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Paper Profit

Media Molecule

John Broomhall talks with Kenny Young, audio director/composer at Media Molecule, the game developer behind LittleBigPlanet, about creating innovative audio for the new PS Vita title Tearaway.

TEARAWAY, THE new adventure game exclusive to Sony’s PlayStation Vita, offers players a tactile papercraft world in which they help a little papercraft messenger buddy deliver the message trapped inside their envelope-shaped head – from the papery world of Tearaway into the real world. It’s original, charming, and engaging, in no small part due to its delightful music and sound content.

TACTILE Kenny Young, audio director/composer at Media Molecule, which created the audio for the game, explains: “The kernel of the project was Rex Crowle, Tearaway’s creative director, considering how to make use of Vita’s unique rear touchpad and having the idea of one’s (virtual) fingers cleverly emerging into the game world from underneath the handheld console to cause

28 January 2014

chaos. That spawned the idea of a papercraft world – something tactile you could poke and rip through. Then we endeavoured to build upon all the Vita’s other features – traditional gaming controls, front touch, gyros, accelerometer, front and rear cameras, and even the microphone – but, not just in gimmicky ‘because we can’ ways, but in ways that really integrated with the world and story.”

A MAKE-BELIEVE WORLD OF PAPER The early days of the project were quite frustrating, as Young explains: “People would moan about the game not sounding papery, and I’d bang the same drum for months – the game might look papery, but nothing in it behaves like paper! If nothing in the world moves there’s no excuse to make it sound papery – things have to unroll or tear into existence

not just slide onto screen! You need papery behaviours to describe with sound – unfolding or ripping to shreds... It sounds obvious, but that’s why games with a papery schtick usually fail at pulling off the illusion – paper isn’t just a look or a sound that you can crowbar in. So when the game world started bending, flexing, folding, crumpling, and tearing like paper, it became

infinitely easier to back it up with sound – subtle stuff like the little sound a flap of paper makes when your messenger walks over it, or the dynamic wind in the game making the grass rustle. “But paper has a limited

range of sonic possibilities! There’s a lot you can do but you can’t afford to be slavishly literal the whole time. Conversely, if you ignore the papery requirement, you fail

The title is designed for Sony’s new Vita handheld console

to support the illusion. Striking that balance and developing that language and aesthetic was a big focus. It was also an early aim to push the ambient soundscape and not have music everywhere. Giving the player a break from the intensity and purpose that music provides (and in doing so creating more impact the next time music appears), and thereby letting the world really speak

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