You might have thought the time was passed for interviewing some of the developers behind the title, but I caught Tarsier Studios’ CEO Mattias Nygren and Narrative Designer Dave Mervik last week for a chat about the game’s release, development and creations:[drop2]
TSA: You’re already at release, and with plenty of reviews coming in how have you felt the game’s reception has been?
Dave Mervik: I think it’s been generally good, yeah.
Mattias Nygren: Over the last couple of days it’s been unbelievable, I think.
TSA: It must be nice to see that LBP Vita is the top Vita game on metacritic…
DM: So far!
TSA: The game’s coming out [this] week, with some early pre-order DLC alongside it. Do you have a long tail of support planned with extra content?
MN: There’s nothing that’s been announced as yet, but looking at the nature of the franchise we’re probably going to see some cool stuff pretty soon.
TSA: Looking back on your development, you seem to have managed to get your every wish fulfilled by Double 11, who handled the technical side. Were you pushing those guys really hard to get it all to work on the Vita?
MN: Those guys have great experience with developing on handheld consoles, and just like Tarsier they are big fans of the franchise so we didn’t have to tell them much. We came with our requests, but most of the time they were already ahead of us!
They really deserve a lot of credit for what they have done, I mean there’s all the stuff about everything from the PS3 games being available on the PS Vita, and it’s all thanks to them.
TSA: So there weren’t any crazy ideas that you ended up having to leave on the cutting room floor?
MN: We talked about this the other day, but there wasn’t really anything that we wanted to bring over that we couldn’t do. I think that’s why it feels so great, having the full story mode, all new characters, all new worlds and on top of that the enhanced create mode, and the app-style arcade mode…
I feels like we’ve delivered a complete LBP experience on a handheld with what you would expect from it. So no, nothing that I can think of!
DM: It’s always been about what’s going to benefit the game the best, so from the early stages there’s always things you’re thinking of, but you have to think what people are going to get out of it apart from a throwaway mechanic. Can people run with this after his use? If not then you leave it behind. So everything you see is about getting the most out of the Vita, the most out of the game and all through the level design we’ve done that kind of thing with no problems.
MN: I think of one example, where Dave presented the Memoriser tool, which was a request from the community. Someone had created something themselves with all the logic tools, but now we have the Memoriser which allows you to save your progress in an easy way.
A lot of other things we created from this perspective too, but stuff that we didn’t do we knew that people could create for themselves with the tools available.[drop]
TSA: With things like the Memoriser tool, was any of this a reaction to feedback that you got from the beta? Were there any major additions or changes which you got from that process?
DM: No, nothing major, no. I think generally the reaction was really good, but obviously there are bugs that come up and we make little tweaks here and there.
By that point we’d got it feeling so good and it was really nice that they felt the same.
So there wasn’t anything like, “What on earth are you doing here?”
MN: Early on we recruited a lot of creators from the community when we started production, and also along the way we kept in contact with them and had game jams where we brought them in, to Sweden. Everybody came down to Malmö, stayed at the office for three days and…
DM: Actually in the office.
TSA: Sleeping bags and everything?
DM: There were bean bags all over.
MN: Not much sleep, though!
We got a lot of impressions and feedback that we took with us. So, of course we used user testing, but for us to get the community involved at a very early stage was very good and having a lot of the community working in the office as a kind of testing panel in there already.
TSA: With a lot of content being created by the community during the beta, what was the craziest or most impressive thing that you saw get made?
DM: You know, it seems silly that you wouldn’t expect it, but it’s the Ants In Your Pants one for me. It seems like such a simple idea that you use both [touch pads at the same time to squash ants that are coming for your picnic], and I was like, “Oh yeah!”
Normally you go “Lets make a rear touch mechanic” or “Lets make a front touch mechanic” and things like that. Just using both together, and I thought often times the simplest solution is the best one and in that case I thought it was such a great little idea. It’s dead simple, but I think it’s a really nice idea.
TSA: And for you, Mattias?
MN: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about…
DM: You like the vomiting one, don’t you?
MN: Yeah I do. I like the Lovesick one, with the dragon [which flies through a level filled with hearts and vomits at things]. I like it a lot, because it’s a great way of using the rear touch [to control the dragon] and also because it looks so polished, and a community member has done that from scratch. They’ve just got in there and made it. It’s just a great example.
What’s also interesting is that this person has made the little tutorial screens at the beginning, and this shows not only the game but what you can also do on the side. I mean, we had one person on the community who’s been doing almost only cutscenes, and maths teachers from real life doing awesome logic puzzles…
DM: We’ve got a Nano Scientist as well! One of our creators is doing a Masters in Nano Science, and I’m like “What are you going to bring?”
TSA: Obviously he’s a perfect fit for a Vita game!
DM: It’s a causal loop!
It’s funny actually, quite a few of the people that have come in have been teachers. We were talking about that, and there’s something about it that people sort of gravitate towards LittleBigPlanet. It is kind of about putting ideas across really well, so that people just get it and things feel right.
We’re just wondering if there’s something about those people that are driven to teach that they’re also driven to create. Maybe it’s just coincidence.
TSA: Well if it’s happening so often, there must be something behind it!
Thanks to Mattias and Dave for taking the time to chat with us. LBP Vita is hitting the physical and digital shelves this week.
Today next week (25th) in North America, Tomorrow (19th) in Europe and on Friday (21st) in the UK.