• PSP Creator Spotlight 1 - jeffcu28

    Zen Master
    Interview conducted by amazingflyingpoo

    Art can take many forms. It can be a beautiful painting, a thought-provoking sculpture, or a moving composition of music. It's not often one thinks of video games when the word "art" is brought up, even less so when it comes to handheld games. Enter jeffcu28: Calm, collected, well-spoken, and absolutely determined to change the world's mind about what form an artist's canvas might take.

    Since the release of LittleBigPlanet PSP in November 2009, jeffcu28 has treated us to some of the most incredible and varied levels we could possibly imagine. We've bounded across giant flowers, watched a level being painted right before our little button eyes, and experienced the vengeful sadness of a love story gone terribly wrong. And then there's that other level he made... but I can't quite remember at the moment what it was all about. No matter, I'm sure it was epic. Let's go ask jeffcu28 to tell us all about it.


    Focus... find your balance. Now, channel your inner tomato.

    All right, this one isn’t really a question, but if you would be so kind, please list the levels you’ve published to date and any statistics you’d like to share with us, i.e. plays, hearts, how many rocket animals per level, etc. Whatever you feel like sharing.

    Bird of Paradise - This was my first PSP level, and it currently has 4,430 plays, 521 hearts, and about a dozen exotic flowers. It was featured on the Playstation "Sack it to Me" blog as well as on the in-game featured levels section. A funny thing about this level is that people keep asking where the birds are, but "Bird of Paradise" is actually a name of a flower.

    ZEN - My Sacky-winning level for Most Innovative Creation (2010) with 6,968 plays and 1,113 hearts. This was also featured on the Playstation blog and was my very first LBPC Community Spotlight. I had originally planned to create this on the PS3, but I gave up because I couldn't achieve the look I was going for. I decided to try it again when the PSP version came out, and I'm glad I did because it became my most popular level to date.

    Love Lost Sonata - My first survival challenge: 874 plays, 106 hearts. This level won a Superstar! Gold Rare Sticker from the PSP Survival Level Challenge. What most probably don't know is that I have a creature with a camera attached on the bottom of the level that follows you so the screen stays zoomed out to capture more of the scenery.

    Now, tell me... of these levels, which is your favorite? And why?

    I know this may come as a total shocker...take a deep breath...but ZEN is my favorite level. I worked outside of my comfort zone in terms of technical stuff, and I tried things that haven't been done before. At the end I felt I learned many things and grew as a creator. After releasing it to the public, many creators told me they experienced something unique and felt inspired; that to me was the most rewarding part.

    How long have you been playing LBP?

    I've been following LBP (PS3) since it was released. The problem was, I didn't have a PS3! I had no interest in the PS3 at all since most games were either first-person shooters or RPGs, and I wasn't a fan of either genre. I kept thinking to myself, why couldn't LBP be for the Wii?

    In college, a bunch of my friends kept talking about LBP and how they loved slapping each other (in the game, not in real life!), customizing their sackpeople, and placing stickers everywhere. I couldn't resist it anymore, and I finally bought a refurbished PS3 and used version of LBP. Since November 2008 to May 2010, LBP was the only disc-game I had on the PS3, and I played it religiously.

    When the PSP version was announced, I bought a PSP months before it was released. I remember playing the demo a bazillion times before the full version came out. It was a day-one buy for me!

    What was the first full level you ever built? And what was it like?

    My first ever LBP level was on the PS3, and it was called "Midnight Ride Savannah." I never knew you could corner edit, so I basically painted the shapes and used a lot of story mode objects. It started with a motorcycle ride on a bumpy mahogany road, and then you had to climb a high heel shoe and play bowling with the giant soccer ball and glass bottles. It ended with you giving an egg to a flamingo. What this had to do with midnight, ride, or Savannah, go figure...

    What creators and levels (if any) have inspired you to create?

    I'd say most PSP creators inspired me at one point or another; I think everyone has a unique style that caught my attention and influenced how I create. However, the most influential would probably have been those who created early on, around the time I published my first PSP level because they motivated me to not only finish it, but they also set the bar really high. These creators included Lleonard, ryryryan, FULLGORR, jackofcourse, Arrestor, Taffey, and of course, amazingflyingpoo.

    Aside from drawing inspiration from other creators and levels, is there anything in the world outside of LittleBigPlanet that inspires you? This could be a hobby, profession, or even a particular movie or type of music. Pretty much it can be anything in your personal life that has contributed to your experiences as well as inspired you as a creator.

    I grew up admiring visual art, and I always appreciated the finer details over the bigger picture. I usually base my levels on objects I find beautiful like exotic flowers, ink paintings, or instrumental music that tells a story. Where there's beauty, there's a level. That's what I say!

    What are some of your favorite video games (excluding LBP) - new and old?

    Nintendo - Mario Galaxy, Paper Mario, Mario Party, Mario Kart, Diddy Kong Racing, Super Monkey Ball, Super Smash Bros. Brawl
    Playstation - DDR, WipEout Fusion, Aqua Aqua, Fat Princess, Flower, Castle Crashers, Patapon
    Sega (Genesis!) - Sonic the Hedgehog
    PC - Roller Coaster Tycoon, Sim City, The Sims, Rise of Nations, Plants vs. Zombies, Eufloria

    If you could list your favorite things about LittleBigPlanet PSP, what would they be?

    I love everything about LBP PSP, but my favorite would have to be the features that make it more accessible to beginning creators compared to the PS3 version. I love the corner-editor, the static/dynamic settings of materials, and that you don't have to worry about multiplayer and fancy lighting effects. While the last two may enhance gameplay, their absence definitely make the task of completing a quality level less daunting.

    And your least favorite thing(s)?

    Big surprise. The glitches. But of all of them, my least favorite is the pesky wobble bolt. I had so many ideas in the past that were shot down because I couldn't tame the bolt.

    What’s the worst thing that’s happened while creating?

    Before I learned to back up my profile data, I would have long create sessions without saving my levels. While creating the intro to Bird of Paradise, I had glued a two-way switch on one of the cave walls, and I found out that it had gotten stuck to the back thin layer instead. When I tried to unglue it, the entire section disappeared and rewinding didn't recover it. I lost so much work that I was discouraged from continuing the level, but I'm glad this happened early on because I learned to constantly save ever since.

    On a sort of similar subject, have there ever been any great ideas you had that failed or for any other reason you never implemented?

    I've had many great ideas fail, but it's all part of experimenting in create mode. For ZEN, I had originally planned for a set of stairs to fall down domino-style after being rolled over by a giant circular stone. Well, I found out a giant rolling stone can't knock down a platform made of paper...

    If you worked for Cambridge Studios, what would your first order of business be? This could be anything from adding materials or tools to fixing some of the nasty glitches in the game.

    First, I would give each and every Cambridge employee a smiley face cookie because I know it wasn't easy fitting all that LBP awesomeness into a handheld device. Then after a warm glass of milk, I would fix the wobble bolt problem so that I can try my past ideas again.


    Life is a bed of roses... and tulips. And orchids, daffodils, magnolias, hibiscus, and lilies. Electrified lilies.

    We expected complete honesty from you Jeff, but you're letting us down. Are you sure there are NO other levels you made that you'd like to talk about? I mean, this is supposed to set the bar high for future PSP Creator Spotlights, but you're not giving us the full story. So, dig deep into those repressed memories and tell us about that other level you seem to have completely overlooked. wanted me to talk about that ONE? The ONE that could potentially ruin my street cred and my dignity as a creator? This isn't about honesty and setting the bar high is it? You're just trying to put me in my place: right below your steamy, moist, mud pie.

    Well, I'm gonna be the better smelling person here and just shamelessly come clean about it. Taffey started this anti-guide over at the PSP forum that sarcastically presented the "don't's" of create into "do's." So for instance, rule #4 states, "Why place a motor bolt in the uninteresting dead center of a wheel when you can create exciting, random physics by placing it off-center? Rocket cars are that much better when they remind you of broken shopping carts."

    On Taffey's birthday, I decided to pull a prank on him by purposefully misunderstanding his sarcasm and making a level that followed most of the rules. It was entitled "The Epic Level: Anti-H4H Scorpians" and featured a wobbly shopping cart, a broken race track, lots of scorpions, and buckets of tears from laughing. People intentionally gave it a one star rating, and I never thought I'd say this, but I was so proud of getting that one star.

    For the sake of all the poor, depraved jeffcu28 fans who have now heard about your "Lost Level" (yeah, there's a nice Mario reference for you), please describe how Anti-H4H Scorpians reflects your philosophy and art style. Would you say that the existentially represented Sack-being portrayed in this level is indicative of the relationship between man and his hostile environment? Do the scorpians, er... scorpions play the spiritual part of life's ever-present antagonists that must both be battled and preserved to maintain their own intrinsic value to the sum total of the universe?

    Ahem. Yes, absolutely! That level was totally a metaphor for the perpetual conflict between spiritual scorpions and their hostile antagonists for the self-preservation of existential Sack-beings indicative of the intransitive values battling the universe to promote world peace. And end world hunger. For the children. How did you read my mind?

    A shallower interpretation of the level prods the fundamental question, "Why so serious?" As a self-conscious person who always sought other's approval before taking pride in my own work, I wanted to do something unexpected and uninhibited to break the habit. So I stopped being serious and made an entire level based on what I thought was funny rather than focusing on how it would be judged. To this day I still smile when I think about what I pulled off, and it was definitely a necessary stepping stone for my subsequent levels. "Anti-H4H Scorpians" taught me to not fear the unconventional and that the most important critic was myself.

    Let's jump into a time machine and travel back to the first few months of LBP PSP. The community was still figuring out the editor (along with its quirks), and truly excellent levels were not all that common. Despite the learning curve, a few creators managed to put together some outstanding levels that proved LBP PSP, like its PS3 counterpart, was really something special. One of the best-looking (and most fun) of these early great PSP levels was Bird of Paradise.

    I'd love to hear about how you were feeling as you were building Bird of Paradise. Were you comparing your work to what else was out there or did you just have fun with it? Were you confident of conquering the Community Moon with your flowery awesomeness or did you doubt your work? Were you ripping your hair out because of the editor or were you sitting calmly in a flowerbed, meditating?

    Because this was my first full PSP level, I didn't set any high expectations for myself since I knew I couldn't deliver the technical goods. I relied heavily on my background in art to create something visually spectacular to compensate for the lack of technicality.

    With the newly discovered gas glitch, I was amazed to find out that none of the levels I played had any gas-glitch waterfalls, or even implemented a tropical theme in general. I was very excited to be one of the first to use it, and the excitement was enough motivation for me to start over when I had accidentally deleted the entire intro section from a gluing mishap. Midway through the create process, Lleonard published his "Harp of Seasons," with a breathtaking, tropical-themed Spring Room. My heart sank. I felt I was competing against Goliath, but it was too late for me to turn back.

    When I found the courage to publish it, I was in for a big surprise. A few friends gave some great feedback, but I couldn't decipher if they were genuine or just being nice. Then some creators I idolized as gods, including Lleonard, gave positive comments, and their feedback carried a lot weight. I knew then that I had a future in LBP.

    Bird of Paradise was one of the first LBP PSP levels that was difficult in all the right ways without being overly frustrating. It has been said that challenging levels often receive lower ratings than they deserve, but that never seemed to affect BoP much. Still, did you ever regret making BoP difficult and did you ever consider going back to republish an easier version of it?

    Oh I'm sorry, was I suppose to care about the players' feelings? I thought only big babies like Taffey preferred levels where you skip and giggle and hold each other's hands the whole way through. This is LBP PSP people: you're playing with the big kids now.

    No really, sympathy for players never crossed my mind when I was creating BoP. As an amateur creator at the time, I never reached that level of thinking. I trusted my intuition: if I could do it, so can others. Some of the difficult obstacles also happened unintentionally. For instance, there was a section where the player had to jump down a flower pistil, but I forgot that I had electrified one side for a separate challenge. Many players found this frustrating, but I had never intended for it to happen. I don't regret anything though because I learned from my mistakes, and like the Scorpian level, BoP helped me blossom into the creator I am today.

    Although Bird of Paradise was one of the first truly great looking levels on the PSP, ZEN arguably changed the way that creators might approach art in LBP on either platform. How did you come up with some of the art-based platforming and challenges, such as jumping across stepping stones that cause water to ripple and painting a canvas to create the next part of the level?

    You know you're playing too much LBP when... you begin to see sackboy in real life. I was hallucinating--I mean, imagining things--during class one day (I was high on LBP) and fortunately, it was a class on Ancient Chinese history and philosophy. Being the diligent student that I was, I ceaselessly pondered the conundrum of translating and interpreting historic literature in a modern perspective when all of a sudden, a cute little sackboy popped out of nowhere and started leaping across the mountains of an ink painting on my textbook...

    All the Chi must have been flowing through me because I was teeming with ideas afterward. I originally wanted sackboy to paint his path as the level progressed, creating a huge piece of artwork that gradually revealed itself. I also wanted to incorporate elements that gave a serene Zen vibe like ponds and rock gardens, hence the ripples. Of course I had to make major modifications to make it work, but this experience showed that inspiration can spring at any moment. When it does, embrace it, and convince yourself that it's possible. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was a Zen moment.

    Of all the magical things you managed to stuff into Zen, what was the most challenging for you to build?

    Sanity. I created Zen despite my already hectic schedule, and I remember staying up until morning just to get a good create session. I absolutely hate coffee and energy drinks so I think I was in a dream state some of the time, but I'm amazed I produced something that made sense in the end. Luckily, happy accidents happened, two of which became my favorite and were coincidentally the most challenging to build.

    Ironically, the most difficult to build were the ones that looked simple and effortless. These include the ripples and the ending scene because they needed to be choreographed in a specific sequence, and the sync feature of emitters didn't cooperate with me. Ripples would sometimes emit backwards but then emit correctly at other times. Although I wasn't well versed with logic at the time, I had to use a system of pistons and magnetic switches to produce more consistent results. The ending scene where the colors are restored to the ink world boasts the largest network of wires I have ever created to date. And to this day, I can only understand it when I'm half asleep.

    Love Lost Sonata is easily the deepest survival challenge Level on PSP. It has an extensive intro, a story, and gameplay outside the survival challenge part of the level. Where you afraid that your [excellent] survival challenge wasn't good enough to stand on its own? Why did you create such a robust level?

    A survival challenge to me was like getting one slice of plain cheesecake when you could have a whole caramel chocolate pecan cheesecake topped with fluffy whipped cream. Prior to this level, I felt uncomfortable making survival challenges because I didn't think they were wholesome experiences compared to making full levels. For me it was go big or go home, and the only way to go big was creating full levels.

    With this bias, I was very anxious making a survival challenge. I had figured the game mechanic early on, but I decided to give it a background story to give it some context and reason. It was this added depth that worried me, a concern that eventually materialized when players expected a full level from the intro, only later to find out that it was actually a survival challenge. I have no regrets, however; I would much rather have a rich cheesecake you can indulge your palette with for a long time than a cheap one you can simply chug down. Overall, I'm delighted I took a risk and was able to show that survival challenges can have depth to them.

    Somebody told me that you like to tweet about Crocs from the back of your PT Cruiser. Is that true?

    Mmhmm. There's nothing I love more than tweeting about going to the bathroom and asking people to follow me while I'm riding a PT Cruiser with faux wood panels like they had last century and wearing a pair of sassy pink crocs on one foot and baby blue on the other. Ooh, and wearing mismatched socks to go along with the Crocs for a high fashion look.

    These are the banes of my existence.


    LBP hath no fury like a spectral bride scorned.

    BoxGhost is busy cleaning out the basement and finds something... unexpected. And shiny. Very shiny. What could it be? Can she resist the temptation?

    Well, that's a silly question, of course she can. When have we ever known BoxGhost to make a bad decision? She's just going to be rational, turn away, and ZOMG so SHINY. What IS IT?? Must... find... out...

    For those of you with fancy iPads and iPhones, here's the direct link to the video:

    Jeff has taken LBP PSP to a whole new level and evolved the entire community with his creations. For those of you who have experienced jeffcu28's work, I'm sure you can agree with us about his incredible artistic abilities and understanding regarding what makes a level stand out even a year after being published. For all of you who have not checked out his levels, you will never understand the true potential that the PSP has to offer until you wander over to jeffcu28's beautiful and magical corner of the Community Moon.

    Well, that's all, folks! We hope you have enjoyed this installment of the Creator Spotlight. For past spotlights, please visit this link. See you in two weeks!
    This article was originally published in forum thread: PSP Creator Spotlight 1 - jeffcu28 started by Aya042 View original post
    Comments 107 Comments
    1. Taffey's Avatar
      Taffey -
      I feel kind of like we've lit the fuse to a giant pile of fireworks.

      *holds ears and grins in expectation*
    1. Leather-Monkey's Avatar
      Leather-Monkey -
      And the crowd goes wild! (I hope)
    1. jwwphotos's Avatar
      jwwphotos -
      I have my camera ready for all the nifty fireworks..
    1. Weretigr's Avatar
      Weretigr -
      Hmmm... the screaming hoards of community players seem to have encountered some description of site glitch in which they are unable to comment their appreciation. I'm sure it'll be fixed soon
    1. xkappax's Avatar
      xkappax -
      All right! This is up! I'm so excited! This video came out excellent you guys! And a great big welcome to amazingflyingpoo and Taffey on our creator spotlight team. Also, kudos to jeffcu28. I don't even know how to use my lbp psp, but your levels look GREAT! I especially like the part in zen where you draw the level and then play the part you draw. I thought that was wonderful!
    1. piggabling's Avatar
      piggabling -
      Cool interview! Nice to see some of the PSP creators getting site-wide publicity!

      I really do wish there was a better way to connect the PS3 and PSP members/creator...

      This is a great step though! I really want to play your levels, but I can't...
    1. koneko's Avatar
      koneko -
      Psp creator spotlight?? *grins* I think I like this!

      And congratulations jeffcu! I remember your Bird of Paradise level being the first community-psp level I had ever played! Really stunning work!
    1. VelcroJonze's Avatar
      VelcroJonze -
      This is so great to have a psp creator spotlighted like that!! Thanks so much!!

      Jeff is the reason I am in the lbpcentral community, and the reason I still create. It was his guidance and inspiration that paved the way to my creating, and countless others.

      Congratulations Buddy!!

      You truly deserve this prestigious honor of being spotlighted here at lbpcentral.
    1. bakscratch's Avatar
      bakscratch -
      Awesome make me wanna create on the psp now
    1. Xenon's Avatar
      Xenon -
      This was a great read.
    1. OverWork's Avatar
      OverWork -
      Wow truly great...I was in the bunch that thought lBP levels on the psp couldn't compare with the ones on the ps3 but Jeffcu28 just opened my eyes. Now i have t go pick up my psp and dive in!!!
    1. jwwphotos's Avatar
      jwwphotos -
      Congrats Jeff! ..a day after your birthday, but hopefully you don't mind a bit of a delay! I have to say watching the video and seeing your work I was amazed and horribly impressed. Epic creations on the PSP and a well deserved spotlight. Hope you enjoy the warm glow for a long time.

      Poo and Taffey, welcome to the team and thank so much for all your hard work. So cool working with you two this past month or so making this all a reality. It really has paid off big time and think everyone both PS3 and PSP creators alike will enjoy. This is one incredible interview and an outstanding video. Also, awesome work by Leather-Monkey for the wonderful editing as always and a really great job by xkappax and friends for the cool intro. Also thanks to Dayne for the great PSP object who also lent a hand in the early editing of the intro before his Mac gave up the ghost.

      Yay Team!!!
    1. Spark151's Avatar
      Spark151 -
      Jeffcu Wins.
    1. Gilgamesh's Avatar
      Gilgamesh -
      *While scanning quickly through new posts*

      "Oh look, a mod locked the previous Creator Spotlight, that must mean it's time for a new one! Time to go find it. It should be around the top somewhere..."
      "That's strange, I don't see the new spotlight anywhere. It should be easy to spot... wait, what's this? PSP Creator Spotlight 1? ... !!!"

      Awesome spotlight! It's about time the PSP creators were recognized.

      That was a great video too: It was interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at the logic and mechanics (not too shabby I must say). I wasn't expecting that at all. It was also great to see Bird of Paradise and ZEN again, it really brought back memories of seeing jeffcu's amazing talent firsthand on the PSP. Congrats on the well-deserved spotlight!

      Great work PSP Creator Spotlight Team! (Boy that's a mouthful!)

      (I'll admit I had no idea Bird of Paradise was a plant lol)
    1. IceMaiden's Avatar
      IceMaiden -
      Congratulations on your spotlight jeffcu! May have to buy LBP for PSP, your levels look stunning.

      Brilliant interview and the video is superb. Great job spotlight team, lovin your work!

    1. OmegaSlayer's Avatar
      OmegaSlayer -
      Congrats Jeff!
    1. Coxy224's Avatar
      Coxy224 -

      That was totally awesome!!!!!!

      Excellent work team, everyone involved has done a great job

      Glad to see this has got up on its feet, can't wait to see more creators featured is this going to be monthly or bi-monthly kinda thing?
    1. jwwphotos's Avatar
      jwwphotos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Coxy224 View Post

      That was totally awesome!!!!!!

      Excellent work team, everyone involved has done a great job

      Glad to see this has got up on its feet, can't wait to see more creators featured is this going to be monthly or bi-monthly kinda thing?
      Sorry.. Icey already posted.

      How often? Good question!! lol Maybe once every month or every 6 weeks. Sorta depends as they will rotate in with the PS3 Creator Spotlights to spread the joy around a bit. So when it rolls around a month or so, whoever is ready first I guess gets the upcoming slot! lol
    1. Dragonvarsity's Avatar
      Dragonvarsity -
      Awesome spotlight and it's good to see there's a PSP version now even though I don't have a PSP
    1. shadow3596's Avatar
      shadow3596 -
      Nice job on the spotlight jeffcu!
      I've never played your levels but by all the comments and pictures
      i got to say they look AMAZING!!!
      And nice job on the interview amazingflyingpoo!
      And congrats to everyone that helped with this creator spotlight!