I recently set myself the challenge of discovering a few games that make the gaming industry the glorious piece of art that it is and this was the first to come to my mind.
I have been a follower of the LittleBigPlanet Franchise since they released their first installment in 2008. As a 9 year old, I proudly portered my PSP everywhere with my exclusive copy of LBP and drew all the characters I discovered.
Ever since then, each new release has brought more and more surprises to its fans.
Wanting to unearth more about its developers, Media Molecule, I uncovered a game so brilliantly animated, I HAD to find out more.
While LittleBigPlanet portrayed many beautiful designs and concepts, there’s another game they developed that truly deserves the mention:
This game displays a quirky paper craft world being shadowed by evil and you, a small messenger, are set the task of bringing back the colour.
When I say a papercraft world, I mean it!
Everything, literally, everything is made from paper folding.
In fact, not only is everything in the game made this way, the developers used 280,918 sheets of paper in the game to make Tearaway and needed 647,708 folds! Thanks to using this method to design the game, everything you see in the game can be made in real life.
With such a unique way of creating it, I believe this game holds the perfect opportunity to inspire a future generation of game developers wanting to let their imaginations run wild.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Rex Crowle, Lead Creator at Media Molecule on how he and his team approached constructing an award winning game.
The following article contains the interview between DoubleUpGaming and Media Molecule:
What sources of inspiration have made an impact on key design choices within your games?
“A lot of inspiration I think comes from childhood; it certainly does for me. That might be the things we liked to play with, or the TV shows we watched. Most of these old shows tended to be presented by wonky puppets, or were about crafting your own wonky puppets.
So being shown how to build things, and then bringing them to life by playing with them was a big part of these formative years.”
“But, we’re not kids anymore, we’ve all grown up with influences from university, art-college or from travelling and living life. We’ve expanded the team with new friends from around the world that have brought their influences.
So while all the Mm games are built from materials we all played with at any early age, they’re filled with the ideas and influences we’ve absorbed ever since.
On LittleBigPlanet, we were influenced by the different cultures and traditions from around the world, so the game had a lot more variety than a journey through a craft store.”
“We were aiming to show players just how imaginative and creative the world’s cultures have been.
Which in turn makes it more interesting for us to develop, and ultimately we’d hope these influences inspire players to join in and make their own creations, based on their own particular backgrounds, stories and ideas.
The same went for Tearaway: we built the whole world from paper, and completely geeked-out on making it the perfect simulation of a paper-constructed world, but we didn’t want to it feel like the inside of a stationery shop.
It needed to have depth and atmosphere, and for that we took inspiration from folk-tales. The kind of old stories that never get properly written down, but passed on from one generation to the next.”
How does Media Molecule approach the task of designing such unique characters and worlds?
“I think a lot of that just comes from being a small studio, with a diverse team, where everyone gets to speak-up and contribute. So some of the more unusual ideas can come to the surface and be included in a game.”
“Although we develop games in an iterative, experimental way anyway, we sometimes take some time-out to really jam together on a problem. These periods really free everyone up to think about a problem from a different angle.
The design of iota and atoi in Tearaway came from a jamming session, where everyone on the art-team experimented with paper, and how it moves and what would make a character different from a regular character made of skin and bone.
These experiments ranged from sketches and 3D-renders, to making paper-prototypes and puppets.”
“The same process also influenced the world of Tearaway, where we all experimented together on ways to interact with a world that felt like you were “holding it in your hands”.
And the combination of those experiments, combined with the folklore influences and paper-craft construction, made a world that’s like no other!”
How long does it take to design such characters and levels for your games?
“It’s very hard to say, as the process has a lot of iteration. Characters may be created and recreated dozens of times until they fulfil that need to combine the right personality with the set of abilities and skills they need to have in the game.”
“The same goes for a level, often they are built in small sections we call “motifs”. These are little moments of game play or interaction, which we can put into a kind of library to use when building a level.
They are then laid out into a sequence by a designer, while the art-team are creating mood-boards of inspiration or making small scenes that represent the final atmosphere.
And then from that moment forward is a huge amount of iteration, as art, design, audio, programming, and QA all work together to improve the level with their own area of expertise.
And the production team do the impossible task of making this happen smoothly and making sure that everyone knows what everyone else is doing!”
How far does the art style go to influence and affect the users’ perception of a game?
“That’s down to each individual player and what attracts them really. But I think it’s very important that there is a strong link between the art style of a game and how you interact with that game.
In other words; the art isn’t just a “skin” that could be easily replaced with a different style, and it’s really integrated with the way you play it. For example, we could have made Tearaway out of paper for no reason other than it looked different.”
“We could have kept all the gameplay like a standard platformer: jump over the spike-pits, run through the lava level, throw grenades at the bad guys. But that wouldn’t have unified the art and the gameplay.
Paper spikes aren’t going to hurt anyone, and paper lava doesn’t make a lot of sense – it would just be a pile of ash!
So we used the opportunity to think differently about how we could build a game with paper, and used pop-up books as inspiration to build an environment that you could unfold, peel open, or tear up.
And hopefully that more unified approach makes the game more interesting to all players, so they can just lose themselves in an imaginative but cohesive experience, rather than just looking specifically at the art.”
Despite making it look as so easy, it seems there’s a lot more steps in the process of creating a game.
Before conducting my interview, I believed, to come up with a best selling game, you just needed one guy with an extraordinary imagination.
But there’s a whole lot more to it.
Their most beneficial asset was obviously having a small but communicative team at hand to help everyone cross hurdles and design new parts of the game.
Having a group to brainstorm with rather than creating designs solo has lead to the birth of imaginative protagonists unique to the game.
Having everyone’s inspirations clash together into one game has added to the possibility of a stand out game that hasn’t been approached before. Thanks to a diverse team, influences have been added across the globe and have given it such a huge personality; that’s not something many games can say they had!
Media Molecule have been a prominent Game Developer with fantastic examples of creating quirky and exclusive games.
If you are a developer looking for new ways to approach designing and making your games, these guys are your ideal inspiration.
To find more games displaying great examples of awesome artwork and creativity, check out our previous article: Master’s of Creativity: Game Art Style Done Right.