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Dreams: a Spectacular Multigame


Dreams: a Spectacular Multigame

We talked to Media Molecule's art lead Jon Eckersley about the studio's 'multi-game',

Arjan Terpstra

09 Aug 2019 ⋅ 4 min read

Media Molecule, writers of the ‘Play, Create, Share’ gaming rulebook, are at it again with their ‘multi-game’ Dreams.

Players are put in the creative seat, empowered by a host of creation tools enabling them to sculpt, paint, compose music, mix all of the above into game levels and animation sequences, and share creations amongst the player community.

A tall order? Media Molecule’s Senior Principal Artist Jon Eckersley explains how the team made their ideas work.

Eckersley must hold one of the most precarious positions in gaming, as an art lead who aims to make the player Lead Artist.

For the past six years, he and Art Director Kareem Ettouney guided the artists of British studio Media Molecule into building an intriguing video game for PlayStation4 - or should we say ‘content creation toolbox’, ‘art studio’ or ‘creative community hub’?

Eckersley: “It’s a bit of everything, really. Don’t forget players will first enter a full single-player game campaign, before they start building their own assets, compose their own tunes, et cetera."
"So yes, it’s a game, but with a suite of content creation tools at its centre, allowing you to build about anything, be it a shooter game, a 3D sculpture, or a short film. And then there’s the community part, where you can sample from others, weave their work into yours, or do things like curate your own listings of favorite tracks or community builds.”
City Vista - Dreams
© Media Molecule
Play, Create, Share

It’s the ‘Play, Create, Share’ philosophy Media Molecule are known for, through games like Little Big Planet and Tearaway, but on steroids this time.

The PlayStation4 game is currently accessible in beta, and a community of ‘Dreamers’ already dazzles the senses with professional-looking (digital) sculpts and paintings, that could easily make it into prints or posters.

It’s obvious from the many art samples Dreams lives up to its promise. But how, exactly? What tricks the average player into finding their inner Mozart or Rodin?
The Cabin - Dreams
© Media Molecule

Part of it is the Media Molecule team, Eckersley explains. “Most of our team are trained as traditional artists, so traditional media are a big inspiration to us. Also as game artists we noticed how we often like concept art for games better than the final product."

"Something artistically sound happens when artists can just work on creative ideas, without being hampered by everything else that happens later on in the process of building a video game."

"This led us to focus on traditional media, like sculpting, painting, and composing, and also on finding the right movement controls, to give an authentic, non-technical feel to the art of creation.”
Self Portrait - Dreams
© Media Molecule
State of flow

This non-technical feel is relevant here: there’s an absence of technical barriers - it’s plug and play, for any player, no matter their prior knowledge of digital art production.

“When you look at kids, there’s no fear of a pencil or a brush. They’ll just grab a crayon and start producing something. But when we get older, we lose that ‘just go out and play’ attitude, and that’s a waste."

"The act of making something can be intimidating, as people get self-conscious when they grow older. This is why we didn’t want drop-down menus, like any other creation tool has. You want to get into that flow state of creation as soon and as long as possible, and tech is in the way."

"So we wanted to present players with an environment that’s non-technical, non-intimidating, welcoming, to help them find their confidence to simply create.”
Barn - Dreams
© Media Molecule

Welcome, everyone

The welcoming feel extends to the visual style of the Dreams game world: soft colors, elements of collage, brushstrokes. Like other Media Molecule games, the visuals are very low-key, and friendly-looking.

Is this ‘house style’ a formal (marketing) thing or does it grow from the game content? “The latter, I think. Every department in Media Molecule has people that create in ways far away from their formal roles, so we’re bound to celebrate creativity in our art style as well, and not enforce a preconceived style on a product.”

Also, a ‘formal’ style could be yet another barrier for budding artists. Eckersley: “The team is committed to the idea of empowering players to create art. We are very enthusiastic about the possibilities Dreams offers."

"But to get there, we had to have really large development loops running through all departments, testing every assumption about art creation we had. How does someone create good looking art, in ways that are fun too?"

"In this sense I’m really looking forward to what the community will take from it. I mean, If someone would start his career as an artist after finding their talents in Dreams, it would blow our minds.”
Cubist Heads - Dreams
© Media Molecule

All images courtesy of Media Molecule. Made in Dreams by Jon Eckersley.
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