LittleBigPlanet PS Vita came out last week, but that’s not the only load of handheld LBP goodness that we’ll be seeing this year. We also have LittleBigPlanet Karting and another round of DLC for LittleBigPlanet 2.
The Cross Controller pack is on the horizon for the end of this year, a pretty obvious shot across the Wii U’s bow in terms of functionality. The plan is hopefully to expand this beyond just LBP, and for lots of developers and publishers to see and work on the potential gameplay. But the first and possibly best example of what the Cross Controller system can do is going to come via LBP 2 and, as you’ve no doubt seen recently, your PS Vita.
The first and most important point is that you have full control of your sackperson on the TV screen, via a Wi-fi connected Vita. Jump, move, wave, slap, it’s all there, but you just have a second screen which lets you interact with the world on your TV in different ways.
Crucially, there’s the ability to show off extra information on the Vita. The example level I saw displayed extra information about hidden traps on the Vita screen using the Hologram style of presentation to give a little map of where things are. If you’re playing with friends, then you can use this for altruistic means, touch on the Vita screen to bring up a visual on the screen revealing the dangers, or for slightly evil ways of leading your friends into traps. The perfect way of messing with your mates, but don’t overdo it unless you want an augmented reality Sackboy slap![drop2]
The interactions go a whole lot further, though, letting you take touch inputs not too dissimilar from the Move pack and control objects in the game. You can push blocks in and out of the layers, pull down on springy boards to fling people up, or spin cogs. The possibilities on offer are a fairly logical merging of what you can do on the LBP Vita with touch and LBP 2, but there is an underlying feeling that some of this we’ve seen before with the Move pack.
I asked Tom O’Connor from XDev, who was demonstrating the DLC functionality for me, about the similarities to the Move’s capabilities. “The great thing with LBP, and what we always do is we don’t put any limitations in place. We actually let you break things, but we don’t do that when we showcase it. So if you want to you could use PlayStation Vita and PlayStation Move in a level. You could actually create a game that uses Move and Vita.”
But could we use the Vita’s touch screen to play Move levels? “No, they will be separate and tagged,” said Tom.
For me, possible the most intriguing part of the demonstration was being able to jump down a pipe with the Vita-controlled Sackboy and get your own little mini-level. Beamed to the Vita from the PS3, these sub-sections to the main world could see you interact with the main level similar to how co-op segments work in the main stock game. Except here you’re in a completely distinct and separate little area only for your eyes.
Expanding from that idea I thought back to Nintendo’s GameCube title The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, which saw you able to connect four Game Boy Advance handhelds up to the GameCube and play co-op with the TV screen acting as a hub screen for everyone. Unfortunately, Tom said this set up wasn’t possible with this DLC pack:
“What we’ve done was design this pack with the most likely situation in mind. The most likely situation was that you have just you on a Vita, or a friend alongside you on a Vita. However, there’s nothing to stop you playing online with other people who also have a Vita.
“So someone could create a level that has four PS3s connected online, each with a Vita. Or a Move and a Vita and a DualShock. It’s entirely up to the individual really, but we wanted to put all of our efforts into [creating levels with] the best experience for the most likely situation, which is one Vita and multiple DualShocks.”
But budding level designers can naturally mix and match whatever inputs they want, as Tom said before. The real proof of what this pack can do will surely be when the community gets its hands on it and starts really pushing all the boundaries of what can be done. The key will be in the editing tools, and here I wondered if LBP Vita’s touch editing tools would make the jump over:
“Essentially the way people will build levels is that there’s a new series of chips and sensors that send data from the Vita to the PS3. It’s all really simple, there’s tutorials on how to use the stuff. But when you create the gameplay you actually create half the gameplay on the Vita, using the touch screen. That will essentially be a stripped down version of LBPV’s touch functionality. So not all the tools will be there, but the ones that communicate with LBP2 will be on the Vita. Then you’ll create gameplay on the PS3 and then you’ll make them talk via these sensors.”
Whatever the nitty gritty details, it’s pretty certain that this DLC pack is going to add a whole new wave of possibilities to LBP2, and I’m looking forward to seeing what weird and wonderful creations the LBP community can come up with.
Whilst there is no firm date in place, the LBP2 Cross Controller DLC is currently set for a release before the end of 2012.