Multiplayer gaming is hardly a new idea, but it’s always been a dream for gamers to be able to play a game with friends although the hardware they are playing on might not be the same. It’s been tried a few times before in games such as Shadowrun, although unsuccessfully, but it was a only a matter of time before more games tried to implement this idea. This year’s E3 showed that Sony had a lot up their sleeve in this regard, picking a classic game, LittleBigPlanet 2, to demonstrate how far technology has come.
As the presentation was behind closed doors rather than a hands-on demo, we had to keep our eyes peeled and our ears open for every juicy bit of info regarding this potentially game-changing technology. What we were shown was paid DLC designed to be used with the current version of LBP2 and will utilise both the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Vita handheld. While the Vita can be used to move Sackboy around in the campaign as per usual, it can also be used for a few other tricks that we can see adding a lot more depth to the game. In the presentation, the Vita screen showed a number of ‘apps’, each with different functions. One was a communication app that allows you to talk to NPCs and another was a scanner app used to x-ray a room to pick up clues that will help you solve puzzles. As expected, there is an app that lets you interact with the level, such as for moving boxes using the touch screen, although this can be used for griefing too. However, the most interesting app present was a radar that shows you the position of prize bubbles with an Alien-style little tracker. We were told that players creating their own levels will be able to use this feature in their levels – not just for prize bubbles, but for enemies too.
There was also, of course, a few instances where the PS3 gameplay transferred directly onto the Vita, which occurs when Sackboy jumps into certain pipes, which is a great way to separate players for multiplayer purposes, although only one Vita can be tied to a PS3. For example, we were shown a demo for a minigame called ‘Poultry Panic’, which had two players on the PS3 and one of the Vita. A second two-player minigame, ‘Space Spinner’, was also shown, which also demonstrated the cross-play technology very well. In ‘Space Spinner’, the player with the Vita sits on the outside of the ship while the other, on the PS3, is on the inside of the ship, trying to collect bubbles. The movements the Vita player makes outside spins the ship, affecting the Sackboy inside the ship as he is thrown around. Teamwork is important here as the two must work together to fly the ship steadily in order to achieve their objectives.
It’ll be interesting to see what other game mechanics and design cross-play can inspire, although I have no doubt that if there’s a team that can make great use of it, it’s the guys behind LittleBigPlanet 2. As previously mentioned, the cross-controller DLC will be priced and is expected to be released in November this year.