Why You Should Play Playstation’s Dreams

<thrive_headline click tho-post-1066 tho-test-7>Why You Should Play Playstation’s Dreams</thrive_headline>

Why You Should Play Playstation’s Dreams

Posted by CJ Wilson

5 Mar, 2021


I tweak the last of the settings on the “movement” gadget and pin it to the “circuit board” floating in empty space on my screen before drawing a quick wire from the sensor for a button on my controller, to the gadget. I scope into the character it’s attached to: a figure like a wooden artist’s model. I could have sculpted it, as from clay, into something unique, but I’m focused on the gameplay now. I activate the “keyframe” to see where it’ll stop its animation and move the arm ever so slightly to give it a nice, broad sweep. 

I scope out and hit test mode. Suddenly, my stick figure is standing against gravity in a test chamber. I have more extravagant levels in mind—a city modeled after a favorite game—but I need to make sure the character’s movement is solid before I go that far. I may not be a visual artist, but the how-to videos in the tutorial section gave me enough to start that new challenge.

I highlight the character and possess them. I hit the button I wired up. I wanted the character to flip. Instead, they spaz out and cartwheel through the air. 

Not exactly what I wanted, but it gave me a laugh, and, hey, it’s progress. I go back to the editor and open the gadgets. God knows Dreams gives me no shortage of options for finding a way to get this right.  

What is Dreams?

Dreams is a PlayStation-exclusive “creative engine” made by British developer Media Molecule, developers of the LittleBigPlanet franchise. I figured it was something like its predecessor, or Super Mario Maker. That changed when, scanning through LinkedIn, I saw a time lapse of someone building a massive nature scape with intense lighting in Dreams. Soon after, I saw someone playing a 3D version of Sonic the Hedgehog’s original first level, another project made in Dreams.

That got me to take a closer look.

Nothing Like the Rest

“Creative” gaming took off in the last decade, after the release of titles like LittleBigPlanet and Minecraft. By and large, these games have one of two core features. In the first, you’re given a base gameplay system and a set of tools that allow you to build levels and worlds. In the second, crafting and creation—with an emphasis on base-building—is a core part of the gameplay, without which you die quickly. 

In contrast, Dreams’ big draw is its ability to let you design the gameplay itself. You aren’t stuck building levels for a character who barely changes between them. From the ground up, you design the character’s attacks, movements, animations, stats, gravity and more—and I haven’t even gotten to building levels and enemies yet.

In other words, you can design the game’s logic, the internal processes that make all your favorite video games do cool things when you push buttons.

Options and Ease

I am astounded at the tools available in Dreams and the ease of using them. From sculpting to music composition, painting, animation and a horde of logic and gameplay tools, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Yet, the playable tutorials, how-to videos and clear instructions you get by hovering over an icon or a dial make it surprisingly easy to wrestle these possibilities together and make something. Despite this, it doesn’t feel like Dreams took an “easy” road, especially when you start to get into logical processes like nesting microchips, tweaking animations and keyframes.

More Tool than Game

There is one big downside to Dreams though: it doesn’t have much to play that other players don’t make. LittleBigPlanet got around this by designing a campaign, and Super Mario Maker is full of quick player-made games. Sure enough, Dreams has a nice array of player-made titles too. A quick scan through the Dreams homepage gives you a slew of unique games and animations reminiscent of Unity or Game Maker Studio’s showcase. They’re fantastic too, and they make you want to learn to make stuff like them. But those games represent hours and hours of work. 

As a result of the focus on creation over play, I’m more apt to compare Dreams to a game development engine than a true game, something between the flexibility of Game Maker Studio’s drag-and-drop systems and Unity. It’s not as complex as either, of course—without true programming, you won’t get there—but it is accessible

And that, I think, is Dreams’ true strength.

An Amazing Place to Start

At some point or another, many gamers dream of making a game. But the most creative of us—the designers and artists, the storytellers and musicians—are often the most technologically challenged. It’s also rare that we have the money to hire programmers to help us work on projects. Likewise, game development tools have long been exclusive to the PC crowd. The most console owners got was Super Mario Maker or LittleBigPlanet.

Dreams flips both of these scripts. It gives creatives a tool with which to begin designing their own games that doesn’t require amassing a huge amount of programming and tech knowledge. It’s simple enough to pick up quickly and powerful enough to make some really impressive games. Plus, its presence on the PS4 opens up introductory game development to console owners on the platform with which they’re most comfortable.

On top of this, Dreams has another notable function: powerful community options. The game analyzes where you spend your time and then assigns you a “specialty” based on your skillset. This can be design, art, music, animation, whatever. This isn’t a virtual horoscope. Dreams hosts regular game jams and community projects, and your specialization serves as a marker through which other “Dreamers” can find someone who fits their needs.

Dreams is a fantastic set of baby steps into the world of game development. I don’t think anyone’s going to be making the next hit indie title on the platform—especially given that games are limited to other Dreamers—but for those who want to move into that world, it’s a great place to start.


About Author

CJ Wilson

CJ Wilson is a freelance writer and novelist specializing in game writing, journalism, and non-profit work. His writing expertise includes gaming, law, nature/environmental writing, literature, and travel. As a novelist, he specializes in character-focused fantasy and sci-fi.

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