Meet John Beech, level designer on Media Molecule's hugely anticipated LittleBigPlanet 2. How he got his dream job is unlike anything you've heard before in the world of videogames.
Media Molecule knows extraordinary talent when it sees it, and there is no greater example of that than John Beech. John - a level designer on LittleBigPlanet 2 - was up until a year ago a self-employed builder before being plucked from the ranks of the LittleBigPlanet online community and brought in-house to create levels for the hugely anticipated sequel as a full-time employee.
It's an incredible story of success that PlayStation.com had the privilege of discovering at a recent LittleBigPlanet 2 community event in Media Molecule's colourful and kooky new offices in the heart of Guildford, England.
Huddled away in his bedroom - sometimes until the early hours with a blanket slung over his head and TV to trap the light and keep his girlfriend from waking up in the middle of the night - John began conjuring his now famous LittleBigPlanet level, Future Warzone, over the course of three weeks while enrolling his friends and co-workers as testers to provide feedback.
"I pretty much press-ganged them into play testing my levels at lunchtime and I'd then come back and listen to what they thought worked and what didn't," explains John. Three weeks on and plenty of lunchtime play tests later, John's contribution was revealed to the thriving LittleBigPlanet fan base.
Within just a few days it rocketed through the ranks of player favourites before eventually settling on the number one spot. It's no surprise; Future Warzone is a fun-filled, frantically paced level that tests the might of even the finest LittleBigPlanet players with its huge explosions and warships, while throwing lots of obstacles and puzzles in their way.
So what inspired John to sit down and dedicate so much of his precious down time? "I just remember looking at all the other levels on the community and thinking 'I can do better than that', not because I thought I was better than everybody else, but because I just knew that the envelope could be pushed. If you believe you can do it, you can."
What happened next would set John on a course to achieving his lifelong dream: becoming a games designer. "Everybody was leaving loads of positive comments saying 'You should work for Media Molecule!' but I never really considered it even though it's been my dream to be in the computer games industry my whole life," he tells us. "Then one day, after a particularly bad day at work - a trench caved in on me and I was very, very lucky not to die; so much so, the paramedics still don't know how I got out alive - I saw all these comments and just thought to myself 'You know what? I'm going to try and get a job at Media Molecule!' I went onto their website and they were advertising for a level designer so I just sent them an email saying 'I'd love to work with you' but got no reply, so started to think that they had got someone else."
Not so, because less than a month later after rallying all his PlayStation Network friends together to post comments on the LittleBigPlanet community forums to help him get a job, an email surfaced inside John's inbox from Media Molecule asking him to come to the offices the very next day. What John didn't know was that in the midst of all this, another level designer inside the walls of Media Molecule had already tried to get in contact to offer him a position with the team.
"He had previously tried to email me through my SEN account asking me if I wanted a job but I never got it, so while I was trying to get the job they were trying to get me and somehow we'd missed each other's messages. So it was really, really lucky that they picked up on it in the end," explains John.
Life with Sackboy and friends
The next day, with his PlayStation 3 tucked inside his rucksack, John travelled the four hours to Guildford from his hometown in Devon to meet Alex Evans, Mark Healey and Kareem Ettouney and demo the levels he'd worked so hard to build and perfect over the previous months. "They set my PlayStation 3 up for me and I started showing my first level before Kareem stopped and said 'Wait there a second'. He then called half the company into the meeting room and told me to carry on so I did, and at the end of it, I got a huge standing ovation."
Moments later Mark offered John the job and, just like that, his career and life was about to take on an incredible new direction thanks to a little help from his PSN friends and Sackboy. "I was just shell-shocked, and when I left I ended up walking around Guildford for an hour." Three weeks later, John said goodbye to the building trade and started building virtual worlds at Media Molecule, and he has never looked back since, making plenty of new friends along the way too.
"This is always what I've wanted to do. From about the age of seven, when I had an Amiga, my dream job was to become a graphic designer or a computer animator in a games company. As I got older I could almost see that dream slipping away, and then suddenly I land in this," says John of life at Media Molecule. "It's the best job I could ever get."
So, keep playing, creating and sharing LittleBigPlanet fans because you never know, maybe one day you too could find yourself in Media Molecule's offices showing off your creations to Alex, and Mark and John Beech in the hope of working with Sackboy and friends.