Media Molecule's Rex Crowle served as the creative lead on Tearaway
, and this morning he took the stage at the annual DICE Summit
in Las Vegas to explain why more developers ought to be incorporating elements of ordinary life -- a child's bedroom, the office printer, a sheet of paper -- into their extraordinary games.
For starters, Crowle suggests that the most interesting fantasies are always based on reality -- dragons may never have existed, for example, but knights and castles certainly did.
He went on to highlight "Time Bandits", "Where The Wild Things Are" and "Labyrinth" as examples of how creators can use ordinary, mundane settings -- a child's bedroom, for example -- as anchors to pull the audience into the world and make it easier for them to empathize with the characters before
anything fantastical happens.
Of course, in games you can’t rely on having an actor to build a mundane setting around -- using the ordinary as a tool for storytelling in games requires you to learn and account for specific facts about your player's life.
According to Crowle, that's why Media Molecule designed weird Vita showpiece Tearaway
to use the handheld's sensors -- the camera, the front and rear touch sensors, the microphone, etc. -- to pull pieces of the player’s ordinary life into the game.
“We were trying for something like Instagram,” said Crowle. “So people could just point and click a button and they could customize something.”
Media Molecule learned that many players appreciated character outfits in Little Big Planet
as a means of customizing their game without committing to full-on level design. They applied that lesson to development on Tearaway by allowing players to quickly customize their game in a very limited fashion by photographing things around them to plaster on in-game items, customizing paper crowns, that sort of thing.
“Everyone gets a kick out of it because they get to stick their crown on a character that’s professionally animated and say ‘Look, I’ve made a squirrel!’”
Crowle expressed a hint of sadness when talking about unappreciated household objects like the printer or the thermostat. In the future, he opined, household devices networked together as part of the 'Internet of Things' will allow ambitious developers to create games with believable, personalized, real-world settings.
“I’m looking forward to the next golden age of gaming," said Crowle. "Fantastical games that really connect to the everyday details of our lives and weave some fantasy between them.”
It's worth pointing out that Tearaway
was nominated for multiple Game Developers Choice Awards
this year, including the Innovation award and the Best Visual Art award.