Monday, January 17, 2011

LittleBigSequel: Interview With SCEA Associate Producer, Eric Fong

This interview was originally scheduled for the January 2011 edition of Tek Lado Magazine. Following the closing of the publication I decided to post the article here.

Following the success of the original LittleBigPlanet, the team at Media Molecule has been hard at work packing as many features, tools, and balls of yarn into next year’s sequel. Sackboy returns to conquer another world of imaginative, challenging, and wildly upholstered levels. While the first game was a platformer at heart, LittleBigPlanet 2’s creation tools have seen lots of additions allowing players to make any type of game they wish. The mad Sony scientists have already showed off an LBP-style space shooter, kart racer, and just about everything in between. The game retains its strong focus on community content. User-generated levels from the first game will be available as fans flex their creative muscle with the sequel’s newfound features. SCEA Associate Producer, Eric Fong, unravels our questions about the game and what we can expect from this oh-so-charming sequel.

NL: Was there a point you realized a feature or idea was to big or not possible in the first LittleBigPlanet and a sequel would be necessary?

EF: For me, there wasn't any single moment, rather a growing feeling that players wanted to do more than just create levels - that they wanted to create entire games.

NL: Anybody who’s played the first LBP has a story or two about a crazy moment or level. During the development of LBP2, what have been some of the most creative moments you’ve encountered either from the team at Media Molecule or the community?

EF: We were at an event in Seattle, Washington showing off some of the new features of LBP2 and some random guy started messing around with the in-game music sequencer and created a REALLY good song in about 5 minutes. We're also in the middle of the online beta and one level in particular really impressed me - they were using the Creatinator and some basic logic switches to spawn entrance and exit points. They used this really simple gameplay mechanic to create a really fun level.

NL: Given all the new features and mechanics, has there been anything that’s taken you by surprise in terms of what the game is now capable of doing?

EF: Media Molecule created a space shooter that used an artificial horizon and gave the illusion of depth to 2D objects by adjusting its scale - that made my jaw drop. But what really blew my mind was the first person shooter created by a community member in the online beta - I'm still trying to figure out how they did all that.

NL: This fall, Sony launched the Playstation Move and it’s been revealed that LBP2 will take advantage of the new controller. How is the team integrating Move and how crucial is it to the experience?

EF: It’s literally a separate experience from the rest of LittleBigPlanet 2. There are specific Move levels that allow a Move player to manipulate the environment so other players controlling Sackboy can safely navigate the level.

NL: The first LBP was wonderfully narrated by Stephen Fry which turned out to not only be charming but very helpful during the creation tutorials. Are there plans to offer a Spanish narration, particularly for the tutorial, in the North American release?

EF: That’s something we've been wanting to do since LBP1. I see Latin America as being crucial to the success of the LittleBigPlanet franchise as well as the long term success of Sony as a whole. While not currently in the schedule, I would not rule it out entirely.

NL: One of the few criticisms of LBP was that some players felt the physics were too “floaty”. Has there been a change to any of the underlying mechanics? If so, how would this affect the user-created levels of the first game which will be playable in the sequel?

EF: Yeah, that's a tough one from both a technical aspect as well as from a design decision. Adjusting physics in a physics based game can have many unintended consequences (not just for the main game, but also for the over 3 million plus levels that have been published). It's also a tough design decision because there are a lot of people that don't have a problem with the physics, so who's right and how much should it change?


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