Dreams - Review
The Media Molecule ( Little Big Planet , Tearaway ) project is undoubtedly ambitious. Inside Dreams you will find all the tools necessary for 3D modeling, drawing, lighting, audio composition, animation and management of the logical connections in play : what you need, in practice, to create a video game, all gathered in one place. But not only! The other half of Dreams is made up of the creations (dreams) of the players (dreamers): if you want to keep your "usual" role of players, in practice, you can also just limit yourself to this part. It was also the first exclusive PlayStation to debut in early access format: this is also why we have already been able to talk about it on various occasions - on our page dedicated to Dreams you can find everything.
So what is the target audience for this seemingly borderless sandbox? It is not easy to give an answer, because within this Dream universe there is potentially something for everyone . It is certainly suitable for those with a creative vein that knocks persistently in the head, but perhaps does not have very elaborate means available - you could discover or deepen great passions, and then what is born of what - or, for some game designer apprentice in search of a place to create prototypes.
Even professionals in the sector may have something to enjoy, but it is also likely that already experienced users will wait to understand what will become of the possibility (feared on some occasions in recent months) to monetize their creations.
Does Dreams have a competition?
The idea of the developers of Media Molecule is to create a social network of creativity: players and creators who interact within the dream universe, helping each other if necessary. Because we must not forget that sharing is one of the central points of the Dreams experience , and we are not only talking about finished products: all the creations of other users are just a click away and it is possible, in a moment, to import them into the just Dream. In other words, it is not necessary that every aspect of the creation of a video game interests you, because there will always be someone (indirectly) ready to fill your gaps. In this sense, teams of developers are created naturally. This is the biggest bet of the "game": Dreams does not focus so much on the refinement of its tools, but rather on the ease of creating connections between the Dreamers - so that everyone can cultivate and enhance their talent, relying on others when necessary.
What Dreams can boast about more advanced professional programs is not only the ease of access, but also and above all the coexistence of all the tools useful for creating a video game in a single editor. The construction is immediate and all the steps (sculpture, effects, game mechanics and so on) fit together in a dynamic flow that the user can manage in absolute freedom. Compatibility problems between the various sectors are excluded a priori, because everything speaks only one language - and this also greatly facilitates collaboration between users, making it immediate and direct.
The zero level of design
Dreams , in the name of accessibility, manipulates its tools to make them easier to use. All the components are slim enough to destroy any type of barrier at the entrance, but to do this you have to give up something in terms of versatility : the adjustment parameters of each instrument are more than enough but, of course, they are not as extensive as those found in more specific and advanced software. This exchange allows, however, to have a more immediate environment in which to work, in which the editor is always ready to help (silently) in enhancing the creations.
This is especially true from an aesthetic point of view. There are many tools that allow a good result with a very limited effort: preconstructed patterns, shape of the brushes and automatic color shading, dosing finishing effects capable of making the elements mix together. They are aids that do not take away the merit from the player, but allow him to see results already from the first experiments and without letting him spend hours finishing a work that seems to have neither head nor tail: the creative processes are certainly not trivial, and Dreams does everything to give tools appropriate to the player's skill level, keeping an eye out for beginners .
This safety cage inside which the player finds himself experimenting makes himself felt: due to the degree of versatility that Dreams has to give up, the touch of the editor is noticed in many of the Dreams. Partly it is certainly desired and positive, that the creations share a sort of identity, but if you want to remove that tone - to get rid of the spotty line with a slightly "impressionist" flavor, for example - you have to work a little .
Tools and techniques: two local points of view
As I said before, I am certainly not a video game developer and I cannot launch myself in very daring comparisons with other more complex software: I would be forced to lie to you shamelessly or, at best, to tell you trivia. What we can do as editorial staff, however, is to give you a different point of view than specific parts of Dreams based on some particular professional skills.
As for me, I have been working with light for years. In particular, I often deal with lighting technology related to live shows, but over time I have also accumulated theoretical knowledge on digital lighting with software such as Unreal Engine. I therefore threw myself with great curiosity in the light editor created by Media Molecule and I was all in all satisfied : the management of diffused lighting (both with the alteration of the angle / intensity of the day / night light, and with the individual sources added later) is satisfactory, and it is easy to manipulate new light sources by altering their beam width, angle, color and intensity.
You must always keep in mind that every addition, in a Dream, takes away a part of memory (indicated by a special Thermometer on the screen), therefore you should not exaggerate, but if you want to make an object stand out from the background and surround it with the most appropriate atmosphere, Dreams offers everything you need. What you have to give up is the possibility to shape the light beam at will - in its place you can add a series of shadows to be projected, which help to make the light source "special" without making too much effort.
The many faces of learning in Dreams
The language used by Dreams is related to that used by more complete software. In the Dream Lab this is transmitted to the user in the simplest possible way. The offer regarding learning is already excellent and continues to expand. The tutorials are divided by degree of complexity and topic , making it very easy to identify the resource that can be useful at any given moment. These are test levels to be played, but also to be seen: there are also a series of videos, which are also connected, within the editor, to the same functionalities that they explain. If you come across an instrument that you would like to know more about while you are creating something, you can immediately deepen it without abandoning your Dream - you can even activate background playback, thus listening to the advice while continuing to work.
In short, Dreams aims to be self-sufficient, that is to put in the Dream world everything that creators and players may need to get the best out of their experience. The escapes to the outside are limited (in the direction of written or video guides, perhaps), trying as much as possible to preserve the creative flow uninterrupted - but also that of the game experience, since you can jump from a Dream to the other with just one click.
The guides always leave a certain degree of freedom to the user, so as to tickle their creativity. In this way they become opportunities to experiment freely within pre-built guides, but also to draw inspiration from the work of others: the most advanced tutorials show the potential of the Dreams editor entrusted to expert hands , but they put the Dreamer in the condition to follow them step by step creating his own work, rather than acting only on that of others.
The architecture of the dream
A key aspect of the latest Media Molecule game is the control system. If you think of the various editing software, it is very likely that you combine the combination of mouse and keyboard with it. In this case, however, the experience must pass through the PlayStation instruments (DualShock 4 and possibly PS Move). This step was not done by simply composing a series of input combinations. The approach chosen for the control system and interfaces was rather to make the creative activity more interactive - more similar, therefore (but sometimes you see the case) to a video game.
In fact, the two main schemes exploit the position detection functions of the controllers, active in different ways both with the normal DualShock 4, and with the PS Move + camera combination. These are two conceptually intuitive systems, but in both cases a good dose of patience is needed to get carried away - with DS the camera movement is simpler, while the Move are ideal for manipulating the scene, but much less immediate from the point of view control.
In the period passed to Early Access these were the only two schemes available: in the full version of Dreams instead you will also have a more traditional system for DualShock 4, which does not use motion sensors. It is important to note two things: firstly that PS Move are not indispensable to make the most of Dreams . Secondly, that there is no need to choose between one and the other device, since they can be connected simultaneously. Therefore, nothing prevents you from using the canonical controller to manage the camera and the Move to paint, for example.
The addition of the third control scheme is one of the efforts made by Media Molecule to guarantee the maximum degree of accessibility. There are already numerous items on the menu that try to make the experience accessible to everyone and others will be added later - on the MM site there is talk of support for color blind people, currently under development. We hope that other tutorials will be added in the same way to help users make their creations accessible, so as to ensure the best possible stay for every Dreamer.