Dreams is going to win awards, and we don’t just mean gongs of the Geoff Keighley kind. No, we’re talking real-world innovation awards – the likes of which Media Molecule’s going to have to collect in tuxedos as opposed to its usual hipster threads. The game’s been a long time coming, with the developer first demonstrating the very origins of the project all the way back at the PlayStation 4’s reveal event in 2013 – but good grief is it onto something special here.
Why has it taken so long, then? There’s simply nothing like this ever been done before. Yes, this is an evolution of LittleBigPlanet in a lot of ways, but the possibilities are so far beyond what could be done with Sackboy et al that it’s difficult to really compare and contrast the two. This exclusive has more in common with a game engine such as Unreal or Unity – except it’s more than that, because there’s a sculpting utility here as well as a digital audio workstation and an animation suite.
But perhaps beyond all of that, it’s a social network for creativity. Sony’s had such a difficult time communicating what this game is because it can quite literally be anything, and you can be anything within it. Don’t worry if you’re not a game designer, because you can be a curator – discovering the very best content and sharing it with the world. Or you can be an artist, designing assets for others to use. Or a musician, composing songs and sound effects for the community. And so on…
This is one of the most innovative, extraordinary pieces of software that we’ve seen on a console in quite some time. Imagine, for one moment, that you’re making an American Football game. You’ve programmed the game loop, but your quarterback character is currently a cube. Well, it’s time to go Dream Surfing, searching for a Tom Brady look-a-like that fits your creation. Pick one that's already been created and you’ll both get credited for your work, and you may even decide to work with that character artist again on future projects.
Or perhaps it wasn’t Tom Brady you wanted in your game, but Aaron Rodgers instead. No problem, you can simply remix the asset until the colour palette matches that of the Green Bay Packers. Every single thing that you see in Dreams is created in Dreams – this isn’t like LittleBigPlanet where you’re pulling in stock assets that have been pre-designed for you. No, every model, every sound effect, every piece of art, every animation, every bit of logic can be built on a DualShock 4.
And it can be browsed for hours and hours and hours. It’s like when you fall into a YouTube hole, and you’re clicking from recommended video to recommended video – except here, you’re jumping from minigames involving llamas to models of crustaceans to covers of The King of Wishful Thinking. And it all just happens – loading never takes more than five seconds, and is generally instantaneous. Will the servers remain as rapid when the wider public gets access? We hope so.
Creation can be done with the DualShock 4 or a couple of PlayStation Move motion controllers, although good luck purchasing a pair of those at this moment in time. There’s a vast suite of tutorials which will be overwhelming for some, but these are heavily interactive, providing a picture-in-picture workspace as you follow instructions and replicate creations on screen. Or you can just remix someone else’s work and try to figure out how it all functions.
You may not think you have the imagination to make Dreams worthwhile, but outside of some rudimentary audio programming, we’ve spent the majority of the beta simply browsing other creations. And already, in this pre-release environment, the concepts being uploaded are staggering. There’s one level where you drive a jeep through a series of stunning environments; another has some really imaginative platforming mechanics. There’s new stuff every single day.
And if you look at what people eventually achieved in LittleBigPlanet, well, greatness awaits here. You can make RPGs, movies; you can record albums, create cartoons. And you can do it all individually or collaboratively, in an intuitive interface that will take time and dedication to master – but is already being mastered. If the creative aspects of Minecraft and Roblox can be considered a Big Mac, then this is a Five Guys with a strawberry-vanilla milkshake and some of those Cajun-flavoured fries.
Sony’s released some impressive exclusives this generation which have pushed the boundaries of story-telling and audiovisual entertainment. Dreams… Well, it’s something else entirely. It’s an astounding technical achievement with unprecedented ambition. But more exciting than that, we’re still only peeking at the project’s potential. This is a game that will really come into its own in the months and years after its release, and judging by what we’ve seen so far, the sky’s the limit.
Are you impressed by the scope of Dreams? Did you manage to participate in the beta? What are your impressions so far? Imagine the unimaginable in the comments section below.