GDC 07: Making Media Molecule

LittleBigPlanet developers talk about striking out on their own and going from zero to prototype in under a week.

SAN FRANCISCO--Two years ago at the Game Developers Conference, Lionhead Studios artist Mark Healey showed off to a stunned and enthralled audience Rag Doll Kung Fu, a fighting game made in his spare time with no scripted animation. The game was picked up by Valve for release on its Steam downloadable distribution channel, and the success inspired Healey to strike out on his own, forming the new studio Media Molecule with the help of friends who'd worked on Rag Doll Kung Fu.

A logo to look out for.

At this year's GDC, Healey's work once again took center stage, this time as Sony's keynote address featured a live demonstration of Media Molecule's LittleBigPlanet. One attendee of Media Molecule's GDC session this afternoon told Healey it was the best demo he'd seen in 10 years. Another said he had tears in his eyes when it was over.

But while the game--along with the PlayStation Home concept--was the talk of the show today, there were still a handful of vacant seats at the afternoon presentation on the studio's first year in existence. Healey and fellow Rag Doll developer Alex Evans discussed how the studio hooked up with Sony as a publisher, the difficulties of starting up a new company, and what their goal was in the first place.

LittleBigPlanet in prototype form...

"The idea was to make the most ambitious game we possibly could," Healey said, "and most importantly, get somebody else to pay for it."

However, when they formed Media Molecule, Healey and Evans didn't have a specific game in mind. Instead, they had a short list of characteristics they wanted their work to have. Healey talked about the tedium involved with working on any sort of creative project and the occasional payoff of making something that comes together better than expected.

"What we're aiming to do with the game we're making is somehow give that to people and take away the tedium," Healey said.

That approach could be seen clearly during the Sony keynote address, where Healey and Evans walked the audience through some of LittleBigPlanet's level-creation features, which are integrated into the standard gameplay and not hidden away in their own separate modes.

Healey mentioned two other key aspects he wanted in Media Molecule's first project. First was the ability to "act" with the characters (having creative control over their movements as in Rag Doll Kung Fu), and the other was that he wanted it to be a console game.

...and LittleBigPlanet in its current state.

That was what they had settled on when they received the opportunity to pitch a game to Sony. However, the proposed pitch session was a mere week away. Pressed to come up with something concrete quick, the team threw together a prototype for a game called Craftworld. Healey and Evans shared some footage of the prototype, and the seeds of what would become LittleBigPlanet were readily apparent.

Like its descendent, Craftworld was a side-scrolling game with 2D physics-based gameplay. However, Craftworld featured 2D graphics as well, and a placeholder protagonist named Mr. Yellowhead, who fittingly enough, had a yellow head. The player controlled Mr. Yellowhead's arms with the right analog stick on a standard PlayStation 2 controller and his legs with the left stick. In making his way through the level, Mr. Yellowhead negotiated a number of obstacles by grabbing onto objects and pushing or rolling them around.

The prototype had a flair all its own, but Evans said the team had actually left out some of the weirder aspects of the game to avoid scaring off the publisher, only to find that Sony loved what they had and requested more of the "mad stuff."

The pair described their relationship with Sony as a complete partnership instead of the adversarial relationship developers and publishers can sometimes have. Evans said that Sony has given them straightforward feedback at every step of the way, and that they have the option to disregard some of it when they felt it wouldn't make for a better game.

For Media Molecule's part, the pair said they insist on being completely honest about how far along they are on making their milestones, what direction they're taking with the game, and so on.

"That way, if it goes wrong, we can blame them," Healey joked.

LittleBigPlanet is set for release early in 2008, with a demo arriving on the PlayStation Network later this year. For more, check out GameSpot's first look at the title.

Written By

Want the latest news about LittleBigPlanet?

LittleBigPlanet

LittleBigPlanet

Follow

Discussion

45 comments
magnumpeeaye
magnumpeeaye

@ sargemat little big planet is a GAME that allows u 2 create ur own levels, web sites & other cool stuff. Also it can be done by ANYONE. XNA is a boring tech tool that only allows programmers to create sub standard games that aren't as good as commercial titles. Where as the tech & tools in LBP r first rate. Awsome physics & animation gr8 sound with everything defined by GAMERS. XNA is just Direct-x lite.

crazygunz
crazygunz

"... Again, more ignorance... Home isnt Live, they are two completely different services. One is an online platform, the other is a 3d chat room. Further, neither Nintendo or Microsoft could give a damn about Sony at this point... "This is one sweet game to add to the PS3 growing list, cant wait for the demo later this summer" Yep That makes what, 6 games now?" (As he's ordering a PS3 online and watching the LittleBigPlanet and Home demo) By the way, home is an online service. You'll be able to organize and jump right into multiplayer games from Home. It's essentially a more immersive and innovative take on what Xbox Live was doing and it's fantastic. Oh and if Nintendo didn't care about Sony why would Reggie be at their press conference seeing what they're doing? Hm... interesting Stop being a fanboy. Home and LittleBigPlanet are fantastic ideas and yes, innovative ideas whether you like it or not.

nikefreak
nikefreak

"sony attacked MS with HOME and NINTENDO with litllebigplanet. well played sony!" ... Again, more ignorance... Home isnt Live, they are two completely different services. One is an online platform, the other is a 3d chat room. Further, neither Nintendo or Microsoft could give a damn about Sony at this point... "This is one sweet game to add to the PS3 growing list, cant wait for the demo later this summer" Yep :) That makes what, 6 games now? :)

sargemat
sargemat

This isnt realy that impressave compared to XNA.

theKSMM
theKSMM

I'm intrigued...I just wish I had a better idea of what it was.

Neolucifer999
Neolucifer999

"Brilliant, scmilliant....more wacky crap down the pipeline. Dumbing down the gaming industry for the non gamers to get into gaming. Is Sony trying to go the way of Nintendo these days?" Crap for non gamers ? Then i suppose you could point us to more innovative and intelligent platforme games , judging from the videos of the online coop mode?

KeyserSoze10033
KeyserSoze10033

Sony should buy these guys ASAP. I'm not into cute looking games, but this one looked like fun as soon as I saw it :).

dan_brouwer
dan_brouwer

Sounds like a really fun gaming experience. I like anything that puts the power of creation in the users' hands without over-complicating it. The tools look easy to use, and you could design a level to be as simple or complex as you want.

timpysan
timpysan

Huge kudos to these guys. LittleBigPlanet is the first thing I've seen that has made me want a PS3.

tubarao1
tubarao1

sony attacked MS with HOME and NINTENDO with litllebigplanet. well played sony!

RiceCake
RiceCake

@ Poltergeist13 Lol, that is one ignorant statement. Sony pitches ONE kiddy friendly game with amazing potential and gorgeous visuals with a super innovative gameplay idea and you scope it to be "wacky crap". Is that the statement of a troll? whatever, this game looks sweet! I love the fast paced racing and shooters, but this game has MASS appeal! Good job

kevass007
kevass007

this guy deserves alot of credit for creating this game, he should feel pretty damn good right now after all this positive feed back everyone seems to be giving. unless it was a team idea, then great job guys!

Bananna2
Bananna2

This is one sweet game to add to the PS3 growing list, cant wait for the demo later this summer

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

2008 is a long time from now...I really want to see how this game does. It looks ambitious.

Poltergeist13
Poltergeist13

Brilliant, scmilliant....more wacky crap down the pipeline. Dumbing down the gaming industry for the non gamers to get into gaming. Is Sony trying to go the way of Nintendo these days?

Liams
Liams

I know it's been said before but this looks absoloutely amazing .It's just one of those concepts/games that you can just see growing and growing. I have now been playing video games for more than 24 years and honestly I can't think of anything that I thought looked so original. Fan of Sony/PS3 or not if you can't help but admire the ideas, the thought process and the whole originality around this, then you need to find yourself a new hobby or passtime rather than gaming. This is next gen defined. To think that this is MM's first big budget offering. Imagine what kind of titles they'll be churning out in a couple of years. It kind of reminds me of when Rockstar first appeared on the scene. Now, whatever happened to them?...............................................

alberto2045
alberto2045

dude that game is so cool man when they first started to show it I was like nah never going to buy it but later my god so funny very nice

TimoTheThug
TimoTheThug

You hear this more often that Sony is one great partner to work with

1357900
1357900

Awsome! I don't own a PS3, but its awsome nonetheless! Its just {again}awsome to see independent developers trying to make great games, against all odds! That's what's really awsome about this. Anyway, if this game turns out to be block-buster{not to be confused w/ the store} great, then this will be pure fire in the PS3 game library furnace that will be, and do wonders, in console & game sales, for Sony!

sascha23
sascha23

This game does look amazing!!! For those that enjoyed the music: The band is called 'The Go Team' and I regularly play them out when I DJ. Great stuff and always fun!

NathanHawkins
NathanHawkins

The most appealing part for me about LittleBigPlanet is the cooperative/competition aspect.

minos30
minos30

GOTY..... hhmmmm lets wait and see. Very awesome game yeeeeeeeeeees! Plus home PS3 is coming to its own. Not much of a socialite online fan but... i can do that.

AdamC79
AdamC79

This game is revolutionary in both physics and the ability to create content and place it for others to play in a way that has not been done before. This game has "GOTY" potential and is one of the most ambitious and beautiful games I have ever seen. THIS is what next-gen is all about and I cant wait till we see a PSN demo because I already find myself watching the keynote and demo video over and over again!!

chris_damon
chris_damon

~yukine~ "Simply amazing... it's a shame it is only going on the Playstation Network though. Hopefully they will bring it over the Xbox Live Arcade service." Please tell me how a game that's being published by Sony for the PS3 will be brought over to the 360? Anyway, I think it looks great, can't wait to get my hands on it.

GIJames248
GIJames248

I'm not all that impressed by Little Big Planet. This sounds like The Incredible Machine and Mario vs. Donkey Kong on steroids. It just doesn't seem very interesting. Since so many people apparently think it's the greatest thing since the wheel it can only help Sony which is good.

punisher2k8
punisher2k8

seing as the publisher is sony... don't expect this game to be brought to xbox360 ;)

blacktorn
blacktorn

This game looks amazing,and i don't mean in just graphics.It's good to see a refreshing NEW game that doesn't simply upgrade on it's pre-queals.I'll be picking up this game in 2008 when i decide to buy a ps3

THESEVENTROLLS
THESEVENTROLLS

This is a beautiful game. The song made me cry. :-(

sanjt
sanjt

Sucks to be anti-PS3 :D Lets just round p the good news so far: Rumble is back, upscaling of DVD's and PS2 games, PS3 Home, and now Little Big Planet. PS3 oh JEEE!!

-Antisocial-
-Antisocial-

Great to see such developer-publisher relationship. Good on Media Molecule.

Darkiewonder
Darkiewonder

Um Even though LittleBigPlanet is the new thing. Where's my god damn Super Rub A Dub? ;(

StanBlocker
StanBlocker

Looks to have a very creative online feature. Brilliant.

jussimple
jussimple

I'm not about kidsy games but visually this game looks amazing and it has this silly appeal to it, your right ThyLord it has a strong similarity to Loco. It looked silly at first but there's some emersive game play there and it definitely was funny the way the characters seem to flop around. This could be a great show piece as much as a great game.

yukine
yukine

Simply amazing... it's a shame it is only going on the Playstation Network though. Hopefully they will bring it over the Xbox Live Arcade service.

HXCDEW
HXCDEW

This game looks so cute, fun and adventerous. I can't wait to play it!

aliend
aliend

Forget Halo 3, and MGS4. Little Big Planet - GOTY 2007 :) But really, the game looks really fun.

jmangafan
jmangafan

This is definitely a title worth looking at, the amount of creativity and love that Healey and his team have for innovation in games is admirable. I may not have a PS3 yet, but when I get one, this is jumping to the top of the purchase list.

xxThyLordxx
xxThyLordxx

beautiful game. this is what loco roco should have been.