Media Molecule at the GDC – My thoughts

The Game Developers Conference is an opportunity for Software Houses to show off their latest creations and talk about their company ethos, opportunities, goals and successes from the past year on stage, plus run a booth for demos. Media Molecule’s slot consisted of a short video of the team making some characters, including an articulated armadillo, a musical presentation followed by a more traditional talk to the audience by Siobhan Reddy.

The musical part of it consisted of two Molecule developers (sorry they did not introduce themselves) standing on stage with DS4 controllers with Dreams shown behind them on big screens. The music was made with a combination of pre-recorded pieces and live playing of the instruments. On the screen they showed the audio tools being used interspersed with a video of a desert and some cutesy cube characters.

The response on Twitter has been along the lines of “you knocked it out of the park” and “you were amazing”, “it was perfect”.

I may be alone in this but I really didn’t like the musical presentation at all. I suspect many of you are going to disagree with me on this, but I think they missed an opportunity here.

It did not really convey Dreams very well, and like the previous musical presentation it seemed self indulgent and ultimately confusing for anyone not familiar with what Dreams is. Also the music was very conceptual and full of odd sound effects with very little in the way of a hummable tune. It was very much freeform electro jazz, and not really to my taste, or indeed the taste of most people. This is where I think Media Molecule are really letting themselves down with the marketing. They repeat the same errors over and over.

  1. They keep selling the art.
    They should be selling an exciting and entertaining game with boundless opportunities to create and play, but they keep pushing the more highbrow artistic capabilities of the program. This may encourage the artists and jazz musicians to the platform – but only those who want to embrace technology – many artists and musicians are not those sort of people and probably do not own a PS4.
  2. The characters they make and the sets are cartoon-like and cute
    I don’t know why they keep pushing the child friendly cute stuff. Cubes with faces. Boring to look at, uninteresting to hardcore gamers, and makes the game look like it is aimed at children. Are they aiming it at children? This is possibly a mistake. I know that the big audience numbers are with kids, but Dreams is going to used by adults in the majority – but only if they dont dismiss Dreams because they think its for kids. I dont mind cute things, but Media Molecule has got to give us some variety here.
  3. They are having more fun than we are.
    I am not sure that the presentation came across as an entertaining piece of music and game art , as much as a self-indulgent cacophany of weird musical phrases by two guys having a great time. Maybe it is just because I didn’t like the music style, but I thought bits of this were pretty difficult to listen to and enjoy. The graphics were okay I guess, but seemed a bit simplistic and not particularly exciting. I am sure they had a blast making it. I am not sure I had a blast looking at it.
  4. They arent explaining what they are showing.
    Was it clear that they were making the armadillo in the game (and this wasnt screenshots of them preparing a presentation in some other program), and that was what Dreams is really all about?
    Was it clear that they were playing some of the music live? Or that the music was made in Dreams from scratch?
    Were they making the cubes move, live, or was that pre-done animation. I couldn’t tell.
    What were they trying to sell here? The ability to make live music? The fact you could make an artistic animation? Are they assuming everyone knows what Dreams is already?
  5. Where is the excitement of gaming?
    They keep presenting creations with no gaming content. I think it is because the gameplay side of Dreams is the weakest part – the most time consuming and the hardest to do. We need to see exciting gameplay in their presentations – gunplay, explosions, parkour, not animated cubes. No one bought a game on the basis that it had some cute dancing cubes in it – unless it was for their 3 year old.

Siobhan Reddy’s presentation however was very good, and clearly articulated what Media Molecule is all about in terms of their ethos as a company and the type of development they like to work on. They want game making to be a hobby again – something that any of us over 40 can remember, but that a whole generation never got to experience. The amount of over 40s playing Dreams is testament to the fact that we get it, we understand it. We actually do not need to have any of the joy of making your own game explained to us – we used to do it when we were children. I am not sure that is as easy a sell to younger people, who have got so used to having everything made for them, complete (just look at the difference in marketing between Lego in the 70s and 80s and today – kits to make specific things rather than sets to make anything).

I wish the musical presentation had varied the music styles, had showed the audience more clearly what they were doing so they would be excited about possibilities. I wish the artwork had some realism in there as well as the cute cartoon style. I wish they had played a space battle with dramatic music, a woodland scene with soothing piano, a platformer with a piece in the style of the Charleston. Instead we just got more weird. We have seen weird already. Media Molecule just keeps producing the art-farty weird stuff. I don’t think this will sell Dreams. I think it confuses.

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