Hello! I'm Rex Crowle, I'm an artist / game designer / doodler at Media Molecule. We're most famous for making LittleBigPlanet on PS3, but two weeks ago we released our new game Tearaway for PS Vita, on which I was the lead creator.

I'm joined by Media Molecule community manager James Spafford (Spaff)

Proof be here: Rex Twitter and Spaff Twitter

Ask me (us) anything!

Edit: I'm all typed-out now! Thanks so much for the questions, sorry we couldn't answer them all. But that thanks for all the interest and support. Bye for now!!

Comments: 120 • Responses: 15  • Date: 

phazonmaster21 karma

I've been playing Tearaway for the past few days, and it's absolutely brilliant. What I find to be the best feature, however, is just how the game forces players to be creative, and people, like me, who think they have no creativity suddenly find themselves with the ability to create.

Now creativity was definitely a cornerstone of LittleBigPlanet's design, but the level creation tools could be a little daunting. Was Tearaway built with the specific goal of making sure all players got to experience their own creativity, or did it just come about through the development process?

Rexcrowle19 karma

It's natural for us, as a studio, to show a little more of how we make our games. I think that's more interesting and inspirational than seeing something so shiny and polished that you're not sure how to interact with it.

The crafting element of Tearaway formed organically, mainly from us enjoying making a world out of paper (most of our concept art is made out of paper, instead of drawn on paper!), and various ways of allowing the player to add to that world slowly appeared. Nathan Ruck, a programmer on the team really wanted to allow players to customise characters with paper and worked on implementing that system. I was keen we didn't dilute it, and kept it purely to cut-and-paste so that it was pure and had its own distinctive look, so we've ended up with a character customisation system where players are making stuff that blows our minds, all purely out of paper, scissors and glue.

But it was really important to us that this was all quick and easy to do, and integrated with the storyline, so without really thinking about it, you were making squirrels into royalty by making them crowns, or turn Elks into the colour of your carpet at home!

TheExile28521 karma

Will there be any type of DLC or added content in the future?

Rexcrowle17 karma

We don't really know at this stage, its really interesting and inspiring to see what players are sharing on Tearaway.me and helps us think about what the future could bring, but at the moment we're having a little break to recharge first.

demondownload14 karma

Considering Tearaway used every single bit of the machine's functionality, were there any parts of the Vita that you found especially difficult to integrate with the gameplay, or that meant you had to rethink the game mechanics of a section?

Rexcrowle28 karma

Creating the fantasy of seeing your fingers tearing up through the game world when you pressed the back touch was tricky. It took a lot of iteration to get it feeling right, but thanks to Dave (Mm tech director) and his belief in the concept, he was able to prove it could work and spent a lot of time getting to feel just right.

But it needed to be integrated into a platform game! How do you make it feel powerful but not so powerful that you just destroy the world with the first press? Our design team really came through - John, Christophe, Swann, Dan were able to treat it as a really interesting special-power to remix and toy with the environments they were designing, to give it lots of tactile physicality, and art and audio teams were able to play up the comedy value of suddenly seeing giant fleshy fingers erupting into a world made of paper, and how the inhabitants of that world would react.

We then faced new challenges with how to communicate that this was an interaction that the player was actually able to do. Normally you can throw a button prompt in to guide people, but how do you tell someone to do something outside of the game? One of the things that really helped at this stage was when engine programmer Mark and tech artist Stefan produced a new shader for the game, which looked just like transulcent paper. It made sense, you could see through it, and that started to help players "get" what they needed to do. Poke it!

So yes, giant fingers ripping up through a paper world, hard to do, but a fun weird result!

kcmyoung10 karma

I still don't believe it's you - can you draw a picture of Spaff riding a pig whilst chasing Rex as evidence, plz?

Rexcrowle15 karma

pens are at the ready!

comphermc9 karma

Great little game you guys made, there. The papery atmosphere was fantastic, which leads me to...

  1. Who first had the idea of making a world out of paper?
  2. What was the hardest part about designing levels/art using only paper-related stuffs?
  3. Who at Media Molecule is the best paper-crafter?

Bonus Question:
Which is your favorite Swedish-based studio that supported you guys on the LittleBigPlanet franchise? I definitely have no such affiliation with said studio in any way, shape, or form. At all.

Rexcrowle9 karma

1 - I think it was me. I definitely wanted to make something super tactile and paper soon became the best way to achieve that.

2 - Getting the movement of paper, because without the movement it just didn't look right, and didn't effect gameplay that much. But with a lot of effort from Mark, our engine programmer, and the art team we started to bring it to life in a more magical way. And that instantly meant GAMEPLAY! because the world could react more like a pop-up book. Changing and unfolding in surprising ways. And the designers ran amok with it from that point.

3 - Tom Kiss. He uses scalpels and rulers and is very professional. I just usually rip paper up and chew bits off it.

Bonus - I guess that would be Dice oh Tarsier! <3

wolfflame218 karma

What are you doing post Tearaway? Long naps? New stuff to do?

Rexcrowle17 karma

Lots of sleep. Avoiding paper. Playing PS4 :)

TupperyNumnak8 karma

Will we see this IP expand to PS4 or stay exclusive to Vita in the future?

Rexcrowle9 karma

We love seeing how people are prodding and poking and adding their own personalities to our game (and their faces!). We want to do more with it, but we just have to work out what that is! Same goes for DLC really...

Mnniska6 karma

Hello! Let me start by saying that I'm a huge fan of Rex's work. I've been ridicolously inspired by your stuff and after five years of LBP my style have molded into some sort of kid verision of yours. It's weird and I love it. Also, hi Spaff! <3 Questions..

How do you guys decide what to make? From the outside it looks like Sony isn't really making you create anything in particular which should allow for some nice creativity. But when you're out of limitations, how do you decide what to do? In a way it seems like you put limits on yourself by making everything paper in Tearaway, which in turn allowed for some wonderfully wacky ideas to bloom.

I loved the connection between the player and Atoi/Iota in Tearaway. What idea came first, the paper or the 4th wall breaking? Were you set on creating this connection between player and character, and then discovered that paper would fit nicely, or was paper there from the beginning, with the idea of connecting player and character coming later?

Last question; what are you guys doing next? Here's hoping you're somehow going to follow up on the clay simulator showed on E3 :D

Rexcrowle9 karma

Thanks so much! Show me your artwork!

We are very lucky with Sony, they support us very well, and give us interesting hardware to play with. With PS3 the new features of online, six-axis etc inspired LBP, and when we were first handed a Vita, well we just got all giddy and excited about what we could do with a shiny box covered in cameras and microphones and touchscreens etc

Paper and 4th-wall-breaking came at the same time - because the initial idea I had was wanting to poke my fingers up through the Vita so you could see your fingers, and that would obviously make a hole, and then it was a question of what you'd see through that hole, and the only real answer to that was the real-world!

There was a period afterwards where the game started to get a bit more conventional, so we had a gamejam and thought more about this 4th-wall-breaking aspect, and how we could expand on it, and thats when the idea of the whole world being in your hands, that YOU are holding the Vita. And that really unlocked lots of ideas in our brains about new experiments.

What's next? Well. Oh no.... I'm running out of time to tell you ;)

paulg20005 karma

Hi! Congrats for making yet another amazing (and well-received) game :-)

At any point do you think of a creative idea and end up rejecting it, not out of technical limitations, but because it's too far from mainstream? I suspect other studios often do this (I wish they didn't) and I'm glad Mm doesn't seem to act this way.

Rexcrowle15 karma

Yes. Sort of. We have a very game jam like style of working together, and almost try and out do each other for trying out bizarre prototypes and concepts. Lots of which are fun to talk about, merely see existing, or laugh at, but aren't really actually things that you would want to play in a game, often because they break so easily.

For example Omar Cornut, gameplay programmer on Tearaway, used facial recognition via the Vita's camera to only unlock some doors if You (the player) were wearing a beard or glasses (and also making the game crash when the lead programmer looked at the game at any time!).

QA problems with lighting conditions and other boring beard analysis things made us drop that feature, and plus it just wasn't actually that good gameplay wise, there was no gameplay involved other than drawing a beard on with a sharpie if you didn't have one!

UnparalleledGenius3 karma

What do you doodle the most?

Rexcrowle7 karma

SKULLS. Mainly happy ones.

Here's some I did that someone got tattooed on themselves: http://instagram.com/p/ZxYTLcxMKa/

joea624843 karma

I haven't had a chance to purchase Tearaway yet due to lack of funds, but I have to say this game looks incredible and I cant wait to get it. I don't have a question but just wanted to thank you and the rest of Media Molecule for making such awesome and creative games!

Rexcrowle3 karma

Thanks so much!

gene_parmesan2582 karma

How different has it been working at Media Molecule compared to your time at Lionhead?

(I find the history of both studios fascinating as I'm a massive, massive fan of Bullfrog Productions)

By the way, excellent work on Tearaway, it's a fantastic title and easily my favourite game on Vita so far (matched only by LittleBigPlanet, rather ironically).

Rexcrowle2 karma

I think the similarities are in that projects from both studios have started as sandboxes, spaces to play in and enjoy seeing how one element effects another. The difference was that, at the time I was at Lionhead, AI was the big thing (I still think it has lots of potential, but it needs a lot of time to develop) and at Mm we've taken a different road and concentrated more on what we can make ourselves as creative people, and how we can allow players to get creative themselves, either by building their own levels and games, or being inspired to tweak and add to our story in Tearaway. And thats not something that AI can really do.

kdsh71 karma

Has anyone been able to surprise you with their creations yet? And what have been your favourites?

I personally couldn't believe how much freedom you gave players with the ability to cut up all that virtual paper!

(I've been showing off my picture of me riding that pig to anyone who will look)

Rexcrowle2 karma

Definitely, so many players have surprised us! We set the limitation with the customisation-system of allowing you to do what was possible with a few sheets of paper and a pair of slightly-blunt craft-scissors, so that it always kept the Tearaway look.

But its like some players are sharpening those scissors with lazers, because what they are making it waaaaay more detailed than we thought possible. Every day we are sending emails around the company to share the latest customisation designs we've seen appear on Tearaway.me!

TechBromancer1 karma

Thank you so much for this game, I love it, this is one of the perfect examples of what games on the Vita should be like!

A few questions: were the "you"s part of the story initially? Was there ever a series of boss battles, just a general Big Bad, or was the game always about the adventure/message?

Rexcrowle3 karma

The "Yous" only got their name very late in the project when I was debating what to call them with Kenny, Luci and Siobhan here at Mm. We'd long had the concept of you being this "god-like force" holding the world in your Vita, but wanted it to remain playful and kinda more earthly, like something in a folk-tale than anything too epic. And the name "You's" appeared - as a way to just say exactly what these creatures are, namely: You :)

tmo11381 karma

First - my son really loves LBP and LBP2! We got him Tearaway as an early Christmas present and so far he really enjoys that too.

My questions: What are the biggest challenges from an architecture perspective doing game development for the Vita? How is Sony when it comes to supporting game developers? Also my son is 13 and loves video game design.. he reads about it all the time. Any advice you might have for someone who wants to get started with game development on their own?

Rexcrowle3 karma

The hardware has been great, its coped with everything we've thrown at it. The hardest part is sometimes reminding a player that there are all these hardware features on it to interact with. Its surprising tricky to tell someone to touch the back of their handheld console, particularly if they've not used that input before!

Sony is great at supporting devs, they have such a varied collection of studios, all working on things that they are passionate about. Sometimes those titles are really quite personal or unusual, because they are so good at supporting teams to try new things, experiment with ideas or new hardware.

And re: getting started, keep busy making things. I never stopped drawing as a kid, and I still do everyday. And whether its art or coding, or music or cookery it really helps to keep producing, keep sharing it with others, getting their thoughts. And starting to form new collaborations with others, to create things that are larger than what you could ever envisage yourself.