LEIPZIG, Germany--While we were hoping to see something new from Media Molecule's upcoming platforming/creation game LittleBigPlanet, the build on hand here at the 2007 Games Convention in Leipzig was actually the same one we saw a few months back at E3 2007. That's the bad news. The good news is that, with a game as flexible and open-ended as LBP, there's always something new to see. So, in our brief amount of time with Media Molecule's creative director Mark Healy, we proposed a challenge: to see what the two of us could create in 15 minutes using the game's extremely flexible and easy-to-use creation controls.
Luckily for us, Healy was up for the challenge, and within a few moments had a few sketches of things we could try to make in the short amount of time allotted. While the ideas flew fast and furious, including a googly-eyed snowman and a conveyer-belt contraption, we finally agreed on a pair of mechanical boxers that we could then immediately set to battle. Following Healy's lead, we brought up the objects menu and chose a circular shape made from a cardboard-like material. To create the basic shape of our boxer's body, we would simply resize the circle and press the X button to stamp it down, eventually creating a makeshift body, legs, and head.
With the basic form down, it was time to add a bit of decoration. To do so, we accessed the stickers from the object bag and began laying down decals such as a pair of goofy-looking eyes, a luchadore mask, and a big set of teeth. Healy chose an entirely different set of eyes, a different mouth, and then went to work on the body of his created boxer--giving it a hairy chest and a couple of tattoos with just a few clicks of the X button. He also pointed out that in addition to the huge number of stickers that will be available when the game is released, players will be able to upload their own designs to their sticker albums for use on any object they create in the game.
One thing we discovered when building our cardboard boxer is that you'll be able to move objects into the foreground, center, or background of the level, something we hadn't tried before. For example, if you wanted to add wheels on either side of a piece of wood, you could do so simply by making sure that one set of wheels was set to the opposite (that is, far) side of the wood. The depth of object placement is fixed in the world, and you can choose between preset distances by pressing the shoulder buttons on the Sixaxis controller.
Using this technique, we were able to attach a makeshift shoulder joint to our created boxer, and then go about creating a slapdash arm, once again using the cardboard circle pattern. From there it was time to add the final touch: a mechanical gear that would give the boxer the ability to swing his newly created arm. You can choose from gears that move either left or right; given that our cardboard pugilists would be facing off in deadly mortal combat, we chose gears of opposite direction.
With the gears finally attached, it was time to let our created objects loose in the world. Immediately after dropping them into the map, they went to work, the gears turning with mechanical precision, causing the arms to swing with each rotation. Healy's creation was designed to have a deadly uppercut, while ours chose to swing overhand, delivering a punishing blow to anyone who dared come near. Unfortunately, our cardboard hero had a fatal flaw we hadn't foreseen when designing him: we hadn't evened out the bottoms of his feet and, as a result, the second he hit the ground and LittleBigPlanet's realistic physics engine kicked in, our cardboard boxer went down quicker than some of Mike Tyson's opponents in the late 1980s.
Lucky for us, once an object is placed in the world, your sackboy (the affectionate term given to the cute little heroes of LBP's gameworld) can interact with it by using a lasso tool of sorts that lets you manipulate objects. We immediately picked up our fighter, and set him on top of Healy's also-swooning boxer...we think we even managed to get a few good shots to the head at the same time. With another few buttons presses, we were able to more or less instantly replicate our created boxer and, in response, Healy did the same thing. Before long the screen was teaming with a mass of falling, swinging, cardboard Klitschkos.
As you can tell from the above, LittleBigPlanet is shaping up to be unlike any other PlayStation 3 experience out there. No matter if you've got three hours or 15 minutes to spend, it seems like every time you fire up the game, you'll be treated to something new. We're greatly anticipating our next hands-on time with the game--if only to see what insane creation we can come up with next--and we'll be bringing you the latest information as it becomes available.