Tearaway

Client Media Molecule (Sony)
Type Entertainment
Date September 2017 - November 2014

The game was nominated for a British Academy Award for Best Music, and also won Best Handheld Audio Prize at the GANG Awards. Two accomplishments we are extremely proud of.

The Project

After seeing our work on Papo & Yo, Media Molecule approached us in 2013 and wanted to explore what it would look like to work together. Media Molecule is owned by Sony and is considered one of the most creative video game studios in the industry, so it was an honour to be selected as one of the companies to pitch for this exciting game.

The game takes place in a world made of paper and is based on a single character mission, to find a unique message in order to complete the game. Throughout the journey, you must battle with small enemies who try to impede your quest.

Considering the setting and gameplay, Media Molecule wanted the music to have a heavy folk influence. It needed to feel unique, naive, and as if it were created by the inhabitants of this little world. For this reason, we took a different approach. Before we even began composing, we built instruments entirely from paper. We wanted to challenge ourselves with this pitch and see if we could create something that truly felt like it was a part of that world.

Our Angle

Every track needs a foundation, so we started building drums as the first instrument in our little paper orchestra. We tested hundreds of different types of paper to find the exact right feel. From unearthing rare handmade Japanese rice paper, to regular A4, we tried it all. After extensive testing, we ended up constructing the drums with cardboard, glue, and paper. https://vimeo.com/1122094444

Once our drums were set, we began building string instruments using minimal amounts of wood solely for structure. We even travelled across the world to assemble a team to help us craft instruments with authentic sound, including a seasoned percussion instructor from Brazil, and a Peruvian shaman. Both are experts in building instruments from natural materials. They advised and coached us throughout the entire process, and at the end of it all, we had over a dozen drums, strings, and horn instruments to begin composing with.

The following process was incredibly experimental. We tested all of our instruments extensively in the studio until they felt just right. Using different microphone and recording techniques, we were able to get an incredible range of sounds. These techniques made our paper drums sound like they were hundreds of times the size. This gave us even more potential for sounds than we ever could have predicted.

After spending two weeks recording the tracks, we presented our work to Media Molecule and their audio director, Kenny. They loved what we showed them and asked if we could collaborate on a small project to see if we would work well together. Our visions were immediately aligned and shortly after, we were officially working on the music for the game. A laborious but rewarding pitch process to say the least.

The Nuts and Bolts

To complement our collection of paper instruments, we spent months research old baroque instruments that felt folky. We invested in tons of new instruments from all over the world. Including baroque crumhorns from England, a custom hand-made gurdy from an artisan in New- York, and 100 year old gems horns from Germany. When it was all set and done, we had close to 100 instruments for this project alone.

Learning how to play these instruments wasn’t an easy task. To get the style just right, and to sound authentic, we went to great lengths to make this project align with our vision. Spent hundreds of hours on research, read about the music, studied the physics of each instrument, received advice from famous musicians of this style, and even went to sleep every night listening to the music in order to internalize it. We truly aren’t your average sound studio.

All of this work led to the creation of the game’s first major track: the theme song for The Scraps. This inspired the rest of the creative process and led to 40 more tracks that we co-created with Kenny.

Some were inspired by ancient sailor music and sea chanting, while others felt almost electronic or techno. Throughout the whole process, the one thing that united them all was our combination of real instruments with paper creations. It created a truly unique sound, and we were incredibly pleased with the freedom and trust that Media Molecule gave us for this project. They really enabled us to push the limits.

The Result

After a year’s worth of work, Kenny and his team integrated all of the tracks into the video game, and launched it publicly a few months later.

The game initially launched on Playstation Vita, which was the perfect testing ground as it would ultimately make its way to the PS4 as Tearaway Unfolded. Both games were highly praised for their artistic achievement, and Tearaway Unfolded was a commercial hit. The game was nominated for a British Academy Award for Best Music, and also won Best Handheld Audio Prize at the GANG Awards. Two accomplishments we are extremely proud of.

The music was loved so much, that we ended up doing live performances in Malmo Sweden, London England, and Montréal Canada. These incredible experiences paved the way to many other video game projects that we’ve worked on since. Including Resident Evil 7 and Little Big Planet 3.