The games people are making in Dreams already, a week in [Edit: a fair few of these games were made in the closed beta earlier this year - sorry for overlooking this], are amazing. Someone's recreating P.T., for crying out loud! Another person is remaking Dark Souls interiors and they're pretty convincing. Someone else has made a kind of Guitar Hero while another person has quite a lot of an RPG up and running, and Scrolls in the title! There's a 4x4 off-road buggy, erm, trip, in more than one sense of the word; a moody supernatural first-person shooter; Super Mario Bros; Super Mario 64, Kirby... Really anything you can think of to pay homage to, there's an homage to.
But my favourite of all of them appears to be an original work and it's one for the connoisseur - pretty highbrow stuff. It's called Oi, You, What You Lookin' At? and it's a boxing game as clumsy and ridiculous as Gang Beasts. Its real crowning glory is its theme song, which plays as soon as the fight begins begins. "Oi, you, what you lookin' at?" it goes, in the voice of someone who would give you something to look at. "What some do ya? Have summa that!" Inspired.
There's loads already, then, all gathered neatly in the game and online at indreams.me. Shouldn't be surprising given the nurturing Media Molecule gave its LittleBigPlanet creative community, and they're back in droves in Dreams. Yet all of their work has a flaw in common: it's unfinished, which is understandable, given how long the early access has been available and how much work is involved - I tried the creator for an hour or so and broke a sweat just moving stairs around.
Mind you, the tutorials are good. Media Molecule knows how to dress an idea like this up and Dreams bears all the hallmarks of a wisened developer - it's a package as snuggly and inviting as a pillow. Still, I have a long way to go before I have a fraction of the knowhow the community makers have, let alone the guy from Media Molecule who demoed Dreams at EGX Rezzed, managing not only to make a level in half-an-hour but doing so spontaneously using ideas shouted from the crowd - and while keeping everyone entertained!
The Media Molecule experts have made games for Dreams too - it's not just an empty creator (remember, there will be a story mode made by Media Molecule upon full release at some point later this year). There are several and they vary from high-score based games to multiplayer competitive games. There's one a lot like Rocket League, although you're on-foot and not in cars (isn't that just football?); there's a wonderful game where you're a hammer and you smash plates and light bulbs while in competition with a friend; there's a whole space-based dogfighting game which I cannot believe was built in Dreams (but of course it was - everything has been); there's a time-trial racing game; a puzzly platformer; a shmup. They're all pretty good.
It's when you look at those, and what the community is prodding at, you can't help but jiggle with excitement for what Dreams could produce. More excitingly: everything made goes back into the Dreams ecosystem. Characters, equipment, music, environments: it can all be reused by other people. You can even take someone's Dreams creation, wholesale, and remix it from there.
I've heard people talk about Dreams as essentially a new game engine and when you think about it like that, it fits - it's not too dissimilar to something like Unity. And it has this lovely look about it, a kind of plasticine impressionism layered with swirly mists and brush strokes, which tinges the games (or sculptures, or animations) made within it. Dreams can conjure very moody and evocative scenes, and the music, made in the powerful music tool, seems uniformly wonderful.
There's no money changing hands here though, as with other engines - just an enthusiastic community helping each other out. I don't know how that works in the long run, nor do I know how the Dreams skirts copyright issues with other games being remade within it. But we're not there yet. At the moment, a week in, we're in the land of excited potential. And it is exciting. Who knows what we'll see weeks and months down the line when the ecosystem matures and there are templates for RPGs and FPSs and Strategy to easily work from. What then?
Dreams is available in early access on PS4 now, for Ł24.99. There's no story mode included - that's coming with the full game later in the year. If you buy in now, you'll upgrade to the full game for free.