JOE meets LittleBigPlanet 2's Irish level artist James Rath
Six months ago James Rath was a graphic designer that loved the PS3 title LittleBigPlanet, yet after its developers got in touch, he's now a level designer fighting off multiple worldwide job offers.
Aside from countless awards in 2008, Media Molecule's LittleBigPlanet heralded a sea change in gaming. A puzzle platformer like none that had ever came before it, LBP gave players the skills to create their levels and share them with a thriving online community.
As you can imagine, it wasn't long until a number of level artists' creations caught the eye of the game's developer, perhaps none moreso than James Rath, an Irish ex-graphic designer that became a level designer after his unique efforts began to be shared worldwide.
To celebrate the release of the eagerly-anticipated LittleBigPlanet 2, we spoke to James at the title's Dublin launch to discuss how to change careers by playing video games all day and his plans for a leprechaun and evil bankers themed level in the near future.
JOE: Thanks for your time today. So how did you first get in touch with Media Molecule, James? Was it a case of them coming across some of your levels online?
JR: Well I started off just like everybody else that bought the game two years ago. I started creating levels and they got really popular – they’ve been played and downloaded over the Playstation Network over 750,000 times now.
So Media Molecule spotted them, really liked them and called me over to a creative jam to check out LittleBigPlanet 2 and give feedback and test the game. I really got into it and left my job as a graphic designer in September and I‘ve been making levels ever since for Sony and Media Molecule... I’ve changed careers from this game, so it’s been a huge success story for me.
JOE: Absolutely. And how long were you working as a graphic designer before?
JR: For about eight years, doing various graphic design, print work, website design, that sort of thing.
JOE: So before the first LittleBigPlanet was released, I’m sure there was no way you could’ve envisaged your career change?
JR: No, basically it started off as a hobby and turned into a full-time career.
JOE: Is it true that one of your own levels has been featured in the LittleBigPlanet 2 European advert?
JR: It is, yep.
JOE: So is it one of the levels already featured in the game’s story mode or was it a user-created level?
JR: It’s a user-created level. That’ll be featured around Europe and Australia too so it’s going global.
JOE: Excellent. Is there anything you can really tell us about the level in question?
JR: It’s like a dance game, where you can control your Sackbot to dance to the music and you’ve got to press the buttons in time. It’s a bit of fun, it’s called Rio Dance-Off.
JOE: Obviously it’s a very easy answer for yourself but what impact do you think LittleBigPlanet is having for gamers?
JR: It’s really changing the way people play games because it’s not just about playing games now, it’s opened up a whole new world that’s given anybody that buys the game the ability to make their own levels and upload them for the world to play. Even if you’re not into making the levels you can play what people are creating, so you could have 3.5m levels open for you to play.
JOE: So in terms of levels that were originally created for LittleBigPlanet 1, can we expect full backwards compatibility for LittleBigPlanet 2?
JR: Yeah, absolutely. They all work and they’re ready to play straight off the bat.
JOE: So if anyone was looking to play some of your levels, what would be the easiest way to go about it?
JR: Just search ‘Wexfordian’ - that’s my online name and I publish all my levels under that name.
JOE: And would people be able to find Wexfordian easily on LBP.me?
JR: Yeah, I have a page there with all the levels I’ve published, including the advert level, and there’ll be a couple more things to come. I’ve been asked by Media Molecule to get designers from all around the world together to build a game with several levels, basically a full game.