This is Doanna Neville, Desiree Ong, and Nathan Bryan – Team Cable Car Rush from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. We are very excited and happy to have taken part in the crazy intense LittleBigPlanet 24-Hour PSP Game Jam! It was an awesome experience with some nerve-wrecking moments, but I think we all agree that it was immensely fun!
A day before the competition, we took a trip to the Powell Street cable car route to collect references, inspiration and to brainstorm ideas for the layout and gameplay of the level. When the day arrived, we had a very loose concept of what we wanted to do. We heard that the tool set was going to be very similar to the PS3 version but we wanted to see what the PSP version could do.
As it turns out, we were blown away with how much it could do! The slight learning curve we had to deal with initially was easily overcome despite the fact that collectively, we only had a couple of days of development experience on the PS3 version. We found the user interface really easy to use. This didn’t stop us from accidentally gluing the cable car to the ground or the background elements occasionally. Hurrah for the “Undo” function!
After a short briefing from the organizers and a brief consultation with David Dino, we were off!
Some of the challenges we faced include having to juggle work and classes, getting used to the tool set and simply staying awake. The most difficult aspect of design was deciding on gameplay that would best showcase this San Francisco moving landmark as well as making it a fun level given the limited time we had.
We stocked up on food and and stayed up in a war-room-like set up with large rolls of paper, markers and bedding scatted about the room. Caffeine was our friend. While one of us was learning the tool set, the blueprint of the level was developed in the form of mad scribbles, sketches and notes that we kept in front of us while we built the game level. Because only one person could develop on the PSP, the rest of us either took turns designing on paper or snatching a couple of hours of sleep. We didn’t really divide up the tasks. Whoever had the hot seat on the PSP followed the plan on paper, and really had difficulty letting go when the time came to pass it on!
We tried to include all the iconic landmarks along the cable car route and little quirks of the city that locals are familiar with. The original plan involved a series of triggered events along a storyline that was wrapped around each cable car stop, and color tagging each neighborhood with a distinctive color scheme. We even had plans to incorporate some of the themes from the other groups, an underground sewer area and an opportunity for Sackboy to fly on a jetpack. All that went out the window when we only managed a REALLY basic layout of the level by 1 AM in the morning!
We spent a fair bit of time experimenting on different materials and designs for the cable car. We originally intended the cable car to run on tracks that kept it on the ground in a roller-coaster like fashion. But when we saw how the first “cardboard” prototype of the cable car tumbled down the slopes, often coming to a satisfying landing when it righted itself, we decided to just roll with it and changed the materials such that the cable car had a better chance of righting itself every time it tumbled. The cable car has ‘rubber’ wheels, a ‘metal’ base, ‘wooden frame’ and a ‘sponge’ top! This turned out to be a pretty fun mechanic, especially in a race situation.
The portability of the PSP allowed us to work on the go, while we traveled on the bus, even until the 11th hour. The music and the sound of the cable car ringing at every stop was inserted just 20 minutes before we made our submission!
In the end, although we were happy with the how it turned out, we wished there was more time to build up the environment in line with the vision. Being art students and all, it is hard to let that go!
Many thanks to AAU School of Game Design and Sony for giving us the opportunity to develop with the pre-release version of LBP on the PSP! It sure was a crazy wild ride (pun intended) and an experience to remember!
We hope everyone will enjoy the level and go out and grab a copy of this crazy fun game! If you have even an ounce of creativity in you, you’ll find the game really addictive and hard to put down! Oh, and remember to save often…