It’s seems particularly fitting that LittleBigPlanet has inspired such a loyal blog following. Even before the game’s release, new fans were speculating about what to expect from Sony’s hot platformer, and even now, they have plenty to keep them checking back in. We talked with Joe O’Rourke, the founder of the long-running LiBiPl.net, to talk about the game’s community and level editing tools.
The Rumble Pack: You started up LiBiPl.net long before the game’s release. What was it about the early footage that inspired you to start the blog?
Joe O’Rourke: I’ve always been an avid gamer, but nothing about the current generation of consoles had really grabbed me until I saw the GDC 2007 demo of LittleBigPlanet. I’d played with level editors from Doom to Source, even done a tiny bit of 3D modeling; so to see a game where objects could be created as real-world materials with great visual fidelity and reasonable physics, while the game is running and not in a separate tool, just blew me away. The art style was very appealing as well, which became more and more of an additional draw as time went on.
RP: Early reports of sales numbers were initially disappointing, even though I think they’d qualify in the “pretty good” range at this point. But in terms of your own site numbers, have you seen a pretty steady influx of new readers? Do you think the LBP name is still relevant to the average PS3 owner.
JO: Based on Sony’s statements leading up to the release, I didn’t see any way they wouldn’t be disappointed by the sales (which, given the platform and lack of gore, were still pretty darn good); it’s worth noting that Media Molecule was profitable immediately due to their low overhead. As far as my site goes, it’s been downhill since before the release, but that doesn’t surprise or disappoint me. LittleBigWorkshop launched, LittleBigPlanet Central resurfaced, Media Molecule hired excellent community managers, the podcasts started – all of these things made sites like mine less necessary, which is fine.
RP: Your site also mentions that you’re a game design hobbyist too. Are you satisfied with the tools included with the game? What are some additional tools you’d like to see in LBP‘s second year?
JO: The tools were definitely made more accessible since the early demos, which has a huge upside and a slight downside; infinite depth granularity has its problems, but I have to agree with those that say four layers for four players might’ve been better. For the future, though, I’d love to see some creation incorporated into gameplay, as had been planned at one point. It’s difficult to do well, but if anyone can tackle that particular design challenge it’d be the folks at Media Molecule. The other thing that excites me for the future is the demo of wand/sphere/thingy LBP integration that was shown at TGS, which looks like an awesome cooperative (particularly parent/child or gamer/nongamer) experience.
RP: What would you want the PSP version to bring to the table? Do you think it will inspire the same strong community as its console older brother?
JO: The ability to create levels while waiting in line, riding the train, et cetera should be a huge boon to the more mobile among us. I’m not sure how the community will shake out, though. There’s an opportunity to use the PSP’s online features to great advantage, having an in-game portal to LittleBigWorkshop and such, or queueing up levels via browser to be pushed down to the PSP, but I’m not sure how much of that sort of thing is being worked on. I guess we just have to wait and see.
RP: How do you feel about the DLC that’s been released so far? Were you initially hoping for more than costumes when you started the blog so many years back?
JO: It’s difficult to complain, when LBP’s seen more DLC than just about anything short of Rock Band and SingStar. Back before release, I think a lot of us expected most of the DLC to be level packs, but in retrospect that’s kind of silly given that it’d be competing with their own user base. I like the costumes and stickers, but for those that don’t there’ve also been the paintinator, creator pack and music pack (hopfully more to come). I think the Metal Gear Solid pack was such a game-changer, so soon after release, that players want that sort of thing on a more frequent basis than is reasonably possible.
RP: What do you think makes the LBP community so enduring/enthusiastic?
JO: Creation is marvelously addictive. The LBP fanbase is like an artists’ commune with thousands of residents: every day you can see wonderful things being created, and make your own visions into something to share. And it’s not all within the game, as I’m sure you’ve seen. From Sackboy fanart to music videos to whatever you’d call my DevFace vandalizations, there’s a real creative energy that drives the whole community.
RP: And lastly, do you have a favorite level or two?
JO: It’s so hard to pick favorites! In the story mode, I’d have to go with “The Darkness.” That’s the one that made me stop playing, go to the computer and email Media Molecule just to say “this is awesome.” From the pre-release Beta, I loved “Johnny Cash in Folsom Prison.” BasketSnake always does wonderful character contraptions, but this is still my favorite. As far as (somewhat) more current stuff, I loved “Inside the Mind of an ‘H4H’er” by wexfordian. So meta, but also great design and visuals. And some of my favorite levels in the current Beta…oh wait, I can’t talk about that, can I? 🙂
Be sure to check out Joe’s LiBiPl.net for the latest LittleBigPlanet news.