“Shadow of the LittleBigColossus” Proves The Only Thing “Little” About LittleBigPlanet Is Its Name

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Hello everyone, my name is Kunal D. Patel and I am a graduate student in the MFA Design + Technology program at Parsons The New School for Design. I was also a member of “Team Good Sportsmanship,” which won the top prize in Parson’s LittleBigPlanet 24-Hour Game Jam. All of us – Zach Gage, Meejin Hong, Caiti McDaid-Kelly, and Subalekha Udayasankar have been humbled by all the positive press our level, “Shadow of the LittleBigColossus” (thanks to PS3 Fanboy for the name), has been receiving. When Sony asked us to write a post for PlayStation.Blog detailing our time with LittleBigPlanet, I jumped at the opportunity.

Our concept was to create a “living level” – a giant, walking beast that was always in motion, requiring players to move through different game environments and mechanics both inside and outside the beast. Imagine Shadow of Colossus, but taken to the next level through LittleBigPlanet. We knew it was an ambitious goal that would likely test our time limit of 24 hours and the capabilities of the game (or so we thought). In order to bring our concept to life, our team operated as a mini game design studio. We matched people’s backgrounds and talents to their task, and everyone had a role to fill in our production pipeline. Zach (New Media Art) and I (Architecture) worked on Level Design & Development, Meejin (Fine Art) and Caiti (Textiles) worked on all of the Drawing & Textures, and Subalekha (IT/Engineering) worked on prototyping the Gameplay Mechanics for all the different sections of the beast. What I want to make clear here is that we are not a professional game design studio, yet in 24 hours we were able to create a level that we are extremely proud of.

At the start of the Game Jam, Zach and I drew up a rough sketch of the beast on a giant whiteboard (image below) to help lay out the level. As soon as we stepped back to take a look at it, we started to worry, “Will the game even be able to handle all this?!” We intended to push LittleBigPlanet’s level creator to the limit, and surprisingly, even with all of our custom textures, we did not get close to using up our available memory. We thought we knew what the game was capable of, but once we dove into it, we realized we had only scratched the surface. Probably the best thing about LittleBigPlanet is that even if there isn’t a tool or feature for exactly what you want to do, with a little creativity you can find a way to make it yourself. This was a huge part of our concept – creating custom elements that were not in the game to showcase its potential, and create a unique and personal level we could call our own.

Team Good Sportsmanship's whiteboard

The PlayStation Eye was an integral part of our process, because it allowed us to photograph and capture all of the amazing drawings and textures Meejin and Caiti came up with, and to apply them to our beast. One of my favorite parts of our level is the animation that plays in the brain of the beast. While the Level Creator doesn’t have a way to directly import animations, we used the Eye to photograph Meejin’s hand-drawn frames and then pasted them around the edge of a circle. Add a motor bolt, a viewing plane, and viola! – a custom zoetrope. Another example is the heartbeat sound we created that players can hear as they run inside the beast’s heart. While there is no “heartbeat” in the game’s sound library, all we did to achieve the effect was stagger two switches with the built-in tom-drum sound. Using this principle, you could create your own beats or even complete songs if you are ambitious enough. The sky is literally the limit for what you can do in LittleBigPlanet (well, the sky in the game is infinite, so I guess there is no limit!).

For 24 hours of work, from 5 graduate students who never designed a level for a video game before, we are ecstatic with how our level turned out. Everything that we set out to accomplish in that first whiteboard sketch, we were able to complete, which is a testament to LittleBigPlanet’s incredible level creator. As I hinted at earlier, a lot of the details and gameplay ended up being designed on the fly as we learned more and more about what the game could do. Ever since the jam ended, all our group has wanted to do is get back to editing our level and playing LittleBigPlanet.

Personally, I see LittleBigPlanet as “Legos for a new generation.” When I was growing up, I could build anything I imagined out of Legos, and I see that same creative freedom raised to another level in this game. If 150 students could create what we all did in 24 hours, I am excited to see what the PS3 community will create once LittleBigPlanet is released. I’d like to thank Media Molecule for making such an incredible game. Kareem and Kenny’s advice, encouragement, and enthusiasm really kept us going in the final hours. I’d also like to thank Sony for sponsoring the entire event, PlayStation.Blog for giving us this opportunity, and to all the press and fellow gamers who have left us supportive feedback about “Shadow of the LittleBigColossus”. Please know that we are following and appreciate all the coverage we have received. I know I speak for ‘Team Good Sportsmanship’ when I say we are thrilled that you all will be able to download and play not only our level, but all the levels created during the Parsons Game Jam! We hope they inspire you to create bigger, better, and even more amazing levels!

Update:
Hey everyone, I just wanted to clarify a question that I’ve seen pop up in multiple comments. You will be able to download *all* of the levels created during the Parsons Game Jam when LittleBigPlanet gets released. There will be a special Parsons “world” online where you will able to view and download our levels, and Team Good Sportsmanship is already at work editing our level before the release! People are concerned that if our levels were built in the beta release, they would not be available at launch. However, we built our levels in the retail version of the game, which Sony was kind enough to provide us with for the Game Jam only. If you’re having fun with the beta, you will be blown away by the improvements and capabilities of the retail version, I know we certainly were!”

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