Media Molecule has earned a reputation for encouraging and channeling the creativity of gamers into their games. LittleBigPlanet was the first successful example of this. A game that gave the gamers the tools they need to build levels of their very own. Dreams is the latest example of their passion for user-generated content and is by far the most ambitious yet.
LittleBigPlanet offered an impressive toolset for gamers to create levels. The catch was that you had to use the pre-built assets that came with the game and the game must be a side scroller. Dreams is more of an unrestricted sandbox that allows you to create pretty much anything you could possibly think of. First-person shooter, kart racing, platformer or even a full-blown RPG. There are no constraints to what you can build.
Dreams is far more than LittleBigPlanet without the side-scrolling restriction. You have a complete, unbounded canvas to do whatever you want. You can create your own assets, which is the biggest addition to completely transform from content curation to content creation. Want to build a racing game but don’t have the car you love, create it! Want to build an arcade shooter but don’t have the music, create it! Any assets you do not have, you can create from scratch using the in-game toolkit. Once you have an awesome creation, you can share it with the community for others to use in their own creations.
From the time I spent with the creation tools, something became very clear. Although the tools were remarkably easy to use, they are not for everyone. To create anything substantial you will need lots of time and lots of creativity. Creating a 3d character model is tough if you struggle to draw a symmetrical stick figure on paper. This isn’t a critique of the game, but more of an observation that the creation tools in this game are a source to channel your creativity into something. You will need to have some creative strands of DNA in your body to be able to take advantage of the extensive toolset at your disposal.
Fear not if you are someone like myself who is not particularly artistic and creative. You get to enjoy the fruits of other people’s creative works, of which there is an abundance. The creations of others are known as dreams. The home page of the dream surfing menu is filled with a myriad of creations with a diverse selection of genres and themes.
There is a large selection of original creations and creations based on popular games and media. A tagging system allows you to use filters to find the types of games that interest you most. There is a dream for almost everything, even this early in the games life.
Jumping into a dream is a seamless process that happens almost instantly. If you decide the dream is not for you, jumping out is just as quick. This gets over one of the larger gripes with LittleBigPlanet where you would load up a level and find it was bugged or you just didn’t like it. You would then have to wait to get back out. Dreams encourages you to play as many creations as possible and makes it so convenient that you will find it hard to put the controller down. One more level always leads to several.
Like any game that has a focus on community-created content, there is a clear mix of well made, high-quality content and the buggy creations that are not worth playing. There are lots of great community tools to help you sift through the junk to find a diamond in the rough.
To help moderate content, players can upvote and downvote levels they play. There is also a comments section where you can leave a review, report a bug or leave some feedback on the level. Due to how painless it is to jump in and out of levels, it is quicker and easier to just play the level yourself, but it is great to have this avenue for creators to get an idea of player sentiment.
There is already a large amount of highly creative levels for you to jump into today. Over time this is sure to grow as people complete larger and more impressive creations. Dreams has almost become a game engine of sorts. Its relationship to video game creation is similar to what WordPress is to web development. It has opened the door for those who do not know how to write code to still be able to create a video game. The future of Dreams is incredibly bright and is sure to bring life to games for years to come.