Just as the headline states, we're getting our creative juices flowing with Dreams, Media Molecule's outrageously ambitious PlayStation 4 exclusive that opens the floodgates for user made content. Inspired by a commuter with an impressive appetite, our ongoing project is Snacks on a Train, the goal being a simple minigame about dipping tortilla chips in salsa. Sounds simple, right?
Last week, we got things started by building the basic structures needed for our level. We made a train carriage and tables, nabbed a suitable seat from the Dreamiverse, and attempted to build a convincing way to convey scenery passing by the window. If you've yet to read the inaugural issue, click here to catch up.
The world is flat
Truth be told, we couldn't quite get our cylindrical exterior looking right. The idea made sense to us, but it ultimately wasn't as convincing as we wanted, and having to apply Bolts to trees and other props was going to be needlessly laborious. So, that's now been scrapped in favour of a huge, flat disc. The way we have it set up right now, there's acres of room to decorate the scene, and it looks much better from inside the carriage. We still won't be able to use pre-made trees and the like, but we'll simply add to the sculpt of the disc instead. At the end of the day, the scenery outside is purely for show, so it's not crucial to getting the game made.
In the above screenshot you'll spot the Rotator gadget on the left, making the disc spin, and the Sun and Sky gadget. We've tuned these properties to make the lighting a little nicer, but again, we'll make more permanent adjustments much later.
Next up is the character and the smaller, but essential, props. We select a basic puppet and stamp it into the scene, shrink it down so it's to scale with the train, and adjust the model to have it in a sat down position. We hop into its logic and remove the majority of it, as we don't need the character to move much at all. Then, we move the arms into roughly where they need to be for the start of some animations, which we'll get to in the next issue (all going well).
Then, we craft the all-important tortilla chip. We aim for the slightly curved, uneven triangle any true gamer will be familiar with, and once we're happy, we bring it into the train to scale it down. Next up is the packet, which proves much more tricky. We opt for a slightly flattened, hollow cylinder, but we're finding it tricky to perfect the shape, so right now it's not looking great. We've also thrown a name on the crisp bag using the Text gadget, but we can't get it to match the curvature of the cylinder, so that's not particularly good either. We'll definitely be coming back to this element, but for now it'll do us.
Finally, the salsa jar is a similar sculpt to the crisp packet. We want to make it look like glass, but we haven't figured that out yet. For the salsa itself, we scribble some red paint into a very rough circular shape, adding some small spots of green and yellow. We place it neatly in the jar, and use the Style mode to make it a look a little nicer.
Do the (loco)motion
We haven't approached animation for the puppet just yet, but a key part of Snacks on a Train is that the salsa jar is haphazardly sliding about on the table. To make this happen, we need to start creating some keyframes. Making basic animations in Dreams is pretty straightforward; you select Keyframe from the menu, move the object to where you want it to end up, and stop recording. From there, you can adjust the animation to make it smoother, slow it down, and so on.
For our salsa jar, it would be a bit unfair to make it move all over the table, so we've opted for simple left to right movements. The idea is that there's a degree of randomness layered on top, so that you can't always tell where or when the jar is moving along that path. We create a timeline for the animation, and set up a few keyframes to get a nice back and forth motion that loops together neatly. While we're thinking about movement, we also quickly stamp in a Screen Shake gadget and adjust it to make it look as though the train is subtly swaying.
The next step will be to figure out how to make it so the jar moves about randomly along its line while remaining relatively smooth. We'll also be attempting to set up some animations on the character's arms, so you can have some control over them. Watch out for next week's issue, where we'll undoubtedly explain how we fail to achieve this.
That's where we are with Snacks on a Train so far. Are you busy building things in Dreams Early Access on PS4? Use your imagination in the comments below.