My Beta Diary

Here is a day – day, blow by blow account of my experience of the Dreams Creator Beta from Dec 19th 2018 – Feb 4th 2019.  I love Dreams, but it had to grow on me. I averaged between 4-8 hours a day on the game, with a little less on family days like the weekend before Xmas, and the Xmas holiday itself. I expected a much shorter Beta than we got, but I am not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I have had a really great time.

 

Day 1 Wed 19th Dec BAD DAY 
Very excited. Can’t wait to start. After 4 hours I am ready to throw the controller out the window. I had no idea just moving around in this game would be the hard bit.

Day 2 Thur 20th Dec BAD DAY 
Completed the tutorials, but still cannot make anything. Camera keeps zooming off at all angles, I keep losing my imp and the sculpture tool. Nothing I paint is at the same depth as the bit before it. I want to make something to share but everything looks like…well nothing at all.

Day 3 Fri 21st Dec MIXED DAY
I think I may have got the hang of the imp. My arms are not moving from side to side and smaller movements are having the desired effect. I finally manage to make something – a piece of railway track. Try putting a hat on Connie but it wont stay on.

Day 4 Sat 22nd Dec GOOD DAY
Try out the music bits. Now this is more like it. Except I cant work out how to cut the clips up, so I have to keep re-recording the same thing over and over to try to get it right first time. After posting for help on the forum I can now add a hat to Connie, so I decide to make a Xmas level for the gamejam with all the stuff I have made so far. Its pretty terrible, and I will look back on it and cringe, but as we cant delete anything (what a terrible decision) I will have to put up with it. I was just happy I made something.

Day 5 Sun 23rd Dec BAD DAY
Getting frustrated with a treasure chest I have made. Adding bolts is a nightmare. The logic to get it to move is not working – then I realise I should animate it instead. Sort of works, but again I have to ask for help. Dreams is very very hard. Play a lot of other peoples levels. How are you all doing this? I think some of you are ringers and you have been doing this for a lot longer than 5 days!

Day 6 Mon 24th Dec GOOD DAY
Made some more music now I can edit the clips. Much better result. Very pleased with “80s Throwback”. Decide to try to make a short platform level using the Dash pieces. This works okay, and I add my music into it. I need to make a video for my Project Spark channel and find out that my brain has been “Dreamified” and it takes me a while to be able to handle the controls on my Xbox. I am pushing all the wrong buttons. Aaargh.

Day 7 Xmas Day Did not play
Day 8 Boxing Day Did not play

Day 9  Thur 27th Dec GOOD DAY
Decided to work on a modular house building kit. This seems to be working quite well.

Day 10 Fri 28th Dec MIXED DAY
Finished the kit but discovered I couldn’t use all the pieces to make a house because it filled up the thermometer, Have no idea how to optimise it but publish it anyway. The house I do make looks quite nice, but it is at 95% so not particular useful for set making. I will have to ask on or read the forum for help. Managed to optimise the pieces a bit, and reduced the house down to 36% though I am not all that happy at the “soft look” it now has. Started making “We 3 Kings of Orient Are” music which I am assuming is public domain.

Day 11 Sat 29th Dec GOOD DAY

Finished We 3 Kings.

Day 12 Sun 30th Dec GOOD DAY

Worked on adding some logic to my treasure chest. Now you can open it with a key.

Day 13 Mon 31st Dec BAD DAY

Tried optimising my timberframe house. The thermometer makes no sense to me at all. How could an object that contains 6 rectangles and no sculpture or painting fill 11% of the meter? I thought simplifying the modular pieces would reduce the thermo – in some cases it went up. This is very confusing. I have seen other sculptures that are far more complex that come in less. I can reduce it down by making the object soft-looking but I want it to look like wood and stone not felt and fluff.

Decided to try working on logic. I thought start simple and display the player health on screen. There does not appear to be a way of displaying anything other than text or numbers – so no meters. This is frustrating now. Someone posted a method on the forum but I dont understand it.

Summary after 2 weeks

I really want to love this, but I am not. The amount of effort you have to put into this game is so huge I might as well learn how to program and design in Unity or Unreal Engine. It will probably take the same amount of my time, and then I will have a transferable skill. It takes a few days to get the hang of moving your imp, after 2 weeks I can make sculpts but they are unusable because they take up all or most of the thermometer – you can’t build a level where a quest object uses up 50% of your allotted memory even before you have put down any scenery.  I am going to persevere through the rest of the Beta but I am really disappointed that this game is not really entertaining me as much as frustrating, upsetting and angering me. I feel I have invested a lot of time and money waiting for this game, and right now I am very disappointed that I can’t really make anything in it. Other people are creating amazing things and I just do not understand how they are doing it – I can only assume that either a) they are professional or semi professional games developers or graphic, 3d artists or b) they took part in the alpha and have had a few months to develop their skills or c) I am an idiot and I am the only one struggling with this or d) These people are advanced LBP creators and there are a lot of transferable skills that I just dont have.

Day 14 Tue Jan 1st 2019 GOOD DAY

Today I decided to enter the weekly jam of Tropical Islands just to make something. Had a bit more success with the spraypaint, but grid mode is still an issue as sometimes it works and sometimes it doesnt. Quite pleased with the sea effect.

Day 15 Wed Jan 2nd 2019 BAD DAY

Experimented with the thermo to see what methods are less impactful. Was amazed to discover that cutting shapes is less impactful than stretching them into size. Makes no sense to me that an identical shape could have different memory capacity depending on the method of creation – when it is the SAME SHAPE. Also found out that if you increase the size of a sculpture when sculpting it increases the thermo, but if you do it to the finished sculpture the thermo stays the same. I do not understand this at all.

Tried to do some logic for the Tropical Island level. It didnt work AT ALL, despite being a clone of a microchip that does work.

Made a brick wall. Managed to spray paint it with opacity and different colours, and the wall is 1% thermo.  Hurrah. Trouble is I cant recreate how I managed to get the menu open for the spraypaint so I could change it. Got frustrated with struggling with the controls and gave up.

Day 16 Thur Jan 3rd 2019 GOOD DAY

Tried again to fix the logic in my Tropical Island level.  Managed to get the spade and chest working but have no idea how to get my character to pick up the spade or use it (there are no tutorials on puppets). Gave up trying to make a game out of this. Quite pleased with the sea effect though, so I released it to public.

Had a look at some architectural bits from other people. Made a collection.

Made a log fire and a coal fire and a stone pillar. Used someone else’s fire effect because I couldn’t work out how to do it.

Pressed remix on someone else’s level to look at it did not save, but there it is in my feed and I can’t delete it. I do not like not being able to tidy away things I do not want.

Day 17 Fri Jan 4th GOOD DAY

Took 2 hours to make a barrel. I lost the shape when the camera suddenly flew off and had to start over. When you undo it does not put you back where you were so if you lose your working area you cannot get back to it. Decided to make a set of medieval props for a collection. I really need to get the hang of this sculpting, so practice, practice. Logic can wait until I need to add it to a prop.

Watched the stream. I knew it! The winner of the Gamejam was AuntieRich aka Kitty Powers aka Rich Franke of Media Molecule. Although I understand him wanting to take part, what it did was make me feel like I should be developing my skills faster and got frustrated that someone could make a level like that in 2 days when the rest of us were struggling to even move around.

Have found I can no longer move around in Project Spark with any control because my brain is getting used to Dreams. That is a worry. I want to be able to do both.

Day 18 Sat Jan 5th GOOD DAY

Revelation day. After talking with another Beta creator who gave me some great tips I have had a lot more success with sculpting. Made a character model and a little scene with my Medieval props. Added the sound of the sea to my tropical islands level. Found the delete button, so now I can get rid of the level I looked at.

Tried to play Destiny this evening. Dreams is mucking with my brain and now I cant play that either. I am going to have to invert the controls back on Dreams and get used to that, because it is ruining my other gaming.

Day 19 Sun Jan 6th GOOD DAY

Made a signpost and a decoy duck. Added some pirate-y music to my Islands level. Un-inverted the controls and had no problem adjusting, was able to play Destiny with no issues. Yeah!

Day 20 Mon Jan 7th MIXED DAY

Tried to make a female villager but the head sculpting got a bit tricky and then the head moved to the side of the neck and I couldn’t work out how to get it back. Scrapped it.

Tried to make Greensleeves but could not work out what key to use in order to get the notes I needed. Gave up.

Had a look at animating the character model but could not work it out from the instructions I was given. Gave up.

Experimented with recording sound. This has potential for when I want to record dialogue as I can manipulate the voice to sound different to my own.

Made a better treasure chest. Made a leather bag. Started on the female villager again. Had more success with the the body sculpting this time. Need to do the head tomorrow.

Day 21 Tue Jan 8th GOOD DAY

Did some sculpting today, a set of scrolls, finished my female villager, an archery target, some carpet. I also made my first tutorial level which had a set of signs with differing display logic – I may add to this.

Summary after 3 weeks

What a change from last week. Although there are huge areas of this game I have not tackled such as animation and game-building due to lack of tutorials, I am having a lot more success with the sculpting, and are producing items I quite like the look of. I also made my first tutorial which was very pleasing. Talking with pokerjer really made a difference and I am very grateful to him. I was holding R2 and then pressing L2 to rotate my objects and they were not moving very well. Turns out I should have used just L2 and not held on with R2 (that’s Project Spark muscle memory at fault there). There is some great stuff being made by other people. They must be geniuses.

Day 22 Wed Jan 9th GOOD DAY

Made a quiver, a weapon rack, a bush, some hay, a block, and started on a robot scene for the Gamejam – though I probably wont launch it.
Had a few issues with my signpost microchips which required asking on the forum, but all fixed now. I seem to be as far away from making a workable game as I was 2 weeks ago. I just do not know where to start. There are not enough tutorials.

Day 23 Thur Jan 10th GOOD DAY

Made a random dice throw mechanic. There are probably better ways than the one I have chosen, but it works pretty well so that’s good. Made it my first Dream level (which I still really do not understand the purpose of). Started working through the logic gadget tip tutorials.

Day 24 Fri Jan 11th  BAD DAY

Tried to start a loot box mechanic, but got completely stuck unable to get the chest to open and close, which should be the simple first step.After 2 hours I had to abandon it. Cannot work out how to turn things off without complicated counters and not gates, which seems too complicated to me.I will look at it again when I get my head in the right space.

Instead I worked on designing a little scene of a magician props. Tried to make it look realistic. Called The Magician’s Night Off.

Got a migraine and had to stop playing. Will need to rest for a day.

Day 25 Sat Jan 12th Did not play

Day 26 Sun Jan 13th GOOD DAY

Made a random number generator 1-100. Had another go at the chest, and got a little further. This is so much harder than I thought. Made an urban landscape that included a wire fence. Discovered that groups cause a gameplay thermo problem, so I had to ungroup everything (a lot of clones).

Day 27 Mon Jan 14th 

Made a waterfall to experiment with water effects. Remade the library set that I had previously made in Project Spark. Had some issue with draw distance on the lights which was annoying.

Decided not to label the days as good or bad any more – let’s just assume every Dream day is a good day!

Day 28 Tue Jan 15th

Made a goblin character model. My “I know what you like to do” swapped over to Art. I made a piece of music “Internet Wizard” and it swapped back to Audio.  Got another migraine after stopping for the day. This is a worry.

Summary after 4 weeks

We are finally into our last week, and I am going to really miss this program. I am not able to make any sort of game as I am finding the logic a bit of a dark area. I wanted to recreate a relatively simple mechanic which would place a glowing light when you bump a wall. But I could not find anything that would identify a bump into the wall, or create an object at the position of the player, so that was a no starter. However, the sculpting is improving all the time, and I think a few more lessons from MM and I will be comfortable with creating anything I want. It is a very powerful tool, no doubt, but there needs to be a lot of instruction than there currently is.

Day 29 Wed Jan 16th

Made a picture with the paint tool, it may not be there when we get the game back because I drew Daenerys from Game of Thrones and they said they would remove all copyright material – then again maybe it isn’t good enough to be recognisable (LOL). Made a monster model and played around with MM’s prerecorded loops – called it “Murder Mile”.

Day 30 Thur Jan 17th

Made a Wizard character which I am very pleased with. Also had a go at the Outer Space Gamejam, but I don’t think I will be doing anything with it. Spoke to pokerjer and I may be able to make my version of Dying Light by AnAverageRecon after all.

Found out that the Beta is extended for another 2 weeks.

Day 31 Fri Jan 18th

Started on my game build. Designed a nice looking boy character. Managed to make the main part of the game but have no idea how to add a timer or a scoreboard. They have not made any of these things easy. I think the logic is a very complex system and not user-friendly. Things like timers should be a simple plug and play device, but there does not seem to be a straightforward way to add gameplay elements without building everything from complete scratch. Most people are going to have to rely on gadgets being made for them – but it will require knowledge to implement them, so its hard all round. Have posted for help on the forum.

Day 32 Sat Jan 19th

With help from COB-Commander I have the instructions for the timer element.Added the timer but not sure how to add a scoreboard. Added music to my level and a skeleton character and some cobwebs.

Day 33 Sun Jan 20th

Launched my game. Had some issues with the scoreboard but finally got it to work. Also made a cute Snow Bunny character (not for the game). I think my sculpting is getting better and better. So pleased I have finally made a full game for Dreams. Lets hope there will be more!

Day 34 Mon Jan 21st

Made a second level for Whos afraid of the dark with a hub world. Made a female superhero and librarian. Worked on an enemy AI brain.

Day 35 Tue Jan 22nd

Had to stop working on the AI brain as I cannot work out how to get a character to walk without inputs. My attempt to recreate Project Spark brains is not proving to be a good exercise. I thought I would be able to use my Kode knowledge to make AI in Dreams, but the system is so different that I think I may have to learn a whole new way of moving characters that does not have access to direction, variables, and distance.  Had a go at making some paintings with the spraypaint, made an apple and a seascape (best things I made today). Tried to make an urban street modular set but after struggling with the grid I decided to give this one up as a bad attempt. Made an aircon unit and some stairs. Coloured in a character model of a lizard.

Summary after 5 weeks

We got an extension! Beta now lasting until Feb 4th which is amazing. I hope it is an indication that the game is nearing launch and they are buying themselves a little time so that the gap between the end of beta and launch is shorter. Wishful thinking?

Well, I finally made a game, and although I am really pleased with it and it has a lot of my creativity in it such as the original music and the boy character and scenery, I still feel a bit of a fraud as it is not my original game mechanic (I recreated the idea from Project Spark level Dying Light by AnAverageRecon) however I did not pretend otherwise, and anyway people recreate AAA games all the time and get praise for it.  I am really happy with the way my sculpting and painting has improved with practice. I am really pleased with the results. The logic side of it is however not great. Not being a Little Big Planet creator and being used to the more programming elements of Project Spark, this mechanic switch system is not what I am used to, and it is proving very difficult to convert. Without any real tutorials trial and error is very slow progress and I am having to constantly ask for help. This was true for PS as well, so I guess I will have to wait until the Dreams equivalent of Mescad comes along that will help me develop.

Day 36 Wed Jan 23rd

Made a third level for Who’s afraid of the dark. Have discovered that the scoreboards are no longer working.

Day 37 Thur Jan 24th
Made a super hero and his alter ego. Tried and failed to fix the scoreboards in my game. Media Molecule played my game on the Beta Highlights stream, Feel really good about that. So exciting, Showed up a bug in my hub which I fixed (too late for the stream but oh well).

Day 38 Fri Jan 25th

Still cannot fix the scoreboard. This is very annoying. Made some cinematic music called Drama 1. Discovered a bug that makes my music sound terrible if you dont play it through the timeline. Found out that only public stuff will be saved from the Beta, so I’m launching everything.

Day 39 Sat Jan 26th

Made a Crusader Knight and a Georgian Street set. No response to my posts about the scoreboard. I guess it will just have to be broken.

Day 40 Sun Jan 27th

Made a Pub Landlady character model. Really pleased with how it came out. Started to add blinking mechanics to my other character models. Makes a difference by adding life.

Day 41 Mon Jan 28th

Animated my Pub Landlady with some lip synch and set her in a tavern set.

Found out that the NDA is lifted. I can now post my diary!

Day 42 Tue Jan 29th

Made some Dreams videos including my first tutorial.

Day 43 Wed Jan 30th

Worked on the Chinese New Year Gamejam, a restaurant scene with a rotating camera and some music. Also added another speech option to my landlady. Have been working on tutorials for the website too. So much good stuff.

Day 44 Thur Jan 31st

Made a tutorial on stop motion lip synching. Made some little birds. Made a piece of music (I published it but I think it needs tweaking).

Day 45 Fri Feb 1

Finally fixed my  scoreboard with help from Snow Hermit. Made a set of lip synch mouth. Tweaked The Return of the Knight music and make a jukebox to play my favourite pieces I have composed.

Day 46 Sat Feb 2

Made another film score piece – sounds like a Hitchcock movie. Also tried singing acapella harmonies. Was near impossible to line up the tracks, also the timeline got into a bit of a state and stopped playing the whole recording. Had to scrap it.

Day 47 Sun Feb 3

Tried to recreate Mars from Holst’s Planet Suite. Has potential, but it is difficult to get timing right, think it will be a big job to do. Wont be saving that. Created a blinking mechanic for a camera. Tried to make a cursor that would replace the imp in a game with pokerjer. Failed to get it working exactly right. Made a Dreams video of random stuff.

Day 48 Mon Feb 4

Looked at how the cameras work in sequence and made a tutorial. Added my blinking camera to a 1st person model. Trying to get as many tutorial tips off the forum as I can before it closes. So much to do, not enough time!.

Summary of the Beta

A rollercoaster of emotions from frustration to anger to delight and surprise, Dreams has it all. The ability to make a game that looks unique to your sense of style is a huge bonus from the days of Project Spark. However, the game is difficult to master. There are no shortcuts to making things, no plug and play options, and you have to make everything yourself – and in the case of the Beta there were not enough tutorials to help you do that. Little Big Planet creators appear to have a distinct advantage as it appears to use similar mechanics for the gadgets that are used, and the logic system is similar. For Project Spark creators, this is a whole new way of doing and thinking, and you are likely to be frustrated at the lack of familiar options such as object variables and ready made emotes. I think Media Molecule are at heart still platform game makers, and this game caters for them much more than any other genre, while Spark was very much an RPG and combat game maker. To do combat you have to create all the animations yourself from scratch, and that is not easy.

Having said all of the that, Dreams is absolutely one of the most addictive things. I spent so much time sculpting and making music and improving doing that every day. As long as you do not get intimidated by the artists that are on the platform who can create things you haven’t a cats chance in hell of making, you will see progress with practice. The models I made at the start look nothing like the ones I made at the end.  The logic is going to take time to work out. Hopefully there will emerge YouTube tutorial makers who will be able to illuminate the fog and help develop everyone’s skills, because Media Molecule, though very good at making tutorials themselves cannot cover everything.

My website is starting to take shape, and I am pleased with the way it is going. Over hundred pages already. I was also able to make tutorials, so even though I know very little I can still share what I do know. Anyone out there who is planning on being one of those people please get in touch with me so I can subscribe to your channel and add your work to this site.

 

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