When Media Molecule announced that they were removing themselves from the LittleBigPlanet franchise that they had created, and instead were pursuing a brand new IP on the PlayStation Vita; many were left with a sense of cautious excitement. How would the developer fair without their iconic Sackboy, and how would this papercraft adventure fair on Sony’s newest handheld? These were both lingering questions that permeated fans of the studio.
An interesting thing began to happen though, as time ticked away – as did the sense of apprehension the industry held for Tearawa/ With each tidbit of information that got released came an overwhelming sense of excitement about the project. The inventive and ingenious construction of this rich, paper-constructed world seemed to evoke a sort of childlike wonder found in only the most special of games.
Fast-forward to today- a time when new hardware has become of the central focus of the industry-Tearaway has slowly become not only one of the most anticipated titles for the PlayStation Vita; but across all platforms in general.
In honour of its release today, I caught up with Media Molecule Community Manager James Spafford to talk Tearaway.
Brian Sharon: In the weeks leading into its releaseTearaway captured the imagination of fans and critics alike. In your own words, why are people so drawn to the game?
James Spafford: Ooh that’s a hard thing to answer, I can only really tell you what draws me to it, which is the beautiful papery world, and the unique experiences it offers. The way the game integrates you so deeply into the story is great… the whole thing was built from the ground up to make it feel like you were holding this world in your hands, and to make sure the main character knows you exist, and I think it really works!
Media Molecule are known for not only being creative developers, but for developing a culture of creation among players as well. Why is it important to you as developers to include the players in the creation process?
JS: Our love of creative gaming really drives us, the team here love making things of all kinds: art, food, music, etc, but most obviously games. We can make games, but unlike the other things on that list, its not something that everyone can easily get into, even though it’s getting a lot easier these days. We love it though, so to be able to share that love is really important to us. LBP allows anyone to make a game, or whatever they want to make with the tools, it really opens up a creative avenue for people.
With LBP we allowed people to make anything they wanted from the real world, inside the game world, and with Tearaway it’s the opposite. As you go through the game, you collect papercraft models of the animals and objects you see in the game, and then you can recreate those in real paper. This time we’re asking people to use their hands to make something real.
It’s funny, throughout the year we’ve been making papercraft with people, and the same thing seems to happen: all these memories of being a kid start to resurface. Cutting and gluing is something that most people used to do all the time as kids, but probably haven’t in years, it’s fun to do it again, and it’s really easy for anyone to get involved.
In addition to a famous culture of creativity, Media Molecule games also seem to have a focus on social and cooperative play. How does offering a communal and collaborative experience improve the quality of a game?
JS: I’m not sure that it has a direct influence it has on the quality of the game itself necessarily, but it has a huge impact on the community of the game for sure. The LBP / Mm community are such a creative bunch, and they love to help one another or collaborate to make things. As a result the atmosphere you get in community forums or playing online is totally different to a competitive game for example.
It also seems to help with the rivalries that can sometimes pop up between different fan sites. People are used to working together and being encourage to collaborate, and that filters through to all aspects of the community. So i guess it does affect the quality of the game, or at least playing it online, or being part of the community.
Tearaway is one of the rare titles across any platform in which the software and hardware seemed to be perfectly matched for one another. What makes Tearaway such a great fit for PlayStation Vita?
JS: We built Tearaway from the ground up to be something that was supposed to be on the Vita. We wanted to take full advantage of the unique features of the Vita, and that challenged us to think of new interactions that no one had done before.
The first one of those that really drove the game forward was the idea of being able to use the rear touch and push your fingertips into a game world and see them on the screen. We make use of all the things that make the Vita special – the front and rear touch, tilt, cameras, microphone… it all gets used at some point, but we’ve worked really hard to make sure that any of these interactions feel like part of the game, not just tacked on as gimmicks. I think we’ve achieved that quite well too!
One of the hallmarks of your time with the LittleBigPlanet community has been the continued support of post launch content. Is this a trend that you are looking to carry over to Tearaway?
JS: We’ll support the game after launch for sure, but possibly not in quite the same was as LBP We’ll have to see though! In the short term we’ll be encouraging people to share photos and make papery things to show us!
If there were one misconception about Tearaway you would like to clear up, what would it be?
JS: I almost wish there was a big one so i could make full use of this opportunity! I think the main thing we get asked about is whether the in game finger supports people with different skin tones, not just white people, and the answer to which is yes, yes it does.
For more information on Tearaway and Media Molecule go to their official website. Tearaway is available now exclusively on PlayStation Vita.