Interviews// LittleBigPlanet Vita: The World's Biggest App Store

Posted 24 Sep 2012 16:40 by
Games: LittleBigPlanet
LittleBigPlanet on the PlayStation Vita is pretty fantastic. If you don't believe us, just check out our Preview and Review of the game. It really is one of the first titles on the handheld that satisfies Sony's promise of experiencing top-quality console games in the palm of your hand.

With the game just released, and available either in store or via PlayStation Network, it seemed appropriate to have a chat with the studio responsible for this accomplishment - Tarsier.

Here's CEO Mattias Nygren and narrative designer Dave Mervik, on their aspirations to make LBP Vita more than a simple port of a PS3 classic, and the potential for creators to establish a completely different kind of 'app store'.

SPOnG: You guys said during your presentation that you didn?t intend for LittleBigPlanet Vita to be just a port of a PS3 game - rather you wanted it to be its own entity. That must have thrown up some interesting challenges in terms of creating something fresh for the platform?

Mattias Nygren: Um... no [laughs]. Not challenging at all! No, I think that when we started out we just wanted to make a complete new instalment, with everything included. We also wanted to make sure we took advantage of the functionality of the device. We set out early to make a complete new story mode, with everything you would expect out of a new instalment on the PS3.

On the technology side, we had the tools made available by Double Eleven, our partner. And that was important. It had to stand up as its own game - that was really a no-brainer. It was never even an option to make a port, because we knew that people would expect something completely new.

Dave Mervik: I know what you mean though, because there?s already a wealth of content in LittleBigPlanet. It would have been easier to just say we?ll port it - bring what people already know and love. It did feel quite daunting to tell our own story, come up with all new gameplay and enhance create mode...

It?s a challenging prospect, but I think it?s also inspiring. You?ve got to push the bar and push yourself to equal what?s come before, and do your best to take it that step further. We wanted to make people feel like they were getting something fresh.

E3 2012
E3 2012
SPOnG: The guidance from Media Molecule as well must have made a difference. I notice as well that there are other companies helping you out in the development of LittleBigPlanet Vita, such as Sumo Digital. What role did these companies play? And was there a worry that there would be too many cooks spoiling the broth?

Mattias Nygren: No, no worries there. The thing is, most of the companies listed have always helped the LittleBigPlanet franchise along in some form or another. Including us - Tarsier started out by developing costumes for the game! That was how we got into the franchise. All along, there have been more people involved in the series than you think, helping Media Molecule with extra content.

But always, Media Molecule has had the reigns on the overall creative engine behind the game, keeping everything in check. This is now our role, for LittleBigPlanet Vita - when they handed the torch over to us, we assumed creative responsibility. But, we have been fortunate enough to still be working with many of the same companies that worked with Media Molecule back in the day.

In many ways, these companies are experts of their own specialised areas in the game, when it comes to things like creating extra stickers or decorations, parts of levels... stuff like that.

gamescom 2012
gamescom 2012
SPOnG: Do you feel that the touch capabilities you?ve added to the game - particularly in the Create mode - allow LittleBigPlanet to be more accessible now, in a way that the PS3 versions probably weren?t?

Dave Mervik: Yes, definitely. We were in Paris recently, and we were talking to a lady who couldn?t get into LittleBigPlanet creation. She always thought that Create mode was just something that felt a bit too much to jump into, but she had a go on LBP Vita] and saw what can be done, and it clicked for her.

Just being able to create very simple scenes immediately, painting some geometry here and there... everything feels really natural with this interface. It?s almost like a gateway, our Create mode, where it sucks you in and appeals to people who may not have jumped in beforehand. But, this game still has all the power and intricacies of the PS3 Create mode.

SPOnG: It?s quite impressive that you?ve managed to pack all that into the Vita version, for sure. With its portability and the ability to translate everything from the PS3 version into a portable device, do you think that LittleBigPlanet is now more suited to portable than it is for console?

Dave Mervik: Yeah - I mean, I think what?s key is what Double Eleven has achieved in bringing all that technology to the platform without sacrificing anything. The Vita is a very powerful machine, but it?s also a portable device - and because of that, I don?t think people expected us to pull off what we did. You always end up thinking, ?Oh what have they cut out? What are we not getting?? Nothing - we?ve got everything in there.

Mattias Nygren: On another note, what we?re doing right now is adding new tools and stuff to empower the creators to make new handheld experiences. But, I think if a new LittleBigPlanet was to be made for a home console, there would definitely be new stuff to add for that too. You can always add to this universe.

For us, it?s just been natural to do stuff with touch and tilt, because you have it on smartphones and other handheld devices. But there are other ways to improve the experience. For example, we added a Memoriser tool, that doesn?t have anything really to do with touch or tilt, but it?s something that the community wanted. They wanted a tool that they could use to save progress in their levels, and now with that they can create their own menus for the small app-style games.

They can also, in essence, create an RPG or something equally in-depth. We?ve not done that ourselves, but we?re really waiting for the first person to do an awesome RPG with this tool.

E3 2012
E3 2012
Dave Mervik: And it?s not just a case of creating when you?re at home, or remembering this stuff on the move. You get ideas all over the place, and what this game does is allow you to get started with creating whilst on the move.

It takes you out of the living room, away from the rigid confines of the home console experience. If you have an idea on the bus or in the park, you can just start working on it, take pictures of something you think looks cool, and use it as a sticker or something. I think in that sense LBP really is suited to this portable machine.

SPOnG: Speaking of the Memoriser, is there a chance that we may see it added to the PS3 version of LittleBigPlanet 2 somewhere down the line? Is that something you?d like to see?

Dave Mervik: Well, that would be very flattering! I?m sure the community and other developers will love it, because it is a great tool. I think we?ve only just scratched the surface on what we can do with this tool, really, with the Arcade and stuff like that. So yeah, you might see it. It?s not something that we know about though.

Mattias Nygren: The first thing we?re going to do is see what people create. The community have put in requests to us for this game and we?ve tried to answer as many as we can. Now, we?re going to wait and see what the community makes of what we?ve done and what new stuff they would want in the future.

E3 2012
E3 2012
It?s never really been up to us to make the coolest things with these tools, but instead to show examples of what you can do. Let the community push the bar. That?s what Media Molecule have always done. But we want to help people make that kind of stuff in a much more accessible fashion, while adding little tools to it. We?ll see what happens, but we don?t know too much about [bringing the Memoriser to PS3], as of right now.

SPOnG: In the presentation, you mentioned that with LittleBigPlanet Vita you?re harbouring the biggest, most creative app store in the world. Is this essentially PlayStation Minis v2.0?

Dave Mervik: [laughs] I?ve never had it described like that before! Well, I think it?s better than that - and I?ll probably get fired for saying that [laughs]! I mean, the great thing I think about this format, in terms of getting these app-style experiences, is that it?s all free. People just have that will and drive to create stuff, then just give it away.

People aren?t asking for money, they?re simply sharing creativity and saying, ?what do you think of what I?ve made?? I think that?s amazing - it?s very generous. And yeah I think [the potential for this app store idea] is brilliant and hopefully it?ll take off in the way that we?d like it to.

SPOnG: Thank you very much for your time, guys.

Mattias Nygren: Thank you!

Dave Mervik: Thank you.

LittleBigPlanet Vita is out now for PlayStation Vita.
Games: LittleBigPlanet

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