Sweet dreams sound like these.
I don’t know how to explain Dreams to you. This enigmatic storytelling platform is so expansive it’s hard to pin down. Every time I see it, however, there’s always something that blows my mind, and in a recent demo at PAX Australia, it was audio. Dreams has, is, one of the most fully featured audio interfaces I’ve seen outside of industry standard software.
And the best part is that the demo wasn’t even meant to be focused on audio. My host, game designer and programmer at Media Molecule, Daniel Kidney, had been demoing the game for about 14 hours when I got to him so he was ready to go off script. He asked what I wanted to see. And on a whim, I said audio.
We started in a moon level where he showed us the Little Big Planet-esque stamping tool that builds terrain, the intuitive interface and button presses that allow you to manipulate everything placed into the scene, and the voxel based shapes that result in soft, almost perfect concave sculptures. Dreams lets creators tag their creations as remixable, which allows other people to download their level/character/game and tweak it in any way they want.
After showing us how easy it was to animate a moving platform by recording the movements of the Dualshock 4, Daniel asked if we wanted to add some sound effects. Everything can be linked together in Dreams via logic gates that will be immediately familiar to anyone who has worked with node-based software.
The platform was connected to a sound chip that Daniel then chose a song for. When Dreams releases, Media Molecule plan on having a library of resources ready for you to use. We chose a simple bass line and a drum beat and laid them into a timeline. The timing matched up and it sounded great. But if you want to get granular with your music creation, there’s a library of sounds right down to the individual note plucks of a violin string.
There’s a library of sounds right down to the individual note plucks of a violin string.
The audio timeline was indiscernible from that of Ableton or Pro Tools. Audio is represented as different coloured rectangles with a waveform or smaller rectangles denoting instruments or notes. The Imp – Dreams’ version of a mouse cursor controlled by the Dualshock 4’s motion controls – zipped around the screen, and everything reacted as you’d expect. Clicking and dragging the end of a clip extended it out and started it looping, dragging it in cut it short and every edit was previewed in real time.
Instruments can be played in real time via the Dualshock 4 and a sort of venn diagram interface. Dragging the imp around the different sectors produces different notes and pitches, and after recording we saw a 3D representation of the Imp’s path that could be edited. While something the average creator will probably never use, it immediately makes sense to look at. And that accessible design permeated everything I saw.
I asked why Media Molecule would want to make such a robust interface just for audio and the answer is that it’s because they’re making everything for Dreams in Dreams. The audio designers would ask for more tools so they could do what they needed to and it just kept getting more and more fully featured. It’s not absurd to think that we’ll see some absolutely incredible music and sound creations coming out of Dreams, especially when you consider the support for external microphones and other inputs via the PlayStation second screen app.
The main takeaway from my time seeing Dreams was this is something that has never been done. The potential for creators and players is almost limitless. If all you want to do is make music, you can absolutely do that in Dreams with little more than a PS4 and controller. The interface and terms to describe items functions are designed with accessibility in mind. Media Molecule has agonised over the naming of items and functions to ensure each and every thing has been accurately described.
With a planned beta to arrive sometime before the end of 2018, this creation platform could be all-consuming, no matter what you want to create.
Dan is a Video Producer at IGN’s Sydney office. You can reach him on Twitter @ItsDanCrowd