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Interview: LittleBigPlanet 2′s Mark Healy on “attacking” Play, Create, Share

Monday, 10th May 2010 14:00 GMT By Joe Anderson

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Mark Healy is a Media Molecule founder and of the masterminds behind LittleBigPlanet. It was with great pleasure that we spoke to him about the game’s sequel at its reveal in London last week.

Hit this for impressions from the event, this for screens and this for another four Media Molecule interviews recorded on the day.

VG247: Can you tell us how you are going to use LittleBigPlanet 2 to expand upon the Play, Create, Share philosophy that was created by the original game?

Mark Healy: We are attacking that from lots of different angles, obviously. To tackle the question from the specific areas, such as the Share point of view, we have put a lot of effort into finding the new content and the type of content that you would want. We feel we’ve done a lot for people who create their own levels and want to share them, like LBP.me which automatically creates a website for your level that anyone can access and add to their queue immediately.

Players will be able to go on the website to view all the levels they have made, pictures, number of views and comments. Of course, you will also be able to use the URL of your personalised website to tweet and put on Facebook. There are people out there who enjoy finding and reviewing levels, so we like to feel that we have streamlined this process.

The Create and Play elements directly feed off each other, but with Create we have just added a whole bunch of stuff which really takes it to a whole new level, taking it from a creation tool for a platform game to a much more versatile game-creation tool.

You don’t even have to make games any more. You can make interactive movies or non-interactive movies, and I’m sure the community will be the one that teaches us what can be done there.

The Play side is obviously influenced by the Create side, so when people go into the community there is going to be such a wide range of experiences to be had now. I am desperate to play the game a few weeks after it comes out to see what the community’s done.

How does the recent takeover of Media Molecule by Sony help you to achieve your goals better?

We have always had a close relationship with Sony anyway and really enjoy working with them. This is why we decided to get into bed with them.

Not much has changed really. What has improved is that it’s taken the pressure off a little bit. Obviously, the other directors and I have always had this additional responsibility of running a company and thinking a project ahead, thinking about who our next project is going to be with. That’s quite a lot of pressure. Now that this is gone we can concentrate on doing what we are actually best at: making the game.

It also means that we can afford to take more risks and do things that we might not have done as a small independent company, because if it fails Sony can sort it out [Laughs].

What made you decide to release a brand new game, rather than just expanding the first with DLC?

We’ve added a lot with LittleBigPlanet 2, much more than you would normally get with the sequel. Obviously, we could have split that up into areas and dribbled that out as DLC. What we have found from experience is that when you have got a bunch of tools and features and you’re working on them in unison together, you start to realise how they work and link together and influence each other, which is a lot harder to do when you are working with these items separately.

We also liked the idea of having the time to create a new story, which combines all these new experiences and shows them off to the users. The game is also fully backwards compatible, so we feel that we will not split the community in anyway.

It’s also a lot easier to explain to my mum when I have a disc to show her. I like making my mum proud.

Is there anything that you have specifically improved upon due to feedback from the first title?

Loads of stuff. We consider ourselves a small team, some 30-40 people, but we also consider ourselves as a huge team of 2 million people who provide lots of feedback to us. We are constantly looking at wish-lists and because we ourselves are using the same tools to create stuff it’s usually the things we want anyway.

That’s a direct way in which users influence the way things have improved in LittleBigPlanet 2.

There are also some little tweaks, like being able to hide things and add comments to them, so that you can remember what they do. All the obvious things that the creator out there would want, we’ve done. Hopefully we’ve also gone a lot further than that, and also added things that they didn’t realise they wanted.

Will you continue support the original LittleBigPlanet in terms of DLC and patches?

I imagine we will, though I don’t know how it is going to work as there is a very blurry line between the two. If no-one wants upgrade [to LBP2] then that community will still remain, and anyone who is playing LittleBigPlanet 2 will still be part of this as it’s one and the same community.

If there are any obvious bugs that come up then we will deal with them, however hopefully we can convince people to come and play the new game and experience the fantastic new content and features.

LittleBigPlanet 2 will no doubt be a big influence in helping Sony sell their PlayStation Move controller, so in what ways are you planning on incorporating this into the game?

You may remember from the presentation that we had the Sixaxis Direct Control Seat, which is a ridiculously long title which we will no doubt change. What this does is allow the user to take the guts of the SixthAxis controller and map the buttons in any way they like, and I see no reason why you couldn’t use this function with any other controller, like the Move controller for example.

We’re really excited by giving the Move controller to the community. We’re totally going to go to town on supporting that, but I don’t think we will have the full functionality at launch. There will be a taster, but it is something we are planning to do.

Will you be able to play the game using just the Move and perhaps the Sub Controller?

I think that will have to be the case. We haven’t sat down and scoped that out entirely, but it seems like a bit of a no-brainer really.

Last question. Are there any secrets that you can tell us about the new game, any hidden characters or features that we may not have seen today?

There is loads of stuff, just because there are so many things added. I can tell you about Level Links, as that is a great feature we didn’t talk about.

You can put badges in directly in to your level now. This allows you to link levels, entering directly into a new level without returning to the pod. Although this is a simple thing it’s incredibly powerful, as someone can now string together a thousand levels into one massive experience. Also, people who are good at finding good levels could create a café which is just full of badges of their favourite levels.

There are lots of new features, but I’m getting glares from the PR people so I think we best leave it there.

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