Making of the Reconnected Crown: Behind the Scenes

During the first LBP Reconnected Contest of 2021, an exclusive Reconnected Crown sticker was given to the winner of the contest. This year, for Reconnected 2, we made the crown a reality as a wearable costume. Let’s talk about how the crown was made, featuring the people who made it all possible: potato farm, Slipsy, and Skylerdagirl!

Origin of the Reconnected Crown

While the first LBP Reconnected was being planned in 2021, we at LBP Union wanted to find a suitable prize for the event. Since Reconnected reflected the importance of the LBP server shutdown crisis, we first attempted to reach out to Steven Isbell, LittleBigPlanet’s official community manager, for a rare prize crown code for Reconnected.

However, Steven never responded. As a result, we decided to pursue a different prize by making our own crown as an imported sticker in LBP3 PS4.

potato farm: Designer of the Crown

The Reconnected Crown was first designed by potato farm, Lead Protector m88youngling’s roommate. Here’s her account of the designing of the crown:

Hi, I’m potato farm! I created the spooky sticker pack for one Halloween and a Valentine’s heart pack for Valentine’s Day. I’ve done season themed discord icon gifs for the server, retouching and designing (but not making) of some of the article thumbnails for the website, designed the Beacon Patch for Discord, and numerous other little things for this community. Outside of LBP, I freelance as a professional photographer and do art commissions, the most notable being the 2021 Kakpol week graphics and logo on Twitter.

The original black and white sketch of the crown.

The idea was to celebrate the technology around it, with the main pivot point of the crown being the PlayStation Move controller, the LED strip around the base, the microphone center, and the wires connecting the entire thing together.

The original form of the Reconnected Crown with a crafting table in the background

The first version of the crown was, admittedly, very ugly, but really showed how well the idea could look. One of the other things we had to consider the first time around was the amount of colors we were using in the design, because the TL;DR of that is LBP file sizes need to be very small in order to work.

One of the main things that was originally changed was how many wire colors there were. Limiting that made it work better and look better, which are both things I strive for in my personal and professional lives.

Green concept art for the Reconnected crown.

The most challenging part was the lack of direction or feedback I was given. I was not given any direction from Michael. He basically said “just figure it out” and only gave praise, to even the ugliest of things. As anyone that does commissions knows that feedback and direction is key to giving people what they would like. Michael liked everything, so the biggest critic of the work was myself, and that’s a hard place to put yourself in.

The other challenging thing was actually getting the design into the game and working as a sticker. That sucked. 0/10 do not recommend.

I never thought the crown design would ever make it this far. I thought that it would be a one off thing, forgotten in time. But she’s been brought back and given new life. I think I cried a little when I saw the 3D model for the first time. You never really know where your work will go and how your work will affect people, so just keep on creating. It’ll be fun!

The final concept art for the Reconnected Crown has blue and green tones.

Slipsy: 3D Modeling the Crown

Hey! I’m Slipsy! I’m just a hobbyist artist who likes to dabble. 3D modelling can be quite hard to pick up, but once you’ve got to grips with the basics, it can be incredibly fun to do, not to mention really useful sometimes! It’s like LittleBigPlanet’s create mode without the layers. And if you have a 3D printer, you can turn your creations into real, physical objects!

The first step to creating the Reconnected Crown was to gather references! I already had the crown design thanks to potato farm, and I also looked at costume pieces from LittleBigPlanet, to get a good idea of the style I needed to go for. I also looked at images of light strips, microphones and the Move controller to help while modelling!

A process image of Slipsy's Reconnected Crown. There are three crowns. The far left has 47420 polygons. The center and rightmost crowns have 1436 polygons, while the farthest to the right has a normal map.

Next, I modelled a high-detail model of the crown using Blender. This model came to around 47,000 polygons (for context, Sackboy is about 3,300 polygons!) but it was important to make a high detail model as this would allow me to “bake” details down later, making the model look more detailed than it really is, and thus easier for the game to handle.

From there, I could work on making a lower detail model that would be used in game! This meant removing any small details that wouldn’t be seen from a distance, and turning the high detail model into a “normal map”, which tells the game how to draw extra details onto the model! This is how the raised lights and bunched up wires look so 3D, even though they’re actually flat! This lower detail model came to just 1,400 polygons, much more reasonable for the game to handle.

Finally, I could draw on some extra touches like the gold pins and holes on the extension cord, silver screws and metal borders on the LEDs, and I was finished! I then passed the model over to Skyler who worked her magic to bring us the Reconnected Crown in game!

I think the most difficult part of the process was making the bunched wires. The high detail model used individually modelled wires, which looked great, but took up a LOT of polygons. Trying to bring those down to a reasonable level of detail was rough, as I had to make a lot of compromises. Eventually, I settled on joining all the wires into one big bunch, with one “accent” wire sticking out, to sell the illusion of separated wires! The final effect looks very convincing, but it wasn’t without trial and error!

LittleBigPlanet was my entire childhood, so seeing this community so passionate about it makes me unbelievably happy. I’m so glad I got to contribute to this amazing project, and I can’t wait to see what incredible things everyone makes for Reconnected 2!

SkylerdaGirl: Importing the Crown

Hi, I’m Skyler! I’m an R&D technician specializing in mods for LBP Union and owner of the LittleBigBeyond Discord server. At LBB we release mod kits that are kind of like our own DLC packs. My most ambitious project was the Morbius level kit (yes, it’s real, and you can download it on our server!) which took me six months to make!

The process to import the crown was pretty simple. Slipsy and I went back and forth on how to go about certain things, like polycount. When Slipsy finished, it was my turn to put things into motion. All the tools I ended up using for this was Blender for the 3D stuff like rigging and rendering, Workbench for the importing, (which is a command-line based LittleBigPlanet modding tool for importing custom models, stickers, and more to LittleBigPlanet as items for usage in game), and Toolkit to edit the item for compatibility. Toolkit is another LittleBigPlanet modding tool with a more friendly visual interface.

For the final version of the crown, I made a few changes for compatibility. I first separated the parts I wanted to be plasticy, metallic, and glowing into three separate materials. Then, I used a Sackboy model to position the crown so that it would look good on his head.

Once I was satisfied with how it looked, I removed the Sackboy model, but kept his skeleton. I then assigned the crown to be on his head vertex group so that the crown would move with the head. After that, I exported the rigged crown as a glb file. Back in the blend file, I made a quick render that would display as the item icon in the user’s popit.

Now it was finally time to turn it into an actual item! Using Workbench I was able to compile the item, but I wasn’t done yet. Toolkit was able to help me add extra effects. The next step was to apply a gmat texture file to the wires that would support the popit color. After double checking to make sure the dependencies were correct, that was it! The crown was finished!

The most challenging part was making sure everything looked the way I wanted. To be more specific, I had to find the specific texture files that supported the effects I was going for. The final crown used a diffuse texture, a bumpmap, and a specular. That required a lot of digging to find textures that supported those things.

I’m very happy to have had this opportunity to work in tandem with the LBP Union and a project as cool as this. It’s a genuinely fun ride seeing everything come together. I hope to work on more things like this in the future!

There’s Still Time to Win!

Thanks to the efforts of potato farm, Slipsy, and Skylerdagirl, the Reconnected Crown is now a reality. There’s still time to win! Check out the updated contest details to see the new deadline and runner up prizes that are available. We can’t wait to see what you have in the works!