Most companies have, at one time or another, tried to capitalize on the kart racing phenomenon. Putting mascots behind the wheels of tiny cars some how never ceases to be enjoyable. While some racers have been better than others, few can compete with the customization options of Sony’s latest entry into the genre, LittleBigPlanet Karting. Sackboy gets behind the wheel of his own vehicle and lets gamers go wild customizing him (as usual), their karts, and even creating racetracks to their heart’s content. Given how unique the LBP franchise is, we had some questions about just what Karting was going to be like, so we caught up with SCEA’s Associate Producer Jason Coker who helped set us straight on what to expect from the game.
MTV Multiplayer: Taking Sackboy and his friends out of his traditional environment and placing him in a more structured gameplay scenario seems like a daunting task. How do you make LitteBigPlanet work in a kart?
Jason Coker: Our primary goal was to make a really great Kart racing game starring Sackboy and understand how to integrate what makes LBP so special. It was definitely fun for us to bring that full third dimension into the world of LBP. Media Molecule was really a great partner in helping us bring the LBP charm, creativity, and wonderful community features that are so vital to the LBP world. We ended up with a unique LBP experience in a 3D world where players can enjoy endless karting adventures and beyond that are shared by the community.
MTV Multiplayer: What was the thinking behind incorporating the grappling hook into the gameplay?
Coker: It started as an experiment since grappling is such a cool game play mechanic in LBP, and once that first test grapple sponge when in after a big jump, everyone agreed right off the bat that it just worked.
MTV Multiplayer: Have you seen any standout user generated work from the LBP Karting beta? Is there anything that’s really taken you by surprise?
Coker: Both in the Beta and since launch, there have been loads of really cool creations out there. One of the most exciting things that we’re seeing is that people aren’t just making kart racing or Battle levels. Along with plenty of original and tribute levels, there are shooters, board games, and you name it out there, and as we had hoped, it looks like the LBP Karting community is going to be creative beyond our expectations, which is awesome.
MTV Multiplayer: Kart racers have been around for a long time now, and some are clearly better than others, but they all have one thing in common – the racetracks. What makes a good racetrack?
Coker: We really feel like a great karting experience is a blend of immersive environmental elements like exploration, shortcuts, hazards and such along with a healthy dose of competition. The player has to be completely engaged in what’s going on for it to really be good – weapons whizzing by, new paths opening up on a particular lap, switches that open hidden areas, collecting prizes, other racers jockeying for position – when all of these puzzle pieces come together like they do in LBP Karting, it’s really magical.
MTV Multiplayer: What’s your favorite piece of customization in the game?
Coker: It’s probably a combination of being able to create custom props and then bring those props to life using gadgets and motors. This allows players to make their own great karting adventures with custom weapons, hidden shortcuts that may be only be triggered by specific events, levels that evolve mid-race, and a lot more. And it goes beyond imaginative karting adventures as well. Players can even create levels that have nothing at all to do with circuit races or Battle arenas. Soccer? Sure! Submarine battle? Why not? If a player can dream it, they can build it in LBP Karting.
MTV Multiplayer: ModNation Racers and LittleBigPlanet always seemed like they were cut from the same cloth. Were there any bumps in the road making the switch from one to the other?
Coker: ModNation Racers was just what the name says – a racer. LittleBigPlanet Karting is much more than that. It’s a karting adventure that goes far beyond just racing. With LBP Karting, we wanted to do to the karting genre what LBP did to the platforming genre, which was to break out of that genre altogether. LBP Karting isn’t just a kart racing game with Battle mode in it. It isn’t just 30 levels on a disc. It’s infinite possibilities in a 3D karting world.
MTV Multiplayer: Were any special considerations taken into account for the Move Racing Wheel during development?
Coker: We just wanted it to be a fun racing experience. It’s accessible and exciting, and that makes a motion-based wheel a great addition to LBP Karting.
MTV Multiplayer: How did you approach integrating a story into the game?
Coker: The Story is more than just taking the player through some narrative about Sackboy’s adventures in the Craftverse. Playing through the Story, players experience circuit races, Battle levels, side scrolling challenges, Kart-transforming monsters, levels with isometric cameras, and plenty more. All of the levels in the Story were created using the same level editor that the players have at their disposal, so by showing the breadth of what is possible in the level editor throughout the Story, we also encourage players to get those creative juices flowing and come up with ideas of their own. Of course, you’ve gotta have a good Story that’s interesting and fun, so that was always the main focus.
MTV Multiplayer: Each of the levels have a very unique look and feel about them, how did that come about, and did you look to either of the previous LittleBigPlanet games for inspiration?
Coker: Since we were taking LBP into the karting genre and into 3D, we wanted a mix of familiar and fresh environments that would work with Karting. Fans of LBP will recognize many previous locations from other LBP titles, but they will also encounter new worlds that share the beauty of LBP’s charm and are a perfect fit in a 3D Karting universe.
MTV Multiplayer: Mixing battle modes throughout each of the worlds varies up the play nicely. How was the decision to include those made, and how were those levels approached differently than the more traditional racing ones?
Coker: We wanted to introduce players to a variety of creative possibilities throughout the Story, and circuit races and Battle arenas we no-brainers. Combat is a huge part of Kart racing, and it’s natural for racers to want to take it off the race track and do Battle in more open arenas, which played a big part in the design of our Battle levels. LBP Karting’s Battle levels run the gamut from the classic head to head to objective-based events to arenas filled with an assortment of bizarre environmental hazards. Integrating such a variety of Battle levels into the Story gives players an experience they won’t get in any other karting game.
MTV Multiplayer: What other genres, aside from kart racers, could you see Sackboy venturing into, and subsequently redefining?
Coker: Sackboy hasn’t let me down yet, so I’m pretty sure he’ll be awesome at whatever he does. Like all LBP games, it’s really up to the community to take Sackboy in whatever creative direction they want to go. I’m going to be behind the wheel of that Kart for quite a while, though.