Dreams

PS4

EDGE - - HYPE -

Ev­ery­one has ex­pe­ri­enced dreams that have rapidly faded into noth­ing­ness the mo­ment they awake, and times where clutch­ing onto the frag­ments of what just occurred has been like try­ing to pick up honey with tweez­ers. In th­ese fleet­ing sec­onds, you’re able to sense, al­most see, the men­tal im­ages dis­si­pat­ing, but feel help­less to so­lid­ify them. So per­haps it’s only fit­ting that Lit­tleBigPlanet de­vel­oper Me­dia Mol­e­cule is like­wise strug­gling to find a con­crete def­i­ni­tion for its lat­est project. “We don’t know what Dreams is,” says cre­ative di­rec­tor Mark Healey, af­ter de­lib­er­a­tion. “But we know what we want to do with it.”

Healey’s vi­sion for Dreams’ fu­ture isn’t mod­est: his Guild­ford-based team is aim­ing to birth a con­nected vir­tual space in which, like our dreams, any­thing can hap­pen. But un­like the im­ages that sail through our heads at night and are for­got­ten by morn­ing, th­ese dreams will be recorded, archived, shared, edited and pieced back to­gether in an evolv­ing, ex­pand­ing net­work of more-or-less game-like creations, all as­sem­bled from a li­brary of user-built ob­jects and char­ac­ters that you can add to as you have need.

The clear­est way to grasp Dreams’ ab­struse frame­work is to com­pare it di­rectly to Lit­tleBigPlanet. In its most dis­tilled form, Dreams plays like a three-di­men­sional Lit­tleBigPlanet in which the Play and Cre­ate modes have been crushed to­gether into the same en­tity. The stu­dio’s con­tin­u­ing strug­gle with self-def­i­ni­tion stems, sim­ply, from the fact that the con­tent of a sin­gle dream can be what­ever its au­thor (or should that be ‘dreamer’?) wants it to be. Con­jur­ing up a la­bel ca­pa­ble of defin­ing any dream from a pool of in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties would be as

fruit­less as at­tempt­ing to find one um­brella term for ev­ery sin­gle cus­tom level made to date in Lit­tleBigPlanet. Some dreams could be 2D shoot­ers. Some might be foot­ball games. Oth­ers might be snow­board­ing ad­ven­tures, or whack-a-mole di­ver­sions, or jig­saw puzzles.

Yet the pot­ter’s wheel isn’t empty – Me­dia Mol­e­cule is seed­ing its world with a story, making it easy to de­scribe a ‘tra­di­tional’ dream, much like a ‘tra­di­tional’ Lit­tleBigPlanet level is a left-to-right 2D plat­former, even though that def­i­ni­tion doesn’t hold true for many cus­tom creations. A ‘tra­di­tional’ dream, then, is a puz­zle-cen­tric ad­ven­ture game chap­ter where each scene’s exit must be found by toy­ing with the en­vi­ron­ment and find­ing or build­ing items to progress.

Take the small, sunny meadow at the start of Dreams’ Paris Games Week demo. With a so-called ‘imp’, you can jump into the body of Fran­cis the teddy bear and be­gin body-pop­ping via DualShock 4’s mo­tion­sens­ing tech, but there’s pre­cious lit­tle else to do un­less you ex­plore the cre­ation bub­bles and be­gin cus­tomis­ing the world. Just two ob­jects are avail­able in this scene: trees, for at­mos­phere, and a wood­shed, the door of which dou­bles as the level’s exit when built.

Mov­ing from scene to scene, from dream to dream, in­volves find­ing and reach­ing por­tals to other places within the pa­ram­e­ters of each dream. Por­tals can come in all shapes and sizes – doors, win­dows, wells, sky­lights, path­ways into dense, dis­tant forests and so on – and each dream’s cre­ator can de­fine which items are avail­able in any area. In some cases, ev­ery­thing you need will al­ready be present in the game­world, and reach­ing the exit is a case of ma­nip­u­lat­ing hid­den switches, tak­ing con­trol of char­ac­ters to ferry ob­jects from one place to an­other, and com­bin­ing ob­jects (say, by at­tach­ing bal­loons to a plat­form to raise it higher). In oth­ers, there are no re­stric­tions: play­ers can cre­ate and im­port what­ever they choose to help con­tinue their jour­ney. It’s

Scrib­ble­nauts, with­out lim­its. At the heart of ev­ery­thing is the sculp­ture tool. Dreams has no rigid, de­vel­oper-de­fined parts list: ev­ery­thing in the li­brary has been moulded from scratch us­ing the in-game ed­i­tor, and can be edited by you. Even Me­dia Mol­e­cule’s in-house cre­ators are re­strict­ing their own in­puts to just DualShock 4 pads and Move wands. Creations can be saved and shared in­stantly, avail­able for global search­ing, and any­one will be able to browse item cat­e­gories or type their re­quests into a text search bar to dis­cover new ob­jects, sorted ac­cord­ing to their com­mu­nity rat­ing. Ob­ject own­er­ship is fluid, too – play­ers can ex­tract and mod­ify ex­ist­ing creations be­fore saving out copies, im­prov­ing the pool for oth­ers.

All of this ex­tends be­yond ob­jects. Play­ers can com­pose sound ef­fects and mu­sic, and record an­i­ma­tions – saving and shar­ing them as pieces for fu­ture dreams. And all of the grab­bing and plac­ing of com­po­nents is pos­si­ble in shared en­vi­ron­ments as peo­ple play to­gether. It’s not a stretch to imag­ine a party of play­ers pick­ing through an ad­ven­ture while a des­ig­nated dun­geon mas­ter mod­i­fies the rules and the en­vi­ron­ment on the fly.

With such neb­u­lous plans for the game’s fu­ture, it’s lit­tle won­der Me­dia Mol­e­cule is in­ca­pable of set­tling on a sin­gle def­i­ni­tion for

Dreams. In­stead, it’s now look­ing ahead to next year’s com­mu­nity beta, where play­ers can un­pick what Dreams is all about – and hope­fully show the cre­ators of this world what’s pos­si­ble with the tools they’ve built.

Each exit is found by toy­ing with the en­vi­ron­ment and find­ing or build­ing items

Cre­ation and play are one and the same, wrapped up in the sys­tems that Me­dia Mol­e­cule be­lieves will en­cour­age us to ex­per­i­ment. The stu­dio keeps re­vis­it­ing the word ‘per­for­mance’, liken­ing Dreams to a plat­form on which play­ers can ex­press them­selves

Pub­lisher SCE De­vel­oper Me­dia Mol­e­cule For­mat PS4 Ori­gin UK Release TBC

ABOVE In ob­ject-cre­ation terms, Me­dia Mol­e­cule is sup­port­ing ev­ery con­trol scheme it can imag­ine: DualShock 4 in con­cert with a PS Cam­era, DualShock 4 with­out a Cam­era, Move wands, com­pan­ion apps, and com­bi­na­tions of the above. And, whereas

Tear­away al­lows you to down­load paper­craft crea­tures to print and make in the real world, Dreams en­ables you to ex­port en­tire cus­tom sculp­tures to be re­alised with a 3D printer

The yel­low crea­ture is an imp, your cus­tomis­able con­duit into dreams. The imp’s ca­pa­ble of grab­bing and ma­nip­u­lat­ing ob­jects with its an­tenna as well as possessing char­ac­ters, hand­ing you direct con­trol of their pro­ce­dural move­ments

Me­dia Mol­e­cule cur­rently calls the por­tals be­tween dreams ‘links’, liken­ing them to links on a web­page. To that ef­fect, dreams can link to other play­ers’ dreams: it’s pos­si­ble to cre­ate a ‘Top five dreams with rolling pins’ set

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