Developer Salute – Media Molecule
Media Molecule might not be as prolific as some of my other favorite developers, but the studio's reinvention of the 2D platformer is one of my standout memories from this generation of consoles.
The word "innovative" gets thrown around a lot in the video game industry, but rarely is the praise actually warranted. Formula tweaks, UI redesigns, and gameplay gimmickry are all too often referred to as innovative, along with every variation of shooting something with a gun that developers have come up with over the years.
When I think back on the concepts and features introduced in Media Molecule's debut game, however, the description isn't just apt – it's an understatement. LittleBigPlanet not only allows players to create their own content to extend the life of the game, but makes it easy to find and download new content from your fellow players.
I'm a big fan of games that provide level editors to players (which sadly still seldom occurs on consoles), and Media Molecule did a remarkable job with LBP's creation tools. Not only can you create your own levels from scratch, but the versatile engine also takes physics and materials into account, and allows you to make your own mechanical contraptions. Long before the release of Minecraft, players were coming up with surprising creations in LittleBigPlanet, and have continued recreating movie trailers, handheld systems, and different game genres in LBP 2. The series' latest milestone put the number of user-created levels at eight million; a lot of games boast "infinite replayability" but LittleBigPlanet is one of the few series that comes close to delivering on that promise. Even more importantly, Media Molecule pioneered sharing content, creating its own self-sustaining community while providing a blueprint that numerous developers have since copied.
Media Molecule's projects share a design aesthetic that I can only describe as unabashedly happy. In an industry that's obsessed with violence and war, Media Molecule reminds players that games can still just be fun, lighthearted affairs; I can't help but smile when I see Media Molecule's cutesy characters and creative worlds. I love explosions and headshots as much as the next gamer, but Media Molecule's work provides a nice respite from all the bloodshed, and I'm looking forward to its upcoming Tearaway as another cheerful diversion from the battlefield.
When Game Informer tackled the great debate of whether video games are art, LittleBigPlanet was my go-to example, as a series that both has its own creative and artistic merit, and also provides players with editing and sharing tools to express themselves. Based on the developer's demo at the PlayStation 4 reveal, the studio is still trying to nail down what its next project will entail, but the hallmark attributes of user-created content, community integration, and creative expression are all present. I'm glad Media Molecule has successfully carved out its own niche in the industry, and I can't wait to see more of what the studio is working on for next-gen.