We’re constantly trying to think about how to share more details on the development of our games with the rest of the world, to show how we work, and how the games are coming along. So far we’ve not been particularly successful at this, it is after all quite a hard nut to crack, as traditionally game content is kept under lock and key, and polished until ready.
We thought we’d try our hand at some development diaries, starting with this written one, and hopefully taking the conversations through to our podcasts, and maybe some video diaries too.
We’d very much liked to evolve these to share as much as we are able to, and to discuss the development of our games in a depth people feel interested in reading about, so please let us know your thoughts on what you’d like to hear us talk about.
So, what have we been up to since we announced the game, and where are we now? Let’s ask Tearaway’s Producer Michelle Ducker!
Back in early August on the eve of Gamescom in Germany, a small group of Molecules sat in the audience of the Playstation Conference after spending a full day in rehearsals. It was an incredibly emotional and nerve-wracking experience, and a very special moment for the whole team. This was where we were going to reveal what we had all been working on for the last year and a bit, our next game, our new IP; Tearaway.
The moment Jim Ryan began introducing Rex and Alex was terrifying. Lots of buzzing questions and worries began circling in our minds;Will the game crash? Will it do something weird and unexplainable? Will there be time to grab the back-up Vita we’ve prepared that was sitting on the side of the stage? Will it go horribly wrong? Live demos are always a risk… Gulp!
Back at Mm Towers in Guildford, the rest of the team were crammed around a TV set watching the live stream of the event as it was happening, possibly thinking the same things. Looking back this all must have been a very new feeling for most of the team - I can imagine the anxious excitement that they must have all been feeling at that moment, especially for our rocking QA team, who were working right up until the line with us on the Friday before the event, getting the stage build ready for this day. All in all, the experience of taking this little concept and getting it to the point where we are demo’ing it onstage at a major games event was pretty epic and extremely overwhelming.
Well, it’s been a few months now since that tense and exciting moment at Gamescom, and it might seem that we’ve been super quiet over at Mm Towers, but we haven’t! For the Tearaway team it’s been non-stop. We came out of the announce highs beginning to tackle a lot of the key areas of the game we felt weren’t strong enough, and focusing on the bits that will become the foundations for us to build an entire game upon.
We’ve had quite a few jamming sessions whilst making this, the first being the god-like powers, and then post Gamecom we spent time on Iota’s abilities and how they developed during the paper adventure. The Jamming process involved the whole team writing a big list of all the things that they wanted to try out, all the ideas we had, and then people would go off to work on them either alone, or partnering up with others to try stuff out. We would review the prototypes like daily, and critically figure out which ones were fun, and more importantly, strong enough to make it into the shortlist for our next epic challenge, building out first game theme!
Lots of really cool stuff came out of the little jams we’ve had along the way, as well as a lot of really whacky and crazy ideas that didn’t quite make it in. It’s funny because throughout this time you really get a sneak peek into the minds of our design and gameplay teams, the results could be genius, hilarious, and at times… disturbing! It’s our favourite way to work together, and it brings out the best in each person in the team. I’m looking forward to showing some of these experiments at some point!
So…what does this all mean? We’ve set ourselves a very key milestone for a few weeks from now, by which time we aim to produce our first fully playable game theme, one that will form the framework and basis for the rest of the game to be built upon. It’s an exciting time for us and there’s lots more to do.
The game theme we’re building is a marooned island in a lake of glue, where something fishy is going on. We don’t want to say much more than that right now, as with any luck we’ll be showing more of it before the end of the year, and we don’t want to spoiler people too much… teasing is way more fun!
We’re looking good for our milestone, the underlying technology, visuals, animation , audio and gameplay for the theme are well underway, and in building the whole area we hope to find the answers to many questions we’re still asking ourselves about the rest of the game!
Thanks Michelle! If you’d like to hear a little more on the post announce highs and the things we’ve been working on, you can tune into the most recent Mm Podcast.
We’re very much looking forward to showing you more soon, and hopefully keeping these dev diary conversations alive. If you have any thoughts about what you’d like to see us talk about, perhaps in more detail, then let us know - we’re open to suggestions! For now, we’ll leave you with a teaser…
Whilst most concept art is traditionally sketched with pencils or rendered on computers, a lot of ours is made from cutting out and folding pieces of paper. We pulled together all the scraps and half made bits and pieces from around this cutting mat, to give you a little teaser of some of the things we are working on for this big milestone. Look out for them when we reveal it for real!
A few weeks ago I heard that an all-women game jam was happening somewhere in London. In a game jam you make a game from scratch in a certain time period, this one was 24 hours.
Many people use Unity or similar tools so that you can get something up and running quickly then iterate. I’m more used to traditional games development, writing code in C++, and taking months or even years to make a game. I had never considered taking part in a game jam before, despite being a programmer in the games industry for 11 years, mainly because I wasn’t sure I had much to offer. But this one seemed different, for this Game Jam I did have something to offer.
I’m a woman and I’ve worked within the industry for years; I’ve made a good career of it, I’ve had a child, and am currently working part time. I’m living proof that despite all the talk of crunch and long hours culture, it is possible to balance a family life and a career in games, which I think is a very positive message to be able to tell any aspiring gamedev students, especially women.
The games industry is very male-dominated (in the 2012 Develop Salary Survey only 6% of developers were female) and I wish it wasn’t so. At Media Molecule we have a better gender split at 22%, and a female director, both of which I believe are contributing factors towards the relaxed and fun atmosphere in the office, and the success of our games. I was keen to meet more women in the industry, find out if their stories were similar to mine, do what I could to help promote women in games… oh and make a kick-ass game with them too!
The lack of gender balance in games is not just about the fairness of women fulfilling their potential either. It’s about profitability and business success. In her recent BBC2 program ‘Women at the Top’ Hilary Devey showed that departments with a balance of genders generated more profit than those with a heavy bias one way or the other. So, if you’re recruiting for your company that’s worth bearing in mind…
So, why are there so few women in games? One possible deterrent to those without a really thick skin are the outpourings of misogyny and hate that you get on any internet site tackling sexism or women in games. For example the reaction to Anita Sarkeesian’s YouTube video, or the commentary defending the derogatory comic featuring Jade Raymond, or the treatment of Miranda Pakozdi when she entered a Cross Assault video game tournament. It makes it look like a very uninviting environment, and is a complete misrepresentation of working in the industry, at least in my experience.
However, I feel the primary reason is society’s differing expectations of girls and boys as they grow up. For instance, I’m already seeing my two year old son being steered towards certain toys, whilst a friend’s daughter is steered towards others. The pinkification of girls toys is a real pity. I think that we need to be far more supportive of girls who want to play with ‘boys’ toys and boys who want to play with ‘girls’ toys. In fact I really don’t see any need to separate the toys at all. My son loves playing at cooking. At first my Dad wasn’t sure whether to encourage him or not. Of course I want him to be interested in cooking, and just because he’s a boy he shouldn’t miss out on the joy that is cooking and sharing a delicious meal.
Thinking back, I remember a few instances where I was steered away from what I saw as the ‘fun’ toys and games when was young – at one point my Mum was summoned to my Primary school because my teacher was very concerned that as a girl I was playing with Lego. Luckily my Mum has always supported me to choose the things I enjoy rather than going along with what is expected of me. At secondary school I had careers advice at 16. I expressed an interest in computers and programming and was told that my options were data entry or maybe teaching. Again, I ignored them, and went on to get a first class degree from Cambridge in Computer Science – in your face, careers advisor! There are many more examples of bad advice, or subtle influences that could so easily have steered me away from what has turned out to be my dream job, and whilst It’s a long time since I was I school, I suspect that not too much has changed. The pity is that there’s only so much we can do in the games industry to attract women in, because we’ve already lost them in school.
Having said that I don’t think we should throw our hands up in the air and give up. There are still steps we can take to help! There’s some great work going on making sure that the women we do have in the industry are visible - I think that female role models can be a very positive influence. And there are efforts to bring the women in games together, to unite us, provide support, and make us a stronger presence within the industry. This game jam seemed like something very positive that could help with both, and so off I went.
After a general introduction to the people organising and running the jam our first task was to form into teams. There were lots of introductions, and I was surprised and very pleased to find that there were plenty of other programmers. I formed a team with Sarah, Huda, and Jo. I learnt a huge amount from Huda, a very talented Unity programmer who has just finished her master’s degree. Our artist Sarah worked through the night to create some awesome steampunk style textures. And Jo organised us into a cohesive team; she made sure we had a design that we all bought into, and were not too madly ambitious.
We made a game called Android Grim Reaper – you play the Grim Reaper and have to find and harvest souls as their timer runs out. About 30 minutes before the end of the jam we didn’t have a game that ran, but with a lot of head scratching, and plenty of ingenuity, we pulled together and got a build limping towards functionality. Of course we were over ambitious, tried to do far too much in the 24 hours available, but that’s half the fun and makes for a tense and exciting finish! We’ll be polishing the game and hopefully in a week or so it’ll still be fun, but will also be vaguely understandable to players other than the dev team :)
It was an awesome day, so inspiring and a lot of fun! I’m pregnant which makes you pretty tired at the drop of a hat, so it has taken a week or so to recover from the late nights, but it was SO worth it. I’ll definitely be GameJamming again soon!
Photos courtesy of Zo-ii, thank you!
Tom has been busy making a font for Tearaway, which sounds pretty simple right? 26 characters for A-Z and then a few squiggly bits and bobs and you’re done. WRONG.
Just for starters, we need full Latin and Cyrillic character sets, meaning so far Tom has made an impressive 2388 glyphs.
This has obviously taken a serious amount of dedication to the job, and many hours of work, which might explain this early font test image we discovered on his computer… I think we broke him, call an ambulance.
it’s Halloween, which means one thing: treats! To celebrate this day of treats, Tess has rustled up these spooky cakepops for us to nom upon, why not have a go at making them yourself?
Things you’ll need
- Time - Do not underestimate the amount of time these will take!
- Cake (homemade or shop bought) can be flavour of your choice
- Buttercream (homemade or shop bought)
- Candy Melts by Wilton (or look in the baking section of the supermarket for their coloured/flavoured buttons) in a colour of your choice
- Lollipop sticks
- A microwave safe bowl, at least 3 inches deep (I used a coffee mug)
- A cake pop stand, or a block of Styrofoam will do
- Decorations (the limit is your imagination!)
- A really useful book is Cake-Pops by Angie Dudley. There’s even a video you can watch on that Amazon Link!
We’re back from GameCity after a fairly intense day of colouring, cutting and glueing things, and we had a great time!
We were there with a big pile of Tearaway papercraft Elk plans, and with the help of the GameCity stewards, we ran a popup papercraft workshop for one day only. We met lots of lovely people, and watched some amazing creativity at work, as you’ll see in the gallery below.
Thanks to everyone who came along, we’ll see you again some time soon!
Sad you missed the Jam? Do not weep! We hope to host more of these in the future, and we’ll let everyone know about them when we do. Besides you can make your own Papercraft Elk at home folks: Simply download the free template and print it out. The ones pictured were printed out onto A3, but at that size you really need to print onto card if you can! Happy glueing people!
It’s not technically the final day of National Baking week, but as we try our hardest not to be in the studio on weekends, it will be the last update from us. What better way to end the splurge of Tess’s delicious recipes, than with some cakes made especially for Dave’s birthday!
“Carrot cake is one of my favourite cakes so I had to try this recipe for cupcakes from ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’ by Nigella Lawson. And yep, you guessed it…They are good for you as they’ve got one of your five a day! Yay!”
For the cupcakes
- 100g light Muscovado Sugar
- 175 ml of sunflower oil
- 2 large eggs
- 225g plain flour
- ¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- zest of ½ lemon
- zest of ½ orange or satsuma
- 150g grated carrot (approx. 1 large carrot)
For the icing
- 125g cream cheese
- 250g icing sugar, sieved
- 1-2 tsp of lime juice (I used lemon juice)
- 12 walnut halves to decorate
How to make!
- Preheat the oven to 200 C. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with 12 cupcake cases.
- Beat sugar and oil together, then add the eggs one at a time.
- Add flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, salt and zests and mix well.
- When the mixture is smooth fold in the grated carrot. At this stage, if you would like to, you can also add 100g chopped walnuts to the mix.
- When combined, spoon into the cupcake cases and bake for about 20 mins.
- Check regularly, mine were done in about 18 minutes.
- Cool on a rack.
To make the icing:
Wonder what it feels like to hurtle towards the earth at many miles an hour with a man strapped to your back?
Now you can experience it vicariously through Chris’s words and video evidence, taken a few weeks ago when five
crazed brave molecules (Kenny, Sara, Mags, John and Chris) decided to face their fears go and jump out of a plane in order to raise some money for charity!
They raised a nice amount between them, but as Media Molecule is matching the amount they raised, we thought it would be worth seeing if any of you guys would like to donate to their causes before the time limit is up to donate! If you’d like to donante (go on!) You can do so over here on chris’s page, which has the least amount raised.
Look at that sad amount, but you can help to bolster it? Please donate! Now: the evidence…
The Chris Falls Out of a Plane Experience
“The plane is a small propellor driven thing with a cockpit and a rear area, no seats and just two flat blue cushions to sit on. The first tandem diver climbs in, and invites John to come sit between his legs, with both their backs facing the pilot. Next, I climb up onto a small seat at the back of the plane, while my diver positions himself on the neighbouring cushion, so I can shuffle over and sit in between his legs. A couple of extra guys jump in (one wearing a wingsuit), followed by our cameramen who sit between our legs. By the end of the process we’re like two conga lines sitting side to side, and its time to take off.
Over the course of the climb we do a few thumbs ups for the camera, get a fair amount of reassurance, and take in the view. Every thousand feet my diver points out his altimeter, which it eventually turns out is about 250 feet out, but nobody seems that worried and we continue to climb. At around 8000 feet up, I shift position so my tandem diver is sitting with his legs flat and I am sat on his lap. The straps are tightened so we’re very rigidly attached to each other, and after what seems like very little time the door of the plane opens. The first two divers jump out of the plane, followed by my cameraman who hangs onto the wing waiting for me to jump and it begins to get very real!
I’d expected to be sh***ing myself at this stage, but for some reason I’m not scared. It’s not bravery - that’s when you overcome fear - but there simply wasn’t any fear to begin with. I think that perhaps this is because the brain has never had to develop a fear of jumping out of a plane, as it simply isn’t a situation the human body ever had to deal with. Even as I’m shifting over to the door, repeating in my mind “legs up, hips forward, arms crossed, head back”, I get no real shivers down my spine. Although my heart was probably beating at 200bpm and my brain was flooded with endorphins and adrenaline, the closest I felt to fear was what I’d describe as pre-exam nerves…
More after the jump. (har har har)
Next week we’ll be heading up to GameCity in Nottingham! We can’t show much of Tearaway yet I’m afraid, it’s too early, but as Tearaway’s art style is very papery, we’ve been playing around and making lots of things with paper recently, and we thought you might like to too…
That’s why we’ll be taking up a big bag of craft materials and hosting a Tearaway Papercraft Elk building session!
All day on Tuesday 23rd (10am - 5pm) you’ll be able to find us in the Old Market Square , and we’ll have everything you’ll need to customise and make a Tearaway papercraft Elk, along with some nice scenery to photograph it in too. Hope to see some of you there!
Awaken from your sugar induced coma brought on by yesterday’s treats and hurry over here for further cake based revelry!
National Baking Week continues, and so we bring to you another set of baked goods to enjoy. Today’s treats, once again courtesy of our cake-mesiter Tess, are Coconut and Raspberry Cupcakes!
“These are so easy to make, and in my opinion, any cake that has fruit in it must be good for you…and the coconut makes me think of sandy beaches and holidays!” says Tess.
- 175g Self Raising Flour
- 140 Caster Sugar
- 50g Desiccated Coconut
- 140g softened unsalted organic butter
- ½ tsp Vanilla Extract (I use this one I think it’s one of the best!)
- 2 Large Free Range Organic eggs
- 4 tbsp organic milk
- 140g raspberries (can be fresh or frozen) Frosting
- 280g Icing sugar
- 85g softened unsalted organic butter
- 4 tbsp raspberry coulis (sadly, I didn’t have any coulis L so I used a dash of food colouring to give the frosting a pink flush)
- A little desiccated coconut to decorate…or you could use a fresh raspberry
How to make them!
- Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5.
- Line a 12-hole muffin tin with deep paper cases or a 15-hole bun tin with cake cases.
- Tip all the cake ingredients except the raspberries into a bowl (I recommend putting the flour in your bowl first, not last…otherwise POOF! Flour everywhere!!) and beat for 2 mins until light and fluffy.
- Gently fold in the raspberries.
- Divide the mixture between the cases and bake for 18-20 mins (add a couple of extra mins for deep cases, I baked mine for about 24 minutes), until golden brown and firm to the touch.
- Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes and then carefully remove them and pop them onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the frosting, beat together the icing sugar, butter and raspberry coulis to make a light, fluffy icing. Again, I recommend putting the icing sugar in the bowl before the butter and coulis, and gently mix with a spoon to avoid a cloud of icing sugar dust settling over you and the kitchen!
- Once it’s all combined use your electric whisk to get it nice and smooth.
- Spoon or pipe onto the cakes and sprinkle with coconut to finish.
Stop what you’re doing and listen up: It’s National Baking Week! A whole week to celebrate baking and the bakers behind the baked goods.
Our own talented in-house Baking specialist Tess, who regularly plies us with treats, has stepped up to the plate to provide us with baked yummies all week long, and we’ll be sharing the recipes with you at home.
It might only be a UK festival of baking we see no reason why other nations shouldn’t join in, so come on people, let’s get baking!
Today’s treats were described as a Rocky Road experiment: Belgian chocolate with Dutch spiced biscuits, marshmallows and Mars bars combine into sugary overload. Nom!
- 300g quality dark chocolate
- 100g Butter, cubed
- 3 Tbsp Golden Syrup
- 140g Dutch Spiced Biscuits, roughly crushed (the recipe said Rich tea but I used the spiced ones instead to add depth, perfect for the autumn weather :)
- 12 Pink Marshmallows, quartered using scissors (I had mini marshmallows and threw a large handful of those in)
- 4 x Mini Mars Bars, cubed (recipe is for 2 x 55g bars of Turkish delight, or you can use Crunchie, Milky Way, Maltesers or anything you like!)
How to make them!
- Gently melt the butter, chocolate and syrup in a pan over a low heat, stirring frequently until smooth, then cool for about 10 mins. (I did this in the microwave, stopping it to check every 45 seconds or so until it was a lovely dark brown gloop)
- Stir the biscuits and sweets into the pan until well mixed
- Pour mixture into a 17cm square tin lined with foil and spread the mixture to roughly level it.
- Chill until hard, then cut into fingers.
Oh ok, so it’s not exactly actually baking, more like reverse baking. Freeze Baking. Whatever!
Tomorrow Tess has promised us some kind of coconut based cupcakes, so tune in for another recipe then. Now go forth and (Freeze) Bake!