Sackboy, that lovable scamp from Media Molecule’s brilliant creativity simulator/platformer LittleBigPlanet is one of the most iconic figures in modern gaming history, and all you have to do to realize why is look at that big goofy grin and get lost in those tiny black eyes. Of course, like all great characters, Sackboy went through several iterations before he reached his final version.
To shed some light on Sackboy’s evolution, Media Molecule has posted a fantastic article that every LBP fan needs to check out immediately, as it not only tells the story of how Sackboy came to be, but it also includes early concept art, prototype gameplay footage, and even a wonderfully goofy death animations video that is simply adorable.
Videos and details after the jump.
As the developer explains on its official blog, the original Sackboy design was a piece of debug programmer art named YellowHead that consisted of a yellow square noggin and a purple triangular body. As you can see in the following prototype footage, Media Molecule had a fairly good idea of how they wanted the character that would eventually become Sackboy to move and behave:
“YellowHead was very much placeholder programmer art created by Dave [Smith] for the first playable CraftWorld code which was taken up to Sony on that fateful day of the pitch,” explains Media Molecule. “But although he was merely a stand in, he ended up dictating the proportions of Sackboy, and the things he would need to be able to do.”
The name YellowHead actually stuck for a while, and there was even a version of the character that featured a mosquito antennae. But one of the early additions to the character that would eventually become an integral part of Sackboy’s identity was the “handmade look” (i.e. buttons, zippers, fabric, etc.) applied by MM creative director Mark Healey.
The next piece of the Sackboy puzzle fell into place thanks once again to Dave Smith who gave the LBP star his unique trapezium head shape, in addition to the now beloved attitudes and expression wrinkles. One of Sackboys most distinct features in his chest zipper, and while it’s now just a simple part of his design, it almost became an integral part of the game’s overall design thanks to a “crazy concept” from Mark Healey that consisted of adding a separate creative space…inside of Sackboy himself.
“Maybe the place where you go to create is… in yourself. Let’s put this zip on Sackboy, he opens the zip, folds in on himself and goes and creates inside himself, because creativity and ideas are all inside you.”
“I’m kind of glad to say that this idea didn’t manifest” added MM art director Kareem Ettouney. “It’s a legacy part of design, but it makes him really distinct.”
In terms of Sackboy’s animation, the devs say it wasn’t all that enjoyable to design because “it’s the user controlling the actions.” However, as Media Molecule’s senior animator Francis explains, “The reward comes from seeing what people do with it. The mad dances and machinima really amazed me, and the way people use the basic acting emotions to talk to each other - they almost became a sort of language people used to communicate to one another whilst playing.”
Originally, Sackboy had a number of situational death animations, but those were eventually replaced by less violent and more cutesy animations. Again, Media Molecule brings the prototype goodness in this video showing off a number of these long lost dying sequences:
There’s actually quite a few more details about the development of Sackboy and some of the reactions and philosophies behind the decisions that led to his ultimate design. If you’re an aspiring animator, or just a fellow lover of the design sign of gaming, I highly recommend checking out the full article. Great stuff.
Source: Media Molecule