LittleBigPlanet 2 will be the first game to implement the so called “Cross-Controller” functionality, which allows to interact with the PlayStation 3 using the PlayStation Vita. Here is how it works, and why you should be excited.
Developed by Sumo Digital in collaboration with Media Molecule, an upcoming DLC for LittleBigPlanet 2 will allow PS3 owners who happen to have a PSV to use the latter as a controller for the former. This functionality is completely unrelated to the upcoming PS Vita installment of LittleBigPlanet being developed by Tarsier Studios. You won’t need it (albeit you might want to get it regardless because it’s awesome).
Along with a dedicated Story Mode and a new assortment of materials, stickers, costumes and objects, the DLC will provide the tools to create LBP2 levels that make use of most of the PS Vita input (and output) methods. That is, you’ll be able to use the front and rear touchpads as well as the motion sensing capabilities of Sony’s new portable device to interact with the LBP2 levels being displayed on the big screen. The PS Vita screen itself will also act as a secondary display, providing a dedicated viewpoint over the action along with the opportunity to enjoy multiplayer “asynchronous gameplay” applications (more on this later).
Those who will purchase the DLC will be able to create levels which make use of the Cross-Controller functionality, and share them with the whole LBP2 community, which will then again be able to play them even if they didn’t purchase the DLC. A free software update will take care of it.
So, how does it work? Let’s begin with the technicalities.
First of all, communication between the PS3 and the PS Vita will occur through WiFi rather than Bluetooth. It’s still unclear how exactly the two system will talk with each other, but it has been confirmed that those using WiFi to connect their PS3s to the internet will be able to stay connected whilst using this functionality. No need to switch to Ethernet connection.
The Cross-Controller functionality is not based on video streaming. This is completely different from Remote Play (and from the Wii U controller tech) since only input data will be sent across the WiFi connection. Visuals displayed on the PS Vita will be generated internally by the Vita itself. As a matter of fact, there will be a dedicated client running on the Vita which is basically a pocket-size version of LBP2. How this client will be transferred to the Vita is still unclear. What’s clear tho is that it will not come with a dedicated Story mode but will include its own Create mode, with tools and materials necessary for creating interfaces or gameplay mechanics on the Vita to be tied to the main level running on the PS3.
What this means is that you can either use the Vita as an enhanced PS3 controller, exploiting its functionalities and display in PS3 levels (you can, for example, grab and move blocks rendered on the main screen by touching the Vita display or simply use the latter to provide a mini-map or radar), or you can use the Vita to play a completely different game which is nevertheless tied to the PS3 one. This is what “asynchronous gameplay” is all about, and you can see it in action in the video below (courtesy of Joystiq).
All of the above also applies online. So, in the case of a multiplayer level using asynchronous gameplay, one player can play the “PS3 side” of that level with a DualShock 3, while another one at the other end of the connection can play the “Vita side” of the very same level. Imagine for example a platform game were the PS3 guy has to reach the end of a level while the Vita guy tries to hinder or assist his progress moving platforms around or activating mechanisms via the touch/tilt controls at his disposal.
Now you might be wondering about the PlayStation Move. Will it be possible to use the PlayStation Move while this Cross-Controller functionality is in progress? Well, I’m happy to report that the answer is yes. Actually, you’ll be able to use any controller combination, either in singleplayer or in multiplayer games. According to the official press release, up to 4 PS3 players plus 1 PS Vita player can simultaneously participate to the same game.
In theory, you should also be able to use the PS Vita as an “enhanced Navigation controller” in conjunction with the PlayStation Move. I don’t have an official confirmation about this yet (will update if I get one), but I see no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do so. Imagine the possibilities of combining motion controls provided by both devices along with a touch-based interface. Mind-blowing, I know.
The LBP2 Cross-Controller DLC is expected to release through the PlayStation Store in November this year (around the Wii U launch, I suppose :P).