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Media Molecule's Paul Holden

One year on, the LBP creators discuss the constantly evolving game, the dedicated creatives and hiring from its own community

Just over a year since release, Media Molecule is still hard at work on the continuous development of LittleBigPlanet. Now with 25 patches and over 1.3 million user-generated levels since launch, lead architect Paul Holden sat down with GamesIndustry.biz to discuss the constantly evolving project, the importance of a dedicated community, how player's adopt new downloadable content and why creative players have even been recruited into the team.

GamesIndustry.biz Can you give us a brief overview of your session at Montreal International Games Summit, and what you hope people took away from it?
Paul Holden

The talk fell into two main parts. The first part was looking at how games that have user-generated content require a different kind of engine. With a traditional game you've got some kind of control over what your level designers are creating and you can put hard limits and budgets on things. But with LittleBigPlanet is was quite difficult because we don't want to restrict what the player creates – we want to give them freedom.

During development we spent quite a lot of time dealing with that complexity. The second part was really focusing on this past year and releasing patches for the game that have added new content and features and maintain the quality of the game. There's over a million levels that have been published for the game so we need to make sure that every time we patch we're not going to break levels that people have created. This past year we've been doing a lot of work to improve our testing.

GamesIndustry.biz What are the latest numbers with regards to user-generated content?
Paul Holden

The figures are obviously changing daily. The last figures I saw were there is over 1.3 million levels. Whereas typical games have a very busy first few months after release until the community finds other games to play, with LittleBigPlanet the community has remained very active over the last year and I think that's partly because we've been feeding the community with new content and features, but also because they've been creating their own levels and content and sharing it amongst themselves.

GamesIndustry.biz The usual pattern is that there's a couple of significant DLC releases for a game, but it can quickly fizzle out six months after launch. How important for Media Molecule is it to keep that fresh flow of content to the user, to keep them topped up with new things to play?
Paul Holden

It's very important and it's something we really wanted to nurture from the beginning. By releasing regular content we keep people interested. Once we release a big pack we can see a big uptake in the number of people playing. If you look at companies like Blizzard with StarCraft, or Bungie and Valve, they look after their communities by releasing regular content and updates, and in turn the community responds well to that kind of attention.

Over the course of this year we've also been putting out features that didn't make the original disc that we wanted to get out there and let people use them. As much as anything else it's good for us to see this work that we did which didn't quite make the original disc still get out to the community and made use off.

GamesIndustry.biz Do you see a significant spike in play as you release new online content and DLC?
Paul Holden

Yes. We can see the daily concurrent users and that definitely increases when we release, and more so when there's the big packs like the Metal Gear Solid pack. There's definitely a jump in users. Users fall into different categories. There are those who are just looking for other people's levels to play, and then there's the creatives. The creatives are more likely to buy the sticker packs and take the new content to make new levels and such. Even if there's only those creatives buying the content, everyone can benefit from that as they share their levels. That's a very important point.

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Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.