About eight months since it was first announced, we have finally completed LBP Reconnected, a contest aimed at celebrating the return of the official LittleBigPlanet online servers. Although the contest wound up being bittersweet due to the permanent shutdown of the LBP PS3 and Vita servers, the community presses on. In this article, we'll talk about the results of the LBP Reconnected contest and the amazing creators and creations that were part of the event.
LBP Reconnected: A Brief History
LBP Reconnected was first conceived for a few reasons. Firstly, some of us here at the LBP Union realized that there had not been a major community contest for LittleBigPlanet in several years. Originally it was hoped that a real prize crown would be able to be given for it, but the official LittleBigPlanet team yielded no response on Twitter.
The contest was announced on March 26th, 2021 with another motive: inspiring hope in the community. With the servers shut down, many people worried that it was the end for LBP's online features. However, pinning hope behind the contest was a great way to motivate people to keep creating. Soon enough, many people had signed up for the contest with a fantastic lineup of creations.
However, LBP Reconnected had to be postponed due to extended server outages. These outages lasted all the way until this past September when it was revealed that the PS3 and Vita servers would be discontinued permanently.
However, this opened up a critical question for Reconnected: if the contest was meant to celebrate the return of the LittleBigPlanet servers, did it make sense to include levels from the titles that had been discontinued?
A Contest in Flux
Although there were several changes to what submissions would be accepted, ultimately all playable levels published with '#LBPReconnected' in the title were accepted so long as they had signed up in one of the two sign-up threads on our forum. There was a great deal of talent here that deserved to be recognized, even if those levels were not selected as the ultimate winner.
In addition, there were various other creative non-competitive creations like music and logic demonstrations that deserve recognition.
Results of LBP Reconnected
It's important to note that the purpose of LBP Reconnected was not rooted in competition but instead in celebration. LBP Reconnected was intended as an event with the objective of bringing people together in one of the darkest times for the LittleBigPlanet community. Although the contest recognizes a single winner, everyone who participated deserves great recognition. Thank you for signing up and for helping bring hope to our community!
We'll start first with the winner of the contest and then cover some highlights of the levels. Not all can be featured here but be sure to search up '#LBPReconnected' on LBP3 PS4 to find all of the great submissions for the contest!
The winner of LBP Reconnected is FK2P, now using the account Skeleton2797. Their submission for the contest was Deathray Guts, a fascinating isometric stealth platformer.
Deathray Guts by FK2P
Choosing the winner for Reconnected was a very challenging task. It came down to a margin of about three points (more on scoring later). Between the top contenders of the contest, Deathray Guts stood out as one of the most unique.
Deathray Guts opens in a very unorthodox fashion, the familiar audio compression of LittleBigPlanet's magic mouth recording feature greeting the player with seemingly nonsensical quotes from a text to speech engine and an imported image of a man's face. However, the level quickly transitions into a cyberpunk scaffolding high in the air, populated by deadly drones and ladders.
The level is set in a unique isometric camera angle which persists throughout. The design and theme seem reminiscent of Mirrors Edge and Metal Gear Solid. Indeed, FK2P confirms in their Reconnected sign-up post that the level was inspired by Metal Gear Solid 2.
The level offers a unique custom soundtrack as well with music sequenced by its creator. These sequencers are available as prizes in the level.
Deathray Guts is filled with all sorts of strange and odd quotes that can be activated by approaching hologram lights. These mysterious quotes seem nonsensical for the most part, perhaps being obscure references that might be worth exploring later with further research.
However, at the end of the level, the quotes become much more meaningful. The quotes begin to reference things that most long-time LittleBigPlanet players are familiar with, starting with Heart for Heart, clans, and eventually the #SaveLBP hashtag which is repeated over and over in the level's final moments.
Gravity Rush by TheRealEpicPro
This level was the truest to the level design of Sumo Digital and did so in spectacular fashion. In scoring, Gravity Rush placed second. It's a long, challenging, and fun level that pushes the console to the limit at times.
The level seems reminiscent of Trixel Creative's Return to Carnivalia and stays true to the official style of LittleBigPlanet. TheRealEpicPro clearly spent a great deal of time animating the characters, fitting each piece of the level together, and planning out the flow of the level itself.
Most importantly, TheRealEpicPro is very conscious of gameplay accessibility. They make sure to include natural tutorials for nearly every gameplay mechanic beyond basic gameplay controls. The level's design itself, placement of score bubbles, and more are all helpful guides in remembering how to use these mechanics while still providing sufficient challenge for veteran players.
This level unfortunately suffers some performance issues. Some of us would find ourselves stuck and frozen at certain points, particularly after dying, having to wait quite some time before respawning. However, for a patient player familiar with LBP3's spotty performance, the level is a ton of fun!
Gravity Rush's unique 'gravity zones' in conjunction with other gameplay features like attract o' gel, the blink ball, and other powerups feels like an encore for the LittleBigPlanet series as a whole. This is especially heartwarming when considering the recent server outages. Even if the servers go down, that won't stop us from celebrating LittleBigPlanet.
Wild Jungle Fumble
Placing third, Wild Jungle Fumble by ZuryKowski was made in LittleBigPlanet 1. Although it uses some story-mode items, it does so in a fairly unique fashion. An argument could be made that this is unoriginal, but how those items are used is a creative decision.
The characters used, such as the monkey in the beginning, are used in a way that's true to LittleBigPlanet 1's roots. It's important to remember where we came from to get to this point. The level is also very challenging in very creative ways. The level's first obstacle, a chasm of crocodiles, may throw veterans of the series for a loop in the best of ways.
It's entirely possible that this level would play much better if it was able to be played on LBP1, but unless ZuryKowski is willing to provide a level backup file or if the level was uploaded to a custom server like Project Lighthouse, it won't be possible to play on LBP1.
All of the levels that entered the contest are definitely worth playing. When you have a moment, definitely go on LBP3 PS4 and type in '#LBPReconnected' to find these levels, as a lot of love and hard work has been put into them. Some of the other top levels that didn't make the top three were House RPG, Freezinator, and Bubble Runner.
House RPG by DSTOMP1 is a hilarious parody of the common 'RPG' level that many have become familiar with but with an exciting twist. It's filled with easter eggs and jokes that gives it a great deal of replayability.
Freezinator by Di1egoYTomii was one of the most technically impressive levels submitted. Built in LBP2, the level is reminiscent of the Bunker from LBP1. It incorporates many elements from the DC Comics DLC Level Pack such as the wall jump ability which adds a great deal of dimension to its platforming. There is even a segment that feels very familiar to the notorious 'wheel' from the Bunker. The level link to the level's second part appears to be broken on LBP3 PS4, but this level's first part is definitely worth the play.
Bubble Runner by PhantomStrom was actually chosen as a Team Pick by the official LittleBigPlanet staff, congratulations! This game an endless runner with a fun variety of terrain and obstacles. The higher your score, the better your prize.
Some levels unfortunately were not able to be judged to the fullest ability due to some limitations, perhaps due to LBP3's sometimes buggy backwards compatibility with levels from previous titles. For example, Grabbing Gears by JotaxWarrior appears to be nearly unplayable in LBP3 PS4. This is absolutely not the fault of the creator but instead due to the unfortunate circumstances of the server shutdowns. However, we encourage you not to direct hate and blame toward Sumo Digital and Sony. The shutdown was necessary to protect the LittleBigPlanet community from further abuse of the servers.
How Was Reconnected Judged?
LBP Reconnected was a bit more challenging to judge and score than we anticipated. However, we decided on an anonymous poll with various categories. These were visual quality, effort, mechanics, fun, stability, character, uniqueness, and sound. The detailed results of the contest are shown below.
Keep in mind that this list only includes playable levels as these were the only ones that were considered as competitive for the contest. All other submissions such as objects, music, logic, etc are not listed here but we've recognized them later in this article.
Judges were asked to rank the level they played in each category from a rating between 1 and 5, with 5 being the best and 1 being the worst. This resulted in a very smooth distribution of scores that can be better visualized below,
The average of the scores given for each category was taken, resulting in the decimals you see throughout the table. For example, if the judges voted 3, 4, and 5 for visual quality, the average would be 4 and that would be the final result for that level's performance in that category.
You can see the detailed comparisons between each level in the slideshow below. You may have to click or tap into the gallery to see the full chart.
Margin of Error
This was not a perfect contest by any means, and we won't pretend that it was. This was the first competitive event that the Union has hosted since the LBP Union Swordfighting Tournament in 2016, and that event unfortunately failed due to so many of its participants dropping out. It's important that we acknowledge what may have gone wrong or what may have been inaccurate with these results.
Firstly, not all of the people who were asked to judge actually voted in the poll. Of the five asked to judge, only three voted. If the number of judges was larger, a more diverse distribution of opinions could have been gathered that may sway the vote and possibly reduce bias.
It's important to note that some of the contestants were team members with the LBP Union such as TheTrueEpicPro and JeremKingAZ who are both Pathfinders. This could have resulted in some bias and is important to consider in future events. Choosing some judges from the wider community and staying aware of these biases can help make judging fairer in future contests.
The levels entered into the contest were from various different games such as LBP1, 2, and 3. Games published in LBP3 have access to more powerful tools, resulting in more impressive levels. However, the effort and technical challenge of an LBP1 level might be greater than that of an LBP3 level. Regardless, it's important to recognize that we may have a bias for LBP3 levels when judging.
The results of this contest will help inform future contests. The more that we do, the better that they will become. If you are interested in helping lend your creative knowledge and judging future contests, consider becoming part of our Scribe team!
Other Notable Submissions
As a celebration of the return of the servers, the LBP Reconnected event also sought to feature other kinds of creations like objects, logic, and music.
Corleone20070611 created a gallery of levels in their level 'Special Costumes #5 Puyo Puyo'.
Rajeczki's 'Heighway's Dragon' is a clever logic creation that enables the player to spawn a dragon fractal in LittleBigPlanet 3.
ExcaliburGaming8 created a recreation of the alpha pod theme music from LBP3.
Alain-Bibi also created a song titled A Journey in Space.
For those who participated, thank you so much! This contest sought to reward and recognize those who put in the hardest work, but at its core this event was about much more than competition. LBP Reconnected is about celebrating what we have. The official LBP servers have been around for 13 years. For LBP3, they have been around for seven years.
Although we faced a dark moment this year with the attacks, the return for the servers for PS4 and the persistence of this community's creative spirit shows that this game is alive and will be around for years to come, even if the servers shut down again.
Be sure to give every level entered into the LBP Reconnected event a play on LBP3 PS4! Leave a Yay and a nice review to tell them what you liked and to support the creators. Let's keep the spirit of LBP alive by continuing to create and share our inspiration with others!
We would like to extend a special thanks to the following for their contributions to the LBP Reconnected contest,
Apollo: Created much of the early promotional material for the contest and suggested the contest's name.
Potatofarm: Designed the Reconnected Crown.
ShadowLeviathan: Helped import the Reconnected Crown image into LBP3.
And thank you to everyone who was a part of the Reconnected planning process and for providing input on the project. This was definitely not something any one person could have pulled off alone.
Thank you for reading, participating, and keeping up with the LBP Reconnected event! If you are interested in more events like this and would like to connect with other players and creators like you, consider joining our Discord server!