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LittleBigPlanet: It's a "service" as much as a game

PS3 flagship title to go big on community features and learn lessons from YouTube, Facebook

Forthcoming PlayStation 3 flagship title, LittleBigPlanet, is being considered by the development team at Media Molecule as much as a "service" as it is a videogame title, with the much-anticipated game drawing heavily from aspects of popular social networking and community websites such as Facebook and YouTube.

That's according to company co-founder Alex Evans, who explained to GamesIndustry.biz some of the game's online functionality.

"We tried to take inspiration from millions of websites," he said. "My current favourite that I use all the time is Last.fm. But the thing is taking all of those ideas and turning them into a console experience.

"[Media Molecule co-founder] Mark Healey is really useful there - I don't know if he's playing the fool, or is just a fool, but we have this tagging system in that's really cool... except he kept saying he didn't understand, he didn't know what tagging was, so he wasn't going to do it because he didn't see the point.

"But he was really useful, because basically he took these ideas I knew from the web and tried to turn them into console things. Like if you just mash X, we think you should go somewhere interesting - that doesn't apply to the web, but it does apply to consoles."

Evans went on to describe one example of the game's community-specific features regarding the use of photos in-game.

"So we've got the standard webby features, and my favourite one is the photos in the game - you can take screenshots, but as with everything in the game it's physical, so you can frame a shot, take it, then you can stick it," he explained.

"But then you can upload it as well, and we use it in a variety of places, so every level has a feed of photos. Say you design a GamesIndustry.biz level - anyone who goes in that level and takes a photo, that photo will go on the feed. Anybody searching for that level will see the feed and be able to judge if it's a good level.

"But it gets even cooler, because that feed also applies to people, so it's a bit like somebody's subscription channel on YouTube."

And Evans believes that while the levels will keep gamers hooked for a long time, the people that create the most popular ones could gain cult status.

"Creators are just as important as levels, so as a creator we have world rankings of who's the coolest creator, or who's the coolest community-minded commenter or sharer," he said.

"So you can be a little bit competitive if you want to be, and you'll have feeds of photos of you - levels that you've been in, photos people have taken of you. Then we take it even further, like Facebook. In any photos we know what kind of Sackboys were in it, who they were logged in as, so we put a box around their face which you can click and go and see that person. So if there's a cool level with a guy wearing an awesome costume, you just D-pad up to him and hit X, and now you can see his levels, his favourites.

"My favourite features are how you navigate around in a social way - so rather than just being a type-in text bar, which you can do but is a bit clunky, it's much more that you play a level, it will find more recommended levels like that, then you see a cool guy, click on him... it's that kind of jumping around. That's the most obviously different feature set.

"The nicest bit about the online side is that we treat it as a service, so if we can iterate. I love the way that people abuse - in the good sense of the word - features, that the community will find and start building up around, and we want to support that. We'll add features to the community side that are specifically for the community," he added.

The full interview with Alex Evans, in which he also explains how the team plans to expand the game in future - including the possibilities around creators monetising their content - is available on GamesIndustry.biz now.

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