September 25, 2008 / 10:05 AM / 10 years ago

LittleBigPlanet turns gamers into creators

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A new videogame allows players to conjure up their own design ideas and create playable content that can be uploaded and shared.

LittleBigPlanet's creation screen is seen in an undated handout photo released to Reuters on September 25, 2008. REUTERS/Sony Computer Entertainment America/Handout

And gamers can do it from the privacy of their own home with Sony Computer Entertainment America’s LittleBigPlanet.

For years, PC gamers have been able to modify games like Unreal Tournament 3 and Half-Life 2 to create playable levels and linear entertainment (“Machinima”).

Will Wright took the concept mainstream with The Sims and his latest creation, Spore. On Oct 21 console gamers will be given the tools necessary to build their own virtual experiences.

Everyone from game developers to gamers are looking forward to this sudden shift in the videogame industry.

“The best thing about user-generated content is that it decreases the space between an idea in your head and bringing it to life on the screen,” said Kareem Ettouney, art director of LittleBigPlanet and co-founder of Media Molecule, a game development studio in England.

“A few years ago, even if you worked as a level designer inside a game company, you’d have to work with a programer, an artist, a scripter and an audio programer to make your idea come to life.”

With LittleBigPlanet, if you think it, you can make it. The game is a collection of intuitive tools that allow players to customize everything from their characters to the levels of gameplay they’ll be challenged with.

“We really wanted to push this game and it turns out we didn’t even use half of what was there,” said Zach Gage, of Team Sportsmanship, which won $1,000 for Best of Jam at a 24-hour Game Jam at Parsons The New School for Design last week.

Over 150 students, grouped into 19 teams, were given an advanced copy of the game and 24 hours to create an interactive experience, which was judged by two members of the Media Molecule development team.

The winning Parsons entrants will be playable in the final version of LittleBigPlanet in a special Parsons section of the game. Sony will release the game, both as a retail disc and as a digital download, through PlayStation Network on Oct 21.

LittleBigPlanet will have a huge online component, including team-based multiplayer options for designing levels together, as well as an active community with user feedback on created levels. Media Molecule will continue to support LittleBigPlanet with additional downloadable content moving forward.

“People will want to create things that we haven’t dreamed of and we’ll want to respond to that,” said Ettouney, adding gamers will use LittleBigPlanet to create a wide array of entertainment-like graphic novels, personal storybooks and plays.

There were nearly as many female students in the Parsons Game Jam as males, and non-gamers outnumbered the gamers.

“I don’t think of it as a videogame — even though it is, I look at it as a different form of creativity,” said Parsons student Erica Osher, whose team, The Sleepwalkers, won $500 for Best Use of Tools.

Whether creating content alone or with friends, Ettouney said the target audience for this game is “everyone.”

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