Jason England ponders user-generated content and whether LBP2 will entice more gamers to create, and not just play.
In the world of user development tools built into games, there’s always a significant difference between the levels offered by gamers and the developers. Raw coding and fully malleable environments are at the dispense of developers, whereas we’re offered an extremely limited toolset in the face of the blockbuster-esque sequences that we’re dying to pay homage to.
For a developer to build the user tools first, and then construct an entire game using them must take either a giant set of cojones, or sheer insanity. But somehow, Media Molecule managed to make it work with their ground breaking PS3 debut, LittleBigPlanet. With the emphatically tranquil voice of Stephen Fry comforting you through the (at times) awkward process of level creation, it’s a beautifully defined middle ground between sheer customisation and a friendly user interface.
The other hidden elegance to this would be the relaxed nature untoward imitating/paying homage to other video games. This has meant Sackboy has walked through some rather inventively created imitations of the most memorable scenes of the likes of Halo, Resident Evil, Super Mario, etc. Full imitation is not possible due to the fact that you’re limited to a mere 2.5D platform format, but this has meant content creators have had to get smart about it.
And a word to those who read Resident Evil and let their imaginations get ahead of them: a teddy bear character and the ‘cute’ aesthetic built for the game will not induce something which creates a haunting atmosphere.
You could tell through the first game, Media Molecule had mastered the platforming game. They’d done their reading… well, played more than read, and figured out what tools are useful to really make level design inviting to the player. It wasn’t necessarily a runaway success – a small, comparing to other modding communities, society of dedicated users have grasped the fundamentals of level design and they’re creating some absolute corkers.
Looking ahead, there may be a torpedo in the water. And the problem is expansion.
LittleBigPlanet 2 is being promoted as an opportunity to create any level of any genre, enabling more open prospects. However, the a possible situation is that the creation engine will become a jack of all trades, but a master of none.
Don’t get me wrong, from what has been seen, it sure looks like the land of creation has been vastly expanded. However, to the user, there’s got to be a cut off point? The intersection between a development atmosphere and a gamer’s interaction. Like any speculative game idea, the chance of it working is very much 50/50. But a word to the wise: you learn in many aspects of life. That maybe the motto for Media Molecule coming out of this.
Keep it simple, keep it stupid. I hope my doubts are proven wrong.