If someone were to ask you; “Who is the most creative studio in the industry at the moment?”, you might well go with some unknown indie developer or foreign proposition full of enthusiastic ‘artistes’, but most of you will oversee one of the most exciting (and relatively new) studios that are currently at work in Media Molecule. Based in our home country of the UK- Guildford, Surrey, to be precise- Media Molecule was formed in 2006 by former Lionhead Studios employees Mark Healey, Alex Evans, Dave Smith and Kareem Ettouney, who, according to their website “love nothing more than making innovative and creative video game doodads for you to play with. Also ice cream”. In the short space of four years, however, the team have overseen and created one of the most entertaining, insanely unique, and impossibly cute games of this generation with LittleBigPlanet. Now one of the most recognisable brands of videogame out there (with enormous compliments to Sackboy) and a flagship title of Sony’s PS3 brand, the developer is currently closing in on a ‘November 2011′ release marker for its sequel, LittleBigPlanet 2.
LittleBigPlanet was a triumph in that it delivered an unreserved uniqueness that we rarely see in modern days of the industry. The stepping stone in creating Sony’s ‘Play, Create, Share’ brand, in which users created their own levels and shared them through the community, LBP’s incredibly complex set of tools allowed any Tom, Dick and Harry to create their very own masterpiece. Often misconstrued as being incredibly difficult to handle, the creation tools were in actuality more practical and simple than it first appears, due in no uncertain terms to the ‘Pop It’ tool and the radically English tones of Stephen Fry voicing LBP’s tutorials. And while the game split opinion publically (otherwise receiving unanimous high scores critically), with many criticising the “floaty” platform mechanics, it actually underlines the game’s key strengths- the real-time physics engine. Each material was given unique properties, each given a typical weight, and different specifications that not only impacted the world it was in, but also sometimes created chain reactions that were identical to real-world counterparts. Making sure the game could be accessed in terms of real-world knowledge when creating levels, the meticulous and complex system allowed for users to create some of the most dexterous and lovingly crafted pieces of platforming we’ve seen. From re-creations of classic Mario games, to working calculators and interpretations of everyday life, LBP has it all, and now hosts over 2 million user-generated levels that are all set to be transferred over to the sequel. Deserving undue appraisal, Media Molecule gave players a platform for ingenuity and creativity, never forgetting to update the game with requested additions (such as water- and all its physical properties, as well as lighting up Sackboy fashionista’s dreams in the number of costumes now available via PSN).
I’m a huge fan of Media Molecule who continue to strive forward in creativity stakes. Apparent in every facet of LittleBigPlanet‘s design, from its ramshackle ‘make-shift’ aesthetic, to the brilliant and undeniably challenging levels that were a part of LBP’s main campaign, Media Molecule have also seemed to match levels of hype, if not exceed them, for LittleBigPlanet 2, that has copious amounts of features that were omissed first time round. LBP2 includes more intelligent uses of AI, the ability to create more than just platformers(!), as well as the ability to create music, input voice and design cut scenes through in-game camera functionality, all delivered with the same love, care and attention that we come to expect from one of the darlings of Surrey- the epicentre of UK videogame development- Media Molecule.