Dreams is a hard game to explain. It is a game, but it’s also a creation tool, a social network, a film studio, a music editor, and so much more, all wrapped into a single package.
While Media Molecule has defined Dreams in the past, at PSX this weekend, the studio dove far, far deeper into what creators are actually capable of making with Dreams, and how much potential it has to be an absolute game-changer as a creation tool.
When you start Dreams, you’ll choose an Imp, a small avatar that essentially serves as your cursor and allows you to interact with everything around you. Once you have your Imp, you can jump right in. That might mean playing the story mode that Media Molecule revealed this weekend, or it might mean creating a level of your own.
Media Molecule’s campaign is called Art’s Dream, and it consists of three interwoven stories. You’ll begin in a free-roaming character platformer, move into a noir point-and-click, and eventually even a sci-fi adventure. These stories have completely separate controls and art styles, but will eventually connect plot-wise as you work your way through them.
The entire campaign can be played in two-player local co-op, and includes optional hidden bubbles throughout the level that will give you items you can use to decorate your home space in the game’s hub.
What we saw of the campaign at PSX felt like a completely viable story mode, with full voice acting, puzzles, and cutscenes, but the most important part is that it’s entirely created in Dreams using the same tools available to users.
Dreams’ creation tools are vastly deeper than anything in LittleBigPlanet, and potentially even deeper than any other creation game ever made. Watching creative director Mark Healey edit a level in real time felt like watching an expert painter or musician. Manipulating elements of the world is completely intuitive and simple, and creators will have the option of making everything completely from scratch or pulling from elements made by other players.
But the tools allow for more than just basic level design. Dreams offers a sound tool for creating music-in game, as well as a full Garage Band-style editor to adjust individual tracks and notes. It will also support an external app for higher quality voice recording.
You can adjust any element of a level, like when a song or sound plays, or how loud it is depending on a player’s proximity to a certain point. You can animate elements like moving platforms by simply drawing the path you want them to follow, and the level editor can be seamlessly pulled up at any time. In our demo, Media Molecule even edited one of the story mode levels while they were in the middle of playing it.
Sort of like Google Docs, creators can set the permission levels for anything they create, and can add collaborators who have the ability to edit elements. If you find a level and want to figure out how the creator made it, you can look at a genealogy view that shows how it was made.
The creation tools are essentially a simplified game engine in terms of what users see, but aren’t simple at all under the hood. Functionality here is so deep and fully-featured that it isn’t hard at all to imagine even established developers making a game in Dreams.
No matter how impressive creations are in Dreams, it wouldn’t matter if nobody could find them. Media Molecule has created a much deeper way to share and discover levels in Dreams, allowing you to not only follow creators to see new levels as they’re added, but also to follow curators.
If IGN’s Brian Altano were to see a bunch of cool levels, for example, I could follow Brian’s account to see his picks, even if they’re levels he didn’t create himself. In other words, you’ll be able to follow tastemakers who find cool stuff and share it with the community. You’ll also be able to make collections to show people, which Media Molecule compared to using a Pinterest board. If you just want to show off a bunch of cool lamps you’ve seen by putting them all in one place, you can do that.
Every action you complete — whether it’s creating, sharing, curating, or anything else – also adds to your in-game experience level. You’ll be able to earn Dream Stones, which are essentially in-game achievements, that you can earn for completing any action. You’ll have a Persona page that keeps track of everything you’ve done, so you can see how far along you are toward earning any particular Dream Stone.
This barely scratches the surface of what’s possible in Dreams, and Media Molecule has the potential to make something really special if there’s enough support from the community.
Dreams is a game that will only be successful if the community embraces it, but there’s potential for this to be an extraordinary gateway into game development for people with an interest who don’t have the resources, or potentially even a new tool for professionals to use. Media Molecule confirmed that VR support will be coming after launch, which opens up a lot of new opportunities for VR experiences that haven’t been possible until now.
It’s exciting to finally get a better look at what Media Molecule is working on, and I can’t wait to find out more.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article referred to the sound tool as the “Dulcimatron,” which is actually the name of one of the instruments. It has since been updated.
Andrew is IGN’s executive editor of news and can’t wait to see all the cute dogs people make. You can find him rambling about Persona and cute animals on Twitter.