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GDC: Media Molecule talks LittleBigPlanet

Media Molecule's Mark Healy and Alex Evans have revealed more about the evolution of newly announced PS3 title LittleBigPlanet in a speech at the Game Developers Conference.

It began with a demo of the game, which appeared to last slightly longer than that shown earlier in the day as part of Phil Harrison's keynote speech. Once again, the demo was met with a loud round of applause from the audience.

Referring to Rag Doll Kung Fu, Media Molecule's first project, Healy conceded, "It was flawed, it wasn't a perfect game, but there were some parts of it that I thought worked really well.

"In particular, I liked the ability to act with your characters... So that was one of the key things we wanted to take forward into the next project."

Healy said he knew that MM's next game should be for a console platform from the start, "Because I like sitting on my sofa and playing games, not sitting at my desk with a PC."

According to Evans, MM then heard that Sony wanted to meet with the studio - but in just one week's time. One of the studio's co-founders, Dave Smith, came up with a prototype in a bid to establish how to translate Rag Doll Kung Fu to a console controller.

The audience was then shown the prototype, which featured a square character with stick arms and legs running and jumping around a blocky 2D environment. The characters arms were controlled by the right analog stick, its legs by the left. "We honestly didn't know what we were doing, where this was going to go," said Evans.

"So we showed it to Sony, and they were amazing. This is honestly not bootlicking. We pitched, they were like, 'Yeah, we love it,' and all of the stuff in the briefing where we thought they'd say can you tone it down... The said, 'We love it, but can we have more of the mad stuff?'.

"They really pushed us in a strong direction, and it just happened to be the direction we wanted to go in anyway."

Sitting in the audience was Peter Molyneux, the founder of Lionhead Studios - where Evans and Healy met as colleagues. "Peter's a bit of a guru to us," Healy said.

"One of the problems we had was, how are we going to make a game when we don't know what we're doing?" added Evans. "Suddenly we don't have someone who's going to lead us, so we decided to try and make it up as we went along."

Part of that plan, he continued, involved being upfront and honest with Sony at all times. According to Healy, "We didn't want this attitude of them and us. We thought, we're going to work with them, and that way if it goes wrong we can blame them, basically."

Evans explained that while Sony representatives frequently visit Media Molecule and give feedback on how the game is progressing, they don't always have the final word. "They're quite straight talking, and they'll say to us, 'Sorry, we don't think this is going to be fun.'

"But the awesome thing is we then have a massive argument when they've gone, where we choose whether to ignore them, sometimes, and it's been really useful to have an external force coming in."

However, Evans continued, it hasn't all been plain sailing for MM. "We are really bad communicators with each other," he said, revealing that there was a "massive battle" over whether to make LittleBigPlanet a 3D game. Healy added, "It was like, how do we use a 2D physics engine, but present it in a 3D world?"

In the end, Healy made a video - shown during the speech - of a small blob character running along curved surfaces, hanging off ledges and running around balls.

"There's loads of our game in that, even though we didn't know it at the time," said Evans.

During the Q&A session at the end of the speech, the questioners were full of praise for the LittleBigPlanet demo shown during Harrison's keynote - with one observing that it was the "best demo I've seen in probably ten years" while another said it "brought tears to my eyes". Evans and Healy accepted their comments graciously, saying that they were still coming to terms with the reaction to the demo.

When asked if Media Molecule had ever considered making the game for a platform other than PS3, Healy replied, "I always thought Sony had the best parties. I remember many times standing outside them without a ticket, watching all these people - producers, most of the time. So I thought, one day I'm going to go to a Sony party..."

Evans added, "There's another factor - luck. I was really surprised and blown away that Sony asked us to do the stuff we wanted to do that we hadn't really pitched to them, and to me that was a really big incentive.

"Someone asked a question after a talk, and they said, 'You're just a bunch of hippies and you're telling a lie. You walked in off the street and you got a deal.' We have been incredibly lucky, but at the same time, it's been incredibly hard work."

Another questioner wanted to know whether LittleBigPlanet is aimed at older or younger gamers. Evans replied, "It's not just a kids' game - we're not announcing anything about that, but user created content is all about breadth of content, breadth of ideas. So I'm looking forward to seeing that."

It was time then for the end of the speech and another round of applause from an audience who, judging by the reaction, is also looking forward to seeing more of LittleBigPlanet.

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Rob Fahey avatar

Rob Fahey

Contributing Editor

Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.