Little Big Planet 2 Hands-On

Media Molecule unveils its widely rumored sequel, which is not just a platform game, but a "platform for games," according to the developer.

The original Little Big Planet was a resounding success, selling 3 million copies, spawning 2.3 million user-created levels, and reaching number three in Metacritic's top PlayStation 3 games. So where now? "We thought, 'Oh lordy, how do we expand on this?'" said Alex Evans, cofounder of developer Media Molecule. The answer was to make Little Big Planet 2 not just a platform game but "a platform for games" according to Mark Healey, another founder of the company. Healey and his team have figured out a way to allow creators to build and share much more intricate mechanics than before, empowering them to invent "entirely new genres" according to the team. We'll have to wait and see if that eventually happens, but one thing's for sure--Little Big Planet 2 introduces a wealth of new content to the universe.

While the second game is essentially very similar to the first, the Play, Create, Share ethos has been expanded in every way. The game's key creative innovation comes in the form of microchips--in-game circuit boards that can hold a series of gadgets to allow complex mechanical actions. The example the team gave was the first game's infamous calculator--the ingenious user-generated level that re-created a giant numerical device, which can now be condensed onto a single chip. That chip can then be shared or given away as a prize for completing a level and then incorporated into other user creations. "There will be a new type of LBP creator--the electrical engineer," said Healey.

Healey went on to demonstrate just how important microchips are to the game. He loaded up a simple level featuring a vehicle and then edited the microchip attached to it. He demonstrated how the vehicle's controls were directly mapped to the PS3 controller. He associated the motion sensor within the controller to the vehicle's left and right controls, simply by joining the elements on the circuit board to the car's motor and did the same for the X button and the horn. Once set up, the vehicle was controlled simply by tilting the controller--which looked much easier than the lever-and-button models from the first game. "I can't stress how powerful that is," said Healey.

These new microchips not only apply to objects in the game, but also to characters. Sackbots are new AI-controlled characters based on the game's mascot, and they can be preprogrammed with multiple actions, depending on what you want them to do. On the most basic level, they can follow the player, allowing you to create levels where you have to escort Sackbots to the exit of the level. Indeed, one of the few levels shown by Media Molecule was called Pipe Dream, where you had to save loveable mini-Sackbots from within The Factory of a Better Tomorrow.

However, the Sackbots have much more depth than this. You can make them patrol certain areas and electrocute players if touched. You can scale them up and make them do a zombie walk, creating an army of giant, shuffling, undead Sackbots. Finally, you can create remote-controlled Sackbots that you can walk into deadly situations and giant Sackbots that you can jump into and pick up large items. "I'm sure it's only a matter of weeks until someone creates a Lemmings [game], for example," said Healey.

Space Invaders is just one of the games Media Molecule has been able to re-create in LBP2.

The other big potential that Sackbot has is the ability to tell stories. Media Molecule showed a couple of examples--the first was a cutscene from the level Pipe Dream, where the evil owner of the factory was using innocent Sackbots for labour. The second was a user-generated music video, which had Sackbots large and small dancing to a song from the game. Art director Kareem Ettouney showed how you can record actions--in this case a short dance--and then apply that recording en masse to a group of Sackbots. You can then apply lighting, choose the camera angles, and record voice-overs through the PlayStation Eye camera, creating an MTV-style music video. "We're excited to see Lady Gaga do her next music video in LBP," joked Ettouney.

Media Molecule claims that its level designers and testers have used the new tools to re-create Space Invaders, side-scrolling shooters, even real-time strategy games like Command & Conquer. "The community managed to use tricks to make shooters--you can now make them feel really, really good," promised Healey. He showed us an example of a rodent racing game, where you had to beat AI-controlled enemies playing from a top-down perspective. A new holographic material can be laid over the screen to keep track of player scores or offer messages like "Player One Wins."

During its presentation, Media Molecule addressed the criticism from players who felt that Sackboy was too "floaty" and sometimes difficult to control. There's a slight problem in that the team members want all levels from the first game to be playable in the second, so they are unable to change Sackboy's physical properties as it would break those creations. However, there is a way around this problem in new user-generated levels at least; you can create Sackbots with different physical properties. In theory, you could have an entire level played using a Sackbot whose physical attributes are tailored to your liking. This could mean Sackbots with greater gravitational pull to the ground, or on the other hand, the ability to jump great distances.

Vehicles are now operated using direct control from the D pad, analog stick, or motion sensors.

Our demo also allowed us to play Little Big Planet 2's story mode, which will offer six new themed worlds. Ettouney and his team created a new visual aesthetic by "looking at periods of history where creativity was on fire." The result is new worlds that combine two different themes or periods. Davinci's Hideout is the first, combining what Media Molecule describes as "techno renaissance" or a mixture of hi-tech and classical European design. Victoria's Lab is steampunk meets tea party, while The Factory is informed by propaganda posters and bright neon lights. Avalonia is "fluffy hi-tech"--think a Chris Cunningham music video mixed with cuddly animals. Finally, Eve's Asylum is designer organic--art nouveau as done by Frank Lloyd Wright, while The Cosmos is a hand-made arcade--old games re-created using materials, such as plastic and felt.

Perhaps more importantly, Evans promises that the campaign will be longer than the first game's--although by how much we don't yet know. Healey teased that the game will start out as a platformer, but it will evolve as it progresses--Media Molecule hinted that it will end with LBP versions of arcade classics. One of the levels we got to play, called Tower of Woop by David Inchi, incorporated both a grapple hook and bounce pads, meaning it was much more vertical than any level we'd played previously. The grapple hook could attach to most things, including other players, and you could combine the tool with bounce pads to reach obscure places and earn unlockables.

According to level designer Victor Agren, the game engine has been rewritten to incorporate these new technical additions, as well as add a better visual sheen to the game. We were shown a video of LBP1 levels running in the new engine, and the improvements were immediately noticeable. Sackboy and background objects cast detailed shadows, while the overall look is more vibrant thanks to an improved colour palette. Even better, all these improvements will apply to user-generated content created in the first game, so your creations will be given an immediate improvement when LBP2 launches.

The new share tools have also been improved and expanded, now integrating across a variety of platforms. Within the game, a new stream of updates will provide activity information on your friends and people you've hearted, such as what they've created or recommended. You'll also be able to use the PlayStation Eye camera to scan QR codes and download new items and levels. We've no idea where these QR codes will appear, but the commercial potential is obvious.

The new Sackbots can be preprogrammed to perform actions, such as dancing, allowing you to create music videos or narratives.

Even more exciting stuff happens when you're away from a PS3. We were shown a video of a Web browser plug-in that will allow you to watch videos on YouTube and then add those levels to a playlist so that they're queued up to play at home. A unified Web site at http://lbp.me will act like URL shortening service bit.ly, giving every new level a link that can be shared on networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, with every click adding to its popularity rating. You'll also be given your own space on lbp.me according to your PSN ID, such as http://lbp.me/gamespot. The site isn't live yet, but it will act as your dashboard, allowing you to view photos and add levels to your favourites list. You'll also be able to go to other people's profiles to add their levels to your queue.

"Our goal is to melt all of your brains," said Evans at the start of his presentation, and given the wealth of new content and features Media Molecule showed off, he just about met that goal. However, the team is still promising more--new gameplay features that just weren't ready are likely to be unveiled at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. The team is preparing LittleBigPlanet 2 for release before the end of the year, so we'll be sure to bring you more on the game when we have it.

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Discussion

280 comments
Nobri
Nobri

I wanna make a fighting game... And this is looking amazing. Is it slated for this year? Cause if it is, with the 360's Mass Effect 2 and Wii's Super Mario Galaxy 2, the PS3 could have a nice contender for GotY with LBP. (Notice how they're all the second game in a series. o.O) But the thing that I can see that sets this apart from the others is that its not focused on the story mode, but community. Anyway, I think this game would easily wipe out ME and be up there with Galaxy. But we'll just have to see.

psx_warrior
psx_warrior

I wasn't ever into making my own levels in the first game, for some reason, but this game gives me a reason to truly want to create and share. Oh man, the possibilities. Maybe I can realize my dream of Sack Strife vs. Sackiroth.

Arevalo232002
Arevalo232002

I own all 3 consoles Xbox 360,ps3, and wii. I dont understand why Fanboys have to trash talk other consoles wich also have great games. Each console has something good. So why call another console trash or garbage. With that said i cant wait for this Game, and cant wait for Halo reach, Gears of war 3 wich are on the xbox 360. And Zelda For the wii.

Jonkenden
Jonkenden

Direct control seats, Sackbots and Microhips will change things so much. Can't wait to make a proper flying machine that doesn't spin wildly out of control, and on top of that require me to pick between flying and other functions. Now I can make it fly, use weapons and have landing gears that are retractable, all at the same time. Could even make a ninja sackbot that I'd control that can reach insane heights with double jump abilities. This is going to be one big game, and the stuff the more talented people will make is going to blow minds.

Anoush13
Anoush13

I honestly thought Little Big Planet couldn't get any better...but guess what? It just did!

Nolidusk
Nolidusk

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Nolidusk
Nolidusk

Holy %&!!$!!!! GOTY 2010 ;) suck it nintendo and microsoft fanboys! Glad to have a ps3 :P

SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

Looking forward to it. LBP was surprisingly fun, so I'm expecting this to be just as fun.

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

@ unaminous yeah i have a mate that doesn't like it, but he does have some funny opinions...you can punch him if u want (it would be entertaining...in a cruel way)

DDERME
DDERME

another reason xbox people should shoot thier xbox

TevoxZi
TevoxZi

@theonlyfolking Killzone 3 has already been confirmed being in works. :) No words on Resistance 3 yet, other than a billboard.

etchus
etchus

now i am really wanting a ps3...grr...need money to buy console

thrasher510
thrasher510

i would kill for this game right now, i can't stop[ thinking about how much i can do in this one, the first one was fun using the different materials but now we get to play with the characters!

CrystalEdgen
CrystalEdgen

THIS GAME HAS EVERYTHING I WANTED IN THE ORIGINAL I"M GETTING THIS ONE AS SOON AS IT COMES OUT!!!!!!! @ R3DL1GHTN1NG No, you cant make levels, YOU CAN MAKE ENTIRE FREAKIN GAMES !!!!!! I"M TOO DAMN EXCITED!!!

LDNLDSNHS
LDNLDSNHS

This only on PS3, so xbox people brun your box and buy PS3.

FamousCalibur
FamousCalibur

Another reason why I'm glad to have a PS3 Slim

NICKnPSL
NICKnPSL

My wife and I are absolutely drooling over this. This is gonna be absolutely sweet.

unaminous
unaminous

does anyone know anybody that doesn't like LBP? I want to meet with them and punch them in the head.

doontime
doontime

@Musambani why? We have to like boring sports games or we all have to be into gore and blood, or we all have to love sniping people in the heads (fun by the way) I'm just saying that just because it has no violence or isn't boring we can't like it? That doesn't make any sense at all. Oh and I am more a xbox player but I do love playing ps3 too. I'm glad this is an exclusive. Competition!

jamars6
jamars6

so can u use objects u for example bought from psn for LBP 1 on LBP 2

KingKisuke
KingKisuke

@hengabung It's called "Sleepyhead" by Passion Pit

F0ilman
F0ilman

Wow i actually really want to get this, i didn't think they add all this much cool stuff! I am definitely getting this!

dad100
dad100

good LBP 2 Dragonball 2 naruto storm 2 and 2------2-----to no where there r alot of games want another chapter of it i think they can get sly cooper 4 like change 2 to 4 and good job ithink this will be great but when this games will come to stores ??????

hengabung
hengabung

I want the music in the promo vid...

slowmanrunning
slowmanrunning

This looks like the peak of map making in console games. Between sc2's galaxy editor, and this I'll be busy for a while playing user made content. and THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for making the lbp 1 levels made online to be playable in lbp2!!!!!!! Splitting the community was my main concern, and adding the fact that if you own lbp 1 you get all the making materials from it's editor is just astounding. Being able to modify basic physics, such as the gravity settings, or making double jump. Watch on other developers this is how sequels and map editors are supposed to be done

axelviiii
axelviiii

Also, the Sackbots have me really excited. I found AI in the first game a bit wonky.

axelviiii
axelviiii

D-Damn! I thought that they might just tackle a different genre with 2, but WOW. That. Imma pre-order THAT.

slowmanrunning
slowmanrunning

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

LiuKang3000
LiuKang3000

I got into a fist fight with my best friend over this game. Good Times...

stinkymonkey58
stinkymonkey58

for some stupid reason i've put off getting the first one even though i really want to play it, but since i've seen this i am most definitely getting it and obviously the second! :D

Harxelithn
Harxelithn

God I loved LBP, like it has to be one of my most favorite games out there. This just adds to my joy!

MrWilkinzz
MrWilkinzz

lol, i almost got the original LBP but now i'll just wait for this. my friend is gonna be PO'd because of this

mr_snickerz
mr_snickerz

LBP is, and is becoming even more so, an absolutely incredible game, but I think may skip on the second one, simply because in the first game, I was not willing to put the time and effort in needed to make a good level. Now with LBP2, you have the tools to create your own game physics and rules and whatnot, and that sounds a heck of alot more work. (although it still would be fun to play all of those levels)

Deirhese
Deirhese

Omg! I can't wait! I love LBP, I was wondering how can they outdo LBP when it can do everything but now I see there is a lot more that is possible. The impossible is possible!

Block0407
Block0407

Oh please don't come out.....I want to stick with LBP 1

TheDarkCrucible
TheDarkCrucible

OMFG.. o.O they really went out of their way on this! REALLY looking forward to it coming out and so can't wait to get a PS3 :D

DonatelloToAll
DonatelloToAll

I may have missed out on the first,but now I'll be looking forward to the second!!!:D

Schym
Schym

when he brought up his lasso menu (I forget the real name), I lost my jaw somewhere on the floor.

stabitat
stabitat

glad i didn't get the first one. ready to jump in.

eddieham13
eddieham13

I didn't know they where even making a second :p until I found this preview.

Angel_Belial
Angel_Belial

Sounding incredible already...I can't wait to see what people will create using these new tools!