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How Tearaway sought the mundane to create something magical

The magical possibilities of ordinary things served as an inspiration for Media Molecule's hit PlayStation Vita adventure Tearaway, according to creative lead Rex Crowle.

Speaking at the DICE convention in Las Vegas today, Crowle talked about "using the ordinary to create extraordinary." Tearaway, one of Polygon's top ten games of 2013, takes place in a world made of paper and utilizes many of PlayStation Vita's hardware functionality like the camera and back touchpad.

"We try to merge the player's world with the world that they are playing with, to make something interesting out of the mundane," said Crowle. "We used paper but there are a lot of other materials available and I am sure players are delighted by them, rather than just another slippy-slidey world."

In Tearaway, players can reach into the world with their fingers, using the back touchpad. They can create paper artifacts in the world, like an custom crown for a squirrel. They can insert themselves using the Vita's camera. Achievements can be printed out in the real world, as paper models.

Crowle said he and the team were inspired by cinematic adventures like Time Bandits and Labyrinth which began in mundane settings like bedrooms but soon stretched out into colorful fantasy worlds.

"The best dreams are based in reality," he said. "Having a realistic core makes the fantasy feel more engaging."

In designing Tearaway, Media Molecule was searching for a realistic element on which to base the game. Their office desks and walls became filled with paintings, drawings and plans for concept art.

"It took us a while to understand that the thing we were looking for was right in front of us," he said. "The physical form of all the paper was more interesting than the art itself, so paper became the element that we decided to build the game on. Something realistic and familiar."

He said that "the real became surreal," adding, "your average piece of paper is pretty dull, just like any material that allows for personal expression. It is just waiting to be transformed." The team focused on ways paper is used creatively, to build models and figures.

"You can find all sorts of ways to interact and touch and fold the world," he said. "We could literally tear a hole in the fourth wall."

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