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


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

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