LittleBigPlanet 2 has been a pretty amazing experience. I’ve designed, built, and published three levels so far. Between them, they’ve collected maybe twenty plays. Still…that’s pretty awesome. My work has given a few random people a minute or two of entertainment.
The first level I made was for Valentine’s Day, called Valentine’s Day Skeet Shoot. You jump in a turret and shoot down pictures of myself and my wife – it’s all very lovely. I think this level is a great example of how it can sometimes take constraints and restrictions to get you to finally pull the trigger and do something good. I had a very strict time limit for this one: my wife was out of the house for about five hours, and I couldn’t put it off, because I wanted to get it done for Valentine’s Day. So with that deadline looming over me (and a friend’s help placing decorations) I figured out the logic, built the level, and published it.
It was a few moments later, when a pin popped up stating “5 plays!” That it really hit me – people were playing my level! And most of them were liking it!
A week or two later, I sat down and built Cat Tank versus Space Wolves. I just wanted to try out some stuff with LBP2, but I approached it with a very different philosophy than usual. Instead of saying “I’m going to mess around with some stuff, then delete it all and forget about it,” I decided “I’m going to mess around with some stuff, then work out the bugs, make it a playable level, and publish it.”
It’s not a good level by any sense of the word, but it’s playable, and it’s out there in the wild now!
The last level I made is the one that I’m proudest of: The Monty Hall Problem. It’s a full implementation of the classic Monty Hall probability puzzle in LittleBigPlanet 2, with an explanation of the problem, buttons that allow the player to move through the game one step at a time, and counters to keep track of the player’s wins and losses based on their strategy. It’s complete, (hopefully) bug-free, and hopefully it’ll teach someone on the internet a little bit about probability. I wish there were a better way to type out a lot of information in LBP2. You can do a few sentences at a time, but not enough to fully explain a complicated logic problem. Maybe someone will make a comment on the level, telling me that I’m crazy and the probability is 1/2 – that’s always a great conversation-starter.
So now I’m looking around to see what I want to do next. Conway’s Game of Life? (Been done, but maybe I can do it better.) Or some other probability puzzle? One way or another, it’s pretty exciting to be playing, creating, and sharing, even if it is limited to one game on the PS3.
Recently, I’ve been working on getting all the unlockable items from LittleBigPlanet 1 & 2 for Create mode, so I’ve had a good chance to compare the two games. Perhaps the most striking difference is an overall shift in metaphor.
LittleBigPlanet is all about the idea that the world is handmade. Objects are very big, thick, and blocky. NPCs are obviously made of bolted-together objects, with their interactive parts pasted on. When LBP came out, there was no option to change the visibility of your connectors, so everything is exposed in story mode. If an object wobbles, you can see the wobble bolt. If something reacts to you, you can see the proximity microchip light up. There’s a heavy emphasis on presenting the idea that you could make this yourself.
LittleBigPlanet 2 is more about presenting a finished world. The seams are hidden more. NPCs act like characters, following you around, and reacting (in a limited fashion) to your actions. There’s still a blocky, handmade look, but the connections and game logic are hidden. It’s more of a traditional game story: rather than being a puppet moving through a diorama, you’re a character in a world.
Other than that, they just did an impressive number of tweaks without changing the underlying game mechanics. Characters seem to move better, objects look better, and fire looks like fire instead of a wispy sheet of flames. It must have been an interesting development experience – needing to tighten the gameplay and improve the graphics without invalidating any levels created in LittleBigPlanet 1.
It’s the classic question of a sequel: how much can you change without fundamentally changing anything at all? In LBP’s case, the answer is “quite a bit!”