.

Q – Did you consider the PS3 from the beginning?

Yes, specifically targeted Sony. Wanted a console game. Worked on Ragdoll Kung-Fu before, and hated doing it on the PC – supporting all the different hardware. On the PlayStation everyone has exactly the same experience. It feels less like a technical editor too – sit on your sofa and make games and not have to deal with real people.

Q – Do you get more fun out of making the game, playing the game or playing the things other people have made?

Mark – Pretty equally spread – 33% on all of those

Kareen – Loved making the game, jamming with the team making the game. Having a work ethic that people grow and not be sufficiated by a job description.

Mark – Important when making a game when having an evolving designed document that you’re constantly playing the game, and you’re bored playing yourself you’d have to be very hopeful other people will enjoy it.

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