Dreams is nothing new to me – I’ve literally spent hours speaking with fellow Aussie and Media Molecule head, Siobhan Reddy, about her studio’s upcoming title. I understood what it was all about – creativity, in a similar vein to LittleBigPlanet – but I didn’t truly get it. Not until E3 2018, that is — after an hour-long, hands-on, dedicated session with a Media Molecule developer, I not only comprehend what Media Molecule has set out do, but I want to sing Dreams’ praises to the world.
My naivety didn’t come about because Reddy wasn’t explaining Dreams to me properly. It’s not because I’m dense and wasn’t listening to her, either. Dreams is in a class all to itself; one that we’ve not really seen in the gaming sphere. Simply put, talking about the game doesn’t do it justice. Hell, seeing what Dreams can produce isn’t the right tact either, as evidenced by the random, unexplained bits that Sony served up between game deep dives during its E3 2018 press conference. Apart from those segments’ ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ nature, they were far too abstract to really make sense of.
To understand and appreciate Dreams, you need to get your hands on it and simply mess around.
In the hour-long session, I travelled through a host of Dreams’ modes. The first thing I did was simply play, using my all-powerful imp to take control of a character and jump about the environment. Thankfully, the character didn’t possess a strange, Sackboy-like weight to him and instead was responsive to my commands. That was half the battle right there in terms of playability.
The areas that we played through were magical, full of neon colours and in the cloudy, brushstroke style we’ve come to associate with Dreams. While playing through those environments was one thing, and being able to manipulate them was another. Using the Imp, I started the creation process.
While true designers can grab a DualShock 4 or Move controllers to conjure up their heart’s desires from scratch, I settled with grabbing existing assets and tweaking them to suit my needs. Landing on a small island awash in grass and colourful flowers, I duplicated the ground to essentially double its size. I then pinched and zoomed on the DualShock 4 touchpad – perhaps the first time such an action on the controller was called for — to make the area bigger and smaller.
Slowly but surely, I was guided through creative menu after menu (after sub-menu and sub-menu) and created a hill, a bridge, and an animated platform that transported my character to a second island. Again, I’m not sure how a tutorial is going to cover all this with the efficiency and understanding of a dedicated Media Molecule dev, but I hope the team figures it out.
We then transitioned over the amazing bits of creation – puppetry and soundtrack creation. While my Media Molecule handler had a background in puppeteering, he wasn’t a musician; that didn’t stop us from designing a sick background beat, pumping with bass. It then took me all of two minutes to figure out how to animate the DualShock 4 controller to provide life to a cool looking on-screen dragon. Quite literally, I’m the least creative person I know. I’d never bother creating a level in any game, let alone then sharing it with friends or strangers. After my time with Dreams, I’m forced to rethink that strategy.
If creation isn’t your thing, you’ve still the chance to trial the creations of others. Using something called surf, we finished up our time bouncing between pre-build levels. Hands down, my favourite little mini-game was one where two players squared off against one another. Controlling living hammers, you both stood on a ground made of puzzles pieces; striking the ground caused pieces to fall away. Your objective: make your opponent fall through a hole before you did yourself. It was a super-simple premise but provided a game that I literally had to be pulled away from as my time with Dreams expired.
Dreams is expected this year, exclusive to PS4. Ahead of its release, can we please arrange similar one-on-one sessions with a Media Molecule employee for everyone who owns a PS4? Perhaps the puppeteering stream below will do instead.