Media Molecule sets sights on new ground

Media Molecule are a development team relatively small in number but considerably vast in originality. They’ve gone from being a fairly unknown studio to one of the most admired within the industry and created arguably Sony’s biggest new IP, LittelBigPlanet. It’s already graced the PS3, twice, as well as the PSP and will soon be available on the PSVita when that itself is released. In between these big titles are the numerous DLC packs with another added Move support to LBP2, the name Media Molecule could easily be a prefix for name LittleBigPlanet.

A gambling man could be tempted into betting the next game from the Guilford based studio would be another LBP but director Siobhan Reddy has been quoted by Edge saying “We’re stepping away from LittleBigPlanet to focus on some new ideas,” at Gamelab 2011 in Barcelona recently. Being a huge fan of the create-em-up, the idea that the minds behind such a creative franchise are broadening their portfolio is great news. Media Molecule took the idea of a sandbox experience, mixed it with platformer and then furthered that concept in LBP2 by adding pretty much every genre imaginable into the game. Some of the levels were steeped in traditional gameplay mechanics but felt fresh nonetheless so it’s clear they understand what makes a game good, regardless of genre.

Another reason why Media Molecule’s move away from LittleBigPlanet is a good one stems from one of the most problematic issues in gaming; over saturation. With Sony claiming the star of LBP, the Sackboy, as a part-time mascot for the company, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see a multitude of spin-off games and needless titles dirtying up an awesome franchise. The get out clause of course is how LBP2 can be used to create any kind of game so even if MM were asked to make, say, a Sackboy kart racer, they kind of already have or at least given others the tools to do so themselves. Right now, Sony and MM are treating the franchise respectfully and allowing it some breathing space while they go off and spread the talent onto something new is pretty much just what this fan (both thumbs are pointing towards myself right now) wants to see.

Of course that’s not to say Media Molecule are abandoning LittleBigPlanet. There is still the aforementioned Move support DLC as well as some undoubtably more unannounced packs but it’s with great anticipation that I’ll await the reveal of the next Media Molecule game. I’m sure whenever they do it’ll be rightly or wrongly compared the LBP and even expected to live up to its genius but the jump from LBP1 to 2 was really quite substantial so who says the leap to their next game won’t be just as impressive?

LittleBigPlanet 2-D

Sony’s efforts in pushing 3D TVs onto consumers has been vigorous to say the least and with the Move peripheral, was pretty much the focus of their E3 press conference this year. But today, the company revealed that LittleBigPlanet 2, part of Sony’s core franchises will not be supporting it. Nope, the game will only be playable in two humble dimensions. Now this is very interesting and the exact wording from Mark Valledor was “no 3D this time around” as he responded to a question on the US PlayStation Blog (it’s in the comments). No further comment was made regarding why such an important IP wasn’t utilising Sony’s latest hardware gamble but developers Media Molecule may just not want to sacrifice processing power in order to appease early adopters or indeed Sony themselves. As seen in Call of Duty: Black Ops, running games in 3D significantly reduces performance lowering the 60 frames per second of Blops to something resembling 20. Graphics are also adversely effected with a cap of 720p and not a progressive scan more. So from a playability standpoint and since graphics are a pretty big deal for consumers, the decision not to go all 3D on us is seemingly a wise one. But from a marketing perspective and to maintaining confidence in a yet unproven technology, I’m surprised Sony didn’t insist on the inclusion of 3D. Hey, that’s an internal debate that I’m sure was as heated as it was long!

LittleBigPlanet 2 collector’s edition gets netuered for Europe

July this year was when we first heard about the LittleBigPlanet 2 collector’s edition and its wealth of goodies. Back then, the game was still on course for a November release and word on pricing for Europe was sketchy. Since then, the $79.99 box set including a number of free DLC, book/game ends and a Sackboy plushie, was pushed back until next year and if that’s not bad enough, it won’t even be coming to Europe. We’ll still be getting the DLC but the cuddly toy and book ends is to be replaced with a ‘steel’ case. Wow… Odd that one of the champions of British game development isn’t to have such a luxuries SKU but sales of the first game were significantly better in Europe after its 2008 release so maybe Sony feel that America need the most persuading to part with their cash.

{Thanks European PlayStation Blog}

LittleBigPlanet: Filth is an unreachable dream

Considering one of the first objects players cobble together when given the chance in games is usually phallic, it’s no wonder that Media Molecule would rather embrace the act instead of just censoring it. Speaking with GamesTM magazine (via Gamerzines), creative director Mark Healey spoke of his efforts in bringing Sony round on the idea: “I am constantly trying to persuade Sony to release an adult version of LittleBigPlanet. LittleBigPlanet: Filth, where all the moderated content goes to. I’d love to see that, but they’re not having any of it.”

Hardly surprising really but a shame nonetheless. With the average age of gamers ever increasing and the medium trying to appeal to larger audiences, a tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended) version of a franchise that’s all about fun wouldn’t hurt Sony’s credibility too much would it? Unless of course an uninformed reporter gets wind of it and proclaims the downfall of humanity. Hmm. On second thoughts, never mind.

LittleBigPlanet 2, meet Portal

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Some clever beta tester for LittleBigPlanet 2 has made full use of his popit and time with the pre-game to make a level heavily inspired by cult classic Portal. When I say heavily inspired I mean so similar that you’ll be hard-pressed not to gleefully tell the person closest to you. Even if they’re not a gamer, receiving polite but bewildered nods. Watch. Enjoy. Smile.

LBP2’s delay due to disconnected PS3s

News of LittleBigPlanet 2‘s delay was a disappointment laced with a hint of relief what with all the other games coming out in the holiday period. But the reason for the set back is as sweet as it is obvious. Speaking with VG247, Alex Evans of Media Molecule said: “Like LittleBigPlanet, we will be supporting the game with patches, updates and whatever, but you have to realise right from the beginning that there are those people who don’t have online and that is why we decided it was the right decision to delay the game.” He added that after some late play-testing, the team felt LBP2 wasn’t exceptable for a Blu-Ray release and since there are a certain number of gamers who are not online, they would be unable fix the issues via updates. Evans wants LBP2 to be something Media Molecule are “proud of.”

Such a sweet and thoughtful reason for holding back a game would have been the norm only a generation or two ago. The latest tech has allowed developers – or more like publishers – to release a game that isn’t quite ready but can be patched at a later date or at the time of release. While the latter may be a positive thing, the former does mean that some experiences are faltered by a nasty glitch or broken coding. I’ve little doubt that LBP2 would have had such serious issues and even less after Evans’ additional quote: “We respect people don’t have online and don’t want to patch their game to get the full experience. We could have shipped it and it would have been fine, however we realised that with just a couple of extra week’s we could make the game super amazing, adding the super onto the already amazing which exists today. This is something that will live forever and the delay, people will forget about.” I’m more than happy to wait only a month or so in order to get the LittleBigPlanet 2 that Media Molecule consider “super amazing,” and hope that other developers have the guts (or power) to delay their own game for similar reasons. In the end all we’ll receive is better games and less time waiting for that infernal update bar to fill.

A flOw of genius

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Remember flOw? The game that’s not really a game but actually is? How fitting it is that its charmingly sparse gameplay has been recreated in LittleBigPlanet 2; the game that is a game but also not.

Though I’m not sure if videos like these from LBP 2‘s beta testing are helping with the recent news of the game’s worldwide delay. On one hand it’s really exciting to see the sorts of experiences that can be created but on the other, it makes January 2011 seem that much further away.