A new computer game developed by Media Molecule for Sony Playstation has been unveiled at the Game Developers Conference 2007. The game called Little Big Planet is seemingly very simplistic with a cute rag doll character called ‘Sack Boy’ and retro 2D style game play.
There are three things that make Little Big Planet stand out and provide a glimpse into the future of gaming.
First is a real time physics engine that the game is built on. This allows every object in the game to act in the way that you would expect in the real world. So balls roll if pushed, and big balls take more effort to push than small balls. This makes use of the Playstation’s very powerful cell processor.
The second defining factor is that every level in Little Big Planet is built by players using virtual physical objects without requiring any programming skills.
The fact that the game is built by players and is thus constantly evolving makes it a social experience, but the final differentiator for Little Big Planet is that it takes social gaming to a new level. Again making use of the physics engine players can interact with the objects in the game and with each other by grabbing, pulling and pushing. The game requires players to work together to get through stages and it also encourages players to compete with each other in collecting the resources necessary for building their levels.
This constant interplay of co-operation and competition (sometimes called co-opetition) helps the game replicate real world social interaction.
By combining physical and social interaction Little Big Planet is making use of the power of the latest generation gaming consoles and is leading the way into a future of ever more immersive game play.
Game Developers Conference presentation – Little Big Planet
The way I keep perspective about new things is to consider whether the new thing would be appealing to someone from another planet. When you strip away all of your preconceptions about what is good, is this thing good? Considering that, in the past, everything looked like this or worked like that and this new thing doesn’t, does not, for me, make it good. I’m from a planet where nothing looks like any of these things so they all look different. Now I can go about the process of using my unbiased sensibilties to determine what is the quality of this new thing. First thing I say is, what is the advantage of being virtual? can it do something that I cannot do physically? Achieving ever greater degrees of realism has no appeal to me because I have reality for that. To be excited about realism is like saying “This painting of the Mona Lisa is nice but I have a friend who looks just like that and I have a photo of her but I can also go visit her and that is so much better than going to see the painting.”
So I look at the little creatures and I see they can move just like I do and they can interact with each other just like I can with friends or strangers even. and they have challenges and goals that they must work together to surmount or achieve, just like I do at work. So I guess the big thrill is that we can have everything just like it is in real life, except we get to do it on a little screen and from the privacy of our little cubicles we live in and we don’t have to bathe or eat with manners or even be clothed because we’re safe in our cubicles. Sorry the thrill is nil. So what is good about it. It must be the general aesthetic appeal. the overall attractiveness. Does it have an innate sense of style, color balance, geometric symmetry or interesting relationships between the form and space, or just a harmonious interplay between all of the senses? How about does it challenge my concept of form and color or does it pay respectful tribute to the tradition of the masters of form and color who came before me with it’s apparent understanding of these things and clear reference to them or rebellious avoidance of same. The answer to these questions is no. none of the things I look for when I wish to be enlightened, fulfilled, entertained, amused, calmed or shocked, are present in Little Big World which would be more accurately titled “Little Little Game.”