LittleBigPlanet: Taming the Burger Monster

Making fun with Eurogamer's level contest winner.

I'd like to bring you better news about the tomato-sauce rocket, but I'm afraid I can't. The team spent hours crafting it, nursing it through that eleventh-hour transformation from mayonnaise to ketchup (the switch was made "in case the mayonnaise coming out the end gives people the wrong idea" in the words of our star designer), building it out of polystyrene so that it was light enough to take to the skies but still allowed Sackboy to cling onto it for the ride, and finally constructing, one at a time, the hamburger buns that would cushion its landing.

But then we had that problem when we tried to plug an extra controller into the PS3 and, well, I'm sorry to report that the whole thing went haywire and we had to reset the game. And we hadn't saved. When LittleBigPlanet came back to life, the whole rocket enterprise was nothing but a sweet, sweet memory. If I'm being honest, the team could never get it to land without violently ploughing through the rest of the stage anyway.

So, how long does it take to make a LittleBigPlanet level then? The answer, resoundingly, is that it takes a bloody long time. And that's even if you have a trained "Super-User" named Barra on hand to help, and even if you have a design document for a brilliant barbecue-themed playground drawn up by Eurogamer competition winner Michael Williams (Lazlow on the forums), and even if you have me safely relegated to documenting status, following my disastrous two minutes at the helm early on. LBP is great - never doubt that for a second - but it isn't particularly quick.

There's no question that it's rewarding, however. Eight hours after we first sat down in the LBP Brand Space in Covent Garden, with the finishing touches going onto the climactic end-of-level Burger Monster, we all felt such a palpable sense of reward - even me, and I hadn't actually done anything - that it was almost enough to justify the fact that we'd had to listen to Britney's Womaniser over the PA at least twenty times during the day. Finally, the great moment arrived: pressing the save button, switching from 'Create' to 'Play' mode, and then triumphantly blasting through Michael's entire level.

design

Michael's original design documents. You can see how they look in the game at the Eurogamer Expo, starting tomorrow.

Well, I say entire. The truth is we found a series of fairly devastating conceptual flaws popping up about halfway through, when the collapsing bridge section collapsed a little too quickly, tumbling our rugged Bananamobile into some toxic gas we'd stuck around the level on a whim, and killing us all instantly. Thanks, Michael. And we gave you a PS3 for this?

But it's not all bad. Crash bugs aside, our official winner proved a remarkably capable leader. His initial inspiration for his winning design was simple: "I don't have a PS3," said Michael, "and I really want one." I'm sure that's the same stuff that gets Miyamoto out of bed every morning. Michael's an aspiring 3D computer modeller - and a good one from what I saw of his portfolio when he wasn't looking - and admits that, like Proust and Fellini, there's a healthy chunk of autobiography in his work. The central theme for his barbecue level came to him, "after I had a barbecue the night before, I think." It's a good thing, perhaps, that he didn't start work on the competition while recovering from a sigmoidoscopy, then. That would be a hard environment to render in LBP's handicraft range of sponge and quilting.

With his concept pinned down, it was a simple task to mock up the design in his back garden, using cocktail sausages, plastic beakers, a fair amount of lawn furniture, and an origami Sackboy. It didn't help that it was a windy day and Michael had to take the photos while also holding the props in place, but quality design is never easy, and the results were more than enough to justify the ten pounds he spent on coke bottles, value burgers, and fruit at the local supermarket.

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