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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 15:58 GMT
From ones and zeroes to heroes
By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

LittleBigPlanet
LittleBigPlanet is the firm's first title
In 2005 a videogame developed by an artist in his own time became the talk of the Game Developers Conference. Two years on and the company he formed once again created waves at the world's biggest gaming event.

LittleBigPlanet, for the PlayStation 3, is already being described as the game of 2008 and by some as the first game to make the console a must buy.

But the game is not the product of one of the veteran studios in the industry, but a start-up in Guildford, in the UK.

A year ago Mark Healey and Alex Evans did not have a single line of code for their new game but had made the decision to leave the comfortable surroundings of respected developer Lionhead on the strength of a game called Ragdoll Kung-Fu.

That game, developed by Mr Healey in his own time, attracted the interest of giant US firm Valve at the GDC two years ago. It went on to win the Independent Games Award and the pair decided to strike out on their own.

Mr Evans said: "We started off in January 2006. We wanted to do the most ambitious game we could. We asked ourselves: 'How hard can we make it for ourselves?'."

We went from being unemployed sitting in an office to working with Sony in a short space of time
Alex Evans

Mr Healey added: "We wanted to make the most fun and ambitious game we could - and more importantly we wanted someone else to pay for it."

The pair approached Sony with a demo produced by the third lead David Smith - their "uber mathematics beast" - uncertain of the reaction.

"We had been told by some, 'It's impossible to have a start-up. Small teams cannot make games these days.'," said Mr Healey.

"But we showed Sony and they were amazing. They said, 'Off you go'."

Mr Evans said: "There's nothing like tie pressures to focus the mind."

LittleBigPlanet
Gamers can create their own levels and share them

The company found itself with a powerful publishing deal and roped in friends to paint their "ghetto office" in Guildford.

Despite their seeming inexperience the firm's staff has an impressive track record in gaming.

Mr Healey said: "We have experience as bedroom coders right up to working in 100-people teams.

"We've seen how the industry has changed."

Both men worked at Lionhead with Peter Molyneux, one of the most respected developers in the industry.

The demo of LittleBigPlanet was the talking point of GDC last week. An anarchic platform title, it lets gamers built their own playground levels and then swap them with other players over the PlayStation Network.

Having good ideas is not enough - everyone has good ideas
Mark Healey

The ideas are not necessarily new but it has been done with a panache and eye for character lacking in so many blockbuster titles.

Mr Evans said: "We went from being unemployed sitting in an office to working with Sony in a short space of time.

"We have been incredibly lucky. It's been really hard work too.

"We are not just a bunch of hippies as some have called us."

The pair admitted they had made a number of mistakes in their first year of operation.

"We still have screwdriver fights. We are bad communicators," said Mr Evans.

"Having good ideas is not enough - everyone has good ideas. It's about communicating those ideas to people," added Mr Healey.

The team at Media Molecule has now grown to 19 people and they are still looking for more staff.

"We have still got to finish the game," said Mr Healey.

"The mountain we have got to climb is finishing it," agreed Mr Evans.

With Sony's considerable support and the positive publicity generated by the demo of LittleBigPlanet, Media Molecule are on course to becoming one of the most successful games debutants in recent times.




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