From the outside looking in, Dreams certainly looks intimidating. Where do you start with a game that's based around player-created levels, with hundreds upon hundreds of options available to you?
Dreams has just launched its early access phase, but designers from around the globe have already spent some time with the level creator tools thanks to a closed beta test earlier in the year. To answer some of our most pressing questions, we quizzed four Dreams veterans, each of which have created some stunning levels within the game already.
Our Dreams Creators
Back when the NDA lifted from the Dreams beta in January, Prometheus was a level that instantly caught people's eye. It's an atmospheric FPS with a variety of different weapons and humanoid enemies, all undercut with a disturbing electro soundtrack. Its creator Joshua Carttar (@Arguise), more commonly known as Arguise, is one of the Dreams creators that we've sought insight from.
One veteran of the Dreams beta, and LittleBigPlanet at large, is Diantha Crystal (@diamonddiancie10). You can see a lovingly crafted home, held up by stilts in the beta creators montage video just below, right around the 24-second mark.
If it's atmospheric exploration creations you're after, then look no further than Curiosity by Dreams creator Disarmed. Exploring a barren but beautiful landscape looks pleasantly charming in Curiosity.
Remember that stunning recreation of Dead Space in Dreams back near the beginning of this year? Quinn Barnett (@RhodoTweet) is single-handedly responsible for recreating the entrance of the Ishimura in all its horrifying original detail, bringing up equally beloved and terrifying memories of one of the best horror games ever made.
Where Should You Begin With Dreams?
When you've just got your hands on Dreams for the very first time, what should you do first? In Media Molecule's game, you can either create your own levels from scratch or take existing levels from the Dreams community and remix them, breaking them down into individual parts and seeing how they tick.
Diantha Crystal: For most people I'd definitely recommend remixing some things, primarily so you can break something apart and see how it works.
Quinn Barnett: Going into existing scenes and trying to get a good look around is a fun way to get to grips with the 3D controls, and gather some inspiration, too.
Disarmed: The first thing you should do is look around and play the wonderful creations others have made, they will help inspire you for sure.
Joshua Carttar: Play some stuff! You'll get a great idea of what kinds of things are possible, and see how awesome the community is!
Is it Better to Use the DualShock, or Move Controller With Dreams?
Dreams can be controlled one of two ways: either with the standard inputs from the DualShock 4 controller, or through a pair of PS Move controllers. With the Dreams creators that we reached out to, there wasn't much of a competition between the two control options.
Joshua Carttar: I'm sure the Move controllers are great, but I found the DualShock really intuitive, so I pretty much just stuck with that.
Disarmed: I'm pretty sure the Move controllers have a more refined scheme for creating in terms of controls, but I've actually come to love using the DualShock 4.
Quinn Barnett: I almost exclusively used the DualShock. It's comfortable, but requires a little more deliberation than the Moves, which are much faster and provide very direct 3D input, comparable to VR controls.
How Long Does it Take to Make a Level in Dreams?
For many potential Dreams players, this can be a make-or-break question. What's the sort of time frame you're looking at for creating a playable, fully functioning level in Dreams?
Quinn Barnett: The Dead Space scene I remade took me over a week, but I was still learning to use the tools, so things were made at an exponential rate. I'd built the Kellion interior (the little shuttle that the game starts on) in several days (this was what got leaked during the beta's NDA period), and then decided to rebuild the whole thing again with my improved ability, as well as the hangar bay of the Ishimura outside of it, and I did so in a fraction of the time.
Joshua Carttar: I'd say about two to three weeks, but that was never having touched Dreams before, so it took a little while to get used to the tools. To do the same thing again would likely take two or three days.
Disarmed: I've had some time prior to the Dreams beta to plan out some ideas I wanted to see what was possible with the engine, and needless to say they came out way better than I had previously expected from the game.
Diantha Crystal:: Coming from a character standpoint (that's what I specialise in), it took about 15 minutes to conceptualise a character, with 15 minutes to 3 hours for sculpting and up to 12 hours programming all sorts of unique gadgets. Simple creatures can be made within an hour, while complex ones take some more dedication.
Dreams Vs. LittleBigPlanet
So how does Dreams compare to LittleBigPlanet's creation tools? Media Molecule is no stranger to arming players with all the tools necessary to entertaining and imaginative levels for themselves, but it sounds like Dreams takes the creative process and tools a step further.
Quinn Barnett: It's quite different, I think. I'd warn LBP veterans that these things feel very different. Just don't panic. Dreams is very refined for 3D creation, and anything you could do in LBP is possible in Dreams, too. I'd say, approach it with an open mind. It's a lot more powerful and liberating.
Joshua Carttar: I played LBP religiously back in the day. Even managed to make an FPS or two, but it was a constant challenge to work against certain limitations. In Dreams, I'm finally able to make the games I've imagined just as fast, if not faster, than I could in LBP.
Disarmed: They are definitely cut from the same cloth, but very different than LBP, so much more can be done with the logic presented in Dreams.
Diantha Crystal: The tools in Dreams are remarkably like that of LittleBigPlanet, albeit with some random adjustments to controls and more options in the tweak menus. If you're comfortable with creating in LittleBigPlanet, it won't take long to adjust to Dreams.
Top Tips for New Dream Creators
Finally, we asked our Dreams creators for a few specific tips that they'd give to any Dreams newcomers looking to get started in creation for the very first time.
Quinn Barnett: Pay attention to the tutorials and prompts in the editor. I find Dreams perfectly natural to use, but to begin with I was finding it hard to imagine I could make anything decent in it. Before long there was a click and things made sense. And experiment. Dreams is so forgiving, fast, and well-made that you can really go wild and get sketchy.
Diantha Crystal: Don't expect perfection, and embrace the weirdness. If you set out to make the new award-winning sci-fi thriller game and end up with a buff penguin with an Olympic banana, don't be too hard on yourself. Accept that maybe making a whole game by yourself may not be your cup of tea. Throw junk together, call it a day, and you'll get better as a creator.
Joshua Carttar: Plan plan plan. The best way to streamline a game's production is by breaking down what mechanics you want, the setting, if there's a story, UI components, etc.. Communicate with other creators. Don't be bashful and try contacting anyone you have questions for.
Disarmed: Don't judge yourself too harshly when creating. Try contacting anyone you have questions for. Make sure to stay connected on social media platforms and share your creative process with others.
Naturally, there's going to be a concern among players that they have to be excellent at art or design to enjoy Dreams (I know I certainly have worried about it). But all three of our creators refute this. "Not at all!" says Carttar. "I'd be surprised if anyone spending time with Dreams failed to become good at these things," adds Barnett. It's something that Disarmed agrees with, saying that "becoming good at design will come with time, all you need is a creative mind and an ambition to create."
Dreams is in early access right now on PS4. To enter early access, you'll have to pay $30, and although you'll have access to all the creative tools, you won't be able to play the campaign, and there's a limited number of spaces for PS4 players. There's no current release date for Media Molecule's Dreams.