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    Dreams - We are all Creators

    Who I am
    Philippe Gloaguen
    @philippegloaguen

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    Writing the Dreams review is no easy task. To do this, I helped myself by trying to think of a moment that we sometimes experience in the most special video games: that precise moment in which we understand that we are in front of something new and potentially revolutionary. But what is this moment in Dreams? Difficult to say, just as it is difficult to define Media Molecule's latest work as a video game. However you want to identify it, for me that feeling in Dreams came with sculpting a humanoid bust with Playstation Moves, but for others it could be composing an orchestral piece or just trying a truly unique amateur creation. Because this is what Dreams can offer: not just a game, but a platform with a community and many, many dreams.



     

    Creativity for everyone

    Despite the respectable pedigree of its creators, Dreams plays in a territory unknown to any other software house and also for this reason it required an enormous development time. The ambition of the project is unique: a platform for the creation of all-encompassing video games, capable of taking even the most inexperienced user from a gray cube to a complete title. The concept of player / producer has always been in the soul of the English studio, since the editor of Little Big Planet, but with Dreams it has reached a totally new level. In this fantastic container, any user can be a creator without ever groping in the dark. If you don't feel right on a creative day, you can be simple players and curators of other people's works. The pleasant feeling of power is present throughout the whole experience: from the rich tutorials to the strength of the plot of "The Dream of Art", from the ease of interaction with the tools to the possibility of sharing any element with the community, Dreams is first of all a source of constant motivation, interest and boundless creative propulsion. “The Dream of Art”, the single player mini-story created by Media Molecule, is in fact a narration of what can happen during the creative darkness and how it can be solved with the help of friendship and affection. Mind you though: "The Dream of Art" is not to be understood as the Story mode of Dreams, since it only lasts a couple of hours and is only a great demonstration of the almost unlimited capabilities of the game engine, in a a whirlwind of different gameplay genres and art styles.



     

    A section of "The Dream of Art" that recalls the old point and click adventures.
    Another section from “The Dream of Art” to the 3D action-adventure on the Ratchet & Clank style.

     

    Dream Creators

    But what is actually possible to do with Dreams? Honestly, a little bit of everything. You can simply sculpt a rock, or animate a dinosaur and manage the gameplay logic that allows it to cross a level with its own soundtrack. If you are feeling particularly willing, you can combine all these things and make it your video game. In fact, the limits are very few: these are strictly related to the computing power available on the PlayStation 4 which actually makes it more complex to create games that are too expensive with the RAM demands. Anything created in Dreams is in fact divided into scenes and these have a clearly limited dimension, in terms of processing capacity. It will therefore be difficult to see huge strategic games with millions of pawns, while it will be much easier to see platform, racing or action titles that in any case provide scenarios or length of individual scenes that are not exorbitant. The tools made available by Media Molecule to do all this are simply exhilarating: I personally have some experience with professional 3D modeling software and I must say that the ease with which you create assets in Dreams is fantastic. Thanks to a perfectly designed user interface and to the simplification of the sculpting process - the engine does not work with polygons but with voxels - even the unaccustomed may be able to create game levels after a few tutorials. Then enriching them with music, lights and animations takes place with the same degree of ease and immediacy, also thanks to the blessing of sharing between users which allows access to millions of ready-made creations at any time. So think of Dreams also as a giant LEGO box: you do not necessarily have to create anything, because thanks to the possibilities of the property called Remix you can appropriate the creations of others and then modify them and republish them as you wish. Of course the original creators are automatically credited for collective gain.



    In no time, after a few tutorials and taking advantage of the powerful possibilities of the Remix of other people's content, I built my own scene inspired by Luigi's Mansion 3.

     

    Programming for Dummies

    Less simple, but with a dose of personal guilt, is the programming phase: although everything is managed without codes or particular inconveniences, learning to manage the gameplay logics that allow the levels to work is not a walk in the park either. In this, all the simplicity of Dreams collides with an activity that is simple at all, but the commitment made by Media Molecule in the many introductory tutorials is still commendable. These are available for all activities and are so fun and exciting that you can consider them, with a little imagination, as a sort of single player campaign for the game. Despite this, not all the tools available are perfect and Media Molecule itself is aware of the fact that the project will constantly need further updates and tweaks in addition to those that have already greatly improved it after the early-access year; eg, I found the lack of a searchable list of all the elements in a scene in progress particularly annoying, which makes it difficult to identify them when the complexity increases. Furthermore, due to the engine's operating technology, all creations tend to have a pictorial look, in modeling and textures, which risks slightly limiting the user's artistic freedom.

    The tutorials are made with great care and explain all the creation tools in a fun and detailed way, in this case for composing music.

     

    The lack of a list of all elements of the scene makes the more complex features a little difficult to navigate.

     



    How to check

    Dreams offers the user three control modes. Almost immediately discarded the one based on only Dualshock 4 without motion sensors, cumbersome and without specific merits, the two remaining are the pair of PlayStation Move (and PlayStation Camera paired) and the Dualshock 4 with activated gyroscope. The first of the two is preferable almost exclusively during the modeling phases of any asset: the precision and naturalness in the use of the two Moves is unmatched in this case, despite their obsolete design requires some strange combination of keys. For all other purposes, however, the Dualshock 4 is absolutely sufficient, indeed preferable because it allows a faster and more precise management of the room and elements. In simple terms: if you intend to create 3D models in Dreams you should equip yourself with PlayStation Move for a truly exceptional experience, while for the other uses the Dualshock 4 effectively does its duty. Spatial positioning of the on-screen cursor is the key to the whole game interface: this is represented by the very tender Imp (the Sackboys of Dreams to be clear) who are in effect both avatars and small pointers.

    The two PlayStation Move controllers are represented by two IMPs free to move on the screen and unleash greater creative potential in the modeling phases.

     

    Dream Explorers

    Not all of us can always feel like creators, but don't worry: Dreams has a lot to give even to those where the creative spark will never break out. The past year in early-access has given the desired results and today the platform is already full of thousands of user creations. These, as expected, have an extremely fluctuating level of quality and therefore the curation and selection work that Media Molecule has already started to do is key. On the home page you can immediately find some of the best results, such as the cute "Pip Gemwalker" by ManChickenTurtle, the funny "Ruckus - Just Another Natural Disasater" by HeartFactory-HW and also tech-demos without real gameplay but from exceptional technical impact such as DISARMEDX's “B5-Visual Showcase-HQ”. Dreams Surfing, name of the section where you can explore the creations of others, is a real videogame zapping place: given the relative brevity of almost all the experiences currently available, the most satisfying way of using it is precisely that of jumping around with the constant surprise of always new contents. However, a clarification is necessary: ​​at the moment no creation is at the level of "The Dream of Art" in terms of complexity, longevity and quality of the mechanics. Despite this, it remains absolutely magnificent to see how many user projects are constantly evolving and enrichment thanks to the Dreams community, undoubtedly its second huge strength after the creation tools.

    Some games like ManChickenTurtle's “Pip Gemwalker” are already quite complete with graphics, sound and interface. Often what is missing, however, is a real package of contents that can make them even minimally long-lasting experiences.

     

    The strength of the community

    What makes and, hopefully, will make Dreams great is precisely the strength of its Community. Media Molecule is working with enormous commitment to always guarantee new life within the new platform thanks to various initiatives. The most important are the Community Jam, ie weekly events in which anyone can share their creations following a theme - this week is “Monster Madness” - given by Media Molecule. At the same time, those who do not want to create anything can participate as players and curators by voting on the works of others. Everyone has a role in Dreams and any player can at any time explore the platform to view other users, creations, updates and activities. This type of interactions are also facilitated by the indreams.me web portal which allows you to access the so-called Dreamiverse even when away from your PlayStation. Other Media Molecule initiatives are streaming events in which to observe professional creators grappling with the tools of Dreams and the Impy Awards, a sort of annual Academy Awards for the best creations. The keywords of this whole system, complex in operation but easy to use, are sharing and collaboration. Precisely for this reason, the possibility given to the creators to deactivate the Remix of their contents turns up their noses. Given that at present no one can monetize their creations, what is the purpose of privatizing them and making them immutable? In the delicious dish to share that is Dreams, this is but a gigantic bite that is difficult to digest, especially when you consider that even Media Molecule has made “Il Sogno di Art” non-remixable. As long as no one can actually export their creations outside of Dreams, the ability to disable the Remix will be just and simply the enemy of the platform itself.

    All players can vote for creations during Community Jams, in this case themed "Love".

     

    Linguistic misunderstandings

    A separate discussion concerns the linguistic question. Dreams is available in Italian but, given the nature of the title and the creations of the users, those who are completely unprepared for the English language may find some minimal difficulty. Apart from this, the same official translation into Italian is not always effective and in some cases it undermines some linguistic delights such as the relationship between the two macro areas of the platform "Dream Shaping" and "Dream Surfing" with the correct but odd translations in "Dream Creation" and "Journey through Dreams". However, Media Molecule's effort in having dubbed completely in Italian both "Il Sogno di Art" and all the tutorials of the game.

     

    Technical nuances

    From a technical point of view, the game runs on PlayStation 4 at 1080p resolution, and on PlayStation 4 Pro at 1440p in Resolution mode and 1080p in Frame-Rate mode (source: Digital Foundry). The frame-rate is a particular matter in Dreams: it is always unlocked and therefore fluctuating between 30 and 60 FPS depending on what is displayed on the screen. In “Il Sogno di Art” this does not create any problems, but some particularly rich user creations cause the game engine to lose some fluidity. If you play on PlayStation 4 Pro the advice is to do it in Frame-Rate mode, in order to guarantee the highest possible performance by sacrificing a few pixels of resolution. From this point of view Sara Interesting to see what will happen with the inevitable version on PlayStation 5, and how it will affect the possibilities of the creation engine not only in terms of gameplay but also in terms of creation.

    DISARMEDX's impressive “B5-Visual Showcase-HQ” robotic polygonal model.

     

    What to expect from the future

    Dreams is today a complete, complex and content-rich platform but Media Molecule has already expressed itself on the future of its creation. Besides new games in the wake of "Il Sogno di Art", which will be produced both by the English software house and by other professional studios already in charge, what will enrich Dreams will be above all the new packages of assets and creative templates that have already been promised. In addition to the contents for both Dream Surfing and Dream Shaping, Media Molecule is also continuously working on further tutorials - absolutely welcome - and on constantly updated Community Jams. Potential revolution of the title will also be the arrival of support for PlayStation VR, announced for the next few months, which could give new creative life to modeling and animation, as well as new possibilities for game design. Looking towards the end of the year, we can also be sure that the landing on PlayStation 5 will be inevitable.

    The future of Dreams depends above all on the creations of its users, for example how will VirtuallyVain's “SURViVE” evolve, which for now is only a teaser for some technical characteristics?
    USEFUL INFO

    I played Dreams on PlayStation 4 Pro for about thirty hours thanks to a code provided by PlayStation Italia. My profile automatically understood that I spent more time on the artistic creation part of the game by assigning the ART tag to my profile. I mainly used the Dualshock 4 but during the modeling phases I preferred the PlayStation Move pair.

    Duration
    • "Il Sogno di Art" lasts between two and three hours.
    • Given the nature of the product, it is impossible to estimate how much time you might spend on it.
    • If you are going to use Dreams as a simple player - and there is nothing wrong with that - then you will devote a few hours a week to vote for creations in community jams and try updates to your favorite content, as well as discover new ones.
    • If you throw yourself headlong into the creative sphere of Dreams, its longevity will become potentially infinite.
    Structure
    • The game is divided into two macro areas: Dream Shaping (to create) and Dream Surfing (to play). In addition to these two sections, there is an entire area dedicated to the community which is in fact a mini social network where you can follow users and their works, place likes and remix "any" creation as desired.
    • Media Molecule really did its best to try to equip Dreams with digestible content as if they were a single player campaign. These are represented by the tutorials for all the possibilities of creation and by the Imp Quests that is the series of small objectives to be completed, related to both playing and creating, for rewards such as new avatars or templates for templates.
    Game Card
    • Game Name: Dreams
    • Release date: February 14 2020
    • Platforms: PlayStation 4
    • Dubbing language: Italian
    • Texts language: Italian
    The Imp Quests are the closest there is to a single-player progression within Dreams.

     

    A dream for everyone, an unrated review. Because?

    You could write tons of articles about what Dreams is, how it works and what it allows. Today it is still too early to assess whether and to what extent it could be revolutionary, but the conditions are all there. Assigning a number to its value would be totally pointless using the classic Gameplay Café parameters, so use this one unrated review as a purchase advice. If you suspect that you will never be able to create anything, try to think again because Dreams will be able to encourage you to be creative. If you really are convinced that you are just players then maybe wait for a price drop, since the current € 40 could make you turn up your nose in front of "The Dream of Art", excellent but short, and the creations of users still in phase of total maturation. But basically Dreams is first of all for the creators of anything, from music to characters, from animations to game levels: if you feel you are among them, run to buy it, you could easily see your dreams come true.

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