The first thing you want to do when designing a level is pick a setting. LittleBigPlanet comes with prepackaged backgrounds like the canyon level seen in the GDC build, a beach, farm, inner city alley (complete with graffiti) and something that looks like it’s out of Japan's Edo period. Once a location is set it’s time to fill the barren stage with stuff to play with.
The object design system in LittleBigPlanet is quite different from what I imagined. You can stamp shapes like squares, but you can also morph them into custom shapes with the help of a cutting block. After placing the square, you can select the cutting block and place it on top of the square. Whatever the cutting block occludes is deleted. By altering the position of the cutting block you can turn a square into say a throne, if you’re patient enough. I watched as a cube was whittled down to a rectangle, which was used to make the base for a tree. By stringing together and scaling the original rectangle into “Y” shapes a tree was completed in a short amount of time.
While you can easily make basic shapes LittleBigPlanet rewards players who create gorgeous looking ones. Remember the sponge/fluff collection system for level design? That’s out the window. In the revised system you can design whatever object you can imagine and offer it as a prize for people who complete your LittleBigLevel.
Let’s say you create a gorgeous looking Taj Mahal and you give it out as a prize. You can make an extremely difficult stage where players have to cooperate and everyone earns the prize. Or you can be devilish and force players to compete at the end by only letting one player win the Taj Mahal. Whoever wins the object gets to use it when they design custom levels. However, they can’t give out the Taj Mahal. Only the original owner can give it out, which will encourage other players to try test their skill on the Taj Mahal designer’s level. This is a brilliant feedback loop that encourages users to make high quality content on LittleBigPlanet. Object designers are going to want to create coveted objects so people play their levels more.
If I’m going to invest my time in making an awesome replica of Doraemon, my level is going to be next to impossible to complete. I’ll fill it with plenty of “horrible stuff”, objects like lava blocks that can kill a sackboy. Yes, you can “die” in LittleBigPlanet, but there aren’t any lives to worry about. If you happen to explode (that’s the animation I saw) into sackbits you start at a respawn point. My levels will force people to respawn right on top of a lava brick. OK, I’m kidding around here because I wouldn’t make anything that malicious. The point is you can make other players jump through hoops to get a unique accessory for their sackboy.
Pretty much all of the discussion about LittleBigPlanet has focused on its network features, but there will be 50+ levels on the disc for gamers who opt out of the online community. However, if you do not connect your PS3 online you will not be able to publish levels or share content.
After the walkthrough I asked rapid fire questions about:
Will Sony sell downloadable LittleBigPlanet content? “Yes”
Home integration? “Yes, it is a requirement for first party titles.”
Cross collaboration between other Sony franchises? (specifically, I asked about a Ratchet level) – “There could be.”
How about Remote Play on the PSP? “No comment.”