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01-31-2013, 12:07 AM


Wandering around the Media Molecule studios you’re reminded of that curious aphorism about pets looking like their owners – there’s something inherently pleasing about the idea of a developer beginning to resemble the games they make.
Imagine it – Treyarch and Infinity Ward’s offices replete with crumbling, cratered walls and long, meandering corridors with solitary entry and exit points. Epic Games providing convenient areas of cover for hard-pressed programmers looking to avoid their project manager. One can only begin to imagine how they’d get any work done over at Rockstar.
The truth is a little more prosaic but, in the case of this Guildford-based team, it’s hard to ignore the correlation between the nature of their projects and the environment they work in – colourful, playful and bursting with creativity. And, it seems, the process works both ways. The studio’s Creative Lead, Rex Crowle believes the inspiration for new IP Tearaway came precisely from this “mad intersection” – where real life bleeds into that of the gaming world.
“Looking around at our titanically messy desks we realised we were building a landscape around us. As concept art got screwed up and thrown on the floor, those paper balls started to take on a life of their own. They could be boulders, or platforms. It’s from here that Tearaway was born.”
Sony-owned Media Molecule opened its doors to journalists earlier this month to show off a few new features of its forthcoming Vita-only title, of which little has been heard since it was announced at last year’s gamescom (http://www.vg247.com/2012/08/21/shuhei-yoshida-interview-can-vita-tearaway/). Despite the project still being some way off, it looks to be shaping up into a striking offering for Sony’s somewhat neglected handheld.
Of course, you’d expect solid (if a little cutesy for some tastes) platforming fun from the makers of LittleBigPlanet. But it was the innovative streak at the heart of Sackboy’s adventures that made LBP such a success. Tearaway follows in the same suit, but where LBP explored the new, connected world of PS3, its little brother is keen to show off all the features of its own system: Sony’s Playstation Vita.
For the first time we have a game that really makes the most of the front and back touch screens, uses the gyroscope and integrates the camera and microphone into gameplay. At various points your fingers appear in the game, tearing through its paper fourth-wall to pull switches, open doors and flick enemies away. It’s a clever conceit, and challenges the very nature of identity in gaming – when we play Mario we are Mario. But in Tearaway you very much play with your character, Iota. It was notable that the designers and developers I spoke to more than once used the term “buddy movie”.
The camera is used at various points to capture real-life images in order to wallpaper different objects and environments, while the microphone allows you to blow on the screen and see the wind you’ve created affect the environment underneath it. You’re offered such a complete tour of everything the Vita can do, in fact, that you can’t help but wonder why Tearaway wasn’t a launch game. Perhaps this much innovation just couldn’t be rushed.
While much has been made of the game’s exploration of the Vita’s functionality, spend a few minutes in Tearaway’s papercraft world and it’s the strength of the game’s animation and design that really stands out.

We were shown the island of Sogport, reminiscent of an early 20th Century harbour town, and introduced to one of the game’s main enemies – the Wendigo. Drawing on real-life folklore but interpreted through the lens of the game’s paper world, the ambling creature – which Iota must escape from or trap as he navigates his way through the game – represents everything that’s so impressive about the Tearaway’s philosophy and genesis.
Love and affection has gone into every aspect. From the sea-shanty soundtrack to the way the paper grass delicately folds back and forth as you run across it, no stone has been left unturned in an attempt to fully realise a world in which every aspect drums to the same (papery) beat.
The game engine makes use of its own, in-house animation platform which ensures every item in the game could be made from a single sheet of cardboard if so desired. In fact, Media Molecule has offered flatplans on its website of a few of the characters and enemies unveiled so far to allow fans to bring parts of Tearaway into their own world. These flatplans will be unlockable in the game as “real-life trophies” to collect and display proudly to your friends – as Crowle puts it, “playing the game is just the starting point”.
Personal message
More detail was also revealed about the game’s main quest – your ultimate goal is unlocking a personalised message, individual to each player – and a new playable character was announced, Atoi, a more feminine incarnation of your envelope-headed companion Iota. While finer details remain up in the air, you can be sure that the implementation of these features will be as thoughtful as it is well-executed.
After all this effort to create such a unique gameplay environment, I wondered if there were fears that Tearaway would still simply be remembered as ‘that game you put your fingers in’ – the fine line between innovation and novelty is a difficult one to tread. Technical director David Smith addressed such concerns.

“Above all we just want to make a good game – nothing’s done just for the sake of it. Say you’re shouting into the Vita, that’s cool to do once or twice but any more than that it would get annoying. When you get to use a new feature you’ll be excited – the innovation should always be at the service of everything else.
“Novelty and innovation are an important aspect of making any game. Everything is there for a reason and tied together. I’m actually quite proud that we’ve axed some innovative features that just didn’t fit in with the rest of the game.”
It’s innovative and fresh, and yet thoroughly traditional and familiar. It’s a cute and cuddly developer tearing up the rulebook with violent abandon. It’s a game of exciting contradictions that should light up the Vita just as LBP did the PS3. I only hope that by the time it comes out it won’t be too late for the console to provide it with the audience it deserves.


01-31-2013, 02:00 AM
Looks really amazing. I can just imagine how paranoid people might get in later levels with less supplies to beat the new enemies

01-31-2013, 06:34 PM
http://www.blogcdn.com/www.joystiq.com/media/2013/01/tearawayhead.jpg (http://www.joystiq.com/2013/01/31/media-molecules-tearaway-is-an-adorable-arts-and-crafts-adventu/)
Developer Media Molecule has standardized adorable in the high-def console generation, introducing gamers to Sackboy and friends with the creation-focused LittleBigPlanet. The UK-based studio's newest concoction follows a similar strand of cuteness, commanding "awwwwwws" throughout the demo of Tearaway (http://www.joystiq.com/game/Tearaway/) – Media Molecule's first foray onto the PlayStation Vita.

Tearaway follows 'The Messenger' – played by the lovable and customizable male cutout, Iota, or his female paper counterpart, Atoi – on a quest to deliver a message to the player. As either of the two characters, you'll explore a wondrous world crafted from colorful paper and propped up with globs of glue, gusts of wind, and strategic folds.

At its heart, Tearaway is a 3D platformer. You won't be developing your own levels or actions in Tearaway, but navigate through the imagination of the small, roughly fifteen-person team handling the studio's handheld debut.

The second chapter of Tearaway sends players to Sogport, a city partially drowned in deep wells of deadly glue and smeared throughout with the adhesive substance. Stepping into pits of the bubbling paste will immediately send you back to a recent checkpoint, but the smeared glue can be used to run across and up walls to progress through the level or find collectibles.

The objectives in my demo were a fairly standard 'rush from Point A to Point B' affair, but the road was littered with loads of interesting critters and challenges. Wendigos, which are behemoth paper-crafted baddies with a playful appearance (seen in the image below), stalk sections of the chapter, rushing toward you in an attempt to tear your progress apart. You can roll into a ball to speed past foes, or play with the world to impede them. You can trick them into stepping on cage traps, which curl and bend shut over the monsters, by standing in their eye line or luring them to right spot with pearls (a monster delicacy). More simply, you can stand near a river of deadly glue and hop out of the way when the creatures rush toward you.

Levels are developed with what Tearaway's creative lead Rex Crowle called a "papercraft editor." The tools simulate paper.

"All the flexibility of it and all of the constraints of it. The constraints of it I find really interesting as well because it forces you to think a little bit differently. We're not 'whiteboxing' levels and then saying, 'Right. Now apply the paper filter! Now ship it.'"

Originally the art style was "too neat," Crowle said, and it became obvious the team had to treat the in-game material the same way it would in the real world. "It starts to rip, it starts to peel, it starts to bend. That's where it becomes more interesting to look at."

"It's really prevented us from falling into the traps of having spike pits and block platforms. I think the movement and transformation of paper is what's really driving the gameplay."

The developer plays with the Vita's features in a number of ways: jump pads appear throughout the world. They're skinned to look exactly like the handheld's rear touch panel, thus offering a neat visual cue as to how you activate them. Illuminated circles in the world pull the camera out and enter "God Mode," where the player is given the ability to move something in the world with the touch screen, such as uncurling a small tent and using it to create a bridge to a new area.

"I particularly wanted to make something that was really tactile," said Crowle. "Something that really felt like you were squeezing the world in your fingertips." The look of the world evolved over time as the small team, focused on Tearaway, began to compile their collective pitches for what the new IP could accomplish.

"We have a very 'Game Jam' culture at the office, where everyone at the team pitches in their ideas and prototypes stuff. Ideas [for Tearaway] just came from everywhere."

In one prototype level I saw, a large chasm stood between the player and an exit. With no way to jump across the deadly pit, gaze turns to the forest landscape behind the player. Pinching the image allows the world of the painting to come alive, allowing The Messenger to hop into the newly unfurled world. Inside this new room, you can pull the exit toward the painting, folding the world onto itself and closing the gap. Though specific level won't appear exactly this way later, the 'whitebox' environment was created by one of the game's leads to show the development team what creativity the world offered.

Customization will be the only 'user-generated' experience available for players in Tearaway, and Media Molecule won't ship the game with a suite of level editing tools. Instead, Tearaway will enable you to customize your Messenger – whose head is shaped like an envelope – and "draw in" pieces of your live life. One example shown was the game activating the Vita's front-facing camera to place your face in the game behind a wall of torn paper.

"There's loads of opportunity throughout the journey to draw in more about the player's lives through cameras and microphones," said Crowle. "Any player will see little glimpses of their own lives turning up in the game world."

Tearaway also features a "paper-cutting customization engine," in which you can take a sheet of paper in the game, draw cuts and make shapes to stick to the messenger's face. You'll be able to take pictures of real-world textures to apply it to the character as well, Crowle said.

Some areas will be presented as a sandbox, allowing you to wander in any direction. Once you've collected more abilities, you can return to completed sections to explore areas once out of your reach. One such an ability comes in the form of an accordion music box, which you can push and pull to interact with the environment or enemies.

The word here is charming. Cutscenes in Tearaway, for example, were designed with the world's texture in mind. Scenes are presented like pages pulled from a pop-up book, with paper levers that animate pieces of the scene when you tug on them.

Media Molecule hasn't cornered the market on adorable design, but games like this are emblematic of "awww." Tearaway doesn't seem waste its warm and original visual style, wrapping every element of play in paper.

Tearaway is coming to the PlayStation Vita sometime this year.


01-31-2013, 06:59 PM