Sony held an event at the Gladstone Hotel in downtown Toronto to usher in the release of LittleBigPlanet 2. Our full review of the game will appear in the next issue of C&G as well as here on the website, so keep on the look out for that. As for the event itself, Sony took over the bar in the rear of the hotel and turned it into a cross between a debutante party and a tree-house fort; a clean, catered space was complimented by giant sackboys and a stage area with happy colors and simple images one would expect from a child’s drawing.
There was, of course, the array of Bravia TVs one would expect from a Sony event, all running LittleBigPlanet 2 in its various modes showing off both the Media Molecule created campaign levels, as well as giving participants a taste of the newly revamped and deeply comprehensive creation tools.
When we weren’t munching on Sackboy cookies—although the new, politically correct, non-gender specific designation appears to be Sackthing—there was also an opportunity to talk to a staff member of Media Molecule who comes with some very surprising credentials. We sat down with him for a few minutes and got the story.
C & G Magazine: So just tell us, who are you and what do you do?
Christophe Villedieu: My name is Christophe Villedieu, and I’m a level designer at Media Molecule.
CGM: And there’s actually quite a story behind how you ended up working for them, isn’t there?
CV: Yeah, it’s true! Basically I was like everyone else when I saw LBP1 at the store, I was like “What is that? What is this crafty design? And you can create your stuff?” And I was working in advertising, I used to be an art director. So I had the creativity and the art perspective.
CGM: So you did go to art school, you had that background.
CV: Yeah, exactly. I don’t have a video game [industry] background at all. I mean, I never made games, except maybe Flash games.
CGM: But obviously you had experience as a gamer.
CV: Yeah, I had the PS3. But I bought the PS3 for MGS4 and LBP. Those are the only two games I was playing. So I’m not a hardcore gamer at all.
CGM: So when the first LittleBigPlanet was announced you decided to get a PS3 just for that game?
CV: Yeah! I saw the video when it was four players on the skateboard. I was like “Whoa, what is that physics engine, it’s just so brilliant.” And I loved the design and the craftiness of it. And I love Michel Gondry, for example, as a filmmaker, and I watched [LBP] and thought if Michel Gondry was making a video game, it would really look like that. So I started making levels. I love Aztec civilization, so I made something Aztec, something puzzle-y and platform-y, with great visuals and basically Kareem [Ettouney] the art director for Media Molecule saw my level, and all the other [Media Molecule] guys were like “What is that awesome level?” And I made a lot of other levels, so my rating in the community was really high. And one day, I got a message on my PS3 saying “Listen, do you want to come and join us to make LBP2?” So that’s why I moved from Paris to London.
CGM: And they sent this to you on the Playstation Network? Which would seem like a joke.
CV: Exactly, exactly! My answer was “Is that a joke from a friend?” But I discovered that the guy who sent it was Mark Stephenson, a level designer for Media Molecule. And I sometimes saw his comments on the Media Molecule official blog, so I said, “My God, that’s real.” So I said, “Okay, okay, okay, let me think.” When you’re a kid, what are the three things you want to do? You want to be an astronaut. Okay, I couldn’t be that. I wanted to be MacGuyver. Too late. And I wanted to work in video games. Cool! Sign in!
CGM: You didn’t have to think about it, you just left your old life behind?
CV: No, no, I’m still with my girlfriend, who is now my fiancé. But it was a big question, “Do you think you can live in a different country?” I’m very friendly with [rail service] Eurostar now because I see them every weekend. It’s part of the price of my life, because it costs a lot to move to another country every weekend. I was excited to start something new, because that kind of proposition only happens once in your life. So it was hard, to leave everything behind, friends, family, but London is two and a half hours from Paris. So it was not that bad. If I had to work in Marseilles which is in the south of France, it’s longer than going to London. So I said, “Let’s do it.” If I had to work in Tokyo, for example, which I’d really love… it’s too far. It’s almost like saying “No” to friends and family forever. Seeing them once a year? That’s not possible.
CGM: What was the initial experience like coming to Media Molecule with no industry experience?
CV: I think it’s like you’ve fallen in love. You’re in the clouds and everything is blue and pink—if you’re a girl—it’s really beautiful, everything is nice, and everyone is happy, even if it’s raining in London, you don’t care. It’s still a dream. I’m still in a dream. It’s the dream job, I have to say, because… y’know, advertising is cool, but now… everyday, I turn on my PS3 and my goal of the day is to make people have fun. Do you know anything better than that? I don’t have to lie, I don’t have to make a game to kill people, I just make people run and jump and play together and have fun. That’s the perfect job.
CGM: Sounds like more honest work.
CV: Yep, it is. I have to say advertising has some real pros… and cons. But come on, yeah! You have one life.
CGM: How did you transition into the work at the studio? Was there training?
CV: There was no real training. I was already an LBP creator, so I knew all the tools. But when I came I still had a six month “test.” Because I could be a good level designer, but maybe I could be a really bad colleague, really ugly, really critical, not so sociable. It could be a bad experience for them and for me, so I had the test. It was six months, and I had to work with the LBP1 level designers and make new things for LBP2. But my test was the DLC pack for Pirates of the Caribbean.
CGM: Oh, you did that?
CV: Well, not just me, we all did motifs, but it was playing with water, which was brand new for LBP, so it was really like, “Show us some fresh stuff. Make us really proud. Make it really fun and impressive.” It was a bit stressful in one way, but in another way it was… how fun is it? Is that good? No? Try something else. Is that good? Yeah, I’ll keep that. I’ll try something else, boom, boom, boom, boom. And at the end of the week you have some really cool levels with nice motifs, and then we all mix the motifs together to make a story, and then the artists and the sound guy get in and that makes something awesome in the end. So it’s really team work. That’s brilliant.
CGM: So where do you go from here?
CV: Um… This is my first game, I got a 10 out of 10 on a review. Come on… [laughs]. I’m really proud. The team is excellent, they’re exceptional. And every part of the team is here for a reason, we’re all talented. I think that’s part of the beauty of Media Molecule, they trust me enough to say “You’re talented, you can join us, but we’re all talented.” So there’s a competition.