Interview: Media Molecule studio boss Siobhan Reddy

By Joe Anderson, Monday, 10 May 2010 14:10 GMT

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Media Molecule has a unique “culture,” something made fairly obvious by the product it creates. Don’t think this is something that happens by chance, however. Workplace ambiance is a precious thing, and people like Siobhan Reddy, the developer’s studio director, are employed to protect it. She’s a sort of games developer culture policewoman. Nothing if not niche.

Reddy sat down with us at the LittleBigPLanet 2 reveal in London last week to talk about the sequel and her role in the company.

Hit this for impressions from the event, this for screens and this for another four Media Molecule interviews recorded on the day.

Can you tell me what your role is on a day to day basis?

Siobhan Reddy: My job is to look after the studio and its culture. I work alongside the finance and HR team on one side, and on the other side there’s the production team of three. They’re responsible for managing the day-to-day production of the games.

At Media Molecule we try to encourage people to work in a way that’s natural to them, which means that there are many different methods going on at one time. The production team are there to underpin it and make sure the chaos is at least being tracked.

My job is just to help keep the team focused on delivering the game.

Do you give the teams deadlines?

Siobhan Reddy: We try to help each team work out what they need to do in order to finish, and so we have deadlines like our Alpha and Beta deadline. Within each “molecule,” as we call them, it is up to them to figure out what their plan is to get there. So, within the production team, we try to remove any blockages and try to remove the democracy that they may have to deal with otherwise.

Mainly, though, it is just about getting people to remain focused and come in every day and get on with what they are good at.

You mentioned that there are many different methods going on at one time. How do you gel all of these ideas together?

Siobhan Reddy: One of the consistent things we have is a Friday feature, where people show off the work they’ve been doing that week. When we get closer to the end of the game it all gels together by us doing regular place readings. You can see amazing stuff on the walls and keep some track of it. Ultimately, though, it’s what’s on the disc or TV that’s the proof.

Is there ever the occasion when someone will have an idea and shout out for everyone to come and have a look at what they have done?

Siobhan Reddy: Yeah, that happens very regularly at Molecule. We actively encourage that, because part of the Molecule is about being involved. People in the office do more than one thing; one of our programmers, for example, has moved on to become a writer. We are a very creative team, so things like this just happen naturally.

How did the idea of LittleBigPlanet 2 come up? Was it a joint decision?

Siobhan Reddy: It was a collaboration. People started creating and then followed through with the ideas they had. Over a period of time we’ve culled it down to the set we think that we need.

But yeah, Molecule works in a very ground-up way, and then over time we will pull things together and try to nurture any ideas by giving them a go, manifesting them and seeing if they’re worth putting more time into.

How long has LittleBigPlanet 2 been in development for?

Siobhan Reddy: It’s very hard to say because people have been on and off it for the past year. Obviously we have mini-threads, the DLC threads going on, so the whole team hasn’t been working on the game very long.

I think LittleBigPlanet is a good family game. Would you agree with this?

Siobhan Reddy: That’s one of my very favourite things about LBP. Mark as a child was really inspired by the Commodore 64, and so for him it’s really nice to hear of people playing it with their children. To hear of children playing with Create is also very cool.

What excites you about LittleBigPlanet 2?

Siobhan Reddy: The thing that excites me is the idea of working in teams. I might be into cut-scenes, you may be into gameplay, someone else may be into something else, and together we become a team that makes something. That’s how we make games.

LittleBigPlanet was really good for people who were one-man bands, whereas LBP2 should encourage people to work together more as you don’t need to be everything. You don’t need be good at art or whatever else; you just create to your talent.

What do you think about the new Cinematic features?

Siobhan Reddy: I have to say that I’m much more excited about playing with cut-scenes and Sackbots because it’s in my realm. I am not a level designer, so I think this opens the game out massively to the type of people who can create.

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