The Origins of LittleBigPlanet

May 21, 2009Written by Dan Massi


If you’re in Malmö, Sweden right now, you may know that it’s day two of the Nordic Game Conference. And day two is a special one, because [shal]Media Molecule[/shal]’s [shal]Alex Evans[/shal] kicked off the day with a presentation, entitled: “Creative Gaming: Lessons Learnt from the Making of LittleBigPlanet.”

The presentation was mostly on the technical know-how for developers, but the real highlight was probably when Alex began on the origins of [shal]LittleBigPlanet[/shal], and how they pitched it to [shal]Sony[/shal].

Before LittleBigPlanet became the LittleBigPlanet we know, Media Molecule put together a short video which featured clips of popular commercials with various keywords going up on the screen. The teaser, called “People Like Fun”, didn’t really show anything LittleBigPlanet, but did show some of the components of the game, such as running, jumping, collecting, and competition. “We were just trying to get the mood of what the hell we were trying to do,” Evans said during the speech.

Another pitch they showed to Sony was a diagram, which showed charting points between users on the left side, and technical ability at the bottom. The ages ranged from 5 to 100 years old, while the technical ability started with “people who can hold rocks”. Moving up the chart, it went to operating a tea kettle, those you can use an [shal]iPod[/shal], [shal]PlayStation 3[/shal] or [shal]PSP[/shal] users, TiVo owners, and of course, nuclear scientists. Evans stated that Sony executives just stared at the diagram, and the purpose of it was to show that anyone with thumbs could play LittleBigPlanet.


Evans then moved onto the two beta tests for LittleBigPlanet, and also how Media Molecule decided to maintain the user-created content in the beta within the final release of the title. The first beta test was kept close, consisting of only team members, friends, and family. The levels in this beta were described as “largely dull and dreadful”, and Evans worried about the appeal of the creation tools. All that worry went away though, when the second beta launched, and new levels came out. These levels were so good that Evans even described them as better then Media Molecule’s retail levels.

Because of the poor initial [shal]beta test[/shal] results, Media Molecule planned to get rid of everything created in that test. But Media Molecule thought of the players who put a lot of time in their own levels, and a lot of work into them as well. The team thought about this, and also thought of people not creating online levels, because some of the fantastic beta levels created already. So when Media Molecule held a poll to see if users wanted to keep the beta levels, 90% preferred if they were kept. So, they stayed put.


Now, Evans explains that the [shal]community[/shal] has spent as much time creating levels, as playing through the pre-made ones. He also says that the 50 levels that Media Molecule created are irrelevant compared to some of the levels available online. He says that it’s important to give users such simple tools as those found in LittleBigPlanet to create their own content, “Because in the end, the more ways to interact with games, the better.”