Five days on a Little Big Planet

By | Monday, November 3, 2008 at 4:43 pm

The following enourmous blog entry was written over a five day period following our purchase of Little Big Planet. If you’re not into video games, just skip down a ways. Otherwise read on! Day 1:
Ok, we got LBP. Played around and leaned for a few hours, and this is so cool. Don’t wait, go get it and never look back. For starters, if you have the Eye and a headset it’s like the ultimate use of everything together! We gotta play this thing together, Bluetooth and Eye. You start with only a few items and as you play through the levels you find more and more new stuff. You design your sack person any way you like, even make him sad or happy, slap stickers all over the levels wherever and whenever you want, and you can even take snapshots for the Eye and make stickers out of them, slapping your own face anywhere you want. The controls take some getting used to, but they make complete sense once you learn them. Pull, push, jump things to manipulate everything and experiment. You’ll play the first level for hours just learning the controls. Its kind of like a 2D platformer, but with a 3rd dimension inward and outward on three levels.

This is only the beginning though. I heard you can bring in your own photos and stuff and do tons more creating levels and sharing, doing multiplayer online, etc… None of which we’ve even tried yet. Day 2:
I worked today till 6pm. Kevin was off of school, so guess what he did all day? LBP, non-stop. He got a lot further, learned a few new things, and managed to complete the 3 initial levels, which unlocks the entire level building and online play modes! So when I got home I took the controller from him and tried things out. First of all, it’s hard to sum it up in a nutshell, but I’ll try because I don’t want to sit here typing all night… As you play you discover and unlock more and more items and abilities. Everything it added to your “toolbox”, categorized and place it the appropriate places. So with only a few levels completed, and each of them with only a small percentage of goodies found, there’s still a ton more options and goodies to find just in the first few levels alone. After learning some quick basics with a few tutorials in the game I started placing thing on a blank level. Wow, smooth building, fun, just amazing gadgets and abilities, even add you own music, snap photos of yourself onto stickers and place them throughout, on any objects you want. Use different materials (so far I just have wood and rubber to play with and only 1 piece of music), and just have a blast trying stuff out and then playing the level to see how it reacts.

Ever play that Amazing Contraption game I had for the PC? Kinda like that, on crack. So I saved the crappiest level you can imagine, so broken it’s pathetic, but the point is, I did it. Next if was off to the online mode and again I was instantly blown away. Each “Level” is represented by a planet. You rotate each planet to reveal a collection of user-created levels, like countries or continents, on that planet. Kevin only thought there was the one planet. I noticed it said “Level 1” in the corner of the screen, so I hit R1 and went to Level 2–another completely new planet of different levels. It goes on and on, and so far I’ve only browsed through about 15 levels, playing a few choice ones. People are nuts. The levels are so awesomely complex sometimes, and really simple other times. I haven’t chatted with anyone else yet, but I listened to them talk. The highlight of tonight’s experience was when four of us completed a level. All 3 of the people I was playing against followed me back to my “pod”. This is your “home” starting room where you always start the game and people can follow back here! You decorate your pod with your stickers and gadgets too! Mine’s pretty bare, but Kevin’s is all decked out and fancy schmancy. I take a photo of them and send them to you for comparison. So anyway, the reason these guys followed me soon became apparent… They all wanted the code for the cool outfit I was wearing! This is the outfit I unlocked with the code I got from pre-ordering the game from Best Buy! Apparently it’s cool and they like it! I have bright red, log, flowing hair, and a sorta ninja outfit. I’ll take photos of it too, so you can see. I couldn’t give them the code though–it’s entered as under “transaction management” and goes in as a purchased item! I tried re-using it on Kevin’s account, and it’s invalid now, since I already used it. Turns out Kevin gets to use it anyway, cause it was automatically in his goodies already. So it’s not really a cheat code anyone can use. This really makes the game much more interesting… I’m wondering if it’s unique now, whether all Best Buy pre-orders have the same outfit or different ones… hmmm.

So that’s it for tonight. I have the next 3 days off of work, so there’s much more to come… Day 3:
Today we learned why there is so little available when you first get the game. When you finish each tutiorial you are given 8,10,12 or more objects for your goodie bag. These can be just stickers, gameplay objects or anything else, and I’m pretty sure they’re divvied up strategically. They’ll give you a bunch of colors, stickers, and then one or two key elements. When you try to use one of those key elements you’ve never used before, you’re prompted to go through another tutorial on how to use it. And that’s how the cycle goes. But there’s a shortcut–In your pop-it menu (I tend to call it “pop-UP”) there’s a big ole “?” icon. This is “Play Next Tutorial”. So you can go through each tutorial one-by-one pretty easily. The HARD part though, is that you don’t just WATCH the tutorial–you have to do what the ole lady says. See, there’s this English-accented guy that narrates the video tutorial while you’re like on a blank level or a level with a few objects setup for the tutorial. Then this big ole queen-looking lady statue is there, and she explains exactly what you have to do to complete the tutorial. These tasks involve using the new objects that the tutorial is about. Complete them properly and you’re rewarded with a bunch of new stuff. For example, one tutorial was a build a specific pyramid-shaped structure out of a specific type of material, add a switch somewhere, wire the switch to the object, and set it to blow up when the switch is pushed. It’s great fun to blow things up (or do ANYTHING on this game), so you have a blast just re-trying it until you do it just right and the tutorial (sadly) ends and you get your rewards (gladly). It’s a roller coaster ride for all of your senses!

Last night I played a little more before bedtime, just to get a little further in the tutorials. I’m wondering just how many tutorials there are before I know (and have) all I need to complete a level and share it. I suspect it will be some time yet. I’m anxious to “cheat” and search the web to see just how many tutorials there are and what all will be revealed, but for now I’ll hold off. We’ll see how far I get with my three days off, then if I’m still not done I’ll go try find out how close I am. I took a few photos last night too. Here’s the link:

http://jimsphotoworld.com/gallery/6420331_XnFSi#406643434_Zu7Y6

Lastly, we also learned that you can “heart” almost anything, even on other users’ levels. This adds them to your “favorites” and they’re in your toolbox for use in your levels (if the user set the object to be shared when they created it). Kevin is now obsessed with just playing in the level editor on his Moon. He’s adding all the stuff he’s collected from other places and those in his toolbox, and just messing around. He’s getting nowhere in the real game, but he’s learning. Hey, I just stumbled on this too:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiRgYBHoAoU

Watch it all the way through. WOW! Imagine the possibilities if a total geek can build THIS with it! Day 4:
Kevin is obsessed with tinkering on the custom level areas on his Moon. He’s trying every gadget, sticker, and prop we’ve collected, tweaking them, adding onto them, and basically accomplishing nothing, but he’s totally engrossed. Occasionally he’ll play another game level and unlock some more stuff, then come back to his moon, and start playing with the new stuff he’s found. Occasionally I have to interrupt him to ask if we can play a level together, and at other times he’ll get to a puzzle in a level that actually requires two players to solve and he’ll ask me to join in. It works much like the Lego games in that way””I can jump in, help him solve a puzzle, and jump back out again while he moves on. Some things he can do better than me (like punching the other player with a swift backhand) and other things (like those that require precise timing) I can do better than him, so it’s really neat that way. I still must say, it is by far the best PS3 game ever, and this game alone could sell a ton of PS3 systems! With all the levels included, the countless user-created levels online, and the “sandbox” to create your own levels, this game has endless possibilities! The only negative I see at this point is one function that was mentioned very early on that seems to be missing from the game””the ability to use your own music and images in the game. From what I’ve read online, this may have been initially included and later removed to avoid a lot of issues with users including copyrighted images and music in their creations. This is very disappointing, because it seems like it would be awesome (as easy!) to create, for example, a completely interactive, custom photo slideshow, even if you could only share it with friends and family on your own system (because of the copyright issues)””I think it would still be a huge plus for the game anyway, and I’d love to use it! I could navigate through the “level’, revealing the photos throughout, on the walls and object, as I walked, and record it onto DVD or other media. It seems like this would open the possibilities up even much further than they already are. The open-endedness is always still there though, with the limitless adding of objects to your goodie bag, and the ability for the game creators to “patch” the game whenever they feel the need, so you never know””maybe they’ll be nice enough to somehow allow this ability at some point in the future. We can only hope (and beg). I’ll be waiting. Day 5:
Today I just wanted to do a few simple things. After wrestling the controller from Kevin I was able to try out a few simple ideas I had, just to see what would happen and whether or not they were actually possible. Kevin himself made a very interesting “race” level before I began, so we decided to run a few races on it just before I started. He basically had a simple track setup with the starting gate at the left end of the playing area and the finish line at the right-most edge of the playing area. If you think this is a short distance, think again. Though he just made a straight one-shot no-turn race, it still takes a bit of time to get from start to finish. Or so I thought. What he had done was set several of his favorite “modes of travel” at the starting line, so the players could basically take their pick. As soon as a player approaches the starting gate, the 3-2-1 countdown begins. You either hop on something and take off, or start running your butt off on foot! I had never seen two out the four items he had placed on the starting line. He had a jet pack (I am familiar with this one), a huge camouflage tank (I’ve seen this one too””very sloooow), a cheetah (new to me), and a rocket (right outta the the Road Runner cartoons!) He suggested we try the cheetah and the rocket first, so we did. WOW. I never knew anything in this game even WENT that fast! Both the Cheetah and the rocket are comparable in speed, and they zipped so fast from start to finish that you were airbourne the entire ride, hanging on for dear life with the R1 button! If you had let go of R1 for even a split second you’d be thrown off your ride and left miles in the dust. If you managed to hold on for the entire ride, you’d end up slamming into the wall immediately after the finish line, and your vehicle, no matter which one it was, would smash into pieces, sometimes even leaving the engine (from the rocket) or the Cheetah’s rear-end actually embedded in the wall itself!! That southern lawyer on Boston Legal said it best: “This is a HOOT, that’s what THIS is!” After a few more hilarious races (the rocket actually FLIES horizontally through the race, so if you nudge it a little it’ll actually steer off-course, sometimes sending you into a wacky spin & crash) we wrapped up his time and I got a chance to play a little on my own. My first idea was to advertise my website by creating “JimTrottier.com” in sponge or wood material in the game, set the letters out so they made sense, then see how they “stood up” to being within a game. So I choose a small block of wood and proceeded to start drawing the letters. I drew “Jim”, then exited edit mode. This basically “releases” the objects onto the level so you can see how they appear and/or interact with any other moving parts or items and sack people (the players in Little Big Planet). When I dropped the “Jim”, the dot on the “i” fell onto the top of the “i”. In that moment I realized that this is a pretty real simulation and the physics are going to behave much like real life. Objects can’t just mysteriously “float” in space anywhere. They have to be attached to something, connected to something hidden behind them so they “appear” to be floating, or they’re just not going to stay put. That is, unless they’re made of “dark matter”. This is material that throws physics out the window””put it anywhere and it sticks””kinda like what I assumed would happen with the wood I used. So basically you can “have it your way”, “real” or “unreal”. I chose to stick with real, and finished drawing out my letters until the full “JimTrottier.com” was written. I released it once again, and the “r” fell over, the two “i” dots fell of course, and the “c” fell over onto the dot because the bottom of it was rounded. The “T” was satisfying though””I made the top extend from over the “m” all the way over the small “tt’s” so it looked balanced, but very top-heavy. It stood nicely still, but the player could easily push it or pull it and knock it over and climb up onto the top of it. I then decided that instead of modifying the other shapes so they’d all stand on their own, I’d try another solution. I added a bar of dark matter a far distance above the area I was using as gameplay area, then I attached one end of a string to the bottom of the bar and the other to the top of one of the unstable letters. I released it again and this time the letter stood without falling. The player could also now push it around or climb on it and it would continue to dangle from the string and swing back and forth. I added more strings to the remaining unstable letters and the entire “JimTrottier.com” could now stand on its own””that is, until a player started messing around with the letters. I think it’s pretty cool to be able to create such a highly-detailed “world” like this, interact with it, endlessly experiment with it, and ultimately be able to share it with the rest of the PS3 community when you feel it’s “done.” It truly is amazing how far games have come, and Little Big Planet really springs that distance much further than any other game has so far. I can understand now why it’s taken the developers a few years to complete this game. Kevin and I spent the rest of the weekend working through many of the included levels in the game. As it turns out, there are many puzzles embedded within the big levels themselves that require two people to complete. These puzzles pretty much always reveal bonus objects to add to your goodie bag, and aren’t actually required to complete the level, so if you don’t have a second player you’d still be able to work through the game. Fortunately, everything we unlock together gets applied to BOTH of our users’ goodie bags, so we both benefit in our own profiles separately as well. Lastly, I’ll just say that somehow Media Molecule””the company that created this game””has gotten it more right than any other game I’ve ever played. This game is addictive, yet doesn’t get old. I know it’s only been five days, but sometimes Kevin and I had to replay levels 8 or 10 times, and you’d think it would get boring and repetitive, but we always manage to find something we didn’t see the last time””a new treasure, a different path we never tried, or even if it the gameplay is on the same route, since it’s so physics-based, doing seemingly the exact same thing you did last time can often yield completely different results””sometimes even with hilarious outcomes you never expected. And although we’ve finished many levels, only two or three of them are completed 100%, so we still have a lot to go back and do if we ever get to the end of the included levels.