Hubbub has gone into hibernation.

Traveling through time in games

Chief agent Kars here. It’s a pleasure for me to introduce you to our new intern Arjen. Like his two predecessors he’s studying Design for Virtual Theatre and Games at the Utrecht School of the Arts. He’ll be with us for the coming months to assist on various projects (such as Maguro and Buta). In addition, I’ve decided to ask Arjen to work on a self-commissioned game that we’ve codenamed Katsuo. Without telling too much about it at this point, let’s just say Arjen’s background in producing LARPs will certainly come in handy. I hope you enjoy this first post on some of his preliminary research.

I’ve started research this week on a new project, codenamed Katsuo. A key element in this project will be time traveling, so I’ve been searching for various uses of time travel in games. In my search, I have put an emphasis on the use of time traveling as part of the gameplay, rather than the story or visuals.

There’s an abundance of games that use slowing down or speeding up time as special moves. One of the games that executes this very well is Viewtiful Joe, which doesn’t only allow the slowing down of enemies, but also makes special moves and several interactions with objects and puzzles available.

One of the first games I thought of myself was Animal Crossing. I played this game on my DS, and that version used the time settings on your system to determine a bunch of factors in the game. Like whether it was day or night, what day it was, growth of plants and the interest on your saved money at the bank. Although the creators never meant for this to be possible, you could time travel by abusing the system time-checking. If, for example, you would put money in the bank, then change your system time from today to today 20 years in the future, you would get 20 years of interest on your money. If only science would hurry a bit, I’d be rich in the real world by the end of last week.

Many games require you to travel back and forward through time to solve puzzles and advance in the story. Day of the Tentacle, Chronotrigger and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Oracle of the Ages and Majora’s Mask are just some of the titles that spring to mind.

Concerning the last game, I found an interesting alternate reality game that is built around the story of a cursed cartridge of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. This game features a well told story in which the players were able to force the whole world of the game back by a few days by posting a video of the song of time. This included websites going offline because they didn’t exist yet, and allowed for quite an interesting mystery to solve. The game is live again, so if you’re into ARGs, you should definitely go and find it1

Another interesting game I found is Time4Cat. This game isn’t really about time travel, but more about the perception of time. You actually force your perception upon the game world: when you stand still, so does the time and everyone around you. To fully understand what I’m saying, I recommend you just play it.

This brings to mind the indie hit Braid, in which your movement is linked to the time of the game world. If you move back, everything moves back with you. Definitely worth playing, but I think you already knew that.

To wrap things up, I’ve got something you can play at home, all you need is a chess set and some paper. It’s a special form of chess. I am going to do some playtests this week, trying to tweak some of the rules. I’ll let you know the ideal conditions for sending chess pieces to the future in a later post.

  1. No, I’m not going to give a link. You’re an ARG player, are you not? []
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