• Creator Spotlight 31 - Mnniska

    Playful Prodigy
    Interview conducted by rialrees

    There are some names in the LittleBigPlanet community which you can mention in any forum (yes, I'm big on name-dropping!), and pretty much everyone would know who you were talking about. Mnniska is one of them.

    I could wax lyrical all evening about his creations, his ideas, the presence he has as a member of the community, but let's face it Ė I don't need to. You probably already know all about him!

    We may as well not even bother having this interview then!



    The Rocket fuel I scoffed for breakfast probably helped too...

    All right, this one isnít really a question, but if you would be so kind, please list the levels youíve published to date and any statistics youíd like to share with us, i.e. plays, hearts, how many rocket animals per level, etc. Whatever you feel like sharing.

    LBP1 stuff:

    Adventure t(h)rough the evil factory!
    (A platformer set in an evil factory that sort of wants to murder you. It has no plot, only murderous surroundings.)

    A Level in Create Mode
    (Colourful puzzle level where you had to copy the level to your moon and play it in create mode. It got an mm pick about six months after itís release. Waha!)

    If The Gardens had Pixie Sticks
    (Completely random happy level set in The Gardens where I decided to only use stickers & materials found in said place in order to boost creativity. Had some epic fun making it, even if nothing of it makes sense.)

    Switches! Everywhere!
    (Created for Syrocís Back to the Basics competition! The deal was to only use basic materials, along with that you had to show all of the logic. I made a level about hiding all of the switches and won, woop!)

    LBL: LRRS and the Sneaky H4Her! (part 1)
    (Full title; LittleBigLand: Little Red Riding Sack and the Sneaky Heart for Heartíer!

    A fairytale-level featuring both puzzling, platforming and a story. I made the level for Littlebigland's fairytale competition a few years back and won! Wohoo!)

    Demented Co-Op
    (A twisted singleplayer level where you had to spawn a second sack that would not move in order to progress. The Ēdead sackĒ would be used to activate checkpoints, hold buttons and to power other strange mechanisms. So many strange puzzles..)

    King of the hill!
    (Multiplayer minigame.)

    (Multiplayer minigame.)

    (Multiplayer minigame.)

    (Multiplayer minigame.)

    A Salty Space adventure: Save the Girl!
    ( Platforming level co-created with The_Creator_1. Pirates.. in space! Oh, and thereís a part where a girl blows up a pirate by staring at him. I loved that level.)

    LBP2 stuff:

    Help! My monkey hid my homework!
    (Somewhat random level from the early LBP2 days where I explored Sackbots and their many uses for the first time. Originally created for a monthly level feature. Unfortunately it died down quite quickly due to lack of creators.)
    (Colourful twisted level created over two to three weeks about a girl who steals hearts, a jumping machine who have had his heart stolen and some strange gameplay ideas. People seem to love this level, even if I put the least work into it :P I love it too, by the way.)

    SackTracking (Part 1 & 2)
    (My first big LBP2-project. I really put my soul into this project from what I remember! Basically the big boss sends all of his minions to kill off Sacky, and you are one of his minions.)

    Hop to it!
    (A level that explores the possibilities of manual level changing, made during two weeks(!) before the time I went off to work with Tarsier last summer. Pretty unpolished due to the short amount of time, but still a fun level with some awesome angry frogs.)

    Mission imPAWssible
    (A very hard platforming level that toys with a double-jump feature. Itís so hard that I am giving free hearts to whoever manages to ace it. Thereís also an angry cat and a dragon in there! )

    My Little Pony: Racing Is Magic
    (A multi-player racing level/game. You get to pick a pony, and then race through the land of Equestria while throwing bombs, boosting and cursing your way to the finish. Made for LittleBigNetwork's TRIBUTE contest and based on that one cartoon about rainbow-coloured ponies :P )

    (A pretty simple multiplayer minigame where the level gives you one of 80(!) different themes. Your task is to make a bjootiful sticker painting of whatever theme the level throws at you. This was also Mmpicked, woot! )

    Now, tell me... of these levels, which is your favourite? And why?
    Arghhh, how would I know? Itís like picking your favourite kid; You love them all equally, even if one or two of them likes to steal candy from children or never do the dishes.

    I guess that if I would have to choose, that'd be Flowerbucket. I never really had any creator blocks while creating it; the process went really smoothly to the end. Sooner or later I usually start hating my levels in progress because of the effort they require in order to finish them. In Flowerbucket that was not the case.

    How long have you been playing LBP?
    I have been addicted since day one, back in 2008 about three years ago. Before that I would just draw and make terrible stop motion movies.

    What was the first full level you ever built? And what was it like?
    It was the very first LBP-filled evening. I had got the game a day earlier then expected and I was ridiculously excited. My plan was to rush through the Gardens and then create my first proper level that day. Turns out the editor was slightly harder to master then expected. I was absolutely livid by the end of the day and didn't manage to create anything of worth, but man, I was hooked.

    ...I didn't really answer the question, did I? Letís try this again..

    My first level was about the player being stuck in a green room. In order to advance you had to activate a checkpoint, have it launched to the upper floor and then search around for a spot where you could kill yourself (I completely forgot you could simply pop yourself.) it was all very bad, but I did my best!

    What creators and levels (if any) have inspired you to create?
    I constantly draw inspiration from everything I play, so in order to answer that question I would have to name every decent level I have ever played since three years back. I might look at someone making big noses for their characters or a level where the egg sticker is used to colour skin and go Ēohhhh, thatís cool!Ē.

    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.
    Everything that moves! Whenever I am left alone I usually start thinking up new gameplay ideas, concepts and other things from the stuff around me. I also draw inspiration from cartoons, movies, people and anything interesting I come across, really.

    For example I came up with the idea of making a level about fat ponies rolling around from watching that wonderful show about ponies, the idea behind Stickerix was loosely based on that neat little Draw Something game and Hop to It! was inspired by all of the weird japanese game shows I watched at the time.

    What are some of your favorite video games (excluding LBP) - new and old?
    Alright, letís do this..

    • Crash bandicoot - It was my first game ever, it is also flipping awesome.
    • Harry potter & The sorcerers stone - Another of my first games that I loved the heck out of. I have Harryís jumping sounds etched into my ears. Now Iím trying to avoid the game so that I wonít have to realise how bad it actually was.
    • Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2 - Lots of people with spiky hair, Disney characters, heaps of friendship and some kick-cartoon-butt keyblade fighting. I wish I could say I loved it only because I was young, but I played it pretty recently and itís still the best thing ever.
    • Ratchet & Clank 3 - Making stuff explode, angry lombaxes, evil robots, getting to transform into an alien. Yeah, pretty darn epic.
    • Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2 - I donít think I have to explain myself really. Concentrated joy.
    • Portal 2 - Brilliant gameplay combined with humour I actually laugh at. Usually only people falling and hurting their private parts makes me crack up, this game actually had me laughing hard.
    • Recently I have been playing Journey and Bioshock, both are really awesome in very different ways.

    If you could list your favourite things about LittleBigPlanet, what would they be?
    The ability to create anything you want is pretty awesome. if youíre feeling like it you can make levels about angry lobsters, milk, computers (just donít include the word in a speech bubble! ), butter, Swedish keyboards, broken swords or anything your imagination can come up with really. Itís literally limitless. That is pretty rad.

    On top of that we are able to share our creations with the world, which is not only an awesome motivation to actually finish something but also opens up a lovely community that can help you improve as a creator. (At least if access it through the web.)

    And your least favourite thing(s)?
    I donít really have any things I really dislike in LBP. I could say that I dislike the bomb survivals and shark whatevers, but the people making those are also creators that might be improving in order to visualise their original ideas at a later time. Hating on those wonít help anybody, and honestly I have got all of the great levels I need with the community that seems to highlight everything that is worth checking out, so the front page isnít even needed in my case.

    To be honest I am more annoyed with the people that are constantly complaining about these beginner creators and the front page. Those levels are popular because a majority of players like them. They actually play them because they find them fun, not because those levels are evil or something. You can still easily find your favourite stuff through the fan sites or the Mm picks, where exactly is the problem?

    Whatís the worst thing thatís happened while creating?
    I was making this huge world level. The idea was that you were given a bunch of paths and then just got to explore and stuff. Anyway, after about 15 hours of work I got hit by the corruption bug. I lost the whole level. I cried, then I broke my controller. After that I always published a back-up of my LBP1 levels.

    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?
    Pretty much all the time. Itís very important not to create too crazy stuff for the user to understand it. At other times I come up with this really fun gameplay idea but in the end I only have about one gameplay motif that feels great, when you need at least ten of them for a proper level. In my older levels I would always include whatever ideas I came up with, even if they were way too crazy for even the experienced LBP players.

    A level that does all of the things listed above is an old LBP1 level of mine called Woody Platforming. (No pun intended. Itís just a bunch of wood, I promise :P ) I just created randomly and put in everything I could come up with. Everything from messing with lightning, to using bomb-powered launch pads, to having strange wheel mechanisms power you onwards, to including a part where the level creates itself in front of your eyes to a multiplayer challenge where one player would chill out in a donut while the other had to balance on top while activating badly placed switches.

    In my more recent levels I try to have a somewhat consistent gameplay theme that introduces ONE element and then toys around with it. Most of the time I do not succeed and have to pull in multiple elements :P

    If you there was anything you could change about the game, what would it be? This could be anything from adding materials or tools to eradicating H4H.
    I have got quite a few different ideas that might be cool, so i figured Iíd made a nice little list! Here goes;

    • Iíd love to see a sticker hiding feature. Hit L2 and the sticker you are hovering over with your sticker cursor will be hidden, allowing you to access stickers down below. Restore the hiding and everything will go back to normal with the hidden sticker on top. Mathematical!

    Totally Rhombus!
    • I also want a shortcut to turn on and change size of the grid without going into the pause menu, imagine the sweet feeling of saving yourself those 0.2 seconds it would normally take to open up the start menu. You can spend those extra seconds eating an ice cream, or adding a sticker, or even sleeping!
    • Lastly, I would have loved better tutorials. This doesn't really affect me since I know the editor by now, but I think the tutorials could've been done a bit better. For as lovely as Stephen Fryís voice is, only about 10% of what he is saying actually helps you while the rest isn't needed to learn. Sure, itís funny, but it makes learning a whole lot harder and definitely slower. Itís like that one teacher you had that would constantly tell you small stories instead of teaching. Itís fun and all but in the end all you want to do is to learn, not wait for his dialogue to finish. I'm not saying I know the perfect tutorial format, I'm just saying there is probably a better way to do it.


    Harumph. I'd like to see Ceiling Cat do any better!

    You said you used to make stop motion movies before you started creating in LBP. (I'm sure they were far from terrible btw!) You truly do seem like the type who needs to create... something. Anything! Do you always find yourself drawn to creative hobbies, and if so, what other hobbies have you indulged in?
    Hey, my mom's told me that, too! According to her I have been getting drawn into creative hobbies since early on. Except for making a bunch of stuff with Lego I do remember drawing a lot when I was little. I would make these huge pictures (mostly filled with police men, planes, thieves and tree houses) and then make up stories featuring the characters I had created. From there it felt natural to start doing short comics, just trying to tell a simple story or a joke. I made a whole bunch of them. I remember one character in particular called Hubert. He was this white bunny that would run about and engage in lame puns and silly jokes.

    It was another rainy day when I came up with the idea to create stop-motion videos from watching one of those lovely Wallace & Gromit short films. I bought myself some clay and tried my best. I can promise you, the results weren't exactly amazing, but I did continue doing it for at least a year and I actually remember winning a random movie competition for youngsters here in Sweden with a strange movie I drew up. It was about a man-eating cube..that ate stuff.

    I would have continued doing movies, but it was around that time that LBP hit me and since then I have had little to no time for other interests other then the ones that involve LittleBigPlanet.

    The characters who populate your levels... wait. That sounds far too clinical. Your characters don't populate your levels, they live there. Truly, I believe this! They are so colourful, abstract, and downright quirky, that they make me giggle every time they pop onto the screen! What kind of spark will start a character in your head? A facial feature, or a character trait perhaps? What gets you started when you're bringing them to life?
    I am not entirely sure. I have been quite busy developing a whole bunch of random characters to just chill out in my latest level lately, so I am feeling that I should know the answer to that question. I guess I mostly just doodle about and see what works. One thing I find very important when developing a character in most cases is to let go! You wonít be able to unlock your inner vision by focusing on details; just let your hands do the work and see what happens. All characters in Flowerbucket had about 10 minutes of rough creating and then a bit of polishing to smooth them out. Itís all about not not stopping to think when I create characters. Kind of like inverted math!

    Your Youtube page is bursting with videos of you creating in time lapse (your very popular 'SpeedCreate' series). I know that plenty of Sackpeople out there love your videos. Personally, just thinking about those videos makes me start hugging my pillow, rocking back and forth gently, and wishing I had your talent! Why did you start this series of videos, and do you think you'll release more?
    The idea had been on my mind for several months. I remember asking my twitter feed if they would like to see something like it around summertime and got a pretty positive response. One day around November I just had so much schoolwork to procrastinate but no proper level ideas to work on, so I bought myself some cheap recording tech and created a random level room. It was more of an experiment then anything else. People seemed to enjoy it though, and I enjoyed doing it so there we go!

    The reason I stopped is simply due to lack of time and a feeling of utter unproductiveness on my part. One part of it is that I didn't have any clear idea what I was trying to create on SpeedCreate. At first I tried doing a random level about dark matter without any proper gameplay ideas in mind..then I tried doing a co-op level without any proper plan or style ready to go. I felt pretty silly restarting my level over and over again for new ideas, so next time around I will definitely plan my level out on paper properly before even starting to record to give my viewers the smoothest ride possibly to a finished level product. Donít worry, though. I love doing SpeedCreate so there will definitely be more of that!

    In many of your LBP2 levels, you explore the use of Sackbots as player characters by messing about with their abilities. For example, a mechanic I see quite often in your levels is where you get the player to emote to change their surroundings - smiling to bring up the sun or dancing to progress the plot. Yet at the same time, the style of level overall is very firmly based in 'traditional' LBP gameplay. I love this twist! Are these sorts of mechanics things that you always wanted to do in LBP1, or did inspiration strike when you found out about sackbots?
    I donít remember really asking for anything new before LBP2 was announced ( except for better wobble bolt editing, perhaps ), so I hadn't dreamed up any gameplay with imaginary features either at the time. To me, LittleBigPlanet 1 already had the perfect level editor; You could place your blocks, decorate your blocks and then make them move about using the complex logic tools. What more could you ask for?

    Sure, it was simple, but the simplicity really motivated you to think outside the box in order to come up with original gameplay. I would have never dreamed of making a level which you played in create mode, or making a level where you spawn a moveless sack which you dragged around in order to solve puzzles if LBP2 had been offering endless yet somewhat less creative gameplay oppertunities.

    Once LBP2 hit me I immediately started dreaming up strange gameplay ideas, ranging from grapple hook gameplay I still havenít put to good use to dreams about a fully-blown blocky editor for those younger creators ( complete with building music! ) to a few of these sackbot ideas I am creating at the moment. Needless to say I have quite a big list of things I still want to try out.

    I'm not entirely sure how my building-style happened. I did have a somewhat consistent drawing style when I picked up the editor, but incorporating that into the game have been a long and tricky process. Scenery was and is a tricky thing to me, I struggled pretty hard over the years to learn the magic of scenery.

    I guess that my best teacher was all of those lovely LBP1 story levels, so thatís where the style comes from. At the same time my drawings have been heavily inspired by LittleBigPlanet, so now I have basically copied everything I love about the doodly stickers :P

    Your doodles are inspiring in their own right! You even started up a thread on the forums to get us all to do a daily doodle at one point - it resulted in some great artwork, and some really funny images too. Just how many scrapbooks have you filled now? I almost imagine you'd doodle on your wallpaper if you were given half a chance!
    I believe I fill about two scrapbooks worth of doodles every year, although I donít really have them concentrated into one block; Theyíre everywhere I have been bored. Naturally, my school blocks are filled to the brim with random characters..

    I was really surprised and happy to see the responses to the daily doodle thread. Especially seeing those somewhat untalented doodlers stepping out of their comfort area and sharing their style was great fun to me.

    Your 'Level in Create Mode', published some time ago, contained some of the most innovative gameplay ideas I've ever seen. I can only imagine the kind of experiments you made with the paintinator in create mode to get the mechanics to work! Was it something you instinctively knew would work, or was this level actually (as I rather suspect) the product or countless man hours?
    I didn't know at all if it was a legit idea at first! I got the idea at least a couple of months before I started making the level, and it had sort of zoomed around in the back of my head as strange ideas usually do. I thought that it could be a fun idea, but was unsure of what sort of gameplay there was that could be exclusive to create mode; pausing stuff interrupted mechanisms and wasn't a very fun gameplay motif, either.

    Then one evening, I got into a level in an attempt to start something new (most likely random). I placed down a block and plonked down a paintinator just for fun. Thatís when I noticed the paint would stop in pause mode, and when I had managed to actually move the block by firing a couple hundred shots before unpausing, I knew that I had to make it.

    In short, it did take me a while to fully realize that there was some potential hiding in the idea. I wouldn't describe that stroke of luck as Ēcountless man hoursĒ, though.

    And, for those of us who weren't in the loop back then (cough), why did you delete the level? Was it due to the general silliness of players who didn't understand what to do, or the multitude of re-published copies that drove you to it?
    I have wondered this myself many times, and somehow it always seem to make sense to me.

    I created A level In Create Mode about two years ago. Needless to say, I have improved a lot as a creator since then. Pretty much anything I have saved from that time gives the shivers, even if itís really fun to look back at to see what sort of progress you've made as a creator.

    So we have got an old level with a lot of flaws. Sure itís creative, but itís also unfair at many points, the scenery is off and the level makes your wrist hurt. A level canít be that good if it makes your wrist hurt after a normal playthrough!

    I loved getting Mm picked at the time. I had pretty much given up on getting any sort of plays and hearts and was happy to create for fun. I remember dancing around for at least a week after getting picked, it was the best thing ever!

    Fast forward two years. A level in create mode is really outdated, but I have kept it for the fun until now. LBP2 hits us all..and suddenly A Level In Create Mode is on the front page of a completely new community page that is highlighted with big shining sparkles whenever you access the community menu!

    I didn't really take it down because of the copiers; I knew there was going to be copiers and was completely okay with that. I didn't take it down because people didn't get it either; If people didn't care to read speech bubbles or level descriptions, then that was their problem, not mine.

    The reason I took it down was because I knew that it was absolutely terrible. Sure, itís a fun old level that is great to have around, but I really didn't want anyone to associate that piece of pinata-stickered clunkyness with me. I knew the level had so many flaws, and knew it well. Every single negative review felt like a personal failure, because most of the time, they were right!

    The level WAS bad. The level WAS hard getting into. The level WAS poorly designed. So I took it down before too many players had gotten hold of it.

    The level is still accessible though, just search for it and youíll get at least 100 wonderful little copies to play

    Lastly, ever since the Vita Game Jam at Tarsier Studios, there is something that I'm sure everyone out there is dying to know...

    What's funnier, Poop or Potatoes?

    Potatoes! Sure, poop comes with awesome sounds, but it also stinks and isnít easily formed. Potatoes can have various wonderful shapes, loves to compete in fashion shows and have the ability to roll around. Potato, all the way!

    Finally, is there anything you, as a creator, would like to add to this? Or any other experiences youíd like to share? If not, Iíd 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?
    I think that the best thing to do as a new creator is to..simply keep creating, and to continue doing it for the reason you started; because it was fun. Youíre not creating to outdo all of the other artists, nor are you creating to please the masses and get tens of thousands of plays. In my opinion you should be creating to express yourself! Who cares if your level only have 200 plays when you have managed to create something that is personal, honest and something YOU would like to play?

    If you are feeling like making a dating simulator featuring aliens and cheesy jokes, then you should create it! If youíre having an itch to make a plant growing simulator, then you should create it! If you are feeling like making something stupid and silly, then you should create it! If you keep creating to please yourself, then others will most likely also love your creations.

    Remember, as a LBP creator YOU are the boss, and not those fifteen thousand silly kids, nor us forum addicts.


    It's the age-old story: Boy falls for a crazy redhead...

    Really? I have to do the Jerry Springer thing again? But I'm exhausted!

    If you've ever had the pleasure of a conversation with Mnniska, whether in person, in a chat room, or on LBP itself, you'll be struck by how passionate he is Ė about creating, about doodling, and most of all, about sharing.

    He doesn't horde his creations, keeping them close so that only he can enjoy them. Instead, Mnniska embodies the spirit of Play, Create, Share. It's actually rather infectious Ė I find myself starting to feel excited about my own creations and projects just through speaking to him.

    I can guarantee you that if you haven't experienced his creations yet, then you're missing out. I'm going to have to set you some homework, little sackthing, and don't think you can get away with that ridiculous monkey excuse this time!

    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!
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Creator Spotlight 31 - Mnniska started by Taffey View original post