Last month I completed a little stint of work at Media Molecule (of Little Big Planet fame) on their newly announced game Tearaway, for the Playstation Vita. Here is the promo video:

You can even make your very own papercraft elk from the video by printing out this pdf

Media Molecule go about the business of making games in a good and refreshing way; working really fast in small teams, developing lots of fun tools for their designers and players, experimenting until the game feels rewarding and seldom getting bogged down in the logistics of production. While many companies seem to be striving only for a ‘filmic’ experience, at Media Molecule gameplay is king. In Tearaway their focus on highly interactive whimsy is shown to really great effect as your fingertips tear into the world to help iota, the intrepid hero of the game, deliver a mysterious message to you.

Being in their Guildford studio with a deadline approaching meant I saw the Molecules bringing everything together at a bewilderingly fast pace. The studio itself is full of fun stuff and the company knows how to treat its staff properly, acknowledging their life outside the studio and contributing in various ways to their personal and professional development. The programmers, artists and designers are almost alarmingly brilliant and, partly as a result of the small team size, everyone seems to have a personal investment in the projects.

Media Molecule’s fast design philosophy presents big challenges for an animator because good animation takes time and making it respond to a player in a satisfying way, whilst still moving well, can take even longer so gameplay and animation quality are sometimes uneasy bedfellows. An animator (and there are very few) at a company like this needs to be able to produce a lot of good work in a very short time and not be upset about throwing it all away and starting again the next day. No room for being precious! The reward is not a showreel to get you into Pixar but rather a constantly stimulating working environment and great games which you were part of creating. I certainly hope to go back and do more work there in the future.

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