As you'll have (hopefully) read about recently, I spent some time at Media Molecule, playing its latest offering, Tren. This developer and its games mean quite a lot to me personally, but aside from anything else, I believe it's a team that remains one of the industry's most creative and most interesting. To now be covering its titles as part of the media, having been obsessed with LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway as a pure fan, I do still have to pinch myself every now and then. Especially having now seen where the magic happens for myself.
What's funny is that the studio is in a fairly nondescript Guildford building, and it isn't signposted anywhere. In fact, for a town famed for its concentration of dev studios, I didn't spot a single one as I walked around. They're all hiding. Stepping inside the reception, there were no plaques indicating where Media Molecule's premises are located; I'd have never known there was anything remotely interesting happening within the confines of this sparsely decorated place of business — had I not been told precisely where to go, of course.
After receiving my guest pass, I waited to be collected. A few minutes later, after a handful of other members of the press joined me, we were corralled through some doors, into a lift, and through some more doors into the unmistakable lobby of Media Molecule. Behind the large welcome desk is a huge neon sign greeting us with a "Hello"; toys of Sackboy and Iota adorn the window sill; and a Tearaway cutout board I definitely put my face through at Eurogamer Expo a full 10 years ago stood in the corner (see above). I didn't say anything about that.
Once introductions were done, we were taken on a walk through the main office floor. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos here, but it's probably half-way between what you'd hope Media Molecule is like and a regular place of work — there's pink carpet running the length of the room, there are doodles on the walls of various characters from Dreams and other games, and revolving cubes feature dozens of team photos. However, while the studio's DNA absolutely runs through the area, it is still an office — partitioned clusters of desks sit in an open plan floor, and team members chit chat as our press procession rolls through their day.
Our first stop is a meeting room where we have our briefing on what the visit entails. On one side are several soft sofas, and on the other are a pair of wall-mounted displays, and complimentary cake that everyone is too polite to eat.
Next, we're guided upstairs, where the bulk of the event takes place. Ordinarily, this seems to be Media Molecule's break room, and it's a great space. On the left is a kitchen with in-house chefs whipping up delicious treats, while the opposite wall is lined with places to sit. Pool and ping pong tables can be found either side of a bank of benches and TV screens, where the Tren demo awaits us. It's airy, bright, and relaxed.
However, we were there for the little train game (which you can read all about through here), and the studio really made an effort to remind us of that. Nearly every available surface was decked out with wooden train tracks, as well as a myriad of nostalgic books, toys, games, and trinkets. It echoed the in-game aesthetic perfectly — the team had even recreated some of the in-game models in real life. On the pool table, a crane (called a Cren, of course) stood beside the tracks.
Even better, the train from the game was motorised, and travelling across the table where the demo stations were sat — it was extremely charming. Everyone was even giving it a little nudge when it got stuck, just to keep the fun going. Meanwhile, sat upon the ping pong table was a magnificent Tren cake that was sadly left intact.
There was a real sense of occasion, and everyone was in high spirits. It was an incredibly positive and fulfilling experience for me. Not only because I got to see the studio, which I'd always wanted to do, but because I got to meet many Media Molecule members, catch up with the few I'd met before, and rub shoulders with some press peers. Everyone was so lovely, too. The morning flew by.
Living where I live — a tiny island in the channel — I don't often attend industry events, let alone pay a visit to a game dev. In fact, this was my first time inside a studio, and I couldn't be happier that it was Media Molecule.
Once again, a big thank you to Sony and Media Molecule for having us at the studio. If you've yet to read our preview of Tren — the team's next original game made in Dreams — please take a look. Are you looking forward to playing this developer's latest title? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.