Project Lighthouse 2: The Next Generation of LittleBigPlanet Custom Servers

September 14th, 2021 was the first time the words ‘Project Lighthouse’ were mentioned to the public. We weren’t really sure what to expect during those early days, and certainly never anticipated that it would result in a thriving game server with nearly 10,000 sign ups and over 10,000 levels.

A lot has changed since then, and everyone involved has learned many hard lessons. It needs to be said: LBP Union has made mistakes throughout that time from the very beginning up to today. Project Lighthouse is far from perfect, not just in its functionality but in how it was planned and managed. That’s why now is the perfect time to start from scratch. A hard reset. This is our letter to the community about why we believe now is the time for Project Lighthouse 2, and we need your help to make it happen.

A Rope Hanging Down From the Sky

Apollo Venture and Michael Youngling stand at the railing of a ship at sea gazing out at the Beacon space elevator in the distance at sunset.

Stephen Fry narrates a famous line from the original LittleBigPlanet introduction, that ‘cerebrum-bilical cord’. In the LittleBigPlanet universe, it connects the minds of sleeping souls on Earth with the Imagisphere. All of those ideas travel up the cord into space, coming together to form LittleBigPlanet.

When the official servers shut off this year for PS4 2024 and in 2021 for PlayStation 3 and Vita, our connection with LittleBigPlanet — that cerebrum-bilical cord — was severed. We had to create our own way to the Imagisphere. That’s why Project Lighthouse is always represented by a space elevator.

There’s a lot of problems with how we came to realize that vision. It’s time to learn from those mistakes to fulfill that objective of an open and connected future for LittleBigPlanet.

What’s Wrong With Project Lighthouse?

There are a few glaring issues with Project Lighthouse that we need to solve:

  • Ease of setup: Project Lighthouse isn’t easy to set up and host. This process was gatekept by LBP Union. Anyone with some self-hosting experience should be able to host a LittleBigPlanet server.
  • Customization: at the moment, Project Lighthouse is monolithic and ruthless when it comes to customization. Trying to change something as simple as an icon on the webpage might force an angry popup to appear. That’s unacceptable.
  • Developer experience: the development culture that LBP Union has maintained over the past two years has not been friendly to developers. Much of the development has been done in secret group chats on Discord, meaning that community developers have no idea how to jump in and contribute or have any idea what’s going on.

Project Lighthouse is an incredible achievement, but it was experimental. For example, keeping Lighthouse’s development private and closed off was a result of us not understanding how dangerous custom servers were. We wanted to help protect the community. However, now that we know more, it’s time to put that behind us and move forward.

All put together, Project Lighthouse is simply too difficult to refactor. The software has improved over the years, but developers have hit a plateau that can’t be overcome without starting over.

Project Lighthouse 2: A Hard Reset

The premise of Project Lighthouse 2 is that we’ve made a lot of mistakes over the past few years and learned a lot. Project Lighthouse also isn’t the only custom server developed by the community during this time, with other examples like Huge Spaceship being experimented with. With all of these lessons in mind, we want to develop something new based on the lessons of all of these projects — a project that truly fulfills our objective for a free, open source, and accessible LittleBigPlanet custom server.

Project Lighthouse 2 would focus on the following goals:

  • User, developer, and host experience: a server that’s easy to set up, whether through Docker or by simply typing apt-get install lighthouse.
  • Centered in the community: Project Lighthouse 2 will not be gatekept by LBP Union, only maintained. All discussion and development will be free and open for anyone to see and participate in.
  • Setting the standard: our aim is for Project Lighthouse 2 to be interoperable with other custom server software by setting data format standards that make it easy for hosts to switch between servers. This may also help with future efforts to develop federation for LittleBigPlanet servers.


Back during private beta, a lot of people in LBP Union leadership, including myself, were afraid of Project Lighthouse. The LBP server attacks in 2021 had just happened, and we weren’t quite sure what people were capable of with the right tools. In those early days, we recommended that no one run Project Lighthouse in a public environment until it could be proven safe to use.

However, given that it was an open-source project, anyone could pick it up and host it if they knew what they were doing. Naturally, someone did. Fearing the disaster that might occur if the security wasn’t ready yet, we doubled down on efforts to dissuade hosts from running Project Lighthouse or modifying it. I don’t need to explain why that’s horrible for our vision for an open source project.

All we can do now is learn from our mistakes and move forward. So, what can we do to improve it? Here are some ideas:

  • Make Project Lighthouse easier to install. Adding it to apt-get in some fashion is a great start.
  • Better Docker images. Right now it’s not pleasant.
  • Greater customization support. If you’re running a LittleBigPlanet custom server, you should be able to make it your own.
  • Better documentation.
  • Open discussion. All development discussion needs to take place with transparency in mind.
  • Test-driven development.

Centered in the Community

The Beacon space elevator. A littlebigplanet mushroom tree stands on the right in the foreground, and just beneath the distant elevator is a coastline city.

Let me make one thing clear: Project Lighthouse 2 will not be owned or controlled by LBP Union. The only hand our organization will have in it is maintaining the code so that experienced developers can review pull requests, ensure code quality standards are met, and keep things organized. I want LBP Union to be a leading force in encouraging Project Lighthouse’s development, but it won’t be in control of the process at all.

For the longest time, there have been two places where development discussion for Lighthouse has taken place:

  1. The private ‘#lighthouse-dev’ channel on Discord.
  2. A private group chat between several developers.

Both of these are horrible places to discuss and plan development of an open source project. Development discussion needs to happen transparently and in a way that anyone can contribute to. The only way that Project Lighthouse 2 will succeed is if it isn’t developed in a silo.

Setting the Standard

Project Lighthouse 2 will aim to set universal standards, agreed upon by community developers, for core features and data formats. This will make it far easier for hosts to switch from one hosting software to another.

How Do I Help?

If you’re a community developer, you can jump into the discussion about Project Lighthouse 2 right now by heading to the new repository and discussion board. This is where the majority of the work will be laid out. We need to talk about and agree on a more concrete plan based on the principles and goals discussed above.

Prefer Discord? We have a brand new Research and Development category on our Discord server where you can discuss development of not just Project Lighthouse 2, but any community programming project. This category will always be public and will let you see feeds of pull requests from our repositories.

If you’re not a programmer, do us a favor and help spread the word about Project Lighthouse 2 by sharing this article. There’s a tremendous amount of talent in the LittleBigPlanet community. Spreading the word is the best way to reach that talent and bring it to a project like this so that we can succeed in bringing about a safer and more innovative next generation of custom servers for the franchise.