One fascinating aspect of Media Molecule's games is that they've enabled people to get their start in the games industry. If you've been keeping an eye on things over the last 10 years or so, you'll likely have read stories about members of the LittleBigPlanet community getting hired by studios, including the Guildford developer itself. Fast forward to now, and we're seeing very similar things with Dreams on PlayStation 4.
One perfect example is Jamie Breeze, who has been creating brilliant content within Media Molecule's titles for a number of years. He was recently hired by the team off the back of his achievements within Dreams. We got the chance to sit down with Jamie and communications manager Abbie Heppe to chart his trajectory from first steps in LBP all the way to professional game developer.
Push Square: For our readers who might not know who you are, could you introduce yourself and your role at Media Molecule?
Jamie Breeze: I'm Jamie Breeze, I'm community content creator at Media Molecule. I do social media stuff; I make assets, videos, and GIFs and stuff, which is really cool.
Not JIFs, absolutely not. [Laughs]
Anyway, that’s what you’re doing now, but let’s go back a bit. Way back when, you were a big part of the LittleBigPlanet community on PS3. Who was Jamie Breeze in 2008?
In 2008, Jamie Breeze was picking up LittleBigPlanet for the Trophies. And I remember my first level was a Heart-for-Heart level [a level created simply to garner Hearts as quickly as possible].
Yeah, I was on the bad side. But I learned the evil nature of my ways, and decided to make really small, not-very-good platformers, involving... I think there was one with a cow invasion, or something.
That sounds legit.
It does sound quite legit, yeah. [Laughs] But from that, I sort of dwindled away from the creation aspect a little bit before LittleBigPlanet 2 came out. I was really invested in that because of the music sequencer tools. I really like composing and stuff like that. There were lots of new gadgets and stuff which made creation so much easier.
So actually it wasn't until LBP2 that you really got into creating things in these games?
Absolutely. In fact, it was after the Move pack was released [which introduced PS Move controller functionality and more] when I got my first Team Pick. I made a PlayStation Move version of whack-a-mole, but with Sackbots. It was called Whack-A-Sack. I'm surprised it stayed on the servers as long as it did. [Laughs]
What was the appeal of LBP for you? Did you just enjoy making stuff, was it the collaborative nature, making things with friends?
That was actually one of the best things about LBP2. That's where I met a future Dreams creator, who I still do music for -- SlurmMacKenzie. Back in the day, he was releasing like a rolling ball level. We had a mutual friend, who suggested I make some music for it, see if he picks it up and uses it for his level. Sure enough, I spent a couple of hours on it, sent it over, and he used it! That was my first big collaboration in LBP2.
Fast forward to 2019 and Dreams, one of his first creations he messaged me and asked if I could do some music. So my first collaboration with him was about eight years ago, then absolute silence, then Dreams comes out and we're back to collaborating!
Back on LittleBigPlanet 2, then, were you thinking about the possibility of getting into games professionally?
Not really, because, coming from LBP2, I was more invested in the music creation tools and stuff like that. I was convinced that, when Dreams came out, I would just be using [the music tools] entirely and doing absolutely nothing else. But then I went onto DreamSurfing, and saw that people I know were making small, silly little dreams and stuff, and I thought I might as well give that a try. Then, sure enough, a couple of days later, The Rake was released.
And everyone knows The Rake!
Everyone knows The Rake apparently, yeah. I had no idea at the time, but apparently it's a big thing. [Laughs]
What were your first thoughts when you made the jump to Dreams? Obviously it's much bigger in scope than LBP, what was going through your mind?
I found the creation aspect mirrored quite a lot of LittleBigPlanet 2's general idea, but it just felt really easy to get into the creation tools and stuff. I mean, there are plenty of tutorials available and that kind of stuff. It was fascinating working with limitless axes instead of the 2.5D of LBP.
In the open beta and early access, you made a handful of small but varied minigames. You've mentioned The Rake, but you also made Llama Quest, Imp Golf, and Fret Star for example. A lot of these were being picked up by Media Molecule, so how was that for you, when you saw that the developer was paying attention to almost everything you were making?
It was really weird. When I first saw The Rake on a Media Molecule livestream, I thought it was a joke. [Laughs] It was the weirdest thing, because I was just sitting there not really expecting anything to take off, but it did. It was absurd, I think is the right word.
I mean, I enjoyed it, I thought it was fantastic. It was really weird to see my creations cropping up on the streams every week. It inspired me a lot to keep creating things.
Because once you got a spot in the limelight, you wanted to stay there.
Exactly, that's exactly what happened. [Laughs]
People are still waiting on sequels for everything, because I released my dreams in the hope I would make sequels. Like for Imp Golf, in the description I think it says something like, "New courses soon!" and "soon" is never gonna happen. "Soon" is that really nice, vague game dev word you can use to postpone all your projects, but keep people on their toes.
I like it. So, again, when you were making these things, were you making them with the aspiration to get into game development? Or when Media Molecule started picking your stuff out, was it then that you realised that was a possibility?
I've done some game development in the past, but just very basic kind of stuff. Like visual, sprite-based things. So coming to Dreams, I approached it with a more hobbyist mindset, rather than thinking, "I'm going to use this as a springboard to something bigger".
But now, obviously, you're at Media Molecule. How did that come about? Was it a natural thing, was there a dialogue between you and the studio?
Yeah. When the job was listed for community content creator, I thought, "That sounds absolutely amazing"... But then I looked back at my creations and I thought, "No, surely not. This isn't indicative of like really cool stuff that people would want to take on themselves". But in the end I caved in, and put together a little portfolio of the stuff I'd made in Dreams, and... Yeah. It's just all happened so fast, it's so weird.
When was it you started? It was before the new year, wasn't it?
Abbie Heppe: I think it was like September, October?
Jamie Breeze: October, yeah.
AH: That's right, because Jamie started and a week later, I was like, "Hey, I'm gonna need to you fly to Mexico with me to do a demo for [Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson].
JB: [Laughs] Did that really happen?! I thought I was in a weird fever dream.
Thrown right into the deep end, go and meet the Jumanji cast.
JB: Yeah, no pressure, no big deal.
So what's your day-to-day like now? I imagine it's very different from your previous job?
JB: Yeah, so my day-to-day is... Well, we have Dreams livestreams -- jams, community creations -- which we populate with the best things we've seen in the game. Occasionally I do streams myself, like the Llama Quest 2 stream. On top of that, I'm making assets and things for social media, which is really cool.
AH: Yeah, and special projects he's not allowed to talk about, that kind of thing.
AH: But it's great, though. On the social team, it gives us the flexibility to do some really unique things without taking time away from people who are doing other projects. We're not a big team, so for us it's a really new role that lets us explore some things that we'd really like to do, and take on some larger projects ourselves. It's awesome.
JB: Yeah, and no two days are ever the same. It's just like, "We want you to do this today".
AH: I think the brilliant thing about having Jamie and hiring from the community, is that sometimes people from the community kinda know us better than we know ourselves. I know that sounds really weird, but the history they have with LittleBigPlanet and with the company is incredibly valuable. It helps us keep that feeling of "What is Media Molecule" alive, I think it's really special.
I was just reading earlier about another creator, Jimmyjules153, who had a job offer from a developer based on his Dreams game. It's so cool that people are able to use Dreams as a sort of interactive portfolio and that those in the industry can view that as legitimate talent.
AH: It's a story that we hope to see more and more. We're so hoping that the community has lots of opportunities in the wider industry, or to do their own thing. It's such a heartwarming story and it makes us all really happy when we hear it.
JB: Media Molecule makes creative games that let you make whatever you like, so we're probably at an advantage here, but it's really nice that it's breaking down the taboo that gaming doesn't have anything that nurtures transferable skills.
It's really inspiring hearing about these stories, like yours, where talented people are being recognised and ending up in creative jobs that they're good at and really enjoy.
AH: We had our eye on Jamie for a while. [Laughs]
Really? So when did you pick up on Jamie?
AH: I mean he's not wrong, The Rake did get a lot of attention internally. We can't stress enough how much we actually play and consume Dreams ourselves in and out of work. So The Rake, it's just so funny and so quick, and then Llama Quest... I think what a lot of Jamie's work does is it reflects the sort of humour and sensibility that comes through in Media Molecule's games. The other really cool thing is that Jamie's really talented on the audio side of things, but finding someone who's really well versed in every area of creation in Dreams is awesome. Like, that's something we really needed to have in this role. So yeah, when we put the job description live, I had been hoping that we would get an application from Jamie, and then we didn't. So we had to be a bit more proactive about it.
That said, we had so many talented people apply. It was one of the hardest roles I have ever tried to fill, because there are just so many talented people in the games industry. It was really tough, but yeah, Jamie was among the people we were really hoping would apply for the role. I sincerely hope we'll be able to open up more spots on the team in the future. We are a bit at capacity in the studio at the moment, but it's really heartwarming to see people getting offers from other places in the games industry first. I know there's a lot of people have that goal of "Oh my God I'd love to work at Media Molecule someday", but it's a matter of space. My message to them is, don't let that ever stop you from applying to other places in the industry. We don't all start out at the place we want to work the most, and sometimes the pathway we find ends up being incredibly fulfilling as is. So I hope people don't get hung up on working here, go and find other ways into the industry because they're there, and we're starting to see that come to fruition in Dreams.
Any final thoughts on your journey from community member to being employed by Media Molecule?
JB: It's just so weird. It's like what Abbie was saying, people have those thoughts of "It must be really cool to work at Media Molecule", and I had that moment when I was playing LBP2, just playing through the story mode and thinking it was amazing. And now about eight years later, I'm here now. It feels like I haven't really had a chance to reflect on those thoughts, it's just sort of happened... It's just weird. That's it, it's just weird.
Do you have any advice for people who are aspiring to be in the games industry?
JB: The skills you can gain in Dreams are widely transferable. Like the music tools for example, it's so easy to go in and perform, and if you don't want to perform, you can just use whatever else and use that as a springboard into doing more complex things. It's all readily available there. If you've got a passion, just run with it.
AH: And don't be afraid to try. Send your resume in when the job's posted!
Anything else you want to add before we wrap up?
JB: I could use this moment to announce the release date for Llama Quest 2.
Oh my God, have I got a scoop?
AH: You might have a scoop!
Jamie Breeze, you gentleman.
JB: I know, right?
Let's have it. What's the release date for Llama Quest 2?
AH: Yeah, let's have it. I don't even know this!
JB: The release date for Llama Quest 2 is... [feigns interference] Oh no, Stephen, you're breaking up! I can't hear you. Oh well, maybe next time.
AH: Wait, so we don't get to know?!
You had me there, Jamie.
AH: I'm sad.
I was really pleased for you with your new job Jamie, but now I'm absolutely livid.
AH: You've turned the press against us, Jamie.
Seriously though, looking forward to whatever you make next. And we can catch you on future Media Molecule livestreams?
JB: Yep, community creations on Thursdays at 5pm [GMT], and on Tuesdays for jams.
A huge thank you to Jamie and Abbie for talking to us about Dreams and its potential as a gateway into the industry. Thanks also to Sarah from PlayStation for setting this up. You can usually catch Jamie and Abbie on the weekly community creation streams on Media Molecule's Twitch or YouTube channels.