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In terms of that pitch, and in view of what you've just expressed about games being such a complex hybrid set of skills, how do you begin to describe what it is that you want to make?
MH: We had a playable prototype
that captured the essence of what we were trying to do.
AE: The interesting thing is that there almost was no 'before'. It wasn't playable in a polished way. Basically, Kareem would sit down and sketch while there was a conversation going on, and capture ideas.
Before you had the prototype, how did you know what you were going to make?
MH: I remember the first moment
when we talked about this game, actually. We went to the cinema to see
Howl's Moving Castle, and I was chatting with Dave and saying how
it would be cool to have character controls -- a bit like Rag Doll,
but on a console -- and we had a notion of how it would control.
AE: It was a combination of
some very quick conversations, a few sketches and a quick playable demo
where you could hold a PS2 pad, plug it into a PC and try it out. I
wrote a program with Dave that allowed you to run through concept art,
so you got the feeling of being in control of the game, you could feel
the kind of inertia and sense the kind of art style.
KE: The great thing about this industry is that it makes people become more hybrid. Alex isn't just a coder; he's a great artist. Mark isn't just an artist; he's a coder -- that kind of hybrid practitioner working on something really helps to create a great hybrid product.
AE: One of the other things about the pitch process was that we were pitching ourselves partly, because we didn't have much to show at such short notice.
Mark's been in the industry for 15 years, I've been in it for ten, Kareem has enormous experience and brings in all these other skills. So the first half of the pitch was the story of Rag Doll, where we built up to showing the demo. An important thing to note is that we always use our own tools to show our work -- we never use PowerPoint. So you can literally have concept art side by side with data side by side with the actual character running around.
MH: I think that was one of the big things that impressed them; that we showed something actual we could make while pitching.
AE: One of the things Sony really liked about Rag Doll is that users were able to express themselves so easily. That was something they really wanted to preserve and develop. The other big question was, "how do we translate the mouse-driven physics of something like Rag Doll onto a controller?"
Conveniently, that was one of the things we were able to answer first,
from Dave's prototype. If someone just asked that question and we showed
them a piece of paper explaining it, it wouldn't really make sense.
They asked the question, and seconds later we were able to hand them
the controller to pass around and they were able to feel it. Obviously,
it's a million miles away from anything you'd ever ship, but it allowed
them to understand what we were aiming for.
Then when they asked what the visual style of the game is, the character was able to walk through the concept painting that Kareem had just done for us. Then, when the discussion was about feature-sets, in our case it's about online features, and although we couldn't plug the demo into the Internet, we could visually show what we were planning.
That's something we've always tried to do
since -- make: a demo to that level -- which I haven't seen many other
people do. We tend to commit early to prototypes rather than go into
documents. The prototype is actually about proving the really simple
and most important questions. Then we start trying to structure it.
MH: The interesting point for
me is that how you present something is hugely important. We could have
gone in with a Word document or something, but people don't want to
have to imagine that much. Making something that's really slick and
fun is really important. It's not enough to just have a great idea in
your head and tell people "trust me! It's going to be cool!"
[Further Media Molecule-related info, including images from throughout the development of LittleBigPlanet, as well as other interviews and insight from Keita Takahashi, Michel Ancel, David Braben, and other creators, is available in Simons' book Inside Game Design.]