Tearaway is best known as a game of delightful paper craft with fragile and playful characters. But in its first iteration, the game's main character wasn't made of paper at all — it was the player's fleshy finger.
Speaking at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, Media Molecule's community manager James Spafford detailed the three main iterations the game went through to arrive at the final version, which launched on the PlayStation Vita in 2013.
According to Spafford, the first version of the game was inspired by the role fingers play in gaming. Players already use their fingers to push buttons and swipe screens to make things happen in games, so what if they could actually push their fingers into the games themselves?
"Instead of touching, you could feel it," he said. "If you could touch a game world, what kind of game world would you want to touch?"
In the early prototype, players could "push" their finger into the game through the Vita's rear touch surface. The finger would then appear in the game, and players could move it around and cut out sections of the floor. The finger itself was the main character. Players could equip their finger with weapons that would allow them to shoot fire from their finger tips.
"The problem was no one outside the development team could actually play it," Spafford said. "People found it difficult to use the rear touch for navigating the game world."
The game then entered its second major iteration, where it introduced a paper craft character. In this iteration, the player's finger partnered with the in-game character, an early version of Iota. The character could navigate the game world easily but, level-wise, was weak. The player's finger couldn't navigate the game world, but was significantly more powerful. The idea was for players to collaborate with the character and use the finger sparingly.
In this same iteration, Media Molecule introduced the idea of of an open-world role-playing game that was procedurally-generated and used GPS from the real world. Players could earn XP by taking photos from the real world, and there would be a connection between the locations of the game world and the real world.
This proved too complicated, and also veered too far from the original idea of the player's finger entering the game, so the development team attempted a third and final major iteration, which led to Tearaway as we known it today.