As you might have heard LittleBigPlanet 2 will very soon see it’s first big community project.
Hansel and Gretelbot, that’s the name of the project, was created by 12 of the most talented creators from the community. Some of them were so nice and took their time to answer our questions. You can read their answers below.
Once you have read them all you can download the awesome Hansel and Gretelbot PS3 wallpaper!
But first here is what Spaff from MediaMolecule had to say about the project:
Spaff: The Hansel and Gretel project was born from the idea that perhaps creators would be able to work together in the same way as a real development team does, using their joint skills in different areas to create a complete game experience, and essentially creating community made DLC level kits.
Not really knowing what was possible for sure, and also wanting to show the molecules here just how well the community could work together, I asked a few creators that had helped us out over the course of the year if they might be interested, and they put together a full team of people.
It was an experiment, one which has been very interesting, very fruitful, and should hopefully pave the way for doing more things like this in the future! Of course I’m also hopeful that it will demonstrate to the community that this sort of thing is possible, and inspire people to see what they can build if they work together!
How did you guys organize and coordinate this big project?
Comphermc: Spaff had done the initial legwork to pitch the idea and help us bring the team together. We originally started with a slightly larger team, but due to life, we lost a few along the way: Teebonesy and mrsupercomputer. Their time on the team was helpful to getting the project off the ground, and we give them a special thanks in the very last level.
Morgana25: The project was started by Spaff. He brought Wexfordian, ConfusedCartman, and comphermc on as project managers and they selected creators to work on the levels. The different aspects of the project were assigned to people based on their strengths as artists, logisticians, writers, game play designers and creators. Each aspect of the project had a lead person who coordinated the story, the character design, the animation and special logic needs.
We primarily coordinated on LBPcentral.com in a private forum where we could disuse progress and determine what had to be done yet. We also used other social media sites like Facebook and twitter to talk out solutions and keep others informed on what we were up to.
Catiers: Towards the end of the project, after the LBP2 Beta ended, it started to become necessary to pass the levels back and forth using Dropbox because of differences in people’s schedules and just because sometimes, only one person could work on it at a time, especially when it came to making the cutscenes.
How long did it take to complete?
Xkappax: Funny story. It was supposed to be three weeks. Six months later, and here we are.
Catiers: In total the project ran for about 6 months. Some of the preliminary work actually began in LBP1 before the LBP2 Beta came out and then work on the project continued through the entire LBP2 Beta and just overlapped the LBP2 launch by a few weeks.
Morgana25: The projects story and planning began back in early August before we’d seen anything that LBP2 was capable of. We had to plan general concepts and story at first. We designed some early prototypes of things in LBP1 and some material themes at this point too.
What was your contribution to the project?
Catiers: I did work on the opening cutscene, ending cutscene, the credits level and the squirrel mini game cutscenes. Basically, I just did a lot of the logic for most of the cutscenes.
Comphermc: I was responsible for the level called “Confronting the Witch”, which is where the player first meets the antagonist of our story. From there, I was sort of a freelance helper on all of the other levels. I had my hand in quite a bit of Morgana25′s levels and the drafting of how the story would play out.
Xkappax: In the beginning, I was brought on as a minor member of the cinematics team. I was told to just do what Teebonesy wanted and not step on any toes… and that’s what I did.
Storyboarding is something I do on a regular basis for both my job and my animations, so I also was able to use that to help storyboard the opening and ending cut scenes. I wrote the dialogue for most of the cut scenes as well. I had a lot of fun writing it. I would have loved for Teeb and mrsupercomputer to stay on, but since they couldn’t, I tried really hard to do my best making something that those guys would have been proud of. I really hope that I succeeded. ^_^
As far as my involvement in the actual level making, I did all of the sackbot acting in level 5′s cut scene, as well as the ending cut scene. I, along with Morgana25, did character design, I designed the enemies for Level 5 (the squirrel shooting nuts level), and I programmed a good bit of level 7 (with a great deal of help from Ccubbage and Catiers).
Finally, the DAY that we got the ability to do voice acting in the beta, I took the reigns and started organizing the voice acting, with the help of Morgana25. I typed up a bunch of the lines and got them out to the various voice actors. I also did the voice of the squirrel. ^_^
Morgana25: My contributions began in the writing and coordinating of the story. Taking the original Hansel and Gretel story and adapting it to the LBP world and taking ideas from the other creators and weaving them into a comprehensive narrative. I also worked with xkappax to design character costumes. In terms of level building, I was assigned the fourth level of the series which I ended up making a two part level group. I worked closely with comphermc on level 4 and popped in to his level to work out lighting and some artistic choices. I also worked with a few creators to set up the credit level design.
We did our own voice work on the series too and I’ve done the voices for the stepmother and the witch.
Wexfordian: My role was the Producer and Lead Artist. My Producer hat meant trying to manage all aspects of the game. Getting the right people working on the right thing, bugging people to get stuff done, bribing them with empty offers of cake…. that sort of thing. My Artist hat meant I had to ensure artististic cohesiveness between the levels, so they all felt part of the same game and not individual levels. I also designed the trailer, and the second half of level 2… I also do the voice work for the narrator
CuzFeeshe: I was responsible for building a level containing a unique gameplay style (non-platforming) that bridged an area of the story. I’ve also helped with organizing cut scenes, and I play the Father character.
Describe the worst moment you may have experienced and the best moment you experienced.
CuzFeeshe: I was having a really hard time building a decent concept for my level. I originally built an entirely different concept, but it was the realization that it wasn’t up to par and I had to start over that was my worst moment. The best moment was working with XKappax and Catiers one night and putting together one of the cut scenes. When my 8-year-old son watched that scene and was giggling and laughing all the way through it, I knew we had created something special. People were going to flip when they saw this!
Catiers: My worst moment was probably when the ability to have subtitles on a magic mouth that’s not on a sequencer was taken out. Up until that point, all of the magic mouths that I had been using were placed directly on sackbots and so the cutscenes no longer had subtitles but instead had to be run with word bubbles, which turned out to be very difficult.
As far as my best moments go, there were two of them, one of which was a direct result of my worst moment. Because that feature was removed I ended learning how to use sequencers properly which was easily one of the best things that came out of this project for me. Sequencers might be the most powerful tool in the game and I would have never learned how to use them correctly if not for that. My other “best” moment, though, was just at the end of the project when everything started coming together. Up until the very end everything felt sort of separated, as everyone worked on their own sections, but once it all came together it started to feel really cool and really special.
Comphermc: The worst moment was due to a little bug I experienced with a sound object. I recorded, timed, and added details to the entire cutscene at the start of the level I made, and then the game crashed. I lost all of the recorded dialogue.
The best moment was the first time I played through the level and everything worked as it was supposed to. Dang that feels good. It wasn’t easy getting to that point, but it was well worth it!
Morgana25: There really hasn’t been a worst moment. We had our fair share of problems with glitches, getting plans to work in game, and all the usual issues that come from coordinating a project of this size. Keeping it a secret was a bit of a challenge and trying to make time for online friends while still getting the work done was tricky too. The best moments were when the team was all working together and things were moving forward. It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of something that grows before your eyes and when you can look back proudly and say, we did that! It’s going to be even more amazing when it’s released and the community can all enjoy it.
Wexfordian: Worst moment was hearing that levels from the beta were not being be ported over… months of work flashed before me and a terrible sense of dread came over the team. Luckily, MM being the awesome bunch of folks they are offered their own QA team to go through all these level and fish out the dangerous bugs that were found in the beta.
What was it like to be working on a semi-official project? It must have been a lot more stressful than creating for yourself.
Catiers: It was a great experience working on a project like this but, yes, it was definitely more stressful than creating yourself. When you’re creating yourself there’re no deadlines to worry about and a level doesn’t have to pass Quality Assurance. With a project like this, though, that’s not the case. You’re given a timeline that you have to follow and everything needs to go through Quality Assurance before it can be released. Not to mention, when you’re creating a level yourself, it’s all up to you whatever you want to do but when you’re working in a group for a semi-official project like this, sacrifices and compromises have to be made for the interest of the group and of the project. Every person who works on a project like this ends up having to make some kind of compromise and dealing with that can be rather stressful because everyone is going to have their own opinion of what is best.
Comphermc: To be honest, I had a blast with the whole process! The biggest stress for me was everything else going outside of the project, with life and school and everything else. I knew that the whole of the project was in good hands, so as long as I was working hard to get my stuff done, I knew it would be great. Seeing what others created in their levels was consistently inspiring for my own. Collaboration is a wonderful thing when it’s done right.
Morgana25: Well most of us are our own worst critics so even making a level for ourselves is stressful enough. lol. Having the support from Spaff and being able to ask Johnee about some of the technical challenges was very helpful though. The thing that is different from working on your own levels is that it was a group project. When a group is involved you have to stay flexible about many things that normally you’d have complete say about.
CuzFeeshe: There’s definitely more pressure to come up with something amazing. The subject matter for the story is outside of my normal comfort zone, and working with such great talent is a bit daunting.
Aside from being the first big community project in LBP 2, what makes this project special?
Comphermc: I love, love, love this story. The Hansel and Gretel tale is a classic, but I think we were able to put a nice little LBP spin on it. You’ll find quite varied gameplay that still fits with the flow of Hansel and Gretelbot’s adventure.
Xkappax: It’s special because of how much love and effort went into making it, as well as how much blood, sweat and tears. While I was working on this project, I felt like I was on a littlebigplanet reality television show, sans the cameras. There was drama, sadness, happiness, anger, and … in the end, satisfaction. The satisfaction that it was all worth it in the end. All I can hope right now is that people will play it and enjoy it, and that in itself makes the project “special” in my eyes.
Wexfordian: Hopefully, if we have achieved our aim, this series of levels is playable by all ages. Easy enough to get through but difficult to ace or get the top combo score. We also tried to show how a community should be by sharing absolutely everything we have made from art assets, logic and music. This project is not about egos, it’s about what is possible if the community works together.
CuzFeeshe: I simply don’t think this much raw talent has ever been brought together for a community project before. These guys have all created some jaw-dropping creations over the last several years. I think the community is going to go nuts seeing it.
What is favourite part of the level series?
Comphermc: Oh, you can’t make me choose just one! I haven’t seen it in a very long time, but the opening cutscene level was fantastic. The moment when you first see the [redacted] boss in my level always excites me. And there is one bubble chain sequence Morgana25′s level that I find to be incredibly awesome. I feel like a ninja!
Xkappax: To be honest, the characters are my favorite part. I think the people who did the voices did a brilliant job. Compher was PERFECT for Hansel, Morgana played a wonderful witch, Catiers was great as the silly guard, Wex’s narration was impeccable, and CuzFeeshe’s performance as the father was nothing short of sublime. There’s just so much life in the characters, and they make me smile.
Morgana25: In terms of gameplay, comphermc and Jaeyden’s levels are just awesome. The cinematic are epic too and I think they really capture the personalities of the characters. I’m so pleased that the story drives this whole series and makes you get emotionally invested in the characters. The voice work from xkappax and Cuzfeeshe are really something special too.
Wexfordian: The story. I just love it….and I’m not putting in any spoilers so that’s all I’ll say on that
CuzFeeshe: Oh boy…. favorite…. all of it is pretty excellent and diverse… I will say this – when people see the opening cinematics, I think they’re going to realize they’re in for a treat.
Your level series is inspiring, what advice would you give from your experience to any create group?
Catiers: Work together and communicate. Compromise and always think about what’s best for the project. As I said before, everyone is going to think they know what’s best but no single person can have their own way all the time. When you start a group project, understand that eventually opinions are going to conflict and everyone needs to set aside their biases and think as objectively as possible about what’s best. If the project isn’t a secret, get an outside opinion from someone not involved. Basically, just understand that you can’t always do everything the way you want to and always make sure that everyone else knows what you’re doing before you get too involved in it.
Xkappax:Group creation is a HUGE undertaking. Don’t say yes, thinking that when it’s done you’re going to get a crown and you’re going to be awesome. It’s a LOT of work. You have to be prepared to give up large chunks of time for something like this. Just realize that going into something like this. If you’re prone to losing interest, this sort of thing might not be for you.
Wexfordian: Have fun with it. If you’re not having fun, nobody else will either. Don’t take on too big a project, it took all 12 of us months to make 7 levels. Keep your project realistic in scope.
CuzFeeshe: When working with a team, it’s really important to keep an open mind, be flexible, and keep egos at bay. I think we were really fortunate – we had a team that worked well, and in many cases had been friends for a while. Having clear-cut leadership and organization is also really important.
Can we expect another project like this in the future?
Catiers: I can’t say for sure, but my guess is if it goes over well then yes there will be more projects like this, but of course that will all be up to Media Molecule and Sony. There are plenty of other talented creators out there though that I know would love to have the opportunity to work on something like this so hopefully there will be more of these to come. Besides, LittleBigPlanet is all about continuously expanding content created by the community so the more of these projects that get done, the better the game will become.
CuzFeeshe: I really hope so. There’s SO much talent out there, and our little group doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. I’d love to see talented folks from all over the community be able to take part in this kind of project.
Since you are obviously very avid and talented creators in LittleBigPlanet, what tips would you give to people who are new to the game and want to create their own levels?
Catiers: Have patience and take your time. Always take things one step at a time and don’t forget the basics. It can be very easy to get overwhelmed with grand ideas for a level in LittleBigPlanet, it happens to me all the time. Always remember, though, to just take things one step at a time. When you get an idea for something, flesh it out and develop it before you move on to something else. Don’t put too much on your plate because it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. Also, again, don’t forget the basics. LBP2 provides a wealth of awesome tools for creating levels but that doesn’t mean you should forget the basics from LBP1. Movers and rotators are awesome but don’t forget about pistons, motor bolts and wobble bolts. If you’re emitting something, just because you have destroyers now, that doesn’t mean you can’t just set your emitter to a finite lifetime. In short, when you’re creating, always use the tool that’s best for the job, not just what’s newest.
Comphermc: The biggest tip I can give for creators is to playtest, playtest, playtest. You should be having a blast when you play your own creations – if you’re not, ask yourself: What would make this more fun? Play the level until you’re sick of it, and then figure out what to add so that you’re no longer sick of it. This cycle will inevitably make your levels better and more enjoyable for you and others. Then, get your friends to play it. If they give you suggestions, accept them – don’t get too defensive of your work. They are only trying to help.
Xkappax: Another bit of advice that I can give is to get involved in the community. Places like lbpcentral.com, littlebigland.com, littlebigplanetarium.com, etc…. these places are treasure troves of information on the game, and they are great places to meet other happy gadders who might want to help you in your creation quest. Forums are how I met most of the guys I worked with on this project and forums are how we organized this, afterall.
As promised here is the Hansel and Gretelbot PS3 wallpaper. Click me!
And if you haven’t seen the trailer for this amazing level series yet just follow this link! If you want to hear even more from the creators of this series you can head over to our forums and read the extended version of this interview.