Every year there are a bunch of great indie games that come out. These are seen as the gems of gaming years gone by as most have a throwback to the older ways of gaming. So what happens when a University project like Dream makes it onto the scene? With the main goal of changing an already established genre, in this case, exploration games from what we all know and love, Ashley at Hypersloth Games spoke a little on the matter as I threw him a few questions.
So what is Dream then?
Dream is a first person, atmospheric, exploration game. The goal was to come up with something different to the current exploration games out there at the moment. Myself and Sam don’t really like exploration games as they are so trying to make them fun has been our challenge. We have gone for a non-linear story with puzzle mechanics. There are three acts that are the main dreams with side dreams fleshing out the story. There are also nightmares in each act.
When it comes to the side dreams you don’t always have to do them, in fact you may not find them in your playthrough. We have five endings so the more you know about your character through doing things like side dreams, the better ending you will get.
Dream is a project for our placement year at Huddersfield University. The three man team, myself, Sam and Lewis have been working on it. We are only four months into development so this is the first time we are showing off the gameplay.
Is there combat in the game at all or is this something more aligned with the older exploration games like Myst?
We are only talking about what you can see at the expo, but there is no combat here. There is a monster though in one of the nightmares that chases you, the more you learn about the character through the side dreams the more you’ll know about the monster.
The protagonist in the game is called Howard Phillips, he has just graduated and is uncertain of where he is going in life. He tends to daydream a lot and he also practices lucid dreaming, in an attempt to discover where he wants to be.
After getting successfully greenlit on steam, has it become apparent that maybe the game is taking off in a bigger way than you expected?
Hopefully! Lewis had a concept for a game in the first year of University, but something similar was released at the same time. We have to really go back to the basics of puzzle and exploration games and hopefully make something different.
As Dream is so different from what people usually play, so we were nervous about the reaction to the game. But it is nice to see people getting into it and really getting into the story. Another point we are trying to achieve is not holding the players hand. I remember playing the old Zelda games as a kid and I knew what to do, I recently came back to it on the 3DS and I had to look at walkthroughs to make it through the game. I think that is the way games have developed they are holding your hand too much, so it is nice to see people coming here and exploring and working things out again.
So how do players get their direction in Dream, as you aren’t holding their hands through the experience where are you giving clues as to the player’s next actions?
We use the narrative a lot to help players out, but we have tried to balance it. You are in control of the story and it will make sense no matter how you play it.
So there are three acts in the game, can players experience those in different orders or are the dreams in a fixed order?
We have looked at that, but there is a main story you have got to complete in order to move on to the next act. It is very minimalist though, the side missions in the game really flesh out the story though meaning that there is room for the character to develop. So you can run through the game quickly and still understand the story, but if you take the time to go between acts and explore you’ll find the ending means a lot more.
Are there moments in the game where you can come across something that is in the future in terms of story? Like the manuscripts in Alan Wake.
The dreams tend to revolve around the characters emotions. The desert section is meant to represent the feelings of being lost and isolated. So the main story in that act will be about those feelings, yet the side dreams fill in parts of both his past and future.
So you’ve mentioned multiple endings, how are these set out? Is there a bad ending in the sense of it being the worst ending you can get? Or is it simply the ending you’ll get for the least exploration?
Depending on what you do you will get one of the five endings on offer. The more exploration you do the better both you and the character will understand the story, therefore you will get a better ending.
Instead of having the typical good or bad ending choices we opted to go for something with replay value where you can explore and go and find the meanings of the dreams to create better outcomes. There may be more than five endings in the finished product but at the moment we have five set out endings for Howard.
So with a project like this, what time are we talking for a release window?
The hope at the moment is next year sometime although we are keeping quiet about it at the moment.