Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Magic of LittleBigPlanet

The PS3 has a couple of upcoming 'killer apps' that will almost certainly make me fold and finally pick one up: If Heavenly Sword or Lair don't do it, Metal Gear Solid 4 almost certainly will. None of them, though, are as 'must have' for me as LittleBigPlanet which has been at the top of my watch list since it was announced at this year's GDC.

If you're not yet familiar with LittleBigPlanet and its online-multiplayer-collaborative-level design process, take a look at the embedded video below.

Update: I Hate embedded video because it always causes problems with the formatting of this blog. Anyone else have this problem? Regardless, please follow this link to watch the video.

There are a lot of special things about this game (gorgeous graphics, multiplayer, intuitive looking physics based gameplay) but one thing stands out for me more then anything else - they've made 'creating' fun. The game is basically one big playable level editor and an absolute core part of the experience will be working with friends to build one's own maps, playing them on the fly to test out the experience before setting said map free out into the world for others to download, play, and rate (insert customary Youtube and Longtail comparison and analysis).

Think back to when you were young (especially true, perhaps, if you are male and played with G.I Joe or Transformers as a boy) and how a typical 'play' session would unfold. For me, it would go something like this: a friend would come over with his box of G.I Joe, I would unpack my box, and we would spend 2 hours constructing the scenario to be 'played'. I would set up my base, he would set up his, we would argue about tactics and positions and strategy and what our world was supposed to be ("this pillow is a huge cliff").

Then, when we had everything set up just perfectly, there would be 15 seconds of "bang, kapow, I shot that guy with this guy" until, ultimately, everyone of our soldiers was dead and the 'play' was over.

Two hours to set up, 15 seconds to 'play'. Rinse wash and repeat. For us it was always the building and set-up of the scenario that was fun. The actual actions that said scenario was supposed to permit were only a small fraction of the total enjoyment of the experience.

The developer of LineRider understood this very well. This 'game' is 99% about the experience of iteratively building one's level - drawing a line (building and setting up), 'playing' (watching your guy on the toboggon slide down the slope) and then returning to the building phase (draw more lines). This loop continues until you are satisfied with the 'play' output and the final video is generated to be shared with friends.

LittleBigPlanet takes this same philosophy -- make the 'work' part truly fun -- and adds the extremely appealing multiplayer (multibuilder?) component. I'm convinced that this mentality is absolutly critical to avoid the 1% rule and allow user-generated content within videogames to reach the critical mass it needs to become mainstream and mass-market. Game 3.0, as it were.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This MIGHT be the first game we have in common which doesn't involve:

a) killing
b) dismembering
c) cannibalism.

My concern is that the lasting appeal won't be there. I know that there is a built-in new-content pipeline here, but I'm still skeptical whether the appeal of either 'building' or 'doing' will still be there after the initial mechanics have been explored.

Now back to Tetris.

- TPC Veteran

12:51 PM  

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