“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world.” -Neil Gaiman
This Neil Gaiman quote is an enlightening phrase about the nature of imagination. Deep down, everyone has some form of creative side. Yes, even the most unimaginative person in the universe can dream up a fantasy world or story. Expressing these ideas, however, is the tricky part. Most potential artists rarely begin their creative journeys with the tools and necessary knowledge required to succeed. In fact, many creatives build themselves up from scratch: a daunting personal journey that can easily break a creator’s resolve. To aid the burden, there are classes, workshops, and instructors that specialize in every artistic field, yet these can prove costly both monetarily and time wise.
This is especially true when attempting to become a video game developer. In terms of video games, there aren’t many easy ways to become a game designer. The learning curve regarding software and understanding the tricks of the trade are steep, and gaining access to necessary hardware and development tools can become difficult. Or at least, it was.
Dreams may have solved the issue of game development inaccessibility. The new PS4 Media Molecule developed software acts as an intuitive video game development tool that curates the titles created within it. Equipped with easy-to-use development software and great tutorials, potential game designers can finally hone their creative chops with only a $40 entrance fee. The game simultaneously allows players to browse games developed by the Dreams community while sharing their own adventures. It’s a sublime little title, and one that potentially has a long shelf life due to its lively community and ever growing content library.
Dreams’ goals are ambitious. Ever since creating the Little Big Planet series, Media Molecule has specialized in user created content, but where Little Big Planet focused on cutesy platformers starring sock puppets, user created games in Dreams include platformers, quirky action titles, side scrollers, and more. The tones of these games can vary greatly, adding to Dreams focus on multifaceted game design. While elements of cutsieness remain (edit mode’s cursor is an adorable creature named impie), Media Molecule, forgive the pun, dreamed bigger here.
The Media Molecule developed titles highlight Dreams diverse offerings. While many of these games are short yet creative demos displaying what’s possible with the software, Dreams contains a few titles that are ready to play upon starting. The most notable of these titles is Art’s Dream: a small scale game about a depressed musician filled with a variety of levels, characters to control, and gameplay types. Art’s Dream works as a terrific example of what is capable within Dreams. In terms of gameplay, the game switches different control schemes, dialogue options, and types of levels in order to emphasize the editing software’s wealth of options. Arguably more importantly, Art’s Dream features narrative and thematic storytelling that drives the action and showcases what is possible within Dreams, telling players that this is no mere level editor.
Many users within Dreams clearly received this memo. In the community hub, Dreams proudly advertises some of the best user creations developed thus far. Titles like the arcadey Resogun inspired Blade Gunner, the humorous Art Therapy, and the quirky Opposite Day 2: Regular Day were thoroughly enjoyable games, and without Dreams accessible development software, I fear that these titles may never have been released.
This is ultimately be Dreams’ greatest attribute. The ability to deliver easy to use and difficult to master software to fledgling developers is a godsend for creatives who’ve always desired to develop games but never had the tools necessary, and with Dreams, these game makers finally have everything they need to accomplish their artistic vision. The fact that Dreams has made these creations possible is simply phenomenal, and I can’t wait to see what these fresh developers do next.
Dreams, admittedly, contain a few drawbacks. Firstly, Dreams is fresh off the presses, meaning that most user created titles are either small scale games or demos teasing what’s to come. Developing a video game is a long process of trial and error, and most games available to play in Dreams simply aren’t bigger or more ambitious titles simply because the developers using the software haven’t had enough time to create those games yet. As a result, Dreams can feel like a casual game where players browse short fleeting experiences, and while many of these games are good, Dreams has a noticeable lack of meatier titles that can hold your attention longer than 10 minutes.
Dreams’ copyright infringement problem only makes matters worse. Aside from the Media Molecule created titles and the user developed games curated, the Dreams’ dreamscape is littered with poorly made reimaginings of already established properties and games owned by other corporations. Recreations that use the likeness mascot characters like Mario, Sonic, and Crash Bandicoot are abundant, and many of these clones feel like dollar store rip-offs of the games that inspired them. Hell, there’s even a The Last Of Us test demo with third person shooting action and everything! Sure, they’re nowhere near as bad as the asset flips that can be played on Steam Greenlight, but the problem remains.
With that said, these problems don’t overwhelm Dreams. While Dreams remains in its infancy, the title contains a steady flow of newly released games worth checking out. Even though these games are small in stature, they can be incredibly imaginative and only possible due to Dreams’ accessibility. Add on how Media Molecule gives creatives a commercial license and plans to eventually allow player’s creations be available on other storefronts (even non Play Station ones), Dreams has the potential to be a great tool for aspiring developers. In this regard, we may see some of those “unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds” that Neil Gaiman was referring to.