LittleBigPlanet Karting: Interview with Jen Timms

LittleBigPlanet is having quite a big finish to 2012. Not only has it just hit the PS Vita last week, with a big DLC pack coming for the Cross Controller functionality, but it’s also branching out into a totally different genre. United Front Games, who many will know from ModNation Racers, have taken the franchise from 2.5D Platforming to Kart Racing.

With the beta test over the summer, and with the release still a little over a month away it’s almost the perfect point for us to catch up with LBP Karting Producer, Jen Timms:

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TSA: For United Front Games, coming from ModNation Racers, how big a challenge was it switching from pure karting over to tackling LittleBigPlanet as well?

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Jen Timms: It wasn’t so much a challenge, it was more of an opportunity. We had really fine tuned karting and customisation of karting in your basic circuit racing on tracks and battles, and just being able to take that to the next level was a bit of a logical progression. Then being able to bring in this amazing eclectic crazy world, and bring LittleBigPlanet fans who may not have been fans of karting into that genre as well. It was just a really cool mash up.

TSA: One of the first things I wondered when LBPK was announced was what would happen with ModNation Racers. You’ve moved on from MNR it seems, and are focussing solely on LBPK?

JT: We have but we’re really very proud of ModNation Racers, and the community is still strong with a lot of people playing it, and it is a great example of more traditional karting. So we love it and we are proud of it, but we are now working on LBPK and like I said, going into a whole new world.

TSA: With LBPK, you’ve got the single player campaign which looks to be nice and varied, with mini games, classic karting, battles and so on. In the presentation you said you wanted these to act as an example of what people can create, but with all of the tools available in LBP games, creation can often be a very daunting task. Has a focus been on trying to keep things simplistic and inviting?

JT: Yeah, absolutely. Not everybody is a creator. Some people take to it very naturally, but others don’t so much.

One thing we wanted to do is have it very easy to lay down a basic track, to drive it out the way that you want, to add some decorations, give it a theme, change the time of day and how many opponents you have. That kind of stuff is super simple in our basic global settings, so anybody can jump in and make a track and that’s what I do all the time! Especially when I’m testing, I’ll just make a very basic track, put it all together and personalise it.

The same with an arena battle, it’s very simple.

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TSA: Do the arena mode and track mode come from different templates?

JT: Yeah, so you have these two options when you’re starting. You either create a track or you create an arena. Beyond that the world’s your oyster, and with the arena it’s basically just a space, right? So you can do anything in it, like the First Person Shooter that we saw, mini games, all those kinds of things.

Not anyone can just jump in and make crazy logic and all these amazing things. It does take time, it does take wanting to learn the tools, watch the tutorials and understand bit by bit, and practice. So you can’t expect to jump in and make crazy things, but you can absolutely jump in and make tracks, and with a little time start to do those amazing things. It’s all within your possibility.

TSA: You have the beta recently which has let people get a handle on things, but what was the most outlandish thing that you’ve seen people creating?

JT: Just the idea of making an FPS inside a karting game was just like “Wow!” The Memory mini-game, again it’s like “You can make that in a game?” And the helicopter level too.

Obviously the helicopter isn’t karting, but you’re still controlling a vehicle of sorts, and just how it really felt like you were controlling a helicopter. It’s heavy, it moves around like one, and that was a great example of putting together a few different gadgets, like the custom weapons, controllinator and all these different things to make something completely new.

TSA: Coming out of the beta, were there any big changes? Feedback that you’ve taken on board and added?

JT: Yeah! One of the things was the ability just to keep on playing. People don’t want interrupted gameplay when you’re playing a racer, because it’s so fast paced and fun. You’re in there, you’re battling and having a great time and it’s all over within 3 or 4 minutes. You don’t want to have to stop, navigate through menus and ask “where do we go next?” or “Do we do this, do we do that?” Especially when you’re given the option of not just playing story levels but community levels too.

So we wanted to bring all of those together all in one, and that’s what we did with the level voting. For when you’ve got a group of people playing together, and you want to stay together because you’ve got to get that guy back for that missile they exploded you with at the last second! So this was something we put in after the beta and it helps people stay together and go to new places together. That’s a core karting mechanic that we brought into LBPK.

TSA: Post-release, a big part of any LBP game is DLC content. You must surely have plans for what’s coming up? A long tail of support?

JT: We’ve got lots of ideas, and we certainly hope so! The community will determine how this works and how this goes.

I think Tom O’Connor mentioned in the presentation that there’s 7 million levels that have been made so far for LBP, and that’s half way to the moon. So our goal is to get to the moon with another 7 million, and I think it’s absolutely possible.

TSA: It helps that karts can go faster!

JT: Exactly! It won’t take him 21 years to go through all those levels on karts, it’ll take him only half the time, and he can go much faster than on those little legs!

But there’s so much possibility out there, with the Vita, Cross Controller and all the DLC. We’re already planning on supporting all of the costumes that come out as we go.

TSA: Finally, a lot of Vita owners will be quite eager to get LBPK onto their handhelds. Are the plans for that?

JT: You know, it’s a logical place for it to end up but there’s nothing set in stone yet. We’re still so focussed on finishing the PS3 version and making that the best it can possibly be. In fact the team are right now wrapping up the last few days before submission and we’re nearly there! It’s been a lot of hard work but it’s so exciting!

Honestly, we’re heads down and focussed on that right now, but like I said there are just so many more places for it to be and it would be great to see it on a handheld, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Thanks to Jen for taking the time to sit down and chat with us. LittleBigPlanet Karting is set for release on the 6th of November in the US, 7th November in Europe and 9th November in the UK.

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4 Comments

  1. No mention of the awful loading times in ModNation to LBPK.

    • loading times in the beta were much better than MNR. Sadly for me there didn’t seem to be any improvement in the actual driving.

  2. Unlike a lot of people, I was impressed by the kart racing but no so much the the track editor which felt a bit bland with the Beta test in comparison to MNR. By the time of release though that’ll have changed/upgraded and if so this game should become the benchmark for karters.

  3. I’ll keep an eye on this. I really want it but the beta was terrible. Until I see some good reviews of it I’ll stay away I think.

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