I’m going to be honest with you: I’d already heard that Dreams was going to launch in Early Access, so I’ve had a little longer than everyone else to wrap my head around the idea. It’s been fascinating waiting for the official confirmation, as I’d been curious how Media Molecule would roll out the news, and more interestingly how the community would react. As it happens, most people seemed to understand the idea quite quickly, while there were a few “gotchas” in my Twitter feed.
Early Access is an interesting thing, because Sony doesn’t technically allow it on the PlayStation 4 in the same way that Microsoft does on the Xbox One. But, perhaps similarly to console cross-play, the platform holder is lenient when it comes to specific brands – it could be argued that Fortnite, for example, is technically an Early Access game. We’ve ran multiple polls on the subject over the years, and back in 2017 around 62 per cent of you said that you didn’t want unfinished games on the console.
I actually agree, but I simultaneously think the way Media Molecule is releasing Dreams is total genius. So does that make me a big dirty hypocrite, then? I think there are certain readers who will feel that way, but I’m going to try and defend my position anyway: the upcoming PS4 exclusive will succeed based on the strength of its community, and it was evident from the beta last month that fans are ready and raring to go. If the tools are largely finished, then why hold them back any longer?
One of my biggest takeaways from last month’s server stress test is that Dreams “feels” complete – it really does. This wasn’t one of those betas that barely worked – it’s already polished to a perfect glean. The controls feel nice, the performance is rock solid, and all of the connectivity seems to function flawlessly. Obviously inviting more players in could break that, but the Guildford-based developer should have a good feel for how its infrastructure is holding up by now.
It is missing key features, which will be absent at the point of the Early Access launch: PlayStation VR support is a big one, but also I don’t think the online multiplayer tools are quite ready for primetime yet either. That’s unfortunate, but in my opinion there’s more than enough for creators to get to work with. You’ll have no doubt seen the kind of things that people created in the beta, and those builds are only going to get grander and more imaginative as fans get more time with the tools.
And it’s obvious the developer recognises that: it wasn’t until a user recreated PT’s corridor within the engine that people started to get a grasp of what’s possible with the product. Now imagine what’s going to happen when you give that same group of creators six or so months to really populate the servers with imaginative stuff. By the time “launch day” arrives, there’s going to be an insane selection of content for people to play – the kind of creations that will inspire and engage in equal measure.
You could argue that there’s something nefarious about Media Molecule putting out an unfinished game in order for fans to help it fulfil the product's potential, but this community is eager to go. The beta was a huge success, not just in terms of helping to promote the title, but also in terms of hooking budding creators. We saw small teams form, minigames go viral, and a general sense of excitement about what’s possible. People want to get started now – it’s the simple reality.
Yes, I know many are quick to criticise how long it’s taken the title to actually release, but I genuinely think that underestimates what the developer’s achieving. This isn’t just “another” loot shooter or Battle Royale – there’s no blueprint for the studio to follow here. It’s making something on an unprecedented scale, and it’s worth reminding everyone that it’s doing so without crunch. If you’ve ever virtue signalled about game development working conditions, then maybe cut this small team some slack.
I do have a small concern about the limited number of copies Media Molecule is going to sell: considering it’s effectively going to be half-price to “buy in” early, there’s definitely a worry that certain creators simply won’t be able to buy the client in time. I hope Sony has a solution for that in place, perhaps “sorting out” those who made the most impressive stuff in the beta. Other than that, though, this is the right way to release this game – I genuinely can’t wait to watch this evolve.
Will you be grabbing Dreams’ Early Access client or waiting for the final release? Do you agree that this is the right method for rolling out the anticipated game? Make something amazing in the comments section below.