Q: You’ve been working with Media Molecule for nearly 10 years now, how’s that experience been?
Rex Crowle: It’s been good, yeah! When we were all working together – well, almost all of us – at Lionhead, we were working on some really big titles that were very ambitious and interesting, but there was a lot of built-up energy that we were all waiting to unleash. We wanted to make things that were more to our own particular taste.
So, yeah, it’s been a great near-decade of really being able to just make the kind of experiences that we wanted to make, and explore some of the game genres that we’ve enjoyed, from 2D platforming to 3D platforming, classic games on the Commodore 64 and the Amiga, to things on the Nintendo 64. We got to play around with some of those genres, and also implement modern twists, whether that’s user-generated content, breaking the fourth wall, or using the hardware in interesting ways.
It’s really been 10 years of, well, playing around basically! It’s been hard work – we really push ourselves, and the studio’s still very small considering that we’re a two-project studio and what we work on is either very experimental or ambitious. It’s hard work, but it’s been fun.
Q: What’s the culture like at Media Molecule from a creative perspective?
Rex Crowle: Because the studio’s quite small, it’s lead by personalities. I think it helps that we have a very diverse team and our board of studio directors are really great at identifying interesting people to bring in to the MM family.
There’s a mixture of sort of hardcore games players and games fans, with a whole bunch of people that hasn’t necessarily worked on games before and have very different ideas about what games can be. That keeps the studio revitalised as well.
For instance, when we made LittleBigPlanet, it was really great that we were able to get a whole bunch of new Molecules joining the team who’d all come from making LittleBigPlanet levels. John Beech, one of the junior designers, was a builder before. He was building actual houses and then in the evenings he was building LittleBigPlanet levels.
I think an interesting and happy band of creators is what gives the studio it’s culture, and that culture’s really supported well by Sony and MM who give us these things like life drawing classes and various ways to keep us all inquisitive, remembering why we play games, and why we make games in the first place.
Q: How’s the creative process work in the early days of development for a game like LittleBigPlanet? Who gets the ball rolling, and where does it go from there?
Rex Crowle: Generally, we all kind of work from a top-down, ground-up angle simultaneously. So, someone will have the big idea, various prototyping will happen on that idea, and then it will gradually take form through iteration, experimentation, game jams, and what have you to proof it out really as a concept.
For LittleBigPlanet, Mark Healey, the creative director, really wanted to combine his love of classic platforming games with the fact that he’s such a fanboy for the Commodore 64, and that when you just turned it on it was just ready for you. If you could code, you could just start making a game there and then. So he was trying to bring that to the console, and at the time there weren’t really many avenues for anyone to really start exploring like games themselves.
Things have changed a lot in the last 10 years, and games like Minecraft and engines like Unity are now really accessible, so that playing field is really widened. And it’s really brilliant because we find more interesting people in the industry because of that.
A similar thing happened on Tearaway. We had a big idea of making a very tactile world that would be made out of paper that was very responsive, and because it was on Vita, you could push your fingers into it as essentially you’re holding a world in your hands. So then the team could game jam on that, and work on their prototypes and figure out different ways to try and make that possible – the job of trying to stick it all together and create some kind of cohesive narrative to unify it all, so that it doesn’t feel like a bunch of prototypes.