Dreams (PS4): Reimaging Game Creation

Dreams is a Playstation 4 exclusive developed by Media Molecule, the creators behind Little Big Planet. It’s hard to give Dreams a definitive category aside from the fact that it’s undoubtedly a Sandbox. In Dreams, you will play as a cursor — that’s right, the pointy tool on your computer. Your job is to create a dream of your own with not just decorations but tons of other cool things that will essentially allow you to make a game within a game. Alternatively, you can jump into other dreams and interact with them in as many ways as the creator allows you.

Here is you, a friendly, fashionable cursor.

Target Audience and Gameplay Overview

Dreams is ambitiously created without any particular audience in mind. The game itself is divided into two parts: Dream Surfing and Dream Shaping. For all the general players, Dream Surfing allows them to explore any published creations of others players. From there, they might find anything that suits their taste to play with, since there is no limit to what people can create. Story-based adventure, action RPG, FPS, board games, or just staring at some high-quality renders of food. Even if you want to play Fallout again, there is a dream for that too.

High fidelity English breakfast, if that’s what you wish to have in a dream
Fallout on Dreams

As for whom the game is the most appealing to, it would certainly be those who are passionate and serious about creation. Out of all sandbox games, Dream Surfing is the closest you will get to an actual game development engine with the freedom it offers. Playing as a cursor, players can select, place objects at the pinpoint location of their choosing. They can also freely shape, color, and even animate objects from a huge asset library.

Dream Shaping in action
Another world created in Dreams

Formal Elements

Dreams involves both player and multiplayer. Dream Shaping allows players to create games on their own and share. The dreams they create can also be multiplayer games of any genre. With the freedom of a sandbox game, the only rules and procedures are using the game creation tools and navigating the interface. There is no challenge, conflict, or any particular outcome, but the split between Dream Surfing and Dream Shaping gives players the general objectives of creating and sharing, as well as exploring other people’s creations. Resources in Dreams would be the assets players can use to create games, which they can collect by playing other people’s games or purchasing from the store.

The Fun of Making (and Playing) Games

While almost all Sandbox games leverage on Fantasy, Dreams takes it to another level by allowing players to basically create anything they want. The freedom of creation also feels into expression as the game strongly encourages players to publish their games and share with other players. On the flip side, the hands on creation process from the ground up adds an extra layer of genuinity and and excitement to explore and discover other players’ fantasies. The result is plenty of opportunities for sensation types of fun. That said, the game doesn’t provide any of those itself. It is up to the players how they want the game to be.

Is Dreams a toy or a game? Short answer is: a game. In my view, toys are created with the exclusive purpose of fun and playing, which is not necessarily true for games. In addition to fun and playing, games can also serve as a form of expression like art and language, or to provide an immersive experience for say the purpose of learning in a safe way. Dreams has a strong potential to fulfill the latter.

Verdict and Improvement Suggestions

Dreams can be said as an ambitious attempt at gamifying game creation, and it has done so in a good way by starting off as a game first. While the joy of creation, expression, and exploration can certainly bring fun and the feeling of success, Dream Shaping mode is still a hefty jump in skill gap and time commitment if one wishes to create something decent. One suggestion for improvement is to implement a creation mode similar to Minecraft in which players can simply move objects as a character in the game, making it even more intuitive to create. Additionally, dreams has a tremendous potential on multiplayer co-creation that can lead to strong bonds of fellowship, which could turn the game into an educational tool for new game developers. It is a shame that the game doesn’t offer multiplayer in Dream Shaping.

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