Developer of the Week: Media Molecule

Well, I haven’t done one of these in a long while – but I think it’s time for a long overdue Developer of the Week post. This time I’m focusing on a company that I truly admire for giving the control of a game to the user and letting users merely play with tools to design their own gaming experiences. Media Molecule is the UK based company famous for the lovely family-friendly PS3 exclusives LittleBigPlanet and LittleBigPlanet 2. I’ve been a huge fan and advocate of the LittleBigPlanet series for years now, but what I’m most fascinated with by the Media Molecule crew is the amazing opportunities for accessibility in player designed levels.

Umm... excuse me, but umm - might I get a nifty hat too?

LittleBigPlanet is a one of a kind ‘creator’ game, and players are truly taking advantage of these design tools to create unique and meaningful little gaming experiences [ some of which I’m so fascinated by I wish they were their own PSN games ] Now while LittleBigPlanet and LittleBigPlanet 2 as games themselves, can often lend themselves to a few accessibility issues in the Story mode, I think that can be overlooked by some of the more artistic and fantastic designs that the online community has been providing. Media Molecule is a fantastic company for giving power to the players instead of just having them play through something that’s already been designed.

Here’s a couple of community levels that I’ve played that I definitely suggest you check out, because they’re quite accessible and definitely a fun experience to try out:

1. Flowtation:

You play as a small jellyfish swimming through a vast ocean experience collecting colored water droplets to solve puzzles within the game. It’s a simple concept that’s extremely accessible. Created by a designer entitled: EaziG – the level provides simple gameplay, intricate puzzles, beautiful atmosphere and music, and when you see this little game it’s no wonder why I suggest that this game become it’s own little PSN title. The accessibility is phenomenal:

  • Relaxed gameplay and mechanics allows for players to take their time with each move. This helps mobility challenged gamers to actually succeed and enjoy this game – even single handed players will be able to enjoy this as long as you’re willing to be patient with the controls.
  • Color scheme is dark, but the main characters and puzzle pieces are illuminated in the darkened waters, which makes the game accessible for colorblind gamers and vision impaired gamers. 
  • Deaf players can easily play this game, while it’s disappointing that they can’t hear the warm, calming, melodic music, no sounds are required to play.
  • This game is actually very simple and relaxing – so cognitively challenged players may actually enjoy this title.

Gameplay of Flowtation:

2. A Daily Cup of Tea:

This is a very simple item drop game, where players have to catch small sugar cubes into their tea cups. Now the game designed by Nirokeib, and while the design has a very sepia tone color scheme – the games accessibility makes it noteworthy to, once again, be one of the suggestions of ‘must check out’ LBP2 games. Here’s how the accessibility breaks down – and what makes it a fun experience for me personally:

  • The controls only require you to hit the triangle button once to lock into your tea cup, and then it’s a matter of moving left to right on one single analog stick. This may seem like too easy of a game to care about, but it’s actually quite a fun experience with the frequency of sugar cubes being set at random. You may see an easy moment where there’s only a few and then you’ll get bombarded with quite a few.
  • Precision is required, because you have to catch the sugar cubes in the cup to make them dissipate. This can make the game a tad more difficult for mobility impaired gamers, but still totally accessible.
  • The music is good, but it’s not required to play and all instructions are displayed to you via text – which is fantastic for deaf gamers. Definitely makes the level more accessible for those with hearing impairments. 

Gameplay of A Daily Cup of Tea:

I’ve checked out quite a few more, but those two held the most love from me. I just want to give my love to Media Molecule, because they have a fantastic game that allows players to create accessible little mini games for fellow players. The Story modes and creation modes of LBP and LBP 2 may be a bit extensive to deal with for mobility challenged gamers [ Trust me, I’m perfectly capable of fast reflex movements, and many times LBP levels drove me nuts with how often I died. ]

Media Molecule gives players an ability to devise a game jam on a daily basis. They have millions of players devising millions of levels and with all of these vast creation tools and creators going forward there’s no wonder that these games are fantastic for the trend of accessibility being valued in games. Media Molecule, I just want to say folks, I love you guys. You have made a fantastic – trend-changing game, and I hope more and more community developers begin to devise games that are accessible to multiple players.

Well, this gives a new meaning to 'jaw dropping' performance...

LBP and LBP 2 have been two of my favorite games to play as an aspiring developer and I am fascinated by all of the lovely games I see coming out of the community and all of the advancements that you all have placed within the games’ look and feel. If anybody owns a PS3 [ especially if you’re a developer who owns one ] I highly suggest picking up these games. LBP and LBP 2 have deep creation tools that are easy to understand and access – and if you’re a more advanced designer you’ll be able to do even further fantastic levels with all of the advancements that LBP 2 has given.

Check out Media Molecule and the LBP series. Their gameplay and game design tools are making a difference, and that’s why I admire them and nominate them for my Developer of the Week this week. I hope that the future of this company keeps going forward, developing ways to provide more and more accessibility to the masses and the levels that they create and those that they allow players to create.

I can’t wait to see the future – and here’s to the waiting period for whenever they announce LittleBigPlanet 3.

2 responses to “Developer of the Week: Media Molecule

  1. I was hooked on lbp when it first cane out. The gameplay, humour, cute characters and music all drew me in. Of course most importantly, it was the level creation that made me want to buy it. I use to spend hours crafting lvls and was amazed by how much I could do (unfortunately the game was glitchy while I was playing and a few of my more ambitious lvl designs seemed to melt.) Still, I love games that put some level of creative control in their playe’s hands and aspire to one day develop my own tools following this example.

    • I completely agree, the joy of these games are the amount of control they give to the user. I think it provides a lot of developers and level designers a way to test themselves in how to provide accessibility via a PS3 controller [ or any controller for that matter ]

      Less button inputs or more relaxed games can actually help provide a huge impact to gameplay, and I think that Media Molecule’s tools can truly help teach countless moments for what makes for good/bad accessibility in games to many players depending on how users use the tools provided.

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