In 2015, “Mario Maker” took the gaming community by storm when it handed over the power to design and create “Mario” levels to its audience. Gamers went wild with their own interpretations of levels, whether it was with stylized 8-bit animations or the much smoother look of the franchise’s newer releases.
The same creative formula that made “Mario Maker” an instant classic fueled the hype for the exclusive Playstation 4 release of “Dreams” Feb. 14.
“Dreams” is an outstanding combination between a video game engine and an actual video game. It presents itself as an opportunity for gamers and developers to become one and share their creations within the same universe.
Every player of “Dreams” has the option to either go DreamSurfing or DreamShaping. DreamSurfing is where the player can explore all the creations made public by other gamers, whereas DreamShaping is where the player can harness their creativity to make any type of game they want.
Before I dive into my thoughts on DreamSurfing and Shaping, it's important to note that I used the left-and-right analog stick controller scheme to play the game. “Dreams” has the option to use the motion sensor controller scheme, which the game recommends, but after my first hour of playing, I found myself getting frustrated with having to move my actual controller whenever I wanted to scroll through games or make any creations.
To experience “Dreams” as developer Media Molecule originally envisioned, I’d recommend using the virtual reality controllers that can be purchased separately from the game. Besides that minor setback, surfing through the abundance of games made by other players in dreams was a delightful journey.
The games varied from fan remakes of abandoned classics such as “P.T.” to absurd “Temple Run''-inspired games where the player controls a reckless Hulk as they try to run from point A to point B. Hilarious concepts like these fill the dream universe, and I found myself laughing on many occasions.
That’s not to say that there aren’t any serious takes on certain gaming genres. I found first-person shooters, fantasy role-playing games and scenes of art that looked as if they were made in professional game engines. Making video games isn’t the only option creators have in the “Dreamiverse,” as players can flex their artistic abilities in making still images or even audio-based visuals.
I spent hours searching through all of these options and constantly found myself floored by the capabilities of the creators in “Dreams.” At times, I felt that this game represents more of a social media platform than an actual video game. The community is what makes “Dreams” special, feeding the rapid growth of content available to players.
Once I had my fun shifting through the massive library in “Dreams,” I began creating my own games in DreamShaper. DreamShaper can seem overwhelming at first, as the player has the option to create entire scenes and use a bit of logic to make the world interactive. Controlling the interface can also be a bit tricky, however, “Dreams” provides an in-depth tutorial system that gives the player answers to any questions they may have.
The game also includes options any normal game engine might but simplifies the process without losing any key elements. The range of modes can vary from a sculpting and painting option — in which the player can create, color and distort objects — to the sound and gadget controllers where the player can apply logic and processing conditions.
I’ll never forget how satisfied I was when I made my first scene. Going from using a plain rectangular object to then shaping and colorizing it to look like realistic grass was astonishing. I then created a first-person player to explore my world and see how other players may view it. These small accomplishments kept me motivated while creating, and my fear of being overwhelmed or frustrated by so many mechanics never set in.
One of only two problems I encountered in DreamShaping was importing my own audio for a game. Instead of using a website or an external hard drive to import the audio, the player needs a male-to-male USB cable with a microphone. Then, the player has to use the actual PS4 controller to record the audio. This was indeed a hassle I wish I didn’t have to deal with, but I imagine in the future this is something Media Molecule might change.
The second issue I ran into was during my attempts to collaborate with my friends on a single creation. I could share my world with other Playstation players, but I couldn’t edit the world at the same time. Rather, I could edit at the same time, but only one version of the creation would save. This made same-time collaboration useless, and it only ever came in handy if one of my friends edited the world while I wasn’t available to play myself. These small annoyances didn’t ruin my time with “Dreams,” but they stop the game from being a true masterpiece.
“Dreams” finds the perfect balance between gaming and creating, and relies solely on its community to do the heavy lifting. That, however, is what makes the game such a monumental achievement. I’ve never felt so connected with a community in a game, and I’ve never felt so responsible for a game's success. I had some small issues in DreamShaping, but that wasn’t nearly enough to disrupt the joy I felt after finishing my creation.
“Dreams” is where creators and gamers can come to unite and share their workplace, ideas and creativity in one central location. It's a social hub that lets players explore and practice self-expression through the creation of video games. Simply put, it’s where gamers’ dreams can become a reality.
Contact Daniel Carter at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.