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The Dreamscape

Developer Journals By Guest Writer on April 25, 2006

The Dreamscape

Image from cinematic trailer
Image from cinematic trailer
Image from cinematic trailer
Image from cinematic trailer
Image from cinematic trailer
Image from cinematic trailer
Spaight explains the Dreamscape, a second word to explore: your own

"Are you sure
That we are awake? It seems to me
That yet we sleep, we dream?"

-A Midsummer Night’s Dream

How do you know, beyond any doubt, that you’re not dreaming right now? Philosophers and poets have pondered this question for millennia. To the dreamer, the dream realm can seem as real as the waking world. In Africa’s “dreamscape,” the boundary between the waking world and the dream realm is a hazy one: players will be able to step into their own dreams and adventure in the primeval forest of their unconscious mind.

The dreamscape is a randomized, instanced space that players can explore when their characters sleep – which they must do periodically. In the dreamscape players can receive visions, undertake quests, learn new skills, and hone their spiritual powers. They may find hidden sources of strength that will make them better hunters, warriors, and shamans in the waking world.

Visually, dreamscape environments have a nebulous, dream-like quality that sets them apart from the normal game space. Entering a dream will be somewhat akin to stepping into a Salvador Dali painting, with surreal landscapes and outlandish inhabitants. The dreamscape can be a tranquil, inviting place, like an oasis in the desert. Or it might be dark and forbidding, with nightmarish creatures. It all depends on what’s going on in the player’s waking life.

Each dream environment is generated based on the player's actions in the waking world. Players will only dream after experiencing certain content. Accepting a particular quest, entering a new location, encountering a certain creature, or finding a rare item can trigger a dream environment, which will appear the next time the player sleeps. If a player has accepted a quest to rescue captives from a band of desert raiders, he might receive visions which contain clues as to the raider's location. Visions in the dreamscape can also generate quests in the waking world. A player’s ancestor, for example, might appear in the player’s dreams, asking her to recover a family heirloom, avenge a wrong done to them in life, or make a journey to a distant land.

The Inward Journey

In Man and his Symbols, pioneering psychologist Carl Jung observed that the symbols and images of dreams are the same symbols and images that appear in fables and mythology. These images or archetypes as he calls them are hardwired into our brain, as part of our “collective unconscious.” Put another way, we carry a vast, mythical realm within. In Africa, players can enter this mythical realm and adventure in the labyrinth of their minds. An “inner quest” might take one of the following forms:

    Mystic Guide: Players may encounter a wise old man in their dreams. He may appear as a hermit, a potter, a weaver, or any number of guises. He offers the player supernatural aid in the dreamscape – often in the form of amulets or spiritual weapons.

    Totem Animal: Some players – those from sub-Saharan regions in particular – have an animal protector who watches over them. Players find their totem animal in their dreams. The animal may later appear to the player in the waking world to warn of danger or point the way.

    Remembrance: A player might be able to recall a past existence. Perhaps the player was a scribe in ancient Egypt. Deep inside the player’s mind, locked away behind hidden doors, lies the location to a buried cache of scrolls from the library of Alexandria – or perhaps a book of power.

    Possession: In the Mahgrib, along the northern coast, players must guard against possession by evil Jinn. The Jinn enter through the eye – the window of the soul – and take possession of the player. The player will then have to defeat or imprison the monster using spiritual weapons and magic.

    Path of the Warrior: Players can literally do battle with the embodiment of their fears and weaknesses. The warrior who has conquered his fears radiates calm in battle. He faces his foes without fear and strikes without hesitation.

    Ancestor’s Voice: An ancestor may appear to a player in their dream. The ancestor may impart wisdom, advise on the player’s life path, or set a task for the player.

Some dreamscape quests, such as the path of the warrior, are tied to character advancement. The aspiring warrior may have to venture out into the wilderness, mark off a ceremonial space, and meditate. He will eventually fall into a trance and awaken in the dreamscape, where he must undergo an ordeal to acquire new skills. Shamans must similarly visit the dreamscape to unlock new powers.

It is possible for a group of players to share the same dreamscape instance. If a Jinn possesses a player’s character, her friends might have to enter her dreams to destroy it. The party would bed down near the possessed character. A dream weaver would then chant the incantations necessary to weave together the player’s dreams. If all goes well, the party would awaken in the possessed player’s soul, there to do battle against the Jinn.

If dreams are deep Aladdin caves, filled with monsters and loot, then why wake up at all? Why not sleep your way to wealth and power? Firstly, the inhabitants of the dream realm can be just as deadly as their real world counterparts. Players can die in the dreamscape. Secondly, to complete some quests, the player must adventure in both the waking world and the dreamscape. Finally, the rewards players receive in the dreamscape are not material, but spiritual – heightened awareness, faster reflexes, healing powers, or other abilities. Players will not wake up with piles of gold coins in their beds.

Dreamscape instancing allows us to weave elements from African folklore, mythology, fables, and legends into the player experience in a compelling and personal way. Each dreamscape will be tailored to the experiences of the individual player. Our goal is to engage the player on an emotional level with stories that speak to the human condition. Such stories can, as Clyde Ford says in The Hero with an African Face, “help us to find strength and courage where we had thought only to find weakness and fear; to venture deeply within ourselves where we had thought only to pass lightly through our lives; to wake our gods where we had thought only to wrestle our demons.”

- Tracy Spaight, Vice President, R&D Rapid Reality

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