We're back with the second part of our interview with Media Molecule's Alex Evans, a man most of you probably quite like at the moment...
But is there a sense of trepidation that by releasing extra content you may be guiding people away from how they want to interact with the game?
No, I think the main focus is to not dilute what’s there. I’m not so worried about leading – people won’t be led. It’s more about not making it bewildering. With any creative endeavour it’s really helpful to have restraints, whether you’re writing X hundred words or whether you’re making a 30-minute documentary – constraint is ultimately vital. It’s the same for us - with LBP, people say ‘but it’s side view all the time’ – that was not a technical decision, that was an absolutely crucial design decision so that a constraint was there to simplify things. I don’t want to dilute choices, and that’s the balance we have to strike, supporting new ideas while not confusing everyone. Imagine if films no longer had the commercial requirement to be ninety minutes. You do get art house epics that are amazing for six hours, but they’re the exception. This is especially true for an untrained audience. When I spoke at Paris GDC I gave another example: peoples’ first attempt to design a flyer, or poster, or wedding invitation is always a horrible mish-mash of word art and fonts – and all you have to do is say to them, just use one or two fonts and one or two colours, and immediately the quality of what they do goes straight through the roof. Internally, that’s our biggest theme – we don’t project that to the audience, it’s a consumer project so we don’t say ‘we constrain you’, but it’s finding those really lovely little constraints that let people improve their skills without even knowing it’s better that way.
There’s very much a trend these days to see a game release as a platform requiring long-term creative support. Is that how you see LBP?
Definitely. We share a pub with Criterion and I’m really interested by what they’re doing with their downloadable content. They’re really supporting Burnout Paradise – with the new bikes and all that stuff, and that’s on the face of it, a traditional game. LBP, on the face of it, is more like a platform – I think it’s going to be up there with the most Platformy of them all! But I think it’s a direction that the whole games industry is going to have to move in – especially as you have people, in times of credit crunch, paying £60, or investing lots of hours of effort. One of the interesting things with the beta was all these people have invested 10-20 hours building levels – that’s an investment they don’t want to lose. It’s really important as an industry that we are more sensitive to that. Before it was like, ship a game and in the next year do a sequel. I don’t think that’s going to be the case in the future, for many games.
So as a team are you prepared for LBP to be your full-time creative pursuit for the next three or four year?
I’d love it! I’ve got only two plans and those are to enjoy my job and ensure the team are enjoying their jobs, so as long as we stay creatively happy within the world of LBP, that will be my ideal scenario. If the audience is tired or the team is tired then we’ll have to find other ways to spice it up. But I would absolutely love for us to be expanding LBP for many years to come.
One of the things I love about the game is that through your use of textiles, it has almost a tactile feel – there’s a real appreciation of materials in there. But have there been any objects or textiles that you thought would be interesting, but which didn’t work in the game world?
That’s kind of an odd question… I think there’s a hidden process of selection that’s going on in the art department. So for example, the art style from the beginning, the one-liner we had was that it had to look like a miniature made universe, it had to look like someone had taken a camcorder and filmed this little real world. And as the graphics programmer, I was really excited to apply all these HD texturing technologies to this kind of Bagpus world, this sort of seventies children’s TV show sort of thing. I think the game’s look has emerged form the properties of the tools and the tastes of the artists involved. So it’s not as cut and dry as ‘oh, we tried silk and it failed’. If they wanted silk I would code a silk shader for them. It was really a very malleable process, it’s much more a case of people feeling kind of comfortable with how it looks – you know, if they want brushed metal, they can have brushed metal – it’s what feels right when you’re working. I can’t think of an analogy… you don’t necessarily choose the instrumentation for a piece of music consciously, if it’s working you add a new part, if it’s not working you don’t – it’s an emergent thing.
Check back tomorrow for the final part…