A Sobering Dose of Genius
Interview conducted by DayneOram
DrunkenFist_Lee is the kind of name that may lead you to think "Naruto and ninja levels. That's what he does." And normally, I'd agree with you, but you're wrong. You see, this guy has a great variety of levels, incorporating some brilliantly varied gameplay, and he delivers it with more style and aesthetic beauty than you can shake a controller at! And just as you're about to conclude what a great level that was, you realise that actually, there's much more to this level than meets that critical eye in all of us. That's when you find yourself choosing the rarely pressed "Replay level".
Then, lo and behold, a hidden area or easter egg enticing you with more gameplay and artistic genius! This begins a hunt for more secrets - leading you to notice all the small details that are so well refined, that you'd hardly notice them upon first glance! The humour he has kept running throughout is neither dull nor forced too, and tells us that, actually, he's a really funny guy! If you have never played his levels then go play them! No, I mean read this first! Or.. Well... DO SOMETHING!!
Anyway, without further ado, Allow me to present... DrunkenFist_Lee!!
N-no, you go first! I'm sure it's safe!
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.
"Gaa?..." - This was my 1st level. It was strange. Unfortunately, I completely ran out of profile space and had to delete my only copy.
"Devil-Bat Cave" - My 2nd level is where I really learned the tools & techniques. Much better than "Gaa?...".
"3 Sacred... Things" - I wanted to make a fun & easy level. There are no flying monkeys in this level.
"Battleground Of A God-Monster-Baby" - My 3rd and favorite boss fight. Some of my disturbed humor made it's way into this level.
"The Don't Touch That Labyrinth" - Fun level, but everybody gets stuck 2 minutes in. There's a giant ocean of prize bubbles you have to walk past & a sign that tells you to leave them alone. Later in the level, you ride the Fancypants-Cruise-ship over the ocean of bubbles. Everybody grabs all the bubbles & gets stuck. It's a shame, because there's some cool stuff later.
"Invasion On Planet X" - This is my 1st level to reach 1000 hearts. Your flying saucer crashes on a strange world, and the natives try to destroy you. I had a lot of fun making this one, but had to cut things short when I ran out of thermo. Blasted!
"Trippy Glitch Demo" - Short level showcasing a crazy glitch I discovered. I threw this level together quickly to get it out there. Soon after (very soon after), a game update patched the glitch. Here's a youtube video of what it used to look like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-fmiST7A0M (Thank you Chimpanzee, for capturing that while it worked!)
"The Ancient Catacombs" - This level was going to include the tutorial for the Trippy Glitch. My demo was light & fun, but only touched the surface of what the glitch was capable of adding visually to a level. I put a lot of work into this one, perfecting some insane visuals. The tutorial section was an unlockable secret area, which you could only reach after a full playthrough. I was days away from publishing this level when they patched the glitch in an update. So, now my 95% complete level was 65% complete. I had to scrap all my effects sections & attempt to recreate the effects without the glitch. I completely removed the tutorial area & replaced it with new bonus content. Overall, I'm very happy with how the level turned out, but I really wish people could have seen it when the glitch was intact. A couple parts were just insane visually.
"Quarantine City" - One of my favorite levels, that was almost lost. I probably began this shortly after Planet X. The level was about half done, when I got a "Failed to load" message every time I tried to open it up. I had no other backups of this & was devastated. As the months went by, I would work on other projects & slowly started running out of profile space. It was horrible. I refused to delete the level, even though I couldn't load it. I completely ran out of profile space & had nothing left to delete. I actually stopped making levels for quite a while & sent MM a frustrated email. (Sorry MM) Eventually, they patched both the profile space limitation and whatever bug had prevented me from opening my level. I finished the level, and all was right in the world. The end.
"Next Stop, Big City" - This is by far my most successful level. It has over 84,000 plays! Woot. I placed the level in the dullest location I could think of, and then tried to find ways to make it interesting. All the hidden easter eggs are my favorite aspect of this level. Most people play through without seeing Sparkles explode, or the U.F.O. flying around with a 3-legged cow.
"Danger-Ballz" - I decided to try a survival challenge. I said to myself "I know! I'll do a survival! That'll be easy, and then I'll eat nachos!"... 10,000 create-hours later I regret that thought, haha. This level was loads of work! I'm very pleased with the results, though. Of all my levels, I think this one replays the best. There's much to see, and it takes some strategy mixed with the action to score big with combos.
Now, tell me... of these levels, which is your favorite? And why?
Umm... errr.... well.. Probably Next Stop, Big City. I had a blast making the level and populating it with creepy farmers and beautiful llamas. It's a lot of fun and still makes me laugh, even though I've played it 10,000 times.
How long have you been playing LBP?
Since release. It's the main reason I bought a PS3.
What was the first full level you ever built? And what was it like?
"Gaaa? ..." - It was... not-very-good, haha. It had a terrible rocket vehicle that launched you unpredictably through the sky. You may or may not land in a secret area, depending on how many beers you've consumed. I've loved throwing secret bonus stuff into my levels from the very beginning.
What creators and levels (if any) have inspired you to create?
Ok, I'm really pulling my hair out over this question. It's been said before, but there are way too many to list! Even if I tried to list everybody, I know I'd forget some big ones and would feel terrible about it later. But not mentioning anybody wouldn't be much of an answer, so I'm going to cap my list off at 10. I'll try to offer some variety of style with my choices.
So here they are listed alphabetically-backwards, for your viewing pleasure: TripleTremelo, thecooper8, mrsupercomputer, jump_button, Jaeyden, Faith_rip, CuzFeeshe, comphermc, BasketSnake, and anpostteller. These creators all deserve a big bowl of icecream.
I can't stress enough how much talent I see in this game. Every community spotlight is prime example of that. This is an amazing community of artists. I think all the friendly competition just drives people to push themselves a little harder. That's how it affects me, and I love it. Thanks people!
(I'm not even going to try and compile a list of levels, haha..)
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 think an artist of any sort is influenced (whether they know it or not) by all the things which they love (and hate) in life. Anything worth having an opinion about. Much of it happens on a subconscious level.
So here's a a ridiculous list of things I like, which probably help define me in some way:
- I have a keen interest in the art of storytelling. I have very defined ideas on what makes a great story. I've always wanted to delve deeper into this in LBP, however I'm not sure how in-depth one could go in a single level, and I don't want to commit myself to a 5-part series. Also, I wouldn't want to bore people with 10,000 magic mouths.
- These writers: Philip K. ****, Charlie Kaufman, Andrew Kevin Walker, Chuck Palahniuk
-The following filmmakers (in no particular order): Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Terry Gilliam, David Fincher, Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze, Darren Aronofsky, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott, Danny Boyle, Michael Mann, Sam Peckinpah, Francis Ford Coppola, Quentin Tarantino, Sergio Leone, Akira Kurosawa, Hayao Miyazaki, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Mamoru Oshii, Katsuhiro Ôtomo, Satoshi Kon, Chan-wook Park, Joon-ho Bong, John Woo, Yuen Wo Ping, and Luc Besson
- The following films (in no particular order): Oldboy, Amélie, Pi, Eraserhead, The Thing, Spirited Away, Se7en, Alien, Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, The Road Warrior, Repo Man, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Prestige, Apocalypto, Children of Men, The Goonies, Heat, Fight Club, Hard Boiled, Drunken Master 2, Seven Samurai, A Bittersweet Life, Tetsuo the Iron Man, Sukiyaki Western Django, and of course The Care Bears Movie (kidding.. seriously kidding..)
- Lots of music (too much to list, but check these out): Juno Reactor, Steven Jesse Bernstein
- This: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTihsJQHt48
- And this guy once more (that's just-how-cool he is): Philip K. ****
- Random bits of an overheard conversation, taken out of context. I'll try to fill in the blanks. Flesh out the characters & give them improbable back stories. (Some people get their own theme music.)
- A strange and vague newspaper clipping. Such as: "Man beats wife with frozen squirrel". I really saw this. Not kidding.
- Zoning out at work. It's not exactly something I like, but inspiration sometimes just seems to pop into existence from nothing at all, and at the most inopportune times!
And here's a list of things I HATE! (Grrr....) : Barney that stupid purple thing, Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay and Gore Verbinski, Hollywood remakes (usually, but not always), getting out of bed, country music, carpet sharks, missing socks, vehicle emission tests, ingrown toenails, litter boxes, people with inflated egos, sushi, one hundred million dollar movies with two-dollar scripts, and old ladies with bright orange hair
What are some of your favorite video games (excluding LBP) - new and old?
Pac-Man (1979), Adventure (1980), Dragon's Lair (1983), Space Ace (1983), Super Mario Bros. (1985), Ghosts 'n Goblins (1986), Metroid (1986), Castlevania (1987), The Legend of Zelda (1987), Ghouls 'n Ghosts (1989), Strider (1989), Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (1991), Out of This World (1991), Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (1991), Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997), Final Fantasy VII (1997), Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee (1997), Heart of Darkness (199, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (199, Final Fantasy X (2001), ICO (2001), Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001), Jet Set Radio Future (2002), Metroid Prime (2002), The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2003), Half-Life 2 (2004), Resident Evil 4 (2005), Shadow of the Colossus (2005), Dead Rising (2006), Final Fantasy XII (2006), Gears of War (2006), Portal (2007), Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (200, Resident Evil 5 (2009), Uncharted 2 (2009), God of War III (2010)
If there are any chronological mistakes in this ridiculous list, I blame the internet... Darn you, internet! Darn you to heck!
If you could list your favorite things about LittleBigPlanet, what would they be?
- The community. The endless hordes of like-minded folk... just out to have a good time and to invite total strangers into their artistic creations.
- The simplicity of the creation process. MM did wonders here. The very concept is brilliant. They supply us with visual tools to do everything normally done with pages of complex code. They took the bulk of the work out of game-making. It's still work, of course, but now it's fun.
- This game gets my creations into people's homes all over the world. Enough said. Somebody in Japan is playing my level! MY level! That's so cool. Thank you MM!
And your least favorite thing(s)?
- Having a finite thermo!
- The entire LBP1 tagging and rating system
- The 7 day "Cool Pages" system
- Drifting/fragile pistons (why not make them indestructible?)
Some of this is being addressed in 2. YAY!
What’s the worst thing that’s happened while creating?
See above: Trippy Glitch tutorial / Ancient Catacombs, and (almost) Quarantine City.
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 always have more ideas than I can throw in. That thermo maxes out EVERY time. Invasion On Planet X was going to have a whole section where you get chased into an alien disco club. They'd be shooting at you... poorly. Every shot they fired would miss & kill one of the dancing aliens. It was going to be a bloodbath... Yep. Never happened.
If you worked for Media Molecule, what would your first order of business be? This could be anything from adding materials or tools to eradicating H4H.
- Better tools for designing level badges. It's the first thing people see while browsing levels. They need to improve the camera, so it crops correctly and doesn't screw up the aspect ratio on 16:9 TVs! Ideally, they'd just let us import our own jpgs.
- More realistic texture stickers. Dirt, grime, cracks, vegetation, etc. No more cartoony body parts that I never ever use & just clutter my inventory.
- Make 'theck' and 'thack' official tools for creating.
- Ability to scale objects in size during gameplay.
What he didn't realise, is that it's actually an electric chair...
So, people may be surprised to hear this, but you have NEVER seen Naruto, which is where many people think that "Drunkenfist_Lee" originated from. So, tell me, where did it originate from?
I've been an avid fan of kung fu films for a very long time now. One of my favorites of the genre is Jackie Chan's "Drunken Boxing II" (the original.. NOT the terrible modified dub). Drunken Boxing (or Drunken Fist) is an actual form of martial arts and makes for some very entertaining cinema!
So, when I was setting up my PSN account (and searching for a name that sounded cool and wasn't already taken), I just combined Drunken Fist with Bruce Lee. I was pretty surprised to later find out a popular anime title had a character of the same name.
To this day, I still get random comments on my levels from total strangers referencing Naruto. <sigh></sigh>
I've got to tell you, coming up with these questions was incredibly difficult, and here's why; Most people we interview have some sort of niche, or theme that they follow, but your levels are just... ALL OVER THE PLACE! (Not in a bad way of course!). I actually find it refreshing, to be honest. So here's the question: What is the typical process you go through when creating? Is there a specific order that you follow, or do you just tend to build whatever comes to mind?
I try not to repeat myself. That's important to me. I could just make variations of the same level over and over again, but where's the challenge? I get bored if I'm not pushing myself in new directions.
Usually when I'm starting a new level, one of the first things I'll figure out is how I want this level to end. I'll have a general "A to B" plan and then I just try to bridge the gap in an interesting way. I'll usually spend a lot of time thinking about my projects while I'm away. Some of my best ideas have come to me at work. I'll often come up with ideas as I'm creating as well.
I can't create if I'm not inspired. I don't try to force it. It's there or it isn't. As a result sometimes my levels are few and far between, but I know they're better for it.
What inspired you to create all of these amazing easter eggs? They're so rewarding to find and add an amazing level of replay-ability to your levels! Which is your favourite? Note: We won't accept chocolate easter eggs as an answer!
Thank you! Something I see a lot are 'disposable levels'. There are so many levels out there with nothing to offer on a second play-through. They may be technically well made and have awesome visuals, but what you see is what you get. You play through them once, and that's it. Time to move on to the next level.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I prefer more substance. I make levels which reflect my taste in commercial games. Games I grew up on were full of secrets and hidden content. Zelda, Mario, Metroid, Castlevania: SOTN, FF7, etc. These games all have more content than you're likely to find on a single play-through. And to me, that's what makes a great game.
My favorite? It's probably the U.F.O. with the 3-legged cow. I'm not sure I'll ever top that one, haha! But, the reward for finding the 'glasses' in Planet X and the extra content in Quarantine City are fun too.
Humour is an ongoing theme in your levels. Where does it all come from? And do you have any inside-jokes in your levels you'd be willing to share with us?
I think I just have a strange brain. In everyday life, I'm constantly tempted to blurt out really inappropriate things to complete strangers. But I don't. I try to be a normal person. you know... to blend in, and to not get arrested.
I don't think I've thrown any inside-jokes anywhere. I try to keep my humor accessible and appropriate. Although my mind's in the gutter. Sometimes I have to hold back.
You often find unique ways to use objects, other than their primary uses such as pushpin decorations for drinking glasses, neon blocks for mini skyscrapers, eyes for radio antenna etc. Are there any "second use" objects the community may find useful?
No specific objects come to mind. But I truly think decorations are one of the most underused tool in LBP. When creating, one of the last things I do is fly around and try to decorate as much as possible. It really adds that extra visual oomph. A level may be just about maxed out from complex geometry, but you can still place a ton of decorations. It can really make a world of difference.
Since there really aren't very many decorations, I get creative with them to prevent repetition. I've found you can create some very interesting detail by resizing and overlapping decorations together. They're almost completely unrecognisable when it's done well, and you can achieve some great original visuals.
"Next stop big city" is easily one of the most beautiful countryside levels I have ever played! How long did it take you to get used to the layer tool and how long did this level take you to create?
I was still learning the glitch as I worked on the level. I'd periodically run into a problem and just experiment until I found a solution. Overlapping objects breaking was my biggest issue, but I figured out I could just copy-paste a small invisible piece of dark matter into whatever was breaking to fix it. There are a lot of little tricks I figured out through trial and error.
I have a terrible sense of time, so I couldn't even guess how many create hours went into that level. It was possitively-for-sure-without-a-doubt "a lot". But when I'm enjoying myself, time just flies by!
All right, so I'm sure you've seen a lot of the LBP2 stuff that's been, oh, ALL OVER THE PLACE lately. So, what are your plans for LBP2? Will you be implementing changes to your current levels?
I don't plan on changing any old levels unless they break and I need to fix something. I'll be spending much of my time exploring the new content. I'm most excited about the custom music, sackbots, and voice. Those three additions will do wonders for this game. I'd love to explore a deeper level of storytelling. It's going to be so much fun adding crazy vocals.
And now... A light hearted question; I... I killed Sparkles... How much do I owe you to not contact the ASPCA?!
Honestly, I was hoping somebody would do it. That thing freaked me out.
Finally, is there anything you, as a creator, would like to add to this? Or any other experiences you’d like to share? If not, I’d like to ask one more question of you: If you could give any bit of advice to new creators out there who are thinking about entering the wonderful world of creating, what would it be?
For new creators: Don't take your first level very seriously. Use it to learn the tools and techniques. Experiment. As you make more levels, you should be searching for original gameplay elements. Try to do something you've never seen in other levels. Don't just make levels that rely on "pull-the-lever-to-open-the-door" and "swing-across-the-hole-with-the-grabbable-sponge"... Aim a little higher. And most importantly: take your time! Don't be in a hurry to build and publish. Polish. Tweak. Repeat. Have friends play-test for you and be open to their feedback. Everybody will sometimes receive negative feedback. Take it with a pinch of salt. Everyone has different tastes. Maybe they have a point, and there's room for improvement.. Or maybe they're just full of beans and possibly brain damaged. That's for you to decide, but remain objective!
For too long have you eluded me, Sparkles... I have you now- *KABOOM*
Well played, Sparkles. Well played.
Well played, Sparkles. Well played.
The spotlight crew is down on the farm, but it seems the day out is short lived as Taffey and jww drop those boring chores in favour of a road trip, looking for greener pastures and maybe even a closeup if they can get there!
For those of you with shiny iPads and iPhones, here's the direct link to the video:
Well, I think that just about wraps it up for this spotlight. DrunkenFist_Lee is a brilliant and unpredictable character, who shows you can make anything fun if you give it some thought! Hopefully you've learned a thing or two and are going to play his levels if you haven't already! Meanwhile, we've got some cleaning up to do on that farm... See you in the next episode everyone!
We hope you have enjoyed this installment of the Creator Spotlight. For past spotlights, please visit this link. See you in two weeks!