Developer Media Molecule made waves when it launched the LittleBigPlanet franchise in 2008 on the PlayStation 3. Years before Minecraft ignited a “building games” craze fueled by player creativity, LittleBigPlanet blew minds as a hybrid 2.5D platformer that doubled as a toolkit for creating and sharing content within it. After two sequels and several spinoffs, Media Molecule unveiled an ambitious follow-up at Sony’s E3 2015 presentation: Dreams. Coming in 2018, Dreams takes the “create and share” premise of LittleBigPlanet to the next level, with players building wholly 3D, psychedelic dreamscapes that can flow into one another, creating experiences that range from conventional games to artistic short films.
Here is everything we know so far about the game so far.
What is ‘Dreams?’
Like the developer’s LittleBigPlanet series or Super Mario Maker, Dreams is both a game and a game creation tool. Unlike those predecessors, which allow players to create and share content within the restricted, largely 2D vocabularies of their base games, Dreams seeks to offer a much broader and more ambitious platform. At the high end, players will be able to create, animate, and program wholly original content in 3D for both active play (games of all kinds), and passive consumption (such as films and music). Accessibility to a wide range of abilities and interests is a central goal for Media Molecule, however, so players will also be able to modify and remix existing content from both the developer and the community as well. All of these elements, including complete experiences and a la carte assets, will form a growing compendium of content from which creators can draw for their own work, with automatic crediting for content used. The glue that ties all of this together will be an in-game social network for sharing and curating content into what are essentially interactive, multimedia mix tapes.
But what can you actually play?
Dreams will come with a complete, playable experience when it launches, created by the developers to both entertain players and inspire them to become creators. Spanning roughly five hours,
Made using the same tools players will get access to in the game, Dreams’ the story mode serves as a short interactive primer or stylebook, encompassing a wide range of gameplay/interaction styles and aesthetics, so as to demonstrate the games potential range. At PlayStation Experience 2017, Media Molecule revealed the story mode will span three separate stories showcasing different aesthetics, one is sci-fi themed, one has a sort of noir vibe, and the third is a “childhood fantasy environment.”
A trailer released during The Game Awards 2017 featured a man going to sleep inside a guitar case, who may serve as a potential protagonist or through-line for the prepackaged experience.
In theory, the amount and type of content available could be essentially unlimited. Some experiences will be designed to stand alone, but doors and portals between dreams can be added that allow them to be stitched together, both in series by their original creators or compiled into essentially mix tapes by curators in the community. At first content will be tightly monitored to ensure that it is friendly to all ages, but Media Molecule has indicated that they would be willing to consider a space for more adult content as well in the future, although not pornographic.
Here are some examples we’ve already seen from trailers and demonstrations:
- 2D, 2.5D, and 3D platforming
- Point-and-click adventure
- 2D arcade
- Exploration/puzzle solving
- Pod racing
- Space flight sim
- Pure animation
- Interactive music video
How do you create things?
Players will primarily interact with Dreams by means of a custom “imp,” which serves as their avatar. This disembodied little head zips around by mirroring the position of the DualShock or PS Move controllers in physical space, letting players poke and prod at the world in a direct, tactile way. Players will also be able to change their imp’s expression by drawing on the DualShock’s touch pad. Imps can float around independently, or they can also possess characters within particular dreams, allowing their creators to provide bespoke avatars for the experience.
At its simplest, players can make games using a drag-and-drop interface using the DualShock’s motion controls, placing and manipulating assets directly in space. This works for both placing whole objects and manipulating their parts as a sort of virtual puppetry. Animations can be set grabbing an object or part of an object, hitting the record button, and then moving it in space the way you want it. Players with no programming or animating experience will be able to quickly and easily take existing material and remix it to their taste, enabling them to make robust, original work without needing the kind of technical expertise needed to program using professional game and animation tools like Unity or Autodesk Maya.
In addition to utilizing existing assets, users will have powerful and fine-grained creation tools to make their own objects, characters, environments, sounds, and music. Creating and altering visual assets will work much like existing 3D sculpting and painting software such as Google Tilt Brush or Oculus Medium. Music is also created directly within the game, opening up a timeline that looks right out of popular audio editing software like Garage Band. Ensuring that players aren’t overwhelmed by too many interfaces, this same timeline UI is also the core of animation, logic, and gameplay programming. Across all of the creation tools, the general ethos is for them to be easy to jump into without any experience, but offer nearly unlimited depth for those willing to commit the time and energy.
When can I play it?
Currently Dreams is currently on track to launch at an unspecified date in 2018. Although we’ve previously referred to game as “vaporware,” because of the extended period of radio silence from the developer after its initial reveal, its recent turns at The Game Awards and PlayStation Experience 2017 have reassured us that Dreams isn’t just a Molyneux-esque pipe dream, but a real (and astoundingly ambitious) project that we’re looking forward to trying.