You're making an adventure game. You're not making an iOS game that costs 99 cents, so it's go to have some depth and complexity to it, but at the same time you want to keep it simplistic, tactile. Is that a real balance and a challenge?
RC: Yeah, totally.
MH: That's well-observed. It's completely on the ball. [laughs]
RC: The most important thing is to have a really great setting for all these features, so they don't feel like features, they feel cohesive -- so that you have got this world to explore, and you're not like, "Oh, now I have to do the minigame." They all have a purpose, and they all have been folded into the narrative.
We'll keep it focused where we need to keep it focused, so that the player has a challenge that they need to get past, and everyone gets that same experience, and they really feel like they beat it. But then there are areas where they are more free to find some extra characters that other people have maybe not seen, and help them out, and find some creatures, some craft plans, that no one else did, and really dig a little bit deeper into the surface.
MH: It is definitely a challenge, though, to get that balance right, I think. It's always a challenge making a game, anyway. We are hiring, by the way. [Everyone laughs] We want some people to come and help us finish it.
That's an important point. It has to have depth in there. It's not just a frivolous few gimmicks that we'll get bored of after 10 minutes. Hopefully, it will be something that you can get really engrossed in.
AE: One really positive thing, looking at the levels and the motifs that are coming out, is you know you're onto a good thing when you see a feature that we've shown you, like back touch, whatever. But then you see it reused, and evolved, and iterated, and tweaked. So that you know that in the game, as you play through the story, that's got this depth to it, you haven't seen it all on moment one.
Like you see the drum skin, and you're like, "Yeah, yeah, I know about drum skin now." And then like an hour into the game, you'll see it used in some different way. And you're like, "Oh, okay, cool," and you have to reassess. That's what I love when you play those kinds of longer form experiences. It's about shaping your journey so that you have just enough.
DS: And I think as a player, you learn to understand the world, and that really feels rewarded. You learn these tricks about how to manipulate the world, and then a new thing gets added, and you really feel like you're becoming more empowered.
AE: It's like a novelty drip feed that's constantly making you reassess the stuff you already know. "Okay, now I can do A. Now I can do B. And that means I can do A plus B and A times B."
MH: A simple example of that would be the finger mechanic example. Part of what's cool about that, from a really sort of superficial point of view, is that it looks like I'm poking my fingers through the screen. But some sort of subtleties of that might not be obvious from the start.
If the camera is more zoomed in, if you're going to keep your finger the same size, that means your finger is suddenly a lot smaller in the world. You zoom the camera right out, and you put your finger through. Suddenly, your finger is the size of a mountain. There's a lot of wiggle room there for different puzzles and things. I think all of the features we carefully chose, they've got milkability.
AE: Milkability. There you go.
DS: And the key thing is they build on the core mechanic, that you're controlling Iota. You're running and jumping through this environment, and these things are adding onto that. You're not switching away into a different game. These things can add on, and can even be affixed together.
AE: Okay -- here we go. "Additive milkability". [everyone laughs]
DS: Oh. That needs trademarking.
Can you talk about the team?
AE: The team at the moment on Tearaway is 15 or 20 people.
DS: Yeah, 15.
AE: And it's growing. You know, it's coming out next year. That's why we're hiring.
That's not a lot of people.
AE: Yeah. That's how we like to do it at Media Molecule. I think the whole studio is like 40 now. We're still pretty small.
AE: Why small?
MH: Agility, for example. It means you can afford to take more risks. It's like the difference steering a speedboat and steering a supertanker, basically. That's one big reason.
AE: I enjoy it more. I've always loved teams up to about... On a particular project, beyond 20, it just changes. Not necessarily for worse, it just changes. My personal enjoyment comes below 20. So, in a way, it's a personal preference.
MH: I think I've worked across the whole range, from on my own in a bedroom to working in a team of 200 people. I've experienced the whole range, there. It’s not always the case, I guess, but in my experience, when you get to that large a team, you kind of become such small cogs in a big machine.
They tend to care less about the whole thing that they're making. They might be really focused on making the best tree that they can possibly make, but they tend to not see the bigger picture, or even care about it.
So, we have a smaller team. And we encourage everyone to be really holistic in everything they do. It's a bit more intense, maybe, but I think we get a bit more love put into the game than a lot of games normally get. That's the intention, anyway. And through the experience, the sweet spot was always a team of like 20, 30 people, maybe.
AE: 20... 30 in the end, 20 in the middle.
MH: Once you go beyond that, you start to have managers to manage the managers, and all this kind of stuff, and it just starts to get out of hand.
AE: The voice of dissent in that, which is interesting, is a friend of mine who works at a large publisher that I won't mention. He's an engine programmer, and he said he absolutely adored the fact that there were 200-plus artists using his tech at any given time. So I can totally see the appeal for certain kinds of people of being in a massive studio with this production, and you do these huge...
MH: Certain types of games need it, really.
AE: Yeah, it's the only way to make it.
MH: I don't really want to be in that world.
AE: Too hard.