Hello! I'm Rex Crowle!, I'm an artist / game designer / doodler at Media Molecule.

We recently released Tearaway Unfolded for the PlayStation 4, on which I was the lead creator. I am joined by Media Molecule Junior Community Manager Jenny Lawrence!

Thanks for all the questions everyone. Our keyboards are now all burnt out, but hope you enjoyed our answers :)

Here's our proof!

Ask us anything and we shall answer!

Comments: 129 • Responses: 40  • Date: 

Bobinti11 karma

Hey! BIG fan since 2008 here! I have a couple questions:

  • What were your inspirations behind the new worlds for Tearaway Unfolded?
  • What made you decide to add hair to Iota?

Bonus Question: What are your thoughts on LittleBigPlanet 3?

mediamolecule9 karma

Thanks for all your support! :)

1st question: So lots of the new areas in Unfolded were inspired by the new mechanics and powers you are playing the game with, we don't want to just make beautiful environments that have no connection with the gameplay. We knew we'd have a new power using the wind by swiping the Dualshock4 touchpad, so we needed to figure out what would be interesting environments to use wind in. For it to be most useful you'd want to be using it either high up on a mountain (but we already had an area like that - Gibbet Hill) or in a large open area, like a Moorland area. And that was the starting point for creating the Moorlands stage.

The Moorlands were inspired by the Scottish highlands, thick with heather and soggy little streams running though it. And I also got interested in the legend of St. Swithins Day, where whatever the weather is on that day of the year will determine what the weather will be like for 40 days (because this is England, rain is a strong bet), and that's why its called St Swithins Moor, because you are there with your epic powers to mess with the folk tale and make it change constantly. There's also a bunch of interesting little background details in the level you might not have noticed - it's an area where a battle has previously taken place, with one side represented by lions and one side represented by unicorns (the 2 creatures on the British passport), and you can see evidence of that battle dotted around the space.

And although that's only talking about the Moorlands, the same principle stands for the other new areas (or the redesigned ones) of gameplay "hook" inspires it first, followed by inspiration from a real-world location, followed by individual bits of folk tales and back stories that we want to incorporate.

2nd question: Aha, very good question! Yes so iota has hair this time around, to show the increased customisation options (in the same way that atoi has had her colours remixed) it shows that there are more options than you previously had. If you prefer the classic look, you can always remove the hair, but I like iota having a bit, so he's not just another shaved bald dude saving the world ;)

tooinappropriate5 karma

If you can reboot/develop any classic PlayStation franchise which one would it be? Also, if Sony offered you the chance to work on a new Crash Bandicoot would you accept it?

mediamolecule15 karma

My favourite is always going to be Parappa The Rapper, that game was just perfect - a unique art-style, music I can still remember the words to, and just an experience that I'd never had before, it felt totally like going inside someone elses head and experiencing all the stuff that they wanted to show you. Although its probably a terrible choice to remake for exactly those reasons, because the game was exactly what that team wanted to make. So rebooting it would probably have to be so different that it wouldn't even be recognizable! But could still be fun to do.

Guilty secret: I've never played a Crash Bandicoot game. So maybe that would be a better choice to reboot, I'd try and remake it based on what I imagine the game was like, without ever looking at it, like when Werner Herzog's remake of Bad Lieutenant, where he made a remake of a movie he'd never seen :)

mediamolecule9 karma

Heylo! Jenny here :) Thanks for your question. All the classic PlayStation franchises are so great we don't think we'd want to change them! Crash Bandicoot is a great game and our friends over at Naughty Dog did a fantastic job with the series :)

MrTravesty5 karma

  • What is the main goal you are trying to achieve with Dreams? What kind of content would you like to see users create?

  • Are you guys happy with the positive reception of Tearaway Unfolded? Have you already started thinking about a sequel?

mediamolecule6 karma

Hi! Thanks for your question, it's Jenny here :) We will be revealing lots more info about Dreams in October at Paris Games Week, so we'll be able to answer more of your questions about it then. We are thrilled to see that people are enjoying Tearaway Unfolded, and that it was well received critically too. The team have worked so hard on it here, they put their heart and soul into the game so it's great to see the game getting the recognition it deserves :) We love the world of Tearaway but in terms of the future, no plans have been decided yet.

ApparentlyShane5 karma

Hay! Shane here, I wanted to know; Where do your ideas come from? and what influences you? :)

mediamolecule5 karma

Most of my own inspiration comes from whats around all of us, and trying to soak it all up - the snatches of music you hear on the bus, the bits of conversation you half hear, the film posters you catch a glimpse of while travelling on the tube. My own largest artistic inspirations are Ronald Searle and Richard Scarry, although the main influences on me during Tearaway/Tearaway Unfolded were original The Wicker Man film (not the remake!) (there's more going on under the surface of Tearaway than you might think!) and Neil Gaimen's American Gods.

But really the biggest influence comes from everyone you are collaborating with on the team and what they are coming up with - getting inspired as Kenny and Brian created the music, or a certain audio element that Ed and Todd might have produced, or seeing what strange direction the art-team have gone in, or what new feature Nathan has added to the game. There's always a lot of inspiring things going on around you as you're making a game, it's more of a problem to work out what not to be inspired by!

Lsmjudoka5 karma

What is a design challenge you discovered when you started working on console/PS4 games that you didn't expect?

mediamolecule5 karma

A major challenge was a fairly obvious one when moving from making a handheld game to making a console game - our players would be physically further away from the world, and there was a question of how we could get that same connection between the world inside the TV and the player outside of it.

And the best answer to that, was to treat it honestly - that there is more distance between the player and the game, and actually make lots of the game systems about that - so instead of directly dragging things around with the touchscreen, you send a gust of wind into the tv to effect the world in a less direct but more chaotic way. The gameplay is about using these mechanics to strengthen that connection while you use the power - ie, throwing a character into the pad to make the pad feel alive and helpful, or shining the lightbar from the back of the controller into the world to help guide the Messenger.

And then Vykintas and Miquel (animators on Unfolded) put a lot of effort into making sure the characters would react to these mechanics - atoi/iota will turn and try and figure out where this light source is coming from (and will also look over their shoulder as they are running around in the world, like they aren't quite sure if they are being followed by someone).

So its a challenge we tried to solve using honesty, hard work, and cute animation :)

jock-a-mo5 karma

Do you have an ETA for Dreams? (I won't tell anyone.)

mediamolecule9 karma

Hello! Jenny here :) We have an ETA for when we can tell people more about Dreams...Paris Games Week! Yay! We'll be revealing lots more info then. The show runs from October 28th - November 1st!

postExistence4 karma

Hey there! Oh boy do I have a lot of questions for you! They're really good ones, though.

1) What are your responsibilities as lead creator? Are there any tasks you prefer to do yourself and not delegate to your team members?

2) What is your approach to level design in general, not specific to any particular game or genre? How do you apply that to Tearaway?

3) How did you work your way up to Lead Creator? Did you start out as a programmer, designer, or something else?

4) What are your most important tools in your work environment, Rex? Excel? Adobe Illustrator? Powerpoint? A scripting language?

5) How frequently do you have playtesting sessions, and how much time do you dedicate to reviewing the results? When in your development cycle do you prefer to host playtesting/playtesters?

6) How much time - on average - do you spend working per week?

I just graduated with a master's degree in game development, and these are some of the most pertinent questions on my mind. I'd like to become a lead designer one day, and who knows - maybe even become a creative director! So any answers you can provide would be worth their weight in gold! Thank you so much foe your time Rex! You, too, Jenny! :D

mediamolecule5 karma

Great questions, and yes there are a lot of them ;) Ok let's do this!

1) I try and do a combination of big ideas (like the overall "wrapper" of the game) to give the game some kind of form, so that the rest of the team can really fell what the game is, and fully contribute to it - combined with concentrating on how all those things all integrate together.

2) I don't really do any level-design as such, as there are far better people than me for doing that - although I enjoy building the more freeform areas where exploring is the main component, as its so fascinating to make 3D environments that draw players in. For me good level design should both make the player feel like they are learning something about an environment, mastering that environment, but also leaving their own trace on the environment - whether that's an emergent event that no other player has, or a way to customise it in a unique way.

3) My background is in graphic-design, but then I moved more into art character-design and interface-design, and also into the presentational-side of games (making trailers, box-art etc) as well. So I've tried to build up as many skills as I could that would be useful for in making of games for someone that can't code or write music :)

4) Pens and paper! Its very important to be able to quickly sketch an idea, and communicate it with others. And if other people can't communicate their idea to you, then you can try and bridge the gap by sketching what you think they are saying (and they can still tell you you're still getting it wrong :)

5) There's 3 very different types of playtesting, theres the QA testing and we have a great team here that know our tools inside and out, and help the game from the start of development, until the very last second when it goes off to the shops. Then we call upon the user-testing teams at Sony to help put the game into hands of brand new players, and carefully analyse how they play and what they get stuck on (which is fascinating process of seeing how easily players can fail to get any of the cues you thought we obvious, and how badly you've got it!) and then there are our own team playthoughs. These team playthoughs happen near the end of development when you've got enough game to sit down and play it as a proper experience, and can see how it flows together. These can be epic sessions that last 3 or 4 days, but they are really important as everyone can contribute, and we all give each other a lot of feedback. We have a rule that we play though each section silently first (so we can get a proper feel for it) and play though again with everyone commenting and calling out on the content they see and hear. Usually these can be pretty demoralising to begin with, but with each playthough and everyones feedback to game takes shape, and by our final playthough we're all excited to play it!

6) Probably too much! The hard thing can be be knowing when to take a break, and it's really important to do that, because otherwise you're just staring at the same game, and might not be able to come up with the best solutions. So I'm always trying to find ways to work better and not just longer!

Swanakin3 karma

Hi Rex! Hi Jenny!

Congratulations for the release of Unfolded! It's truly amazing <3

My question is, is the piano behind you still getting some love every now and then? ;)

Hugs from France!

mediamolecule8 karma

Hello Swann! <3 The piano is getting love, but we do miss your beautiful playing in the studio, it's just not the same without you! You must come back and play for us soon? :) Hugs from England! <3

Thieso3 karma

Do you have any plans for working with virtual reality?

mediamolecule6 karma

We love new hardware to play with, and get inspired by - but it needs the right game to go with it, so we'll keep playing for now and let you know in the future!

kickinthehead3 karma

What have been some of the best stories from fans who were inspired by Tearaway to recreate the world or otherwise be crafty?

I love the universe so much yet somehow I haven't bought construction paper to make the environments despite wanting to every time I play it!

mediamolecule4 karma

Hello, thanks for your ace question :) Jenny here! It's great to see people bringing their own worlds into Tearaway Unfolded, whether it's through customising their Messenger to look like themselves, or adding in photos to paste onto the environment, it's always so fun to watch what people do with the game and how they use it to be creative. Our community are a very talented bunch and we've seen some fantastic examples of people recreating Tearaway outside the game. Quite a few people take the papercraft plans that you can download in the game, and they modify them and make them even better! One of our favourite papercrafting fans is @Dumptyyy on Twitter. They have created some AMAZING papercraft scenes, completely freehand! They are beautiful, take a look! https://twitter.com/Dumptyyy/status/641210971327827968 There are loads of amazing people who craft the models you can find in Tearaway Unfolded and display them proudly around their houses, it's so awesome seeing people get crafty while also playing video games! <3

OhHiItsNi3 karma

How many game ideas have you scrapped and which one of them was the most interesting? Big fan of all your games, keep it up! :D

mediamolecule4 karma

Interesting Tearaway was actually two completely different games before it became the 3D adventure platformer we all know. Originally it was a dungeon-crawler where you explored the dungeons with your fingertips (they had little faces drawn onto them as you poked them into the Vita. Then it transformed into an open-world RPG, where we built all of planet earth out of papercraft, like a papery version of Google Earth, which was a little too ambitious! Both of those things were pretty interesting but ultimately we decided it would be better to make world smaller, more handcrafted and story-driven, but combined with very modern and experimental uses of the hardware.

clsuburbs3 karma

Hey! Huge fan of your games!

Any special details you can share on your new game, Dreams, exclusively for the Reddit community? We are so curious!

keep up the great work!

mediamolecule8 karma

Hello! Jenny here :) Thanks for your question! We will be revealing lots more info about Dreams at Paris Games Week which starts on October 28th so not too long to wait now! Until then, we are enabling our secret squirrels :)

DragonDDark2 karma

What are your opinion on DLC and microtransactions in video games?

mediamolecule8 karma

I think as long as you are buying something that you feel like you could buy in a real store then its all good - ie a costume pack, a new level. Personally I'm not really into buying something for a game that doesn't feel like a real object (ie boosts, extra xp, short-cuts etc) as they don't feel like real things.

fakeplasticmax2 karma

Thanks for doing this! Haven't played Tearaway Unfolded yet, but to me, it's hard to imagine playing the game on any other system than a PS Vita. It seems like you guys prove me wrong! What were the biggest challenges in 'porting' a game so closely connected to its system?

mediamolecule3 karma

Thanks for posting too! I think I've answered this a bit in another comment I'd say it was mostly in recognizing the different relationship between how you hold a handheld game, and how you are more distanced from a game in your TV (and realizing we needed to make the most of that, rather than ignoring it).

DragonDDark2 karma

Hi guys, just wanna know.. will dreams possibly release in 2016? Sorry if this was asked before. Thanks in advance.

mediamolecule4 karma

Heylo! Jenny at your service :) We will be releasing further info about Dreams during Paris Games Week next month! But until then, our secret squirrels are in action! :D

LexHollow2 karma

How do you feel about future LittleBigPlanet instalments being taken on primarily by other studios? Is it difficult to take a step away from that IP, or is it more liberating to have the floor open to work on completely new projects?

mediamolecule5 karma

Jenny here :) It was definitely difficult to take a step away from LBP as it's a very beloved game for us and we have so many happy memories from creating LBP and meeting all the wonderful fans who came out to see us and helped shape the LBP community over the years. But after LBP 2 came out, we were ready to do something else, and challenge ourselves even further to see what we could create. It's definitely liberating to have the floor open to work on new projects, and as you recently saw at E3, we've been working on Dreams which is a very exciting and adventurous project for us. So although we will always love LBP, we are ready to start another exciting chapter in the Mm history! :)

Gamer-geek2 karma

Is there anything you can say about the new "Dreams" title?

mediamolecule3 karma

Hello :) Jenny here, thanks for your question! We can say that we'll be releasing more info at Paris Games Week which starts on October 28th, so there's not much longer to wait until we reveal more!

KabukimanQ2 karma

What are the chances Media Molecule will ever return to Little Big Planet? Similar to a snowflake's chance in a cookie oven or more like a Sack Person's chance at a craft fair?

mediamolecule5 karma

Hello it's Jenny :) Thanks for your question. We love LittleBigPlanet and Sackboy and we will always keep up with the LBP community (who are amazing). We never say never but at the moment our focus is on our exciting future with Dreams and celebrating our most recent release Tearaway Unfolded! :)

tooinappropriate2 karma

Hey Guys!

I was wondering if you are involved with any projects using PSVR? Also would you be able to give any details on the future of the LBP series or tell me if there is possibility of another LBP Karting?

Thanks!

mediamolecule6 karma

Heya! Thank you for your question :) Jenny: PSVR is a very exciting piece of kit and we're always keen to work with the new and exciting things that Sony develops. If we have any good ideas we'll let the world know :) We also don't look after the LBP series anymore, although we still love to see what Sackboy and his woolly chums are getting up to :) We don't know what the plans are for LBP or LBP Karting. Sumo Digital made LBP3 and Sony XDev are looking after the series now.

Kiock1 karma

Do you ever bring pets into the Office? I think I saw a photo with a pug in the office once? Doesn't it make the office stinky?

mediamolecule1 karma

Oh Costa :) We love animals so everyone's pets are welcome in the Mm office! We don't bring our furry friends in everyday (would probably be a bit chaotic if everyone brought their pet in too!) but we don't mind our animal companions coming into the office every now and then :) Yes we do have a pug here, her name is Martha and she belongs to our Producer Michelle! Martha even has her own Twitter account: https://twitter.com/trufflepug She's awesome! And only a little bit stinky :)

programmingd00d1 karma

Hey! Huge fan of your games here :D

First: What is life like at Media Molecule?

Second: Media Moledule's games feel incredibly different from other studios in a way that's hard to describe. There's a clear focus on play and creativity. How does Media Molecule's culture foster that "creative" feel of your games?

mediamolecule6 karma

Hey :) Thank you for your question! It's Jenny here. For me, life at Media Molecule is like a family. That's the word I always use to describe it. We all work together on projects that everyone feels so passionately about, and everyone works so hard because we all believe in what we're making! I know that I can always count on the Molecules to make me smile and to inspire me to carry on making great things! We also encourage a healthy work-life balance. We all work very hard but we are also encouraged to take our holidays and to spend time with our families and to go home once in a while :) The Mm studio is such a nice environment though that it's hard to want to leave it sometimes!

StuffHobbes1 karma

Hi Rex and Jenny!
I love your work so I have just one question:
Are you hiring?
Thanks for the AMA!

mediamolecule5 karma

Hello! :D We are always on the lookout for lovely talented folk to come and join our studio. Take a look at our jobs page for all current openings now: http://www.mediamolecule.com/jobs BUT! Don't worry if you don't see your field there, feel free to send us your CV/portfolio anyway. We love hearing from people :)

monsterfracas1 karma

I'm continually astounded by the sheer creativity that has come through in MM's work so far. How do you foster that sort of work environment that seems so rare in the modern AAA video game industry?

mediamolecule1 karma

I think part of it is a stimulating work environment, and we have interesting things like life-drawing lessons and plenty of more unusual equipment from potters wheels to 3D printers. But all of those things are useless without interesting people! And I think we have a great and diverse mix on the team of games-makers, men and women with very different backgrounds, some hardcore games-players, some that are from very different industries, but all creative people that are constantly honing their craft, whether that's on the potters-wheel or getting the most out of graphics-chip.

AvinchMC1 karma

Did Sony/PS approach you or did you approach Sony/PS to make Unfolded?

Keep up the great work guys! :D

mediamolecule5 karma

As we're part of Sony Worldwide Studios nobody really approaches anyone as we're all working together anyway :) But its a good question - the way it happened was like this:

After we finished Tearaway on Vita were wondered if it would work on PS4, as a crazy experiment. We'd spent all our time working on a game so integrated with one peice of hardware that it was like a little gamejam challenge to prove to ourselves if it was possible - at this point there wasn't an actual plan to make the game. So we were trying it out because knew the game would look so stupidly beautiful on PS4, and wouldn't it be amazing if it turned out that the gameplay would work.

Obviously we immediately discovered the VITA gameplay didn't work and set about doing bigger gamejam to experiment with new gameplay - all designed for the Dualshock4 and having made a small prototype, we presented that to Shuhei, and that meeting went very well. So from that point we increased the team at MM, and joined up with a fresh team at Tarsier Studios, and got building!

-OrangeLightning41 karma

Hi there, I've been in love with the Tearaway world since the first announce trailer for the Vita version! 3D adventure platformers like Ratchet and Clank, Jak and Daxter, or Herdy Gerdy are my absolute favorite type of games. What games would you say you drew inspiration from when you first started designing Tearaway?

mediamolecule2 karma

(Jenny) I just want to nip in here and say that Jak and Daxter and Herdy Gerdy are two of my ultimate favourite games! <3 I loved played them when I was younger! Great selection there :)

mediamolecule2 karma

Me and Jenny just had to watch a bit of Herdy Gerdy on Youtube, and sighed with happy memories of that beautiful game :) And Jak & Daxter is a huge favourite of mine as well (along with the 3D exploration games of the N64 era) so yes, they were definitely and inspiration - worlds that you can explore and be surprised by, but also take a break now and then and just happily look at them.

BaconTheBap1 karma

What is it like working at such a creative company ? And do you see yourself opening up and offering work experience to teens ?

mediamolecule1 karma

Working at Mm is pretty awesome (hey, Jenny here!) We're like one big Molecule family, you feel supported and valued everyday which is something that doesn't always happen in other fields. We are allowed to express ourselves and more importantly BE ourselves, Mm is a very open and welcoming studio and it's unlike anywhere I've ever worked before. I feel so lucky to be here :) We are very keen to offer work experience to as many teens as we can. Due to our small size though, we are very limited in the number of people we can take but we're working on upping our numbers and would definitely like to take on more work experience in the future. Education is very important to us and we want to inspire the next generation of games makers. Feel free to get in touch and we will try our best to get you into the studio :)

Emporuto1 karma

Who would win in an adorable fight, sackboy or Atoi?

also where can i get that large sackboy plush you have?!

mediamolecule2 karma

Definitely atoi, she's badass!

mediamolecule2 karma

Atoi :)

hyperdude531 karma

Hi Rex and Jenny!

Congrats on the release of Tearaway Unfolded, you folks always bring a breath of fresh air in the industry!

My question to you is, do you guys at Media Molecule partake in game jams during development to come up with ideas to make or implement? If so, how often did they happen and what were some of the craziest creations you ever saw (if you are allowed to say)?

All the best,

hyper

mediamolecule1 karma

Yep! Game jams are the best! We don't do them all the time (otherwise we'd never ship ANYTHING) but they are really useful to spark new ideas, and the best new ideas don't always come from people who spend all day thinking of ideas (this definitely includes me!) and can come from anyone. In the past we've had studio-wide gamejams (one of which had an amazing networked racing game that you have to drive through portals, and each time you drove through a portal your car appeared on someone elses monitor in the studio). So as well as racing your car around, you were constantly running around the studio to find out which PC your car was currently one. Meta-racing!

But mostly we do game-jams for a project, and for them to work well they need to have a bit of focus. So for Tearaway Unfolded we concentrated the GameJam on the Dualshock4 and what new ways we could bring the controller to life and make it feel part of the game world. And the team got really inventive with ways to throw characters into the controller and hear them in there, or using the touchpad to draw shapes or create wind.

As for favourite feature, its probably a tie between the two things - a voice-amplifying weapon that would blast your own voice out of it into enemies, so you could swear and enemies and make them explode, which was made by Matt on the Tearaway team - and an experiment by Omar (a coder on the original Tearaway) who used facial recognition to make doors only open for you if you smiled at the Vita.

Both of those were too crazy to end up in the final game, but they inspire other features, and theres a nice easter-egg in Unfolded that if you have a PS4 camera, and your smile at your Messenger in the customisation screen she'll smile back at you.

InsaneTomato951 karma

In Dreams will there be a way to make traditional gameplay. Do you believe that it will be used more as an exhibition for showing off your art, or do you believe it will be used to showcase creative gameplay once it is finally in consumer's hands?

mediamolecule1 karma

Hello! Jenny here :) We wish we could say more but at the moment we are working hard for Paris Games Week next month where we'll be revealing lots more info about Dreams! Until then, our lips are sealed I'm afraid! :)

trianglebody1 karma

Hey! Are you guys ever going to make a short film?

mediamolecule1 karma

That would be cool! What type of film would you like to see?

StaticzAvenger0 karma

Have you guys ever had an idea but couldn't make that idea become possible in a game?

mediamolecule1 karma

When I first started at Lionhead Studios many years ago, Peter Molyneux asked me what I wanted to do in games. I said I wanted to make a 3D game that reversed the laws of perspective, so things got bigger the further away they are.

He didn't reply to that, but I'm still thinking about how to do it.

John_Bot0 karma

Any chance you guys are looking into PSVR? How better to make your "dreams" come true than be inside of them??

mediamolecule2 karma

Hola! Jenny here. We love playing with all the awesome technology that Sony develops and PSVR is definitely a wicked piece of kit :) At the moment though we are just playing and enjoying being completely immersed in these experiences. We're definitely excited to see what the future of VR holds!

aes110-1 karma

Hey ! , how did your family react when you started working on video games ? ( some can think it's childish etc)

mediamolecule1 karma

I think my family were just happy that I could use my art-school education for something reasonably useful! And the games winning some awards helps too :)

mediamolecule1 karma

Hey hey! From my experience (Jenny here) my parents were incredibly supportive and proud when I got into games. I grew up playing video games thanks to my Mum and Dad encouraging me to play when they saw I was fairly good at them. My parents are quite techy and we'd often sit and play games together so it's always been a huge part of my childhood (and we still game together now)! They were thrilled to see me go on to work in the games industry and will tell anyone all about my job any chance they get :) I guess I am very lucky but hopefully this is the attitude of most people these days. Gaming is such a huge industry now and hopefully people are starting to appreciate games and gamers for their cultural importance in today's society :)

that_is_so_Raven-1 karma

Do you watch Breaking Bad?

mediamolecule2 karma

I don't but I want to get into it (Jenny) :)

AdOpsDude-1 karma

Do you pee sitting down or standing up?

mediamolecule3 karma

While levitating from the sheer force of it.

mediamolecule2 karma

Sitting down of course (says Jenny) :D