Media Molecule's Alex Evans • Page 2

Setting the borders for LittleBigPlanet.

Eurogamer: Two of the examples of things people might want to create which you've given are "The Battle of Helm's Deep recreated with Toilet Rolls" and "A Shrine to my Cat". Do you see a lot of people going in and creating things that aren't game levels, that aren't puzzles - just weird, interactive spaces?

Alex Evans: Mark [Healey] is actually really keen on that, and I think he's right. There are a couple of answers to that question, actually, but "yes" is the short one.

Mark really wanted to support that. He calls them "physical websites". It's just showing off, really - I think the core of it isn't necessarily gameplay. The core of it is "look what I made", or "look at me". Online, that's massive. Facebook, MySpace and all of those things are built on vanity, and so are leaderboards, high-scores, gamerpoints and trophies. All of those mechanisms are basically "look at me, aren't I cool" - for whatever reason.

A website is just that as well. So people will totally do that, and I'm looking forward to it.

The other more subtle, more LittleBigPlanet-specific answer is that we support it by not just allowing you to make levels, but also objects, character designs and stuff. I'm really looking forward to someone making a level that has no gameplay whatsoever - it's a market. You go in, and there's a character who says "hello, welcome to the Bazaar - over here you'll find cars, over here you'll find something else..."

Basically, it's just a level where you go to collect all these items the person's made for you, the costumes, whatever. Maybe he only gives the keys to that level away to his mates, or maybe it's open season. We track these plans - they're called plans, they could be pieces of gameplay, or people might just make fun characters or animals, I've got no clue really - we track who made them, so you'll still get credit. If someone makes an awesome vehicle, and someone else uses it, you can find out who made the original vehicle.

"You can basically dictate the distribution rights on any object you create."

Eurogamer: Is there any kind of rights management on that? Can people define how far their creation goes?

Alex Evans: Yeah, we have a very simple system that we call "copyright" in the game, which isn't copyright in the legal sense. You can basically dictate the distribution rights on any object you create. If you put something in your level as a collectable item, people can collect it. People can control who comes into the level, both by how hard it is and by giving away keys, but you can also choose whether to copyright that object.

If it's copyright, people can use it in their levels - because they've collected it - but they can't give it away themselves. If you don't copyright it, then people can edit it, change it, and further disseminate it by giving it away. It's a really simple way to allow people to share or maintain ownership.

Eurogamer: Out of interest, what's the default setting on things you create? Are they copyrighted by default?

Alex Evans: Um, I can't actually remember. I think it's not copyrighted, I believe.

Eurogamer: How is discovery of levels going to work online? Obviously you'll have user rankings for your levels - but I'm thinking again about the Shrine To My Cat. How do my friends find out about that and go to visit it? My cat is great, but she's unlikely to be high up the level rankings...

Alex Evans: The overview here is that we wanted to take web ideas out of various sites that I love - web ideas - and "console-ify" them. I think that text entry isn't an enormously enjoyable experience on a console.

"We track the creators of the levels - so the people are as important as the levels themselves."

We wanted to find mechanisms that were really simple, and one of those is tagging - so you can tag levels, and then you can search by a particular tag. You can also find recommendations, so if you enjoy a level, you can ask to find levels that are related to this level.

Those are two mechanisms - there are four in total that I'll tell you about. There are many more, but those are the simplest ones.

Getting more subtle, we track the creators of the levels - so the people are as important as the levels themselves. We have this notion of "hearting", which is basically where you favourite something. You can favourite a person or a level that they've made - and it's really powerful, because we track what you've hearted and we use that to push content towards you that we think you might like, based on other people who also liked it. "People who liked this, also liked this" - that kind of thing.

Because we track people, though, I think you'll find a community building up around it - "he's really famous for making awesome levels", or even better, "he's really famous for his favourites list"! You have a favourites list, which is visible to others, so someone could be well-known for finding the good s***. We reward those people with Achievements and Trophies - we call them sharers.

If you go in and play a level that nobody has ever played before, and then you tag it, you get bumped up the sharers leaderboards. You might then choose to favourite someone, not because of their creations, but because of the stuff that they're finding.

Eurogamer: So those people basically become critics, in a sense.

"You get a feed of photos, so every level has a photo feed, and every player has a photo feed."

Alex Evans: Yeah, like aggregators, or critics.

The final element I'll mention, which is my favourite personally, is that there's an in-game tool for taking photos - screenshots. You can frame what you want to take, like framing your face and taking a big close-up. Originally, that was used for making stickers in-game, so you could arrange a family portrait in the game - full of Sack Boys and Girls - and frame it.

What's awesome is that, like Facebook, we know who is logged in under what PSN ID, and we know what level the photo was taken in. Within the LittleBigPlanet universe, we geotag the photo with where you were at the time - and we put Facebook-style clickable links to everyone in the picture! You get a feed of photos, so every level has a photo feed, and every player has a photo feed.

You could be browsing around the community and suddenly see, er, Bob. Okay, he sounds cool, let's click on Bob. Then you see a feed of levels he's played, find one that looks awesome... Who's he playing with? Oh, he's playing with Jamie, who's got this awesome costume on... So, there's a social way of linking and browsing the content, which is totally based on tracking people as much as levels, through these photo feeds.

We're even going to push those feeds out onto the web, so if you've got a blog, you could create a sidebar with a feed of people who are playing your levels, or levels you've recently played.

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