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Feature Article

PS4 Exclusive Dreams Is Impressive, But Can It Also Make You An Artist?

That's what Dreams are made of.

Dreams can be dizzying. It's a game, a set of tools, a palette, a musical instrument, an arcade, and much more. It's at once simple and potentially befuddling, depending on just how willing you are to engage with everything the game has to offer. At its most straightforward, Dreams can simply be a charming, multifaceted game. At its most complex, it can be as creatively intimidating as any blank canvas.

If you played Dreams developer Media Molecule's Little Big Planet series, then what Dreams is planning to offer will seem familiar. Both Dreams and the LBP series are games with creation tools built-in, but the scope of what Dreams will allow players to create is magnitudes more than those earlier LBP games. Little Big Planet helped you make games, Dreams looks like it wants you make nothing short of, well, art.

"One of the things we realized with Little Big Planet was it was a really level designer's tool," Media Molecule's studio director Siobhan Reddy told GameSpot at a recent hands-on session with Dreams. "It wasn't one that allowed artists to really imprint their vision on the screen, or sound designers, or movie makers. With Dreams what we wanted to do was create something where you could really see people's personality on the screen, and it wasn't funneled around just level creation."

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"You can make a painting, or make a piece of music, or you could make a little play, if you wanted. Or you could make a game, or music video, or whatever."

It's a lofty ambition. If you were anything like me, the creation tools in the Little Big Planet series proved intimidating, and while the possibilities and scope they offered was astounding, that hurdle of knowing what to create with the tools was simply too large. I was impressed, rather than engaged, with what LBP had to offer. With Dreams featuring even more options--from creating characters, to building whole levels, to creating your own soundtrack to accompany said levels--the potential for creative brain freeze seems high, but it's something Reddy says the game is already built to tackle.

"We want to help people get over that blank canvas," Reddy said. "For example, I get very frightened by the blank canvas. Other people do not, but I'm like, 'Please just help me.' And so, one of the other big differences between LBP and Dreams is we're approaching tutorials very differently. Instead of them being a glossary of how everything works, they're very much more geared around you using a bunch of things to make something.

"[The tutorials] feel a little bit more like making a game or making a movie or making a piece of music. Another thing is we have these community weekly challenges that have a theme or a scene. And I just found that infinitely useful just to not have to think about what to do."

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Just how well Dreams will funnel people through its myriad creation tools remains to be seen, but at the very least those tools seem fairly intuitive to use. During my hands-on time with Dreams, I built a basic platforming level (guided by a Media Molecule developer) where I created an environment, placed a large obstacle (in this case, a huge pool of lava), and positioned a series of platforms so my character could traverse safely across the fiery lava pit. We then added layers of complexity; first, we made the platform move, which was done by simply dragging the platform along the route I wanted it to take, letting the game record that manual movement, and then asking to replicate it. Next, we added an environmental trigger that made the platform move only when our in-game character came close to that area in the level.

Creating a moving platform over lava is only a fraction of what Dreams will allow you to do, however. Next up, we made a custom soundtrack from scratch by selecting instrument sounds and creating a beat and melody in Dream's GarageBand-lite like music tool. After that, we played with mood, setting the lighting conditions within the level, and even downgrading the whole scene down visually to 16-bit graphics (complete with artifacts to simulate the imperfections of an old-school CRT screen).

All of this--creating the environment, setting the platform, adding in-game logic, making the music, fiddling with visual parameters--was easy to pull off using Dreams' creation tools. And while all of this was in service of making a very simple game challenge, nothing in Dreams seems to be specifically pushing you to make game experiences. After my brief foray into game development during this demo, my partner Media Molecule rep showed me examples of things other people have created using Dreams' tools. While the majority of them were games--a space shooter, a cute competitive two-player action game featuring two adorable hammers, and even a text adventure--some of the most compelling ones were not even interactive, such as a series of 3D paintings, or long pieces of music.

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Variety is in the DNA of Dreams' creation tools, and it's permeated the game's built-in campaign as well. It seems playing Dreams won't be a singular experience; we were shown different snippets of the main "game" within Dreams, and it flitted from being an action-adventure, to a puzzle platformer, to a straight-up adventure in the vein of classic LucasArts titles. Dreams can indeed be dizzying in the amount of "stuff" you can do and create, but it can also be more focused, especially in its campaign which eschews all of the game's creative tools. This, according to Reddy, is a deliberate choice.

"It overloads the gaming experience a little bit when you're trying to put everything into [the campaign]," Reddy said. "We don't want people to feel like they have to be the most amazing sculptor, or the most amazing musician. You don't have to be anything. You can be whatever you like."

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Randolph Ramsay

Randolph is the editor in chief of GameSpot, and needs more time to play games.


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11 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for alexofburg

.....Looks like a Rare game visually. This should be fun for the fanboys bitching about Sea of Thieves. Cant wait for this, i love these types of games and what the community does with it.

Avatar image for Xristophoros

possibly the most ambitious game this console cycle. i really hope dreams does well and the community gets behind it. sony needs to plan a strong marketing campaign and get this back on people's radar! i wonder if it will finally release this year?

Avatar image for playstationzone

I like lbp and will get dreams but sadly I don’t think come out this year because I got feeling be delayed.

Avatar image for Pyrosa

It's VERY cool, but folks beware: That EULA is almost certainly going to sign away any creative ownership. Keep your best ideas for proper dev toolkits.

Avatar image for alexofburg

@Pyrosa: yeah i wouldnt worry about that. Everytime this type of gane comes out its just loaded with ripoffs of Mario, Zelda and Halo games

Avatar image for Mraou

@Pyrosa: aka, just stick to PC for actual game development.

Avatar image for mboettcher

I could never get into the creation side of LBP and the "campaign" wasn't that great, though oozing with charm. But it was good enough that I'm still curious about Dreams. Hopefully they can bridge that gap as they are trying to do.

Avatar image for videogameninja

Looks interesting.

Seems they are taking the same concepts that made LBP such a hit (basically creating.) and turning it up a few notches. This game more than any other before it sounds closer to basically having a developer tool to create games.

Much like LBP I can see this being extremely rewarding with a select few who are willing to spend countless hours making their own worlds but for the average gamer I’m worried something like this will be too daunting or not appealing enough.


Avatar image for good_coop89

@videogameninja: Agreed. I Applaud them for trying, though I have my doubts on how easy it will be on the creation side. The more extensive the functionality becomes, the bigger the learning curve. I'll put this in the "cautiously optimistic" pile until we find out more.

Avatar image for Pyrosa

@good_coop89: This is the natural progression of "games as games creation tools," which started all the way back with Pinball Contruction Kit and its peers in the early 80s, up through modern iterations including LBP, Project Spark, and Blizzard's tools (among others). Folks will undoubtedly make amazing things here, but I hope that leads them to proper devkits like Unity and above.

Avatar image for garysan

@Pyrosa: Project Spark was complete trash though.