A little over two years ago, Sony hung PlayStation 3 on a charming character made by British bright sparks Media Molecule, Sackboy. He was the star of LittleBigPlanet, a game that embodied the bold creative strides Sony wanted to make with PS3. And the gamble paid off, as Media Molecule's carnival of creation became Eurogamer's Game of the Year 2008.
Today, Media Molecule releases its sequel, LittleBigPlanet 2. The reviews are in (another immense 9/10 from Eurogamer), the servers are open and the ball is rolling. So what now? Eurogamer sat down with Media Molecule co-founder and technical director David Smith to find out.
Eurogamer: It's launch week! What's the mood like at Media Molecule?
David Smith: It's very odd because there's all these different milestones – they actually never told us when to celebrate. We have this system whereby if there's any excuse to celebrate then we do so! We have this stack of champagne that gets stocked up and then replenished all the time. The official launch party is a few weeks away.
But still, the server team are busy watching the number of users climb up exponentially and running around trying to make sure everything works. But it's going pretty well; they're pretty calm.
Eurogamer: Inevitably, new games have bugs. How are you tackling yours?
David Smith: We tried to get as many out the way with the beta – that's what it was for. But there's a huge difference between the number of people in the beta and the number of people playing the final retail version. There's a few bugs that have already cropped up from the point of the server. There's some issue to do with having really large friends lists or lists of favourited levels. It's something we missed when doing the load testing. But I think there's an easy fix that's just gone through for that.
There's going to be a few issues we'll need to address in a patch that goes out. But nothing terrifyingly bad has happened yet. At some point something horrible is going to go wrong and there will be people pulling their hair out, but that hasn't quite happened yet. But it will.
Eurogamer: How soon can a patch come out?
David Smith: That's a good question. The more patches we try to send out, it makes lots of work. I think it's on the time scale of a few weeks. But if something really critical came up then we could be more reactive. But there's no reason to try and push things that hard at the moment.
Eurogamer: Reviews are in for LittleBigPlanet 2 - are you happy?
David Smith: It's a really difficult game to score, so I really feel sorry for anyone who has to write a truly impartial review. I've really been quite surprised; I've been glad with the reviews we've got.
With a sequel, everyone expects a higher quality. People are less forgiving. In some ways the first game relied heavily on innovation and there were a few rough edges we got away with. If we hadn't spent as much time trying to polish up some of the rougher edges than we wouldn't have done so well – we would have been really criticised about that. But it seems most reviews have noticed the time we've taken to try and improve these areas. And that's nice.
I feel like everyone knows how to even talk about and review the game now, whereas the first time round, people thinking it was a game and you can make levels - a level editor? It's hard to get your head around all the ramifications of how that affects how you play it. Do you play all the levels in there and quickly check online? Do you make levels yourself? How do you even use this thing?
And it varies between the reviewers. Some are utterly turned off by all the Create functionality; they have no desire to create. And for them they naturally give it a lower score, and who could blame them? And there are some that are really into the Create side or really into playing all this nice content and give it a much higher score. I'm quite happy that there are a variety of people that engage with the game in different ways.