And now a message from intrepid uber-coder, Paul Holden:
Since I joined Media Molecule at the start of 2007 I’ve regularly spent my lunchtimes running around the streets of Guildford. I find running helps to clear my thoughts so if I’ve been stuck with a particularly nasty problem I often find I’ve figured out a solution half-way through my run. It also means I can eat lots of delicious cake without feeling guilty!
We like charts and things here at Media Molecule, so I’ve made a graph of the cumulative distance I’ve run since starting here. I guess I must have had lots of tricky problems to solve over the past two years, because I’ve run over 1,000 miles now – that’s far enough to run from Guildford to Algeria!
On Sunday I’ll be taking part in the the Great North Run back in my hometown of Newcastle. The Great North Run is the world’s largest half-marathon. Every year around 50,000 people run the 13.1 miles from Newcastle to South Shields. Every year runners participating in the race raise millions of pounds in sponsorship for different charities.
I’m raising money for a charity called the Foundation for Study of Infant Deaths. FSID work to help prevent sudden deaths in infants, fund research, and provide support for bereaved families. I had an older brother who died suddenly as an infant and I wanted to do something to help the charity that helped my parents 30 years ago.
I’ve set up a fundraising page at http://www.justgiving.com/paulholden and I’d be incredibly grateful if anyone wanted to sponsor me. Even if you can only spare a few pounds that would be amazing. If you’re a UK taxpayer you can claim the tax back on your donation with Gift Aid. This means that for every pound you donate, £1.28 goes to FSID.
[NB this isn’t an official fundraiser by Mm, Sony or LBP; however it’s a very worthy cause and wow, you should see the amount of sweat that comes off Paul when he runs all those miles… If you think he should run in a giant sackboy costume, post your votes in the comments :) ]
[EDIT: highly recommended to follow the link above and watch it ‘fullscreen’ in HD. then you can actually read the names of the little people floating about!]
Here is a video which gives some insight into how Little Big Planet ( and Media Molecule! ) evolved from next to nothing into what it is today! This was generated from our source control repository using a awesome tool called codeswarm. Each dot represents a different file, and they “swarm” towards the user who edits them. So not only do you get to watch files move around, you can see when various members of the team joined ( roughly! ).
Timeline events of note:
0:00 : In the beginning were Dave and Alex - February 2006! At this point the company was 6 people - Dave, Alex, Mark, Kareem, Chris and Francis
1:10: We have a build server! As time goes on you can see a cluster of bright white dots around the build server, because no-one else ever touches them. Largely meaningless, but pretty.
1:17 : Almost every source file in the project surrounds Jon as he changes our v2 vector class GetX(), GetY() and GetZ() accessors to getX(), getY() and getZ() to match with the Sony vector libraries.
1:56 : Luke resaves every level in the game for some reason, and adds texture compression for loading win.
2:03 : Luke adds “plan” files, which are mini files extracted from levels representing one object - when you send your friend an object in the beta, it’s sending a plan file. Your inventory is made up of lots of these!
2:11 : The build server is going great guns with multiple different builds happening nightly, an on-demand Deploy build, and a continuous integration server.
2:21 : Craig is making lots and lots of toys for you to win as you play through the main game - plans again.
2:30 : Bang up to date - the sudden musical and visual cutoff is an intentional nod to the fact that this project is not a dead entity, will not fade away but an evolving organism by you the community with your content, and by us at Media Molecule as we support the game in a variety of ways; a bricolage of media and emotion, a juxtaposition of form and function, blending the old with the new in a mystical symbiosis of code, art, talent and win. In a mirror. So there we have it - essentially a lot of dots moving around but it’s quite pretty and also a little bit informative. EDUTAINMENT.
I am the music man, I come from, er, Edinburgh…
ANYWAYS! After I finished working on the game a couple of weeks ago (or, rather, after I was told to stop working on the game by a particularly-lethal-looking-kipper-brandishing Siobhan), I spent a couple of days making some audio contraptions. The piano level above is one if the fruits of my labours.
I must confess that it is totally impractical as a music making device within LBP - it certainly looks and sounds the part, but coordinating multiple sack folk to jump at the same time would take a lot of practice.
Version 1 there uses proximity switches to trigger the keys which in turn makes the piston attached to each key shrink down and tells the sound object to play at the same time. With Version 2 I plan to make the keys trigger by some other means (maybe magnetic key switches?) and have some giant hands which come down and play chords! That way I could have three buttons on top of the piano and, before you know it, you can play the entire back catalogue of Status Quo! AMAZING! But not built yet…
Apologies for the slightly obscure musicologists joke in that video - the tritone is traditionally “the devil’s interval” (cue distant rumble of thunder). If you play the particular tritone marked out by the cute little devil-sackboy stickers you win the piano, which you can then put in your own levels! YAY!
hello again, One last thing from me! It’s been a really exciting week and we have all spent a lot of time here and at home playing the levels everyone is creating. There is SO much great stuff, but the plan is for a bunch of us to do our own round up of our experiences so far! :)
While we’re writing that, what have been your favourite levels? TELL US NOW!
So, the whole point of the beta is to find out what happens when lot’s of people play, create and share together online! If you happen across something that you don’t think is quite right then please post it up to here please :)
Don’t forget to include as much information as possible, things like what level you were in, how many people were playing, whether you were online and if possible the last ten things you did with the game before you found the bug. This is all super important because it will give us a much idea of how we can fix it.
Thank you very much!
Kareem and I just got back from New York City where we had been taking part in a really cool event at Parsons New School for Design last weekend. We gave 150 students, split into 19 teams, a PS3 with a copy of LittleBigPlanet, a truck-load of pizzas, an industrial sized vat of Red Bull and 24 hours to create whatever they liked using the game. One thousand bucks was up for grabs for the winning team, with five runners up prizes of $500.
We kicked things off at around noon on the Saturday, giving the students a presentation on how to create impressive stuff in the game with the minimum of effort. The emphasis was on SIMPLE, with Kareem and I encouraging the students to play to their strengths – they didn’t have to create a traditional game ‘level’, they could tell a story by building characters, animating them and making them speak with the magic mouth tool, or perhaps try and create a kind of visual blog post using images imported with the PlayStationEye camera. All very doable projects within the allotted time span of just 24 hours.
But did the students listen to us? Pfff, yeah right! Everyone wanted to create an epic playground level for the Sackfolk to explore, including those teams entirely made up of people who hadn’t so much as sniffed at a console before. So, when we left the students at 10:30pm I was unsure of what to expect on our return the following morning. Sure, there were a few levels showing promise, so I wasn’t concerned about the success of the event, but most of the teams were still getting to grips with how to make best use of the tools never mind getting down to the nitty-gritty of actually realising their level ideas…
Find out how things turned in part 2! <—————cliffhanger!
Kareem and I returned to Parsons at around 10am on the Sunday. As we ventured past the sleeping bags, sprawled comatose bodies and precariously placed pizza boxes (there’s a level idea for someone!) it was clear from speaking to those students who were still working away, with their puffy eyes and tiredness-induced laughing fits, that something special had happened in the wee small hours. Even Team Smiley, who’s PS3 Test kit had a faulty Blu-Ray drive which forced them to use a 2 month old, buggy, installable version of the game, and who were forced to start from scratch 11 hours in to the competition due to a corrupted save game, had managed to have a lot of fun building a visually striking, playable level.
All of the teams, without exception, had managed to create something quite spectacular considering the limitations imposed on them. This made the judging process a rather hair-tearing experience to the extent that we were forced to create some new runners up categories to make room for those levels which deserved to win a prize even if they didn’t quite fit in to our prescribed judging criteria.
The winners were:
Most Persistent - Team Smiley - as already mentioned, despite numerous hitches and being told to go home to get some sleep, this team persevered and triumphed.
Best Use of Tools - The Sleepwalkers - these guys created a great level based around the strong and consistent theme of food (primarily eggs!) featuring great gameplay ideas and a fun look/vibe
Most Innovative - Team Makeshift & Team Awesome - we were really impressed with Team Makeshift’s cunning use of glass as a physical challenge/barrier that doubled as a tantalising window revealing where you had to get to in order to progress through the level. Team Awesome had a unique looking level which made great use of sprite lights and moving objects to bring their theme of “scientific experimentation” to life.
Most Personal - The Pretty Pretty Princesses - these ladies created a whole level based around the idea that their Sackfolk were dirty and needed a right good clean! To start the experience you put a coin into the giant washing machine’s slot then enter its floaty world of soap suds and clothing (featuring images of the team) before trying to escape out the other end with your sack person looking whiter than your average whites.
Most Fun - The Bloody Clowns - the floating rocket car level created by these clowns was an absolute riot, especially when playing with four players. In fact, I don’t think the level was completable without having a driver who was prepared to sacrifice their life in order to turn off the engines momentarily whilst driving upside down?!
Most Beautiful - Team Rocket - this level had two contrasting sections of a pretty overworld and a dark, deadly underworld. It looked great, making good use of lighting to set the mood, played well and they even had a crack at adding a narrative to help sell the whole experience.
Best of Jam - Team Sportsmanship - the lofty goal of Team Sportsmanship was to create a Shadow of the Colossus-inspired giant, roaming monster which Sackboy had to scale by travelling through its body. Not only did they manage to pull this ambitious idea off, but they did so with aplomb, creating a bunch of custom textures to stylise their creation, giving it a unique look and feel.
You can see a montage of footage from many of these levels here, and the final level is embeded above.
Kareem and I were blown away with the innovation, talent, good humour and camaraderie demonstrated by the students at Parsons. You’ll be able to check their levels out when you get your hands on the game next month. Enjoy! :)