The developer behind the innovative user-generated content creation franchise LittleBigPlanet has set out on a new interactive adventure: Tearaway. The PlayStation Vita-exclusive adventure breaks the “fourth wall” in its own unique way: The goal of the game is to deliver a message from the virtual character, iota, to the actual giant player holding the PS Vita. Rex Crowle, lead designer on Tearaway at Media Molecule, talks about this brand new IP in this exclusive interview.
What’s your experience been like working on the PS Vita?
It’s been a fantastic experience because the device is just so covered in inputs. We really wanted to utilize all of those new methods of interacting with the game to really give a totally new experience. It’s really about not so much touch, but having players really feel that you have a world in your hands as you’re playing it.
How does Tearaway utilize PS Vita’s various control options?
The main thing that we’ve been doing is building a real context for all the features that we’re going to use. We have this paper world that is totally in your hands and then you play as a god character in this game. You’re actually holding the Vita. It’s a very unusual take. It’s like a buddy movie between the character that’s inside the game and you outside of the game helping them out as this god controlling their world. You can do all the things that you might expect to get to do with paper, which is a very unique substance. It’s not like steel or wood, and its very pliable. It’s affected by physical properties. It’s not an art style. The entire game is designed to feel like paper. By holding this world, you can actually push your fingers up through into the world by using the rear touch on the Vita. It doesn’t require any interface because the world is just there for you to push yourself into. So much of the game is about this completely unusual intersection of the fantasy of the game world with the reality of the world that pushing your fingers into. The game is just one way that we’re showing how these two worlds can smash together in this completely new way.
Where did the idea for this game come from?
We started off with just this one trigger point really of seeing your finger properly represented in a game world. It’s a totally new visual that no one has seen before. Then we started to build a world around that out of paper. Paper felt like the perfect substance because it would just respond to how you’re dealing with this world and your fingers. Then we started to flush that out more by giving more surprises to the player. We had a game jam session where everyone on the team really thought about what new directions we could go and what new things we could try out.
With the unique substance of paper, there was so much potential of blowing into the world. Just a tiny breath could cause a massive storm rippling through the world. Just tilting stuff around effects the world, as does tearing. It ties in really well with the impression of the game because as you’re going through the world and you’re meeting and helping characters with quests, you’re doing the types of things you would normally do on an adventure. You’re also unlocking all the paper plans in order to make all of these things that you’ve met outside of the game. Essentially, as you’re playing, your printer can be spooling out everything that you’ve ever encountered in the game, so that you can get busy with a pair of scissors and your paper craft set and the world just comes out of the game. You’re not just getting trophies, you’re getting the actual game experience popping up on your desk or on your table or wherever.
What was it like going into this world after working on LittleBigPlanet for so many years?
It’s a refreshing change. I think people will be able to see a lot of the humor, the creativity and all the aspects that we’ve brought in the past. But having a totally new area, new material to deal with, and a 3D world brings its own exciting challenges for us. We just really wanted to flex some new muscles in the team, really dealing more with adventure and a story and characters to meet and explore more of a progression. That’s been a really fun experience.
What’s going on from a story perspective in Tearaway?
The main character, iota, is a very unique messenger. They totally embody being a messenger in that their head is a giant envelope and inside of the envelope is a secret message. It’s a totally unique message for every player. So I’ve got a message inside my iota and you’ll have a message inside your iota. The only way you’re going to find out what that message is is by delivering them all the way through the game world and helping them along the way. You’ll control them with the sticks and also use your godly powers to reach into the Vita to help them deliver this message all the way through the game world and out to you. There will be lots of exciting little twists and turns along the way and various people to meet and help out before you get to read your personal message.