A few months ago I said that Dreams could well be PSVR’s most important game on the horizon. Now that I’ve finally had the chance to play just a slither of it, I’m ready to put my money where my mouth is and slam my foot down on the hyperbole pedal; Dreams is the most important PSVR game on the horizon, and maybe the most exciting project in the entire industry right now.
Granted, I still haven’t seen it in VR (and there’s much to learn about its integration) but even just the handful of developer-made demos on display on traditional screens at EGX this year were varied and captivating enough to convince me of that statement. Dreams is a 3D world builder; it allows you to create not just your own characters, environments and enemies but also the rules, objectives and mechanics of your game. It simultaneously makes any player a game developer and also an explorer in what is essentially a self-contained metaverse.
Within five minutes of playtime, for example, I’d flown across the stars in a space dogfighting experience, ventured through a gorgeous alien world as an electrified bug and even relived the days of text-based adventuring with a simple callback to a forgotten genre. The breadth of experiences here suggest the creation tools are versatile enough to put real agency in the player’s hands, not just mechanically but emotionally too. A 30-second game in which you try to hug people surrounding you as they back away might not be technically complicated, for example, but it does scratch at the deeper empathetic possibilities of the platform.
Crucially, moreso than any Media Molecule game before it, there’s authenticity to Dreams’ worlds. That alien planet, for example, is filled with lush vegetation, contrasted by huge metal doors that fade away when struck. A 2D platformer, meanwhile, is lovingly applied with a hand-drawn art style that makes it unlike anything else in the collection. The ability to create your own objects using the position-tracked controls of either the DualShock 4 or PlayStation Move controllers lets you create truly unique assets and not just the materialized Frankenstein’s monsters of LittleBigPlanet. No wooden enemy attack dogs moving on wheels can be seen here (unless you want to make them).
If you’re familiar with Tilt Brush, Quill, Medium or other VR creation tools, you’ll know just what’s possible with these kinds of platforms. The thought of pairing that system with an integrated game development engine has my head spinning with possibilities.
Speaking with Media Molecule staff at the show, I was intrigued to learn that the team isn’t hoping to just attract gamers and aspiring developers to this new platform but also musicians and other kinds of artists, too. The team really does see this as a platform launch in its own right, and one that speaks to a wide range of people. Personally, I’m excited to see what can be done on the NPC side of VR. If I’m able to make my very own virtual characters and look and feel convincing, Dreams is going to be something truly special.
The key to Dreams is going to be accessibility, though. If its creation engine is just as complicated as, say, Unity, then what’s the point? I’ve enjoyed messing around with animation options in the likes of Oculus Quill, for example, but they’re ultimately a little too complicated to really empower anyone that puts on the headset. Media Molecule really needs to nail this aspect if Dreams is going to be truly embraced by the VR community.
And then there is, of course, the question of what VR support actually looks like for the game. In the past the developer has made it seem like we’ll be able to create VR-specific content and we’re hoping that’s still the case. With such potential on display, it’d be a real shame to learn that VR support has been cut back to another smaller tie-in mode as we’ve seen other PSVR titles resort to in the past.
Media Molecule is currently planning to run a beta for Dreams this year, although it likely won’t support PSVR. Hopefully the full release will follow in 2019 with VR support at the ready.