Guest Writer: Play, Create, Share

I do like to read new guest articles when they arrive in my inbox, and Darth_Newdar was kind enough to send in this rather good piece about Play, Create, Share.

When Media Molecule announced LittleBigPlanet, back in March 2007, it didn’t seem to have a lot going for it. A game which was all about making your own games, and playing other people’s levels? With a child-friendly main character, and a cardboard world, it was easily written off as a kid’s game. Every single other critically acclaimed game on the PS3 is a mature title. Grand Theft Auto IV, Uncharted 2: Among Theives, Red Dead Redemption and the recent Portal 2 are the other titles on PS3 that hold the same score, or higher, on Metacritic. Surely the PS3 was an adult-targeted console? Wasn’t LittleBigPlanet doomed for failure from the outset?

Over two years after its release, it’s fair to say that LittleBigPlanet has been a huge success: 4.5 million copies sold, and 3 million levels created, with some of the levels created by the community besting the developers themselves. It is, to my mind, one of the greatest successes of this generation. It also holds an incredible Metacritic score of 95, making it the equal-third highest scoring game on the PlayStation 3; and Sackboy, LBP’s main character, is now an iconic figure, and has become the PlayStation 3’s mascot.

Sony, of course, gave the green light to the rather inevitable sequel and Media Molecule delivered; LittleBigPlanet 2 absolutely lives up to its predecessor. The community levels are simply stunning, with everything from recreations of Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros., to fantastic platformers, to arcade shooters, such as Voganlight’s wonderful The Attack of LeaderGamer (Queue it for when the PSN comes back).

[drop2]ModNation Racers was also released under the “Play, Create, Share” banner, and, while the sales were not quite as spectacular as LittleBigPlanet, it still debuted to critical love – TheSixthAxis gave it 9/10.

And user-generated content will make its debut in a more mature title for the first time on the PS3 in InFamous 2, which is all looking rather exciting. As the producer told TSA in an interview, “There have been sandbox games, but we’re giving you the bucket and spade!”

You’ll notice a common theme with these three games: they are all Sony-exclusives. Why is that? (PC games, of course, have loads of unofficial user-generated content in the form of mods, but for the purposes of this article, I’m going to talk about current-generation consoles). Most of the time, when something successful is released, a dozen more are shoved out the door by companies, with a “Me, too” attitude. Consider the release of Kinect and PlayStation Move, both of which almost certainly came as a reaction to the Wii’s tremendous sales. Or the recent spate of shooters, mostly based on the success of Call of Duty.

Perhaps Nintendo’s absence from this field is not all that surprising. While Sackboy looks like a character that would fit beautifully into Nintendo’s collection, they have one big problem: all their consoles have fairly limited online functionality. Of course, any game based around a “Share” ethos is going to have to involve a lot of online capability, and that simply doesn’t exist on the Wii. Who knows, Nintendo may have a title lined up for Project Cafe, but for the moment, they simply do not have the resources to create a title like LittleBigPlanet.

[drop]But what about Microsoft? Their absence is, for me, surprising. They have had a long time – over four years – to react to the announcement of LittleBigPlanet. Sure, there have been a few level-editors – such as the one seen in Halo: Reach – but no game has been built around this theme, in the way that Sony have. If Microsoft had been on the ball a Kinect based LittleBigPlanet style game could have been a big hit. Imagine being able to draw, position, and edit your own levels with your hands. And yet we haven’t even seen a rumour of an Xbox 360-exclusive “Play, Create, Share” game.

The complete absence from third-party publishers is also a little strange. When we heard about EA’s Create, it was automatically assumed that this was their answer to LBP. And yet, when it was actually released, it turned out to be more of a puzzle game. Perhaps the reluctance on the part of publishers is that new IPs are expensive and risky. Many companies, like Activision and EA, are very much concentrating on their top franchises and that is creating a mindset of improving what’s already there – not striking out on a radical new venture.

And yet, surely it is worth somebody’s time and money to develop a “Play, Create, Share” title, outside of Sony’s stable? Quite why nobody else is interested is a difficult question to answer. But, for now at least, Sony seem to have the genre to themselves.

For us PS3 fans, let’s hope they make the most of it.

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40 Comments

  1. Play, Create, 80710A06.

    • Play, Create, Share*.

      * your credit card details, passwords and other personal details

    • Hahahahaha!

      Fantastic : D

    • Both of those made me LOL :D

      • It’s funny because it’s true ahahah

  2. I think most developers would be shy about the create and share aspect because for the most part they can’t charge for it. Thanks mM for going the extra mile!

    • LBP makes a healthy living on costume parts etc etc, so i dont see why 3rd party publishers wouldn’t want to get on board that system.

      disney make a mint on LBP costumes, with all the xmen and disney costumes.

      • Which is why i mentioned Mm, they took the Play/Create/Share philosophy to heart and made LBP a landmark game for console gamers. Yes there is the cstume DLC ,most people will probably buy at least one – they’re so darn cute – but even if you never buy any of the DLC you still have access to millions of levels you can play for free. And this at a time when most developers are charging up to £10 for an extra couple of hours gameplay, and people are paying it.

      • Both LBP and ModNation have had loads of DLC, and I bet they make about 95% profit on those, so they do manage to make a fair bit of extra money, on top of the game sales.

  3. I think the whole play, create, share concept is just too risky for both microsoft and the large publishers. It’s such a difficult genre (if you could call it that) to develop. That’s why LBP got such high score, because it was just, well, genius! Microsoft have recently lost all innovation and EA and activision (apparently) can’t afford to take the gamble on such a challenging genre.

    • As I said in the article, there aren’t too many publishing companies willing to take risks with new IPs. Well done Sony (and Mm) for backing a brand new concept!

  4. the “me too” really should be a genre or a name and shame tag in reviews. Personally i love the ideas. i loved making maps on things like age of empires years ago and really enjoyed doing it again in far cry but the system for sharing those maps was flawed and no one seemed to care.

    now i just want the psn up again so i can play someones levels! oh well in the mean time i’d better get designing myself ;)

  5. Whilst I enjoyed LBP, I had a lot of fun with MNR, creating tracks & karts. A shame that more gamers didn’t give it a go really as there are some seriously brilliant tracks made for it.

  6. Trackmania on Wii (& PC) is a great example of play, create, share (the game’s creators are also making QuestMania (a game for building RPGs and Shootmania a game for building FPS) and there are many, many examples of playing, creating & sharing on PC… the mod culture that exists is probably similar too.

    The problem I have with it is that 99% of user content is utter crap, take a look at websites across the web, user videos on sites like YouTube or anything really, including levels create in LBP. However its the 1% that makes it worthwhile, there are some amazingly talented people using the tools & features in new & creative ways and for this – play, create share is a concept that is worth pursuing and as Sony have appeared to brand it as their own concept, it is them who have the most to gain

    • Completely agree! Can remember playing a dead space level, was superb! But then played some pretty dam bad fallout 3 lvls!

    • i’d say with little big planet most of the levels i’ve played are very good, sure a few of them were bad but for the most part highly enjoyible. nothing like a race between cats with jet packs

    • Of course, it is much easier to share your content on PC, because you aren’t forced to publish it through the company’s system.

      I’m not sure it’s as high as 99%, but I do see what you mean. However, I think as long as the game has a good filtering system – and LittleBigPlanet is excellent in this area – it isn’t too much of a problem. I have played hundreds of fantastic LBP levels, and really nobody has time to play many more than that. So you don’t actually need that many amazing levels to make the concept worthwhile.

      • For the player of levels it may be great, but for creators it’s (Excuse my language) absolute shit. You are only seeing the “famous” creators.

  7. It’s a pity Media Molecule managed to kill off the community of LBP2 in just two months. Horrible development team.

    • But thanks for the mention anyway! ;P

    • How do you mean?

      • They make the editor incredibly complex, but once you get into it there’s barely anything to it. It’s very restricting in terms of what you can do with it. Then add the fact that MM only cares about the creators who are already well known and even MM picks levels made by its own employees and you’ll be as frustrated with the game as I am.

  8. it’s a shame there aren’t more titles that allow users to create content, there have been a few independent titles that had level editors, though they never seemed to have taken off that well.

    on xbox there is reach with the forge, and there is trials hd, though the editor for that is rendered pretty much useless because it doesn’t look like the levels are hosted anywhere but the creator’s machine.

    which brings up another point, a level editor is pretty pointless if there’s no way to share what you create.

  9. A game like LBP is not easy to imagine and if you have to imagine something complety different but on the same concept, thats hard too.

    • But is it? Modnation racers is essentially just LBP for kart racing after all.

  10. Bethesda do a good job of promoting user generated content.

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