As one of the key points in Sony’s Phil Harrison’s keynote speech today at GDC 2007, the executive invited development upstart Media Molecule up on stage to demonstrate their new PlayStation 3 project, a seemingly innocuous title called LittleBigPlanet. However, benign as it may seem on the surface, the demonstration proved that the developers, whose previous claim to fame was the physics-driven Rag Doll Kung Fu, are primed to break the mold for what we expect from user created content.
In the most simple terms, LittleBigPlanet plays out like a natural evolution of other content driven titles such as Line Rider, only here up to four players collaborate to not only create the levels that populate the game, but also adventure through either their own levels, other those created by others and shared over the PlayStation Network.
The game begins with players learning about their character’s powers to interact physically with the environment. There are obstacles to explore, bits and pieces to collect and puzzles to solve – requiring a combination of brains and collaborative teamwork. As players begin to explore, their creative skills will grow and they will be ready to start creating and modifying their surroundings – the first step to sharing them with the whole community. The more they play, the more that can be shared.
The demonstration showed a pair of characters creating trees, flowers, and blocked through what appeared to a be a fairly intuitive menu system. Eventually, however, the demo moved onto a completed level, with four characters cooperating and using the game’s emphasis on physics to manipulate the environment in order to get to the end.
It’s unclear if there will be more to the game, or if this idea of creating and sharing levels is in fact the core impetus. Truthfully, it could be enough, as even from my seat some 40 feet from the screen, I could not help but be enticed. LittleBigPlanet is easy on the eyes, and given that it seems to afford players such unprecedented creativity makes me hearken to the endless hours spent in front of the Bard’s Tale Construction Set or other mod tools making my own games – if only for my own amusement. Only here, there is no level editor. The game is the level editor. You can even edit the level as you play, to what end is anyone’s guess.
A fully-featured sample version of LittleBigPlanet is expected on the PlayStation Network this fall, with a full version expected to be made available in early 2008 for retail.