John Beech has been at Media Molecule for over ten years. Now, as Senior Principal Designer, he works on the PS4 game-making platform, Dreams. The platform boasts endless possibilities and is user-friendly to anyone looking to make a game for the very first time. Into Games got to chat to John about building Dreams, using it as an educational tool, and the future of collaboration within the platform...
On building Dreams
John knew that Dreams would be a big challenge, but never anticipated it would be this long in the making, "...having made Little Big Planet 1 and 2 which took the sort-of standard game development time of around three years, we assumed, rather foolishly, that Dreams would take about the same, maybe a bit longer because it was 3D." In the end, the platform took 8 years to build, a long time by any studios standards, although the team did have some early wins. "We started really strong, the sculpting tools haven’t changed much since day one...we were like, ‘Oh we have a cool sculpting tool now let’s do the other stuff,’ we suddenly thought ‘Hold on a second’ – it started getting harder and harder."
On making something new
A game creation tool for the PS4 hadn't been done before, at least not like this, so the team was tasked with building something completely new. "We just looked at it with completely fresh eyes," said John. "We didn’t think we wanted to make our version of X game or Y creator; we just thought how would a person who’s never sculpted before, sculpt? Luckily, quite a few of us at Media Molecule had come from the Little Big Planet community, so we didn’t have the background of using more traditional 3D development software." This was no bad thing, however, and John stressed that these varied backgrounds were an asset to the process, "We were all just random people from the community, some of us had jobs as builders, grocers, or estate agents. So that gave us a unique insight."
On using Dreams to nurture talent
Getting involved in game communities is a huge asset to building a career and network. "We have already hired several community members," said John. "It’s been our goal and aim from the beginning: to get people making games. The whole ethos of Media Molecule from the very beginning has been about empowering people with creative ability and allowing them to turn it into a hobby or a career. They can do it for creation’s sake, but we really hope that it also opens up new avenues and new paths for young, aspiring game makers, filmmakers, and artists. To pick up Dream and do cool stuff."
On using Dreams in education
Dreams has quickly become a brilliant tool for the classroom, and it's great to see so many young people getting involved in game-making and stretching their creative muscles. "It’s been an aspiration all along, and I know that Little Big Planet has been used in various schools around the world," John said. "You can teach things like physics, maths, art and music in the game. Dreams is sort of like an evolution or successor to Little Big Planet but turned up to 11. We didn’t want to limit you to just making games or platformers, we want you to be able to make everything in Dreams."
The future of collaboration in Dreams
"We’ve noticed that more and more informal teams are gathering together in the community," said John. Many are using Dreams to build their own portfolio, coming together with makeshift studios and making amazing work with the platform. "We know there is a hunger and a want for more tools to allow for better, more streamlined collaboration. Certainly, our hope is that Dreams is going to last for as long as possible, so we’re going to keep supporting it based on the needs and the wants of our community. And that community could, at some point, become professional game designers using Dreams to make a professional game." He added, "As the community changes and grows, Dreams will grow and evolve with them."
John’s advice to aspiring games designers
Finally, John shared some words of wisdom for any aspiring game-makers: "Just make stuff. Whenever I’ve interviewed people for jobs, all I care about really is what they’ve made. Just make stuff for the fun of it, post it and share with social media. Keep going, don’t worry about whether it’s cool or bad or anything. Just have fun, your passion and talent will naturally shine through."