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Posts Tagged ‘LittleBigPlanet’

I quite often get official word of marketing campaigns for new and soon-to-be-released games.  They’re second only to architectural trade stories in “things I’m most often pitched.”*

Anyways, EA is taking a novel approach to promoting their supercops-and-unsavory-characters MMO, APB. They’re making one fan put his money where his mouth is, literally turning him into an avatar that could be produced in the game’s design-your-character interface.  I’ve seen more than enough promotions that put one lucky fan into a game as a background model, and even occasionally as a playable in-game character.  So it’s cool to see EA turn that concept on its head.

The community is at the helm, making choices via popular vote on who their base model is, his hairstyle, even tattoos the poor guy has to get. To be fair, Josh (the “winner” in this case) lists “Free Runner” as his occupation, so he probably had plenty of time and empty pockets to commit to this project.  And hey, it’s not like his shift supervisor is gonna reem him out for showing up to work with stupid visible tats or a crazy haircut.  That’s why you make career choices like “Free Runner” in the first place, right?  Except this guy.  He’s a badass, and it look like dude gets paid.

The whole thing has me thinking more about our relationships with what we control onscreen.  Tom Bissell had some very, very good points in Extra Lives about how much of (another EA title) Mass Effect’s success is tied to Bioware empowering us all to create OUR Commander Shephards.  I still bristle a little bit when I see a YouTube video or something from that game, and it’s not MY Shephard running around.  It feels like the lost footage from Back to the Future with Eric Stoltz in the Marty role.  Creepy.

...that's just not right

But I don’t think I would ALWAYS be more emotionally invested if I could design my own avatar.  Case in point: there’s nothing on this earth that turns my “nostalgia” valve quite like a Mario game.  Even when I could play a sidescrolling platformer — that most nostalgic of genre — with an avatar of my own design in LittleBigPlanet, it just didn’t resonate emotionally as much as one starring everyone’s favorite plumber.

APB designer Dave Jones (of Lemmings and GTA 1-2 fame) clearly wants us to feel like we’re inhabiting that world.  As WoW has shown us, a custom avatar can really make players buy in to the setting and fiction on a very deep level.  Let’s hope Josh can hack it.

* Really.  Enough with the damn pitches about building materials.  I’m sure advances in shaftway cabling are a very big deal, but we write about videogames here, peeps.

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1Up's mockup of the new PSP design

1Up's mockup of the new PSP design

1Up .com has become the first legitimate outlet to publish the news of a new PSP hardware iteration that, among other significant design changes, ditches the UMD drive in favor of a download-only format that uses an internal flash drive and (of course) Sony MemorySticks for storage.  If you’re scoring at home, UMD (Universal Media Disc) is a proprietary Sony disc format created for the PSP.

The 1Up piece comes on the heels of an apparent slip-up in either editing or scheduled posting for the @1Up podcast that let the cat out of the bag.  Sony’s refused to comment, but they’re allegedly announcing the whole shebang at E3.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read the “PSP without UMD” rumor over the years, but it really seemed to gain steam in recent months.  When David Perry swore very publicly and vehemently in late February that we would see it soon, it was finally very easy to see why it might be for real this time.  We’ve had Sony telling us that PSP would see an earnest commitment to development, with big franchises like Rock Band and Little Big Planet on the way.  And once Loco Roco 2 was announced as download only, it seemed like the final nail in UMD’s coffin.

Looks like I’d better find an eager buyer for my UMD copy of Jerry Maguire, stat!

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As another stellar PAX show wound down this weekend, Sony completed a more-or-less clean sweep of industry show prerelease buzz for LittleBigPlanet. The construction/platformer/multiplayer collaboration defies all current genre (yours truly is calling it a “toybox” game) and is quick to make fans wherever it pops up. It dominated E3 “Game of Show” lists, was named Leipzig’s Game of the Show, and popped in quite a few places at PAX, including the offbeat “How to Get Your Girlfriend into Video Games” panel.

Perhaps the most compelling argument for LBP is just how much stock Sony is putting in the game’s all-things-to-all-people mascot, Sackboy.  He’s truly a modern icon for the consumer generated content era: a blank (albeit cute and cuddly) slate to take on whichever identity makes the most sense for your game.  Whereas Mario (nee Jumpman) injected a little character into stacks of pixels nearly 30 years ago, Sackboy and his crew can be infused with all the personality you need.  Sony’s even releasing an 80G hardware bundle featuring LBP in Europe.

Perhaps most importantly, LBP is the latest in a line of unbelievably good titles that aim to occupy the space somewhere between a game and full-blown platform.  Rock Band and later editions of Guitar Hero continue to deliver weekly content to suit a wide variet of tastes, from The Who to Nirvana song packs.  Nintendo packed a robust level editor into the already-superb Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and the community still pumps out engaging level designs almost 6 months after its release.  Soul Calibur IV is currently flying off the shelves, due in large part to one of the deepest create-a-character modes ever seen in a console brawler.

While it’s true that these games rely heavily on the efforts of an engaged community, they also require a substantial commitment from developers.  LBP developer Media Molecule has made it clear that they have no followup project in mind yet.  For the months, maybe even years after it ships, they will be in the business of supporting and expanding LBP. And I applaud the effort.

Can LittleBigPlanet deliver on expectations?  Will it truly make us all one step closer to self publishers?  Will it finally deliver a sustainable experience supported by smart, effective in-game advertising?  Only time will tell, and I can hardly wait until October to find out.

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