The wheels seem to be finally set in motion for Dreams, a mysterious and massively ambitious project from Little Big Planet creator Media Molecule that was first revealed back in 2013. It was recently announced that Dreams would be entering Early Access in Spring following a six-week beta period earlier this year. We first got our hands on Dreams at EGX last October but were recently invited to Media Molecule's offices in Surrey to take an extended look at the creation tools available and allow our very own creations to take shape.
For those who aren't acquainted, Dreams offers players an extensive suite of tools allowing them to craft their own music, games, and art all within the same package. It offers a much more cost-efficient price tag compared to rival software and, of course, has the advantage of being playable in your living room with just a DualShock 4 in hand. It also allows players to share their creations with the world and there are options here to play thousands of hours of user-created content and collaborate with other creators.
With the beta launching in January, thousands of creations have already flooded the Dreamiverse and we sat down with designer John Beech to sample just a few of them. This was described to us as a "YouTube of gaming" and the smart filtering tools present allowed us to discover the most popular experiences among dreamers as well as ones specifically catered towards our favourite genres. We played through first-person shooters, immersive RPGs, and a Guitar Hero-like rhythm game and, all told, were impressed with what players had accomplished during the fleeting stay of the six-week beta period.
The fact that this was accomplished with none of the learning tutorials available is certainly a testament to how user-friendly the package is. We were reminded of the WarioWare series when browsing through the user-created content as many provided quick bursts of silliness and we were always keen to see what we might unearth next. Even those who have zero interest in using Dreams as a creation tool can find hours of fun within the Dreamiverse and the amount of content is only going to expand moving into Early Access and beyond.
Having not used any development software prior to Dreams, we found the suite of training materials to be of vital help when formulating our ideas. From what we experienced, these started simple covering basics such as moving the camera and placing objectives, and then extending to cover more advanced concepts such as creating our very own puzzles. At the side of the screen, the tutorials played out as short videos and these could be paused, skipped and rewound so that we could extract the information most valuable to us.
Your ideas are shaped using a googly-eyed Imp, which you navigate with motion controls (either with the DualShock 4 or PS Move) and is used for gestures such as stretching and dragging objects. This cute companion is used for everything whether you are fine-tuning the edges of a sculpture, adding a note to your next composition, or placing a series of pre-built assets. This continuity helped us to transition between each aspect of Dreams and we found the motion controls to be precise and responsive when moving through the various menus.
Also packaged with Dreams was a Digital Audio Workstation and this appeared to be as simplistic and as intuitive to use as Apple's GarageBand. Here dreamers can select between a whole library of instrument sounds and can program their own melodies by pushing buttons on the DualShock 4. Notes can also be input manually and there are editing options such as looping, adding effects and fades. Using a controller may not have a feel as natural as using an external Midi Keyboard, for example, and of course, we are not able to plug our own mic or instruments into the PS4, but we were still impressed by what was offered.
Players from different backgrounds will be approaching Dreams for different reasons; some may be artists, some may be musicians, and others may be hoping to pursue game design. For this reason, it is great that Media Molecule has implemented ways for players to collaborate and interact with one another. Players can choose to make their assets sharable and these can then be selected and used by other dreamers at the expense of a creation credit (a nod to the original creator, basically). With regards to collaboration, there's also the option for players to remix existing dreams. Not only does this provide a solid foundation for beginners to work from, but it also allows players to finetune the work of others and smooth out any rough edges they find.
Our expectations for Dreams have never stood taller after toying with the creation tools and taking a closer look at some of the experiences that surfaced from the beta period. We can't wait to watch the Dreamiverse flourish and grow as more players inevitably flock to the title following the launch of Early Access and really push what the software can achieve. Fortunately, for us and many other keen onlookers, the wait isn't too much longer as Dreams will enter Early Access on the PS4 sometime in Spring.