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!”
I’ve been wanting to update, but haven’t had anything significant to say about the games I’m playing. They’re all good, though. Let me run down those.
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit
As far as arcade racers go, this one is great. Magnificent sense of speed and power. I’m feeling a little limited, though – a lot of the game is based around its “Autolog” social system, but none of my friends have purchased it. As a single-player game, it’s somewhat bland – you have to do the races the game has available, and there are way too few of the awesome, combat-heavy Hot Pursuit and Interceptor missions, and way too many Preview and Time Trial events. Those events are just basic “Get to the finish line in X amount of time” races, and they’re definitely the weakest part of the career mode. Right now I’m just grinding to unlock new cars, and grinding is never how you want people to describe your gameplay.
It’s tremendous what they’ve done with LBP2. Sometimes I have difficulty getting into it – knowing how it works can remove some of the magic. It’s one thing to fight a giant mech in a game, and figure out that it shoots three times, charges its laser, then exposes its weak point. Somehow it’s different in LBP, when I know that the enemy isn’t really an enemy, but a collection of parts following simple instructions, and it’s just doing that attack pattern with no intelligence. It’s the same gameplay, though, so I’m trying to focus on that. The story mode is really good, and it actually makes sense and has a story (although I’m still not sure why we needed Huge Spaceship, it seems to exist only to blow up).
Now I just need to figure out what I’m going to do for my first level. The blank canvas is intimidating!
EA Sports Active 2
I just started a workout with this, but I’m hoping it will stick with me.
Wii Fit was way too slow, too balance-oriented, too childish. The individual activities were interesting, but I didn’t feel like I could get a workout that way, especially when it takes almost as long as the exercise itself to get started, get your score, listen to your trainer, etc. When I’m working out, I want to just get hit by one thing after another, no time to rest.
I got that with My Fitness Coach, and worked out with that for a while. I fell out of practice, though…and I think it’s because of the lack of progression. My Fitness Coach didn’t feel like it was keeping track of me, or working me toward a goal, or anything. I would fire it up, do a workout, turn it off, and not feel like I was really accomplishing anything. It didn’t help that the game literally wasn’t tracking me at all; I could start a workout and leave, and it wouldn’t know the difference.
EA Sports Active 2 seems like a good mix, with the clean interface and 1:1 tracking of Wii Fit, combined with the intense workouts of My Fitness Coach, and then adding some training programs and online functionality on top of that. I’m just starting a 9-week course…let’s see how it goes!