Those lucky few who got into the beta might not recognise the name Ole-Marius Lakselv, but will probably know his username Geosautus. In fact it is likely you played one of his excellent levels such as World of Color or Mad Mansion.
Here, in the first of an irregular series of creator interviews we track down Ole-Marius to his Norwegian lair and ask him questions until he tells us to go away.
Media Molecule: So, introduce yourself!
Ole-Marius: PSN, Gamertag, Steam ID etc: geosautus.
My name is Ole-Marius, I’m 21 and from Norway. I don’t think I have a favorite color, I like them all. My favorite sackboy costume so far is the pirate outfit. Especially if colored completely blue and with an underwear-sticker on the hat. But when playing with friends it often ends up with a costume covered in donkey tails. When I’m not busy designing levels in LBP I’m usually at school studying animation.
MM: How did you find out about LBP? How did you get on the beta trial?
OM: GDC. I was blown away instantly. And so was everyone I showed it to. When the beta keys went out on eurogamer.net I sat for about an hour just refreshing the page because their server went down. But it paid off! I got a key, and 10 minutes later it was LBP time!
MM: Where do you start when you’re designing a level, do you begin with a specific idea or just doodle until something happens?
OM: The first thing I do is come up with a concept, color, style - what have you. Then I just build as ideas come to mind, stringing challenges together. I often spend a lot more time tweaking my challenges/puzzles than I spend making the main triggers and geometry. I always playtest each challenge many times. I also try to “fool proof” every part of my level, though this if often easier said than done. When I’m happy with the overall design of a challenge I usually get my girlfriend to playtest it. If she breaks it (and she usually does. She is amazing that way), it’s back to the drawing board.
MM: Have you got much attention for your levels?
OM: Yeah, it’s really weird - people are recording themselves playing my levels and talking about them in forums, arguing wether I’m a dev and/or Mm employee. It’s really crazy. My PSN friendslist exploded in a couple of days. The real highpoint was when I got my first friend request from a Mm employe. That was unbelievable!
MM: How do you know when you have finished working on a level?
OM: I usually just keep building challenges until I run out of space or the level overheats, though it usually overheats well before I’m satisfied. I often to go back and redesign some elements so that they eat less resources. When all the challenges are complete, I try to add secrets if possible and a last bit of visual polish followed by playtesting. If it all works then it’s done - off to the next level!
MM: Who or what influences your designs? Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with?
OM: I would say that almost all the levels I’ve played influence my own - they let me see what works and what doesn’t. My girlfriend often has an idea for a segment of a level, though sometimes they’re rubbish. The puzzle in Mad Mansion was her idea, so I guess I owe her some chocolate.
MM: Do you have plans in the works for any new levels?
OM: I do, but it’s secret!
MM: What’s your favourite level you’ve seen in LBP so far?
OM: I really like levels that do something I haven’t thought of myself. I played one level that was pitch black and used only the light from magnetic switches to show the way. I thought that was really cool.
MM: Your levels are very varied, we were very impressed by the variety and detail that went into them. How do you find inspiration and keep things fresh and varied?
OM: I like to think of new concepts to avoid making the same thing over and over again. So when I’m finally finished making a level I just want to make something different. I usually come up with a concept pretty fast, then I just base the challenges around it.
MM: The sound design on Mad Mansion is epic! Was that added later, or as part of the process?
OM: Both. I added sounds to my challenges as I went along (creaks, bangs etc) - after completing the world i added another sound layer (like the ambient noice). I tried to tweak the music to fit, but it was too cheery, so I just went with a lot of ambient noices. I think it worked out pretty well. My future levels will definetly benefit from what I learned designing the audio for Mad Mansion.
MM: Have you designed games before? If so, what sort of stuff?
OM: No not really. Well, maybe that’s a bit of a lie. I’ve helped design a small java Smash Bros type of game at school. It was a lot of fun.
MM: If you could ask for one more feature in LBP, what would it be?
OM: I can think of two just from the top of my head:
1. Rumble emitters. Works like the sound speakers, but instead you can make the controller rumble (different types, pulse, heartbeat, weak, strong etc). I think that could result in some interesting stuff.
2. A way to change the lighting in just some parts of the level. Going from daylight to pitch black as you enter a cave etc.
MM: What other games live on your PS3/Xbox/PC?
OM: Right now it’s a lot of R2 beta and WipEout HD. I haven’t really played my 360 in a while, but I’m looking forward to playing Fable II. On my PC it’s either podcasts+TF2, or Crysis Warhead right now. Haven’t touched my Wii in ages (oooh, that sounded naughty!).
MM: What was the last great film you saw?
OM: Wall-E. Pure genius. And The Dark Knight before that.
MM: Any greets or shout outs?
OM: I would like to thank everyone who plays and hearts my levels. It’s great seeing that people are enjoying my creations.
MM: Thanks Ole-Marius!