Thursday, September 25, 2008

LittleBig Fears

LittleBig Planet is going to upgrade my creative abilities significantly. I plan on using the game as a teaching tool for level design, building a portfolio of levels, and communicating/releasing/showcasing unique content to the world. For these purposes, there is a slim chance that LBP will let me down. Check out these videos to see what I mean.






THE FEARS

  • The loose and floaty physics: Everything in LBP seems to be physics based. Games like Boom Blox and mods on the Half Life 2 engine have demonstrated that a heavy use of physics interactions can add a lot of uncertainly within a game. Trying to finely adjust elements in Halo 3's Forge can quickly become very frustrating because everything acts according to physics even when you're trying to move things about. Instead of everything being quantified like in Mario or MegaMan, successfully landing on a platform in LBP is a matter of the physics calculations. This makes what would be successful jumps in Mario/MegaMan annoying slips in LBP. (at least, this is what I can gather from videos)
  • vision cam: It seems that this underutilized tool is required for snapping stickers and/or making custom textures in LBP. Since this is the biggest game I want for PS3 I don't really mind shelling out the extra cash for a cam. It still might be beneficial to have other ways of importing images. The PS3 is a media super hub after all.
  • Camera: A properly positioned camera is essentially for almost all games. After all, even 2D Mario needs to see where he's going before he jumps. Hopefully LBP will come with a variety of camera manipulation tools. So far the camera works looks automatic often cutting off vital elements off screen. I wonder if there will be tools for organizing a split screen camera or a camera that takes advantage of internet co-op.
  • The multplayer looks a bit goofy and strained: Everything from the respawn system, to the camera that either zooms out to try and keep all the players on the screen or only focuses on one player, to the faux cooperation looks a bit worrisome. Everything is more fun with friends in a way, but that doesn't mean the design doesn't suffer in the process. Of course, because you can do practically whatever you want in LBP, designing some true cooperative gameplay elements shouldn't be too hard.
  • Music: In order to dodge copyright issues, LBP is offering creative custom music solutions. I don't know how versatile these tools are. If we can record our voice in to the game what stops someone from recording MP3s as their voice?
  • The core mechanics seem to be JUMP, GRAB, PUNCH, SHIFT LANES, and MOVE. I'm not impressed with the JUMP mechanic or any of the other physics based interations in the game quit eyet. If the core mechanics aren't tight, then all the platforming gameplay suffers no matter how we build levels to compensate. I hope the gameplay side of LBP doesn't end up where players play around with the idea of playing a platformer. I can't stand pretending to play a good video game when playing a bad one.


Be afraid.

Good thing all PS3s have a hard drive. If anything goes wrong out the gate, there's always patches, updates, and DLC.

6 comments:

Bryan said...

I agree about the physics. People seem to think physics is a great way to create emergent gameplay, but I'm not so sure.
In particular, some of the platforms sink when you land on them and it sinks in different amounts depending on where you land. The Designers like using round platforms to land on, like trees, which seem really easy to slip on.

I didn't see much interaction between players on the first video, except possibly to grab more color than the other person. Can't players help each other up onto obstacles?

In the second video, didn't the guy have a lot of trouble jumping over spikes? Could he have brought over a platform to make that easier?

How do you think this compares to Blizzard's old "Lost Vikings" games? They were 2D puzzle / platformer hybrids where each character had 2 or 3 different abilities, and they used them to get past traps and enemies. No such thing as user created content though.

KirbyKid said...

@ Bryan

I checked out a video of Lost Vikings. Old style game, but still very interesting. Having the special abilities based on movement and offense allows for some neat team work and specialized strategies.

In LBP's case, I think all sackboys/girls are made equal. With enough AI brains, levers, and switches I'm sure you can make something that requires real team work. But without good core mechanics, a strong platforming base, or a strong action game base I'm afraid the gameplay potential for LBP will be very low.

Sure we'll get some interesting levels that look like famous paintings, others that recreate popular video game levels, or even some that will play familiar tunes. But what does any of that have to do with platforming? How do those ideas relate to the core mechanics of LBP?

In general, platforming Co-op is really tricky. Mario Galaxy had some with the aid of the 2ndplayer wiimote pointer. Tails and Sonic could team up and platform to new areas by flying. But in that case, Tails had abilities that Sonic didn't, which makes the teamwork work.

I guess it all boils down to... how can one player help another player jump? I can shoot at the same targets as you. I can shield attacks for you. I can pull a lever so you can access an area. But as for jumping up to a ledge or around an obstacle... you're really on your own.

Bryan said...

The coop in Super Smash Bros Brawl comes to mind. The second player was there more to help out with fighting than platforming though. Maybe you could footstool jump player 2 for extra jumps, then have player 2 catch up by pressing the start button?

What I would expect from LBP for Coop platforming would be an extension of the grab mechanic. The first player would leap and grab onto a wall, but wouldn't be able to climb up. Player 2 would leap and grab onto Player 1, climb up him, and use player 1 as a platform to jump onto the platform. Player 2 would then be able to pull player 1 up, or manipulate the level so Player 1 could get up on his own. There doesn't seem to be a lot of variation with this idea though.

KirbyKid said...

@ Bryan

I was thinking about the grab mechanic as well. That and the "punch your fellow sackboy/girl" mechanic.

The facial expressions and the PUNCH look more like taunts that mechanics, but there is some potential in the punch for coop. It looks like sackboys/girls fly extra far, really quickly horizontally when PUNCHed. Perhaps someone can design a level where teams have to PUNCH platform?

As for the GRAB mechanic. It looks like there isn't a CLIMB mechanic, but you can influence the direction of your character while he/she holds on to stuff. Maybe that will add some more variation.

Do you remember the first video of LBP. The Sackboys equipped jet packs so they could put rocks on this switch high above the ground. In that example, sackboys not only equipped jet packs, but they could lift rocks, and lift other sackboys that were carrying rocks. And example like this alleviates some of my fears.

Bryan said...

I didn't see the jetpack. Most of the platforming I saw involved jumping on springy platforms to jump higher.

The ability to get jetpacks reminds me a bit of the movement related abilities in Lost Vikings, especially Erik's jumping abilities. They seem to want you to be able to move through the levels single player or coop though.

Perhaps a better analogy is the items in Four Swords Adventures?

KirbyKid said...

@ Bryan

Four Swords eh?

That's a pretty good comparison. Each player is the same, until they find and equip themselves with special items. In Four Sword's case, the items powered up a single player at a time with new offensive and defensive abilities. By using these new abilities, temporary roles are created.

I wonder if Sackboys can form a chain and pull really heavy objects. Actually, thinking about 4 swords is a great way to get into the proper mindset for designing LBP co-op levels.

hmmmm