A few weeks ago, a 4-day event known as EGX London (formerly Eurogamer Expo) took place in Earls Court Exhibition Centre, London. EGX is the biggest games show in the UK and LittleBigPlanet games had been featured there in a few previous shows. LittleBigPlanet 3 was there this year and so were me and Moleynator. Moley was there for all four days but I was only around for the weekend. I was pretty exhausted just after my two days so I can’t imagine what it must have been like for those who did the whole show! I travelled to London on the Friday evening and met up with Moley to prepare for an LBP-filled weekend.
On Saturday morning we headed to Earls Court and got inside early without queueing – Moley had an exhibitor wristband and managed to get me one too – and met up with Sarah Wellock (Sony Xdev community manager) and Steven Isbell (LBP community manager) who were both as nice and friendly as they are online. Steven almost immediately handed me a very cool Delsin Rowe sackboy keyring (Moley didn’t get one of those even after his fourth day at the expo), and Sarah gave us some Destiny t-shirts after telling us she had asked for five shirts, and was apparently getting five boxes of shirts instead. So it was looking good on the swag front already.
There were several PS4s set up in the LBP3 section of the PlayStation area so I grabbed my chance while the place was still empty to have a go at one of the story levels that were available – the pinball-themed Oddsock level that has been shown in trailers and gameplay videos before. It was my first time playing LBP3 on a PS4, and in fact was my first time playing on a PS4 at all. I also got acquainted with Sackboy who was hanging out next to the row of TVs and got myself one of those fancy custom LBP3 covers.
After a while the doors opened and people started flooding into Earls Court. We weren’t around for long before we left to start setting up the venue for the LBP community meetup which would be happening down the road at the Troubadour cafe but we had enough time to bump into Shropshirelass who already knew the others and guessed who I was, and assured us she would be joining us at the meetup later on.
We made our way down to the Troubadour – me, Moley, Steven, Sarah and two guys who were filming for the LBP youtube channel (to create the video at the top of this post!). We were initially herded into a very small room, most of which was taken up by tables and would have been ideal if we were having a sit-down meal instead of a 4 hour gaming session. After deciding that we could probably do with a bit more space we were invited to use the private bar area downstairs which was plenty big enough and, best of all, had a projector for us to play LBP3 on a massive screen.
It wasn’t quite that simple though, we spent quite a while searching for HDMI ports on both the projector and the TV that was in the room and then dashing back and forth between Earls Court and the Troubadour trying to find various adaptors and cables that we could use to connect the PS4 to something. Eventually one of the guys working behind the scenes for PlayStation sorted us out with some fancy equipment and there was a cheer when we saw the PS4 logo slowly start to appear on the projector screen.
By this point a few more people had joined us and we were ready to get cracking with some LBP3 so we loaded up the beta and played through some community levels. We had a lot of fun and even had a couple of little high score competitions. Everyone had a go at rialrees’s fantastic Toggle survival level, Burn Box, which is reminiscent of Hole in the Wall and involves controlling one Toggle with each analogue stick. I actually managed to get the highest score on my first go, until QuietlyWrong and Nuclearfish came up with a cunning plan of teaming up by sharing the controller and taking control of one Toggle each. After our initial shock at this blatant cheating we realised it was quite a clever idea and later on Sarah and Steven introduced this technique on stage as the basis for a competition for pairs of contestants.
While all of this was going on, people kept bringing us food and the youtube guys interviewed a few people about LBP and the community. The interviews were mostly happening while I was playing so I’ll apologise for any embarrassing gameplay fails that may appear in the background of some of them. More cool swag was distributed including some awesome official sackboy zip phone cases and some of Media Molecule even dropped by to say hello. Everyone was quite entertained by how similar Spaff looked to one of the youtube guys.
After a few hours of playing LBP and eating chips and just generally hanging out the time came to pack up and head back to the expo. It was a great afternoon, it was a lot of fun to meet and play LBP with people from the community – both people I had spoken to before and some that I hadn’t – including people who actually work on the game. Having said that, I don’t think Sarah was too impressed when I showed her a certain level starring a certain key-shaped character.
Once we were back at base, Steven and Sarah took to the stage with Hollie Bennett from PlayStation Access and showed off a few beta levels and hosted the Burn Box competition that I mentioned. It was quite cool to see Rocket Twinkie being played on stage too, knowing that the high score shown in the corner under Steven’s name was the one I had set at the meetup earlier. I was kind of hoping that Steven would make it to 500 points in order to see Mr. Key appear at the end but Sarah and Hollie pressured him into giving up before then because he was doing so well and spending so long on it.
The LBP3 stations were pretty busy that afternoon. Most of them were set up for 1-2 player story levels but a couple of them had the 4 player demo that was shown in the LBP3 reveal at E3 and this one proved a bit more confusing for people who weren’t familiar with the game. This meant we spent quite a while helping people out and joining in when there weren’t enough players.
This carried on into Sunday too. By lunchtime I had played that 4 player level several times with loads of different people. It was great to see so many people enjoying the game, families and groups of friends, old and new players. Everyone got the hang of how all the characters worked very quickly even if they had never played a LittleBigPlanet game before and the cutscene at the end of the level showing Toggle realising he’s too big for the rocket to take off always brought a smile to the players’ faces.
I wasn’t wearing one of those fancy LBP3 shirts but I did have my exhibitor wristband and my PlayStation water bottles and most people seemed to think I was an official member of Team LBP. Moley told me he had been getting people asking him about the game but it was still weird for it to happen to me, at my first expo! Even the PlayStation staff were asking me to help explain the game to players and join in when there was a spare controller, and one of them referred to me as “one of us”. There was one guy who guarded the entrance to the PS Plus area, where the exclusive PlayStation water was stashed, who told me that I needed to queue up to get in before he heard that I was helping out with LittleBigPlanet, at which point he was incredibly apologetic and seemed like he would have just handed me an entire barrel of water bottles.
Steven and Sarah went on stage for the last time on Sunday and they were relieved to be done with the show after 4 days of hard work, although the LBP3 area was still buzzing with activity afterwards. The crowds around the TVs seemed bigger than ever and there was always someone taking a selfie with Sackboy. At one point one of the team taking care of the custom LBP3 covers came over to excitedly tell us about a particularly creative cover that someone had done which I hope we will hear more about after the game is out.
While we spent a lot of time hanging around the LBP corner of EGX, we still had a look at a few other games (without ever queueing!). I played Driveclub and The Order: 1886 which were both very cool. I also briefly played some games on PCs hooked up to fancy headphones but I have no idea what they were. Moley and I performed a couple of pretty spectacular duets (Call Me Maybe and Barbie Girl) on Singstar and the two of us and Steven went upstairs to check out the Tearaway Unfolded developer session (although we never found the room where it was actually happening and watched it on a big screen somewhere else). Before leaving on Sunday, Moley and I discovered some unbelievably comfortable furniture in the press area which we were apparently allowed in.
We had plenty of adventures outside of EGX too, including a lot of chicken consumption and an incident where we somehow managed to leave our hotel key in the other side of the door all night. I don’t know what Mr. Key would say to that. It was a good weekend and awesome to finally meet people from the LBP community after playing for nearly 6 years. I’ll try not to leave it another 6 years before the next time I get involved with something like this!