Interview conducted by amazingflyingpoo
Storytelling is not an especially easy thing to do, and neither is building an enjoyable level in LittleBigPlanet. Put the two tasks together and now you've got a real challenge. You have to weave just the right tapestry of story-driven interest, punctuate it with meaningful player interaction, maintain a believable environment, and deliver a worthwhile gaming experience all at the same time. When a story-driven level in LBP comes together it's really something to behold, and one of the true masters of the trade is kaiju_kid.
So, what's a kaiju level like? That's not a simple question to answer. It might be touching, insightful, and surprise you with its profound social commentary. Or, it might be completely and utterly absurd such as a factory specializing in cybernetic livestock or an intergalactic takeout service. And yet still, it might be about an entire world made out of poop. Oh, right - that's still the absurd option.
Well then, never mind the wordy descriptions. Let's see some of his work for ourselves.
Remember: Never, ever, ever be the one wearing a red uniform.
All right, this one isn’t really a question, but if you would be so kind, please list the levels you’ve published on PSP 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.
Sure, let me dust off my PSP and see...heh. I have to say, I'm not a big statistics person when it comes to my levels on either LBP ps3, or PSP. I promote it for a week, and then I never check back on it. Well, I take that back, lately I check the comments section alot on PS3, but I don't really care about rankings. My fellow friend creator amazingflyingpoo on the other hand is a stats freak and follows levels like they're baseball players. I didn't even know Nascow had moved up the ranks on Highest rated till told by poo. My levels are, in creation order:
Lifespan- currently STILL on page 1 of highest rated with 6775 plays, and 938 hearts
A Royal Flush -817 plays
Beauty of Grey- 560 plays
Nascow - on page2 with 1747 plays and 238 hearts
Star Trak - 418 plays
Silhouette City - 216 plays
Hmph, a little disappointed with Silhouettes performance as I thought it was unique, but so goes artsy levels, lol.
Now, tell me... of these levels, which is your favorite? And why?
My favorite level on PSP...wow, thats tough. I think it has to be The beauty of Grey because I realized the weird vision in my head for the most part. I wanted to do something surreal and visually arresting on the small screen, and I think I achieved that. It's not on par with say.. Jeffcu's ZEN, but I think it's up there somewhere with some of the best art themed levels. If I had a head for logic, I think I could have rivaled Jeff, but I'm a bigtime techtard. Therefore, I lean heavily on my visual artistic sensibilities and it seems to mask the fact I'm just presenting another run and jump level, lol. I also like to add poetry alot to highten the avant gardeness of it all, but the thing is artsy levels aren't so popular so it's kind of a bummer to make them knowing they won't see too many play/hearts. (See: Silhouette City)
How long have you been playing LBP?
I've been playing LBP since day 1 on Ps3, and have not stopped, like, ever. I think the most I've gone without playing some form of LBP was like 2 weeks in over a 2 year span or however long LBP has been out, much to the dismay of my girlfriend, haha. The only game to tear me away from LBP ps3 was LBP psp and thats because Amazing Flying Poopoo was out recruiting over at LittleBigNetwork since the scene was non existent over there. His levels sounded awesome, but I'd heard create was a mess so I didn't bother with it. However his enthusiasm was so contagious that I finally gave in, and don't regret it for a moment. I'd been going through burnout on PS3, and the PSP somehow seemd fresh even though it was the same game! Go figure. But I think it's because the PSP community is soo much more tight knit and supportive, and that will drive any creator to keep going.
What was the first full level you ever built? And what was it like?
My first full level on PS3 was a Spiderman tribute called The Amazing Sackman which I still think is great today, but not ME anymore. I have it stored on a separate account along with a Star Wars tribute level. Now that I have matured as a creator, I find tribute levels lacking creativeness as they're based on other peoples ideas. Not a bad thing, but I'd rather play something unfamiliar and fresh, y'know? I plan to publish them all on another account someday for others to enjoy as my whimsical stuff, but they kind of don't gel with my current create style. Having said that, I did make a Star Trek level on PSP, but I blame my creator friend Taffey for that misstep, lol. I mean, if you ARE going to make tribute levels, make the best dammned ones around right? Well, Taffey did just that with the Star Wars universe on the PSP, and I foolishly thought I could make something of equal quality with the Star Trek franchise. I think it came out fine, but it's kind of the black eye on my PSP facebook.
What creators and levels (if any) have inspired you to create?
This is going to sound selfish, but I'm not inspired by any one creator. Seriously. But there's a reason for this and I'll tell you why. I know my limitations as a creator, and I never play levels that are mindblowing and say I want to do what he/she did, because it's pointless. I create in a very specific way, and I don't have the desire or ability to copy what another creator is doing. All I can do is compliment them, and ask questions if they are open to revealing techniques or tips. On the contrary, I find that people are sometimes TOO inspired by others work which leads to an influx of copycat levels. (See: Bomb survival/Shark attack/etc.) What I will say is, I admire a lot of creators' moxie. Creators who are willing try different things, whether they will be popular or not. I like creators who think outside of the box and aren't influenced by anything but their desire to make something they think is awesome. LBP is full of these types of creators if you dig deep, but there's too many to pin any one down.
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.
Well, I have to start the answer to this question with a visual. Have you ever seen the picture of two theatre masks that are happy and sad? I think they're paired with the slogan: "Laugh today, cry tomorrow" or something like that. That's me in a nutshell...kind of like an emotionally bi-polar creator, lol. I say that because I'm influenced by either tragedy or the ridiculous. I absolutely LOVE sad music as it conjures all these emotions in my me, and my iPod is filled with songs like that. I also like sad poety and movies. That's where most of my ideas for levels on PS3 come from as I tend to make story driven levels, or levels with rhyming dialogue. For PSP, I unleash my crazy side as seen in Nascow which features Cow-cyborg cars, and Royal flush with its whole land of poop theme. I get that from watching shows like Robot Chicken, or Cartoon network. I think the two extremes balance each other and allow me to be in a Ying/Yang state, lol.
What are some of your favorite video games (excluding LBP) - new and old?
Favorite videogame? Really? You have no idea how hard it is for me to answer that question. I have been a gamer since the beginning, so it's hard for me to pick a single favorite game. I have every system made, literally. I have gone and bought every system I didn't own on eBay over the years making for an awesome collection and visual history of gaming. But I have to say, before LBP, the single game that sucked the most time out of me was Timesplitters 2 because it let you make your own FPS shooter levels. You could make limited story levels by using stationary weapons, changing lighting ,texture theme, weapons, enemies and thier routines, spawn points, etc. It's still extremely fun today and recommend it to anybody who wants to make custom FPS levels on a console.
If you could list your favorite things about LittleBigPlanet PSP, what would they be?
My favorite thing about LBP PSP is that it's not multiplayer. As a creator, that takes off SO MUCH pressure that you feel when you create for PS3. You don't have to worry if certain mechanics will work with more than one player such as springboards, vehicles, swings, and other things that get players killed when they're left behind or out of camera range on the ps3. There's just you, and you can pretty much be assured that the level will work 99% assuming that you did not make any bad level designs or vague gameplay. Unfortunately I still see levels that have those 2 flaws, so for some people beta testing is still a must.
And your least favorite thing(s)?
My least farovite thing about LBP PSP is that it never got the same treatment that it's big brother did when it came to quality assurance. There's still a lot of annoying bugs in create, and I honestly don't think they're even trying to fix them because the community is so much more...um, smaller? Or less active...or less demanding...something. Whatever the case may be, I think a solution has been shrugged off as a big "Oh well...it's functional"
What’s the worst thing that’s happened while creating?
I would love to have an amusing horror story about LBP PSP, but I don't. Boring , I know. The worst that's happened to me is that the game shut itself off as it does from time to time on the PSP, but I save every ten minutes, so I think I lost 10 minutes of work this one time. I told you it was a boring story didn't I?
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?
Great ideas that failed... Well, I did have the idea to reproduce this Japanese arcade game called Boonga Boonga (Google it). If you've never heard of this game, it's basically an arcade cabinet with a huge butt protruding from it, and a plastic finger which you jab it with for amusement. Imagine walking into your local Chuck E. Cheese and seeing that. Anyway, this is supposedly the equivalent of an American wedgie in Japan, and Japanese kids love performing this prank on each other. So much so, that it warranted a video game. Oh, and there's a face onscreen that screams in discomfort as you do said action for extra fun factor. You can't tell me that wouldn't make a fun survival level on LBP.
Q: What's black and white and red all over? A: Sackboy falling to his death in a kaiju level.
Q: What's black and white and red all over? A: Sackboy falling to his death in a kaiju level.
You came onto the PSP scene pretty late compared to most authors. Did you feel that it was more difficult for you since you got a late start?
No, not all. I actually think I came in at the best possible time as the patch that fixed just about everything that was wrong had just been released and allowed me to literally make my first level - Lifespan, in about 4 days without any major problems. I also had no concept of what was trending in LBP PSP, so I wasn't influenced at all when making my first level which worked out great because I may have been discouraged by some authors before me who'd laid down the gauntlet as to what was possible. I didn't think I'd brought anything new to the table with Lifespan other than the use of an original song programmed by me and a more serious theme. I still have not played many PSP levels with creator made music which I think is grossly under used since the PSP song choices don't always fit a moody scene. I'm releasing a new level entitled The Tear Garden soon, and again, I whipped up another little music box for better effect. But back to the uh, question, no I'm glad I entered the scene when I did.
If I remember correctly, you tried jumping into LBP PSP earlier on, but it didn't turn out so well for you. What kinds of things drove you away then, and what kinds of things changed that made you willing to come back? Do you have any LBP PSP horror stories for us?
I'm a very patient person. If I go to a restaurant, I'm not the guy who's waving his arms and frowning because the waitress forgot to refill my diet Coke. But things change when it comes to LittleBigPlanet. If I place a Wobble bolt, and it wibbles instead of wobbling, then I start cursing like a drunken sailor. There's nothing I hate more than things that don't work as advertised. It's like going home with a hot swimsuit model, getting there, and then [EDIT: Insert script from The Crying Game here]
LBP for PSP was like that swimsuit model... all pretty in-game, but all the wrong parts in create mode. But then, that software patch that I talked about earlier came along and fixed everything, and it was all good y'know? That's when I started popping out levels left and right. I don't really have any horror stories other than LBP PSP leaving the following morning with my wallet and not leaving her real number, haha. Just kidding.
Lifespan was your first level on PSP and it was a remake of an old PS3 level of yours. Did you find it easier or harder than you expected to remake a level from PS3 on PSP (after all the patches came)?
Easier, for sure. I wanted to test the abilities and short comings of the PSP engine, and making a pre-existing level was the best way to do that. Not to mention that nothing looks cuter than a PS3 level squashed down to mini size. It's like a basket- of -puppies -with -bows -on -their- heads cute... awwww. Plus, when you have a popular level on PS3, you kinda want to take the franchise to all systems. Jackofcourse did it with Calamity Construction on PSP, and some other creators as well I think. It made it soo much easier to not worry about testing a new idea, and having it fail. It went very smoothly other than the Grim Reaper fight at the end of the level which used a piston on PS3, but would not co-operate on PSP. It kept going wobbly! As all PSP creators know, it's hard to make your piston stiff on PSP, lol.
Nascow is your second biggest success and it also won you a Wheely Good Sticker. The level was different than other levels that you have made because it was somewhat vehicle based (if a cow cyborg can be a vehicle). Was it hard for you to change your style up to meet the requirements of the competition that the level was made for?
No, I didn't have a problem with having to do something out of my comfort zone, because that's what creating is about. I once made a vehicle level on PS3 for a contest as well, but have since deleted it. It's just that, in this vast sea we call Little Big Planet, it's really, really hard to make a name for yourself. So once you make something that resonates with the audience, you just kind of fall into a pattern of wanting to repeat success, and suddenly you've become the creator who does "_______" kind of levels. And that's cool, but you risk turning your fanbase off when you do something unexpected. That's why in a way, I felt liberated on PSP, because it's my "anything goes" place to create, and has been a sort of outlet for trying stuff I didn't on PS3 - like a Cyborg Cow racer. Am I surprised Nascow is on page 2? Yes, but pleasantly so. Taking risks pays off a lot of times.
Here's a bit of a more personal question for you: You mentioned that you were pretty disappointed with the performance of Silhouette City. If you could have changed the level to be something that everyone would love, but it wasn't what you wanted the level to be, would you change it?
About that level...I can't complain I guess. It was a level with style over substance. I mean, I know in my heart I would not do anything just for plays ...but sometimes I double guess myself when I spent alot of time trying something different, whether visual or in theme, and seeing it fall flat. People feel like they've seen it all on LBP...but they've not seen anything at all if you ask me. I have tried incorporating spiritual themes, engaging stories, and unusual art styles, and have gotten mixed results. Most people don't know this, but my PSP level The Beauty of Grey is about prejudice in society. You start the level in a black and white world, and its inhabitants find this colorful little sack person strange and scary. But as you play on, they begin to appreciate that he's neither black or white, but something in between. He's represents the beauty of diversity in the world, the meshing of black and white to make grey. Does a 10 year old PSP player appreciate or even decode this message? Probably not, and thus the level is low rated or not hearted. And that's okay, because I know there's someone out there who forgave the simplistic gameplay, and was maybe moved by the experience rather than a top spot on the scoreboard. I actually thought ahead with my latest PSP level The Tear Garden, and put in bold letters inside the thread: "This level is boring", so that I cut them to the chase, lol. So my answer to your question... No.
To close this interview out I have a unique question for you: Going into this interview, was there any question that you hoped I would ask, and if so, could you state it as well as your answer.
I was wondering if you were going to ask if I was a kid, because it IS a common mistake. I have had people ask me what grade I'm in and what elementary school I go to, lol, but you know I'm not a kid - I'm an adult. Other common mistakes caused by PSN names: amazingflyingpoo is not really a talking pile of poop that can fly, and Taffey cannot stretch or be pulled across the room like gum.
Mmmm, cyborg hamburgers.
Mmmm, cyborg hamburgers.
There's something a bit different about amazingflyingpoo this time, but Taffey can't quite put his sack-finger on it. Maybe it's the tie.
And for those of you with shiny iDevices, the direct link!
Playing kaiju_kid's levels is a lot like eating assorted jelly beans with your eyes closed. You might get delicious and joyful cherry flavor, or perhaps shocking and sobering licorice. You may get something unexpected like melon or chocolate, or hilarious and disgusting like... UGH! Who put these cat treats in my jelly beans??
Yeah, that's just like kaiju alright. Funny, and yet somehow I don't think I'll ever be the same.
kaiju_kid truly is a rare breed. He can make you cry one minute and laugh the next. He can sculpt beautiful artwork and write poetry, but he also never gets tired of good old-fashioned toilet humor. He knows his pop culture, he can turn a phrase with the best of them, and my gosh does he ever know how to build a level in LittleBigPlanet.
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 next time!