LittleBigPlanet 3 is Full of Glitches (in a Good Way)

By Leon Hurley on at

It's not often you hear a developer say "we left the glitches in". But when all your best stuff comes from abused bugs and creatively broken code you probably have to admit your audience is on to something.

There's this for example, an LBP 2 glitch using object-spawning emitters to create an infinite (ish) number of layers. There were meant to be three.

Long time series producer Pete Smith know what that is: "it’s a bug".

However, what's important is that this is "a bug that creators have exploited to make cool stuff so we’ve left it in because we want to embrace those things" he explains. LittleBigPlanet's creation tools are often used, Pete says, to do things, "that we didn’t expect them to do,  didn’t intend them to do, or even want them to do" and it's seeing what this abuse has created that's shaped some of what makes up LBP 3. The 'creators', as the team call the players, took those mistakes and "embraced them in a totally different way".

So that's why LBP 3 now supports 16 playable layers. It's not quite that full first person glitch above but you might as well take the hint and add some of that functionality on purpose if your fans are going to wrench it from the code by force anyway. When level designer David Dino takes the stage to show it off he demonstrates a basketball hoop game - a common set up used in the past to show off how LBPs collection of materials and switches can make a game - but this time the court goes into the screen, not left or right.

Well, I'm excited.

Those 16 layers might not sound like much but it's probably more than most of us will ever use and marks a significant step away from the side on/top down platforming restrictions that have dominated a majority of LBPs casual output to date.

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Where the third numbered installment gets downright scary is that you can now add 'logic' to just about everything. The first game let you control motors, lights and other objects with simple circuits. This lets you attach these blocks to just about anything, and affect a far wider range of behaviors.

So, for example, in my demo David makes one of the characters, Toggle, fly with a press of R2 by adding the appropriate logic commands. Another tool, a character animation tweaker, also lets him customise the movement as well. According to Pete Smith the new characters were created like this: "the way Swoop flies is the way David showed you he made Toggle fly," he explains. "Even Toggle’s toggling can be done" he adds, talking about the oversized character's ability to switch to a smaller form.

How far you can push the logic waits to be seen (and if the series' past is anything to go by it's going to be broken and mangled to all hell and back). But there's an interesting demonstration of how flexible the potential could be when combined with another new object called the Power Up Creation Tool. This combines a 'blaster handle' which sackboy can hold, attached to anything, and then programmed with yet more logic.

The examples include a drill that destroys rocks blocking sackboy's path, a balloon which can be used to both fly and attack enemies, and a fork. That one magically spawns a chicken drumstick when you press R1 and is used to lure a character past a switch.

I'm relatively competent with LittleBigPlanet and this scares the hell out of me. Whereas the previous games were built around complex but largely predefined blocks this looks near infinite in its potential.

Basically you can make anything do anything.

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This was probably the most complicated thing I ever built in LBP 2 and it's not even that hard.

There does seem to be an awareness from Pete that there are casual and hardcore creators. Much of what was demoed to me was from the hardcore end of the spectrum, but this will apparently the "most accessible LittleBigPlanet we’ve done to date". Although to be fair it's not like he's going to say 'oh yeah, it's so hard'.

The accessibility has apparently been achieved by "layering the complexity", effectively hiding the hard stuff initially so you're not overwhelmed so "people create without realising they're creating".

Some of that was evident in the demo. There's now a rail system that lets you draw out enemy paths, or vehicle routes like a monorail. So no more murderously unmanageable Heath Robinson contraptions made of motors and switches to govern motion - you just draw a line and stuff follows it. You can even make it invisible to create instant patrolling enemies. The DualShock's touchpad can also be used to move, shape and scale things, making creation instantly more graspable.

Some of those menus look crazy detailed though. At some points in the demo a floaty bubble packed with a terrifying depth of options flashed past as Dino set something up. That people can make incredible things in LBP 3 is a no brainer but I am skeptical that Sony can sell the expanding complexity to a more casual audience. I'm oddly reminded of games like Tony Hawk, FIFA or COD where the need to progress the skill set eventually creates a more inclusive game that can only be enjoyed expert levels. There's always been a gap between the creators and players of the user-generated content but this installment could see the two living on different continents.