In Dreams, Media Molecule hopes to restore our faith in art for art’s sake
Dreams, appropriately enough, is something of an abstract concept. So abstract, in fact, that even Media Molecule has had trouble communicating what exactly it is. First announced during Sony’s E3 2015 conference, a surreal trailer showed painterly visions of polar bears, aliens and pianos, preceded by a single sentence: “Everything you see in this teaser was created on a PS4 in Dreams”. Beautiful, but indistinct, it wasn’t an instant sell – and Media Molecule’s tentative explanations began, raising more questions than they answered.
Was this a spiritual successor to the studio’s LittleBigPlanet titles, or something altogether different? A game, or a game engine? A set of tools capable of producing the next indie hit, or some sort of social experiment? The magic and, in some ways, the misfortune of Dreams is that it is all these things at once. It’s a creation game unlike anything we’ve seen on a console before, letting you design, code, sculpt, score and animate just about anything you can imagine to create games, short films, paintings or interactive scenes – easily, quickly, and in unprecedented detail.
If you’d rather not worry about fine-tuning every single thing, however, you can use other players’ character models, or songs, or animation rigs in your own projects. Conversely, if you’re a perfectionist, perhaps you’ll dedicate your time to sculpting, say, chairs: no games, only chairs. Fantastical, impossible chairs; chairs that draw people to your work and to you, The Chair Expert. You could find like minds to collaborate on projects with. Or you could simply go surfing on a near-infinite sea of other people’s dreams, constantly surprised, often delighted and sometimes even a little bit scared by the things you see and play. It’s a crowdsourced game-slash-art jam that never ends, to which anyone with a controller can contribute, and the results of which everyone can enjoy.
Imagine trying to explain all that on the back of a game box – one that children, teenagers, adults and grandparents will pick up and briefly scan, before setting it down and moving onto the next, likely more understandable one. The old LittleBigPlanet tagline, ‘Play, create, share’, is back, and helps package up Dreams into something more readily recognisable as a consumer product, rather than a powerful piece of software, or a new
IT’S A CREATION GAME UNLIKE ANYTHING WE’VE SEEN ON A CONSOLE BEFORE
The lack of a single, Sackboy-esque mascot for Dreams adds an extra layer of difficulty to an already tricky marketing challenge. For F now, the solution seems se to be the Imp. Akin to the head of a Pikmin, the cheerful littlei scribble essentially serves as your in-game cursor, allowing a you to play with interactive elements of various dreams, moving objects and editing creations. It’s even shown sh to ‘possess’ your controllable characters, living inside in of their heads – or, in the case of Frances, hopping into a backpack – as you move them about. Like players’ personal ‘Home’ areas, The Imps also allow for an element of player customisation and expression. You can change their colour, appearance and add accessories to doll them up, including charmingly realised glasses, headphones and animal ears.
RIGHT Media Molecule’s founding five members. Back row, from left: Mark Healey, Siobhan Reddy and Kareem Ettouney. Front row: David Smith (left) and Alex Evans
Game Dreams Developer Media Molecule Publisher SIE Format PS4 Release 2018
ABOVE In Dreams, any aspect of game design can be as simple or as complex as you’re comfortable with. Above, you can see a basic platform that moves when a character reaches a trigger zone – in this in-game view, the building blocks of its code have simple visual indicators. Below that is an example of the accessible 3D sculpting mechanic, manipulated into gorgeous complexity by an adept artist
ABOVE The gradual process of dressing a scene is surprisingly intuitive. With furniture and a few well-placed lighting nodules, you can rapidly add depth and character to creations