If you know Dreams, you necessarily know TAPgiles, a useful starlight in our moments of doubts, questions … Those videos often got us out of trouble! He gave me a very rewarding interview! Best thanks once again for his answers!
(French version of the inteview here)
Can you introduce yourself ?
My name’s Thomas Giles. I’m known as TAPgiles in Dreams and across the internet. I help creators in all sorts of ways as a full-time job, funded by the community.
(For those wondering, it’s a hard “g” as in “jam”: J-eye-LS.)
How did you discover “Dreams”?
I first saw it with John and Mark dancing on stage at E3… vicariously of course, with puppets made in Dreams. I didn’t really understand what I was seeing, but I liked the vibe.
But I really got interested in Dreams a few years later when they started to show actual creation in Dreams. It was so fast, and completely custom with making your own sculpts… it kinda blew my mind. I’ve always been interested in 3D animation, but to get there you’ve got to model something to animate, and to get there you’ve got to learn all these crazy complex tools… so I just barely got started with any of that and bounced right off it.
When I first saw sculpting in Dreams, I was like… “That! That’s what I’ve been looking for!” And I was just so excited to see it released.
Was it easy for you to get into the “Dreams” universe?
Starting to create took a week or two to really get the knack of moving around in 3D space—that was my main issue. But once that clicked, I was away.
At first I was mainly sculpting and putting scenes together, and then using little pieces of logic to make things do stuff.
Getting really into logic came a little later. What made that click for me was realising that all inputs and outputs and all settings… they’re all the same thing: numbers. Which means they can all be manipulated the same way and be piped into any other gadget and be used to do anything I wanted. The fact it all works the same way meant that I just dove in and started experimenting with the gadgets to investigate how they really worked behind the scenes, and I began work on documenting everything. (tapgiles.com/docs)
I’m a curious person by nature, and I like to get a “full” understanding of something—or as full an understanding as I’m capable of. So getting into the nitty gritty was just a joy for me.
What motivated you to start helping people in Dreams?
I’ve always believed that, all things being equal, creativity is the highest endeavour. It’s good for your mental health and wellbeing, it’s a way of communicating complex ideas that are hard to say with words, it lets you find respite from the chaotic world in a place you have control over… it’s just really good for people.
What disturbs that simple joy of creating is when you don’t have a deep enough knowledge of how to create it, of how to use the tools available to you. So relating back to Dreams, I try to ease that problem to get people back to the flow of creation, to help them realise what new things are possible, and to find the joy of making a thing that wasn’t there before.
So my goal in all of this is to make people better able to create for themselves. To have the knowledge to not get stuck, or the methods on-hand to let them figure out the solution in the moment.
Have you had any contact with MediaMolecule, do you know what they think of your work?
I have spoken to the folks at Mm on a couple of occasions, yes. Earlier this year I joined some others from the community who met up at their offices and spent time with some of the molecules there, which was an amazing experience! (Big thanks to EnochRoot for helping me with that!)
Meeting some of the people I’d seen in various Mm streams was really quite something. A combination of “This is where the magical Dreams was created!” and “Oh hey—they’re just regular people like me, that’s cool!”
They do know who I am, and from conversations I’ve had, they do like what I’m doing. I’ve even had a shoutout on the stream a couple of times for helping Dreams creators, which is a really nice feeling.
I hope I can work more closely with them in the future.
How do you develop your tutorials? How do you choose your themes?
I actually draw a lot of inspiration from helping people online. If something is a little tricky to explain in text with no demonstrations to look at, or it’s something a lot of people are asking about, then I consider making a tutorial about it. Then in the future I can link people to that tutorial instead of struggling to explain.
That was the original motivation for making videos in the first place actually—to have videos to link people to when they ask a question, as a lot of people learn better by seeing demonstrations.
Or I might see some game mechanic and I start wondering how I would do it. I really prefer making use of the gadgets in weird ways so that Dreams does the crazy maths stuff for me, so finding shortcuts to make those mechanics simple to build is really fun. And then I can pass on those shortcuts to people, letting them make that kind of thing without having to understand quadratic equations.
In addition to the tutorials, do you work on games too?
I rarely work on anything but things I can use for tutorials later on, or helping the community in other ways. I’ve worked on a couple of projects with others in the past. The jam entry “20,000 Leagues Under the C-” was the most-complete project that I’ve been involved with throughout.
But I do so much Dreams stuff already that it can be hard to just chill out and create stuff. Either I’m exhausted at the end of a long day of helping online and making tutorials, or I just need some time to myself, to watch youtube or something to unwind.
I wasn’t very good at that when I started out; I’d just work and work until I burned out and had to stop for a week or two. Still working on that part, trying to work less on weekends and such. But it does mean making my own stuff tends to take a back seat unfortunately; all my creative energies are spent on problem solving for others.
What I do do from time to time is make music. As it’s not focussing on logic, I can let my problem-solving brain relax for a bit. That was a passion of mine a while back in Fruity Loops and Music 2000, but it’s so much easier in Dreams which helps me with scales and whatnot. I’m quite proud of “Fire Flight” and “Hunker Down” in particular.
What advice would you give to a player who has just taken Dreams?
Take it slow; don’t bite off more than you can chew, and you’ll get there.
The tools are way simpler than most game creation packages, but they’re still tools and you still don’t know how to use them at first. Even if you’re an expert in 3D modelling in Maya, this is a whole new medium and a whole new tool set, so treat it as such; have patience.
Chill out in the tutorials in-game, rather than rushing to the end. Even if you understand the things they’re talking about pretty easily, just practising using the tools will really help them sink in and help you get used to how to move around and interact when creating in Dreams.
What are your favorite Dreamers?
“Impy Award Winning” Keld Bjones is such a nice, humble dude. A streamer you watch create in Dreams because a) he’s just so nice and warm and inviting and b) cats happen. Plus, along with some of the viewers, he consistently makes some high-quality games in Dreams. I consider him to be a personal friend, and I highly recommend checking out his streams and games!
Zanders3 and oooDORIENooo make great games I come back to on a regular basis. Byvsen and Wooshie are wonderful animators. Aecert, OgTheEnigma, and RbdJellyfish are true logic-wizards who all push Dreams to its limits in different ways.
I also want to give a shout out to my friend and designer extraordinaire, DancingEmber. When he makes a game with a team of people, like he did with us, it always comes out as an interesting, intense, full experience. One to watch!
Artists who inspire you?
There are many artists renowned for their realism and amaz-i-tude in Dreams and get accolades every time they post something on Twitter… but I thought I’d shout out some folks who aren’t all about the realism and get less noticed by the community in general.
The wonderful mBergs makes amazing stuff as non-interactive vignettes… and he’s had a platformer in progress for a few months! (I’ve had a sneak-peek at it and it’s gorgeous, plays really well, and has great level design!)
And Maja-Lisa Kehlet, who created the Ancient Times kits, always creates beautiful and engaging art. She’s currently making characters for a space crew. They’re super cute!
Do you get a lot of messages and requests about Dreams? Not too complicated to manage?
There are a few people who contact me, or @ me so that I can weigh in on something. But mostly I go out and seek people who want help each day. There are also a few clients, who I teach one-on-one on whatever topic they need help on, teaching them how to do things or fixing issues in their creations.
Do you have other passions besides Dreams?
I don’t have any other active hobbies right now. Though Dreams is more of a full-time job than a hobby at this point.
But there is something that is of great interest to me, and that is writing. I’ve always been interested in fiction writing. Writing short stories… trying to write novels and trailing off halfway through, you know the drill.
Even made a go of being a freelance fiction editor. Again—it’s that “helping people” angle peeking through. And I find the “mechanics” of how text affects the reader to be endlessly fascinating, much as how the inner workings of Dreams gadgets affect the outcome. I use that experience to better explain things in my tutorials or documentation, to phrase something to make it clearer and more understandable to the viewer while being precise at the same time.
You started a Patreon, how’s it going?
I’m coming up to a year now with Patreon being open. I can’t support myself purely through the funding I get from the community yet, but it grows in fits and starts.
I have just added tiers for other services to encourage people to sign up to get more help. I now release tutorials a lot earlier to my Patreon supporters at the “Learner” tier. And I can now teach or help one-on-one. I really appreciate all my backers and those who support me through other means. But really I just hope the Patreon keeps growing so I’m able to keep working for the community.
What do you think are the strengths of Dreams?
Drastically lowering the barrier-to-entry for newcomers trying out digital creation in all sorts of forms. The way I see it, it’s never been so easy to try your hand at 3D art, 2D art, music, animation, and game design. You can easily switch between them on the fly for no extra setup or cost, or changing how you work. And then you can chill out for hours on the dreamiverse if you want to take a break.
It’s a really unique package that harmonises all of those disciplines in one place, and lets people of all abilities play about to find out what they have fun doing, or even have a hidden talent for!
What do you think are the weaknesses of Dreams?
I think the main thing that is a problem in Dreams is the way a subset of people in the community behave.
People uploading copyrighted audio has forced Mm to lock down ways of getting audio into Dreams. People now can’t have the freedom to record audio at their leisure and edit it down afterwards because they have to rush to get it into the 15 second window. This has made it difficult for a lot of people to make their legitimate projects, even causing some to lose faith in Dreams entirely as it has crushed their dreams of making a project they’ve always wanted to make—something that is a big selling point of Dreams.
Flooding the feeds with purposefully-obnoxious memes or IP remakes has made players avoid looking at the trending feed—which is intended for somewhere to go to see the latest good stuff made by the community but is currently swamped with nonsense. And some just don’t look at any new stuff at all because they’re fed up of all the memes and IP remakes, and just bury themselves in creation instead.
Entering off-topic or no-effort creations into the jams means players then have to wade through to find anything of quality while judging. Many never give thought to judging the jams any more—even those who enter into that jam, or those who used to look at everything entered so they can help the jam go well.
Spamming dreamers by sharing creations they didn’t ask for to get likes. This fills up the notifications with stuff that the recipient mostly doesn’t want to see, buries notifications they did want to see, and is just generally a frustrating experience. Especially when some of the spammers object and demand their right to keep sending you stuff against your wishes.
It’s great that we’re able to make anything we can dream of, and the community has the freedom to work together and figure itself out. But bad-actors in the community who aren’t trying to add to the dreamiverse but just have things exist or gain likes “just because” or do what they want to do regardless of any rules Mm have put into place… has really slowed things down in a number of ways.
Problems like this are bound to come up, of course. Any open platform is going to have some number of bad-faith people that mess things up, and there’s going to be nonsense content posted. And it’s hard to handle that stuff and know what to do without undoing that feeling of an open platform where you can post anything. So Mm have a big task with all of this stuff, and I understand it’s no small thing to sort stuff like this out correctly.
What do you think could improve Dreams?
I just hope those problems can be handled more directly so that the community starts leaning towards good content rising to the surface and bad or rule-breaking content being seen by fewer and fewer people. And same for the creators—to let good creators rise and those who try to do things against the rules being locked down.
Beyond that, I think Dreams as software is heading in a good direction. Great features are coming, the 10 Year Plan is rolling along nicely. It’s all good!
Do you have one or more games that you like on Dreams?
I do have a few, but my main love on there is Cake Factory 2. The original Cake Factory showed that “logistics”/conveyor-belt games can be done in Dreams, and CF2 pushes it to a larger more complete vision of the same idea.
I love it so much I do my own speedruns from the first X press, through the tutorial and first delivery after it, and to the first van horn beep. Pretty proud of my sub-7-minute record. I look forward to having some other speedrunners to compete against!
One designer or several that you like in Dreams?
DancingEmber is a good friend, and a great designer. He’s designed 2 projects: the aforementioned “20,000 Leagues Under the C-,” and the new “Temporal Fuse” are concise, fun experiences with a full arc to the gameplay.
Keld also consistently releases fun games on a regular basis, and does a good job of cat-herding his viewers when they get involved in a project.
What are your upcoming projects?
Mainly more tutorials. I rarely get enough spare Dreams-time or energy to make my own projects anymore, as I work full-time in Dreams anyway.
The closest I get is to play along with Keld’s 60-minute challenges (after the fact, as we’re in different time-zones). Most of the day I’m thinking about teaching or “How can I turn this into a tutorial?” But those challenges can really help me just play about with ideas and actually make something without any pressure for it to be amazing… or even playable!
How much time do you spend on Dreams per week?
Probably around 20 hours—researching new ideas, recording videos and solving problems for clients, and streaming new tutorials. The rest is either helping people on forums or editing tutorials, depending on what time of the month it is.
What do you think of VR on Dreams?
It’s really cool to be “inside” the worlds people create. And sculpting in VR is wonderful—having that sense of depth makes sculpting and placing objects even easier.
I think I’m slightly long-sighted, but it only causes problems in VR, with things getting blurry if they’re too close. Also, I get simulation-sick if the camera moves without me. So moving around a scene creating in VR is a little dodgy. But I’m really grateful for the comfort mode which pretty much guarantees a game won’t make me sick, even if that makes the game a little bit unplayable.
The only thing that isn’t so great is the resolution of the PSVR; the TV image tends to look a lot better than what I see in VR right now. Hopefully the PS5 will be able to give us a higher resolution for Dreams VR. I look forward to seeing what that brings.
And if not what is your “Dreams” in life?
I’ve had a generous supporter keeping me afloat over the past year, and have been able to help everyone as much as I can for no charge while saving as much as I can. But as that comes to an end, the worry about the future of TAPgiles starts to come up again. So I’ve been forced to lock things down in certain ways and charge for my services to grow the business so I can be supported by the community alone… if it all works out. Right now, that feels like a big “if” so it’s not the most comfortable place to be.
I guess my dream is just… stability.
The ideal situation for me is to get ongoing funding for my work in Dreams, whether that’s from the community as I’ve been working towards or some sort of partnership with another supporter or company. If that happens, that side of things won’t make me anxious and draw my attention away from my work. I can stop worrying about what to charge people to encourage donation, and just focus on helping again—which is my real passion.
More about TAPgiles. http://tapgiles.com
Ways to support him : http://tapgiles.com/#donate
All his Services http://tapgiles.com/#services
Dreams documentation: http://tapgiles.com/docs
Dreams icons guide: http://tapgiles.com/icons