With a host of user-created content available online, Little Big Planet gets a little bigger every day. Developer Media Molecule is hoping to further spark that growth with the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 4 downloadable-content packs for the PlayStation 3-exclusive platformer.
Set to launch on December 23, the downloadable content includes a variety of costumes to dress players up like characters from Konami's hit, as well as a handful of new levels and user-creation materials in a second pack. The $5.99 costume pack includes costumes for Solid Snake, Meryl Silverburgh, Raiden, and Screaming Mantis, although each outfit will be sold separately for $1.99.
The Metal Gear Solid Premium Level Pack also includes a costume (the Gurlokovich Soldier), as well as 72 new stickers, 12 materials, 10 decorations, 18 objects, background music tracks, and more. All that new content is featured in the pack's five new story levels and extra challenge level, which are also built around the biggest new addition to the game. The projectile-spitting Paintinator lets players equip Sackboy with a paintball gun for some relatively family-friendly firepower.
Although players will need to purchase the level pack to create new worlds with the Metal Gear content and the Paintinator, they can still experience the new content for free. Thrifty gamers can try out the new levels by playing cooperatively through them with someone who already owns the DLC, and user-created levels that feature the new content will also be playable by anyone.
After getting some hands-on impressions of the new content, GameSpot spoke with Media Molecule cofounder and Little Big Planet art director Kareem Ettouney.
GS: MGS and LBP have unique visual styles. How difficult was it adapting one to fit in the other?
KE: The major thing is this period of downloadable content and expansions on Little Big Planet all started by expanding the [LBP] universe. We wanted to make sure we always give the LBP community more opportunities, dimensions, expressions, and abilities. The starting point, even before the collaboration for a huge brand like Metal Gear Solid, was to make sure everything we do adds a new element to the universe.
We have so many ideas and features and lists of tools, toys, and expansions that were on the backburner. Then we had the chance to collaborate with Konami for the MGS pack. Both brands have their uniqueness and identity. We thought when there's a true fusion of styles, the best way to handle that is to celebrate them both. We were honored to work with them because they weren't precious in a traditional way that comes with a brand like MGS. They were very open to new incarnations, so our starting point was to look at the MGS universe and reincarnate it in the LBP world, to make it out of cardboard and LBP materials, to make new costumes.
We also wanted to expand the LBP experience, so we came up with new tools and abilities to create levels using paint guns, new sensors, and that sort of thing. By expanding the creative possibilities, we hit our mark. It was a labor of love to look at the inspirations, rethink, and go to the drawing board, giving birth to a hybrid fusion of the two identities.
GS: How much assistance did you receive from Konami and Kojima Productions?
KE: They were really supportive. We got exposure to all their libraries, artwork, and assets. We had a wealth to pick from.
GS: Did they have their own ideas for how they wanted the MGS series converted into LBP?
KE: They were very trusting in the brand. They left us to do our interpretations, then we made sure to get their approval and feedback every step of the way. They were very open to our attempts.
GS: How drastically does the introduction of the Paintinator change the game?
KE: That's a very good question, because that was one of the major focuses we wanted to see in the community. No matter what brand or IP we're collaborating with, we always wanted to make sure we were expanding the [LBP] universe. The paintball tool widens the creations and levels that the player can make. Because we designed LBP as a building-block modular library, we intend on expanding on every single aspect. There are more switches to come, more objects, more stickers, but also more tools. The Paintinator was one of those additions to the LBP library, the first of many.
GS: Was there any reluctance on Media Molecule's part to introduce a gun into the game, even if it is just a paint gun?
KE: We've already got dangerous materials that you can emit out of cannon-shaped objects, so if you want to create your own guns, you already can. But we always wanted to keep it creative and encourage the lighthearted and tasteful message [of the game], so we made it a paint gun. And because it's presented with Sackboy and the treatments that we do, we were comfortable with the solution.
GS: Some of the most popular user levels in Little Big Planet have been based on Metal Gear Solid. Did you pull any ideas from the user-created MGS levels?
KE: Every day at Media Molecule, we gather around the community-created levels and get inspired, the Metal Gear-inspired levels and other ones. And we never stop being amazed by the innovative use of the tools. The other day a player made a piano, and created a whole system to hammer each key and play one of Beethoven's compositions. That for me was immense. You look at a level like that and ask what kind of skill set is needed for such a creation: music, engineering, presenting it in such a tasteful way. Definitely looking at the community levels is a constant source of inspiration.
GS: If people try to make Metal Gear levels using the pieces in this content pack, will they be pulled from the servers for copyright infringement?
KE: No. That's one of the hardest challenges in user-generated content. The challenge of intellectual property and all the legal paperwork that goes around that is incredible. What we're trying to do is only moderate if the IP owner has a problem or complaint about a particular misuse of the brand.
GS: One of the things I really liked about the user-made Metal Gear levels was the way they found clever ways to work within the basic game's limitations. When you start to introduce MGS-specific parts, won't that take away from the magic a bit?
KE: Well, you just increase the bar. I totally agree with you that within limitations, people come up with totally innovative solutions. When you give more, you expect more. And always remember that one of the charms of LBP is mixing and matching things together, so you'll start seeing the Mexican theme mixed with MGS visuals. By adding more [branded material] to the library, you increase the possibilities of what people can create within that IP, but you also increase the possibilities of what they can do when they mix it with other things as well.
GS: The Metal Gear content pack was preceded by a Solid Snake Sackboy costume. You've also put out costumes for Final Fantasy and God of War Sackboys. Will we see content packs for those and other Sony-exclusive...
KE: Yes, yes, yes. There is a whole heap of exciting surprises coming, costumes inspired by other brands and extending even further beyond games. You'll see some exciting Sackboy costumes from our favorite characters and heroes in a lot of brands. So yes, there's more to come.
GS: Were there any concerns about cross-promoting an M-rated, 18-and-up game like MGS4 within your family-friendly, E for Everyone-rated LBP?
KE: Little Big Planet has always had a pop-culture side. We wanted to celebrate people's imagination and creations from all over the world. When we were setting the style, we wanted to make the visual library a very open one that could be inspired by ancient mythology or contemporary graphics. So the way we see MGS is part of our culture and part of the visuals that relate and connect with a lot of people. And that's the bit we connect with in LBP, more than the implementation.
The main difference in LBP is that it's not a set piece that's very particular in its message. It's a set of tools and visuals that you can shape and recompose to create your own rating. We weren't worried because once something mixes in the LBP pool, it sort of gets affected by the LBP message.