‘Dreams’ Is Set To Inspire A New Generation Of Game Devs
We might be basking in the sunset of the PlayStation 4 era right now, with its successor waiting for us come the next dawn, but the arrival of Dreams ensures that the second-best-selling console of all time is waving goodbye in inspirational style. This toolkit, this lights-and-music box of magic and mystery, is a creation entirely in harmony with its title. It is, truly, a portal to dreams.
Dreams is a game, in as much as it features several games to play right out of the box. Indeed, it's a wealth of wildly varied games, made by the Dreams team at Media Molecule and by this game creation system's community. Many amateur designers have been busy designing during Dreams' pre-release beta period, and the results are frequently bedazzling.
Upon turning Dreams on, these creations line up to be sampled. There are puzzlers and platformers, sci-fi spooks and artsy physics experiments. One title's a little like Captain Toad; another is a Lychian fever dream of a detective game with a bipedal pig sniffing out clues in a creaky mansion. One is made by a family, parents and kids combining for a fun, professional-feeling game about crayons bringing colour back to the world.
There's also a game from Media Molecule themselves - made in Dreams, of course, using the same tools that anyone picking this up will have access to. Art's Dream is a multi-genre love-letter to the gaming medium that flits from point-and-click to cartoon-y platforming, right through to beat 'em up action. It's a wonderful-looking thing, a kind of interactive musical in a way, which will apparently take about two hours to see all of. Its purpose: to inspire and encourage, and to send Dreams users off into their own projects.
Media Molecule has let players go wild with their PlayStation-exclusive IP before with LittleBigPlanet, which released in 2008 both as a fine platformer and a playground for a huge community of users to design their own levels in. I never dabbled in the UGC side of LBP myself, but some five million player-created stages had been built and shared by September 2011.
Whether Dreams achieves such a figure in its lifetime remains to be seen, but such is the depth and breadth of possibility here, that I can confidently say that this will be cited as a foundational experience for many a future professional, celebrated game developer.
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The tools that Dreams gives you are seemingly endless. There are presets to build environments with, to get you going in whatever type of game, of experience, you want to realise. A number of ready-made assets are available, but you could merrily ignore them all and create anything and everything from scratch.
At a preview event, I watch some of the Media Molecule team very quickly put together a small mountainous area using pre-built rock tiles, malleable shapes and lines to form a peak and waterfall (an array of effects are used to make the water translucent and ripple and flow), and then create a kind of cow-rhino hybrid, with a big nose horn and dangling udders. The whole thing takes minutes, and is kind of gruesome if I'm honest, but it shows what can be achieved in no time at all - and more pertinently, how quickly such basics can be laid down for building upon, for refinement and detailing.
Later, the music tools of Dreams get a workout - anyone with experience of GarageBand will have a ball here, putting together beats and loops to complement their games. Not that you need to make a game in Dreams, at all. Maybe you'll use it to create a movie, or an interactive album? The options are there for you, if you're willing to put the time in to make the most of them.
Older readers might remember the original PlayStation's Music, and its sequel, Music 2000. These programmes - you'd never call them games - won awards for their makers, Jester Interactive, and inspired numerous musicians who went on to forge careers doing what they love, such as rappers Ab-Soul and Big KRIT, and producers Hudson Mohawke and Benga.
And I can completely see Dreams being a new wave of game developers' own Music, their breakthrough window onto how games come together, and the glue that binds them. From what I've seen and played, it's got the potential to turn gaming tinkerers into creative titans, like no readily available and affordable product before it.
Dreams is released on February 14th 2020, exclusively on PlayStation 4, priced at £34.99.
Featured Image Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment / Media Molecule