Develop 2011: Creative director Mark Healey says network outage didn't hurt online community; user numbers "rocketed" thanks to LBP giveaway; studio will stay "protective" of franchise.
The PlayStation Network outage hasn't harmed LittleBigPlanet's online community, according to Media Molecule creative director Mark Healey. After the outage, in which Sony took its online service down for several days in April and May, the number of players online in the community-focused LBP games surged due to PSN users downloading the first LittleBigPlanet game for free as part of Sony's welcome back package.
At UK-based games industry conference Develop, Healey told GameSpot about Media Molecule's experience of the extended network outage: "We have a scrolling LED sign in the office that tells us how many people are online [in LBP], so that obviously said zero [during the outage], so [the PSN outage] was in our face in that sense."
After the PSN was restored, said Healey, the number of users swelled past pre-outage numbers. "Because Sony offered LBP 1 as a freebie, the number rocketed up. I imagine a lot of the creators were just sort of, 'OK, I'm just going to make something ready to unleash when it comes back on.'" He noted that the "massive" increase in the online community, powered by Sony's global giveaway, "has probably cost Sony something."
Media Molecule art director Kareem Ettouney called the user community "so forgiving," saying that it had been "very, very understanding."
On the topic of "stepping away" from the LBP series, with development duties on the upcoming PlayStation Vita LBP title going to outside developers Double 11 and Tarsier Studios, Mark Healey said it isn't as though Media Molecule is suddenly letting go of its franchise. "Even from LittleBigPlanet 1, we were always working with outside companies anyway, so it's not like a sudden, black-and-white [shift]. It's a gradual process, and we're going to keep involved. Sackboy's like our firstborn child; we can't just let it walk off into the wilderness on its own. We're going to be very protective of it."
Speaking on the incoming downloadable Move Pack for LittleBigPlanet 2 which is "just being tied up now," Healey said: "It will be interesting to see what that does with the Move controller because it's like we've taken the Move controller, opened up the guts, given it to hopefully lots of people just to explore the possibilities." He also talked about the scale of the downloadable content pack, comparing it to the size of a boxed product. "There's a lot of content there I could easily see how we could have made the Move Pack a full Blu-ray with a bit more content."
Media Molecule is currently spending time working with the new LittleBigPlanet teams, as well as experimenting with new ideas, said Healey. "There's a lot of dialogue with the teams that are going to take over the weight of the work with LBP. There's some experimentation and exploration going on."
Though there was nothing specific to share on the Sony-owned studio's next game, Ettouney added, "We are creative people who will always produce stuff anyway, whether there's a Media Molecule project or not. We draw all the time; we create prototypes all the time that's the way we arrive at [new projects]. I think the industry has overdone the magic, key, cool idea thing. There's no such thing. It's only a process of working, working, working, and then something sticks."
LittleBigPlanet 2 players will get their hands on the downloadable Move Pack in the near future. The LittleBigPlanet title for the PlayStation Vita will follow next year.