What We Already Know:
Sony's LittleBigPlanet followed through on its ethos of "Play, Create, Share" to an unprecedented degree, which helped turn it into a little big deal. Now, the first real sequel's looking to expand the possibilities for player creation even further. It's not content with being a platform game—it wants to be a games platform.
What We're Seeing Now:
Media Molecule technical director Alex Evans was on hand at E3 to show off what's cooking for LittleBigPlanet 2. The changes are deep and sweeping, and I couldn't help but feel a little excited about the possibilities.
The increased versatility of the game engine will probably turn out to be the game's single largest improvement. Before launching into the live demo Evans showed a video that demonstrated a few of the game-creation possibilities enabled by the new tools. Among others I noticed a side-scrolling space shooter, an arcade-style overhead racing game, an Arkanoid clone, a Space Invaders tribute, and a surprisingly close recreation of Puzzle Bobble. Creating much of this would have been impossible with the original game's tools. As Evans noted, "It's not just about platforming anymore."
The first major creation-related upgrade is the Direct Control Seat. Upon installing a DCS in an object (say, a vehicle) you'll be confronted with a Dual Shock 3 circuit board.. You then wire its various input to objects in your world. For example, Evans built a car from a wedge-shaped block, wheels, an engine and a DCS. To make the car controllable he mapped the left analog stick's "right" direction to the car's engine. He then jumped in the seat, pressed right, and drove right off. All told, much more elegant than the crude switches folks had to use in the first game.
Another huge addition is the Sackbot, a mechanical Sackboy doppelganger that you can either hook up to a DCS or program with a Circuit Board. Sackbots can be any size and wear any outfit the player has on hand. Hook up a Sackbot to a DCS and you have yourself a walking mecha. Record some sounds for it with a mic. Or put some logic chips on its Circuit Board, tailoring how it behaves and reacts to players (you can duplicate the board for easy future use). You can even change the Sackbot's physics, which finally provides a remedy for those who dislike the series' floaty jump control.
Other great improvements include easy camera changes (imagine a platforming segment and an overhead shooter bit in one level), holographic materials (put programmable text or images on-screen, like for a HUD), a grappling hook, and greatly reduced limitations on the amount of "stuff" you can put in a level. According to Evans Media Molecule is trying to avoid limiting what players can create. Perhaps the greatest testament to this? All of LittleBigPlanet 2's commercial levels will have been built with the game's own tools. If they're good enough for the developers...
Players of the first game have shared over two million levels and formed a cohesive community, and Media Molecule is trying to do all it can to preserve this. All current levels will work in the new game, and your creations and money will transfer over. In addition, a web portal called LPB.me (accessible within or outside of the game) will making sharing content even easier, while providing a greater focus on individual creators. It's kind of the LittleBigPlanet version of Facebook.
So yeah, LittleBigPlanet 2 is serious business. I can't wait to see what you folks come up with.