Today marks the release of the Dreams early access on PlayStation 4 and, as such, it marks the start of a potential industry evolution. So what is Dreams and why do I put it on such a big pedestal? While Dreams is hard to define accurately, it’s fundamentally a game that allows you to create games, be it FPS, platformer, action adventure, fighting… literally anything. It also allows the creation of any movie, TV show, music and characters one could surmise. This may sound like hyperbole. It’s not.
I played the beta released late last year and while I only played around with the creation tools myself a little bit, many creators were hard at work creating the aforementioned products and publishing them for others to play. Amongst them was a diverse spectrum of experiences ranging from Minecraft, P.T. and Ratchet & Clank recreations to entirely original RPGs and platformers that blew me away with their, well, originality. I especially want to highlight the P.T. recreation here; for those that don’t know, P.T. was a demo released on the PlayStation Store for now cancelled Hideo Kojima game Silent Hill, that enamoured players with its incredible horror gameplay and became infamous due to its permanent removal from the Store. The Dreams recreation is a perfect replica of the now lost gem – the sounds, graphics, movement, gameplay mechanics, etc. are all the exact same as the real thing, and the fact that that was pulled off with nothing but a PlayStation 4, the game and some assets imported from a USB Stick is groundbreaking.
What’s even more shocking is the fact that this was accomplished in the beta, one that was only active for a few weeks. If players are already perfectly recreating games like P.T. with just a few weeks of acquainting themselves with the game’s tools, imagine what could be pulled off once they have unlimited time to learn the mechanics and develop the game. I’ve already seen teams planning to create sequels to games like PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, and we’ll undoubtedly see Grand Theft Autos and Call of Dutys too – both original and recreations.
Which leads me to my next point – the potential for accurate, fan made remasters. Remasters, remakes and reboots are extremely popular in both gaming and movies currently, and Dreams opens the door for so many franchises to return that would otherwise continue to be neglected due to uninterested or defunct studios. Even someone like myself, a person who’s interested in the creative process but sucks ass at things like design, could recreate a level like Nuketown quite easily, so in the hands of a competent developer who can also set up menus, physics, etc., the possibility of Black Ops 1 or 2 being completely remade is a very realistic expectation. Open world games are the only ones that might cause some trouble, although with clever optimisation even worlds like Vice City or the ones from The Simpsons: Hit & Run could be achieved. Dreams could be the perfect source of nostalgia for the waves of people online that love looking back on the classics they cherish, movies included as I mentioned above.
Furthermore, and potentially the most notable element of all long term, is the doors it opens to indie developers. Indie games have seen a huge increase in popularity this decade, with games like the aforementioned Minecraft seeing success rivalling AAA studios. A reason for that is because of increased resources and availability pertaining to game development, including an increase in programming courses and likewise skills. Dreams is game changing because it gives these tools to absolutely everyone. The beta featured a plethora of easy to follow tutorials that quickly made me understand the logic behind game mechanics and how to construct a level. It makes understanding such a complex topic so accessible while giving you tools that have the potential to create absolutely anything, which demolishes every barrier to becoming a game developer and allows so many creators to have a voice they otherwise couldn’t obtain due to financial and/or technical limitations.
It could also make numerous people who weren’t interested in it become intrigued by it, thus inspiring them to follow it as a career when they wouldn’t have otherwise. All of this leads me to my next point: its potential as an educational tool. I’ve mentioned Minecraft a few times throughout this article, which is fitting because that game has proven to be a fantastic creative tool due to the way it introduces concepts like creativity and design to people in an easy and fun way. Dreams does that and more. If Sony got Dreams into schools all over the world, millions of people of all ages will have an engaging way to familiarise themselves with the concepts I’ve discussed above, which could catapult the industry to new heights given the amount of developers and general interest and awareness it could create. The impact this could have not only on gaming, but on technology in general is astronomical. The next Bill Gates might be someone who only became interested in development because he played Dreams in school. It’s THAT big.
Of course, there is some “buts” to all this. For starters, the risk of copyright infringement. While the recreations of P.T., etc. were able to exist in the beta, the fact that it was a free beta might be why they were able to be released with no complications. For the full retail release though, I can see Media Molecule being careful about what is and isn’t allowed so that they don’t risk another company suing them for essentially stealing their IP. We’ve seen many fanmade PC games shut down over the years, so it begs the question of how Media Molecule will approach this in the final version.
Another concern is the restrictions it being a console game creates. Every level has a limit to how many things can be in it, and while the PlayStation 4 Pro does extend the amount slightly, the overall potential isn’t insane – I highly doubt a Grand Theft Auto V San Andreas recreation is possible, for example. That said, I’m not overly concerned with this because you’re able to connect levels via “doorways”, meaning an essentially infinite amount of levels can be chained together to make a game as long as you imagine. Combine that with smart optimisation tricks people will learn to reduce the limit bar rising, and I can still see some incredibly ambitious games being pulled off; those Black Ops, Vice City and Simpsons: Hit & Run remasters are very much achievable.
The main issue, however, is the fact that all of this will only be possible if enough people engage with it. The success of a game like this is entirely down to how many people create for it, and if there’s not many people making games on it or playing the games that are being made, all of the fantastic tools will go to waste and nothing will come of it. I really, REALLY hope this doesn’t happen, as all of the potential this game allows that I detailed above is so groundbreaking that it’d be heartbreaking for it to not come to fruition just because enough people didn’t buy it. As such, I urge anyone reading this to look into buying the game because, with enough interest, Dreams could revolutionise the world, both in terms of gaming, education and otherwise.
What are your thoughts on Dreams? Will you be getting the early access or final release, or are you a soulless monster who hates imagination and children? Let me know in the comments or via my Twitter @JoshBSocial (buy Dreams first, though.)